about the author

Brennan Bestwick is a writer from the Flint Hills of Kansas. His poems have been published in THRUSH, Winter Tangerine, Colorado Review, and elsewhere. He is the winner of a 2016 AWP Intro Journals Project Award.

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Stage Directions for Casting Your Understudies

Brennan Bestwick

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[Audition boys from flyover states. Pull your knees into your chest. Ask each to watch the choreography closely. Do they know this step? Do they remember we test the sirens on the first Wednesday of every month? Shield your head with both hands. Can they keep up? Have their bodies become immovable? Stone? Watch the boys line the walls of the auditorium in rows. They clutch the backs of their heads just so. They rock back and forth, all together. Caution them not to sleep near the orchard. A boy asks, “Is the peach as heavy as the pear?” Tell him it cannot matter. The funnel should touch down now. The boys no longer hear your voice over the wind. One by one, they roll beneath the stage. You shout at each body that tumbles past. You ask if they are acting. None answer. There is a bed on the stage. A boy climbs inside it. He pulls the covers over his face. A child with your mother’s eyes contorts his arms into heavy gusts. He lifts the boy in the bed above his head. He spins both of their small, breakable bodies, becoming the storm. You are pulled to the stage. The boys still crouching against the wall are thrown behind the curtains. They split open and spread their arms and legs wide. They uncurl their fists, all of them holding peach pits, cherry stems, a catechism. The first to say “harvest” is the first actor cut. Remind them that the scene cannot end until they hear applause.]

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