Cord Moreski: “Understudy”



Margery always loved theater.
In fact, she was an understudy
at the local playhouse on Clark Street.
From time to time, she’d fill in
as Kim MacAfee from Bye Bye Birdie,
or Sophie Sheridan from Mama Mia,
Dr. Frank-N-Furter from The Rocky Horror
Picture Show, or the several other parts
she played for whenever she got the call.

At home, it was a different situation.
From day to day, she’d fill in
as the provider of the house by working
extra shifts waitressing after her mother
got lung cancer, and the keeper for her
five-year-old brother, Cade, who had
just learned how to write the alphabet
in his kindergarten class, the protagonist
to her drunk father who appeared
at her front door each night
despite his restraining order,
and the several other parts she mastered
at the ripe old age of twenty.

She always dreamed of some big break
that would get her out of this town
and into the lights and life of Manhattan.
But one day the cancer closed the curtain
on her mother, so Margery left
the understudy life behind
to take on a more permanent role.


About the Author: Cord Moreski is a writer from New Jersey. His work has been previously featured in Silver Birch Press, The Pangolin Review, Philosophical Idiot, The Rye Whiskey Review, In Between Hangovers, and several other publications. He is the author of the chapbook Shaking Hands with Time (Indigent Press, 2018) and is currently working on a new project for 2020. You can follow Cord here:


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Image Credit: Frances Benjamin Johnson “Dock Street Theatre, Charleston, Charleston County, South Carolina” (1936) The Library of Congress

Saturday Afternoon at The Midland Theatre in Newark, Ohio

Montage of a scene from Bullitt and a photo by Leepaxton at en.wikipedia, CC BY-SA 4.0,


Saturday Afternoon at The Midland Theatre in Newark, Ohio

By Roy Bentley


Slouched in a theater seat and watching Bullitt for the third time, a look I
get from an usher might best be described as granting a general amnesty
and full pardon for my having shelled out only the one admission price.
There’s the balcony with its blue and red curved seat backs. By a door to the
upstairs men’s room a framed likeness of the Civil War drummer boy, Johnny
Clem, whose baby-faced looks and sudden-dark hair remind me of a young
Italian, then Sal Mineo in Rebel Without a Cause. There’s that angels-in-the-
architecture grand gesture of a ceiling, the wall of drapes of eloquently
pleated purple. And there’s the screen framed in its filigree of gold and silver.
The usher is accommodating me by simply not noticing—I’m on my third
popcorn, third enormous Coca-Cola, second box of Milk Duds, when I realize
I’m happy. Elated. In Ohio at fourteen you’re disappointed most of the
time. So I want to tell Frank Bullitt just how it feels to be from Dayton and
new here, a fat-kid eighth grader at Fulton Middle School. But then, Steve
McQueen is French-kissing Jacqueline Bisset good-morning. Strapping on
a shoulder holster and .38 pistol. Now he’s stopped at the corner of Clay and
Taylor, searching the pockets of his trench coat/suit coat for change. I’ve loved
that look all afternoon. The usher reacts as if that says it, that fuck-the-world
expression of Frank Bullitt as he gives up and bangs the cover and steals a
newspaper. Turns out, 1968 isn’t for the faint of heart. You need a Mustang
GT 390. Ice water for a blood type. A tolerance for the visages of the dead
you made dead, slaughtering out of that old American purity of motive
that dissolves into a communion of terrific car chases wherein thunderous
algorithms of horsepower rule.

This poem first appeared in The Southern Review


About the Author: Roy Bentley has published five books of poems, including Walking with Eve in the Loved City, which was selected as a finalist for the 2018 Miller Williams Poetry Prize and is available from the University of Arkansas Press or at Amazon. Bentley’s poems have appeared in Able Muse, Rattle, Blackbird, Shenandoah, Prairie Schooner, The Southern Review, and elsewhere. He is the recipient of a Creative Writing Fellowship in Poetry from the National Endowment for the Arts, as well as fellowships from the Florida Division of Cultural Affairs and the Ohio Arts Council.