by Charles Evans

The heroine lay dying in her pasteboard cot
Seized by coughing, clutching with both hands
The big tenor who knelt at her side
It was too much
I slipped from my seat, stumbled through feet and knees
Mounted the stage in a burst of saving love
For heaven’s sake, I said, she’s a sick woman
An attic is no place for a consumptive
They hustled me to the wings

She took the stage, flaunting her gypsy skirt
In a fast spin, taunting with jutting hips
The workers who crowded close
I saw the danger
Hurried down, pushed aside the protesting musicians
Climbed the steps in a last bid to stop the brawl
Calm down, I told them, love’s all right in its place
But there’s no need for knives
They escorted me to the foyer

He reached out, touching the breasts of the peasant girl
In a sly gesture, reassuring her
He was a rich man, her key to a new life
I was disgusted
Stood up, decided to give him a piece of my mind
Burst out in a last attempt to protect her virtue
Come off it, I shouted, we all know what you want
Take your hands off that poor girl
They marched me to the door

Outside, I saw the bus, splashed through driving rain
Slipped in a puddle, fell heavily on the oily road
Under the big Jag, which screeched to a halt
I gathered my senses
Sat up, heard the chorus of concern
Broke into song in an effort to find the key
Take it easy, they said, the ambulance is here
This is no time for singing
They cut short my aria