a c t i n g o n t h e f l y
--after Frank O'Hara
D A V I D G R A H A M
Perhaps it is to punish ourselves obscurely,
as in a soda commercial when the character actor sings "Hey!
and Ho! Don't I wish I were young. . . ."
and instantly is, afloat on bubbly light,
swerving down a crowded freeway as a duck
will when the farmer clomps by, or a mongrel yips, that dog
of chaos, sternly aloose in many-scented weeds
and splendid noises all with specific meanings.
Thirst evaporates, like rags of age, and you
are that actor, steering a sportscar. Which exit? What's
the limit here? A quick-braking semi reminds you of peril
and your absurd and skimpy clothing. Yet
this is the right movie after all, rolling on, getting good.
Once you're acting you're real, can you follow
me? Never to worry about your next line?
To drive forever a scripted vehicle down the toll road
to be paid, always, for what and not who!
The fingertips hum to themselves as though absent-minded
and the palms grip the wheel stiffly as paws.
The interstate is no river, so much is on fire!
and ever shall be, and still the traffic, it might ooze
on. These scribblings in the blueblack notebook of an actor
dead but still acting, you're the producer with a plan
and bankroll, your signature alone could have sealed this.
Popularity, the mysterious fever of fame. Dead,
or acting? Is there film enough? And, speeding,
you overtake all that would stand in your sweet way,
the bubble of selfhood cruising, for you must act
and react your skill in this renowned scene
whether you're dead or possibly just fading,
as credits dissolve with your integrity.