He stands behind the colossal red curtains,
an eye through the slit to watch the sold-out crowd
as they cram themselves into threadbare seats.
There are scuffles every year, double-bookings,
receipts pulled out in a huff, people made to stand
at the back and watch from the outside in. He sighs,
scratches the hair that sticks from under his tattered hat.
Every signing of the contract the theatre tells him
there's no money left for the show, what with splurging
as they do on the all-out campaigns, primetime air,
the launches of entire product lines, all shoving people
towards this, the event on their calendar. Yes, he knows
they're not here for him. What keeps them coming
is the weight of their own back-stories. The hope that
it'll be more than it never was. For reasons unknown
to him, unrequited wishes don't fade, but compile, compact.
He plucks a rogue sequin from his leotard, and
straightens his posture as much as he can muster.
Lights dim, the rise of an excited hush from the kids,
and the curtains part before the maudlin music cues.
He smiles with wooden benevolence, the floor creaking
beneath his slippers. Finally, the loudspeaker coughs
into life with a crackle. He is so weary he has half a mind
to just stand there, staring. But instead finds himself bobbing
at the knees. Then gives a shuffle, a half-hearted shimmy.
Because what's a song without a dance? Sure. It's the same
sad show as last year. But, they've come all this way.
And you've got to give them something.