the ammonium smell
of the curtains closing in
comforts me in a way
only chronic panic can.

From a distance—
peace with a hairline fracture—
the hour turns
from morning to too bright.
My tasks are acrobats; they balance on tall shoulders,
somersaulting through unchecked boxes,
tightroping between tight timelines,
and as I watch,
my to-dos inscribe reminders
as hives on both arms.

It’s then I smell
the musk, the self-aware air
between those curtains like walls, encroaching,
steadily expanding,
commandeering my space,
and I know it’ll soon be

I’ll feel
drapes draw into my cheek,
I’ll hear the churn
of rope and metal
leer in my ear,
I’ll feel my knees weaken
with the change in air pressure.

And from there,
I’m flattened to a dimension,
my anxieties on each side,
and I am nothing
but an inhale and a hold,
a clenched fist,
an itchy arm—
and I cannot, I cannot
look down to a stage floor
my feet no longer touch.

But from there,
after drowning applause,
I know the audience will clear
and the curtains will grow weary,
retreat to digest.
And my chest will release,
and my airway will clear,
and I’ll find my list of to-dos
there, close to the ground.
And now, with all this space to find breath,
I am ready to close
the remainder of this performance,
until the next showing begins.