Publikum

by Merril Asp

    Hamlet,
in his unseen free time,
spends moments elsewhere
    from Elsinore.

Actors have it
    almost right
when they finish a scene
and hang up their roles
    to sit bowlegged
    on prop furniture,
        smoking.

    In fact,
the man holding the bowler hat
does have a cigar in his other hand.
He sits in the corner of a fictional pub
and laughs loud and long
as he tells of the fellow
    who plays him onstage
        waiting for Godot.

    For their own entertainment,
these people watch
—transfixed—
movie screens.
    Tonight, the eclectic crowd
    will view a nameless
    nonfictional couple
        bathed in night.

As the show begins,
    they hear the soft sound
    of fingertips
    running through straight hair
    over
        and over,
            and over,
                and over,
                    washing like waves
                    in a private ocean.