Old Henry’s seats in the courthouse are in front of me and between us.
He’s silently unmoved by her performance, and in my way. How and why?!
To several other members of the audience,
I whisper in a childlike voice
or “Is this your first time? It’s mine.”
But what I mean is
“We have nothing in common
except this strange abundance of
benefits of the doubt
that we mindlessly trade
because we’re genteel southerners,
so here goes.”
I used to perform with her.
And we were a real gas.
I’d throw my voice to a dummy.
He’d exchange with her
“How was your day?”
or “What do you wanna eat for dinner?”
And his voice wasn’t mine. It was childlike; hers.
Sometimes she threw back, but mostly she ignored him, silently unmoved.
That’s what tickled the audience.
But not Henry. He just waited for a punchline that never came,
tall and long and in the way.
Eventually I took that voice off-stage –
I couldn’t stop.
At this courthouse performance, I might have jumped in with it for old time sake,
But she’s gone solo or at least tried out other partners already.
I paid full admission for this show, so I won’t participate out of respect for her craft,
and I’m totally confused about that.
In one of our older acts,
there were people
talking in her head.
I don’t know why,
But I never let it stop my dummy voice.
I think she’s still confused about that.
That tickles the audience.
“Oh Henry,” I lean forward to ask,
“Why do you sit in the way?
Make a scene for me.
Raise your voice so they hear squealing tires, grinding metal,
and the scrawling of reports.
At the top of your concrete lungs, Henry,
Help us get the team back together.”
Her performance is terrifying
I’m confused by it.
The show ends
And all those mindless genteel southerners
trample Henry down
to get away from her, and expect me to do the same.
Henry is still silent and unmoved, but a little different now.
His seats in the courthouse are
a silent highway in front of me and between us.
He’s my ride, though, so I’ll wait.