Ovation By Carol Muske-Dukes

I try to make myself afraid,
the way you must have been afraid,   
stepping out onto this stage—
but with a fear so pure, so

perfectly informed that you strode   
out shouting. Here, where
the neon yellow arrows painted
on the floor shoot forward underfoot

in blackness—beneath the hanging   
sequence of tinted skies—out toward   
that mindless immortalizing light, now   
dark. Now I think I feel the heat you

must have felt rising from the front rows.   
A gaping fire door, a furnace:
your single body standing here
with no shadow, swinging on itself.

Had you been a fool, you might have thought   
that they loved you. They never love you,   
you said. They are hungry for the god
in his gold eclipse, the pure you on fire.

John and I move quickly, each with a handful   
of ash, scattering. The sound of no sound falling   
into the cracks in the boards, the footlights,   
the first row. A small personal snow: a prince

of dust, a villain of dust. Each part you played   
drifting up again, recomposing. I open my hand,   
I let you go—back into the lines you learned,   
back into the body and the body's beauty—

back into the standing ovation: bow after bow after bow.
Carol Muske-Dukes, “Ovation” from Sparrow. Copyright © 2003 by Carol Muske-Dukes. Used by permission of Random House, Inc.

Source: Sparrow: Poems (Random House Inc., 2003)

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