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That time I was left for dead downstage

by James Morehead

8th grade. My big break.

The play was something Western.

I had a single line

and every actor's dream—

a dramatic death.


I had to learn how to act with a beard

glued on in pieces,

the fake hair tickling the bottom of my nose.

I wore it home for a day

to get used to the feel,

my family swallowed giggles during dinner.


Opening night approached.

My heart raced

imagining the curtain

opening on one hundred seated shadows,

that single line I kept forgetting.

Whispers from the director.


Time ran out.

Hurried discussions.

It was decided—my debut line was cut.

With a full beard glued on in pieces,

tickling the bottom of my nose,

a long black coat and top hat,

boots one size too big,

I walked into the spotlight, said nothing,

was shot and left for dead

at the edge of the stage.


I remember lying there,

unable to move,

eyes closed,

silently mouthing my line over

and over and over

sensing classmates' footsteps

avoiding my corpse.

About the Author

James Morehead is Poet Laureate of Dublin, California. "canvas: poems” is his debut collection, and he hosts The Viewless Wings Poetry Podcast (available on all major podcast streaming platforms). James' poem "tethered" was transformed into an award-winning hand drawn animated short film, and "landscape" was published by Wingless Dreamer. “These are poems to be savored, re-read, kept handy for those times when only poetry will do.” - W. J. T. Mitchell, Senior Editor of Critical Inquiry and Gaylord Donnelley Distinguished Service Professor, English and Art History, University of Chicago

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