I hold her body in my arms,
dead and not dead,
my child and not my child.
I am Lord Capulet
and Kate is Juliet. In life
we are virtual strangers,
but on stage, I hold her in my arms
and under the hot stage lights
I weep for her death, or close to it.
I don’t know what killed her;
I don’t even ask. I simply speak
of her settled blood and her
stiffened joints and the ice
of her skin. And even while
I speak, I talk of not being able
to speak. Death has tied up my
tongue. I don’t know she’s not
really dead but only sleeping;
I am, as they say, in the dark.
And I remain there, in darkness, until
the end of Act V, when my child
who is not my child dies a second time,
this time for real.
I lose this stranger-daughter twice
every night, and every night
when I walk off stage for the last
time I have to work really hard
not to lose it, to remind myself
that I am in a play, that this young
girl is not really my daughter,
and that when the lights come back up,
we will experience together the final
curtain call–and that’s not a metaphor.