Understudy

My time to lie down and die as prescribed, only known as “patient.”
From stage left, enter:
Sutured together in an unholy friendship.
Acquainted by bones held  closely to my cheat.
“the role of Physical unrest today played by a courtesan,”
A voice wails from behind the curtain velveteen,
Dust heavy, too long, bloody incarnadine.
She plays an understudy, the nobody anyone rushed to see fall a part.
Our audience politely sighs,
Glancing at tonight’s playbill and shift in behinds squeak and uncomfortably crushed into Corinthian seats.
Heaving together an a capella sigh of disappointment.
Today my body portrayed the Middle East warring for fuel.
Raping the enemy with hammers pushed, harder through lustful hypodermics.
My lines spoken, I go wandering,
Offstage, off site, unwanted, barefoot and dry lipped;
A nomad, a Hebrew. Relatively she’s alone, not home.
A mother, my father, the dead with signs above their heads.
Light the candles dear passerby,
Your tour guide, “right over there she played a daughter.” They overheard my silent cries –
That’s not my coast, isn’t my ocean, not my sand, not your hand,
I no longer smell the salted hot white bag saving my bite.
Said in my head since the audience left for better known actors.

Instead, you sir alone you stay to see the night’s temporary.
No applause, and embarrassed by your eyes,
Covertly you force me to bend into a happen shape to cover my nudity.
Who told you why some baker had to twist pretzels into sad knots?
Ask me what it means.
Does anyone stand in to speak that question?

Back after the last play,
No one came by, they stopped when the conversation turned,
To malcontented topics of aunts who smile warmly, incontinent and pushed in wheelchairs,
Catheter bags hang low, they passed a few months back.
Impishly, my body denied and she hides behind a series

Of course Hamlet’s breath shows cold a ghostly father who smells of hemlock, Delights with whisperings of Juliet’s stupidity.
Shakespeare’s women fell behind tragic greed, seriously,
Or illogical acts of watery folly. Did they mean to die?

Maybe Ophelia had a lump in her breast. Who knows what the players thought.
Maybe she fell, exhausted that fateful evening, simply tripped
Into the river bed, her floggs of corsetry snagged on a craggy tombstone,
Which never meant any harm. It was too soon.
Too soon to wave the day on like cattlemen.
Too soon to allow trust as such, to my physicians and cancer friends.
The physicians who know no depth besides my tumor.
The groups who know of me now as pitiful yet with humor.

Too soon to let go. I never meant to play Ophelia, never
Wanted the understudy roles but if for the sake of the show
Going on I’ll take whatever I get tomorrow,
Because we do not know what to believe anymore.
And in your blue eyes, the longest goodbye,
Your own hands massage my heart bloody and beating.
I cry. Yearn again for your fingers to play it back.
Let me hear you breathe for me – please. Oh, one more time.

Strings tight against your fingertips and close my word heavy lips.
You play our rage into a wooden box not enough to fit
All our anger. Or hold ether of us tight enough to asphyxiate.
The unknown actor playing the role of me tonight,
Pretend with the rest of the audience and stay without disappointment.

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