The Travelers (poem)
Time travelers, playbills in hand, shaking the dazzle from their eyes
Finding they are on the steps
of the old Melodia, tall in her glory
The invention new, the first of occasions
On which the taboo will be tried
Shiloh willing, his ancestor the songstress
Who will die
March 14 the air electric “I am so interested,” whispers Trinity
When and how will we make the intercept?
Their voices to the crowd sound foreign
They had sourced with care, but are overdressed
Not so dusted, creased and faded
In velvets made with modern dyes
The travelers too are broader-shouldered
And their teeth gleam fearfully white
And Trinity has on buttoned shoes
from a Victorian cos-supplier
these so symmetrically constructed
So shining black with factory treatment
They strike the nineteenth century eye
Odd, in some unnamable, aggressive way
A guy, a fellow, wearing a brass-buttoned coat
And such muttonchops adorning his face
And such an oily face it is
Wants to know if he can be of help to them
At Nicol’s giggle, wants to know
Can they show their tickets, then?
Of course, of course, but may we meet the stars?
I, says Shiloh, have a relative, playing the ingenue’s part
Muttonchops stares him close in the face
A squall intervenes, and the man’s lips move
While rain, terrible rain, a third day’s rain, puddles the street
And gives illusion to the building’s Empire façade
Of stonework melting like summer ice
But the roof won’t give until half-past nine
Look at them swells, in this weather, afoot
Muttonchops says, to a uniformed arrival
An usher, he is, of childlike stature
And wizened brow
Think Miss Bolin’s specially expecting em?
The usher laughs
Tickets! Hey? Tickets!
Else go run your con down the Chapin
Shiloh wonders if anyone really says, My good man
Listen up, runt, he says instead, we’ll take three
No, Nicol clamps the usher’s shoulder. Plenty
room in the back rows Lots of empty seats tonight
Get us three near the lobby door
Nervous, Shi? says Trinity
No. I’m ready to spar
with the Dark of the Heavens.
Only I don’t think they’ll let us speak to her
Shout. Just shout, says Nicol
Shout, Shiloh whispers, fire in a crowded theater?
Keep your voice down.
But when? says Trinity
Witness reports… I hadn’t thought of it
9:30? By whose watch?
They said the audience had been hearing beams creak
That a boom rang out, but a silence came after
That Miss Willadene Bolin, with enchanting candor
Broke character, and said to the orchestra, “My!”
Then the violins for a second took up,
And the singer produced a trill of notes
(2021, Stephanie Foster)