1999:Lights

the theatre company

to my astonishment

is making things.

 

less surprising

shaking apart

tanya breaks up

with chris, who leaves

a shadow of his positivity

and goes to work

in fort mac, what men must do.

 

she finds us a new hire

who, within four weeks

has convinced tanya

that i am cheating them

because

i have not made them stars yet.

 

tanya, at least, can say

she’s put in thirteen months

without fame coming calling.

this poor chick, on the day

they stage their coup

actually stamps her feet at me.

how dare i laugh?

how can i not? when she says

she’s been thinking of leaving

for a long time. i’m thirteen years

into this work, and, we are trying here

to bring to the stage original work

that carries seven generations

history, and spins light from it.

 

they think they have me

because we have a small school tour

in two days. there’s the door, i say

go.

 

the tour will not be brilliant

suddenly solo with kids in schools

but this feels, if you want to know

like my whole life, always braced

so, when they drop their shoe

i laugh, shut the door, call shima.

 

shima lives in a basement suite

in a house where i used to live.

she’s from chiba, here to explore

and she’s volunteered for us before

painting scenery. how would you like,

i ask, to come with me and see

the northern lights? because of her visa

i cannot outright hire her

but all expenses and honouraria we can do.

 

we load out and drive north. she is japanese

it’s not done to pry. so she tells me

in her growing english, about adventures

in bunraku, when she worked in a puppet theatre

with her boyfriend once. we fall to scheming

how to rejig performances, and the snowy road

rolls past.

 

my friend james welcomes us

to stay at his house. there is also

an empty guesthouse, but wouldn’t we please

rather stay and visit. of course. shima twinkles

about her one request. james grins back.

they are kindred souls. we sit and play music

drinking tea, til it’s good and late.

 

then he leads us out like a showman

and presents her, with a flourish, the whole sky

lit up with dancing lights.

 

we stand silent in the snow

watch the ancestors dance

everything temporary falls away

to leave a shimmer of benediction.

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