The Understudy. {poetry}


Waiting… always waiting
for the grand gesture, any gesture
The signal that you don’t know how to quit me
A sign that I didn’t choose wrong — again

It doesn’t show…
He doesn’t come…

Intention splinters into emptiness, and the first lie should have predicted the next 50
Desperate not to typecast, though this character feels all too familiar

In its place,
Shame — both yours and mine
Stories I’ve tried to edit, without success
Freedom and failure
Gapings and the games we play to fill them
Distractions — keep them coming — though they birth destruction and doubt
Achings, both known and new

Left to imagine a thousand other beginnings
And the inevitable pattern of their endings.
There’s a lesson, right?
What’s its name?

Can it make me climax
Drag a finger slowly down the spine of my back
Kiss the crook of my neck
Make me feel safe, and still dangerously alive

Too dreamy, you say.

I’ll take practical too.
Someone to remind me to pick up milk
Pay the electric bill
Hoist my daughter onto shoulders when my own arms grow tired
Shovel the fucking driveway, hang the picture —
My feminist sensibilities are shrilling

Doesn’t matter
Point is moot
Desire to be strong, self-reliant, secure in my worth, doesn’t make it magically so

I know, I know
I’ve read the books, taken the classes, written the lists — put myself through the paces.
Still I snub what I know
Ignore intuition
Stand stubborn against the advice of all those who have come — who don’t demand I wait

He, the one with eyes who can’t even commit to a color, continues
and so I move not…
With words that are hollow
Dreams that are big
Confidence caught in conflict

I’ve never been good at standing still
Until it serves me to move
Then, I master it with strength replete
At the study of self-punishment I excel

Pretty it up, frame it in empathy, disguise it as compassion
Then — I can convince even myself that the wait is worth it

It must be the perpetual promise of claiming the light

Begging, demanding, willing my turn
But the lines choke me, dialogue turns to monologue

Foreign plots in which I play no part
Narratives that know not my name
Snide asides and mocking reviews

Ready for the twist — the thematic arc
The pivot point
Have you figured it out?

It’s a simple reveal
No special effects

I am an understudy
You already know this
What I’ve just learned…
The entrances and exits are mine to make
This is a one-woman show

And while the performance suffers ill-timed transitions
Botched lines,
Mismatched gestures,
I have to believe there is power in self-direction, even when it always feels like another
Lost audition

Curtain call
Welling emotion
Magic made
Reflective silence in the space of a second
And then,
the pummel of applause

Tragic romance

A self-made star in her favorite kind of show
No more rehearsals necessary
She’s got these lines down.


Kristina Ambrosia-Conn is an incurable romantic who should never have hyphenated her name, but whose greatest love came out of that union. Quirky and self-punishing, she is a sympathy crier who dreams of possibility, avoids reality, and then wonders what possibly could have gone wrong. Part gypsy, part suburban ex-housewife, and total true-blue Pisces, she is an exhaustive extrovert who talks (but should more often write) to process… anything and everything. She suffers from lack of boundaries, but finds beauty in maelstrom.


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