Thrust upon the lighted stage by hands
He could not see or name, the frightened boy
Looked back into the wings to seek a cue.
But only shadows gestured in the dark;
He didn’t understand, and what was he
Supposed to do in this blind masquerade?
Who were these people, why did they behave
So oddly? But he could not grasp the plot.
He was in part afraid and part too proud
To run away. Covertly he watched
The others in their roles; uncomprehending
Went through the motions seemed to be required.
Is this alright? He wondered. Will someone
Tell me if I go wrong? Someone must care.
How did this start? Is this the final act?
Maybe it’s nearly over and the applause
Will free us soon, although the others seem
To know what they are doing and know why.
He saw no sign of progress and no change
Of pace or tone. The unemphatic lines
That built to nothing droned along. The play
Seemed endless. Will there be an intermission?
If only he could get off stage a while
And study the part or maybe get some help
And ask his questions. But the play dragged on
And no one else seemed baffled. He had heard
Of Chinese operas that went on forever
Or very nearly. Maybe he was trapped
In such a scene. I’m not sure of my role.
I don’t understand the story, he complained.
Who is that man in gray, is he the villain?
Is he my father? That woman, who is she?
Is she the Queen. Although he did not dare
Cry out or stop the show. And then The Girl
Came towards him, clearly expecting some response.
He didn’t know what to say. He tried to smile
But she was gone. Did I do something wrong?
Surely this isn’t the way it’s supposed to be.
Won’t someone tell me? Who am I anyway?
What are we doing here? But still the curtain
Would not descend; the lights stayed as before.
And still those figures gestured in the wings.
What did they mean? He could not understand . . .