The Last Act

by Myna Wallin

Is the shortest one; time is running out.
When does the last act begin—?
You’ll know, you’ll feel your stomach ticking
and hear the stage manager’s
stage whisper, Places everyone!

Your play has its plot points—
your mother’s death from cancer,
your father’s fatal heart attack.
Your ongoing arm-wrestle
with anxiety and depression.

You’ve built up expectation
for a satisfying conclusion.
It’s time to tie up loose ends.
Will there be a sudden
reversal of fortune?

It’s a lot of pressure,
so I understand the urge to step down,
to put up your tired, swollen feet
on the ottoman, covered in cats,
and flip through the scrapbook
of your first two acts. They were
exhilarating years; you had a boundless
appetite for dangerous liaisons.

The third act demands resolution.
Your audience has tolerated your story,
they’ve downed a drink and a furtive smoke
during intermission and they’re impatient.

Worst of all is the disappointing finale,
as though the playwright ran out of ideas
and turned the whole thing into farce.

Enigmatic endings will do in a pinch:
Why did she walk out? Did he find religion?
Before the curtain comes down,
who fired a gun from offstage?

When your story’s neither comedy nor tragedy,
will the climax feel spiritually uplifting?
Or will you be sighing in the wings,
waiting for someone to save you
from your own lost ending.

Bring out the brittle chorus line
and the mad magician, when all else fails.

 — from Juniper Volume 3, Issue 2