Break a Rib

Drunk, happy, surprised
spin around, stumble, fall
head downstage, back to the dancers,
arms akimbo.  Perfect.

I once knew a woman
who got a needle jammed
in the ball of her foot
in dress rehearsal.

She had the surgeon cut down
through the foot because
with stitches in the sole
she could not go on.

Lisa climbed into the coffin
and fifteen times we drove
a stake through her heart.  Blood
spurting into the rafters
dark red
mint flavored
curdling on the light cans
she screamed on cue
and never complained.

But I'm not thinking about that.
My elbow is under my rib,
a fulcrum for the fourth
one up on the left side and
that sound was not in the script.

Friday night the Grand Dragon
drove the mob to a lynching fury.
Backstage Richard vomited
into a trash sack, sweaty dishrag
in Dragon's clothing.

I'm not thinking about that, either.
Behind me the big dance
is shaking the stage rather more
than I remember it doing before.

Darren spent Monday at the hospital
passing kidney stones.  His brother,
driver and valet for the evening,
poured him into the makeup chair
half an hour before curtain.

Henry Jefferson was a little
unsteady on his feet that night:
three stones to go and full of morphine,
the show goes on.

In a minute Darren - Henry -
will take my right hand and
pull me up half sitting.
Reacting to a line he'll drop me,
then a blackout and I can
leave the stage.

You know that muscle that anchors
to the skull like a Japanese fan
above your ear and runs down the side
of your neck, the tendon tied to
your shoulder blade?

Last night Anna sang her solo
with the whole thing in spasm.
She took her applause with
clear smiling eyes but,
in the finale, her scripted tears
required no special skill.

Anna's not on my mind right now.
Four more nights, I'm thinking.
Four more times to fall.