I lost the starring part in Our Town
To Linda, a girl not half as good as me,
Who kept her eyes down
For the whole tryout, and even stuttered.
When the cast was posted
And the high school drama coach
Saw me reading it through my tears,
He put an arm around me and said,
“Now, look—things are not always as they appear.
This is not Broadway;
It’s an educational institution.
We’re here for two reasons—to put on a show,
And, more important, to help people grow.
Someday you’ll see.”
So Linda played Emily,
And she didn’t even stutter.
And I was Third Woman at the Wedding,
Watching and wondering how he knew
What she could really do
If she had the chance.
Since then I have guessed that God,
Being a whole lot smarter
Than my high school drama coach, might be offstage sometimes
With an arm around a questioning cast:
“Now, don’t try to outguess me.
Sometimes the first shall be last
And the last shall be first,
And I’ve got my own reasons.
I need some strong ones to star
And some strong ones to stand back.
And I’m going to put out front
Some you might not choose,
But you’ll see what they can really do
When they have the chance.
Mortality is an educational institution.
We’ve got to put on the show,
And, too, we’ve got to help people grow.”
As I walk through the scenes,
Watch the costumes move,
And listen to the lines
Of the powerful, the weak,
The rich, the poor,
I look at the leads with less awe than most,
And at the spear-carriers with more.