Ghost Light

Ghost Light

Every theater has a ghost
often appeased with light, protection
from dangers seen and not
forgotten.

Never forget, we say,
as we do

again,
ghosts flicker-flit or shadow-boom in every theater,
watch the room and mark the spot–

recall how light once sparkled above–
an encircling diamond bracelet
now obscured by a smoky sleeve
and bursts of bright arterial blood.

Every theater has a ghost,
but this one has a multitude.

The final curtain fell
with the beating of Death’s black wings
there is no exit

and no light,
in the darkness, the children cry,
ghosts in this theater of the absurd.

For dVerse Open Link Night. I’ve included my reading of the poem, too.
The ghost light is a theater tradition. Some say it’s to appease the ghosts that all theaters are said to have. Others say it’s for safety reasons—to keep people from falling into the orchestra pit in the dark or tripping over cables. While theaters were closed for Covid, many kept a ghost light on as a promise that they would reopen.

I saw in the news that Russian forces had bombed a theater in Mariupol that was sheltering many children and elderly civilians. According to satellite photos, the building was clearly marked with the word “children” written in Russian. It sounds like the basement kept them safe, but elsewhere, children’s bodies have been found in mass graves.
I am appalled (though unfortunately not surprised) that some people in the US, such as the former president and his true believers, still support Putin and parrot Russian disinformation.

59 thoughts on “Ghost Light

  1. “The final curtain fell with the beating of death’s black wings”–incredible. Overall a very effective war poem, stirring up even more emotions.

  2. “the children cry,
    ghosts in this theater of the absurd.”
    A vivid and precise metaphor of the war happening in Europe today.

    It was good hearing you read this poem

    Much💚love

  3. Oh goodness Merill………… stunned…..all…leading up to that unbelievable end…think can only give coherent words after second reading….what a commentary you made, what a commentary……I will provide better thoughts later after a second reading and the echoes have subsided…

  4. This is incredibly potent, Merril! I was immensely touched by the emotion in your words and your reading of it gave it even more depth! 💝💝

  5. I love that there is more than one way to interpret the theater light, I was not familiar with this tradition before. I am saddened that the reminder for it are the horrible events transpiring today. I hope you do not mind me mentioning that the poem also reminded me of an article I read (i do not know for sure if this event happened or not) about a Pink Floyd concert that they held in an empty theater, only for the ghosts.
    Really enjoyed reading your poignant write.

    • Thank you very much for your comment! Of course I don’t mind that you thought of what you had read about a Pink Floyd concert. There were so many shows/concerts performed in empty theaters over the past couple years.

  6. I got to enjoy the reading twice– reading as I listened to the cadence of your words. “Theater of the absurd” has both a dark and then a darker connotation, given recent events.

  7. “Never forget we say/as we do/ again…” Things are becoming very cold and real these days, and poems like this are needed to help us remember where state-sanctioned mass murder leads.It’s appalling that the only response so far has been all about money(sanctions) when its obvious its about lives that shouldn’t be wagered like poker chips on calling a brute’s bluff. Thanks for the info on the ghost light–a metaphor for all who are waiting for the real lights to come on.

  8. Brilliant within its hideousness.
    I listened as you read.
    I knew what you were talking about, before I read the wrap up.

    On TV, A Russian … someone who knows poo-tin, who fled Russia said poo was just waiting for you know who to be re-elected in the USA. He would take the US out of NATO, making it easier to bully the west.
    It’s unconscionable.

  9. I really enjoyed reading this, Merril, and hearing you reading it. There will always be a multitude of ghosts and yes, all theatres have theirs, it’s tradition, and I love that the ghost light was kept on to honour that (I didn’t know it was called that?). But the theatre bombing in Ukraine was just…words can’t describe the enormity of all the crimes. Thank you for sharing this ❤

    • Thank you very much! I don’t know if the term “ghost light” is used globally, but it is called that here, and I think the UK, too. Yes, there really are no words to describe that bombing, or the other atrocities going on. . .

  10. This is so sad and beautifully poignantly expressed dear Merril. And This is worth repeating over and over « unfortunately not surprised) that some people in the US, such as the former president and his true believers, still support Putin and parrot Russian disinformation.«  for it makes the heart tremble as we realize Ukraine is not the only nation fighting for their democracy.

    • Thank you very much, Rene. 💙
      Yes, you say that so well. It does make the heart tremble. So many people here are like horses with blinders on–they just follow the disinformation trail without straying.

  11. Beautiful. And so… appalling.
    What concerns me most is that P*tin has so many covert/overt supporters. Like in France. many people are saying “sotto voce”, that Ukrain should basically be abandoned. And I’m sure it’s the case in many other countries…
    Munich 1938 all over again.

    • Thank you, and yes. It is very scary. I didn’t know that about France, but I can believe it. Authoritarianism has been gaining everywhere.
      Here, tRump is still bragging to his cult about his connection to dictators. And the GOP here is actively seeking to bring our democracy down in the style of Hungary–we’ll have elections, but they will make sure that the right wing fanatics win.

      • Dictators are gaining ground indeed. And I still don’t understand the GOP. Are they out of their mind? Mid term elections are indeed a source of concern, even when one lives outside the US. I can’t imagine if the Tramp had been in power right now. The Ukrainians wouldn’t have received a single pellet gun…

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