for Lewis Robinson

I am a child acting Romeo.
I love Juliet desperately
but I cannot say it.
I can just repeat the lines
in my stiff costume
that smells of starch, mucilage,
and dry-cleaned peacock feathers.

My mother’s huge eyes challenge me
from the audience, and Juliet’s
from her chalked-in position
two feet south on the waxy stage.

I can only mouth iambics
with a few excessive flourishes,
a sweep of my cardboard saber—
if I make the text absurd
she’ll guess I mean it—

when I fight Tybalt
it’s for her favor
but he begins punching me
and I cannot hit back
because it’s a play,
tierce, riposte—I bite him,
the lights go off,
Mr. Purvis steps between us
with his savage fish breath
and hissing curses
but I cannot hiss back
because there is a script
and will always be,

even in the silence of the car
speeding home through rented fields.