Death in the Wings

Smiles and frowns as we stroll across the stage
To voice our wit and wisdom, our dreams and passions.
Bold conquerors, laughing fools, weeping madmen,
Tender maidens, coy and gentle,
Raving demons, dark and savage,
Tired old men, grey and weary,
Industrious servants to a tidy master,
Wise and distinguished sages lost in thought;
Poet and peddler, beggar and noble,
Nun and spinster, harlot and housewife,
Soldier and scholar, assassin and lover,
Leper and tyrant, priest and pariah;
Different masks for different men,
Each competing for applause, each another's audience
In an endless pageant of laughter and tears.

But beyond the lighted stage
Where the echoes of applause die away into murky silence,
In shadowed corridors awaits Death, wordlessly, contently,
Patiently for the curtain to fall
And for the fading of the encores and whistles,
Waiting to usher out another actor
From the burning stage-lights,
From the adulating cries of "Bravo!",
From the snorts and howls of derision,
From the eggs and tomatoes of scorn and fury,
And from the sobs of tearful maidens and elderly matrons,
Touched with sorrow, moved to weeping,
Into the looming silence, the yawning darkness
Where all are unmasked, and in eternal sleep made one.

George Chadderdon © 1992