Backstage Before the Passion Play

It’s the kind of story one might tell
after some bad news on TV or in the newspaper:
an affirmation that things are getting bad,
going to hell, you might say,
in a hand basket.

Surely it’s been told many times,
circulated between the cast and their friends
and their families, at holiday gatherings
or over morning coffee in the café
across the street from the theater.

The costume was coming along beautifully,
sequin by tiny white sequin,
the dressmaker’s dummy
wearing it reverently, exquisitely,
displaying the dazzle and shine of a resurrection.

Days before the opening performance,
just a few more stitches needing to be tied,
it disappeared from the theater
and from the luminous spotlight
for which it was made.

The other side of the story,
equally abhorrent, is mine, is never told—
involves an even greater, unrecoverable  loss.
The day it disappeared,
A peace rally had just dismissed from the theater

And the pupils of hope were dispersed
into an afternoon of promise and positive thinking
and I decided to follow some friends down the wrong
dark corridor, an alternate exit
leading to the detour of souls.

We found an open room backstage and were impressed
by the sewing machines and colored threads
and miles of fabric and ribbons curled onto spools.
I remember the seam of the white shoulder,
pierced with a threaded needle, waiting for the return

of its creator, who would later find a missing shroud
in the same sun-bright room where I would learn a little something
about irony, while I confused peer pressure with democracy,
and realized how impossible it sometimes seems
to do anything but watch—in horror and in awe.

DeMaris Gaunt

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