Poem #19: The State Theatre

The State Theatre

The traffic lights are a different
Shade of green tonight,
And I lost my hat.
The movie was so good,
It was really long too, you said,
And maybe the seats were uncomfortable, too,
But your hair wasn’t in the way,
Your head beneath my neck.
The balcony steps out and it takes time
To learn the whole storyline,
The movie better than I had expected.
I had to look twice,
To see that you were crying,
And I cannot tell if my eyes
Said they were sorry, or if my hands
Holding yours could draw down
The curtains to stop the movie—
I can’t reach that high,
With all this sore doubt, unable
To bend my arms.
I am still under the flickering lights,
And you shiver to go home,
Walking four blocks away to your car—
And I would hold your hand,
But dad would definitely see,
And we wouldn’t want that, would we?
A kiss on the forehead means so much;
Stop spinning, my thumb spinning round
Yours, no, my head, my thoughts
Scattered on the ceiling, stop spinning.
You knew I would hold
Open the door for everyone,
The stairs a clatter for escaping shoes.
Passing by the people
Smoking on the sidewalks,
You said, let’s be best friends,
Because I don’t care about
The generic movies that everyone
Is angry that you haven’t seen,
And you don’t need popcorn
To place in your heart a better
Scene of the true stage directions to
Actually make this night memorable;
So why didn’t I just kiss you?
The rain after the show
Smoothened out the sky,
The streets heavier with cold,
And the snow is receding, flattened, dirty,
Mud sputtering from anxious tires blathering,
With kids splashing in the puddles.
Dad has never once asked
If I am the man I ought to,
With all these questions knocking:
“Where is she from—didn’t you say—
Why don’t you take—are you going to ask anyone—
You should buy her a corsage—are you ignoring—”
Please, stop lying, I tell myself, I shouldn’t
Go on like a bloody rag doll.
Hey, get up, that door will take you to Front Street,
Right on out—the movie is over.
Is it the right time for me
To ask you these questions
I’m always guarding in my mind?
You know this body is not my own,
This painting in a frame still unfinished,
My queue blurry and uncertain still,
The movie still having a long way to go—
But please don’t drop me, even if
You have to go home for dinner
Because your mom wants you back.
Hey dad, I told myself we were
Exactly like the two characters
Following that exact script in one of
My favourite movies.
And now I understand why stage left
Wasn’t where my heart was,
And centre stage the audience is
Awaiting, expecting, pleading, worrying, gnawing
For the moment for me to say and act
Those lines under the starlit stage—
And who needs applause when holding
That person’s hand means so much more.
You say, those aren’t your lines,
It doesn’t matter, and I said
If you want to cry on my shoulder, it’s fine,
And I don’t care about the ice that stiffens there,
Nor do I care about the things
Everyone seems to say backstage
When you’re front and centre,
Because they just need to stop,
My words cannot speak through my hands—
And please don’t demean yourself
For being you, because I don’t care
What the bloody world thinks of you,
Just being unjust.
And I’m no critic to critique,
But I don’t want to be the cliché line bound to fade,
And you can’t go home without love;
I don’t believe anyone can.
Just leave the poet inside your head,
You told me, but I can’t;
I saved you a seat up on the balcony,
The red seats empty on the ground floor.
I had forgotten this name given me,
Till John said it in the aisle, and
If only I could hear my character’s name—
No, I need to say it myself,
Say that I am myself, me being me,
Say that the stars on the ceiling are not
A joke, not a hoax, allowing no vile darkness
In the crowd, but a sign of
Something I need to show the audience—
That I am not as lonely as a star.
I’d rather hear you talk to me
All night, than hear myself talk to thick darkness.
The fake step at the bottom
Of the stairs is after my ticket,
Useless, but a stub, and will you slip
Before me? Please don’t break her heart,
I’m a fool with a hammer and glue
To try and fix things as such,
But a fool needn’t know how
To draw a smile upon your face.
This night, I am waiting, watching,
The clock tower obscured in the dusk,
And I never watched your car leave,
But dad turns on the radio,
The river below the lot a glossy ink,
And let’s just leave, dad, just let me sleep—
I don’t want dinner when we go home, dad,
But thank you though, let’s go in.
“Sir, it’s not a heart that I am looking for
In the lost-and-found.
Oh, never mind me, thank you, I found it.”
Dad, I love how homely and luminous
The flashing theatre lights seem to dance
About in the street shadows,
And the weary black letters
Look like a gathering plea to come
And relax, the velvet chairs always
Vacant somewhere to watch a fine show;
“It’s great—”
I breathe, in the ashen, smoky, Front Street air,
“It’s great at the State.”
Hey, there’s wind down the curb,
Brisk, invisible, borrowing the sound,
And all I can ask is to go take a stroll down Cass Street;
But I worry, dad, why was it so
Cold to her, yet just plain to me—
This exiled wind?
Oh, I don’t need to know, dad,
You don’t have to think so hard for an answer,
But I found my hat inside
After the show, you know;
I just wish she had her own.

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