Shades

The best in this kind are but shadows…

As if the world could disappear
by the flickering of a chandelier,
the chatty audience is hushed.
…………………………………Gay, well groomed,
……………………..we are ourselves costumed
in the dark of seats we’ve student-rushed.

In rapt attention to the empty stage,
we’re brought into a different age
peopled with actors who, by rote,
…………………………..profess their passions
…………………..after long-dead fashions
with words an English writer wrote.

Unreal appearances, devised
so you and I can act surprised,
though, at times, we’re more than a bit
………………………………..buttoned-up.
…………………….Tight corsets cup
their non-existent breasts, as they flit

about—the fairies played by males.
They’re boys dolled up in farthingales,
one disbelievingly suspended
……………………………….from a wire.
……………………..When he goes higher,
we’re worried that the play has ended.

How many times, with up-cast eyes,
have I seen a face I recognize?
The strung-up actor—all his weight
………………………………..held up in air—
…………………we’d seen once as King Lear,
a figure shuttling fate to fate

across the shows in this year’s season.
I know I shouldn’t use such reason.
Actors were “shades” in Shakespeare’s day,
…………………………………like Virgil’s dead,
…………………….whose almost-bodies tread
the distance of reality.

The shadows that we cast tonight,
two bodies intercepting light,
seem the same, though we’re unseen.
…………………………………We’re alive.
………………………Next to you, I strive
in the relative darkness of the scene

to, in a way, feel bodiless—
or to imagine your body as
my own. It’s why I shadow you,
…………………………your shade, to hunt
…………………some shade of what you want,
the same as ghosts and actors do.

Richie Hofmann

Richie Hofmann

Richie Hofmann is the author of Second Empire (2015), winner of the Beatrice Hawley Award. He is the recipient of a Pushcart Prize and the Ruth Lilly Poetry Fellowship, and his poems appear in The New YorkerPloughshares, The New RepublicKenyon Review, and Poetry. He co-edits Lightbox Poetry (www.lightboxpoetry.com), an online educational resource for students and teachers of poetry.
Richie Hofmann

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Author: Richie Hofmann

Richie Hofmann is the author of Second Empire (2015), winner of the Beatrice Hawley Award. He is the recipient of a Pushcart Prize and the Ruth Lilly Poetry Fellowship, and his poems appear in The New YorkerPloughshares, The New RepublicKenyon Review, and Poetry. He co-edits Lightbox Poetry (www.lightboxpoetry.com), an online educational resource for students and teachers of poetry.