Michael Crane

From the Balcony

The year the Titanic sank, among Icebergs,
I as a young child sat on the balcony
of the Victory Theatre and watched the actors
prance on the stage. My father, the Mayor,
was one of the main attractions and I was proud of him.

The play was about two men in the Boer War
who both loved the same young woman.
I remember the smell of cigars, the taste of chocolate
in my mouth, the absence of my mother. She was
at home with a midwife giving birth to my sister.

At interval a man with a long grey beard appeared
onto the stage to talk about some conflict in Europe
which could erupt into a major disaster, but everyone
laughed and some young men jeered at him. Later
they would die in the mud on a field at Flanders.

I was born near the Victory Theatre and I’m dying there.
But I can still see the frilly frocks of the young women,
the extravagant hats of the ladies of the Auxiliary Club.
and hear the man playing ‘Waltzing Matilda” on his banjo
I can still smell the coffee brewing in the Victory Theatre foyer.

From high in the Balcony looking down at the audience,
I didn’t know what horrors would befall the world.
I told my father, I never wanted to leave the Victory Theatre
as he held my hand he told me if I closed my eyes
and made a wish I could stay here forever in my dreams.

Now twilight seeps through the curtain in my hospital ward.
This is my one and only poem as I bid the world farewell.
I’m saying goodbye to the Victory Theatre, to my dreams
and that night when I sat with my father on the balcony
as my mother died giving birth to my sister at home.

That night when the crowd sang The National Anthem,
my sister was dragged from my mother’s womb.
That night we walked out onto the street
amid the smell of horses and stale beer from the pub
across the road, and in my mind I’m back on the balcony.

And as I close my eyes I can see one last figure on the stage,
calling me to join him and dance to the song of the piano.
My hands are held by my dead father and he sighs
as I leave him to walk down the stairs onto the stage
of the Victory Theatre, the taste of chocolate in my mouth.