A Short History of My Life

I spent years in the theatre
trying to make words and actions
that were rehearsed and memorized
appear spontaneous, as if
arrived at on the spot,
with no preconceptions or conditions
of being—I never quite pulled it off.
No matter how transcendent the moment
became, I was constantly aware
of the audience, of the lights,
of the backstage hands in the wings
mocking a flubbed line or missed cue.
No matter how immediate the interaction
I always looked forward to the curtain call,
the cast party in the cafe, raiding
the parents’ liquor cabinet.
I used to think my training
in the theatre would help me
become an exemplary teacher, performing
the lesson with no strings attached,
at full attention, communicating with
my students with hardly a hint
of improvisation, my part fully prepared.
I never anticipated the questions that wouldn’t
come, or the muffled sobs at the end
of a viewing of Easy Rider after this senseless
week of violence. Nothing could prepare me
to face this audience. I look at the floor,
pretending I have a script in hand, and mutter
unrehearsed words to hold back the tears.