Theater Ghost

theater
Courtesy of Flickr: Β Β© 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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20 thoughts on “Theater Ghost

  1. Debbie

    Something terribly sad about an abandoned building. And a theater — with all the human emotion, drama, and activity onstage and off — might be one of the sadder ones. This one’s a winner, DD!

  2. Don Royster

    I love the line:
    “And the actors,
    I devoured them all,”

    Your poem reminds me not just of abandoned theaters. Also all those buildings and places where human beings filled with life. So many of us have left a bit of ourselves in them. Time rusts everything but our memories of those places. Also it reminded me of one of my favorite movies, “Cinema Paradiso”. You have managed to do what Sinatra did with this song:

    1. desertdweller29

      I loved it! That’s one Sinatra song I haven’t heard. The Dodgers move really shook a lot of people in NY. Can’t imagine being the demolition crew on Ebbets Field that year.

      Abandoned places are eerie, ripe for the imagination. Every theater has its ghosts, but where do the ghosts go when the demo crew shows up? I tossed that around for a while…

      Thanks again for the great comments — alway!

  3. margo roby

    Oh, that opening line and the way it sets us up to enter the narrative. I hadn’t thought of a building’s death [many things, really] as protracted, as beginning from its beginning. So many truths revealed in this poem. The final stanza is a knockout.

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