The Show Must Go On

February 25, 2020

A phone rings on stage like a flashback and we return to our fantasy that characters can die and revive, that the show must go on . . .

POETRY OF THE TIMES

I urgently search for a pulse

thinking heart attack, stroke,

when she comes around- groggy,

disoriented, heartbeat as slow as

this play’s last act. I lay her down,

offer sips of water like an 18th century

doctor whose only tools are comfort

and kindness, until Modern Medicine

enters on cue, costumed as a pair

of EMTs with props of oxygen,

IVs and telemetry, walkies squawking

when they exit to the ambulance.

The house manager high fives me

with a smile and dims the lights,

the star reclaims the spotlight, two fingers pressed to her neck

as if searching for a carotid pulse

frozen for a beat before her theatrical

nod breaks the tension. A phone rings

on stage like a flashback and we return

to our fantasy that characters can die

and revive, that the show must go on,

and there’s always a doctor in the house.

Dr Berlin is Instructor in Psychiatry, University of Massachusetts Medical School, Worcester, MA.

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