Ethics are learned from who you sleep with
the first few times, and theater is sex,
almost. Being in it, I mean, and being young,
with a lot of group undressing
and silence in darkness, chaste
permissions of the cast party,
spiked punch in the recreation room.
I was always cast as Old Man
with tennis-shoe polish for white hair
and lines drawn where my lines now are,
forehead haiku, the eye’s briffits,
and parentheses around the muzzle.
My face was learning its worry
in quarter-smile and one-eyebrow raise.
I guess I miss it, achievement’s sense,
the way a show’s run ends
and everyone knows it together,
a social pain, like the death
of a popular imaginary friend.
When lights between scenes dim,
I like to see actors take props off stage
or team up with stagehands to move
the built elements of our fantasy.
I hope they keep going and take
some properties home to mix in
with private dramas. I pass theaters
the way I pass churches, but like
better this foldable theater
half-constructed on page or mind.
Sometimes it gets thrown away
among receipts, but nothing’s really lost.
I carry my own props in—red telephone,
bowl of apples—and then with me
back into the unseen.