Just Before the Night Ripped Open Like a Sash

Christmas, 2006 / No. 17

God and I are in a cabaret,

my father playing piano

with a crowbar and a candlestick—

an instant set of string drums

—beating away, seventeen in his sixty-year-old skin. Dix minutes

pre-curtain, Death is off having near experiences

in the bathroom with the man they call Wilde.

When we see Death again, in his slim white

clam diggers, he’s chewing on teeth

like they’re Chiclets,

yammering two octaves too high, our leading man

utterly fucked up on formaldehyde. Quel disaster!

Daddy-O goes forte, for there’s no such thing

as forte-piano when your audience is mostly ghosts

(their lives are quiet enough the rest of the time).

Onstage the painted set wobbles,

threatens to tumble over

like a Warhol girl in a crêpe-paper dress.

God staggers through the hall,

meekly barters away eternal life

as he bums a cig off a mortal

(it should only cost twenty-five cents, but human currency

occasionally befuddles our noble director),

sits in the overpowdered light

of the dressing room, muttering,

“Without Death, we have to cut the whole third act.

Without Death, it’s the only option…”

In the chalky gloom,

beneath luminescent elbows,

the tabletop is globbed with glitter and rouge.

From the other room, above the smashing,

an arc of singing takes flight,

fastidious as a woman crying.

God sucks in a long breath, rewriting

sans lexis. The boas in the closet,

like live creatures, tremble.