Variation 16: Actor
So. Call me obtuse, it isn’t what you think. My angle
on method? It’s not some avoidance tactic softshoe
get-me-out-of-me shuffle, ta-ta
I’m off to transcend. No, it’s a hallelujah
chorus raising the rafters in the theatre
of souls that passes as my skull. Wait up, MacDuff,
attention must be paid. That’s why I do it—to let each
make a scene center-stage, because personality,
you know, is death-defying, that’s right, it’s all an act
in the wings, and I am as many I’s as Zeus
gave Argus and honey, I strut them
like a peacock, in top form. Call me a dodo, I am not
extinct when like a bird I fly the coop of earthly bounds,
equity transmigration, toasting a born again role.
I take a fresh soul home with each new script,
and honey, I can go home again.
[double stanza break]
And again and again. What you see
is not who I am: In my one
singular sensational shape I don and slough a slew
of disparate selves. Think it’s distraction I’m after, anything but
humble little me? Don’t you just wish
you could live once in this be-costumed bod, and die
night after night, and die, and die, and die, and still—wonders—be
this attractive? Call me vain. Shameless. I’m saving face-
lifts by means of masks. An I for an I? Sleight of hand?
Out of body experience? Honey, it’s all here in my vita.
Call me a condiment, in solid standing,
fluid when handled and poured. Over-
soul, when called I come: It’s sexy but not
sexual, lovely but hardly love, escapade, yes,
but never escape. All entrancing and never having
to bow out. So call me any time. Any one.
Alice B. Fogel is currently the New Hampshire State poet laureate. Her newest poetry collection, (from which this poem is reprinted), Interval: Poems Based on Bach’s “Goldberg Variations,” won the Nicholas Schaffner Award for Music in Literature. Her third book, Be That Empty (Harbor Mountain Press), was a national poetry bestseller, and she is also the author of the guide for readers and teachers, as well as writers, Strange Terrain, on ways to appreciate poetry without necessarily “getting” it. Nominated 8 times for the Pushcart Prize, Fogel’s poems have appeared in many journals and anthologies, including Best American Poetry, Robert Hass’s Poet’s Choice, Yale Letters, Inflectionist Review, Spillway, and Hotel Amerika. She has received a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, among other awards. A new book, A Doubtful House, is due out in 2017.