Bendigo, May 2021

 

I fidget in my seat

here in the middle

of the second row

of an intimate theatre

in my birthplace of Bendigo.

 

I am here to see

a local theatre company

stage ten ten-minute plays,

including

one I wrote.

 

I am here

with my immediate family,

including

my brother & his fiancée,

my sister & brother-in-law,

& dear old Dad.

 

I consider

how I am now as single

as my widowed father—

my long-term partner

parted

ways with me

soon after my dear old mother

unexpectedly passed

last year.

 

Having uncharacteristically drunk

two full-strength beers

at a preshow family dinner

at Jojoes pizzeria,

I now fidget in anticipation

of mixing my drinks

with a glass of yellow

-tinged wine

during intermission.

 

As the venue’s few seats fill,

my brother’s fiancée,

Leanne,

informs me

that my play is the first

of ten listed in the programme.

 

As I finally open

that black, white & pink

booklet,

I feel the tension

of the realisation

that Leanne’s not joking.

 

I feel yellow

and start to go

red in the face

at the mere thought of my play:

 

a fictional yet personal

story about two stargazing

ex-lovers in lockdown

separated by state borders

yet reconnected

by a chat app

& an unexpected astronomical

connection through the constellation

Leo.

 

I am terrified

that the words written

from my broken, hopeful heart

are about to be spoken

by strangers.

 

Out of the blue,

the theatre goes black

to the sound of a familiar riff

that I had first heard

on the radio

almost 21 years ago

at the tender age

of 16.

 

I am enthralled

by those heartening opening lines

about yellow stars shining

in the name of romantic

love.

 

As I listen to the lyrics

of a simple, emotional song

that I hadn’t connected

with my play

till this very moment,

words from the programme

materialise on a screen

in the middle

of the stage backdrop:

 

Astronomical Connection

Written by Michael Leach

Directed by Thomas Moore

Starring: Mason Hingston

& Alicia Gunston.

 

Coldplay’s music fades

yet plays on

in my mind.

 

I smile inwardly,

somehow

knowing

that my heart

has been in good hands.

 

 

Photo courtesy of Bendigo Theatre Company

Stereo Story #598

Michael J. Leach (@m_jleach) is an Australian statistician, epidemiologist, and poet who works as a lecturer at Monash University. Michael’s poems reside in Cordite, Meniscus, Medical Journal of Australia, Plumwood Mountain, the Antarctic Poetry Exhibition, and elsewhere. Michael’s debut poetry collection – a health-themed chapbook – is forthcoming from Melbourne Poets Union.