Is there one among us who has not
a front row cheering section made of
trillions, audience renewing and eternal
tuned to lines of meta-script we pen,
assigning tragicomic roles to volunteers
we like to think devote themselves—and
some they do appear as such—to
each and every feeble rewrite?
It’s not that one should be opposed
to fans—they pay our bills and cool us—
but there is a gap between the things
we do and what we’ve yet to think, and
too much of the pressing in, though sweet
at first, deludes and all those trillions
notice long before the playwright that
the mix of oxygen and hydrogen’s amiss.
Is it just me, or is the air becoming stale?
Everywhere I turn are tents
in stripes of ketchup, mustard yellow,
center stages occupied with players
of formerly great calibre now looking
more like seals trained to clap
at scent of fish.
Trouble is, the fish are rank and fake,
mere words held up and waggled, and
the roars they propagate from audiences,
not the trillions but a digitized and
calculated few, they make me ill.
I stagger from the site to navigate
between the beggars who subsist from
scrap to scrap of Photoshopped approval.
These are not my plays, I know. There
is a tent somewhere, an auditorium
with curtain calls that never end, a stage
illuminate, precise; a sound man and
a casting coach who understand
these words not yet coagulate.
I let the noise distracting fall away,
evaporate, until the dizziness has
passed. There’s nothing in my midst
except the center of a tiny, not quite
visible approximation of a cell,
six-sided with ascending tears.
It’s then I feel a thrill, a filament
that pulls and multiplies, divides
and turns me right side up again
to flashing lights, a stage, a roar.
Encore, encore! the trillions shout.
I look around at former roles,
they’ve parted left and right, a
crimson sea held back for me.
I know the word, I know the
line. The audience is hushed.
© Elaine Stirling, 2013
–Image of Chautauqua tent from
–Image of audience from campusschool.dsu.edu, photographer unknown
–To learn more about the chautauqua movement, click here.