Instructions for Theatre-Goers

by Mara Jebsen

After Edward Hopper's Two On the Aisle, 1927

Two on the Aisle Edward HopperA dark theatre can curve round you like a snake
if you show early and the theatre’s sunk
in that deep-hush velvet, against which
a body feels bony, wrong.

Fold your coat squarely on the back
of your chair; un-crease a programme, don’t fret
about the vague clunk
behind the curtain. Pretend that actors
have no bodies at all. . .

And trust that if the night goes right, a click
will sound high up in the gut, when a story
blows up your life like a long hot noon.
Like a sundial. You stream for miles.

Briefly that star
is you. Enormous and singing
with numb, raw throat. Honed, hurting,
glorious, scared– of the movements
of time that will crack you
back to your body, now that you’re
just so much stretched shadow, glass. Brinked
to the-just-past-the-crest. Poised
to crash.

If you’re lucky you’ll find
you’ve been crying. Your spine
aches briefly in you chair; your cheeks
are wet. Try with a sweet pain to think
what you got. But it’s nothing
and gone. It’s the ruin you came for.

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