The spotlight is not on. The switch has been flipped and it turned on. But it clicked off before it was hot, and now it is not. Someone please turn the spotlight back on. The tricks and switch-flips that turn things on. Theater. A play. The one kind adults can do respectfully. Sit in a seat and stare at a stage and give eyes a feast of only the things that eyes like to eat. The tongue is the eyes, the teeth are the ears, slurp down every sight, chew up every word you hear.
There’s a dance in how an actor walks and a song in how they talk and if an actor knows their place they’ll look the audience in the face they’ll pull them up on stage they’ll give them up their rage and clone their tears in you.
That’s the only way you’ll smile later. For the joy that is tied to sacrifice, some happiness conceives in pain. The baby born is gut-busting laughter, oh wait, it’s twins, we’re in stitches.
The switches flip on and this time they stay. Two actors eyes locked backstage tighter than a lock. More like a chestnut. No key quite like a hard object. They crush it. And uphold buried treasure in the palms of their hands before frozen styrofoam mannequin face-spaces on the fronts of hollow heads. Fill them up with likenesses of whatever frightens them and reminding them of events hard to live through but delightful to behold through the refracted lens of other people’s problems. It helps to spotlight the drama. We cork and ferment our trauma. That is why it is opening night.
And after all these years, I find the theater a place I can play with my pain and raise a toast to all my fears.
Cut a foot into a century tree and find a maggot who beat me there. Like a shook soda, black ants pour a fountain out of another cut. Cut the whole tree down and a twig of a limb throws off my chain. It’s not a dogwood, but the bark has a bite. We’re both bleeding from the wrists. I knew the risks. The tree, I’m not so sure. A white oak cherry poplar surprise. Sourwood, sweetgum, sassafras, sick of more. Maple a muscle. Cedar I’m sore.
I burned gas, and dripped oil, and filed down metal teeth to see where that insect was. I murdered many burglars when I tore down the house we were robbing. And I saved a tree by killing it. Given it an eternal death in preservation its hundred year form could not afford. I went to school with a beetle in its larval stage and we each learned how to lap our tongues clean through the limber heart of timber.
The infant who wrote a dissertation in his crib. I cut mine to inch and quarter floorboards. For a house that will outlive me. But me and my classmates, we’ll forever be the only ones who knew the sound it made when a hundred years of red oak tree smacked the ground and made it shake.