Marcus Aurelius at the Theatre/‘Quiet on the Set’


Every vice of man’s delusion
Amplified by an actor’s mask

I’d sooner stay at home
Sipping espresso e aqua
In my corner store-café
Though even here is not
A bolt-hole from the Theatre

Those passers-by
Surely they are ‘extras’
From ‘Sword and Sandal’ epics
‘Westerns’ all gore and spaghetti?

Forever clad in Armani
They stroll about in a bubble
Of self-regarding Soap

When did the world become like this   –
A playground for the narcissist?

Self-publicists deny sound sense
Preening on the Internet
While from a corner of your home
Reality T.V.
Distracts you from reality

They cannot eat the scenery  
Rarely many roles receive a realistic wage   –  
A company of Thespians pulled this way and that
‘Who are you?’   –   We are your very selves
Elevated here as icon-food

If this world should make me Caesar 
I shall not enact ‘The Caesar’
Eluding the purple dipping in dye
That amplifies all character
Then like an actor’s mask
Inflates the slightest flaw

I will retain my rough Greek cloak
Reject the duck-down pallet
So when I sleep on the floor
I keep my feet on the ground 




“Now you turn to him a long look of regret
Wordless yet   anticipating this   –
The audience must know
You are of royal blood   –
Romance cannot be realised
But always   always   you remember Rome   –

The freedom of the senses
From which the population drink their fill
In this exhilarating and intoxicating city
Free of royal obligation
Free of abstract duty and duress

And furthermore   –   I do not wish
To hear your private conversation
Your words of Woe
Ingratitude   Opinion
Keep those for the movie magazines   –

The hardship of Los Angeles
Stardom cruelly scrutinised
Struggle of a Childhood   save all this
When you phone your psychoanalyst

We are making furthermore a happy picture
Heartfelt family picture
With Rome our glamour backdrop
And furthermore   our budget overdue”


Bernard Saint 
Illustration: Claire Palmer




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