I’m leaving you the way the audience files out
when the heart-stopping play is over,
tripping over umbrellas, stepping on toes,
snagging a silk scarf along a bristling scarlet seat.
I’m leaving you the way the actors slide out
from under their smelly makeup, put on clothes
that make them look as dark and tired as you and me,
and disappear down the ice-torn steps
into the frigid subway.
The way I’m leaving you is by grabbing
onto the nubby sock of the stage manager,
shimmying up his pant leg and slipping into
the back pocket of his blue jeans,
just before he is the last one out.
See the way he throws the huge toggle-switch,
darkening the entire theater in one echogenic thunk
that ricochets inside his ribcage –
that’s the way I’m leaving you.
Light as a paper valentine in the black of his pocket,
I pass through the velvet wings and take the fire exit
down the empty corrugated loading ramp
into the alley of rats behind the old show palace.
I’ve left you the way the bouquets
and telegrams and clippings of reviews (mixed,
good parts underlined) are crisping and yellowing
in the mirrors of the empty dressing rooms.