By: Hal Cobb

Hal Cobb was awarded an Honorable Mention in Poetry in the 2016 Prison Writing Contest.

my junior year of high school the music department
selected jerry herman’s “applause” as the spring musical
a rather risqué choice for a conservative suburban school
district in central indiana in the mid-1970’s

to appease the school board the gay bar scene was made straight
but the love story between unmarried leads remained intact
as did margo channing’s over-the-top gay hairdresser

of course, I wanted to play the romantic lead, bill
who got to belt out a love ballad as the tension
between he and the star came to a head

they gave me duane the hairdresser
after I threw every stereotypical homosexual
characterization a closeted gay boy could
think of in an attempt to throw the audition
surely, they wouldn’t go for something so outlandish

I knew I was in trouble when the director literally
fell out of his seat and rolled down the aisle in great
peals of laughter—too late to turn back now

there was no way to tone down duane’s scene-stealing repartee
with wonderfully bitchy lines like “Isn’t she a treasure?
I think I’ll bury her.” and a soaring solo falsetto
descant trilled in the show’s title song

the coup de grace in act 2 was when I strutted on stage and
struck a pose decades before madonna taught us how to vogue
announcing to margo I’d just bought a fun fur—
a rabbit fur chubby borrowed from a big girl in the cast

as the audience burst into raucous laughter
my father, ashamed, sank down into his seat
as someone behind him declared
“no one can act that good”

decades later during intermission of an
all male prison production of the scottish play—
fifteen years into a life sentence for
the most shameful and heinous act of my life—
my dad overheard someone complimenting my lady Macbeth
and turned around to proudly proclaim, “that’s my son”

in loving memory of Edward Eugene Cobb, April 9, 1925 – September 27, 2014