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Strut and Fret

by Donna Vorreyer

[Open in a theater. The show is about to begin.]

Dimmed lights and red velvet herald the start when you ask me a question. What are we doing here? you say, and it startles me, but the play is now in progress, the curtains up, so I make some sort of comment to hush you as the landscape of the stage unfolds to reveal a lone actor in a soliloquy about the disappearance of his lover. He sits on a fire escape.

[The fire escape is styled to seem like it is attached to the backdrop painting of a brick building, the shapes and shadows of an alleyway captured by the set designers and their lights.]

I listen and choose phrases from his speech that would make good lines for poems: it’s been sixteen days or nothing packed or missing. My distraction fits your mood – you have transformed since that question, staring at the floor, and, instead of wondering what you meant by your question, I think about poems, perhaps an example of what you said earlier at dinner,


that I am always “in the ether” and, when you said that, I thought about hospitals and nurses and how we should probably talk soon about babies after being together so long, which could be another example.

[The music swells.]

The actor spies his missing lover floating above the fire escape.

[The levitation is well-executed with no trace of wires.]

I wonder if this implicates heaven, but they haven’t said that she died (though, being so distracted, I have only heard the plot in bits), and I glance over to see your reaction. You fidget, looking side to side for your own escape. The subtext of your question comes into focus – not here, the theater, but here, together – a couple.

[The iron fire escape is now a thick and threatening forest, a dark song married to the footsteps of the lover.]

The lover wanders, lost, and I turn away, search the playbill for explication, a fruitless endeavor. I stand to join her, voices buzzing displeasure all around me, yours the loudest.

Donna Vorreyer is a Chicago-area writer who spends her days teaching middle school, trying to convince teenagers that words matter. Her work has appeared in many journals including Rhino, Linebreak, Cider Press Review, Stirring, Sweet, wicked alice, and Weave. Her fourth chapbook, We Build Houses of Our Bodies, is forthcoming this year from Dancing Girl Press. In addition, her first full-length poetry collection, A House of Many Windows, was recently released by Sundress Publications. She also serves as a poetry editor for Mixed Fruit magazine.

Lead image: “Theatre Seating” (via Flickr user David Joyce)