Crying on cue

True Stories: Babes in Hollywood, directed by Dan Sturman and Dylan Nelson (2011)

An American wannabe child star
told the workshop of his still-born
brother. How his mother had said
the lost one, endlessly cast in a silent
movie, looked just like himself.
Niagara broke over the boy’s
cheeks. The fat kid to his left,
cast always as a bully, patted
his arm. The workshop leader said
That’s great.

I cried too when my own mother
rapped on the earth and said
Let me in – a role for which
I did not audition.
But recalling my theatrical
run for her departing
Holden on my second day of school,
I had perhaps rehearsed
this loss all my life.

Maybe that was method acting.
A performance with no dry run.

I have also played support
in the soft focus of someone else’s
grief. Perched by an elbow
or unshallow grave, I have sung
a solemn line in condolence. Offered
my own off-key anthem.

For the aspiring child actor,
imagining the death of their Burmese
or labradoodle can further provoke
a successful crying jag.

Later we learnt the boy crying
for his sibling self
got to play a kid vigilante
barking orders to brothers-in-arms
who stood and took it, mute
as still-borns. And I had always
thought the Americans
had no workshops for silence.

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