The Curtain

Perhaps you know that story where people step 
out of this world and into another through 
a split in the air – they feel for it 

as you would your way across a stage curtain, 
after your one act, plucking at the pleats,  
trying for the folded-in opening through which 

you shiver and shoulder yourself 
without so much as a glance up
to the gods, so keen are you to get back

to where you were before your entrance:
those dim familiar wings, you invisible,
bumping into things you half-remember

blinded as you’d been out there
in the onslaught of lights, yes, blinded
but wholly attended to in your blindness.

No tears then. Just one of us to hold 
aside the curtain – here we are, there you go –
before letting it slump majestically back 

to that oddly satisfying inch above the boards
in which we glimpse a shadowy shuffling dark.
And when the lights come on and we turn to each other

who’s to say they won’t already be
in their dressing room, peeling off the layers,
wiping away that face we have loved,

unbecoming themselves to step out 
into the stream of the night crowds.


The free tracks you can enjoy in the Poetry Archive are a selection of a poet’s work. Our catalogue store includes many more recordings which you can download to your device.