Thoughts On 'Opening Night'.

[At the time that I performed this piece, it was the morning of the last performance of my high school career, and the end of the run of our production of ‘West Side Story’. And in preparation for our final two shows, we continued one of the time-honoured traditions of our drama club, that being Senior Circle. The morning of our afternoon matinee and then our evening show, the cast, and crew, and techies gather in the choir room, sit in a large circle, and one at a time, the members of the Senior class stand up and talk about their experiences, their aspirations, their regrets—the usual. It’s a process that inevitably dissolves into fits of laughter and sobbing, normally at once, and serves as a magnificent group catharsis. Because I hate not being able to say what I mean, I wrote and performed this spoken word piece for my drama club family, instead of speaking ex tempore, for my turn. Sadly, no footage survives of that performance. But in any case, here’s to them.]
Somewhere along the line,
something was lost to us.
Somewhere between the frozen isolation
of a Syracuse winter and the
damning linoleum existence of a
high school hallway,
we managed to lose the art of being
utterly alone.
Every hollow brushstroke is lost to us.
There’s no emptiness to sculpt our sadness
and carve it into something morbid.
There is no terrible and beautiful and
shameless and sadistic
to inspire us to write horrible symphonies.
The cacophony of sound that is
purely unadulterated, unfiltered, disorienting, destructive
has been burned away by
the incessant applause,
the uproarious laughter,
and the gasps that empty the theatre of our
precious oxygen.
The love that replaced our individual lonelinesses
has gone to the extent of
removing our past fears and worries,
and placing them in the audience’s lap
for them to take care of.
Like a screaming and crying baby daughter,
handed to an incapable uncle
who is screaming and crying even louder
than his niece.
But despite disposing the weights from
our burdened shoulders onto theirs,
we know that we love our audience.
We need them.
Though, the applause has never been the important thing,
nor will it last much further than the end of
a measure.
In the grand scheme of things, the applause is
a grace note,
that gives us a moment to dig in
before moving on to something else.
It’s fleeting and failing and crushing, all at once,
and then it’s gone.
But we need the curtain’s call
to remind us that we can’t hang up on it.
Nor can we get hung up on it.
This poem is called ‘Closing Night’,
for the obvious temporal reason,
and because we’ve opened our mornings
to each other
in preparation for the opposite action.
We’ve opened our hearts like
garage doors in the spring
to air out the mossy scent of decaying grass and
lingering sorrow and loneliness,
to be replaced by the sweet love
and engulfing aroma,
and caressing affection,
of the blossoms outside.
Black orchid.
Our lives are a magnificent morning glory.
They emerge in the sun to stretch their arms,
and prepare for a long day of being radiant,
and by the evening,
they’ve curled shut like the
mighty royal curtain that will signal the end
to our prolonged fifteen minutes of fame.
But don’t let the loneliness replace the spring again;
it doesn’t end at the last sweep of the curtain.
Because just like an incompetent custodian
sweeping the sandy beach with a leaf blower,
that massive shade of night that tells us when
to move on and off the stage
raises dust.
A heavy fog of sawdust.
Literal shards of our past success
and reminders of our present dedications.
And those particles sit on your skin.
They sink into your pores, and play.
They fall into your eyes, and lungs,
and make us quite congested to the point
where other people around us really start
to think we’re crying but really it’s just the
dust in my eyes so shut up I’m fine.
But that dust is a physical reminder
of what we’ve come from.
These moments will live on with us.
The space we gave to each other
in our hearts and in our skin
cannot really be reclaimed.
It has left us in order for it to be
wholly remembered.
We carry the dust throughout our lives,
and whenever we will dance,
or sing,
or shout,
or smile,
or just move too quickly to grab something
across the dinner table,
it will fall out and into somebody else’s hair
or soup.
It will lift off in the form of
an inside joke freshly remembered,
or a gorgeous memory of happiness
curling up your spine.
It’s a net of emotion that catches you
in tears and in feeling and
forces you to tip your head back,
and hold yourself tightly,
and press your body deeply into your
and curl your toes out of the pure
pleasure of unrestrained nostalgia,
but the hardwood chair behind and beneath you
will not let you forget that there is absolutely,
no going back.
Dead trees speak many things,
from stern warnings
about being lost in the past,
to constant reminders that we should leap
into the future,
but let the old things run alongside us
like a loyal Labrador that will
retrieve the brilliant times
we shared, and fetch closed
the grand, shifting, midnight sheet
that slips itself around us
and encompasses us, and tucks us in for bed.
But like a lover since gone, she leaves her scent
in our clothes.
And so we lie awake, holding tight to
that sheet of blessed night.
In the mornings,
we sing, we dance, we steal things;
we sing, we dance, we steal boyfriends;
we sing, we dance, we steal kisses backstage;
and we would never have it any other way.
We, as in us;
us, as in me, and you;
you, as in any of these few that would dare
call us their friends.
Because any is a friend who
opens their morning to a stranger,
and closes their night with their family.
I’ve written this last bit in iambic pentameter,
and I may butcher Shakespeare’s words,
but I’m sure he’ll forgive me:
You few, you beautiful few, I love you.


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