A poem that has always been close to my heart

The One-Woman Play She Never Saw
by Leslie M. Levy

typewriterShe turns her head away
and casts her eyes to the floor,
but I know she sees him:
gray hair matted into dreadlocks,
yellow eyes alive with visions,
grinning mouth in perpetual motion.

He performs a one-man play,
a monolog of grunts, laughs, and chatter
that bring forth no applause from her.

My daughter and I sit in a booth together
at Burger King.
My back is towards him,
his voice as constant as the smell of grease
and the avalanche of crushed ice tumbling into plastic cups.

My girl, scared to look the man in the eye,
hastens over to my side of the booth.
There she stuffs herself with chicken tenders,
no time to swallow,
no time to chew,
she abandons her lemonade
and forgets to wipe the ketchup off her chin.

I grab her hand on the way out,
sure of the answer already I ask:

“Did he scare you?”

She nods and need not say more.

“He’s not well,” I say
and as I drive us back home
the tiny thread of kinship
I share with the man,
a dim spark of recognition,
makes me thank God
that the one-woman play
I acted in years ago,
my own eyes filled with visions,
was one she never saw.