Back arched shaking, face cold white,

Head held stiff and hands clenched tight,

Apprehension’s all I taste now,

With no hint of sweet reprieve.

“Now!” you whisper, fiercely, certain,

“Do your best and watch the curtain,

The audience wields savage judgment,

Don’t let up!” You grip my sleeve,

And with a painful, wooden gesture,

Send me forward, heft me westward,

Sprawling towards an empty shadow,

Tripping through dead props and dreams.

With a slump I settle downward,

Brace myself, and e’er the coward,

Glance off stage, my face uncertain,

Longing for your empathy.

“What’s my role?” my clenched teeth chatter,

Brittle, tense, they clash and shatter,

Cracking through the air’s soft muffle.

Cross, you glare and growl at me,

“You’re the martyr, unsung hero,

Spreading light both far and near, though

By your close you’re cursed, reviled;

With a grand soliloquy,

You offer thanks for all the suffering,

Praise your god without rebuffing,

Bless your foes and spare them justice,

End with fervent, pious glee,

And with your zeal and holy beauty,

Shake off life and end your duty,

Guard the throne of God Almighty,

Basking in his majesty.”

The curtains crack and I am blinded,

Light unequaled, single-minded,

Ripping through the splitting cloth,

My eyes burned shut eternally.

I hear the soft, most dreaded rustle,

Cloth rescinding, wretched bustle,

The glare of light so piercing, biting,

Washed in whiteness, light I breathe.

“Now go!” you bark with unchecked ire,

“Bear your fervent, holy fire!

No more time for doubt or longing,

Show your sacred, shimm’ring gleam!”

I turn unsure to meet the brightness,

Fight my fear and great this whiteness,

Wear my soul before those watching,

Cloaked in anonymity.

I p’rade about, proclaim my mission,

Wage my war ‘gainst cruel temptation,

Make myself a hill-borne beacon,

Warding off apostasy.

The acts progress; I brace for violence,

Seething rage and haughty silence,

Quick to shoulder any yoke, as

Living bound means dying free.

But as the lights fall ever dimmer,

No one strives to douse my glimmer.

Frantic with my role unrealized,

Martyr’s death becomes my plea.

And then the spectacle is ended,

Light once blinding now rescinded.

Waiting for the crowd’s reaction,

Praying for some leniency,

I am shattered by the stillness;

Shrieking with discordant shrillness,

I behold the dusty chairs now,

Vacant for eternity.

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