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Helen Takes the Stage

by Kathi Wolfe


(Helen Keller starred in a vaudeville show The Bluebird of Happiness in 1924.)
Here I am,
like a well-trained
seal, for you,
between the clowns
and singing dogs.
Your surprise
at seeing me in the flesh
in a room smelling like cigars,
makes my skin prickle with heat
more than the stage lights.
Did you know
that Mark Twain taught
me to play pool and spit tobacco?
Annie, my teacher, hates
my being here.
"It's so undignified
to tell jokes to drunks
and traveling salesmen," she says.
I crave applause
more than scotch, cigarettes
or hot dogs swimming in mustard.
With the knife of language,
I've carved out the best life
an icon can.
But, being a saint
is as difficult
as getting a drink during Prohibition.
Yet, until the curtain falls,
I am tethered, like you,
to the laughing
muck and mire of the earth.


Kathi Wolfe is a writer and poet. Her poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in "The Christian Century," "Kaleidoscope," "Harrington Lesbian Fiction Quarterly," "Disability Studies Quarterly" and "Gargoyle." Moon Pie Press, a fine letter press in Quebec, Canada, has published a limited edition chapbook of her poems "Surrealism Before 10 a.m."


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