An Actor's Lament
by Frank De Canio

It was in the middle of my famous soliloquy.
The one that brought the house down
in my prime. But not anymore.
I must have muffed my lines,
slurred the words, or teased them
to a tedium. Perhaps there was an edge
of desperation in my voice, or it lacked
conviction; full of empty gestures
and posturing. I should have let the words
speak for themselves, and put aside
the throbbing, sobbing theatrics.
Maybe they saw puffing under my bleary eyes,
surmised I’d seen better days, or were just
damned tired of listening to the blasted thing
for the umpteenth time! Who knows? If I did,
I would have done better, whatever that means
in a world where being good is gall enough.
It’s enough they’re leaving in droves,
for whatever reason, and it’ll get worse
before the season ends, and only closest friends
go scrambling at the box office, like vultures
swooping down on a mangled carcass.

The rest are leaving with all sorts of excuses:
wives, husbands, mistresses, children to feed,
foodstuffs on the stove. And most of them
will not return. Divorced, widowed, tired of living,
they move away, or stay and age in furnished rooms,
and die, sooner or later. I can’t hold them all,
passing through the world like sand
in an hourglass. What do they want from me?
To hold them by the wrist, feel their pulse,
and tell them which way their blood flows?
It’s enough that we don’t drop dead.
That we can still wonder if it’s any use
to have blood flowing through our veins
rather than water, air, fire, or just the muck
of the earth where the worms keep fucking us.

But I’ll resist complaining. All change is for the better
in the crazed turnings of this ever-changing world.
So if fair weather turns foul and the howling wind begins
its bulldog reckoning, I know it could always be worse
than what it is. So I never die to one dissipation without celebrating another. And when God’s henchman appears, advancing like a prancing cavalier, with his chalk-white mask and a fatal diagnosis, I’ll dance my changes. Not like a blushing school-girl waiting to be asked,but like Shiva, brandishing cataclysmic fire on the edge of the next universe. I’ll laugh in his face if it’s a man, kiss it if it’s a woman, and piss on everything that doesn’t sing its changes. I fart for the joy of passing wind.

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