Carol Ann Duffy


All words by heart as I stand in the dark,
I blank them and breathe, breathe,
they will not leave me.
I am my father’s good daughter.
I am my lord’s true lover.
I am my own twin brother.
All moves off pat as I wait behind curtains.

All scenes rehearsed as I pause here, certain,
bend at the neck, waist, knees, listen out
for my cue line, inhale, exhale.
I will lose my reason.
I will swallow the poison.
All lines on the tip of my tongue in this dusty gloom.

All text committed as I walked from the green room.
A dead man wrote it.
I have the living throat for a poem.
I have the seeing eyes for a dream.
All dialogue learned as I bide in the wings.

All speeches sure, all lyrics to sing
pitched and prepared, all business timed.
I am the reason and rhyme.
All verbals sorted as I near the stage.

All ad libs inked on the prompter’s page.
I will not corpse.
All black as I prowl at the edge of the limelight.
All rewrites scanned as I squint at the spotlight.
I am the Queen of Egypt.

All hushed backstage as I pray the script.