be strong, they say,
believe in yourself and the glass is half-full.
but with each act, each changing mask
the lights grow brighter—unbearable-
and the audience’s faces look cruel to my eyes.
they tell me turn and i turn
my heart remembers the lines that my lips have read
over and over and over again.
i recite, I laugh, I dance and I sing
they clap, I bow as the curtain falls
and then rises again.
but sometimes it skips a beat and asks
“are you just pretending?”
and then the lights fade and the darkness
crawls inside my eyes again.
i stay because the show must go on.
drowning and dying
beneath the surface of an ice-cold lake
of yes and no and presentation face.
the play repeats itself, the lines grow
old and my heart is heavy with recitation
and the stony faces of my viewers.
in the interim between scenes,
my feet want to fly off the stage
and out the door.
they want to wait at the train station,
tear off the mask, and vanish
into the silence of the unknown
outside the stage.
but still the play moves, and I
stay because the show must go on.
i cry to my director, breaking inside,
and my restless desires
wear and wear and wear
down the heart, once on my sleeve
now locked in a cage,
my lips sealed unless I speak the lines.
good job, they say, keep it up,
they whisper in my ear.
empty words that fall on raw skin
that I dare not touch should it bleed again.
somedays i tire of living, but fear quitting the stage
more than anything, and I keep acting because
there is nothing else to do.
and I stay because the show must go on.
on some nights, when the spotlights fade out
and the audience is gone,
i dream of the day when the director will
call cut and the curtain will fall for the final time.
then He will set my heart free and free and free.
and no more lines to read or songs to sing
or dances to learn or acts to remember.
but for now I remain, silent and cheerful
with a storm beneath the surface,
saying please and thank you and living the lie
that some call a dream.
because the show must go on.