Monday, December 12, 2022


 Dramatis Personae

The auditorium is packed and stuffy.

Everyone dressed to the nines

Fanning themselves with programs 

Perfume wafting in thick waves 

With deep baritone cologne

A rolling tide of lipsticked murmuring 

But we’re all watching an empty stage

Waiting, waiting for the show to begin

Men in masks bring out the props

Nothing but blank canvases

Looming over scattered brushes

And tubes of unlabeled oil paints

In the pit we find an orchestra of muted instruments:

Plugged horns and stuffed woodwinds 

Violas unstrung,

Waiting for us to unfurl  

The strings wrapped around our necks 

Impatient opera ladies keep jangling

Smuggled piano keys in their compact purses 

Actors begin to emerge from the audience

They speak in hues 

And lilting mellifluous cadences

Others start applying swaths 

Of color to blank spaces

With sweeping flourishes 

Of imaginary brushes  

Everyone left goes silent for a few hours

I drift into dreams 

When I come to I'm standing

In the middle of raucous applause. 

I don't even know what I did 

To warrant such a reception

I can’t draw or play a note

I never learned any lines

I usually miss my cues

If you offered me a microphone

I’d probably refuse 

My only talent is a hard science 

I don’t deserve any of this 

I remember to check the program

To find out my assignment.

Apparently I have played many roles—

Only briefly the lead protagonist

Mostly the villainous suitor 

who failed to rescue the damsel in distress. 

The poverty stricken child wise beyond his years

who became a rich man years ahead of his wisdom.

Son of Charles (in white shirt, red shoes) who arrives with apples

that everyone knows not to eat    

Cousin Hal from Alabama.

The clueless kid eating Spaghetti-O’s 

while parents scream at one another upstairs. 

The adjunct professor of human frailties. 

The nice driver who waved the red truck through. 

The unshaven man in a black hat

who wants to be seen

but never encountered 

The stern father who allowed it all to happen

The failed lover 

The brother to a stillborn son

The boy who said goodnight every night to a dozen stuffed 

animals arrayed around his head on a pillow,

with the implicit understanding that they would protect him

in exchange for such consistent rituals of love.

The boy who conjured autonomic forms for unseen noises 

The boy who listens in his sleep

while all the world is talking 

The man passing through market

on his way to his own sell off

The achiever of minor dreams 

The slayer of the asking to be dead 

The pre-Chorus

The post-Chorus

The dying notes of the dirge

sung by my anonymous elegist

I thought I was just here watching.

But no.

That was a role too.

It says so right here —

The man who was just watching .

After the show someone

will surely tell me 

the honest truth

of how I did 


No comments: