Closing Act at the Old Theatre
in memoriam: Guru Dutt (1925-1964)
It might have been simpler to break a vase
or sift the alphabet on a credulous table,
but parlour games never featured too high
on his list: the playwright comes back
only to pursue an interrupted passion
for the study of curious physiognomies.
As in life, he stands tactfully aside
for the crowds that jostle to get their seats
in the theatre; he knows the plays backwards,
it’s the audience he’s returned to watch,
the same carnival that he loved to savour
from the safety of the dress circle.
He thinks he’s strong enough to withstand
the crush, and besides, he’s invisible;
but the revellers break like a hurricane
upon the house, a thousand throats crying
in the voices of strange animals driven
by fire or flood into the wrong country.
He cracks under their stampeding feet,
plaster moist with seepage, gutters sagging,
teak panels splintering, bay windows shattering,
worm-eaten timbers crashing to the floor.
His words, when they come, are a cascade,
the sound of stones rasping on stones.