A comic must give up all hopes of sympathy,

as nothing that moves upon me affects Them.

But for a moment I burglarized their paltry souls

– as wit is my crowbar –

and shone a spotlight upon what lurked within.

My father was an upholsterer for the Palace,

who would have had me read for the law, study for the bar,

grow fat with sagacity, and rest my hams upon the populace.

But he wasn’t a bad sort!  nevertheless.

Of course, though now I am dead…

if you look into the lives of the great artists,

their lives are very keenly tailored

…that is, metaphorically.  But poorly scrubbed,

and a blight on any neighborhood.

So pumping in the dark, my dramatist’s heart struggled.

And when I felt low, I’d go off by myself, lie down

and count my infirmities, realize my age, imagine debts and expenses

rising like sandhills before us, and realize the hopelessness of… a life

of toil and waiting, lots of learning, leading up to…  what?  I can’t

think of a good thing to say about it.

Life is a misadventure, a comic rubric.

While the bourgeoisie are serious and precious…

Oh, an actor’s no more than a made up public figure

with a rubbery posture.  And life’s a struggle, no doubt.

But death’s a lot worse!

You mix and mash.

Oh life is a cartload of unwarranted jealousies!

fingerpointing and some excellent lies,

mixed with a dash of huffing and puffing by the elderly…

some pile of crawling, grasping enterprise.

No one knowing when they’re better off.

And working without charts,

sliding my thought up the sleeve of my art –

it’s a merry gown I wore!

full of puzzles and a pride of irritants;

combatants going tooth and nail.

All the while the audience was a cluster of the idle and exhausted,

and thoughtful rustics chewing on oat straws.

A Comedy being a watery bloom of false starts and suppositions

buffetted by waves of applause –

the Theatre is Poetry, with balls.

And a true actor rises with applause

like the sun over a sleepy world.

(The footlights rise on an actor’s day.)

For imagination’s a better costume than any cut of fabric.

And what’s pretense but a better mode of travel?

We played at night belting our Qualms to the Gods,

(like so many geese flying overhead),

and trotted the Vanities about the stage like horses.

Trouping from performance to performance

slinging sweat and spit onto all the notables –

till eventually all rural France with its rutted roads,

stolid peasants and perfumed nobles,

gave way to Parisian glamor, ribboned courtiers,

and intrigues in the Court of Louis the XIV.

On stage we felt like Chagall’s floating figures,

as life in the foolights was a swim in the heavens.

Like figurines in far-off ceilings is how I see them now;

my friends, my fellow troupers,

and most of all, human beings…

                                     by Carl Nelson

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