This unlit stage is a matinee —
A limited engagement;
Emotion gets itself an agent
For deadlines and demands for pay;
“Theater dark,” the dark eyes say
Whose lights are flickering and impatient.
There’s nothing to do but wait,
Though every moment comes not cheap;
Don’t think that rank amateurs can keep
Without a script such faith, such hate
In unwritten love: Read it and weep;
Re-opening scabs line up three deep,
And hearts are pounding at the gate.
NOTES for Students of English
“A limited engagement” – A short-term contract for theatrical performances. Here there is the suggestion of the second meaning of “engagement” – a promise to be married.
Theater dark – A theatrical term meaning “closed to the public.” A theater, or house, is “dark” between productions or on nonperformance days.
“Read it and weep” – An idiomatic expression meaning “Here’s bad news for you; you lose.” It probably originated in the game of poker when one player revealed his winning hand. A variant is “Read ’em and weep.”
Scabs – Here a play on two meanings of “scab”: 1) a crust over a wound; and 2) a contemptible strikebreaker.
Pounding – Here a play on the transitive and intransitive meanings of “to pound.”