Carmen’s Burrito

by | Jun 29, 2023 | 0 comments

I was eighteen and living in a rooming house, going to the University of Washington in Seattle on a Rockefeller grant in music. I was ill prepared. Naive isn’t even the word because I was very savvy at other things, but things that only apply to surviving my family, a mottled example of the hyper neurotics of intelligentsia. I’d spent my years in public school in a practice room with my cello, or recovering from same. I had one good friend. I knew nothing about the practical world. In preparation for my separation, my mother had to teach me how to write a check, which is now nearly obsolete, so why did I learn it? This was in the days before widespread use of credit cards. There was no such thing as a debit card.

You are so young.

Across the alley from the back of my rooming house was the back door of Hillel and the house next to Hillel was divided into apartments. The apartment facing the alley was shared by three men who were all too old to be students. All three were Jewish though one, who would sue me if I gave you his name, was a monster and a convert. I believe I can speak for my people when I say that his conversion to Judaism did not help us in our eternal struggle with antisemitism. He was engaged to one of the other women renting a room in the house where I lived.  She and I were both in the basement rooms. Besides the aforementioned social predator there was Rolph and Brian. Brian flirted wildly with me and we became whatever passes for girlfriend and boyfriend.

One evening he invited me over to listen to, “this amazing piece of music,” with him. It was, naturally, Carmina Burana (Carmen’s Burrito). I’d never heard it before but read the record jacket while we were listening. It is a work for choir and orchestra. The text is taken from a collection of 13th century bawdy songs written in Latin, German and medieval French.

Brian and I sat on the couch, being blasted by the music he’d set at an overwhelming volume. Carmina Burana is a passionate, rhythmic, insistent piece. I think the composer, Carl Orff was aiming for the evocation of primal urges and primitive tribal behavior. I was oblivious to Brian’s intentions which were obvious, all about the evocation of those primal urges and encouraging of primitive tribal behaviors. He knew I was a professional virgin and I’m pretty sure he wasn’t trying to seduce me into having sex, but he certainly wanted badly to get the juices flowing.

While we were sitting there, the roommates with a pal or two passed through the room behind the sofa. It was clear there had been a pact among them that the living room belonged to Brian that night and they’d agreed to make themselves scarce. So as they hurried through (fastest way to get from point A to point B) there was no pausing for conversation. No conversation at all. But there were plenty of sly knowing looks and eyebrow language, secretive and suggestive smiles. Brian’s response to their sub rosa teasing was squinting eye contact, some stern eyebrow work.

“Good night,” they smirked.

“Goodbye,” he replied.

It wasn’t too many years later that I was told Carmina Burana was the era’s make-out music—the indoor equivalent of parking the car on Grizzly Peak Boulevard way up in Tilden Park behind the UC Berkeley campus, to “look  at the view”.

My thought just now is that it would be only fair that Carl Orff or his descendants be paid royalties every time a post adolescent Lothario wannabe gets past first base using the Orff method of Seductio ad Absurdum.

Brian was disappointed that night. I was much more interested in discussing the notes on the record jacket than I was in evoking those primal urges and, et cetera (yes, dear: Long playing stereo records, record players. Long playing meaning an advancement over the old 78 rpm recordings) .

But let’s be reasonable. The guy was incurious and ill informed. What message could he have been delivering by blasting Carmen’s Burrito all over his (rented) living room walls? What research had he done into the text of “this amazing piece of music”? I will answer in the language of the text:

“Ah! ’Tis too late now. The maiden has found you out. Had she only no brain! Alas! Even now she readies her escape. You stupid mamzer! Why do you even try?  Ah!”

There is a shitload of “Ah!” in Carmina Burana.

So I read the record jacket with great interest as Brian cooled his loins beside me. I had no idea he was going through such a personal climate change. Just wanted to understand what he billed as “this amazing piece of music”. What I read altered my state of consciousness. The notes offered the text of Carmina Burana in the original languages and in translation. Such an education!! It inspired an early retreat from the entire occasion. He could call the roommates back into the living room as I exited stage left while they were pursued by a beer.

But let’s take a peak at the inspiring text, shall we? Here’s a snippet from Carmina Burana (yeah yeah Carmen’s Burrito). For an explanation of why the poem is spread out over several acres, please read the post script.

This is what I read:

Verse 12: Cignus ustus cantat (The Roast Swan)

Once I looked beautiful

When I was a swan.

Misery me!

Now black

and roasting fiercely!


The servant is turning me on the spit;

I am burning fiercely on the pyre:

the steward now serves me up.

Misery me!

Now black

and roasting fiercely!


Now I lie on a plate,

and cannot fly anymore,

I see bared teeth:

Misery me!

Now black

and roasting fiercely!


Perhaps I was just not good at multiple tasking, but after, “Misery me! Now black and roasting fiercely!” I wasn’t in the mood for, “C’mon, baby, light my fire!”


And again: Ah!


Post Script:

In explaining the generous acreage of the poem, I must educate you about the limitations of WordPress, the very popular platform used by countless websites. Here’s the bad news: WordPress is guilty of antipoetism. It is not possible for me to format a poem without having double spacing between the lines. Idiotic. And speaking of idiotic, it is also not possible for anyone using WordPress to indent the first line of a paragraph. Perhaps the programmers and designers of WordPress did not graduate from elementary school as many of us did, where we are taught about standard English usage and the rules of composing proper essays. In my attempts to post this poem with it looking like a poem,I thought of bizarre ways around these shortcomings. I tried using the space bar which I thought would register characters, though invisible ones, so that when the next line of the poem appeared single spaced, the poem would be properly formatted. The results were a patchwork of unreadable lines appearing everywhere in the text field. Nix on that. I thought of taking a screen shot of the poem and posting that, but the image was poor, fuzzy, out of proportion no matter how I manipulated it. The problem with the automatic double spacing when one hits the Return key is that to indicate the space necessary between stanzas, there is then a quadruple space and the poem is so spread out that it loses its coherence. I thus resorted to another unseemly solution, if indeed it’s a solution. I filled the rest of each line of text with an unending dash to register characters–an interesting, not so aesthetically pleasing visual, but at least the poem would be spaced as it should be. Oh, yes. I also thought to alter the color of the text of the dashes so they were invisible in the text field, but gosh oh gee, WordPress doesn’t offer an option for different colored text.  Unfortunately, the dashes appeared on separate lines, double spaced, and ruined the whole solution. So what I was forced to do was to present the poem with double spacing, and quadruple spacing between stanzas. This is the stuff that makes me think I should have taken up some other simpler occupation, like cat trainer, parade cleanup, Public Relations Lackey. So I say unto you, Feh (Yiddish for WTF) on WordPress. Illiterate, antipoetists. Write your representative.


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