Theater Ghost

theater
Courtesy of Flickr:  © Timothy Neesam

The building had a slow death.
Wooden floors scuffed
From the haughty click of stilettos,
Wandering wheels hauling stage props,
The soft slide of wingtips.
Screams embedded in
The crimson curtains
Thinned their satin lining.

How the seats hugged
The weighted souls,
Anchoring them
With secrets,
Men with their mistresses,
Women with their longing
Hanging off their necks,
Smooth pearls of spun mucus.

I liked them best, these buried beauties.
No use for people with little substance.
Too many with their insides out —
Makes them hollow and lazy.
Strange humans —
Beauty was never a face.

I collected their thoughts,
Rolling down the aisles,
Gathering in corners,
Seeking dark spaces.
While no one looked,
I fingered them into whispers,
As the audience lost their memory.

Of course, there was always
One or two who resisted.
Dragged by a spouse or lover.
If bored, I pricked their skin.
Put a breeze on them.
Watched them jump to life.

It was the collective sigh and clap
I sought.
A single thought impregnating
The crowd.
Anticipation,
Revelation.
How many epiphanies had I seen?

And the actors,
I devoured them all,
Not on stage,
But in their tiny back rooms
With mirrors and lights
Drawing on expressions.
Children with crayons,
Staying in the lines that held their eyes and lips,
Bold pronouncements,
Exclamations of beings,
All that beautiful space
Between happy and sad.
How they were able to
Transform and haunt
Discarded remains, spooning
Marrow into the bowls of
The blind.

Like insects, they followed
The lights
Illuminating
Clementine clouds and turquoise skies,
Bruised suns punched in the center
Of their wooden faces.
Cozy homes with dizzy paper walls,
Trunks propping up emerald tops.
The audience glazed over them,
Saw what they wanted,
Saw themselves.
But I saw everything.

Now the painted artifice is stacked,
Shoved into corners
Leaving a hollow space,
And the audience has fled
To where the weather is cruel.
No longer bits of Styrofoam, glitter and dust,
No more beautiful ballerinas
With bloody toes and painted smiles,
Or operatic voices filling the audience
With lost love and sickness,
Emptying themselves until depleted
Left clutching their hot tea and honey.

They paid homage to me,
Every night
Before a run.
And every night
I drank their rose-scented tears
Remembering death’s bittersweet taste.

And although I know
There is no beginning without an end,
I still hate the call of the curtain and
The breath before
The final bow.

-S. S. Hicks

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