“Being in Plays”
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 eyes’ briffits,
and parentheses around the muzzle.
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 offstage
or team up with stagehands to move
the built elements of our fantasy.
I hope they keep going, and sneak
some of the properties home to mix in
with their private dramas. I pass theaters
the way I pass churches, but like
better this foldable theater
half-constructed in the mind,
sometimes thrown away
along with the day’s receipts.
Nothing’s lost. I carry my own
props in—red telephone,
bowl of apples—and then with me draw
back into the unseen.