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Theatre Doctor

Karen Shenfeld
From:   The Law of Return. Toronto: Guernica, 1999.


My Zayde knew,
The show must go on.

He was their top banana—
Ann, Georgia, Marjorie, Sally,
Gypsy, too,

The Great Girls who
gave the boys the business.

"The burlesque house again?"
Bubbe asked dismayed,
suspecting foul play.
Zayde gave his lemon tea
a final sip, brushed moon—
cookie crumbs from flecked
moustaches, exited on cue,
toting his black leather bag
like prop.

Inured to the charms of
feminine flesh,
he swam backstage,
with nary a sidelong glance,
the palest blush,
through schools of chorus girls,
soubrettes, shedding spangles,
the dust of stars.

He cured their ailments,
great and small:
painted Gypsy's tender throat;
corseted The Tiger Girl's lower lumbar;
daubed mercurochrome upon Sally's breast
(her wound, accidental
an ostrich feather's errant quill).

I heard it said it was he
who bandaged the wings of Zorita's doves,
the bloodied nose of Rose La Rose.

Admitted to private chambers,
he witnessed transformations,
the polishing of nature's gifts.
What more was he privy to?
Spats with boyfriends, managers?
Secret longings, fears?

Of this I cannot tell.
He was silenced by ancient oath,
the discretion of a temperate soul.



Karen Shenfeld's works copyright © to the author.


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