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.
Each scuff on the stage is some poor character’s misstep.
Clunky unfamiliar shoes. Heavy heeled.
Scarred the thick black matte some poor soul was paid to paint.
So many scuffs in the same space seem to create a scar.
A gouge. A place gone bare.
Where now the plywood can be seen.
Like a relative.
Like a minister of some kind closing only one eye with a headnod.
A family made up solely of the unfamiliar.
Strangers. Who share blood. When we squeeze the egg.
Globs of it left out glistening on the floor.
So many scars and you start to see real damage.
Splintered fibrous tissue torn up through the paint.
Wide eyed wonder and anchor jawed acknowledgment.
Brakes struck down through the boots now officially digging into the structure.
The lumber-boned and lead-skinned body of our theater. Footsteps.
Stumbles. Outright tumbles. Foot falls. Close calls.
So many misdirected footsteps wearing unfamiliar shoes.
Then new paint.
What is new paint put up against the past.
Scuffed. Broken. Peeled up.
But if we didn’t paint it every year
there’d be no stage left.
When I write, I sometimes play this game where I imagine how my words will read three hundred years from now. I think, if there is a reference or phrase I can use that is somehow less likely to become irrelevant, or if it seems more timeless, then perhaps my sentiment will resonate longer. I write for the canon. Not for myself. And not really for an audience. I write for the leviathan. For time itself. Casting out my voice relentlessly for the simple sake of seeking to inspire an echo.
I’m like a kid. Playing war. But in a beautiful, yet professional manner. Dressed up like my ancestors. And my goodness, has it been fun.
I know there’s no universal measurement for success. But if success is living a life that would actually impress your twelve year old self, I’m doing it.
And I’m proud of the old man.
It’s official, I left my job at Foust after four incredible years. What an opportunity, and like most good things in life, buried at the center of a nesting doll of so many other jobs and situations. I remember working at the suit store in the morning, then landscaping all afternoon, gardening all evening, and walking my dogs just praying, begging God for a better way to make a living.
It isn’t just a phrase when people say you work for the job you want, not the one you have. Nothing was promised, but I trusted, and each job dropped me off exhausted, ready, done, right on the doorstep of a better one. I feel blessed. I feel hungry, but in the best way. I’m knocking down the door of a greater opportunity already. I’m not exactly sure what life will look like on the other side of this hike, but I have a good feeling
Foust is a part of it.
Which means for now, this really isn’t a true to form good bye.
So much as it is a to-be-continued in disguise.
Dear Liberty Mountain,
What’s with all the shotguns and shouting?
Dead bodies all about the stage
trying not to breathe.
Remember to keep your fingers still.
Brave boys. Die with or without honor
for a few dollars. Same as it ever was.
Thought I do prefer these soldiers.
From one wing to another.
Not across real battlefields.
But fields for wild flowers.
I have seen a feather petaled passionflower in this crowd.
A bouquettle of oxeye daisies. For certain,
a black eyed Susan, or two. And so many
violets playing violent. Pretending war.
Besides, what else are stages for?
No matter the play.
Some form of makebelieve war.
Same goes for real ones.
So thank you Liberty Mountain,
for that lesson. That blessing
buried inside every
single one of us
within all of our art.
Dear actors playing people playing soldier,
no need to reason why or do or die.
Or anything like that, thank God.
Please just show up and play your part.
Spat out sentences like life, or death.
To do, or not to, no matter how much you want to. Don’t.
Use your mouth for a pencil and an audience like paper.
Fill them. Move them. Ruined. Stained. Like ink on a page.
And better be. For the money they paid.
Hardback wood seats embedded engraved copper
with the names of other patrons. Burgundy curtain.
Beige carpet. Used to be a movie theater.
Now a playground for the grown followers of Peter Pan.
A medicine cabinet to those who still take sugar by the spoonful.
By the roomful. Mouths all held agape and waiting.
Debating, could I do that if I wanted to?
Wear an ashy old hat and hum into a warped kazoo.
Sing a line of comfort, out loud, and acquire a choir
of voices who fear making no such choices.
Already out in the light waiting to be spotted.
Nervous wiggling swords in the wings.
Say a few words, then she sings.
And in just a few minutes,
all hell breaks loose.
Fire and demons and love-lust forgiveness.
Chased by heaven and angels
and everything else guilt invented.
Choreographed to look like chaos.
Words once wet ink spat out like cold coffee.
Like watermelon seeds. Like blood.
A reminder that more goes on inside each instant than any of us would care to admit.
That memory is mostly magic. And reality, despite being neither a game or a toy,
can still be an appropriate thing to play around with.
Half moon ribbed peach lips parted.
Crystal cracked corners at the creased angles of eyes
in lines that still go away afterward.
Not for long. Yet still, for now.
Kids smile. Just don’t know why.
Which is probably how.
And how it spreads like secrets.
Gets shared around by people.
When we see innocence still capable of feeling. Authentic.
In a world of grown up actors. Dollar sign directors.
Producers who never gripped a plow. Applause.
And faked up emotions to match the other audience members.
Then this kid. At this age. Insistent. On his stage.
Doesn’t care if we sold a single ticket.
This is his play.