Gregg Glory [Gregg G. Brown]

Gregg Glory [ Gregg G. Brown ] has devoted his life to poetry since happening across a haiku by Moritake, to wit: Leaves / float back up to the branch-- / Ah! butterflies. He runs the micro-publishing house BLAST PRESS, which has published over two dozen authors in the past 25 years. Named in honor of the wild Vorticist venture by Ezra Pound and Wyndham Lewis, BLAST PRESS is forward-looking and very opinionated. He still composes poems on his departed father's clipboard, which he's had since High School.

Sep 212020
 

 

Novella about a WWII vet who returns to civilian life as a deep-sea diver and confronts his war-past through a series of hallucinogenic undersea visions.

Gregg Glory

[Gregg G. Brown]

Published by BLAST PRESS

 

ORDER OF CHAPTERS

  1. dr. kilmer’s ocean-weed heart remedy
  2. lost in space
  3. an ice cream cone of sulfur
  4. u2s moved on the condensed sweat
  5. a fish suspends itself
  6. militant in pinnacled rows
  7. the four sacred roses of the jellyfish
  8. the mating pipefish pair are suspended
  9. a tinted fish backs into
  10. without wires the wrasse tilts
  11. the cartoon hermitcrab’s claws
  12. the stinging cell
  13. damselfish retire among clumsy spines
  14. a starfish protests on a clamshell
  15. someone has drawn the venetian blinds
  16. the sea sunfish takes its colossal
  17. the pulseless pod
  18. the formal sky blue tiles
  19. the chainsaw falls through a redwood
  20. the high tide moon blocks
  21. the comber telescopes down
  22. the blank “pebbles” the glaciers
  23. the whole gale starts at 56 knots
  24. the house exploded in broad daylight
  25. a ceramic statue of clark gable
  26. the triassic period painted dolphins
  27. neat as soldiers in their union blue
  28. “sea dragons and flying freaks.”
  29. what is the face in this trio
  30. in the petrified shallows of kansas
  31. the squat sea bug emanates its death
  32. from the dismembered hood
  33. the suave sex of an otter
  34. it is a deaf cleft
  35. cradling a camera
  36. prodding the cariaco trench with a humongous
  37. the straight knitting needle of the piston-corer
  38. a waterfall sugars down the cliffside
  39. neon dna spirals
  40. the flounder flattens out
  41. a plate of squiggles, extravagant as pasta
  42. in meditative aspect, the inverted rockweed
  43. el niño does not threaten its hot arrival
  44. red algae in a tidal pool
  45. one-island volcanoes, bone ribbed
  46. sea palms cling to the rock
  47. verbena break the stiff riff
  48. this is the submerged cunt of asia
  49. the dye tank at woods hole
  50. the 14-toothed triggerfish dismantles
  51. evolution knows no death is sin
  52. circuitous route
  53. the tabernacle prism skin undulates
  54. plankton grows in the sea
  55. the one-celled diatom
  56. an arrow painted on highlighted plywood
  57. the mid-atlantic ridge and rift, echoing africa
  58. the gulf stream falls on snow-blue paper
  59. chocolate-striped like a dapper cookie
  60. mussels crust the rocks
  61. inverted antlers of the mangrove roots
  62. the angola abyssal plain is burnt
  63. manta ray. devilfish.
  64. the crimped sail of the emergency
  65. a lighthouse at midnight steams
  66. it is a matter of energy
  67. the iris accumulation
  68. nightshade and venus forced to bloat
  69. the angry whips exist in gems
  70. the deep-sea eel lies folded like a carpet
  71. it comes from the demanded drama
  72. the striped spikes radiate
  73. therefore:
  74. straight from the inked and crisscrossed terrors
  75. the goat-eyed squids in the pebbled foreground
  76. pol pot’s potato head expands
  77. in an era dominated by dinosaurs, the quick lizard
  78. a subtle pteraspis sucks my will
  79. a dime shines brightly in a dark bar
  80. my life’s a wreck. the vital squeal of will
  81. tremendous music billows from the plush
  82. coda

 

 

 

Lost in space

, my stale head clunking in a tin globe, I view a grey paste through temporal cracks and volcano holes. I can make nothing of my present situation except that I am trapped in static; bounced by automatic satellite between two steel grids, I turn my hamburger-raw back under rough canvas in search of a flame, some ignited center of attention in this dimensionless mist. I can’t breathe, a broken lightbulb fizzing on my flesh in the dark.

I am embedded in the sulfur solar plexus of the sea. The poison spits its grey plume, obliterating nothing in darkness. A sunken vent spews swift heat in a pure blood loss. Comfortable as occupied couches, flesh familiar, warm as afternoon vinyl, the submerged currents of these vents—settled at the bottom of the sea, the impossibly cold deep—spear about their thin exit crack in radiant rivers, a thermal Japanese flag.

Weightless in abeyance, I take this limbo-time out to count up my spiritual gaps, close over unmarried miscarriages with an institutional brand of scar tissue. I stare into the grey paste, a blank static fizz onto which the film in my head flaps spastic, sticks and skips, as burnholes and memories appear and disappear in queer procession:

The cut-out construction paper face of my first slim girl, sweet Christy, rises from the red pulp background of her dad’s borrowed car. Her crystal face hovers in photographed abstraction over our awkward manipulations on the squeaky backseat; the next time I saw her wealthy daddy’s face, it bore the worried maze look of a bisected head of lettuce…. A tense FDR, still smiling in his fourth, fatal term, floats behind his tin-lizzy glass-rims above my remembered draft card…. Every newspaper burned with new tales of the war’s apocalypse, bursting the pictureframe like a volcano….

These images disassemble in a brown boil. Nothing builds toward significance in the heated sea. My head sweats. I feel as if my liquid body were terminating in steam. No war welts my agile hands to fists. Nothing is delicate to me but Christy’s nipples, her left breast the size of a grenade I have brought here to bury.

 

*****

An ice cream cone of sulfur

kills the fish. Rock erupts upwards. An infant island takes cubist form in the Hiroshima mist; a cloudy crown envelopes the cut stone semblance of new land. This is a birth. It carries the elemental authority of dreams. It is the flayed-up and cock-craved skirts of mother earth, balling through space, turning on her blue fauvist side like a lazy hippo.

Clumsy in canvas gloves, I give my tinsel instruments a quick feel. Poverty hands under sackcloth. A glowing dial, perched above my thumb and index finger like a windshield, says in accurate millimeters that this volcanic pimple won’t wake a new Hawaii; it will simply pile invisible cinders in a submerged underworld made devoid by liquid fire of all vegetation. Perhaps the warted frame of a chemical company exhausts its livid fumes through the cracked rock nipple. Surely, nothing in nature has developed a mouth for this….

Through my faceplate, like an invisible dinner dish, I am confronted with a corrupted image of myself, my society. According to recent evidence, a hive of life will be pulled here like a collapsed puppet returning to the puppeter’s high hand. An albino hive that won’t extend twenty feet beyond the rim of heat this sulfur source emits will arrange itself around this live vomitus. Like the floursack faces of 19th century city workers, receding in paleness beyond a discernment of features in a bleached summer sky of converging August, a hive of uneating worms, drained of their red earth color and inflated to tractor innertube dimensions will crawl among mouthless crabs with welded jaws sulking in their seamless exoskeletons. Every stone garden monstrosity will be brought to able life, electric Frankenstein mobility, minus the vital punctuation of weeds around this cracked sulpher vent—an emission leaking from what Hell? They will gather their oblique underlit countenances around the flaming ashcan in front of me. They will bring a sculptured darkness to the poisonous atmosphere, moving oddly sideways in habitual blindness, blocking or isolating themselves randomly in this usherless movie house.

 

*****

U2s moved on the condensed sweat

of the Mediterranean past charbydis with motors out. Civilized tears escape from Lebanon, shake wet from the shouting Greeks, shoot from the opera of Italy, slap off the clean beaches of an annoyed France, tumble from the dark oil film of Spain, scream from the internecine nightmare of Africa. History is bathed in such weeping, and yet it is never drowned. The heavy current slides out over the pedestal of Gibraltar. The light Atlantic Ocean dazzles in. The level of this sea is constant.

On my first trip to Europe, I killed a Gothic town. I was burning in the 121st regiment. It feels like it was just the other summer. Black in my wax-sheen wetsuit, I blew up an Italian munitions factory with waterproofed dynamite. I hid behind the tread of a German tank some plaster church had swallowed. Holy glass lit up with the explosions. Job smiled beneath his multi-colored boils, and the sinister sulk of the tank’s sway-back body inherited his outlines: bright, abstract as flowers. And then, my watery commute complete, my deadly itinerant business enacted, I returned to the buoyant teardrop of the Mediterranean quietly as a cyclist.

With my light head half under water, the dark sea seemed to encircle the incinerated star of the town.

 

*****

A fish suspends itself

in whiteness. It untangles its blue form in air. It is dying for air in the distorted ocean of its origins. Its body is the worn hammer-weight of an overused sinker smelted from horseshoes. Its days pace out the ocular round of its sky-affixed eye. This is the religious fish that will clamber through evolution and onto Jesus’ tunic. The stiff back of the Thelodus is ready to work. Its inflexible lobster-skin will spring into hands that preach or divide bread like a factory blade, incomparable in its impartiality. One can see in the dull lumps of the fins, blurred as a breast restoration, the infant hands that unearth a Lazarus among us.

I think that’s what I see among the razorback rhythms of the fan coral, the empty blue tankards of anemones. A red timberline in ghostly horizon flames marks the faded boundary of my imagination, the worn slur of distance and underwater weather that lets golden instances flare in the generalized haze. These are the metal insecurities of the light that I can own, that can float in a distant flatness I can project images upon, like the corners of Christopher Columbus’ blanked-out sea map. I see the once-thought extinct and hide-bound fish glide in the water before me. The Thelodus has never died out at all, it seems. What was needed, what bled to life, is still needed, still bleeds. Nothing finally dies; no one is killed; no one is a killer.

It opens the asshole oval of its sucker mouth like a VP of sales. It could have survived the atomic war, the whittle of evolution, time’s shuttle and all that, in its executive shelter. Its monotone suit alone proclaims its elevated station, one runty fin above its fellows. It flashes into the exotic underbrush, a grey shadow among shadowy greys. Complicated as a paisley, the ragged edges of this reef defy the engineered stencil of a visible boundary. My Thelodus still lives, and I still live to see him here: an exiled emperor poking out of his concrete hut, striped by far-away fingers of light—dodging the mistaken assumption of his extinction, rare as any saint, breathing pure Perrier in his hidden castle.

 

*****

Militant in pinnacled rows

, a single live spike detaches itself from wave after wave of flesh-grass and seaweed. A small whip of licorice wraps the vertical snout of the spike, which could be the stump arm of a Nagasaki victim. The whip (a whiplet, actually) attaches like a supple twig to the long cut of the pipefish mother’s mouth. It is one of the broken wire attachments that used to manipulate the sewer-lid keys of a tossed out clarinet. The thin thread of the baby feeds, suckling at its mother’s slit jaw; it could be the strict wire of an accident victim, a dietary aid of last resort, the wasp end of a cartoon bubble left blank for speech. They are perfectly alike, this madonna and child, perfect as seahorses in their filigreed presences, the bass and high notes together, the swift attunement of their flagellating dance, as if born attached, the grotesque body of communal amoeba fluctuating in the invisible heaven of their mutual desire like a golden steam organ.

Simmering four feet in front of my hothouse eyes, is this bright pair a lacramae memory from childhood or a shimmed-up sham and puppety vision of the afterlife?

 

*****

The four sacred roses of the jellyfish

trap a baby pipefish under its transparent proscenium. The roses close over a head as fine as a horse’s, made in miniature as if inscribed in the face of a wristwatch or carved on the triangle side of a class ring.

The pipefish’s tail extends beyond the plastic-wrapped death engulfing its head. The tip of the tail contains baroque serrations of Renaissance metalwork and is the exact shape of a scallop whose mouth has been glued shut. As the pinhead eye of the pipefish begins to dissolve in the overhead garden-guts of the perfectly round, serene as Krishna, jellyfish, the shivering tail continues to exhibit its supreme artwork, the unenclosed fan of its tip beating and beating.

I feel like that, clamped in my Greek bronze helmet, shaking a furious whip of attached tin cans, my implements, my instruments. They create a cheap echo of fate in the full-of-sounds water, a cramped rattle of mockery, the stolen and paperclipped-on style of some Augustan age that was incapable of original tragedy. Flirting visions hold my head in a vice, creaking like Uncle Fester, popping towards health, the last release of an unwanted freedom to remember, and death’s gelid industry. The clear panes of the jellyfish flinch. Reverse sweet pangs of birth.

I take a hard breath.

As if graduating out of a salt sea meditation capsule, (locked against light or the undue radiation of others’ actions, the plashing appearances of their variable mood ring existences—hueing towards a dwarf blue) I feel the shrinking pressure of wetcap death crowning my clenched cranium in its soulful honorarium of persistent consciousness—the held flame of my name flickering defiantly behind the nervous protection of a claw. Closed in the translucent condom of this perception, I watch the tied-shut iridescences of the nascent pipefish’s gills stop their fluctuating struggle upwards. Dull beneath the milky substance of the jellyfish there is a miniature, expressionless face.

 

*****

The mating pipefish pair are suspended

in a tinsel cross, opposed clockhands or the gold hilt of a knight’s sword held in aquarium illumination.

Unconscious weeds drift in dullard imitation of them, aching for the delight of life, watching their medieval Adam and Eve pronounce like Chaucer on the flat cart serving as a stage that contains hell, heaven, and earth with its brakes locked. The pipefish themselves are barely able to be distinguished from the drifting mass of the weeds, except when in this position, or paying their taxes, or when at last they die, abandoning the spear forest of their slow friends, silently floating on a full air bladder towards the sky.

Later, I see their embarrassed bodies curling over themselves in contemplation, dull among dull tall weeds, every live egg of the female deposited in the male’s pouch, whose musical skin, rubbing through the water like a sandpaper accompaniment to the marimba, is reminded of past lust by his fat abdominal sack, which now bulges with the uninstructed young. Ten thousand Cains and Abels.

My heterosexual middle will never thicken like Tiresias with fatherhood, ready to burst with abandonment.

 

*****

A tinted fish backs into

a yellowy puff mushroom. Actually, it is an anemone, with Buckminster Fuller’s forehead and all the self-centered attentiveness of a yogi. Mom used to say the poison dust from a puff mushroom big enough could kill a careless dog if it wasn’t raining. A fish is dying in the anemone’s drowned arms that slowly digest its center into nothingness.

Noticing nothing, the lion-yellow interior of the anemone begins to act like a furnace with the plutonium control rod just shoved in. All the movements of its tentacles are now placid. It is as if all of a life’s intricate manipulations had been shuttered like a camera that operates by the pull of a single string. The anemone settles down to its digestion. Slavered slivers of the fish fray in its inflated lemon belly. That the now casually fisted anemone did not bend back for a nearby beer surprised me, it was so numb and plump in all of its diminished motions—its glossy squalor and pear-plush nether half, lust saffron, static as an inverted top.

My flounced-by-tides form floats before its sun colors. Something clicks in my ticker, an emotional diminuendo reverses and expands, but what is it? Angled towards its pure helium burn of beginning, of destruction, I see its squat shape as a hepatitis icon of the combined-in-oil and set alight desires of my life; my military insistence of goal and instant zen rejection of same. The anemone has the minor glow of a soon to be devastated hill, blown bald by dynamite, hunching behind me in sunset robes, the only accomplishment I could accept and deny. This was my twisted paradox of worthless achievement realized.
My bounced and dissolved baseball.

Squeezing towards the retinal echo of its fierce yellow, my glasshouse eyes return to the citron hut back at basic, the raucous grenade target we were supposed to explode. I am there and here at the same time, with only a wobbly wash of a film-dissolve between the scenes of then and now….

Pinching off the exposed, unpainted fishhead for a safety pin, I toss the open pineapple of the anemone, uselessly stinging my Catfish Hunter hand, and lob it into the lush face of some swaying coral, blotched as my broken-mirror reflection.

 

*****

Without wires the wrasse tilts

in blare-red connected by alternate electric-blue and carnally virgin-white square stripes that target its squad of buck tusks that emanate from the rectangle of its mouth like candy corn. The ejected side fins are perfect oriental fans blasted to a clean sun-yellow active as Van Gogh’s yellow—a rocket ejection of energy necessary to paddlewheel it towards its prey.

Flying at my facemask with underwater velocity, the wrasse’s eyes begin to clear to a bullet-black that must be absorbing the flattened and torqued image of itself from the silver blip of my diver’s mask. If its clumped cornea, increasing at an angry speed, were the uninhibited diameter of the Astrodome, its small bulb of perceiving midnight would be the destructive size of an MX missile.

The wroth wrasse veers, an expanse of striped circus tent canvas disappearing quick as a staff car’s flag, past my peering mirror oval, shy as an obese lady. As I turn, an abrupt minute-hand clicking my weighted feet over, I see the disturbed flutter that follows its shivering tail. It bit water.

The far waters began to unfocus into a generalized glow, the depleted spray of a hydroelectric plant’s deenergized water, a misty limpidity almost, a distorted effect of dust such as August lifts in the heat of the open road. This shimmering hinges on the wroth wrasse’s tail, leaching its colours, paling it out from a Muslim paradise to a puritan heaven, making me ache to be instantly against it, a sealed condensation unable to penetrate its slick unchosen glass. I flower open my folding-chair soul, rivering ribbons of veins perhaps, from the agitated central fan of my ice heart. I long for a boundaryless existence, pure liquid in that liquid, mercury among the motes and flashes of the sea, delineating nothing, characterless, permanently crippled into the blank inability to caress a trigger, or ring a blush nipple with the same finger, unable to decide and divide at all.

 

*****

The cartoon hermitcrab’s claws

hook like a surgical clamp. Already it has removed its tumorous questionmark body into a larger shell stiff as a plaster cast. Picking its way through sand for rocks and food, it has found an injured companion that now crests its shell, an incandescent anemone that outgrew a perch, or whose crispy coral, slick with a surface of new cells, was broken in awkward halves by the local trade in human feet. The two-inch hermitcrab grinds through the fabulous coral canyons on his paws like a camper in search of a campsite with his burning backpack.

I follow the path of his armoured tongs on my paws. I have surmised that he has the practical man’s knack for finding an operational Shangri La, open to paying visitors in a tourist season. The hermitcrab hunches past the intestinal flower of a sea cucumber with a steady awkwardness. A paramour of pastiche, he heads for a mismatched clump of coral that suggests the richness of the Great Barrier Reef in its grocery display. As I tug a paused limb from the hungry obstruction of a lobster, I can see the torchbearing body and shell of the crab disappear into a black oval beneath a bone-dead outcropping of inaccessible coral.

I do not give up. It is a sexual experiment, daring me to rush through and manipulate its symbols like a frontline deck of marked cards, played under the covered glow of cigarettes, dogeared by subtle evolution, a cheapskate. My world-first feet hit the soaked sand with a soft crunch. I bend down slowly, inflating an intestinal tension in my belly. From the jagged Rorschach hole, penile breast implant absence of darkness, no anemone illumination exits. Too small for the exaggerated metal outline of my ego to enter, I shove a condomless fist into the mixed feeling of that black-ink territory, bottomless as my memory of home.

I wait for something nameless to attack, detecting nothing.

 

*****

The stinging cell

of a jellyfish contains a long thread coiled like a spring. Its transparent skirt shifts. Delicately, flutteringly, afloat—a transpaent helmet that dissolves along its edges into its environment in unprincipled undulations of living. This balletic creation is so far from the detested abstraction of a war death that my soul unloads like an orgasm at its darting flutters. Flummoxed.

Phosphorescent in a field of dark blue, this animated medal of some dead Union soldier collapses its soft helmet, along with the sheet-thin helmet’s few cells of contents, into a ridged point, like a tripled arrow whose edges intersect each other to form a starburst pattern as it enters the eye. The minuscule jellyfish, enlarged by my dollop of attention, shoots and pauses forward like a politician. Now it hangs, a glowworm’s eaten inch away, caught on the nail of a decision that could rip the heart-like flutter of its transparent brain cells into an unlabelled pulp.

No bigger than a displaced eyeball, it is strangely watched and identified with, a voyeur’s introspection. One’s mind releases toward the thin purple jelly in the water, a peignoir outline, the light aurora of a watch magnet barely magnified. Its aquatic undulations are infectious. One begins to move in phosphorescences. Pulse. Pause. Pulse. Pulse. Inside my suit, an inner film of black rubber echoes my translucent actions. One tumbles in elongated taps on the gigantic head of a drum membrane. Being in this way an ear, eyeing ones way through unclear liquids, one starts to pick up the buried syllables of the sea, the shovelled whaps of the waves, sharp arguments of urchins in stiff sine curves that almost translate into surface sounds, the sharp tack of a competitive bat… the blunt nose of an unloved and hungry shark almost entering ones cellophane flesh in words.

 

*****

Damselfish retire among clumsy spines

. Their black bodies are striped in lime and lemon; the lime-green spines dangle their pink tips placidly above them, circulate in cool coos around their fins. Like all women, they are indifferent. They are pleased by their nonchalant dance, or delighted. The south sea anemone which encloses the dozing bodies of these fish is as fat as a forsythia bush. The green limbs excrete a protective juice filled with the intricate codes of peace; this is how each stinging spine, blind, knows not to attack its neighbor, how to avoid the human convulsions of guilt and self-flagellation; Einstein hair on a weighted corpse gone wild. The ladylike fish in their ringed skirts inherit the flower’s secretions. Hooping in and out of the rose-tipped and saturated pine needles, sewing-in the contractual tears, the slow bleed of each live leaf that sweats an aura against death, the damselfish become aware of some minor victory, a distorted rumour from defeated Greece perhaps, become proud and exhibit a matronly swivel, know that they possess some important inoculation against desire.

My rape hand commands them. Counselling a caught fish to my cloth breast, I whisper Caesar desires into her unblinking Cleopatra eye. I unzip the reluctant crest of her sweet spine. Wild against my hidden palm, her gnostic body declares. Light enters my stung and swelling heart, a complacent poison that raises a Byzantine cathedral in my rib cage. Suddenly compelled, I unfist her.

Almost post-coital in my underwater jumpsuit, I find myself sinking among anemones. Knees twist like a sleepy hinge. Distorted adumbrations against narcoleptic fits arrow by. Their green ignited spines console my spine, swamped like a snake among its frittery children.

I cry and cry. My dark helmet is dashed with mercury.

 

*****

A starfish protests on a clamshell

against a seawind. Orange arms waver backward silently in a grey blue. An argot rock underpins the dramatic tightrope dance. One clown end fingertip cupped a C. The clamshell rocks with a cockle sound. It holds the unconscious hand of the starfish like a candle on an antique stage edge; the set is bathed by an indifferent light from an outside source, making the isolated scene look as dimly backlit as Plato’s cave, standing on the still horizon, the verge, of full colour, awaiting an increase in the light, the embarrassing high-beam of Fate, perhaps, some ushered-in notice from a void, shotgun applause, something to make the central knuckle of the orange dockworker starfish, sunk in its anonymous union and manipulations, begin to develop a face.

But for now, the fluttering tentacles of the starfish, riding its serrated clamshell like a spur, remain the held diminishment of a candle, opening on emptiness, illuminating nothing.

This is how I wobble, indecisive against the indifferent curtain of the ocean. Its thick, blocked blues diffract the hot spot of the sun, which creates an illusion of other-attention in the minimalized, fried-oyster flesh of humans. Desert Indians especially fancy the universe in constellation around themselves. But here, pale in a pale light, one picks up on the subtle differences, the switched alphabets, the garbled typefaces of life-forms finally allowed to blink a thin halo of identity out of themselves in the dark lack of interstellar competition.

One sees the starfish instead of oneself. Its leggy flames open an orange inside, a silvery cocoon of exposed mirrors, detailing shoplifters, noticing the neon outposts of the beings next door. One sees its litter of suckers, aching for attachments. One touches its sandpaper back.

 

*****

Someone has drawn the Venetian blinds

down, separating the dusty parlor from the street. In the walless room, someone has thrown a tremendous circus tent on its side, or put convict stripes on a whale. The regular lines of the tent in front of me shimmer, like those triple advertisements hanging in sexy judgement in Idlewild airport; in one snap, it disappears. The flooding flesh of ten thousand fish disappears.

This is how the porkfish, elegant in their magician suits, school their fragile young. All of the fish are dramatically striped, as a warning to sharks. The scarred alteration of a half-loaded or stiff paintbrush marks the flaking shingles of their old-house bodies from front to back. Quick with the reduced drag of their foreshortened foreheads, these fish remember how to grow old, the antelope speed of a dispersed pack confusing the thousand hungry teeth of the barracuda that follow.

I find my bald bearings in the swirled silence of this sudden emptiness, the fish vanished. I feel the shifted gravity of an astronaut, released from the hot thermos of the spaceship, fanning his domestic mind with its mute closetful of notions into the distant ache of periwinkle stars. Even an inveterate slob would be sucked into tidy lines of abstraction. This is our original garden, winking under the distortions of distance and watery atmosphere, allowing, in holy stillness, contracting diurnal pulsations of breath, a far swerve in the murkiness to be perceived. Our image of God, once out of the bright shadows of ourselves that we create and chase, is founded on something like this—a dimple in the black felt, a small warp of uninstigated motion in an uncontrasted blank that the instant, unpredictable shattering of appearances has dropped us in.

A sharp reef or quartered moon interrupts my vision.

 

*****

The sea sunfish takes its colossal

namesake’s ball of mass to make a solid 49 square feet of flesh. It’s half a fish, ending abruptly behind the kayak paddle fins that slice its treetrunk body symmetrically. Looking at its injured condition, one suspects in a few billion years its remaining hydrogen will eddy into the blue halo of a supernova.

It turns the green ocean like a tugboat. It is neither whole nor happy, but chopped and wounded, a veteran of some harmful sword that time has welded together and weilded with a viscious animus.

It is a dwarf, this tight ton of fish, maneuvering its fixed and oppressed expression through the sea like a cerebral palsy poster. Its fist of mouth pouts in a permanent oval; yet it has nothing to say. Despair is silence personified, it seems to imply.  All art is trash. The warped bones buck out under the castor-oil skin taut as arching bows, strong as the diseased determination of a kamakazi pilot.

By the sheer effrontery of will it swims, chugging forward, a thrown Acheulean stone axe, leaving an awkward whistle behind it as it splits the air. Now it plunges into a confused underworld of jungle growth. I follow its bumblebee speed on finned feet, hanging a several ells over a neon-orchid orchard of coral. In the puffed-out blimp-bulge of my hand-sewn suit, I dive on an aircraft carrier acre of reef. Dodging a control tower of patched pink and irregular amber (tilting at a steep heil-Hitler angle), like a retarded Mercury, I see the cerebral palsy path of the sacred, almost Mayan, sunfish move into a clotted grotto of colours. I kick my feet with a spastic rapidity, the crayon strokes of a freezing child, in order to catch up with the compact fat of the distant sunfish. Moving through a green cloud of seaweed, struggling towards the physical lightness of a greater depth, I reach the black, bunched roots of the plants and grab at the covered rock support to propel myself further downward into the dark cove where the fish has hidden itself. I feel the blunt outline of the diffuse rock slip along my hand as a sharp vagina of pain opens in my palm. My punctured skin explodes in a linked stream of red-black globes, chugging towards Auschwitz, mushrooming upwards in an underlight like umbrellas flooded on all sides, phosphorescent over a Nagasaki of industry, an intense weave of activity on all scales, busy as a bombed anthill.

Forcing my way by a blood hand, leaking air in pneumatic gasps, I gain the gold cove of the sunfish. It has set itself up in a solar system of brain coral, a central hub amongst warts or cartwheel rivets on an overturned wagon-wheel spinning against the sky; I take up the cold Pluto position, swamped in black at the periphery, invisible among dim pewter stars, with the stinging spin of a closed fist for asteroid-orbiting moon. The sunfish fluctuates its cut gills in a steady state. Losing a galaxy of red interstellar dust from my trailing unconscious right hand, I circle in the deteriorating spiral of an electron, ready for quantum action, the only diminishment towards a central authority that emanates light.

Swirling past the Jupiter clump, crimped as a living cortex with knowledge, I arrow in towards the solar bullseye, a clean burn of hurt animating a ghost arm starting at the balled socket of my ragged right shoulder. My suit is growing warm and heavy with invasive water or renegade blood—I can’t tell which.

Mars moves under me like a silent movie, a red tear in my unconsciousness. A film of lukewarm water encases me up to my chest, a fresh blanket of apostolic charity. My light mind is slowed and drugged by salt erosion. Mercury boils just ahead of me, flooded yellow, slicing a planet of shadow from the yellow ache of fan coral supporting in pentagon altar fashion the unlimited caliber artillery shell of the sunfish, humming an atomic solipsism to itself, aiming at everything.

My drained-out-of-blood limbs detach in a flash.

 

*****

The pulseless pod

of the sea cucumber eats with its belly out. An anal blossom appears when it is calm. At any alarm, the blossom retracts, the intestinal flag struck in panicked surrender, and it resumes the use of its tanklike rigid skin. I have never seen one move. A contented chess piece, it lets the aqua wind spoon-feed it plankton and digestible parts of the dead. I think that no sea cucumber corpse exists. It is one of God’s Eternals. Its recurrent ubiquitousness has a quality of permanence, of subservience to fate.

Could this fat blob of pickle think? Sunk in the lumpy tour-bus outlines of my oversized diving suit, I extend my gauntleted Godzilla arm and lift the cucumber like a fake train made of incubated high-impact Japanese plastic. I am a fake man in a rubber suit, appearing in my avant-garde get-up before a cameraless sea. The hungry delicacy of the cucumber’s flesh-flower withers, an innercity reaction, a lopped desire, the Puritan reaction of oppressed and pressed-in blacks, Buddhistic refugees stabbing themselves like christ on a nail bed, bursting like jellied napalm with gospel tunes and blues.

It is a religious instrument, this mindless gherkin, waving in my godless hand like a distorted wand. I am suddenly struck with the idea of how like this inert tube I have been all my life! Invoking no music in the restless gurgle of the gastrointestinal sea, I shove the holy mass away from its duplicate blunder, myself, God’s blunt stroke of efflugenceless pink—my soldered-in, wind-blown, inert body. I am beach trash blown and sunk into the waiting sea, a mistaken treasure no one will ever find. I breathe my registered air like an under-glass candle, burning littler and littler, like Alice, the longer I look at what silently exists in the sea under us as we walk the ignorant earth. No one rolls their eyeballs under the mirror of the sea.

Unbuckling the lead tarot cards of weights belted like Orion at bellybutton level, I start skyward instantly as a bubble; demagnetized from the Maya grief of reality; fantastic as lust rising in a dream towards dryness, a final dehydration of altitude and perspective. With a weatherballoon’s sensitivity of registration, I rise caught in a cirrus crustacean vision perhaps, and break into the ordinary air to hear a tin echo of electronic trumpets loudspeaking Farsi from the permanent carnival beached nearby: the sporty tans and turbulence of Daytona Beach.

 

*****

The formal sky blue tiles

of the crab’s adept legs hinge and point. What do they indicate? Polite as a tuxedo, psychedelic as nightmares, the blue crab’s pincers close on empty water, sift sand. It is a mobile arena of drama, this crab, caught on its tension-line of hunger so intense only a pinched child from the submerged Third World could understand. The claws, red and black at their business tips, have evolved from want. Unbruisable, the claws demonstrate the interminable craving of a blunt digit split into two, dividing its sky-mass to diminish into the scissoring ache of necessity. But, intuitive as Henry Moore, the projectile desire arches from expression into usefulness. The castanet claws (in the endless repetition of practice) conduct the compass pinions of the skipping-rock flat, radar-round center of the crab in the timing of those precise, impinging, untranslatable marks that start across the opinionless sand.

I try to read the cuneiform marks as my toes burrow into the warm pie-crust of the beach.

For all his crunch of claw, bruised paramour, his jerky way among auburn rocks, his flash of Scottish steps upon the plain, plaid skirt of rocks, it is his dwindled eyes that receive the diminished sacrament. This sacrament of sight is everlasting, in its whir of hues, despite the empty manipulation of empty hands, perfect for uninvented levers. The blue crab huffs against the shouting coral, the crimson skull of the sunken rock frmation—universal skeleton, chalky relic, omnipotent bone. Distorting snowy sinews in a distracted winter of effort, it is, with its medallion of unbitten blue, the perfect semaphore of fate against a red alphabetic coral, absent autumn, the latest phosphorescence of life’s green, tumescent metaphor. Liquid identification in a rippled world is all the crab’s angled banner, its concrete cape of sky, will allow. It is, stiff against the grown stone, the total mariner of tidal inconsistencies.

I break the unbabbling water, diving deep.

 

*****

The chainsaw falls through a redwood

. A day off from Monteray Bay has brought me out to the California forests. There’s some moss here that resembles undersea scum when squinted at through a microscope, the latest Nature says. I look up from the magzine. The swallowed purr of the chainsaw’s motorcycle chain repeats its highs like an addict—its adjacent handles out for cash, unable to applaud its own stiff, buzzing performance as it falls through the divided redwood trunk. A red sugarcube of heat is all that can be seen outside the thick toothy envelope of the tree, the dry-river bark. This is the man raised by wolves in France and unable to speak of his happiness.

I watch its slipping progression downwards—averse to heaven in its joy, it seems. A stuttered mirage, bending under its own asphalt heat waves, it makes, with the momentary crimson bulb of its exposed engine, breeze blown against the stalwart tree, the illusion of a blossom—not wholly unlike a bubble of struck blood on an ancient face. I came out of the sea to study moss, and instead witness this sacrifice, a robot chainsaw undoing a pacifist tree to its roots, this wart of worsening, the world’s endless demand for effigy and death. A uniquely Californian flowering occurs in me, plastic in its persistence, violent in its detailed volition, its surrealistic accuracy and Hindu caste.

O M N I

 

*****

The high tide moon blocks

the sun. It is the overwhelming arch of spring rising and rising, this tide. It will pull the planet into the shape of an eye. The white pupil burns in its nickel light. It is a divided eye, the pupil dot cannot extend into its recesses. The spring coriolis of this diurnal water will tear the world apart.

The famous chinese brother with the infinite neck would be stressed to walk these waters’ renewed depths, rubbernecking at the sky, his silk-slippered feet on the foundation rock and subconscious core of the earth. Registering against the chalk cliffs of Dover, clean as a nightgown, the sleeping sea lifts up its delicate, jellyfish hem each spring, licking the cliffs. Determined as clocks in their multiple ticks, confident of exactitude or inevitability, the salt swells in their new suits leave a snail trail of wetness against England. Like the wound-up coil of an oven-thermometer, the tall cliffs relax and soften, until, finally, they are submerged by the rising spring tide—becoming one with the puffed sheep in the meadow, who, surprisingly, do not float, and whose white backs going under are the last marks on the fever chart.

Maybe it would be alright to enter the deluge. To drown and drown… a sparked canopy of green and blue overhead the formula of human blood. Maybe, tenseless in the Freudian dream, it would be like flying, paddling through the treetops, examining a drowned bird in its inaccessible nest.

Here is a slim branch brought to bud; encased in jade now, and confined to a permanent chrysalis until winter relaxes the ocean, congeals the polar eyelids into unsalted ice, unstinging tears—pure water draw up and away from the mixed, green wine. This is when the sweet tree, possibly a pussywillow arrested in its amber coffin of the too-tall waves, will absorb from the fresh subzero air the freedom to die.

Rolling back awake from my detached sleep-stung hand, I find that someone has placed my disconcerted head on a beach.

 

*****

The comber telescopes down

the beach. A blue tube culling itself towards destruction. It is an extended Lemming headed in the wrong direction. It tries and tries to dry its tears. Every day the handkerchief whiff of beach absorbs the long rings of the ocean’s Narcissism. It eats the green sin. It eats the circulated sins of the earth.

A pointillist display of heads tumbles in the surf—vacationing heads in various stages of decay and tan. What are they trying to spell at the roaring moment of their absolution? Maybe they are afraid that they will cease to exist, that they are all sin, a wicked-witch-of-the-west confection with chrome-plated show business six-shooters and wet caps. It is difficult to think with the long green line of light rolling and rolling; the unceasing sun strikes a straightness through its rounded angles. The stagnant swamp of the self is ordered into an emerald mind. You take a chance in the unsteady shuffling. You think you will be totally erased. I have floated in on the red resistance of a body board on many occasions. Every slick head enters the final wave or tube horizontal and wide-eyed.

I watch the heads, black and gold as royal walking sticks made enlarged for sea titans, dissolve in fiery whites. These are the furious exchanges edges induce. The uneven edge of a halo’s emanation. Compact as sea turtles, the waders and boogie-boarders are conveyed in bullet enthusiasm into a spilled treasure chest of sand. Pearly curls crown them. Rolling laughing from their accelerated fall, they rise and walk along the intense beach bright, illuminated as Lucifer’s angels in the pilot-light of hell.

My cold instinct for humanity is baffled into blankness.

 

*****

The blank “pebbles” the glaciers

left could turn an elephant’s foot. Long Island’s squat eye stares into the gullet of the Atlantic. This is where the ice flowed back, like a retreating fortress, the sudden appalling disappearance of a white sky, and startled prehistoric birds accustomed to the age’s deep cold. Bewildered mammoths stomped a newly green dunegrass under an instant sun that appalled. The birds circled in their warm freedom. Cro-Magnon hands sharpened the stones into faces the axe-size of their wives’ grimaces.

Even today a beachcomber will arrive from the edge of some dead time to blink at the sea. A pale belly, unbalanced as a stork, makes its way like a metronome toward land’s end. The dry ostrich-egg rocks, in their ages old attempt at birth that have scarred even their moony surfaces, are trying to tip the uncertain belly, which is heavy and white with doubt about itself and its slipping income or ego in an uncertain society of bellies, bleached as banjos, inflated as used condoms, into the cerulean saline solution of the ocean’s crusty contact lens.

The swung sack consciousness of the belly is narrow-minded. The belly perceives by hungry insinuations of events, the buttoned-down needs of its blind enzymes aching outwards with the magnetized, undeniable claims of a turned-on TV tube. The outrageous albumen belly asserts a name against the shitty sea; a modern appellation, a single syllable of dry ice clipped from a frozen-stiff tongue, barely audible: “man,” or, even more dimly, “me.”

The pendulum belly, becoming pensive as a wilted teardrop in the chill air, hovers under a sad expanse of sky, mostly mauve, waiting to be dumped by the glacier-emancipated lumps of occupied land into the unceremonious, baptism-blue sea. Instead, wordless at his soliloquy cue, yet imbued with the awkward impulses of a kindly stage manager, the scenery-shaded invisible duffer signals the intoxicated sky to rain.

 

*****

The whole gale starts at 56 knots

(Beaufort #11). TheDiamond Shoal oil platform drew lightning to its needle. The central sky absorbed its hypodermic cure. My new fiberglass boat rode on an open throttle. Moving like Caruso’s blood-lettered goat skin in a coconut-corked bottle, we angled at the absent, invisible tit of North Carolina’s shark-sharp shore.

We raced to make it back to dirt before the Atlantic’s limbless hug drowned us.

 

*****

The house exploded in broad daylight

. The stitched, interlocked siding of girdle-white aluminum distorted to mobius strips in the fist of a dirt-brown wave. Its plumbing, and its unplumbed interiors are distended. The wave collapsed landward in a fury of liquid, dousing abandoned cars to their alert headlights, crystal in a crystal spray.

A neighbor dog straddles the roof of its house. Owning abandonment with its thumping tail, excited by the high water as if finally allowed on the family sailboat, the clenched sail of the billowed shingles transports him to his dog heaven. Indifferent to the Arabian miracle of the magic-carpet canine, a jerky bird, sparrow-diminutive in its dun aspect, picks out its new nest in a spilled jewel box; iridescences darken in its eye. Looping under a splintered joist, my salt hands pull me over shifted junk, around an uneasy toilet balanced on a black spattered carpet remnant, past an unsmashed rack of wineglasses, white as penlights in their acrylic cabinet. I look toward the gigantic spill of the songbird’s throat.

It is ecstatic, this bird, indescribably and completely. Has it fallen from heaven to sacralize these beastly leavings of the storm? What dirty water has wrecked, can the stooping sky amend?

The splay German shepherd bays above a promontory of cracked angles, under a planetarium sky soaked with dawn and polite exit signs blinking cheap red. Crossed paws return to the house’s crest. Moony markings double the apparent size of his tragic and decided, coal-nosed face. St. Peter has left him to his happiness. Lost gestures struggle in his mink shoulders. The house shivers. It detaches from its underwater moorings in a gasp of flotation pressure, like a thrown card revolving towards the paddlewheel of the Carribean. The happy shepherd is underweigh at last.

The songbird dabbles in its gauds. Depressed under the screwed-down clouds, I tap along a swiveled fragment of mosaic Mediterranean tiling (a perfect imitation) in my used Italian loafers, crimping the vein-blue dolphins’ skulls, slipping on their rainy tails before regaining ground on the pale traction of their square-filled bellies. Reaching the scuffed songbird, distracted in its jewel haloes, I touch its crimson cap, purpling in my shadow, and trash its egg frame like eroded foil.

 

*****

A ceramic statue of Clark Gable

sizzles in the aftermath. The dynamo of a waterspout knocked it over beneath the bruise eye of a hurricane. Breakfasters in Malibu exit a room littered with peppered eggs, spilled chairs and unfinished OJs. Neon backlighting indicates palms on a sky-painted wall. Doric half columns offer an illusion of distance. An overturned wicker chair crowns the grass-green carpet—it appears to be freshly mown. The giant square sunrise windows fill up with water from an oncoming wave. A perrier bottle tips over and crests a dropped designer purse with effervescence. Shocked outlines of fish press against the glass of an air aquarium in a tourist mood. The tall glass in black reacts. Nobody has paid their checks in the abandoned opulence; the fish enter with an established crack; their slit gills commune with soda water.

God, in his aesthetic perfection, has tossed off a waterspout from his great throw wheel.

 

*****

The Triassic period painted dolphins

for the Greeks. They have the accentuated look of mosaic depictions. Tired eyes blink behind the thin comb of hunger their three feet of tooth-pronged noses proclaimed—gallows humor of a working-class air-breather in a pre-tuna sea, each tooth a mosaic chicklet. The ancient sea was dominated, it seems, by these dolphins wrestling with the irony of their existence: a brain the size of a man’s and no hands to kill with. Above the two thick toes, abrupt fins set at arm-and-leg intervals and outlined in rubber like a scuba suit, above the butcher blade side-fins jamming their fat handles into a convolution of washed blues and fluorescent highlights, there stands unfurled on the dolphin’s back the shark triangle, the noble sail, of the dolphin’s dorsal fin. This is the hook that has dragged the sobbing lungs and soaked heads of thousands of refugee sailors to the thumping shore in storm time. Perhaps this is what happens when the clubbing instinct to kill is defeated by chance circumstance and allowed to fester in a meditative state. Maybe this is why that armless vet in the paper spends his dolloped and subsidized time writing immaculate sonnets with a fountain pen stuck in his mouth.

My hands can kill. Detached as the empty rubber stumps sold in the magic shop, they hacked up a nazi my bayonet had pierced. Thrilled at the nicking end of a latent homosexuality, his left lung sighed like a fart through a scree of medals; he flopped into the sliced earth pitkin of the ditch. Out of his loose hand an instant luger loomed—it staggered after my swaying face, bloomed with blood from the struggle. The luger’s barrel was as nice as a dolphin’s nose. My angry molars crunched the nazi’s knuckles. I heard his index digit crack. My unarmed hands smashed his Adam’s apple open, a crisp snap.

Rifling through the gloomy tones of a mesozoic history magazine, a death erection, pulsing out of my aching life, raises the coned noses of depicted dolphins like a benediction, a proffered communion wafer.

 

*****

They return to the surface

, neat as soldiers in their Union blue, visually offset by a flat TV-tray of uninflated lion-yellow life preservers yoked around their sunburnt necks stiff as oxen-necks. These two submariners stand in a floating safety-orange bucket like telephone repairmen, waiting to be picked up from the metal cornice of their bottom-scraping bathyscaphe. They have seen depths, odd recesses, creatures and causations, no other living observer has witnessed. Proud as wrestlers under the flash page of the unrolled newsmagazine I sit here reading, they know that they have triggered something strange. The newsman writes of them obliquely, and their speech is clipped and off-kilter to us surface-dwellers. They are aware—having arrived at the ocean’s hammer in fit condition, spliced out of the secret (even to themselves) training camps of America, ready as today’s bread to be consumed—they are aware that no moonwalker’s fame awaits them, that they will maunder through a grove of deep-haired women towards their children, towards the imitation of a future they can no longer apprehend; their experience has voided apprehension of the flat world they came from, the solid, horizontal mud flats of mid-America they sprang from like lungfish, thirsty as hindu mystics for the last return to water.

What have they seen?

Looking down from their pumped-up and astutely muscled height, a pair of self-contained Everests, these underwater astronauts speak of ocean-space in closed quotes: “It was like not being watched. No ‘mom’ to make
you do anything, either. Nothing to do until you hit the bottom. Just the radio link.” They mention voids in ellipses: “You feel like the only thing living… like being alive is rude.”

Square faces above honest jaws, they describe the outer darkness of the deep in scientific jargon, metres of visible penetration before ray fray encroaches on the megawatt stage lights they packed in their untarred, waterproof Miracle Play oxcart that represents Heaven, Earth, and Hell and won’t unfold. They have brought all history into these uncharted depths with them, their air-crafted toolkit leaving them hamstrung and helped at random under the dark pressures of water. They prepare a face to meet the faces they can’t unsee—their amorphous undersea audience. Electric with pre-show jitters in the dim backstage regions of their mental landscape, they whisper: “I feel unplugged… planetary, really alone.”

 

*****

I flip the heavy book open and begin

at “Sea Dragons and Flying Freaks.”

The eternal convergence of the sea tucked the peabrained Tylosaurus under. Bellies pale as shaving cream, swift teeth yellow with victims, the ripped nubbins of a black-green picketfence goes shirring over the Tylosaurus’ suave spine. The exaggerated, fat tail is ready to execute a 90 degree turn and become a fat fin. Evolution marching on, even in the legless sea.

This 25 feet of Marvel-comics creature, thick in the middle like a toddler, could have been dropped from the orbiting aquarium of a UFO it is so alien. After a squalid hour at the study carrel, I return to the weary Sunday funnies in my stifled hotel room after a sick work week of grotesqueries, unimaginable buboes running blood, nitrogen hallucinations impinging on my sacred underwater soirees day after day. I grow old with looking.

At the hotel table, runny eggs engulf a frilly plate. The sun sinks below the tan blinds, churning its fiery bucket of snakes beneath the windy flap of injured skin. It is an injury just to see the things that I have seen. My awful eye makes this.

 

*****

What is the face in this trio

, coconut swirl of eyes with the crimped pie-edge beatific as Buddha? This ancient fossil resembles a design rediscovered by the Sumerians, and yet it also resembles photographs from Apollo missions scored off the sunken surface of the moon when looking back at the planet we inhabit. The face turns its filigreed edges made of overlapping questionmarks like a slow prop fan in sand. Did the astronauts remember it in the holy fabric of their bodies and overawed eyes when they looked down at the swirls of cloying clouds? This fossil has neither phyla nor classification, and hangs like candy in an Islam of mystery we obey.

First seen by an Aborigine, one wonders if it is a round footfall straight from space, an alien reconquista; this is the depth of the impression one receives. Why wouldn’t some out-of-atmosphere angel in geosynchronous orbit decide to visit the abundant ocean instead of us? Vanity won’t answer it. It is not a grey mirror made to absorb us. An Aborigine tribe preserved the dry fossil as a sacrament, an insistence of mystery, something to prop up a Catholic resolve in people.

Honest in our ignorance, lacking pride, this one time we have decided to let this rock imprint remain unclassified. What else remains unclassifiable in all this strangeness of being alive?

Making love in my ardent sunburn, I think I have felt such desert attractions, a willingness or need to sink and sink. Christy whistled beneath me, her face crooning abandonment with the triple Os of eyes and puckered mouth. Is this hard fossil the deflated ambition of sex? A confessionless communion? A hairy fly lights against my lips. An uncontrollable grimace, streaked as rust, makes it leap away from my unshaven face, carrying its instruments.

The squeezing image of Christy leaves me, leaving sticky tracers down my athwart hips like tears. I am convinced she was here in the pre-Xtian carbon-dated year of 3000 to 100000 B.C., fixing her red hair, slouching towards my unborn ghost her incarnate mystery.

 

*****

In the petrified shallows of Kansas

the old sea shows its golden waves, that precursor sea of loafing evaporation that has turned into endless wheatfields. It is here that a twelve-foot creaking bone-saw of face was unearthed, the face itself the face of the dance that would eventually translate such dino-fish into red men and herrings. This face was a mirror; it was the totentanz of gluttony. Through the jail grill of its ribs another herring ancestor swims toward the larger fish’s simplified rectum; the smaller fish is six feet long under the wave of Kansas grain. Six feet in the scaled and degraded grave of its totem-faced cousin, the face of the dance. The big dancer eating the littler dancer forever.

The black bones lie at the bottom of a pit a gigantic square spade might have gouged. It is the first flight on an inverted Inca pyramid, funneling towards the crystal jewels of the first dynasty of life. The single cells, exact as regimented cubes or individual as the spinnaker needle of the Eiffel tower, suspended in saline, floating in uncried liquid before the first eye, knew from enlightened self-interest perhaps that cannibalism, even interracial, even international, that attacking one’s fellow cubes of light surmounting the smooth elevations of a prow-tall tower, is universally caustic—and, so, the little gems of life sucked off the altruistic sun instead.

White sweat bleaches my back.

 

*****

The squat sea bug emanates its death

, proclaims shamelessly its sham of life, petrified in the rock that has replaced its slowly growing, pulsing even, shell as hard as dry leather. The trilobite’s two frontal protrusions serve as stone eyes peering weirdly from the 100 million year depths of its defiant extinction.

In the skeleton negative written in the fossil record, white powders permanently cascade like the flashlit interior of an indian cave. Its heavy organs are veils traced in refrigerator dust; the shell is a sad face composed of pick-up sticks, a fire-bombed umbrella from Dresden.

I dust off its mortician’s grin with an efficient hand, clarifying the instructional chalk sketch. It detaches from its geologic base, the thumbed history of sediment rock, like Christ waving goodbye to Peter, floating apart, and shudders in my mind like a kite. I looked more penetratingly at the abashed fossil, its white violence like a prizefighter’s knuckle. Its deadly implications take up a shrill position above my competing cortex lobes, settling their heaviest bone fragments in the interior absent space of my skull like an acid umpire eating at my self-conceptions comfortably as a spider at rest after pushing out its web’s purile expulsion. I am trapped.

Alien intuitions come to me. My Maine hands learn Latin rhythms, Appalachian repetitions. Even the gnarled Nazis begin to make a slanted sense to my manipulated perceptions. Their sinister guns were an expandable picket fence inflating against garden moles. Jews, weeds. The anthropologist in me trashes the victor’s history. Something black and stabbing as a bureaucrat’s pen rewrote those grim men, grey as bayonets in their tailored fighting outfits, into mewling victims, wronged by international weather, engaged in constructive behaviour under psychoanalysis. The meaning of meaning is meaningless this afternoon.

I pour my hot face into grey dusted hands and weep.

 

*****

From the dismembered hood

of a Chevrolet these flying fish arrive; caffeine stiffens their mercury wings. Trimmed slim by accident and flashing at everything, they bear the uncorked confidence of California surfers inside the puritan management style of their identical IBM business suits.

They skitter at the side of the ship. Above their shellacked and spastic skipping, a paid-off group of playboys fondle a pingpong ball with green paddles that web their stiff-fingered hands. They sound, in their playing, like the unremarkable, humped scuffle of suddenly marooned seals on the dry deck, one tier up. These unwinged angels slap balls (tough, glowing, and empty as souls) above and over my shoulder. Their immature voices take off in giddy spirals, resound in low laughter echoey as a bowling alley. Meanwhile, the silver fish scissor in the sea; the fat ship rips.

Entombed for the weekend in this steel tumor of my civilized race, this trim racing yacht, I turn away from the aerodynamic expressions of the ocean, manipulating existence by pure blood pulls, the genetic tug. I am not made for such malignering, but I try to relax, to turn away from the feeding existence of the sea. I look over at Dildo and Ovum, my bicycle-maker pals, trying to fly in dull hops as they bat the ping-pong ball, giggling as if garroted when the ship slips under them during their momentarily airborne, parasitically high and gulping jumps towards the sky.

OK, that’s enough.

I climb down the steps, a kind of lazy metal ladder, really, tugging on the flexless side-cables that have been industrially spray painted, like the universal whites I am wearing. My foot, slim in a bright boat shoe, grinds on the cheese-grater surface of the top step, shams forward like a basketball star, then finally slides down the saw-toothed assemblage from peak to peak, a reverse Everest ascent, and deposits me, a small charge of loose change shaking in my pocket with each bump, harmless as a Himalayan monk, on the nubby rubber decking in a sprawl.

Maintaining a Buddhistic balance against the ship’s yawl, I bite off my friends’ eviscerated fish heads (in my damned and drummed imagination, really it is a tin of sardines left out) with Shiva teeth, watching the fleet fish race beside me, as their blank static jet laughter roars above me.

 

*****

The suave sex of an otter

swooping through water. Its feather-paddles offer its furry belly to the sun. This soft center of muscles coddles crack after crack, thwacks hammering against the cold tongue of an oyster’s black and blue body opening under the tempo of a sharp rock. The otter’s eyes are under water.

The spilled ink of the ocean dazzles in perfect blues. The otter handles the oyster with efficient blind bureaucratic hands. The cocaine-holding claws rattle blackly against the soiled and closed oyster’s perception of itself, visible to others in the cragged and chalky, quietly accreted, shell that shelters its spitting soul. Exhumed from its shell and raised to the uniform, opinionless zero-G of outer space, it would be an exact sphere of thinking water: every point along the zeppelin-grey surface equidistant from an imaginary, infinitely small dot in the exact center of its being.

Snapping down the purple God-globe of the medieval oyster’s body in a slurped growl, the otter celebrates its licked desires under the sun. It burps. Its fuzzy belly flutters in the seawind. Its black eyes blink out salt nostalgias, silent semaphores full of the dark light of pupils. The eyes’ signals direct our attention to unidentified plane wrecks—whose radar-tipped nosecones, painted black as otter noses, were only searching for a few oysters, anyway—a vacation, a warzone.

The sun embitters me, bright; too much light, too much looking. I watch the party group of otters flap, and observe the dignified isolation of the oysters as they disappear into the swallowing tension of throats, fisted in darkness, bathed and anointed in the oyster’s own ceremonial liquids. A similar pressure closes around me in the bright air, and my throat tightens. Am I the eater or the eaten? A metal yellow is creeping into the sea waves. Maybe it’s the tossed-back reflection of the ship’s side, drowning in sunlight. The narrow heads of the otters are crowned in light, pure gold, jagged at the ornamental tufts, jellied to fatness by the water’s insecurities, slap and slide.

Looking down over the taffrail, the sun makes me ruffle as a shadow in the water.

 

*****

It is a deaf cleft

, a crevice in the face of an Aztec god chunked and regularized out of lava stone and into terror. The fixed expression on the map is the staggered opposite of Monet’s water lilies, a toboggan’s split track in black. Such is the Blake escarpment, deep and perilous as the derriere indent between brain halves.

This is the deep sea. Near the record outrages of Cape Hatteras the Nansen bottles go down; they check in thirsty burps the unheated salt and oxygen levels of the seawater the eyeless denizens of the deep filter and sanctify. The small gills of those who live here, the large slashes, the Spanish comb dentures, fine as a blue whale’s sifting equipment, pronounce a silent benediction with each watery breath. They use and renew what the cold ocean gives.

We release the sealed instruments into the deep, molten mirrors of ourselves. Drowning the effigies with a scientific attitude, Ray and I find a certain illumination, a lightness, in our dry detachment, scanning the array of glowing scopes washed by laser bars of light in the sea-cabin’s closed interior. We analyze and sort the the data we have hauled back up, samples and sums of we know not what. On other screens, cameras and radar outline the escarpment and return grainy images from the alien deep. Occasionally a photograph is filmed-over in green or blue, highlighting veiled faces snapped onto the microscope-slides of negatives—indecipherable surfaces. My center screen blips, oxygen content registers, a graph of our ignorance appears, tracing the jilted jag line of our single certainty up and down the chart with a drunk’s attention to a thrown-in-the-ocean scotch bottle.

Ray rakes his hands along the table. He screws a jeweler’s loupe deeper into his eye socket.

Information spills from the seismographic chart-maker, brightens in the screen’s confines. My breathing tightens. Suddenly, I am underwater again in my rubber tension suit, swishing with a dynamite pack to TNT my Italian desires, my Aeonian home. The impartial screen, rigormortis emotionless as any president repeating his crimes, relates a mass of disasters. The very atmosphere is elliptical! Nothing crumbles or slickens to an armoured resolution, a military intervention, a sabotage attempt. The sorry ocean, slurring its eternal apology, scrapes me toward the viny outline of the shore, clumped in tux blacks and sedate midnight to avoid the flying punch of an airstrike. My froggy body bumps ashore. I sniff around, locating myself in the uncoloured bushes under the absence of a bruised-over moon. A yuletide great dane yeowls its warning warble; my heart knots; but the dog is fuzzily ignored by the drunk and slumbering axis. Their guardhouse has become a sleepover party giggling among the dull Italianate hills, their laughter louder than the dane’s high-voiced welcome.

Slouching into the fabulous sweep of the square screen bleating its sorrows, I wait for an angry face to resolve itself from the stinging dots, to coalesce out of the maze-haze of facts, to jump into me and eat out my napalm heart, chastising into tameness my licking tiger impulses.

The radar light, with intimate access to the deep darks of the sunken Blake escarpment, wipers back and forth, hesitating at the edges of escape.

 

*****

Cradling a camera

, the aluminum tepee frame puts a campfire light on deepsea slugs and albino crawlers. We have set up this intrusion of nous into the depths with careful dexterity. A bleached crab attunes blind eyestalks to the unknowable instrument. It is a memory of sight, of lightness, of a world that does not crush under 10 atmospheres of junk and salt, but floats, cannot help but float, inescapably buoys up until one learns the trick of weighted belts and lead moon shoes. This is the life at the bottom of everything.

A prehistoric fish, cauterized at birth to existence at these depths, was thought to be extinct, a frail eyelid outline in mountain lime, until, one heated day, a restless skipper, tapping the limits of his arrowhead deck, his distempered brain baked to boredom, attached his nerve-damaged hands to a double-length of steel fishing line and let it plummet, tied to an aerodynamic, unpainted plumb the approximate shape of a sci-fi space shuttle, until it scraped the ultraviolet sand fathoms below and tricked the fish like a balloon to the surface with its carnival lure, where, after a credible pause, it exploded.

My voyeur video tells me about its pressurized existence, its dime-thin swimming aching to expand in condom desire to the sky. Grey fish swish in static. They turn about like tanks, occasionally washed-out in their intricate maneuvers by an aluminum glare that bleeds onto the screen’s square cell. I check the ocular wire, lying lazy as a fuse, that wriggles out the window into choppy water to bury its head. I have the end that rattles.

The blind images of life stalk around the tilting table, stable as anything at sea, nosing after pheromones for food, nagging toward white worms in lip-acute nipple reflex. I tongue a striped straw into my worn mouth, sipping proteins, waiting myself to be snagged by some aberrant attraction and lifted to my annihilation.

 

*****

Prodding the Cariaco Trench with a humongous

thermometer for a core sample, a team of men resembling Norman Rockwell before death thread a six-inch thick chain through the narrow gully of a pulley. The enclosed probe is an extension of themselves, an implacable attempt to confute the rapture of the deeps by sheer insistence. And yet, these men never win at cards, cut their sandwiches on the diagonal, and marry the first women to give them sex.

What black sweetness made them set out? The licorice taste of coal veins can’t spark here. Their physical selves would be crushed in the water’s deep hush. Desire and impossibility occur together. They make the inhuman attempt to go deeper as if dreaming, subtle and faceless in a siphon of will, made communal and strong by anonymity. They chant around a black and white monitored image of the drillhole they create. An undrilled hole in themselves responds.

“Destruction is creation,” they say to themselves in white smocks tidy as atomic scientists’. As a simple cluster of male members, they wonder if this grinding and boring is the unspeakable secret of sex. Transported from the postulated cubby holes of universities by sonic jets, the mandolin absence in their chests, resonating, tells them in unattached adolescent phrases, in a man-made world, in swift whispers, of an untimed, soulless and heuristic, distant, Neanderthal initiation. They dance around the monitor.

The pulley jumps on a snag, an invisible opponent, whipping the dangerous weight of the chain against the gunwale with the sound of metal thunder.

 

*****

The straight knitting needle of the piston-corer

bears no relation to the Rock Drill skeleton sculpture of Epstein. It is the pure explorer of the sediment fat of history. It steals knowledge in 65-foot ribbons of dust and mud from the Grand Canyons of the sea floor. It creates an audience in its instant separation of context, extracting the once-living fall of fin or ash from its last rest, and greedily reads the implied documentation of the object’s finish, its death.

This is an electrifying situation. For the man at the top of the piston, laughing perhaps at the unspilled crest of a mill-wheel, there is the vividness of voyeurism, the compressed rush of seeing the lightless stream of materials brought to light by the corer’s muscled unconscious force. The piston-corer snags him as well, keeping him peeping from the high-point of the spinning mill-wheel. This curious man was pulled abruptly upright in evolutionary dawn by the flat mill-paddle’s hesitation and stiff crossgrain. His ingenuity walks over a desert of hidden colours, examining one detail at a time a whole ocean current of simplified mud—the dark slop of all our beginnings.

Desires warp away from me, my white image stiffening under the increasing pressure on the canvas sack of my diving suit as I lower into the loured-over ocean, dropping to check on the stifled rotation of our communal piston-corer. Its whining diamond rotor, whirling away like a girl in her fresh crinoline dress, spins on a nick in the unglossed dance floor, stuck, sputtering up musk dust from the dirty gym periods that dried down in layers from the pore-popping exercise sweat of some ancient Cretaceous June. An unidentifiable heat increases at the back of my waterproof suit, some crucible-eye spun on stage-angel wires. I sink down to the presumably unstoppable pinhead of our suspended boat’s attentions, the gaping barracuda bit.

Cirrus scuds of dust attack me. My hanging lights angle in towards the impenetrable middle of the brown hell. Everything appears to be okay, banging away. I peer and maneuver. Nothing. Everything is fertilely active. Like a good lover, I give up trying to understand it, and give it a metal kick, a swoozy boot in slow-motion. Kite-coloured silts volcano up. I spur away. A green approving light goes on in my head.

 

*****

A waterfall sugars down the cliffside

. It is a fuzzed spill, seen through a dark occulation, a perverse diminishment of the gulping eye’s usual click-and-grab. The winds underwater are infinitely slow and heavy. A see-through syrup disrupts the falling flow of the sand. The psychic’s crystal ball refuses to grow clear as a teardrop and focus on a managable future. The sunken landslide sucks the tourist sand down, an endless hourglass. I peer into the granular hash.

     "Thou one blind sailor, rich in joy 
     Though blind, thy tunes in sadness hum 
     And mourn, thou poor half-witted Boy! 
     Born deaf, and living deaf and dumb. 
     Thou drooping sick Man, bless the Guide 
     Who checked or turned thy headstrong youth, 
     As He before had sanctified 
     Thy infancy with heavenly truth." 

by William Wordsworth runs through my head, with a torch, the gasoline lit-up arm of a guilty terrorist innoculating himself against life. The flame-light of my lamp blends with the sand-fall, the orange threat of a molotov revelation itching the back of my fishscale skull. Aimless as a prototype buzzbomb in my creature-from-the-Black-Lagoon suit, I waver in the wake of hallucinogenic sand falling down my faceplate, an unfocused beach of LSD that doesn’t dissolve in the eye. I am being buried in a sandy landfill, a veil of grains. My immersed perception bifurcates towards chaos. Uncertain rivulets form in the Nile-delta dial of my diving mask, split blurrs of clear light in the gritty vista I can no longer transform to cloud-canyons, or sky, or clouds. One staggered stream, the quavering shape of a tear-track, opens in my Cleopatra delusion to the sea-blue suavity of an asp. My diluted mind staggers at the watery aspect of death uncoiling its clear tail. Unleashed by an Egyptian identification, I stare up at the Rameses aspect of the dissolving cliff, the high grim dimensions of rock, and see my sediment-father frowning there—full of trash and sifted, unerodable junk.

And I whisper in undecipherable syllables against glass: “Peace, peace!”

 

*****

Neon DNA spirals

of a sea anemone enfold a silver fluke. Someone has ruined a hundred screendoor springs and painted them. The springs ignore the tension of the death they inflict, dimensionless in a flat black universe. The fish darts outward in agony, an arrowy imitation of a scream in its attempt to escape. The powder-blue springs, attached to the fish by tiny stingers at their simplified ends, follow in sweet and agonized silence the bullet body until stretched to maximum tension. They are taut as a barber’s razor strap.

Eternal victim at the end of a string. In a deepness of attachment, abstract in blackness, the fluke grows stiff by the light of its executioner. It resembles a deep sea-lure handmade in Mexico, with a metal lip that twists a grin into the imitation corpse as if dropping from the instant end of a hangman’s noose.

My voyeuristic impulse is charged with dissatisfaction. Silver death is not enough. The iron holds of a delicate garrote achieve nothing. My strings twinge with anticipation. I will put on my nine-year-old’s halloween skeleton and dance, bright bone, bright bone. Just watching will not weld me to the meaning aching here, the spar and strike of the flowery anemone.

I unscrew the survival tension of my patched-up and cauterized rubber righthand glove, I expose the Frankenstein mesh of my sutured and anxious right hand. Cold water bites it like a dog. The filling sleeve explodes its airs.

Under a wet weight of ice in my sagging suit, a rigor mortis extends my naked blade palm into the jumping center of the anemone’s acetylene springs. With a psychopath’s Olympic detachment, I note the chemical death of Jewish civilians as the initial stinger lights up my scar. Burning babies, small as Mexican beans, twirl along the open arena of my attacked palm. Atrocities unstitch and restitch themselves into my wounded skin—some new understanding that rips and nips. Fast air, turbulent around my wrist, makes a few of the barbed curls refrain from striking and miss their victim. But I am burning now among the acetylene stings; I am real and realer than ever, at least for this minute. Water is climbing inside my unsealed suit, with only my nose above the frigid brim. I fold into my baggy pants with the steel guilt of a bedwetter.

Even the fluke has ceased its piccolo actions.

 

*****

The flounder flattens out

from its codfish shape. One of Dürer’s darlings, it is trying to enter a renaissance painting, before perspective. In this pressurized and sinking attempt to comprehend surfaces, one eye slides toward the crest of its forehead, gravitating innocuously aloft, and then reverting to an Indian mandala drawing in colored sand.

Circular as coins the deflated size of a midget Roman soldier’s leather skirt, the European flounder was transported from the overcrowded public housing of the nuzzled and overgrazed shelf of the teacart-delicate
Dutch coast by a man of British citizenry, one Walter Garstang. He put them, as an experiment in living evolution, on a domestic pedestal—the barren underwater mesa plaice in the middle ocean of the North Sea, surrounded on three sides by concretelike land, frosted with dead ice on top for good measure. In this emptiness, the flat fish lived, down among the frigid bones of burned and drowned Viking funerals. The Dutch flounder, in abrupt punch hole outline, and abandoned to the wild west of a cold sea, increased the muscular, solar-cell black, blankets of their bodies to four times their innercity dimensions. Evolution in realtime, agaile enough to fatten both purse and paunch.

I sink into the North Sea to peek at their secrets, the engines of revolution and change that beat on under their slumped gaze and come-hither-never camoflage.

There is a sandy field of flounder in front of me: finned landmines alert as hunger, pumping the flat circuitry of their two-dimensional hearts. Distant equations of dust go off in silent bangs when they swim, skimming the desert floor silently as brooms. Perfect in their pasted-down adaptation, fish-faced stamps, they remind me of the exaggerated jungle leaves I used to cut in kindergarten, licking sticky the thick taste of illegal glue (“You will die” says teacher), faded now to the D-day graininess of these half-buried fish, tacked flatly among the paper perfumes of mother’s closet.

Angling my gauntleted head, I raise the new rubber of the speargun against my shoulder elastically taut. The nearest flounder, having just eaten its neighbor, is glazed over with happiness. Its left eye shoots out when speared with the underwater sound of a diver going down, entering from heaven.

 

*****

A plate of squiggles, extravagant as pasta

, spill ochre octaves of light against light. Sea lilies, as full of pageantry as a row of can-can girls lift their skirts before me, a paying and waylaid customer, here to study their suavities. You can almost hear them say in red, white and blue: “Dear Dolly, they’re singing to your legs—they’re worth more than eggs… or even but-ter too.” Flamingo-flared skirts beat around their pink ears. In underwater wind. In shelf light.

The fast hammer of my heart, the nailed corsage of veins affixed in my breast, follows their flutter. I reach down with underlit shadowless hands and detach a soft bell of blossom. Arteries of spent light, reflected rainbow patterns, race up and down my bulging arm, dry in my rubberized canvas suit, moving slowly in the warm bathwater of the shore. There is a clipped insistence to the picked lily’s skirt now, a series of short jerks, adjusting her carnation slip in a high, angry wind. Perhaps this headless lady is trying to kick out of the brutal claw my fat five fingers make, complacent in their collective power of disruptive friction; her leggy desperation flubs—a dull lump under my machine-stitched gloves.

Stretching a marbled arm, I let the pink powders of the sea lily go into a fold of light…. My troubled heart floats after her. Coronary pain cracks my arm in another country, far below the low distances of pewter clouds. I am having a heart-attack, a stroke. Bellying after the interstices of the sea lily’s dress on a powerful flood of 98.6° salt water, I ache towards an infinitely recessed, infinitely desirable, damp light.

My forgotten body shrinks from my consciousness to become a dwindled anchor, a copper hairpin pronged in the sand, vaguely attached to my mind from under a mile of ice by a taut monofilament. The cold light ceases to retreat with my steps. I can go no closer to it, and can drift no further away; the light hovers in mid-air above a coliseum of coral I can no longer see.

Something rises and I rise with it.

 

*****

In meditative aspect, the inverted rockweed

hangs above the blood-red crisscross eyes of a suede rock crab. A mass of dead hair veins itself in Green Giant green above the crab’s brow of stone. The crab is hiding out in his vegetable disguise. Time means only getting through another day, and another: the crab’s blank succession of days, its muffled shift of an existence, shuffles back and forth over a worn spot. Veins of green luft suspended in sea water, fat with a valved inflation of salt water, stiffening them to a shifty, shifting, shiftless pattern of shadows on the muted sand….

Grabbing a sweet branch the consistency of latex vomit, I place it like a mustard patch on the top of my head until the burn comes through. I hope to grow from the weed’s peppery power in rank imitation. I too will hide under the sea and endure. This is the voodoo sympathy magic of a foster child taking the temporary father’s driver license and eating his picture in ritual. Let me be grown up and good. I’ve sat here for hours, tied to the surface by 60 feet of blue snorkel hose, trying to attach to the rocks. I want my burnt-out heart to learn paitience, to slow its Bhudda-speed, its irritable fibulation. I give up. My finned feet, astute as a pelican’s, flutter against the aching emptiness of the sand, disturbing nothing.

A world of angles open to me as I reach the feathered disturbance of the surface, hacking its whites, seeing the trembled green-on-green—insecure as a thunderized dog to infinity….

Quirky boats ride the jade indecisions. Immense wings of waves oscillate around me, requiring nothing, letting me skim the mercury envelope of the ocean, shadowing the downstairs tenants with a broken shadow, an approximate cross the size of a man. That is attached to the rock—myself, my shadow—with all its dwindled disturbance of shape, its buzzbomb dimensions perhaps, marking the x spot, exploding in silent dark, filling the available crevices of the rock with black tar, my angel projection that cancels the sun.

The intense whine of a gasoline-powered crane makes me ascend, flapping my cardboard seraphim parts as the line cinches under my armpits, bidding goodbye, goodbye to all that awful wetness, the fat wart of my second womb, the only safe place where nobody wants me. That lower coldness lacks drafts.

 

*****

El Niño does not threaten its hot arrival

this year. The timed prick strokes of its killing heat are momentarily abated. Perhaps it is afraid of STDs. Plankton clouds the guano sea; anchovies swim here, thick as beetles on a corpse. The y-wings of seagulls dip into the soupbowl of fog with its spiritual mist-edge rising higher than the horizon—an horizon which cannot be seen over the cold uncirculating stream of the hidden ocean. Sounds ping more clearly in the infinite mist.

Lacking any lovely, unencumbered wife, other than the tied-down South American coast, El Niño simmers around on its Pacific oils, trembling here, coiling coyly there, posing in seductive ceremony somewhere else, silently venting his Polynesian preoccupations in a predawn preemptive steam, wilting nothing, only fostering a flurry of algae. Tightly applied duct tape cramps my hands as I haul in the little fish. Seagulls caw their punctured notes. Sea heat ferments against my face as I bend double over the rising gunwale—my face full of blood and flapping like a dog’s jowly jaw.

We are here to witness it at a great distance from its usual tide of attack. I empty myself of expectations, and keep my eyes peeled, my pencil sharp, and the ears open.

My revolving arms piston the appropriate ropes of the net upward. A metal kaleidoscope of flipping fish appears. They circulate in the net, using subtle bodies of their flashing companions for their ocean. Triangle heads and awning tails reverse and interlock and grimace in meeting. There is a logical end to the mutating combinations, but the switching rhythm is endless. Even their drying scales compose a leitmotif, a harmonious repeat, almost. I spill their grainy carcasses onto the splintered deck. We will weigh measure these specimens, and then grind them into powder, burning them into their constituent chemical spectrums like a star.

Standing to stretch out my snapped rubberband back, the frail lights of the stilling fish, racing against evaporation, form a flickering image of Christy for a second among their multiple positions. She shows up in a shimmered wink as if on the newly found shroud of Turin. She is a revelation, an accusation, a wish most devoutly wished. The wandered lights that compose her face trigger an old epileptic response and make me faint.

Astutely recovered in the dark hours later, I can feel the subterranean thumping of the newly accumulating El Niño burning beneath our yawing boat as we ride it toward Peru.

 

*****

Red algae in a tidal pool

. Soft coral lifts its green velvet antlers overhead. Low tide dries the cycle. The sun burns this miniature Roman colosseum to dust. Coral colonnades stiff in the sand mock the dry plastered algae, its weak-backed inability to defy, to die like the classic Irish kings, tied to a stone column, upright in misery, loose deerskin boots stuck like a hairdryer in the red tidal pool of blood. The moonstruck inconsistencies of the sea can’t touch the thin, scarlet foreskin of the coral. Dying in cycles from its bitter pride, the candelabra burns its death into the exploding face of a sun it cannot see. Darkening in dehydration, the spent tips will snap off in midair, transforming to lungfish before they hit the resurrection edge of the wet world far below.

I hobble down to the burning dust of the tidal pool, fauvist in the frying pan flames of the copper sun. My cut-open hand is still sore, and my bruised, mauve knee retaliates at the mechanical tension of a weight-bearing bend. Close enough to see the sandy pimples of the coral’s bone surface, I kneel on my best knee and use the uninjured fingertips of my hurt hand to pinch an onionring off one of its Parthenon columns. Here is what remains of a life lived by the tides, pulled and nurtured equally.

It balances like a bread puff on my taped palm, not quite deciding to be blown off by the paramour breezes. One side is rough with clumsy jags, a handmade medieval crown, washed in hot water, machine-dried and shrunk to fit Tom Thumb. I wear it teasingly around my index knuckle so that it sprouts a blank forehead swirled with the intense logic of my identity, my flush fingertip a face. Under a strangely bearish and nonvocal impulse, I crush it to pink powder in an improvised fist. I sniff the remains of its girlish composition and decide nothing.

Thinking of my previous life with pretty Christy, I snuff it against a dead rock, making it blush, and ripping my stitches in the process.

 

*****

One-island volcanoes, bone ribbed

and eruptionless, emerge from a mass of moss. Twenty-fingered sponges tower over the white limpets like orange, demented clouds of industrial smoke torn on a jet stream. From the small, single cells of anger the limpets have distilled into, an iguana’s black eye might bulb.

Marcel Duchamp would argue with my trying to strangle meaning from this mysterious limpet. This impersonal monument won’t even obey the final significance of death, the eternal Achtung! of God. It simply refuses, with its sloped sides hipped like a thatched cottage roof, falling away from itself, from the signal of its pinnacle, as if it were a girl’s dress made of etched lime.What fertile and subjoined joints of significance would appear if I could decipher it! Duchamp clamps his gamey mouth shut, unable to forget himself in overrational expressions of his sublimation, exact as Freud in his thanatos hat—which bears the suspicious slant and slash pleats of a sexy limpet. Duchamp is the bearded and slouched Jonah kicking the naked Mediterranean docks in Moby Dick.

Back on the beach, I turn one of the pimple shells over and over in my sandy hand. I wait for it to express itself from under my projections, a stranger’s face asserting its muscular ridges in front of a movie screen, a wavered surface of corrugated colors as baldly signifying as a tattoo. But what is it saying, with it stone ritualized moue, its eternal blemish? I toss off its coned bone of adolescence (regularized statued memorial of embarrassments) and let it fall face down in the sugar sand, a bleached acne scar. Some wave will wash it away.

I remember the stiff fluff of Christy’s prom dress, her breasts rising like dough, my pulsed spur of desire. Our forehead zits touched with a hammer’s thwack, producing electric Athenas, fully armed, who let us see, soft under their iron ritualized curls and noseguards, that we, sacred christy and I, were only the moment’s embodiment of some more permanent, less ephemeral, deisre—quivering slugs inside a Platonic ideal of lust. We were bodies, mere bodies, praying to and touching the incarnate the gods, the eternal passions, pimpleless and pure.

 

*****

Sea palms cling to the rock

. An ocean throws its bitterness at their existence. The bald presumption of these mangled heads! These storm-flat scalps of trees! The blue consumption and bile of the ocean’s demonic stomach condenses into the salt insistence of insults. The dank waves slash; the waves slash back.

Is this the insulted rhythm of an artist? Or is it the fake anger of a histrionic hack? That the unspeaking sea itself is divided on the aesthetic issue is obvious: each attack (or is it the attempted blue spur of an alien communication?) resolves itself into tidepools and undertow, a radical racing back to its origins that delivers oxygen to the trapped crabs and weeds of the tideline that any enemy child could stoop to eat.

Perhaps it is all an untranslatable offering, a gift from the foreign eyelid of the sea; a genie blinking a fecundity of tragedy onto us; an educational attempt. The gist of wetness begs for the interpretation of some inspired Atlas, some communicable fellow, some brother, anything other than the ghost displays of the ignorant and uncomprehending creatures the sea creates and expells, in automatic Jehovah justice, from its paradisiacal depths, the luminescent registers of its elongated, angelic choir.

A long black wave, running suddenly unexpectedly forward, plasters my bare foot with foam. Somebody’s kid is kicking a related part of the dark wave back to its sliding coils. The male child, sporting intense satyr’s curls on his wet head, is screaming insensibly at the sea. A tiger’s smile distorts his handful of face, his lighted eyes as concentrated as the down-point of an ice cream cone.

Without thinking, I toss a carnival beachball (which was lolling alongside my ear with a paper-static sound), light as my thoughts, into the endless awning of the sea. Would the sea return it to me, a gift, an insistence, a lesson?

And I watch the stupid boy, propped up by young pride, bear it back to me, smiling.

 

*****

Verbena break the stiff riff

of lines in the sand the air arranged. Their secret roots go down among the miniature stones of the beach, which rises smoothly to spears of foxtails, mounting eventually to the lazy yawl of a palmtree on a dune, a protean sweetie who swings her swank hips in a verge of green against the hot land. At least, this is what will happen. Given the instigation of a dropped seed—a sexual gesture, invisible against the blank heat of the open sand, time will unwrinkle a leather leaf, start a sprout, and erect a permanent column of water over nothingness in the cellulose rivers of the palmtree. The irreducible quartz grains of beach sand click against each other in rough whispers at regular intervals, exact spaces that imitate with their shifting footing the clocked increments of increase and life.

Lonely out of the wide water, jumped forth from an improbable froth, clapping against sanddust in my maudlin departure, a pale bipedal stalk, I straighten up, arrange my dusty leaves, and take two-fisted cuneiform shapes of sand, condensed by sweat, and hold them dutifully opposite, at the shoulder-high extremities of my arms, like charged electrodes, waiting in a fixed posture for the feathery green sprouts to start from my fists, a Zeus with duelling bolts of palm-fronds, an ample statue of my vegetable self.

I am praying for life to begin its sins. I am done with the old scars of war, the haunted thoughts that edge into my labcoat with me, pin me speechless with slashed flashbacks. Kick-starting the irregular realities of a simpler existence with my tree-stillness, I feel the grains of the sand begin to shift, spelling nothing, but opening, like live pores, a skein of sifting opportunities for any errant seed, asleep in the swaled dust, to initiate its Buddhistic cycle that culminates in escape from the dull transcendence of eternity. My new seed will propagate its idiocy, its unstoppable, leaf-blade blunt idiocy, into limitless generations of death.

I am unbearably happy.

 

*****

This is the submerged cunt of Asia

, the Marianas trench. Exotic slot. Looking at the topographic maps, I see how islands are outlined in a sealevel halo of light, the continents in a stretched ribbon exact as a crag. The flat map, whose scar of mountains is etched with shaded skirts to resemble 3-D, jerks to one side like a smirk. The double triangles of a bikini-clad girl, dangling in Babylonian garden blush beneath her imperial Rameses face, have smeared the sullen bumps of the drawn landscape into instant erection.

As I fold the flat depiction of empty oceans towards my cross-legged lap, the third great pyramid of her set opens into view. She is stark scarlet.

“Is it OK if I sit down?”

“Um, sure.”

Her taut legs buckle under with the graceful instantaneousness of a sand crab.

Her body is full of scars. Tattoo erasures perhaps. At her age, not so old, not so young, she has expended an effort at newness. Her red ass shifts into the sand. Above the surreptitious mobility of her breasts, full yamakas, her rye-ripe voice starts out.

“Maps, I see.” She charts me out with her eyes.

“Yeah.”

A fixed constellation, I wish I could disappear with the sun. She swings her agile lumps onto my lap. I look furtively around us. The empty beach impresses me, the uninterpretable phases of the light. There’s a burning double impression of a cartographer’s nightmare here, beach and water and sky intersecting too quickly, plane slicing through plane, expanse and cohesion of unexpectedly overlaid bodies of water. I roll with the cradle sensation of her motions. Her hooked palms, clamped into my back, begin in scratches to strike a match.

 

*****

The dye tank at Woods Hole

in Cape Cod looks like an inverted cyclopes diver’s mask. The water is a pure chlorine blue. Two students belly-down on a diving board watch a red infection that has been scientifically introduced into the tank’s precision tides. Lamps, crimson as road flares, double for sunspots, cooking the water hot. Long tubes of air-pumped breath imitate jet winds on an incrementally rotating platform the shape of a clock. Behind black glasses with grey-frosted rims, a man in a plaid shirt points his drawing compass at the tank and squints at the deflected pupil of the world written in water.

The pool is as accurate, in its miniaturization, as a welded Swiss watch serving stand-in by religious metaphor for the watchworks universe. It is as complete as Schrodinger’s unopened box. It is the wet model of a child who couldn’t bear to hear the news a dead seashell whispered him at the age of four. Only scientists could be this literal. This obsessed with detail and the quaantification of the puzzling world’s isness.

Beyond the Woods Hole intitute’s regulated grounds, the far waters of the ocean beat and repeat, an industrial East Coast grey—harassed, and vomiting pollution-choked horseshoe crabs from its dismal waves onto the breakered rocks and graffiti-indignant shores suburban timidity has paid for. Is a lab, with its own graffitied labels and imitation horseshoe crab-incrusted beakers, really that different from childhood’s less tame investigations pursued in the wildness outside the institute?

Banks of instruments clicker with information. Ray, grown up now, stoops over the frying pan of water, listening intently. Terrible hisses rise and enlighten him. He is learning the fundamental syllables of life, of death. His hearing ear (the left one), never hit with anything intense enough to puncture it, bends to the babble. It is shaped like a seashell, an eroded horn.

I respect his dead-white wish to read the world. Strolling closer, descending from the awful speed of my electron orbit and decisionless energy level, I reach around Ray with a subdued glance, not wanting his shallow-water knowledge of this world, not really. I’m OK with my chilish ignorance, my own small spill of messes and guesses. Over Ray’s shoulder, intently hunched, I see the glossy colors of an illuminated drama spill and melt over a Mediterranean-tinted spot in the pool, a Jupiter eye.

 

*****

In the experimental tank under close observation,

the 14-toothed triggerfish dismantles

a pickup-sticks sea urchin with its eyelid-bright florescent lips. Head down in no atmosphere, it could be orbiting Jupiter, sent out last minute to disassemble a Sputnik satellite. Its outlined rear-end signals to frock-coated, thick-lensed men hunched over a deep dish of radar emanations. The radiant scopes inscribe pies on their faces while a smooth light wipes their faces clean at regular intervals.

This triggerfish is a queen in the lab. She swans the controlled and patrolled lanes the watertank creates. She has reined in her attitudes towards death in order to eat. Her world is regally equitable, even the infinite pain of the half-dismantled sea urchin’s spines seems a matter of indifference rather than grievance or need. She is in complete control of her compulsions. Decked out in the royal blue of an acetylene torch, her traced body seems a halloween skeleton, suddenly alive on a child, or the fishingline-thin bones of her devoured husband, the king.

I slap Ray’s back, Christ-skinny under his tenting shirt. He stands back from the oscillating scope and breaks his bone face with a smile.

“Lemme study this stupid fish, willya?” His eyebrows rise.

“Learn away.”

I turn toward a bank of unlabelled knobs as he hooks himself toward the glowing water. A spiritual indecision settles over me like dust. My bold shoulders hunch under the powders. Knobs rise on the machinery like melted towers, ruined religions warting the simple metal of history. Each arrowed fist, each dial, demands a conversion, an action. Each will swivel like a new girl when picked. My numb fingers slip from the slick trousers, fluctuating with the motion in stylish grey. Perhaps the fate of a nimble triggerfish rests along my itchy finger. I confront the manipulating knobs whose identifying chants and mantras and rites have been worn away by science to one hum. An abstract hand decides and rises, reversing arrows, trailing evaporate sweat over the pinched plastic grips. A world turns.

And Ray, underlit by faith, stiffens as the triggerfish wavers under a new Gulf Stream.

 

*****

Evolution knows no death is sin

. Christ knew this, and died accordingly. Pteranodons in their era snapped Elizabethan-green bat gowns above rapid, big-skulled bait making wakes in the ocean. Their leather lips require lipstick. They demand the drama of a madam, shitting and eating between four fast hands of claws. It is an elemental fireplace poker, this abstract head, twisted like a red diamond on those Alice-in-Wonderland cards sprouting potato limbs. The Pterandon carries an executioner’s air of authority. The red head shifts with a pouched twist of its sagging neck angling like a torn awning, above the long rows of ocean moss burning white at the high edges of their aspirations.

The unlovely Pteranadon strangles the interrupted arc of a fish—a winner pinning his dinner. The fish twitches fish-eyed; the split fish begins to flip its aerodynamic tail beneath a blood streak, flying with its oxygenated rust scar towards an unblinking blue heaven where it can breathe a pure, clean solution, so much like home.

 

*****

Circuitous route

. In its circus suit, amplified for business, trimmed in white for the splayed wedding day, the clown sea-slug appears on the clipped twig of a Cyprus coral, inches underwater in a phony lab still. Two snowy lips, discrete as labia, float on the orange flecked, shapeless (except for its no-shape), stippled slug. These silent creatures, flapping in erratic colors as if a somber judge’s robes had been turned inside out and stung alive, tumble hieroglyphs in water with a matador’s flair. To them, traveling in a straight line is not traveling at all; all forward motion must be ellipse and oblique advance. They are students of subtle connections. The Zeno-infinite barrier of distance is overcome with sheer style and the unknowable tao display of a blind-at-birth mime.

I check on the crenellating subject, held up for picture-taking by an invisable fishing line. It is partially wilted with an anxious school boy’s over-effort, like the fresh photograph in my drippy hand. Its oranges are only slowly alive compared to the artificial contrast induced by the stringent chemicals of the padlocked darkroom, the creator’s void of imitation, my buzzing brain-borrowed light of reflected objects, the womb water fixative, the steel pan for extra organs, faux alcohol-soaked clothesline necessary to evaporate the newness from the cribbed text, a Japanese copy of chinese characters made wonderfully foamy by the choppy effort to transport the image’s infantile watercolors over a wet trench without introducing a humped sea change. The clown slug’s Rio Grande curves diminish to a drenched mop’s motions. This sun-melted buttery slug is disappointed with its glassed-in life, its bureaucratic habitat, the artful spine of snapped-off coral that provides no restful net of shadows under the carefully articulated modeling lamps an artist named Lenny leant me.

Its life as a model, a subject of lustful study, is about to return to its pre-Twilight-Zone, Pierrot normal in a polaroid moment.

Readjusting from the bright blank dark of my elaborately gloomy Civil War Reconstruction Era developing chamber, as birth-bathed with chemical fluids as Frankenstein, I disconnect a Job-string from the sensitive boil of the subject’s squirming body and let it fall from its artificially natural arches back to its relaxed, laughless ruffles. It no longer need exhibit the rough exaggeration of pain my jabbing birth-pangs created for the sad clown; back it goes to the limp insistence of limits its measured salt aquarium existence allows at my sad command. I am maestro and minister and photographer to is miniature existence.

This poor clown cannot even choose when to wither.

 

*****

The tabernacle prism skin undulates

in purple. Hairy legs soft as pine trees fluctuate in time with a dark internal mechanism visible through the stained-glass skin. The claw of its face is black and hard as a tiger bite. Red TV antenna substitute for eyes. The slouched beast emerges from the paranoiac landscape of a microscope. It is the size of a grain of rice.

This is a sea flea, lost in water, and stuck on a microscope slide like a Kansas suicide with nothing to jump off of. In nature, it hits bottom continually, forced by gravity to live there; it despairs of fighting, a retired trapeze artist hopping beautifully out of bed to face the shaving razor. To the depths of the ocean’s muddy bottom, the obscure fecundity of sea sludge from which everything else sprang, this stained-glass amphipod, obscured by the dirt it eats (an artist-journalist), is forced, thoroughly defeated. Trapped in the coiled expectation of a long siege, unsprung in the sea’s springing bed, this creature’s histories, its diaries and trials, will be buried with it in its burrow, beneath its pure body, a bud of amethyst, indecipherable under the shrunken will of its miniaturized state.

I shake the microscopic slide clean. Its contents curl from the glass with the extended glitter of oceanic spittle under an artificial wind. They head from the initial anus of the chrome drain to the settled ignominy of the infertile freshwater sewer. I settle the purified pane on the laboratory sink’s edge and wash my bandit hands like a raccoon.

“Somebody has to burn the libraries,” I say to myself and cast an empty eye around the room for a new start, a fresh slide, an unmolested history.

Historic, or almost historic, bolted bronze plaques announce my ogled accomplishments from the field of a daffodil-shaded wall. Name, doctorate, rank. I lean in a wet wind from the tilted open aluminum window, angling toward the inherited clutter of my cynical experiments like an implicit critic: I will drop the repetition of habitual gestures, doff all hats and tin workplace smiles. I will become myself, history-less and fresh. Absolutely original in my invisible motion of forgetting, my unsponsored touch, arising simultaneously out of everything, will readjust the ant-footing of a monarch butterfly on its momentary redwood; or, like an oily tsunami arisen from zero, I will smash the
Mardi Gras coast of Louisiana back to its mud blacks.

 

*****

Plankton grows in the sea

. It is like a mold forming a perfect radius of health on nothing. Pythagoras knew this geometric truth, that the smallest plants, the infinitesimal animals, pock the sea like bread mold, and swamp the unbrushed teeth of humpbacked whales with the cold food of their diminutive souls. The whale’s great soul is composed of these million points of light.

The moldlike plankton manufacture themselves in a Judasless slaughterhouse. None of them considers their sacrifice, or considers themselves as sacrificing; they all want to be president. Pure in their McGovern ambitions, the machine of an amphipod, with the registered extent of a flour bug, can dismember 100,000 of them per day in bursting good health. Their circular minds, absorbed in mathematical rotations and schemes, are as fiercely happy as Joan-of-Arc in the sea acids of their upward digestion.

Perhaps there is nothing to them. An altruistic enzyme machineguns them towards birth, the selfless myth of multiplied corn, oiling their gold envelopes to be crushed or punctured with rupturing heat. The combined plankton sizzle the soulless sea-sounds of their miniature pleas into a cloudless air. Am! they shout, rather than I am! They are manipulated by design, a flaw in the manifold of time-abiding Darwinic success, fueling the entire system. Whales loll in their green abundance, thin-lipped fish initiate rituals to celebrate the inexhaustible tarp of food some benign fish-faced god has sprinkled over the surface of the waters.

Caught in a rubber daze of cyclical dancing, as if vulcanized by the abrupt discovery of sex, the spinning fish, sleepily full of blank plankton, are unable to avoid the taut closure of a dolphin’s mouth. Blue dolphins signal in watery ultrasonics the tasty news of a miracle. Annual frenzies arise around stupefied twirls of fish. Sharks or barracuda, attentive to blood, are themselves magnetized toward the white action. Bottom plants, fixing the nitrogen of leftover flesh into their stiffening stems, raise a myriad of obsequies toward the sun.

In the warm, ignored wallows of the water, unmarried masses of plankton, pregnant beyond the borders of their bodies, aren’t even attempting to avoid the red tide dishonor of suicide.

*****

The one-celled diatom

of the mind resigns. Its intricate crystal resistance voids in a single spike the aims of a weltred lifetime. A few rectangular cells assemble a xylophone to play a showtune on; the mind returns to its constituent thoughts, the blocks of being definable in a simple philosophical grid diagram. Who am I when I’m not who I think I am? Looking away from these primative shapes in the microscope, like waking up from a dream of simplicity, the once-dissolved will reabsorbs itself into the lie of a remembered face, the stage set of inspired eyes, articulated gestures of a mouth, the sag disappointment work-weary cheeks assume over their disappearing bones.

We assemble our origins. This soup of clothes, pool of pretenses, adjustable cells of selves. My flashing dreams manipulate these amoeba constituents in the lens into sea birds, dragons. I am looking into the cold source of life’s hothouse wildness. The steel microscope kicks out of focus. My wristwatched wrist and pale hand, contemptuous of culled possibilities, have shoved the prepared slide to the chipped edge of the worktable.

My tired eyes rise to a blind room. Over a dimensionless floor, condensing into a scuffed mist, my disjunctive consciousness suspends itself, waiting to be resolved to clarity, to have a clarity imposed. The sturdy table tilts its bitten outline into lost clouds. The microscope mirror flashes indecipherable signals, telegraphing to invisible confederates. I stand up in the directionless steam, and snap my slowly dissolving head towards the remembered frame of a window. A bright square of sky, of possibility, leans toward me. Remarkable landscapes appear and disappear past its flexible edges, soft as new aluminum. Miltown melts in my sleepy intestines, nuzzling lunch’s third highball toward stepped pastures. Sweat scalds across my thin forehead, sudden as a shadow, a fired iron blade.

My disparate parts disintegrate to their diatom units: a dragged hand registering numbers: a sickle-shaped back crouching against wildflowers: a nimble knee sinking in my brother’s ten year old stomach: a detached cock shrunk in its caul of underwear, now alert in a haze of Christy’s hair. An elbow knocking against nothing immediately identifiable.

An asleep mouth sucks and disperses. Drawls towards silence, an awake blank of wax. The first cheek registers a cheeky substance. A muscle fluctuates in warmth. And now, there is an incredible spinning as if I am in orbit around a huge and black and furiously burning furnace. The insane spinning stops, a sudden calm out of an unexpected east. Only one drop of pure wax remains, infinitely impressionable. Who am I?

The far floor stiffens into stasis.

 

*****

An arrow painted on highlighted plywood

points to H2O. The wroth broth flat-out refuses the cool sweep of the complaisant sky. The sea’s simmering blues are unabated. Two days of storm still mark the eduring pewter. It is restless, whitish now, an abrupt shrill surface of active champagne.

An awkward stork in hinged steps bobs before the divided scene. It is neither sky nor sea. Maybe the stork is the white intercession of an archangel, its wings the sweep of a savior’s gesture. The ambiguous figure in tall starts adjusts wings edged with charcoal. Wrecked vegetation all around the scene frames its weighted motions in busted lumps as it draws a pictograph of utter astonishment in the sand.

Indecipherable stones grind under the stark sea, negligee pale. Birth water. Out of the combative source of blue, red-blue, the slap of terror, knives of finding, deposited on a heaving plain barren of obstacles, flat blank of personality, hands of sands dissolving, the biting face of my enemy myself emerges. Detached from the retinal umbilical, thrown into lightning sight, one of my divided selves emerges from the alert eye of night’s hypnoses as slow definitions of consciousness go up like smoke from the wreck of being. In a smashed-up spaceship on ovoid rocks the shapes of breasts, I had landed on the dead quiet beach. The Italian air smelled clear of enemies, but my hair was on fire for sabotage and singed my nostrils with the ache for action. This was my first war.

Back in the present, I see the delighted sign, its florescent arrow pinning my pumping heart against my snapped spine. It indicates, if you follow its point, a renewal of battle, the breaking panes of the sea. Perhaps a salt whiff of annihilation rises, one unity among many others. The tall stork balks. It is unable to bring off the idea of birth in this quickening desolation. Small stones sizzle at my feet, a rash jazz.

The sky, ignored in its flamingo tones, demands, one gigantic pale bruised eye, an answer. Who will I be?

Droning in a daze beside white slippage of the combers, I regret the 100,000 names I found in a book of names for baby boys.

 

*****

Looking at a sea map,

the Mid-Atlantic ridge and rift, echoing Africa

in its Westward bend, aches like an underwater breast, in outline, toward starved American shores. The Atlantis and Plato Seamounts intersect the inverted question mark of the ridge at the start of the neck, just above the absent dot. With its comforting layer of fat and water removed, the earth is an old bone ball, a dry eye.

This image seeps into my dreams, snapping me back to wartime Italy and my first deceased stormtrooper. I see him repeating his dazzling entrance, shocked hair blond as fire, chipped eyes lost in a face too brutal to be useless. I attack. There is a wheeze of butchery, and his unblanketed body beside me all night long….

 

*****

The Gulf Stream falls on snow-blue paper

like a tree trunk. In the elaborate over-definition of his age, Benjamin Franklin, the author of this view of the sea, has magnetized the stream with the grain of a board. A security of something known in the face of such wide ignorance. It is an assertion of style, the flash of Marlowe, with feathered indian arrows drawn in the stream to indicate the general sweep of the just-discovered mystery of the water’s secret motion.

Clipper ships in three-quarter view slice a confused white wake in the fallen branch of the Gulf Stream. Maybe they are exposing the tender sap that runs beneath the all-weather bark. Save two weeks West on the right vein, the feathered shaft indicating the rapid cupidity of our founding fathers. Mandrake-men with split beards to fork off the devil.

New in the primeval woods of New England, they confronted themselves without limit, without the collective stare of their peering superiors, the reflective glare of history, that under-the-trout-neck tanning device that slits against me now, plowing through a pile of books on the windless beach. Nightmares began their elemental glare back then with the colonial men—the simplified outlines of dream and disaster, the rough circumference of gigantic trees rising out of their capped and buckled minds. Heathens breathed their air. Savagery escaped the projected woods, the wolf-dark biting out from under their brown brows.

This earth nurtured their paranoias; it nurtures mine. The dark of history begins behind my eyes, a blobbly blossom like a blood blot; all this caustic light of now is a bright deception, a bangle to trick the tourists, the Cambridge kids drinking after graduation, their pilgrim hats a buckles lying askew on their beer-stained beach towels. The injected vein-arrow of their flight, drawn by Franklin, begins to ribbon into leaf and purple vine. The sandy soil allows expansion of the ripping roots, the iconoclastic impulse that rivets dreams to the barked-over real.

Primly on their birch-painted canoes, tourists glide like seconal past the intersected circular trunk of the bright bay. One, a student, out for a day at the end of the semester, yet rigid in the remembrance of his dreams, the strict rictus of imagined knives, tips his heavy load of books back into the winking sea.

 

*****

Chocolate-striped like a dapper cookie

, crisp in a white linen under-canvas, the snail’s shell appears to be arranged in geologic layers, the scrap snippet of a seismograph emerging from the minute jarrings into serried chocolate lines. But this is all history, dead as day-old newsprint, precise as Egyptian scribe transcriptions, perfect as the eviscerated papyrus curling in broken Red Sea jugs.

 

*****

Mussels crust the rocks

. Scavenger seagulls pimple the heights, the mid-region of rock covered by the spitting shells. Below them, in a fallen arc of the viewer’s attention, a slime so green it is black, swells. Kelp and surfgrass dynamite to life in blasted tidal pools. Bladdered seaweed swivels in the backwash. This civil society cusps itself on the unpredictable edge of air. A political wind will agitate their shallow order. They are essentially Americans living in the degraded sixties, slouching at dead water midnight towards their limited and manipulated image of the seventies. The sky is a blank TV screen their aquatic eyes can’t unblurr from static.

In a few more words, they will be enough like me that I can ignore them, almost. Safe distance of identity. A cynical condescension. A projection. On the solipsistic beach, flooded with sun, even the eternal line of the unceasing sea fuzzes like an uncertain section of hair in front of my eyes. Imagining cat-slits on my ocular bulbs, I could manipulate the sea’s lazy blues away. The easy blink of nonexistence reddens my inner eyelid. Its minor frictions hesitate. I do not want to be the womb that ejaculates a world. What has forced me to this destruction, this creation?

Rich algae explodes its black flak on the rocks. It is a mural by the artist of jet. His fast ebonies. I shape it, in erotic octaves of imagination, beating with the tousled sea, into the midnight depiction of a copulating couple. Invisible birds cry out.

At one time, my Shiva-fingered hands, caressing dresses of invention, were dumb globes, fumbling at knobs, decisively incompetent. Now, in the low drama of the tide, murmur of insurrection, my slender fingers fatten, away from their piano-agile competence. I feel them begin warmly to bloat, asleep in their injuries, their laughable murders of men I invented and stuck like cardboard in their designated worlds, to swell and to bloat back to globes.

 

*****

Inverted antlers of the mangrove roots

hold a stag’s bark-brown prick in the air. Sea urchins gather in the tangle. Salt-water marks the chalky mangrove arches black. The urchin mouths suck at the swamped roots. They are entering an ancient city, a druid wood, the arched mathematical construct of a gigantic space station. Formal as archbishops in their starched doctrinaire robes, the urchins move through a dimpled distortion of shallow water, keeping a pointed distance from each other as if they were active tips of a single hundred-fingered hand. They agonize over an obstacle of corralled rock, tip their bride of Frankenstein armament on an incline of sand, and disappear with a spiny motion under dry mangrove groins.

I measure myself against the mangrove’s stiff triumphal arches. It is a cold comparison, excluding appearances, excluding dramas. I am as nothing to this living intensity.

Lowering my crew-cut and lopsided head through a decently large Gothic V, I shoulder my bundled back through the four-foot high space-portal, dodge the shrill hair of sea urchins, and hunch uncomfortably among the shattered reflections of pissy tidal water. I am inside a nuclear missile’s nosecone; radiant nodules of urchins darkly flash the countdown sequence. Or else it is a full-body electric hair dryer, hovering pastel above the wincing faces of women, and rusted to the dim patchwork colors of tank camouflage. I examine my cockpit in the dim light if the wooden tank’s visor-slits.

The contained heat of the hunched space is making my fresh fur sweat. Perhaps I am overdressed in a considerately too-warm hospital examination room, an antechamber to Hades perhaps; perhaps war is such an chamber, full of ammo and empty of meaning.

I lean against the massy tangle of mangrove roots and see the frozen halo of one of the sea urchins approach my charmingly naked, sea-slug white, right foot. It seems curious and efficient, a doctor checking recruits before deployment. Am I headed for fight or flight? War’s razors, or the open spaces of astronauts? I, in turn, examine the medical authority of its motions, its stiff timidities; it looks as if it were diagnosing the open throat of the sand beneath the cathedral mangrove. I wait for the cool judgment of its touch, the cold stethoscope, the hot needle. Voiceless, it bulks up and onto the lump of my foot, a ball of foils in the sidelight, and adjusts its one doctor eye to my foot’s arch. No injections; I am not needed for either outerspace nor earthbound battles. The urchin tumbles off toward the glow-spines of its fellows, clumping for take-off like a bag of icecubes in a steward’s bin. A tense rivulet of sweat unzips my back, spilling nothing vital.

Alive at least in the green tree-water reflections, I realize that I will never rise or dry.

 

*****

The Angola Abyssal plain is burnt

. There, miles under the smashed mirror of the slave trade routes, volcanic ochres ripen. The evaporated congo river on this map inflicts a “fan” of scored, lasagna-wavy edged lines on the otherwise smooth, completely tense anger of this ocean plate shaped like a chicken leg, or a footprint, resonant as drums made from human soles.

I tap the map and move back miles and years into my russet-dusted memory….

I slap my foot in the dead trench. Dust puffs up. It is a robin’s egg afternoon, ready to smash apart. Fragment jags of blue stab out of my back in enemy territory. I carry a conspicuous brightness in my spine, scalding open spina bifida style, a pretty radiation winking from the eyelike wound of bone, the removed hatchet absence in my back. This eviscerated field in Italy is scissored apart by shells, by sky, by every unpredictable whirr of shrapnel.

Abandoned objects thrust up under my padding foot, trying to jack my sweat-black head above the dirt crest of the four-man foxhole, a baked lake unable to shake its dry ocean connections, its long blades of clay exposed by spade and a gouged taste for the desperate. This is my shoveled hovel, my own Abyssal plain, my stared-at waxy page of sea-floor map, dropping me without its salt water and toilet flotation device straight into the crummy memory crevice of WWII.

Pacing past a dead nazi’s body, slumped and slashed with swirls of clothes-folds like last night’s laundry, I tap a slim cylinder cigarette into my numb hand. The blaring battle action has sagged. Occasional emphysema coughs erupt from either side of the front at random, scattered noises of a sickness-stricken zoo.

Orange plains. Blue pressure of sky or ocean. My life has crawled between these two extremes. I fold the depopulated map and accept the waiter’s iced drink and red ink check.

 

*****

Manta Ray. Devilfish.

Picking delicate shrimp the shade of a girl’s fingernail from an abstract plant complex as a beehive hairdo, the Manta Ray scrolls its flexible scythes. Those fleshy loops that bracket the wide mouth in a semi-funnel, corral a pink crustacean like a wedding-cake rose through the flush water. The devilfish’s caped bachelor suit is perpetually neat.

Netted like Christ off the paradise shores of Acapulco, a huge ray reveals, in its flying diamond complexity, nothing vital about itself. Like me, slashed with accusative shadows, this black stump-shape of pork loin is sold and wrapped in self-attractive plastic that bonds with anything stretched to the requisite drum-note. Any sufficient insistence of alien hands will capture it, for it is always obeying the pressures that surround it. It submits with the subtle elastic bowing of attic stairs.

The captured ray is willing to be walked on, or raised into faceless symboldom. We are alike as ciphers. And that attracts me, that lazy covalent bond among men, the unity of marxism and christianity, Lenin and christ; they swiped pagan attitudes towards nature, the native numbness of faces ritualized into significance; i.e., doing what their grandparents did, seeing the void under the same warp of magnetism, Christ or Lenin, bland values out of a past that seems so milk-consoling, stabbing away real life’s inevitable loneliness—the singluar one-on-one of intimate killing, for instance…. My gold man, razoring over a ditch edge in Italy, died surprised as sunshine on my unrusted bayonet. I want to be what he was: young, able to rise and fall in the war ritual, a premature fetus swinging his mother’s womb by an umbilical lasso, tied by hand into the social concept of a pretzel and considered edible, able to be sacrificed because so thoroughly a part of the communal body, a spare pared nail.

The Manta Ray sways in a rigorous confusion of dark diamonds as our high-handed hands haul him onto the deck. The butter-cuts of the monofilament net that had scored his skin like a chessboard, are disentangled from the beast and thrown over the side, lowered for something new.

 

*****

The crimped sail of the emergency

life-raft bakes in sunlight like the edges of Mrs Stahl’s under-pressure needlework on a circular wooden frame the size of her shrinking and wrinkled husband’s face as he waves to me from their oval window, his hand enlarged as a claw under a red reading lamp, undefined as a tentacle in its slurry of motion behind the green-tinted glass.

The waves themselves are the icebreaker wakes of her angelfood cake. Pure air honeycombed in sugar dough. Two-inch candles, twisted under the spiral undulations of the flames, melt into the white icing. It is the birthday of a stranger, a remembered ceremony, the cancelled reverberations of a faintly German song marching into our empty yard. Watching through the uninvented view of a window, I can see the small yellow tinsel flames sequentially extinguished. A new light appears that shares the outline of my hungry body.

The sunlight is intense beyond my closed eyes, my lips thristy as I sit seesawing on the ocean. Only memory calls me out of my daze, a phone call full of static and passion. Whose birthday was it all those years ago? I see a miniature Christy smiling eyes-closed in the spat of candlelight—the old light moving farther and farther away, a dim blue hole closing in the clouds until I only feel the waves beneath me again, the broken rocking-horse of the birthing sea.

Set adrift by a hull-splitting scurry of accidents, I see in the submerged matchstick eyes of an agitated knot of sharks under my safety orange rubber lifecraft, the happy last image of a sea-marooned and starving man.

 

*****

A lighthouse at midnight steams

in the spermy Switzerland of its outlet. It stands alone on a craggy escarpment, a warning. It is a dark block of hewn night, assembled from arrows bound in cat gut or from the eye-strings of enemies, they twist single single single switches of field grass tightly together to create this obelisk; the black bulk indicates a determination; the direction, a god.

The enormous peppermint stick in enameled spirals, torques towards an emotion. It is a reverence for technique in the bald face of overwhelming odds; given a solid, upright engineered form becomes, through its unique engagement of resources, technology. The icepick enters an elephant; light enters the darkness; the lighthouse darts into a flank of sky; a spout of blood illuminates its way. This is the sweet method of technology.

Halfway underwater, my tin head keeps its glass lamps dry. On the inside. The sea breaks its Greek shards at the phallic foot of the lighthouse smaller and smaller. Chromey water oils my view. Bright slant stripes pinwheel into distorted sleeves with a Renaissance puff. The tower crouches among the sea’s uneven blacks, ebony sickles spurring against the one ray of dusk’s first star still hanging in the late sky.

Out of the ecstatic spotlight, I watch as the hooked edifice blurs into thick-margined lines, shapeless chimpanzee fingerpaints, distorts upward toward the doughnut oval of its own bright, swinging desire. The simple assertion of the lighthouse, high as my pre-war suburban dream, and flashed with crimson insight and latex waterproofing, curls at its foot in the priestly intercession of a wave. It sizzles skyward, away from all the tilting war zone of the water, trying by the luck of combined angles to puncture a new revelation through Hollywood heaven.

Solipsistic in the shallows of the given year, I feel the interfering wave fold over the Marconi-sensitive, mantis prayer shell of my body as I drift witless in revelationless shallows.

 

*****

It is a matter of energy

. It is a matter of energy, and not time. Trigger shoals blade into the soft sides of ships off Nantucket. The bone shoulders of this fanned out and convoluted sand catch many fish. They are hoping to pull together a critical mass of dead parts and sea junk. Rust stains swirl away from the coral bed like an effloresence of bloods. This is the aching
Gertrude of thoughtless men; the switching sea channels that changed Hamlet, squeezing the birth of resolution through the sea’s mixed metaphor and chaos.

Generations of New England whalers killed themselves against these shoals. In a detached spree of American independence they did not even recognize their farming, rock-turning and wall-building, fathers as fathers: only the sea.
But the sea was mother too. So abstract father became God, became a constellation, became a guide to navigation. They step-fathered themselves to maturity against the suavity of these rocks. In a radical arc of action they killed their fathers and now must kill themselves. So they load up their iron hooks and needles, a rapier-minded sewing klatch, into the long shells whose edges are turned up like dry leaves, a carved mask, a breakable wooden persona, and give chase to the most basic image of themselves: the roiling, blue and diving, burning and plumed sperm whale.

Stark shoals are humming underneath the men, deeply attractive as magnets in their primal and nuclear weight. I float through the hole of a snookered frigate, ripped and displayed here in its still effervescing death; there is a morbid freshness in its continuing decay. Compacting to a photographic plate, an unclear x-ray, this rippled under-pinning of the Atlantic, shoal upon shoal, has culled debris into clumped and whitening clouds of disease. Here lies a general indication of the nation’s ailment, a pensive weatherhead of cancer, the puritanic accumulation of an under-achieving child’s pervasive and general sense of guilt. Men have died here to deny their fathers, to cut themselves free from the land, from history.

Looking at the sand-bagged and rusted-out outlines of shadowy hulks shifting in the hallucinatory sand, I add my throw-away and sag gravity to this drowned black hole that eats the light of identities.

 

*****

The iris accumulation

of the coral is a spaceship. Its aerodynamic UFO edge gives it the bloated elegance of a zeppelin. Honeycombed with the bone blossoms of its species, you can see a few of the living cathedral windows have been punched out; perhaps by the agitated scrabbling of an octagonal crab, perhaps an organized squad of escapees exiting Iran with the traditional hem of their robed garment regularized as a jet contrail.

Indeed, the coral outcropping has the fractal appearance of a mosque—the religious injuction to never depict real life made by Mohammed in his Arabic visions; an expression of the secret faith that the solipsistic powers of people can’t project with any real idiosyncrasy, any ability to emanate from a unique center that Islamic preconceptions have not altered and epoxied into stereotype. An Orwellian will to affix reality. A Soviet determination. An IBM-like regimented insistence to instill. And yet, this is real, this humped clump of coral, an effort of individuals disappearing into a circular edge of stone flowers incisive enough to pry apart the entrenched, presidential pearl of a sullen oyster. Something in me begs to disaster this built-up rigging of perfection, this blind obedience to obedience as if willed by Allah Himself.

Unclenching my gloved and hovering fist, I realize that just one manipulative hand is required to bring about this feat: to topple a religious, political and social environment, complaisant in antagonistic harmony. This supreme society of choral corals is vulnerable to disruption. A simple fist will do it, or a levering lift of insistent fingers.

My bound hand having ceased to bleed, I idle above the pleased symmetry of its oval edges in irreversible recovery. I could bring this edifice down like a deer, melting its sudden confusions and wound-open hexagons, crumbling like Bambi’s broken mom. I pause; a velvety evil inside me piles up like tar and ebbs. The aerosol hairspray of my intentions sprays and frays, stiffening nothing into desire. The unencumbered blood bank of cellular aliens simmers its engines; the sharp-edged coral vibrates, a marooned UFO. It rocks from its anchors like a parade float as I push, a dim orange emanating in laser diffraction beneath its sinister weight. Its slick energies engage in a silent rage of red, axing itself into the shifting sky.

This sissy reticence is as close as I will ever come to birth.

 

*****

Nightshade and venus forced to bloat

pregnancy under ultraviolet light. A Portuguese man-o-war sacked with bbs and given a face to chew hubcaps. An airport string of runninglights imparts a permanent curve to the niger’s scoliosis sides, shoved 4,000 feet away from air straight down as if allergic.

Deep in its unpollinated Utah of water, the Chiasmodon niger prowls for miniature shrimp and bleating flotsam with an invisible scowl. Upsidedown on its predescribed belly, plush violet and heavy, a false fin, like a mittened and spastically stiff hand, emerges reversed from its spine like a backwards jet engine. It could be a tossed dart, this purple fin, aimed at the rollercoaster lights along the ruffed spine and missing with a drunken lover’s lag of carrythrough. Hanging mid-way beneath the two-inch terror’s anus is a blind eye, the false eyelash of an eye, perfect as a target and intended to distract the tiny attentions of its immature victims. They’ll never see him coming.

It was in a similar spirit of illusion that my parents hired a magician for my fourth birthday party, crowded indoors by an unexpected rain. The room was rosesoft with balloons, their silver luminosity melted into the shapes of hearts gave back the triggered activities of the room’s closed square. A quilt of healthy children, bouncing about like apples in a tub, their heads rising under dark mats of hair split in the mercury-shifting crevice of the strapped-to-the-ceiling hearts, roaming with our collective breaths, misting with the birthday boy’s gigantic candle-killing puff, insistent as the bearded North wind, that put out myriad candelabras arching to the edges of the bloated hearts above us. I grew older.

And then, suddenly punctured by the magician’s gloved hand, the nearest balloon, dark in the dimmed bay of the room that had made the burning cake dramatic, dropped an instant glitter of confetti against my upturned face. I shake a new knife into the niger’s black gut, my SS present, and find my distant faceplate nubbed with unexploded eggs. And I am unable to smell the fragrant rain.

 

*****

The angry whips exist in gems

; they flick behind a curtain pure as pearl, immune to the sloppy cycles of sun or moon. The tide is a tent-top ten-thousand feet above the whips, undulating in the wind strongly and slowly as if composed of desert dunes that move by hours and eons. The tent-waves cover high, tiny unicyclist dolphins and tightrope-treading flying fish in alternate bands of bluegreen light that are almost stripes—when all at once the enormous tent’s surface is startled by a summer breeze.

Like all angry objects, the miniature whips are attached. They connect to the clawless form of lobster, the deep-sea prawn. The four-inch prawn is actually a shrimp, expelling against all odds its gilded screen; it emits a glitter from the small links of its body, this tiny prestidigitator with enough arms to be a stage manager, or a 1914 movie heroine, mouthing curses in bitter silence, beating her endangered arms in practiced distress cutely against the chest of her captor. This is how the prim prawn flagellate their innocence against the snap-jaws of viperfish—their retreating and troubled antenna writhing like rubberbands behind their staged gold smokescreen.

One pink prawn retreats from my fingertip. A fat prawn in mortician’s black, my index digit guesses at the prawn’s pale disposition under the expulsed golden gloom of its miniature escape cloud; moving in the rest of my hand, a militant quorum of morticians jab past the hokey gold mist and grab the skittering bracelet shape of the prawn. Something blacker than my rubber glove lurking behind all that metal swirl crushes the reddening resistance of the prawn’s crimped body in an invisible explosion, its small exploded guts tracing twirls around my knuckles.

The whipped glitter of the flagellant curtains the corrosive drama—a drama without redemption entirely.

 

*****

The deep-sea eel lies folded like a carpet

unrolled down a staircase. Its eye is not blind, its bulldog jaw crushes the political rhetoric of its banner body with instant death. A red Roman tassel flashes over its orange eye the size of a mortar barrel. Paired arrow-fins, florescent red, enter its circulating gills as an eccentricity of design expressing the personality of their owner. Perhaps they are the red cry of a death-wish, or the lust of a hunter to feel the strength of its own bite, its fatal superiority.

The eel’s tensionless crest buzzes by me. My canned hair edges up. This far underwater, I must boost to the silver surface in creeping stages, dangling by a looped-over air line in mid-murk, waiting without a nicotine fix for Grendel to grump his way home (perhaps after unpacking a crumpled tin of me, hanging in helpless piñata profundity, buoyant as a girl clawing along an empty bar with her balanced drink). I watch the tremendous butch abundance of the bleak eel peal past. I hold my glistening innards still. Nothing bleeds in fish-whiffs from my skin to trigger the eel’s instincts, except perhaps a clenched stench of oil, spoiling from my suit’s robotic joints. Tin man in the magic woods, I want this punk Dorothy with her razor wig and slicing edges to purl along, leaving me to the rusted-in shackles of my interrupted industry, the riveted stove-pipes of my bolted Andy Jackson bearing—stolid and without a horse in the coalblack battlefield of my chosen eternity.

If its steel teeth were to bite colonies of errant air from my made-in-Malaysia suit, I would have to rise towards light and bend.

 

*****

It comes from the demanded drama

, the poet’s tweak and thunder, that the old stonefish in her alcove recess blends an ordinary carapace with dismal murk. Double-mossed fins elaborate as a lady’s slip make a mundane skirt for the hidden venom of the stonefish’s lips. This race of fish is all female in their long wait and poisonous anger abrupt as a matchstick in the dark.

And yet, there is an undeniable maleness in the stony surface of its eye. Scratched as an ancient temple wall, the registered sled tracks fall off into an abyss of pupil, dark as a dream of hunger, a hunger satisfied only by Abraham’s sacrifice. If miniature aircraft, adroit as flies in their landing maneuvers, had skidded unwitnessed on the dust of a discarded monocle, the marks would not be different. This fish, sunk to the bottom of a pile of unkempt rocks, has lifted a line from Yeats and has “cast a cold eye/ on life, on death.”

I declare this fish to be my mannikin image, in my bloated stoned perception, something I can fall down to become. Crusted with mossy petticoats, it blocks definition with an androgynous sulk and an armored brow, the pasted-up attitude of a library lion, all terror in its frozen sleep. I, too, can erase my outline underwater and live as a camouflaged rock. When it looks out from its hidden nook, does it see a mirage of existence perhaps? Or is it locked in the iron meditations of a motherlode? Its grainy gills blip. It is living towards some catastrophe, riveted to silt and lost like a discarded breadloaf among rock imitations of breadloaves, too stale for anybody to eat. Maybe Prometheus, sizzling to this depth, would take a bite of such compacted bitterness.

Suspending a wicked hook of chum, detached from my own thigh, in front of its split trumpet-lips, I wait for the earth to move, concentrated down to this one glum chunk of quarried rock, this detached scion that will stand for all the meanings of mundi my imagination can muster. I will catch it and kill it and be free.

 

*****

The striped spikes radiate

from a striped body. It is an indecipherable geometry. Its jut of action as it swallows is complete as a turkey gobble. The zebrafish studies a line of desire to its last implication; Louis XVI puffs of assertion motivate its jagged going. It is always arriving. Identical in black and white or cinemascope, it has an androgynous aspect, a political evasion of identity even as it declares itself in loud stripes.

I think of this as it murders a flamingo newt with an unconscious poisonous spine, and passes on with an iron stomach and stiff brocade of spines as the ballet tissue of the newt death-convulses in pure pink. I see that the zebrafish, bullying forward on its hollow chest—replete with insistence as a stock broker—has made a sacrifice for its successes, its big entrances slick and gliding under a silk hoop skirt; it is the assassination of character under image.

I want that faceless existence: the lightning-striped facepaint so outrè and extreme the face disppears. Something under the totally reflective silver circle of my diver’s mask bubbles after anonymity. I swallow a lump of regulated air. The sedate zebrafish ruffles its facade. A living curtain of spears, slashing in their accuracy, saunters against a comparatively blank backdrop of an actor, hysterical and minute. It rolls its Buddha-placidity forward, making the remote tips of the spears fluctuate like the hem of a girl’s frill….

Swimming in uniform in ’44, the tight black-code outfit of my assigned scuba unit, I swiveled into sand with a bright, almost electric, erection under the rubber, trying to find the sunken shallow-water eggs of my misplaced mate. When I looked up, wet-faced, from the ancient uterus of the
Tyrrhenian Sea, Christy’s serious face, detached as if reading, rose halo-style over the soon-to-be-exploded factory town.

Trapped in the active definition of myself, moving in secret, I lacked access to the Mardi Gras ingénue anonymity of the zebrafish. There was no revitalized Southern-belle entrance to make my decisions for me, no grand staircase to ascend, nothing but the agreed-upon goal to destroy the target and erase my responsibility. What social protocol could I evaporate into? What assimilated sky would accept my frantic atoms? The casual boxes of the town bulked up, obscuring with a quenched clocktower Christy’s luminous left nostril, and fractured like a highrise her hovering smile.

Tracing her filigreed reflection in the pattern of the rained-on streets, I passed crossed out, or closed, carbon-copy shops, greengrocers, butcher shops, innocuous duplicates of any Italian town—a singularly diminished essence that would not suffer any loss when compressed flat onto a postcard, flashing in a tall stand that twirls.

I am almost ready to insert the confetti-brilliant causality of the explosives I have carried here with my unique guilt and make my zebrafish exit, indifferent and visciously suave—and then return to the sea entirely absorbed under the gigantic crisp combers of Christy’s rainbow hair, coiffed high and lovely as a romantic sunset over this doomed town, the rainbow stripes of her pleated perm vaulting down to the water’s edge.

 

Therefore:

 

*****

Straight from the inked and crisscrossed terrors

of the 19th century, two behemoths wrestle under water. The boiled cleats of a monster lobster claw-clamp the smoke-hole of an octopus. Its segmented feelers and tux-tiled waist, starting just behind the giant head, hides beneath the mottled skirt of the octopus, avoiding the tentacle ovals NASA learned to design air locks from, waltzing with a Southern correctness under the ballooning brain bag into the perfectly centered beak of death.

This Godzilla contest bucks across the abandoned ground of the ocean floor. Struggling for supremacy in a meaningless sea of counterpunches, the octopus puts an Atlas foot on the nonporous rock face and slides for a better grip on its tanklike opponent. Exposing its splotched vitals in an attempt to use its brown parrotlike beak, the octopus ties itself down like a tent. Strapped and rippled by the different tensions of its suction anchors, the octopus’ unmoving eyes stare straight out from the opposite sides of a no-nose. It carries a dream of Arabia perhaps in the still unsettled bob and forehead of its jello sack of brains; in its expectation of a feast, the octopus curls the feather tip of its farthest anchor-sucker into the cinnamon swirl of a princess’ slipper.

I close the old fable book edged in gold. The outrageous swallowing body of the octopus lies frozen in the plaster bulk of my night lamp, its feminine hips and leg-like stripes of art deco molding. Out of water in the stacked bones of this dry New York aquarium hotel, high as a hundred-year pile of baseball cards played face down, I bounce from the velvet bed toward the half-buried silver ball of a covered tray, resting like John the Baptist on the thrown angle of a serving cart. Steam bleats out from under the fogging edges of the tray as I raise the bright cover up an inch. Steam flares under the oblique rays of the veiled eye of the octopus lamp right as I throw the silver cover over the happy jumble of an uneaten salad, revealing a hot cooked lobster, gigantic on its plate swilled with limpid butter.

The fight of the fable, its titanic struggle and wildness, has emerged from my subconscious fully clawed and cooked.

Shivering like a high wire under snapping winds, the pale epileptic shakes of my abusive right hand cannot resist cracking the innocent curves of the boiled lobster’s red back, the solemn lobster’s laboring arch, cracking it wide open to expose the pure white plumes of death.

 

*****

The goat-eyed squids in the pebbled foreground

are wearing party hats. It has a hundred legs made of compressed oil. This nautiloid that farts into its skullcap to keep afloat; its empty head, elegant in length as an Elizabethan announcing trumpet, carries the
Aztec herring-bone pattern of a 3 a.m. motel room TV left on between cable channels.

I fall asleep against this image with my lobster bib still tied around my neck like a cowboy’s kercheif. Maybe a miniature me will ride its wild party hat in my dreams.

 

*****

Pol Pot’s potato head expands

in the coriolis effect of the earth’s motor rotation. The split tides of his mind divide into opposed currents, dirty water rotoring counterclockwise in
Argentinian sinks. All this within the Richard the Second circlet of his skull. It is a political whitewash. A deflection. “Watch very carefully as with stunned efficiency this shuffled pack of Tarot cards disappears into your life,” a carbine voice announces in paced words.

Somebody is selling a copyrighted (and incorrect) method of ascension. The television, bolted by thick bars to the textured ceiling, screams in blasé hypnotic grey over the tortured and ripped up edge of my aquarium-size Map of All Tides, O Man. The pretty lady with a smeared face and painted nails fans her demonstration pack in a way that implied colors. My dramatic memory drips in black and white, awful absences of blank for the washedout faces, scolding scabs of tattoo ink, pure black, blotching out the subliminal bone structure, the cow’s skull. Her wide mouth flabbergasts at coincidences. She cites the celestial influences of stars, million-eyed. My map folds along its wavelength warp, squeezed light allowing a quantum distinction in the delicate overlay of atoms, their cloudy orbits and evasions. crunching the map down to a large card’s size, I begin to see the aquatic relations of the swirled world unblurr. It is a solar connection, an oven of insistence roiling the arrowed whips of the tides to an arterial beat, a constant game of cessations.

Playing with the skirted pleats of the blue map, I notice a secret drain in the TV accessible only to the completely insane, a buzzing bore hole leaking away the trapped and renewing tides to a dark, electrical place: the cathode-ray gun tube.

 

*****

In an era dominated by dinosaurs, the quick lizard

, no bigger than a man’s pizzle, splashing through a housing project swamp packed with matched dragonflies and killer-leaved ferns, sway-tailed his way down the delta to the open water—the first of billions of returns that life would make to the freedom of the amoeba, the diatom, rotoring and noseless proto-life. The lizard’s unmown curbedge of teeth is half of its length, seaside tough and overgrown. Once returned to the sea, what will this serrated lingam become? What rearrangement of DNA will life invent—for the millionth time! Balanced in its whip rapport with speed, its cartilage core, and its slight, tiger-tattooed sides, the whole assemblage could curl with undulant comfort into my grandmother’s sewing basket.

No commanding parent, clustered over the toilet with his cramped child, sane and domineering, would flush this ball of terrors into the rank fecundity of a sewer.

 

*****

A subtle Pteraspis sucks my will

.
Armored under the dome of ocean, its unfinished tail-end, awkward as a 50s car, embodies an innovation. A segmented series of calcium deposits allows its armor shielding to melt into skin. It is an ancient burn victim scored and mottled with sudden flexibility. The slick tail slashes. The water washes back. They disappeared with the appearance of more salesmanlike fish sporting hinged jaws.

As an extinct type, they gather an academic sympathy. Their brown bullet-heads batter history into existence. They make the Hegelian ghost of evolution batter and repeat. Immense transparent constructions arise full blown in the afternoon mind, tinted by the fake shifting light of imagined details. White water feathers from the tap, floriate. Ghost faces melt in its water flames. My German enemies, bouncing blond over the blond autumn landscape, blond wheat, blond fire at evening eating the cold grapes. Also, native Italians are invited to the massacre. We looked around, a glum group of big-boot Americans, at the Nero ruins of Caligula’s famous floating battle boat in the empty Nemi. Even this theatre of war was at last trashed to cinders. Something beyond the copper shields of history, distorting our summer ambitions with an unearned tan, flashed and burned here, the decimated dell staring into space after god like a bruised eye.

Spinning toward darkness, I watch the open archeology books, stolen snickeringly from the public library only to be punctually returned, flip their pages beside the window with nobody reading. Fantastic facts and slick shapes, streamlined by a constant razor of grief and necessity, practice their trained curves in front of me, starving girls or dolphins. History in a swimsuit dancing its rank striptease. But I am a boy, a thoughtless boy, let in late to the neighbor’s berry patch, after the crows.

 

*****

A dime shines brightly in a dark bar

. Square, ruined faces, like the torn off ends of a shoe box, turn into holy ovals in the reflected light. A hollow shotglass with a racingstripe lip sit primly beside the sluched bundled body of a man a foot away. His padded figure hovers above the bar top.

“What’s the shortest distance between that dime and this shotglass?” A slim grin divides his face with an ironic shadow.

“I don’t know.” My rye voice is fallow.

“Wanna bet?” A yellow leer.

“I said I don’t know.”

He coddled the shotglass in his ravaged hands, torn by sea-salt perhaps, and soiled with tobacco fidgets. He pulls a comic strip bubble of blank air through his teeth with a squeak, crimping a tired lip. Rescinding speech, I sink into the thin foam of the mauve barstool. Out of a violet crossfire of reflections, his stout voice clips out:

“A straight line.”

Neither of us laugh.

Crumpling money in a rose spotlight, diverted by a suspended glitter of beer mugs, I tuck my puny bartab towards the rich edge of the unmirrored bar, stuffed with leather. I turn like an electricity meter on the screwtop of my seat, ticking a perpetual increase in eaten amperage. The stranger’s “straight line” has fished a decision out of me, my plum-colored depths. Something purple in my heart proposes action, any action, any flat-out and rippling delta overwash of movement. My mind grinds in its socket. A grotesque propeller of hooks tries to beat out what my glands know, what I am going deliberately—in idiotic deliberance and absurd consciousness, a walking talk-show host fired by an immense desire to occupy time—to do.

Under pink floods of scribbled neon, my feet cross the steel threshold past the uncertain waver of a glass door.

I am going to the ignited Empire State Building.

 

*****

My life’s a wreck. The vital squeal of will

, a surreptitious scar that forms over past malfeasances that, by subtle dissolution, become yourself—playing ego, acting id—crashes a black heaven of act over yourself as a kind of stand-in guilty superego. Above I, above I is flight. I am whatever this slight-of-hand somersault is, this thing in me that is never able to fall, to learn how to fall, to tumble in unmentionable silence to the quick pits, the tarry essences that stick and restrict. This truth is what the terrible two-year-old rejects. Naysaying freedom. The blessed ability to abrogate, invent by distortion, the counting up of bleak blocks, grey tiles of effort, stories of will rising over fields of circled and invisible indians chanting central park into luminous, criminal existence. These are the imagined yous you drag with you into whatever existence is, the ripples that expand and demand—cresting finally into the art deco topping of the blessed and fluorescing Empire State Building: my high soapbox declaring nothing, denying nothing.

The building’s glowing ribs ignite to a peaking diminishment, a stiff definition, a delineation of character (as created by its stopping, its refusal to rise any higher) increased and eternalized by its stony pile-on of story after story, its sweet repeats of format and style. This is how everything begins to be; it can only go so far, and then it must stop, sheer exhaustion leaving a trail-shape in the sand behind. My chest aches with the underlit rock waterfalls of its needle. I near its chopped out valley of sky, its girlish window on infinity.

Iceskating down the avenue, stumbling on stilts, wilting towards the dissolved disaster of decision, provision, a mental projection including everybody, lying millions into existence, steeped in the erect sleep that will cause this monumental train wreck of consciousness, I pay my way into the carpeted elevator that will steam me upwards to the injection tip of my awake dream.

The steel grey doors cuff shut. My day-glo ribs ripen open.

 

*****

Tremendous music billows from the plush

planking; soft as a cassette ejection, the audible tremors buffet my rising body. Dirty light exits a centered and welded-in-place lamp. There is no sliding sensation of motion, no fresh ruffle as we fall upward through the resonant aorta valve, and then sink three inches in wet cement to a rocking stop at the top of the Empire State Building.

The sore doors hiss apart.

I am underwater. The few windows are something from Namo’s Nautilus.
The submarine portals, sallow in their green copper frames, play out a design of darkness, washing away the sinister stark stars, humming a phosphorescence of waffled-by-low-currents coral at their lower, binocular rim-edge. I step up to the high, round focus of one portal, the punctured moon’s secret exit. UnAmerican McCarthy, I stall at the view, glancing back at a glitter-trash of gumwrappers and the labial glare bleating off the ruddy remains of smashed coke cans. Still, I can’t turn toward that awful black, the hole-punch hole pulling the spinning jet’s passengers to a communal void. What’s outside will tell me nothing of what’s inside myself, will it? And I want to find out something about myself, anything valid, as if speaking alone in a hollow room, that skeletal clarity.

“Here I arrive, boisterous off the hot winds of chemical New Jersey.”

Tin reflections refuse the words, returning their welter complexities with inanimate overtones. It is a tough tin buzz. A sealed circuit fostering a wicked fray of feedback. My spun skull, candy-cotton delicate in its inalienable prejudices, falls again toward the Golgotha window, my slick forehead perching against the greased glass at perfect witness height.

 



*****

coda

       Night, night, 
and the city in consequence high above itself, 
illuminated skeleton 
as on dirigible 
as on the deep fish,
        the hatcheted faces.
  No mouth showing
        where the moon-circle blots stars, 
a hole of darkness, 
the telescope eye painted over.  
One falls through the skeleton to stars, 
meaningless stars,
  meaningless, meaningless.
             Threaded lightning 
not apparent in the flash and beat—
Nor the streets, also, 

invested with sleet  

Sep 022020
 

 

Gregg Glory
[Gregg G. Brown]



Published by BLAST PRESS


Copyright © 2017 by Gregg G. Brown





Stuff and Nonsense

 
Dark Poet, your pen scratches at the heart of life. ~~Antonin Artaud

Nonsense is often the most sensible kind of sense. This is counterintuitive, but trust me for a moment as we proceed. This is no three-card monte. Nor is it like the wonderful magic of Emmett Kelley the clown sweeping his spotlights into a single circle, and then putting that circle in his pocket, patting his pocket and smiling like Einstein after he’d eureka’d light into a corner.

Nonsense reveals all of us—our self, our situation—in a single pop of recognition as we are trampolined from our usual assurances and then forced to regain our footing, to regain our meaning, on the fly. Like an old-fashioned photographer’s flash powder, we are exposed to an extreme of light, with no visible space left for secrets or lies. This is part of the odd exhilaration of nonsense. And, don’t get me wrong, nonsense isn’t some sly encyclopedia where all hidden truths are stored and we must simply discover the index—oh, no. Rather, the puzzles that nonsense reveal are genuinely unsolvable. Gregor Samsa will never come back from being a cockroach; his transformation in the story “Metamorphosis” has simply revealed the pickle he was already in, but didn’t know that he was in.

What nonsense reveals, at its best, are genuine mysteries.

And, like Gregor Samsa, the character in the poem “Nagging Question,” who wakes up with a pile of feathers at his feet after having torn his pillow apart in his sleep, all he can do with a true mystery, once it has been revealed, is to go back into the realm from which the mystery emanated. Gregor cross-examines his family situation, and the character in our poem returns to the realm of sleep and dream. But, with new, perhaps sharper, questions in mind with which to confront the mystery that has been revealed. Or, it may be, with no questions at all, simply with one’s eyes widened.

This process resembles the scientific method, except for the fact that there is no control group. What variables could nonsense ever control for? There may one day be a science of comedy, but never one for true mystery. The only control group we have in poetry is every other poem ever written. Their mysteries abide, and it is into them that we go to confront those mysteries again and again—and to find more of ourselves more truthfully (or at least more fully) revealed.

 
   [With] the pillow exploded uselessly between
         your hands
   And what looks to be a chicken carcass
   Piled in an inscrutable white mound
   Headless between your bare feet [...]
   There’s only one place for you to find your answer.

Gregg Glory
August 28, 2017




Other
(How To Be Invisible)


Disappearing Act

The shaggy sea wagged its big, wet tail.
I walked right into its open mouth 
And was never heard from again.




Culprit

This entire time
I’ve been stealing peaches
That look like my face.

My hand’s shadow
Grows crooked over their innocence
As if I were shaving them.

Soft as they are,
They talk softly in my pockets together,
Accusing me of many crimes.



Ruby Woo

I knew a girl who began disappearing
From her feet up.
First her toes faded out, then her heels,
Her arches were twin bridges to nowhere.
You could still hear her clicking down the sidewalk,
But she no longer stopped at the shoe store
To windowshop.

Her knees gave her some trouble
And you could see the kneecaps gleaming
Like little cat skulls.

She was so relieved when her ass finally disappeared
She threw a big party and danced all night
But mostly alone since no one was sure 
Exactly where her feet were, or if she still had any.

Last week I went around to visit
And had to let myself in.
She was just a pair of lips on a throw pillow 
On the couch.  I spoonfed her a little chicken broth
And blotted her dry.

She talked a lot, various histories and opinions.
We talked over each other quite a bit,
And I wasn’t sure if she could hear me.

On my way out, she asked me
To apply some lipstick for her, ruby woo.
But, I couldn’t oblige.  I’m all thumbs.



The Poet Wild

 for Joe Weil

An echoing bear snuffles woodward.
His head sways heavily back and forth,
A shovelful of earth.

The bear has eaten the world.
His eyes are full of sorrowful stars
Typed like whited-out asterisks.

The bear pours out his voice,
Black licorice poured on roaring waters.
It echoes in the earth and air.



Reading in Eden

The books are more like trees.
Tall, with letters like people bending.
You run across the pages naked,
Roll endlessly into the binding laughing
At your clumsiness, the pages like cream,
The sun warm applause on your back as you struggle.
The flat people around you stare wide-eyed as Egyptians,
Silent, your foot caught in the plot.



Evaporating Lines

The magician disappeared into his hat.
The rabbit had hopped off long ago,
But, there was his shadow.

*

I am ferried everywhere on the back of an ant.
A leaf, an aphid.

*

I am disappearing like a silk scarf pulled through
     a ring.
A small hole, an ear.

*

Disappear with me, the best is yet to be.
Quoth Browning, quoth God.

*

I ride in upon a magnificent wave of birth, raving
    and foamy.
When I retreat back to death, I leave behind
A salt grit, a stink.



A Hard Wind

A hard wind is bending 
The wintry world.
Tree after skeletal tree 
Seems tentative
That had been solid 
As wainscoting before.
Walls holding in, 
Windows looking out.

Blue corners of the sky 
Are being torn.
The straight line of the horizon 
Weeps like eyes 
Bowing downward 
At their sad corners.
Sad world.  
And no tissue big enough.





Life

Life is shit
They all said.
But, they didn’t
Really mean it.

Life is suffering
The wise man said.
But, he
Didn’t really mean that.

Life is… is… is...
Unavoidable!  one blurted.
And they 
All laughed at that.



The Reader

Politely, devoutly, 
With head bent down, the reader 
Asks permission of the text:
May I see what my imagination
Has already cooked up?
Can I smell the key lime pie, 
Lick the great comedian’s face?

Loyally, I wanted to kill Issac, too, 
But I stayed my hand.
Isn’t that right, little book?  
Didn’t I chase a white whale 
And feel the harpoon’s spur?
I kissed with Eve, 
And I hissed with the snake.

The pages fell over me 
Like wings, like ashes.

Pages spangled 
With ant-like letters.
Walrus words thundered 
Into the sea 
After the good fight,

Their white tusks 
Hidden underwater, 
Their eyes mysterious,
Human as a mermaid’s.



Riding Fido

The last time around I was a flea for sure.
Dodging the dog’s teeth, the dirty claws of his foot.
Mounting the spine of an eyelash to make love
Or see the endless dogscape.  How the world moved
With the slow gait of an elephant, tilting
Precipitously as a great sailing ship in a storm.
Such vistas of grass and sky and dingy living room furniture!
The dog was splendid, a saber-toothed bear in battle
Who slept all afternoon after a meal.
Speaking of which, there was always plenty to eat,
You bet, steaks of skin and gobbets of blood to spare.
Pull up a chair.  Hair of the dog and all that.





Words Without Music

Whenever I think 
Things are going too great,
That the total amount of joy 
Is adding up 
To one fantastic finale, 
One oceanic applause line,

I stop eating for a fews days.

Just to remind myself 
How things really are, 
Or usually are,
Or are often enough, 
Or were once,
Just to remember those things

That come to mind as your stomach shrinks.

Like carrying a goldfish 
Home in a bag with a leak.
The fish flips 
Harder and harder 
In a smaller and smaller 
Corner of the plastic bag

As its gills get bigger and bigger.

Under the transparency,
Red and agitated
As a cut under a fingernail,
You feel them
Desperate against your palm,
Golden under your thumb.



God’s Hooks

Who could’ve put the stars up to it?  
Shining up there like God’s hooks.

Bait for what fish?  A soul in a gown?

Only our satellites have gotten so far.
Tossed burning from the Earth 
In a dash of hope, like poetry.

They send back pictures of vastness.
Same as the view from here: vastness.

Who knows?  Maybe we’re already hooked, 
Already being reeled in.  Our invisible line to God 
Already tightening, already shortening.

Eventually, even the satellites we sent blink off,
Drawn out of black water and eaten raw.




How to Be Invisible

Look like yourself.
Find the average wavelength of conversation
And neither exceed it nor cut it short.
When strangers approach you assume
That they are looking at something 
Over your shoulder.
You’ll almost always be right.

Try to go around feeling
Like you’ve just stolen an apple,
Or a dozen, your sweater pockets bulging.
Carry on with an anonymous air of savior faire
Pasted on your face
As you exit the supermarket.

Getting married can be very effective.
You’ll be talked to half as often,
And couples are twice as hard to see in a crowd.
Soon, you’ll be like a cloud no one remembers,
A misty uninsistent thing.  After a few years, 
She won’t even know you’re there.
But, trust me, save it for a last resort.

And don’t ever, ever call the police.
They’ll just take your fingerprints
In ten little puddles of ink,
And you’ll have to start 
Filing them off daily.

One last piece of free advice
To feel invisible as fishing line, as sky,
As all those assumptions you make.
Don’t buy a dog.  Seriously,
Whatever else you do.

Dogs never let you forget
That you are loved.  Loved utterly.



Objects


Water

Water.  
I keep trying to think of it.

I only get as far as thirsty.


Consider a Stone

It’s already too late.  Whatever lava
Roared like a furnace in the Permian period
And made it a stone, has been stopped cold.
A stone is a stasis.  Chipped littler and littler
By gossipy neighbors nipping at its reputation.
Locked in grey skin and quiet, there’s endless time
For regrets—like after getting married or arrested.
I’d say it’s a frozen tear, but that’s too lachrymose.
In your hand, there’s weight enough for murder.
When you put one up to your ear, you realize
At your feet everywhere roil fossilized bubbles,
Drowning men crying for help. 



Pinpricks

Remember that movie Hellraiser?
All those pins pounded in his skin?
An army of darts.  

When something creepy happens
We get those same
Pins, prickles of intuition.
Hackles raised as if we were
Reverting to wolves.  

There’s a parable I know about that,
But I’m too tired to tell it—
Trying to get back to sheep, I mean sleep,
Turning over and over again
As if basting in an oven.

And all those pins digging in
Right where the wings
Are starting from my shoulders.



Cages

Step right in, ladies and gentlemen--
Gilded and ribbed, there’s
A cage for every occasion.
One for being born
Nubile and pink, soft cordons
Confused in the wet umbilical.
A cage for work, oh yes,
All varieties, from rust
To resolute platinum.
A cage for marriage
Red with love, red with strife.
Rattle them, my inmates!
Make sad music with your cup!
Sway when the master walks with you
Down the streetlamped way.
A cage for every occasion,
And a cage for happiness, too,
Fit as a shoe and able to dance
A whirligig jig or two.
One last cage, a bonus cage,
A cage of stars for your soul
Where the mind peters out
In the dark, far, far before
Its ragged hands reach the bars.





Spoon

A spoon lays down 
Like a droplet,
Or buries its head in the soup 
Like a ostrich.

In the mouth, it’s like 
An extra tongue
Wrestling 
For a dollop of ice cream.

Confined all together,
They clang in the drawer.
A folded xylophone,
A music of muffled intent.

Turned over, a flock
Of silver peahens arrive,
All of them pecking
For a beakful of feed.



House

How can I be alone in my house
If I’m not alone in my soul?

Folded together from memories
A house imitates a home:

The buried dog’s outstretched skeleton,
The cozy oven, Christmas omelettes.

In the empty street the houses
Blow about like paper lanterns.

The windows wisely lock me in.
The trees keep count against the panes.

My mind’s not right, when so much night
Pours ink upon my sins.

Voices vanish, yet whispers stir—
A fly that lands upon the skin.

Time keeps to the clock.
I was, but now am not.



Wiping My Lips

The seamstress is feeding
Bat wings into the sewing machine,
Doves’ wings, pecking
My stitched initials.

The finished handkerchiefs
Flutter at my neck,
Crouch in my lap,
Kiss me after dinner, a peck.

Once I got this set of six,
Mixed, semi-transparent,
Just clouded enough to keep
Me embroidered.


Buttonhole

Come to me, little blue button.
Stop up my gaping smile.
Be held and whole.
Serve our warm closure,
Sure as a handshake.
Let’s survive another loveless day
Together, hugging.



Electric Fan

A whispery fan 
Brushes 
My exposed skin
With coolness.

Its brushes rush
Over me
Eagerly 
As dog wags.

I can’t quite
Make out
Whatever it keeps 
Insisting.

Its blowdart
Has missed and
The propellant breath
Is delightful.

Whatever it’s saying
I’m sure that
Eventually I’ll 
Agree completely.





White Threads

A needle traveling
In the dark is not
More mysterious
Than I—

Seeking its splinter 
Of light, it’s gap
In the night
From which

It can emerge
With its
Terrifying face
Intact.

A needle is less 
Insistent 
Than a question.
It pricks,

But it doesn't 
Gnaw.  There’s 
A politeness in needles
I hadn't considered,

Pulling their surgical 
White threads
Again and again 
Through my skin.



Chairs

Once I saw a man make a pyramid of chairs.
A dozen, perhaps.  Gangly, ungainly cane chairs
Threaded together somehow, linked leg to leg,
A strange assemblage Duchamp would’ve painted,
And hoisted in one elegant lift to his chin!

Our hands applauded in a burst of gunfire.

He continued to stand like that for some time.
Arms out, eyes fixed on the swaying chair bottoms
Which made a sound like trees in winter.
They twirled like a chandelier hung over his nose,
A little smile spreading under his mustache.





The Far Side

The windows are falling.
They are pieces of sky falling.  Or pieces of air.
At first glance, a window seems like a kite stuck
    in a tree,
Something simple, a thin pane of clarity trembling—
There to help us feel the tug of flying.
That’s what windows are, in essence, 
This sense of something falling that keeps on falling.

We fall through windows with our eyes,
Arriving at the far side of walls, in open space.

Words have windows in them, too, vowels and ladders,
Invisible squares we fall through to an otherness.
We sit reading in an attic with Anne Frank
Or a tree suddenly grows in our Brooklyn.
Our parents faces change when we look at them,
And we are no longer who we were before.
We have fallen through this invisible thing.



TV Remote

It’s a Rosetta Stone by design, a solution stone,
A Stonehenge with the eld symbols still visible 
On its tall, crooked tooth.
Combine them at will and light appears
Square and docile before you, a rag quilt
Pulled blurrily over the entire room, a cloak
Of fire
That gives a ghostliness to the life
You inhabit.

The Rosetta Stone in your lap
When held before you like a wand
Will help you to make sense of the ghosts
Thrown like sheets all about the room,
Your life now softened by their omnipresent glow.
It will help.  You will find it helpful.



Two Supplicants

Shoes take the first step.
They come to us like petitioners,
Their tongues turned out for a drop
Of holy water, the impish benediction
Of a toe.

They wait below the waterline of our attention
To embrace
The calm presence of an arch,
The elastic pressure of a ball,
The flat command of the heel.

After a while, years maybe,
Having given their soles to our direction,
We peel them off like grapeskins and 
Examine their pulpy interiors dark as clotted grottoes,
Rank as dead fish.

And then we discard them
Without noticing even once
How perfectly, like supplicants, they have taken
Our image inside themselves, the weight of our identities
Shaping them and breaking them at last.



The Washing Machine

Its face is a Charybdis 
Full of soiled underthings.
We come to it as to a confessional,
Shed our daily skins like dirty snakes
And pour ourselves in for punishment
To leave with a watery burden.

Refreshed, we drag the burden
Out and pin it on the line to dry.
The human figures dance, though the sky is grey.
Soon the sun looking down makes us
Ashamed, and we pull our old sins back on,
Clean-smelling, one leg at a time.



Thing

The name of the thing is Thing.
But it’s really a hand in a box
That shuts itself in with a lid.
Sometimes it pops out of another box
Or shuts another lid, after helping
To hold a nail or straighten a tie.
Thing’s shadow-puppets are dramatic and informative,
A kind of one-handed hula.  Today,
Thing loops a lariat, or is it
A noose, and leaves it neatly coiled
On the old-fashioned table for later use.
Now, what am I to make of that?
Thing dances a little, gives a firm OK.





The Beginning of Spiders

Not, certainly, a splat of teriyaki on the tile
Which then wriggles and walks away.

Not that shadowed corner of dark crinkles
You ignore at the edges of your eyes.

Nor spider veins that invade the body, spikes
Of blue midnight, cracks of live lightning!

None of these is how spiders started,
Those inveterate inhabitants of nightmare.

Spiders, with their crowd of eyes like pustules 
Of blackberries, began just the way you did.

Just the way Socrates got started all those millenia
Ago: by cell division: wheels within wheels.

Like Socrates, spiders may be given poison
To drink.  Unlike Socrates, they’ll bite you first.



Green Apples

Sweet isn’t the word I’d use—
A parrafin, a first bite of sour gum
That never gets chewy perhaps.
Juice like a fourteen year old’s kiss, syrupy, thin
Waterfalls down your chin as you laugh
And go in for another green bite.

Thoughts are green like this apple.
Timeless, bright, with a circle of brown seeds hidden
In all that sour whiteness.

When my stomach is full as a fist,
I reach back into the packing crate
And start whipping them against the side
Of the Eden Orchards barn.



Shadow Puppets

All night spent practicing
The flop of rabbit ears,
They grey trunk of an elephant,
The giddy-up of a horse.

Later, there’s the legs
Of two lovers dancing on the wall,
Getting the narrow feet to leap
And land just right.

Around 4 a.m the lamp
Tilts a bit drunkenly.
Or is it the yellow moon
Leaning in on the fun?

Last thing I do
Before dawn takes the wall
Is work on the little, square
Eye of a crocodile.



Paper

Alone as a dot
In a snow-filled meadow
Your pencil tip 
Sheds black feathers
Like an old crow.

The sheet is ice
Or desert,
Void or supernova.
It doesn’t say which
And you don’t ask.

You slide down whiteness
Holding hands
And stop on tiptoe
To acknowledge 
The endless cliff.



Sex


Difficult Clasp

It is when you were absent,
Visiting your mother, or missing,
That night most advanced
Its absence.

But it was when night was gone
And you were here again, that
You, wearing your hat or not,
Were most absent. 



Solving for X

Lab tables of fireproof resin
Kept partners paired
In their experimental setup,
X and Y chromosomes gleaming.

The Bunsen burner’s flame
Like a needle between them,
And a walnut crucible balanced
On young tongs.

It was delicate, wasn’t it,
The way her curl
Was drawn like smoke
To the blue fire?

My fingers still sting
Where I patted her out,
Leaving a small scar
Visible behind her ear.



Exes

Long ago she stopped asking about you.
Stopped making inquiries into your welfare.
Or wondering what you were doing right then
As she puréed the skinned tomatoes from the garden
And poured another tall afternoon Bloody Mary,
Falling asleep in her trashy novel on the chaise lounge
Where you’d made love to her with careful athleticism 
Letting the little wheels help ribbon the rhythm,
Her face turned aside for an imperative sidebar with God
All while you’re cursing and grinning like a demon
     possessed
To the cool applause of the pool.



Dinner Engagement

My tongue loops over my tongue 
Slipping into a slippery knot
As she shifts out of her dingy peacoat
And sits down to dinner with
Me again.

Her hazel eyes are to die for
But I resist their deadly insistence,
Cooling my heels and blowing my soup
While daintily she slurps her minestrone
Like a lizard.

Finally we’re alone on the roof
Holding hands with the moon—
Hot as two dinner rolls, making out,
Buttering, unbuttoning her tight top,
Tying the knot.



Romance

Gussied up, the broom
Wags its golden wig
Over the debris, the dust, the days
That have fallen to the floor.

I like to think of it as a romance.
The broom, beautiful and slender
Picking up after her drunken husband,
The lout in dirty work boots

And no time to talk.
But, years ago he would sing Johnny Mercer tunes
So beautifully to her in the car.
Like I say, I’m a romantic.


Cherry Lozenges

Here she comes again
Handing me another
Cherry lozenge because
My throat’s stuck coughing
Like a motorcycle choke.

She comes back a bit later
With spoon after spoon
Of blown-on broth, and a
Palm on my teakettle forehead
Like cool water.

Whatever patience is
It has a face like hers,
Bending over a car wreck
Like a tree bending over a river, 
In its leafy hands a wrapper

And a cherry lozenge.



Editor’s Note

How, if it happens all the time,
Can it count as being a surprise?
This moonlight 
Alive in dark rhododendrons,

This tension in a whisper,
If it’s you whispering in my ear?


Third Attempt

Ducking, dodging 
The swipe at my puss 
Like a pro I land 
A kiss like a fly
Six-legged, delicate 
On your apple cheek.





Time



One by One

The senses arrive
With daylight,
Like birds 
Lining up to sing
On a wire.

They take the small 
Seeds of dawn
Into their alert beaks
And break them

While the pale shells
Pile fluff
Between the claws.



Too-Early Morning

Sunlight makes everything grow up.
Yet still the night comes, is coming again
Even though it is barely past pink dawn
And the friendly mirror is waiting for me
To comb my unruly hair like a good boy.

The cereal is waiting there in its white box,
The patient milk in its red carton.  Spoon, bowl,
In their dark drawer and closed cupboard wait
Like springs in a clock. Tick and wait, tick and wait
For the morning the owner winds down, and rust

Covers the clock.



Knifefight

Between the stabs of rain,
I remain.


Vernal Equinox

The first cigarette of the morning drifting
In through the open window.  Ah, Spring!



Life Forms

A few disheveled 
Bits of scenery.

A bus that drives by
In the mid-distance.

The little girl’s bicycle waiting
For her return from school.

Every day this neighborhood
Becomes a moonscape.

I’m the only alien left
Typing on my magic box:

The man in the moon
Made of shadows and craters.

The sundial ticks,
My nose grows longer.



The Bite of Memory

Bite your fingernails.
Bite the clouds,
If you’re up for it.

You could spend hours practicing
Biting smiles in faces,
Spitting out the seeds of teeth.

Your mouth will empty itself
Eventually,
A bucket done with fetching.

Look, in one day you’re old,
Maybe even a little lonely.
You will be bitten back.





The River Forever

Watching the snaky surface of the river forever,
Dim in the river valleys, light on the river crests,
I ask myself: “Is the river moving downstream, or is it
I who am moving down rivering time forever?” 

The river only hisses, shows me snakes of sunlight
That writhe in a pile like spilled lines of mercury,
Seemingly going nowhere, the striving river flowing so.
I—who?—watching the snaky surface of the river forever.


Death

 
   Hurry home, dark cloud.
   ~~ Charles Simic


Just Like Heaven

That little corner in my dream
Where the buildings are made of Legos:
A pretense of an apartment, a town, a country.
Little brick dogs sniffed other brick dogs.

People shook hands like constructing a friendship.
The clouds were a heavy, discolored white, drifting...
Large rudderless cruise ships or giant squarish sheep.
My best friend was there, his face a grey diagram.

He had died some years before, but here he was.
The clocks moved their crooked, blocky arms.
It was always the same day, again and again.
It was my favorite place.





Loitering After the Funeral

Misfortune scrawled her phone number on my hand,
Curled my fingers shut slowly, my hand in hers,
And whispered: Call me.

Bad luck follows me like toilet paper sticks to your shoe.
You never know that it’s there, trailing whitely,
But everyone sniggers as you go by.

Sadness isn’t so horrible if sad things are happening.
There’s a congruence to it, not some hangman laughing
At the radio as he pulls into work.

Tragedy, frankly, is more than I can lay claim to for myself.
Even on my bleakest, blackest days, I’m not tragic.
Rained out, sure.  But tragedy is art.

This isn’t art.  Wheedling a cop out of a ticket on the way
To the funeral home, shoes clubbed with mud
     and crying
Because your friend or mother has died.



Dead Feathers

Children circled around to look inside the wheelbarrow
At the dead owl, its eyelids blue like Grandmom’s,
The dead feathers speckled, not yet full of fleas leaving.
There’s a solemness in the little ears like marked pages
Never to be returned to, never to be read again. 

The claws are amazing, longer than a lady’s red fingernails,
Tines still sharp at the end of their forks.  

Tommy looks under one eyelid, bravely touching it;
The great eye seems alive between his fingers,
The head just about to swivel 180 asking “Whoo, whoo?”
That’s when Steve backs off toward the woods, 
Uninterested.  

From his back pocket there dangle
The two rubber arms of his slingshot.



So That

 for my Dad

I don’t remember what he called himself.
Lank as a construction crane,
He passed through town like a hook through a fish,
And taking the town with him so that
I’m missing him terribly at an empty table.

The four corners are the four corners of a map
That’s all Sahara, blank as a sandbox.
He’s nowhere now, the back of a Möbius strip.
The toys have run off to play with the neighbors,
The child who smiled here has died.

I feel this answerless vastness, not even an echo,
Like spending all day counting graves,
Walking to where two iron fences meet
And turning back through graves again, through
A few trees, a wind like a scratchy record.



Long After

Long after you are dead
—Yes, you are dead—
As your head lies in a bridal veil
Of galaxies, and your feet 
Have rotted through your shoes,
And everyone you knew is written off 
And has written you off,

You will begin to find
A way back, a secret hole
That leads to your old self,
No matter how far you have gone
No matter how dead you are,
Like waking up still drunk
To the acrid smell of coffee.



Spare Parts

 
   One passed in a fever.
   One was burned in a mine.
   One was killed in a brawl.
   ~~Edgar Lee Masters

It came with less surprise, less and less,
With each iteration plucking
Eyes out of those wayward dolls.

Now they are lined up naked
Blind and dead,
These waxy cadavers of the field.

Time had been as broad as daylight, 
Fiery as wine.
They ran around the house like secondhands.

Now, no houses will be built in this field
Except little stones ones leaning on crutches,
Grooved with names

Evening fingers touch and pluck.



The Quotidian


Morning Routine

Cut a slip of door
Open to find the light
Spill like a lampshade
Into day.

The sun’s an old man
With his beard on fire.
Quick, before it goes out,
See everything.



The Statistic

A chalk stick figure 
Written on the blackboard
Jumps off to sit beside you 
On the train to Long Island.

You worry he’ll rub off 
On your suit sleeve.
But you ride out together, 
Eventually leaning back,

Crossing your legs in sync.  
You two are much alike
You decide, whistling tentatively 
As the scenery passes.

The chalk figure 
Picks up the melody easily, 
Its lips 
A perfect circle, 

And you harmonize until 
He rises at the next stop 
To hop off, his slim center bend
Leaving a white dot on the seat.



Winter Waltz

Winter picks its way carefully
Over the rolling summer meadow,
A big fat ball of snow
On stilts.

If you stand under the winter 
You get rained on, 
Cold and salubrious 
As a fever bath.

If you follow the winter
All summer and into the fall,
Tracing its tipsy steps
Blue shadow by blue shadow

You’ll wind up back 
In the meadow, only this time 
Everything’s sheeted white
Like a corpse.

Wrap yourself up in the sheets
And start rolling!
Don’t forget to grab the stilts
On your way out.



Blood Light

Small reddening lines creep under the curtain,
Cracks in a delicate shell.
Dawn is welling like a cut, a blood light
To walk dogs by, piss quietly beside the sea
Before the dark tide of tourists unpack.

I follow the dog as I follow my body outside
As we go beyond the scalloped alcove of curtains.

For now, the rocks are still sublime, green outlines
Like pensive bottle shards huddled close
And the sea fitful between them.
White spray lifts in bliss, in blessing
As the small moment passes. The dog tugs my leash.



Dim Air

God must be at home in this muddle.
Dim air heavy, a hot muggy wig
As Suzanne says, her blond hair
Limp and damp, a slap of yellow paint.
Dots of sweat fit for a goblet 
Pinprick her fatal forehead,
Clear and lickable as champagne 
Poured down in glimmering lines.
My beer is blind and wet with sweat.
Insects were born for this hot, humid glue
That has me losing my dry binding
Until I fall apart soft and crumbled 
In your hands again, Suzanne,
Neither God nor insect.



Night and Day and the Poet

The painter looks up at night’s enormous suave.
The singer listening to the choir of stars is calm.
The poet is unhappy in the sweaty bed.
He counts the fleas in summer’s threadbare fleece
Groaning on arthritic knees.

By day, the painter packs a lunch, details the regatta
Like a thousand flags blazing all at once in the sun.
The singer is trilling and making her tea.
The poet waits for the mail, but it’s always late.
The box sticks out its silver tongue,

Eloquent beyond his labored sonnet
Lying misspelled in the cluttered grass.
As they trot back down the drive,
The dog looks up at him with hope 
But is always disappointed.

A hundred birds erupt from the bushes as they pass,
    singing mightily.
Shut up! the poet screams at nature and himself
And goes in to lie down on the threadbare bed.
I know, the poet decides finally, sweatily,
I’ll just write down whatever the birds were saying.



The Optimism of Opening a Window

What’s out there,
I find myself asking
Like irregular clockwork.

I’m stuck in this
Air-conditioned stasis
Listening to flies.

Such know-it-alls!
Cruising the fruit bowl
Or praying on the television.

And then I spot a thumbprint 
Of sun on the windowpane.
Let’s touch it!

A moment of pain,
An almost sizzling gold
Mixed with Bhuddhist orange.



Pure Arithmetic

Thousands of invisible mice
Are pulling the shadow of the barn
Eastward as the sun drops West.

Millions of unfindable doves 
Race upward with matchsticks in their beaks
To light the wicks of stars.

Billions of underwater sleepers
Lie swimming in their beds
To arrive at island dreams.


Endless

The children have been playing 
Their endless games
Of hide-and-seek, 
Waterslide, hop-the-sprinkler

Like so many flowers 
Uprooting themselves 
From the field
And running around 

Screaming in endless joy
Under a sky 
Scuffed with clouds
Or endless blue

Over a yard called home, 
With father and mother 
There
Endlessly tall

Cleaning up the icky barbecue,
Packing up fork 
And plate and 
Enormous soda bottles

As sunset sets 
And everything goes slightly
Lemonade-tinged.
And the children at last

Are called in by their 
Roundelay of names
For the endless walk back 
To the house and to bed.



Usual Procedure

The songs of birds are for other birds, mostly.
So I figure that laws are for lawyers to obey, mostly,
And taxes for accountants to pay, etc. etc.

Leaves seem so at home in trees, why do they depart?
Clouds move from place to place so peacefully, then
A zipper of thunder, and they pour themselves away.

Are the birds lamenting the leaves’ hasty departure?
Are the clouds paying their taxes all-at-once?
Lawyers stamp around on the damp ground,
     looking satisfied.
     

     

Walking Later On

Countless pebbles 
In the darkening road 
Look perfect
As statues’ eyes—  
Blind white,
Round as clocks.

As we walk together 
The late afternoon 
Closes them shut,
And evening leaks 
Upward like rust 
On an empty shed.

The pebbles chuckle 
Like hens, even though 
They are just eggs.
Leaning here, we find 
Time for silence 
Despite ourselves.

The country sky 
Opens, unfolding 
Its somber umbrella
As we continue 
In the small rain 
Of pebbles falling.





Getting Lit

Over the summer tavern with its rocking chairs
A cheap electric string tenses in the wind
And then relaxes back into a lighted smile.
The clear globes have one filament of brain each
Like a jellyfish, flashing dimly yellow
Above dim patrons dipping into beers:
A row of bar birds, like those ones you see
With little tophats and thin beaks of glass.

Drinks are emptied, and laughter shoulders
Pamela high enough to nab some bulbs
And pitch them against the swinging tavern sign
With the plosive softness of puff mushrooms
While glitter gathers beneath it in the dirt.
A stray dog whines and circles excitedly.
Above them darkness recedes, who knows how far?
The moon seems close enough to unscrew.



In Praise of Moon Rocks

All the grasses like green minutehands
Are keeping westerly.
They stop when the frost arrests them
At quarter to midnight.

I want to feel the grass barefoot.
I step outside
Through moonflower wings of faintest gauze
And sliding glass—

Or through flies’ wings, and the frozen buzzing
Of metal grinding backwards,
I think when my feet crackle the miniature shivs
And a shiver undoes my back.

I proceed to the old garden patch
Guarded by stones.
When I pick one up and inspect it closely,
Dense as a brain in my palm,

I’m holding a moon rock.



Commute

The 6 a.m. train coming on is a lion’s roar
With a mane of carbon sparks.
We ride inside an electric eel
And read the illegible graffiti of frogmen.

Cold tunnels appear and swallow our longings,
Holding us in echo after echo.
When the station platform arrives like a diving board
We rewind onto it

Graceful as exclamation points!
We swim off to work.



Lesson

The teacher erases the blackboard so carefully!
So carefully, so completely.
The equation that explained time and motion,
The history of East Texas—gone!

What’s left is this presence from behind the stars.
A black potentiality, a malice
Demanding never to be marred again,
Chalked, degraded, colored-in.

The first letter, an I, lands like a feather
From a passing tern.
Soon the whole silent universe is crusted over
    with feathers:
Crabbed letters, a line of hunchbacks, rockettes.

At the end of the day the teacher
Exhausted with explaining everything once again
Removes all evidence of herself
And goes home, wherever that is.



Snow

Everything was peaceful at first.
The wheelbarrows brought in the whiteness
Silently overnight—and everything looking clean 
Like a napkin before the soup course.

Little by little during the day, the edges
Get a bit soggy, or a corner tears open
Revealing the black, dank eye
Of a log in the woodpile.

More and more of the napkin
Gets dirtied by passing cars, by lipstick, by soup.
Random dark spots appear on the x-ray
And start connecting like cancer.

Soon, all that’s left of whiteness
Is a grimace or a grin here or there—
A stray piece of spaghetti
Stuck in your teeth.

The final photograph in the series shows everything
Exactly as it was before the snow
Began to fall all over itself.
But now, everything’s miserable, cold and wet.



Stealing Kisses

 
1.
Winters I talk to the mendicant fly on the wall
Of metaphysics, starry-rayed emanations,
The sunlight falling filtered and pale.

2.
Each spring I grow a new leg, or two legs,
Just for dancing, for running
Up to new lips to steal a kiss.

3.
In the fall the leaves do all the talking.
I practice being a beetle, opening and closing
The valves of my coat.

4.
In summer—have I said what I do in summer?
In summer I drink wine
And let my beard catch my meditations.



History

  
Whether the knife falls into the melon or the melon onto the knife, the melon suffers.
~~African proverb

Conjuring a Yawn

Before the world turned
Into a computer screen,
I watched leaves play
In the scuffed yard.

Each leaf was a little country
On a map, an outline,
Or a man standing up
Like a shadow,

Arms and legs wide.
Sometimes at sunset
The man, the country
Would flare up on fire,

Burning incandescent red
(A sacrifice, an emblem)
Before rejoining
The dark conversation.

Once, a wind came.
The whole sea was burning.



Hitler’s Gardener

Ah, here they are now,
Fresh from their decapitation.
For your vase,
For your buttonhole,
To bring out the blue in your eyes.



Day After Tomorrow

The police artist is drawing my face
In charcoal, line by line, in grim brimstone
For a stranger, one who attended the ill-
Attended impromptu poetry reading
Under a chilly streetlight flickering
Where we used the forbidden words 
With facile ease as in the old days:
She is as in a field a silken tent.
Genders, pronouns, she, he and all that.
The stranger hadn’t seen much, though, 
Just a zee zaying zomething, a blur 
Like a face wearing a beard or sprouting one,
Two feet, or maybe one was fake, the stranger 
Hesitated to say: other-abled, some color
Or other.  Yes, yes, I think zee was a shade.



Watching Rain

Watching rain gathering in a street gutter
As it picks up twigs and leaves along the way,
Little by little, on a growing gush of silver,
The hurrying water twists like a wet
Towel as it swans down the drain...
As it goes cavorting down the black grate
Like oil returning to the dinosaurs, bearing as it does
A red ant rowing a broken stick to oblivion, looking
For all the world like Christopher Columbus.



Picture from Life

The newspaper unfolds like a bird
Flapping, squawking, almost extinct,
Its chicken scratch of facts
Passive as mirrors passing
On the side of the glassworks van
Developing pics of sidewalk life
In their instant emulsions.
A slouchy kid, a happy couple strolling.
An armed guard with his rifle
Tipping the lids of garbage cans.



Good News

It always feels like you have to go too far back
To find any good news to report.
Men all across Germany shaving their Adolph mustaches
Just before the Allies roll into Berlin.
The breadlines getting shorter as the war machine
    cranks up.
Chamberlain’s “peace in our time,” the pages flapping
As he descends the long gangway of the cruise ship.
The war before that ending, the one to end all wars.
Then there was the invention of canned foods,
But that made the Civil War drag on, I think.
Or was that Napoleon driving a bayonet through Europe?
In any case, the French Monarchy was toppled at last,
And there was a moment of holiday in Paris
Before the guillotine was trotted out for L’Terror....
At least the king’s old chief of secret police kept his job
After the revolution.  That’s something.



The Way of the Dodo

Without fuss, friendly, meaty, flightless,
They make their dim-bulb way
To the sailor’s tin dinner plate.  They talk 
Among themselves of evening things,
How pearly grey a rainy skein of sky is,
How docile the nest with its beloved egg!
So many good eons gone by scratching
Among roots for adorable grubs, edible
Bugs—scratch-scratch, whistle, coo and cackle—
As among them long white legs angle, and night
Comes, ever so gently, swinging its club.





Story Time

The story where the boy set sail for the South Seas
In an overturned hat.

Or the one about the old woman who lived in a shoe,
Her children tightening the laces.

That one where all the animals stood around talking
After killing the farmer.

How about the Chinese protester and the tank?
The flea who ran away to the circus?

Reminds me of the story where the mad composer
Conducted a beautiful sunset.

Or the story where the surgery was a complete success
But you died anyway.

That story.  And the one after that.



Sleep Perhaps


A Man Asleep Under His Hat

 
for Charles Simic

Everything’s normal at first.
The trees are just trees,
His dog is not a wolf,
The wife is not an electric chair.

So slowly it is unnoticeable 
The flowered wallpaper
Becomes a waterfall
Of beautiful roses.

Then, a waterfall of thorns,
Then blood,
Blood with teeth 
Salted in,

Hands trying to swim,
Butchered feet drowning.
The smell is atrocious
And abiding as an abattoir.

The wolf wakes up
And starts chewing on everything in sight,
The wife clicks on
And her voice is 10,000 volts.

The hat shifts 
In the sunlight,
A hungry fly 
Lands on his nose.





Nagging Question

The last feathers fall like slow licks of snow,
The pillow exploded uselessly between your hands
And what looks to be a chicken carcass
Is piled in an inscrutable white mound
Headless between your bare feet.

What the hell had you been doing in your dream?
The blue pajama stripes lead nowhere, the feathers
Curled up like questionmarks everywhere else.
You lie back down carefully, no pillow now.
There’s only one place for you to find your answer.



Sleep

Sleep unfolds a staircase from its magic bag.
I walk into its countryside in the ceiling,
Elbowing clouds awkwardly away.
My head pops out of an especially fluffy one,
Impertinent, pale, as if on a pole.
This is where I’ll unpack my suitcase
And set up shop for the holidays.

I lay back on the couchy cloud’s flying carpet,
White plush like a plucked sheep,
And look up where the observatory roof splits open
Abruptly, serenely
Into a perfect square of stars—
As if the night sky were lifted there just for me,
For my dark and my dreams.



Nighttime

 
if the night is long remember your unimportance
    ~~ W. S. Merwin

Four walls of tissue paper
And the stars behind;
Eye in my bed, a stone,
Alone and blind.

Days come like forkfuls of food
I’m forced to eat;
Night shines a moment, red wine
Acid when I drink.

Night opens a little door at the foot
Of my bed.
I follow its black thread
Spooling in my chest.

Dreams come like forkfuls of cloud
I’m forced to eat;
Dreams of doors and stars
And shining thread.



A Student of Insomnia

The table walks 
Like a pterodactyl 
In my dreams,

Steps its highheel 
Spikes on one nipple
Then the other—

Until I stop it 
Cold by dumping 
Granite study books

Quarried
From my backpack 
On its sweptback wings.

These earliest vertebrates 
With the power 
Of flight,

I read.  I read 
About their voices 
Of torn aluminum,

Their extinction, 
The dissecting table, 
The surgical table,

The butcher’s block, 
The map table
War rooms use, 

With battle units
Pawed like pawns
Around the globe 

By rapier 
Croupier sticks.
The kitchen table’s 

Wings 
Give an indolent 
Flap.

Mom’s tropical plant 
Elongates 
To a green beak.

I panic, 
Double down on elbows
And eye the clock.



The Doorknob

The doorknob keeps saying ‘turn me.’
Then when I get outside, I look back
At the other doorknob saying ‘turn me,’
And I am tethered by my mind
Inside.

Night folds me in its leathern wings,
And I fold myself in my nest.
From my bed I often hear a voice,
The doorknob’s plaintive squeak saying
‘Turn me.’

And my mind goes there, I am neither 
Outside nor inside, myself nor
Someone else, sleeper nor dream.
I turn all night in my bed,
A doorknob.



Pantsless Naps

Only two more words.
Two more,
And I can swing myself 
Off the hook.

After all this banter,
This panting—
The pantsless naps and
Apelike perspicacity:

Carving poems in a boulder 
With a toothpick,
Blowing hundreds of clouds
Into the perfect

Shapeless shape.
One, two,
Then sleep:
THE END.



Sep 022020
 

Dark Poet, your pen scratches at the heart of life.
~~Antonin Artaud

Nonsense is often the most sensible kind of sense. This is counterintuitive, but trust me for a moment as we proceed. This is no three-card monte. Nor is it like the wonderful magic of Emmett Kelley the clown sweeping his spotlights into a single circle, and then putting that circle in his pocket, patting his pocket and smiling like Einstein after he’d eureka’d light into a corner.

Nonsense reveals all of us—our self, our situation—in a single pop of recognition as we are trampolined from our usual assurances and then forced to regain our footing, to regain our meaning, on the fly. Like an old-fashioned photographer’s flash powder, we are exposed to an extreme of light, with no visible space left for secrets or lies. This is part of the odd exhilaration of nonsense. And, don’t get me wrong, nonsense isn’t some sly encyclopedia where all hidden truths are stored and we must simply discover the index—oh, no. Rather, the puzzles that nonsense reveal are genuinely unsolvable. Gregor Samsa will never come back from being a cockroach; his transformation in the story “Metamorphosis” has simply revealed the pickle he was already in, but didn’t know that he was in.

What nonsense reveals, at its best, are genuine mysteries.

And, like Gregor Samsa, the character in the poem “Nagging Question,” who wakes up with a pile of feathers at his feet after having torn his pillow apart in his sleep, all he can do with a true mystery, once it has been revealed, is to go back into the realm from which the mystery emanated. Gregor cross-examines his family situation, and the character in our poem returns to the realm of sleep and dream. But, with new, perhaps sharper, questions in mind with which to confront the mystery that has been revealed. Or, it may be, with no questions at all, simply with one’s eyes widened.

This process resembles the scientific method, except for the fact that there is no control group. What variables could nonsense ever control for? There may one day be a science of comedy, but never one for true mystery. The only control group we have in poetry is every other poem ever written. Their mysteries abide, and it is into them that we go to confront those mysteries again and again—and to find more of ourselves more truthfully (or at least more fully) revealed.

 
[With] the pillow exploded uselessly between your hands
And what looks to be a chicken carcass
Piled in an inscrutable white mound
Headless between your bare feet [...]
There’s only one place for you to find your answer.


Gregg Glory
August 28, 2017

Sep 022020
 

Once all wilderness was innocence. Later, all wilderness was sin. What does it say about wilderness, that it could be both sin and innocence—a space of condemnation and reprieve—at once? What does it say about us, limber interpreters of vastness? Every day someone takes a snapshot of themselves with the Statue of Liberty on his shoulder, or the moon upheld in her palm, the violent grandeur of the universe turned by metaphor and pixel-flash into a beachball.

Now we find our wildness in suburban glimpses: long weekends away to a campsite, the unwonted sting of a bee. Yet we were made by wildness; we were wolves before we mellowed to dogs. When observation and observance sharpen beyond the roar of words we soothe ourselves with, the tickertape of conscience and prayer unspooled to silence, we can see the action of life plain. The constant taking, the inevitable greed, camouflage, and waste inherent in all things.

The sun knows nothing but to burn. The salmon little else than to breed and feast. Our arteries are red with burning, veins blue with hunger. A paranoid, irascible eye sees many raw things civilization has regretfully gilded; an eager ear—with its vestigial muscle for turning still intact—may yet attune itself to the strangeness of what is. Listen.

Parables are everywhere is our daily doings if we listen, the ear of consciousness arranging random notes and facts into pattern, the flare of consciousness illuminating new mosaics in the old catacombs. Life itself, in all its accident and happenstance, is transformational because our consciousness is partial.

We can’t see all sides of an object at once like a cubist artist. We cannot even experience ourselves consistently across the daily divide of sleep; at best we are strips of stuttering film. We bridge these gaps with memory and imagination. And reality is the perpetual testing grounds of that self-invention—and poetry, at its finest, with its honest looks at what is—is the checklist for that reality. Words are the net we use to draw reality into us. So use that net, anxious to add meaning to your ultimately unknowable life—the omnipresent wilderness.

Gregg Glory
April 1, 2018

Aug 252020
 

Vivid Ovid. His humanizing tales of metamorphosis (if you’ll pardon the pun) in the literally alien context of the interaction of gods and people have drawn the eyes and admiration of readers for eons. How often I longed to trace with my own tongue the temptations and graces of such tales! Who wouldn’t want to be master of a matter so fantastical, so outlandish—and yet still be able to draw homey homilies from the consequences of such fables? Daphne praying to be turned into a laurel tree rather than endure a rape in the god-clutches of a “divinely maddened” Apollo; or the unfaithful Jupiter stashing his part-time squeeze, the ravishing beauty Io, not in some kept-woman’s studio apartment, but in another living form by transforming her…into a cow—albeit a beautiful cow. And Ovid’s touch of detail that makes both god and man acknowledge their wayward foibles, their vulnerability to desire. Such is our condition: half angel, half satyr. What, ultimately, could be more compelling than this poetic recognition of our limitedness adrift in the infinity of our desire?

Always it is against chaotic Nature that human success in the arts in measured. Versailles with its to-the-millimeter immaculate gardens, Jesus with his cracking of Lazarus’ catacomb—leading the experienceless child within each of us on to eternal life, the absence of Death. But Ovid’s fables transmute nature to nature, violating the continuity of life within life as it proceeds from the womb to tomb—rather than through some transvaluation of all values via a post-death resurrection, or the living-death deletion of meaning that narcissistic nihilism provides. Ovid’s metaphor is metaphor emphatic, metaphor literally embodied (were such transformations to actually occur anyplace beyond the agile chambers of the mind). This makes him a prankster in some respects, a comedian of life’s myriad deceptions and switcheroos, slips and oopses. Instead of the authority of Justice (or the inevitability of the furious Eumenides) appearing at the end of a tragedy, enforcing cosmic meaning by the rending apart of life’s tender fabric, we have instead the inescapable acknowledgement of a rueful chuckle forced from the aghast reader at the transformation’s literal unreality and too-intimate horror. To be moved at all by the pageant Ovid presents is to acknowledge our own culpability in the lusts and greeds he lampoons. Yes, I, too, would so covet, so fail of my ideals, so mangle my heavenly morality with my mortal mischief. There, lacking the grace of God, go I; every I that I can imagine being or becoming, in all my rhymes of form and story.

Existentialism is one moral response to the nothingness modern man confronts now that we’ve blown the Holy Ghost from the churches—the stained glass left colorless and drained of ecstasy. The bareness, the thisness, of place, of Everyman in every place, replaced the altar that had once signaled the savior’s triumph over the reality of Death. The very sepulcher became the resonant cross, embossed with neither promise nor stoic resignation, but instead enriched with the simple elaboration of emptiness itself. Ever more intricate become our minuets above the void. As Mallarme noted: “The beautiful, gratuitous, turns into the ornamental, repudiated.” Mallarme’s For Anatole’s Tomb is a restful counterpoint to our innate desire’s torturous wish for the infinite, desire’s tensile beauty making every moment its own gravesite, its own elaboration of the endless dust and nothingness we face. I like the moral stance emblemized in the Pagan torch-passing of praise and memory a bit better myself: an endless relay of meaning lit to life by the burn of magnificent poetry. Such a contingent arrangement must strike modern artists as too hopeful, too communal an enterprise after the wick of self-conscious Romanticism was ignited. But, don’t bet on it! Romanticism itself is a response to the stocks and manacles of Kant’s “no you can’t,” the vivisecting separation of object and subject—a spastic cast of empirical dice—and nothing more than that.

Is it any wonder that Shakespeare took up Ovid as a foil for his first funning with verse? Titus Andronicus pushes the dry coracle of black humor into the slick swamp of tragedy in an ever-modern mash-up going nowhere. Existential titters accompany the gruesome and aghast pies stuffed with human flesh as they are served up piping hot and tucked into with an ignorant will. Who does not eat of Life with the same ignorance as the rapists Shakespeare depicted at the table, pinkies up and kerchiefs to chins? I, too, like the wily Bard, love Ovid in all his miracle and mayhem. So much mayhem!

Our current crop of graphic novels and grim heroes are of Ovid’s mold. Think of today’s Batman, the caped crusader, the Dark Knight, transformed by a desire for justice into a nightwinged bat, who turns his midnight vengeance into a secular grail tipping over with blood. Catwoan, Aquaman, Doc Oc—all half-breeds wandering bewildered in landscapes of existential angst. I, too, had wanted to honor with the sweat of inspiration and the grace of rhyme of one of Ovid’s raving fables, but as I toured the crazed slop-house of the Greek gods, the Roman gnomes, as Ovid had carved and enlarged them, I was struck by the fiery violence his tales told of—and, I admit, I was afraid to retail such gory goods in my modest mall of art.

I turned the prized pages of my Ovid over once again. Even the fable of fey Salmacis, I noticed, with her “weak, enfeebling streams,” ends in a dual-sex hermaphroditic unity that is still illegal in many countries. The lovers’ tentative rapprochement has some of Absurdio’s hesitant desire in its outlines—an expression of being’s ignorant need to be, and therefore be loved. So twined together is our self and our sex. Salmacis and Hermaphroditus was almost the tale I re-told. What if Absurdio met a wet, eight-armed Venusian princess in her tidal pool of green chlorine? The denouement was still too horror-genre for me to proceed with that story, but the delicacy of Salmacis and Hemaphroditus’ meeting was a model for Absurdio’s first grope toward hope—the challenge and comfort that concupiscence provides:

The boy knew nought of love, and, touched with shame,
He strove, and blushed, but still the blush became;
In rising blushes still fresh beauties rose;
The sunny side of fruit such blushes shows,
And such the moon, when all her silver white
Turns in eclipses to a ruddy light.
The Nymph still begs, if not a nobler bliss,
A cold salute at least, a sister’s kiss;
And now prepares to take the lovely boy
Between her arms. He, innocently coy,
Replies, "Oh leave me to myself alone,
You rude, uncivil nymph, or I’ll begone."
—J. A.

I settled, perhaps a touch too reflexively, upon the pageantry of Pygmalion’s tale. After all, the story had been exampled brilliantly by Shaw, and there’s even a musical modeled from its bones—though fleshed with sexism and an elitist tone of triumphalism (to which I am not, confessedly, adverse). This story has no goopy, blood-bludgeoned ending, no comeuppance, no disastrous consequence where Nature regains the reins of Justice and executes the feckless nabob who knew well enough into whose guarded garden he had trespassed. No, here Venus stoops to conquer, and extends a merciful pity on her inspired subject. It is the love story of the artist and his object, his sculpted creation, a female mate conjured from pure desire and art’s millimeter-mania for perfection. Yes, a fine tautology to lead me down the garden path. What post-modern word-whittler could resist the inevitable levels of self-reference, the circumference of innuendo bound to grow Falstaff-fat? And, with luck and cunning, perhaps my Absurdio could be as happy a sinning creation as my fellow Ovid-fan Shakepere had managed? To what Mediterraneanesque setting would my gods and goddesses descend? What glamorous goods would press against my alluring shop window?

The main item in the inventory of Venus and Vesuvius, as you will soon plainly see, is an adolescent male I have dubbed Sir Absurdio. Absurdio is left alone on the planet Venus where he was born, the only son of two intrepid scientists appointed to explore our over-heated solar neighbor. Why he has been left so tragically alone, and at such a crucial age, our tale will unfold. I myself was so ill as a teen with an ulcerative onset conjured by the psychic injuries of my parent’s divorce, that I missed the last two years of my American high school experience. I grok some aspects of Absurdio’s puzzling solitude. No friends from our 3,000-strong clan of Marlboro Mustangs possessed the fortitude to visit a lonely, pimple-ridden writer-to-be in the forested enclosure of his one-boy farm-forest prison. The only friends who favored me with their presence were Ray Bradbury, Arthur C. Clarke, Isaac Asimov, Ben Bova, Phillip K. Dick, J. R. R. Tolkien, Terry Brooks, Stephen R. Donaldson, and other luminaries of the imagination’s intergalactic parsecs. They are the reason I placed my Ovidian vale in outer space.

Now, if you’ll strap on your muse-provided jet-packs, let’s zoom to the moon—and beyond!

Gregg Glory, August 2013.

Aug 242020
 

 

A curiouser and curiouser work of science-fiction narrative poetry

 

Gregg Glory
[Gregg G. Brown]


COPYRIGHT © 1998 
PUBLISHED BY: BLAST PRESS 

His kind heart was obedient to truth's troublous pulse. 
 [*troubling]  


I have not loved the world, nor the world me; 
Never flattered its rank breath, nor bowed 
Patient knee to its pale idolatries, 
Nor coined my cheek with smiles, nor cried 
Aloud in worship of an echo; none of the crowd 
Deems me one of such a throng; among them 
I stood, but not of them--- in my furled thoughts 
Shrouded, which were not their thoughts, and had I not 
Defiled my mind, I still might myself thus subdue. 
 
 
Beyond a mortal man impassioned far 
At these voluptuous accents, he arose, 
Ethereal, flushed, and like a throbbing star 
Seen mid sapphire heaven's deep repose; 
Into her dream he melted, as the rose 
Blendeth its odor with the violet,--- 
Solution sweet: meantime the frost wind blows 
Like Love's alarum pattering the sharp sleet 
Against the window-panes; St. Agnes' moon hath set.  
          --- J. K.,  St. Agnes' Eve


The Poem



On this page

  1. [On Earth]
  2. A tale strange, soft-focused, distant, then clear,
  3. My dark muse eyes me, sullen-silent as the night
  4. A ruined foil flashing back fabulous suns
  5. Should I take up the Author’s patrolling pose?
  6. I sigh, my ruffian hearers, whose ocean silence beats
  7. [on Venus]
  8. Enigmatic clouds crimped a divine skyline.
  9. All this, and more: honey-blood serenades
  10. Sad years sequestered Absurdio to his mournful room
  11. His pubis, freshly ringletted with dirty thoughts,
  12. His curdling thighs unbundled boings and sprang,
  13. He cramply encamped in a humid, drenching tent
  14. In the hell-lit incline of his velvelour lax-o-boy,
  15. The see-through water of his ice-light heart,
  16. Cold skies collated from his wish-index nipped him.
  17. She, the sphinx, the minx, discovered was,
  18. Her maiden, sundial, shattered hand ticked up,
  19. A lonely cloud, flumed crimson, bounded by
  20. Absurdio was shanghaied by his consciousness
  21. Never would one lunar hair of her crisp coiffure
  22. Genuine Absurdio in patient prayer genuflected,
  23. Absurdio resumed his restless tour
  24. A strain, a stain was upon everything like black snow,
  25. Astronaut Absurdio tumbled,— uncapsuled, lost
  26. Desire freeze-framed him in his vouyer’s foyer,
  27. Peeping through a hiked skirt of curling Alpine pine
  28. Should he bridegroom first with attendant touch
  29. He touched, or his seeming hand seemed to touch,
  30. The furred head, moribund, profound, turned
  31. “Forgive my flash of hubris, while I loiter to insist,
  32. “I wonder just what happened to this merry pair
  33. “What catastrophe’s haphazard track did they pace,
  34. “Timeline.” Absurdio sighed against his hammock’s
  35. Absurdio, desire’s soldier, soldered on
  36. Spilling balm into the mini-labyrith of his brain.
  37. Her (was she warm?) form poured in oblagattoes;
  38. Created conscious again in his dream-ripple,
  39. As if to dissipate, a distraught wisp
  40. Deciphered sounds now entered her transparent ears
  41. Yet where was this wizard woman’s twinkly spark
  42. There was always some sort of gangly changing going on
  43. A freckled Mrs. Frankenstein whose veritable veins
  44. Her happenstance phantom, her tech-lechery
  45. For this sceptred instant, grinningly alive
  46. Love herself had jokingly sponsored their sparring war
  47. And the nasty narrator choked on their lifesaver

Condemning shadows quite. — A. & C.

“Stop moping!” she would cry: “Look at the harlequins!”

“What harlequins? Where?”

“Oh, everywhere. All around you. Trees are harlequins, words are harlequins. So are situations and sums. Put two things together– jokes, images– and you get a triple harlequin. Come on! Play! Invent reality!”

I did. By Jove, I did.

— V. N.

[on Earth]


1
A tale strange, soft-focused, distant, then clear,
As when a movie cures myopia, or a drear
Nightmare that startles us, shelters;– or sordid dream’s
Thematic shadows get ripped by a flashlight pen
Oblivious to mood and setting. Such a tale, my friends,
As Satan commences in blasphemy, with commentary,
But listening saints can hear in holy choir,
I begin, here, with you, though it changes in an hour.

2
My dark muse eyes me, sullen-silent as the night
Whereon with insect wings she glides, flapping late.
Exotic quixotic, I depict her on my verses’ vase
Inverting the immortality her throne supposes.
The castled moon below her, she’ll glare on,
Past marbled Mars to veiny Venus, if she must
In that post-lunar landscape sift gold words from dust.
My dragged heart blackens and thuds its tars. What roses,
What Sols I scribble, she dictates. I am her pawn.
I am too mild-modest to unveil the thundered stars.

3
A ruined foil flashing back fabulous suns
Whispers lightnings in my wilted breath. Strip-
Teased away from the Ultra-nutribar I eat
To aura languid limbs in rugged health, the slashings
Shatter my dry attentions into balmy tears.
I teeter too near dissolution to feel the fear.
The velvet chitter of my needleteethed pets,—
My pens, my peers, my pellucid, inventive cheres
Pallidly rattle in the inky stand. They hold my soul
In the slangy, charmed embrasures of their Latinate script,
Their nibbed hubbub of syllables and shivery tongues.

4
Should I take up the Author’s patrolling pose?
Hover ponderously, an editor’s eyebrow
Above witchy Reality? Or ride, randily astride,
My meditative pen? Amused, my muses?
Perhaps, a precocious Iago moulting mirrors,
I’ll lose my ahhing audience in appalling smokes—
A magician of the moment consoled by disappearance.
Tranquil, lamplit in night’s lousy shroud,
My selves assemble at the clarion bic-click
That drum-taps my unruly soul’s tribal pow-wow
To warrior order; even my fibulating, lying heart
Capitulates, fisting the spurious spirit-spear
Of its found rhyme, off-rhyme, rhyme again.

5
I sigh, my ruffian hearers, whose ocean silence beats
My aching soul’s sharp shoals to eloquence;
I sigh, and, if you’d spare an ear to hear me,
Take my caddish, candied language from me; mug me!
Or, if you’d be vooshed to Venus, succumb to me,
Turn the cheap keys of your failing spirits over
To me, a hoarse, corrupt rocket-car,
Tar-catarrhed in ineluctable sin, and begin.
Harrum. I sigh. —Oh skip it, skip it!
Skip this daft narrator’s gnarly part;
Such naughty nihilism ill-becomes me. Instead,
I return the guilty pearl of our veiled tale noir
To you, viewers. Vide, lecte, dears. Now start.

* * *

[on Venus]


6
Enigmatic clouds crimped a divine skyline.
Lacy ices drifted on acid, carbolic pools.
Lurid skies, vague purple or angst incarnadined,
Shone on no birds twanging tangled lutes.
Spilled dusts of galaxies in staid starlight burned.
Intricate dusts hurly-burlied burning snows
Blown to walking nightmare by outre genomes.
A fetid, festal energy spooned from sherberty clouds,
Lime bright, or mocha coffee brune, or confusedly infused
With venusian magenta, a trying shade
For human retina unused to alien marvels.

7
All this, and more: honey-blood serenades
Of ochre-aquamarine, a sheer fantasy’s phantasm
Poured the gorgeous poisons of a world of hues
On our young, shiveringly young, hero: Absurdio.
His tintinnabulating spine rived, racked with spasms;
His single organism sizzled in Venus’ puzzle.
Down in an unpleasant dome he homed. Absurio dozed,
Ruminating ruin on his quiet couch; half-deranged
His tender head rested, like an exhausted comet.
Such a new, human arrival among the strange!

8
Sad years sequestered Absurdio to his mournful room
Alone, as only a circus clown minus patsy may be found,
Leap-frogging loneliness in life’s third, unattended
Ring. His parents (in previous incarnations now
Photographically enhanced) had evaporated by mistake,—
Measuring tinselly elements at an underground lake
Of caramel kerosene, and smoking during break.
Wretched, abused Absurdio rewound the fatal video
Until their surprised incinerated faces aged to silvery frays.
And now, eons later, alone, adolescence pounced.

9
His pubis, freshly ringletted with dirty thoughts,
Like a haloed moon arose. In the winsome autumn
Of recent nights, It came upright, red-shafted, huge,
A crooning bone pronged among wronged sheets—
A blushful lighthouse’s thirsty straw agog a spermy sea—
The perfectly predictable consequence of testosterone
Spritzed by time’s Tom Thumb into both boy and man.
His hands grew awkward, strong, with hardened palms.
His bearding chin squared beyond childish qualms.


1 0
His curdling thighs unbundled boings and sprang,
Pirouetting poignant manipulated triplets
Upon the pulsing pointer of his moaning groin
As he swam Pan’s ancient, ardent australian crawl awash
In the Caribbean crucible of his sweat-swaled dreams;
His sleepy teeth ground against giant, tiaraed teats.
Wounded by his own desire, Absurdio spawned
Unseemly lesion-dots on his knotted pajama bottoms,
Paler than the snaily paisleys already winding there.


1 1
He cramply encamped in a humid, drenching tent
And coughed awake still aching, torqued in shrunken pants.
His furring, burgeoning body’s once lucent form
Clouded toward stormy adulthood’s horny, knuckled norm.
Only the marginal innocence of his virgin lips,
—Pouted to receive an apparition’s dissolving kiss,—
Retained their fulsome, petulant, purplish childishness.

1 2
In the hell-lit incline of his velvelour lax-o-boy,
One saw a cowling shadow parachute slo-mo from his skull
In the delineated darkness of a filmed dream.
His silent eyes, closed to heaven, endured
A durable pair of bug-ugly goggles, snapped
Primly in place by a pinkish plastic tether at his ears.
His nimble, impaitient thumb drubbed adagios
Against his impaitient, tempted temples. Ohs
Yawned from below his sweet, nasal declivity;
The VR headset warped, a double bow upon his brow,
Poised to twinge and whang its dodgy target,
Those red circles centered on just one misty wish.

1 3
The see-through water of his ice-light heart,
Fuel-injected by the rude roar and vodka-boil of sex,
Was doubled in the VR goggles’ shotglass apparatus.
In tonight’s tittering iteration of his single,
Searing dream, where was the girl, the She? Let us
Scan the fake, pick the pixels, lozenge the rengas
Of programmers’ pop-eyed loops, swallow suns
Or do whatever, whoever, however need be done
To spotlight in life’s divided cell the primogenic One.

1 4
Cold skies collated from his wish-index nipped him.
An earthly Arcadia appeared; a galvanized valley
Tinny under aluminum heaven, was sourced
From whacked smacks of aberrant bits of static,
Enhancing his whims with imagination’s majesty;
Inverted mountains, tipsy on their starch peaks,
Ranged still lakes loaded with shotgunned verbaneum;
Mossed redbreasts creeped across the angled lawn
Mooing at woodpeckers who chewed trees of lead;
Star-flowered vines screwed absent-present oaks of air
And purled like invisible trellises, going nowhere.

1 5
She, the sphinx, the minx, discovered was,
A downcast abandoned statuary whose ass ascends;
A shadowy mute among the academic ivy’s gloss,
Her stiff stone skin was one exquisite blank
Compounded of rare lights bleeding as they fell
Through other, farther, fainter taintless lights,
Defining whiteness. So, above. As for below
Her nether half a blue fluid ink remained,
A disfigured shadow semblance that attached,
A skittish circus tent, to her body’s upper whiteness.


1 6
Her maiden, sundial, shattered hand ticked up,
An apostle pointing at a sky-blue book,
Shafting through Nature’s monstrous greenness
With a simple whiteness summed of simpleness,
As if to spill a bell. Attendant hours tolled
Cumulus-slow through soft forenoon’s sways
Momenting toward the slave existence Absurdio had always
Intended to be hers. His cola-fouled breath he held,
Dithering her splendid image with his swan-soft,
Slightly perspiring palm atop the swervy curve and cup
Of the alarmingly mobile, docile, swift control ball.


1 7
A lonely cloud, flumed crimson, bounded by
The imitation-shape of her complex suavities,
Half-geared to swell a summer rainstorm’s tears
In puddly, ploppy pluvial benediction upon
The evil coeval heat of his hot delirium.
“O half-groped, untouched, doped isotope
Of this radon-free semi-demi-reality! All if, if, if!
Will you never swivel or pivot ever
From your smooth stagger-pattern on the TV
In vivid splinters? A decadent Miss’ shaggy quiff?”

1 8
Absurdio was shanghaied by his consciousness
To a heroin-incertain fairyland of ifs. Poor Ab!
No angelic integers or numeric mumbles ever spazzed
Original anger or new-budded love
From the mutant look of her elect electrons’
Seamless electric face. Thrill and chance,
Those boiling bodings that hurt the nerves,
Braked their roulettes and rollercoasters, moped —
Exiled by inconsequent conquest’s certain grace.

1 9
Never would one lunar hair of her crisp coiffure
Split off, twirl, or dangerously dawn orange
Like the burnt inhaled singe of a spliff. Never, p’fft!
All love was dead, desire defunct, hissed flat
In the monumental deflation of the sure.
Where was to be the wrenching fix, the heady remedy?
What cure could toy his totem-world to stark reality?
Absurdio plunked his whole mind in his heart
And thought. And thought. And thought. Could it hurt to pray?

2 0
Genuine Absurdio in patient prayer genuflected,
In patient prayer did patiently inspect his knees;
Any glance listing against those lucent eyes
Saw God reflected, a profounder Blank in blankness.
Deep in the gothic fundament of their tombs
Responsive saints spun shriveled, shrived cadavers
To hear the holy moistness of so undevout a mouth
Spout “God.” And yet, no rent heaven yawned
Anointing him with day, nor remade what he was,
Nor she, the ecstatic static and the playful clay.

2 1
Absurdio resumed his restless tour
Of the prismatic computer’s chilly rainbow rooms:
Phony noon presided in tangerine, heart-rending hues
Over the local, erotic focus of his loves.
A spouting, sympathetic cloud maneuvered near
And passed on again into frisky sunshimmer;
A clammy aftertouch of lemony shadow lingered
On the moat-dark undersides of fractal leaves.
Snoring backwards in his spraddled chair
Silly birches flickered streaked with oval droops of cool,
While galloping Cupid’s reigning love-thoughts trot
Down his sleepy cheeks and trace
A crystal bridle drawn by drool.

2 2
A strain, a stain was upon everything like black snow,
And felt more wicked ice within his stalactite heart
Than raw outward aberrance dared to show.
An iridescent darkness, a deepness of absence
Soiled the unpointoutable apparent to his witness soul.
Her dimpled elbows, simple bends, digged
Into the soft argyle turf with wounding runes.
In her empty, happy lap, sidelong sifted sapphires
Of quiet light dashed and spilt their milky stars,
Spattering trace evidence of some slight, damp want.

2 3
Astronaut Absurdio tumbled,— uncapsuled, lost
Among Beauty’s forlorn flotsam, a jetted jerk
Whose sour foreknowledge coffin-mittened dripping hands
Clenching and unclenching in a madman’s clasp
After stark Snow White who twirlled eternally repelled
From the lurching, avid lunges of his untutored touch.
The magnet-magic that created her kept her from his crush.
Then his naked, nasty, gnarled, marooned left foot
(Or was it thonged and handsome, a Greek god’s ped?)
Intruded, thus, into the afternoon’s spooled storyline.

2 4
Desire freeze-framed him in his vouyer’s foyer,
A randy stallion-statue displayed above his mare,
Plumply morose in his recreated shyness, same as ever.
What further use was doubt— unless by addition’s error
He wished to subtract himself? He became devout, dissevered
All annoy of anguish from his mirror-minon
Dunce, each ounce. His on-screen he was there, here,
The really reel, real deal. And yet…. (and yet!) And yet,
The wet, generated earth still presumed to bountifully bouy
His calculated weight. This dream ‘he’ within a dream
Dispersed his doubts of truth with hopes of joy.

2 5
Peeping through a hiked skirt of curling Alpine pine,
Absurdio sunk binoculate eyes against her buck
Naked, pale, and blue-washed bod, drunkly tipped
Against Venus’ fin-de-fawn and sine curve vale.
A sun-crouched lioness, but blue-lipped, she lay
Keeping her cold secret, at once lit hottentot hot
And known freon-cold to the potential touch.
Our boy, the trembling man, only then began, at first,
By frittery extentions of his film-self to engulf
Her palpable sides with his ghost’s caresses.

2 6
Should he bridegroom first with attendant touch
Her shoulder made lemony by sunlight, sponging his lust
On what was some Venus Eve’s first, bitterest, citrine brine?
His space-gloved hand went floating toward her
Side,— the sly, slippery side nearest, dearest him.
Intermittettent abscences were eradicated, bit by byte,
Solving sober Zeno’s ouzo-drunken paradox
In the gross, closed glance of Absurdio’s dreaming eye,
(Though God’s ultra-fine squint might more acutely stutter)
Closer to her faux female beavery smoothness
By pixel-quantum amplitudes of dotted light brightening
Toward the ultimate touch of her molten shoulder.

2 7
He touched, or his seeming hand seemed to touch,
A pebble-cool graininess of skin for one firm instant,
As if heaven had been reached by pounce and poise;
This hesitant touch faze-shifted to a hasty dissolve
—Sugary sands sifting sinuously
Though tightening fingers crooked to close at last
An empty angry fist upon her nothingness. He gasped!
A hatted rabbit in a worn mauve waistcoat laughed;
Its albino eye from a daubed laurel’s closure
Laughed, as that funny-bunny Fate has always laughed
Whenever overreaching man guessed his guesses sure.

2 8
The furred head, moribund, profound, turned
And spake: “What neglected nail spurs these pauses,
Pulling slurring the nimble wiggle of our narrative thread?
Do I skip a blip in my story, hoary hearers?
Has consumation’s consumme soured to confusion?
Flip back a windy, lefthand page, sages, and see.
Returned, dears? Me too. I’m here, waving gravely.
Tain’t so easy to dismiss a self-eulogizing myth, is it?
This story’s story is insular and thick with tricks.

2 9
“Forgive my flash of hubris, while I loiter to insist,
Exonerating myself like a murder defence’s memoirist:
But I’m guiltless, guiltless! My omniscient narrator’s
Rumored Diety is in fine effect. I’m winged
Jove-King of these greek acres of pasty pages.
Bored of my bon homme odyssian maundering? Well, then,
Page down, my d(r)ear, inscrutible cherubs,
Pass my unflattering flounce of digression’s procession
And surpass in a click the dark prow of my tale.

3 0
“I wonder just what happened to this merry pair
The He and She of everyone and everywhere or when
During her gentle dissolution’s final cue?
Did she, nameless, moan cognomens in the approaching
Pinch of his garrolous, approaching claw?
Did she shudder like clawed rainbow trout when she saw
The roaring boy-bear’s troglodytic unencumberd maw
Lathering after her innocent, undressed tresses?
Or did her thin skin whip him, a scorpion pinned?
Did formaldehyde smear her wincing sides?

3 1
“What catastrophe’s haphazard track did they pace,
Hand in hand around the rosy road’s fated bend
Skipping to some bland fabulist’s quickly scripted ‘The End’?
Among what sunset’s sullen yellows did he reap
Her raped, awakened wheats, if he did? Or did
She winnow her weeping self away, flossed dust,
Ere his sly scythe could sigh thro’ her flaxen fields?
—But, I’m done with this stuttering narration’s
Nervous tick, and clock you back to our mainline’s


3 2
“Timeline.” Absurdio sighed against his hammock’s
Narrow netting,– for so much potential so absolutely lost
Must give one pause. His ungainly goggles
Crested a slicker pate, slid syruped perhaps,
On a ski-slope nose crinkled at some sodium
Odor, or perhaps a tinge of things ranker and fainter.
Absurdio cursed. Gangly in her dropped socks, her half-
Strangled form performed, in soliel-licked imagination,
Astericked tricks beyond conception. —A-hem,
The sinuous mystery of that trapped tadpole, Desire,
Increases in the pale, ectoplasmic tale below:


3 3
Absurdio, desire’s soldier, soldered on
His mountain-rhymer’s gogs again, divinely tighter
To his thrusting skull, blotting out svelt Venus’
Ambient, intermittent light. Slowly those eyes
Settled into stellated iris-wideness, as inside
His interior landscape darkened by degrees,
And nightrise, calm and serene, came caressing
His openness with her ever-maiden obscurities.
He scanned half-doubtingly about. And she
Was there, scarcely visible, a luminous intrusion,
A pressure of touching light that arced and ached,


3 4
Spilling balm into the mini-labyrith of his brain.
The setting exactly trite and tragic as before,
Ressurrected when he thumbed ‘Restore.’
Ilex trees, or their avuncular, venusian
Mulberry mirror doubles, dappled lashy elongations
On the foreshortened, deforrested ground of his being
In leopard blotches. His smaller, computer-generated
Self stepped sprightly a miniaturized horizon,
Lent a tightrope-walker’s lightness nightly
By a sparse, spectacular gravity that doubled
The veiny, vulnerable, fluer-de-lis neck-lengths
Of the arising flowers that haunted dawn.


3 5
Her (was she warm?) form poured in oblagattoes;
Her breasts’ concupiscence floresced and finished
In attentive nipples; he shivvered, diving
Inner-spacewards again, unstoppable, blushed
By the program’s thoughtful prop of rose backlight.
A soapy sigh scrubbed from his bubbling lungs;
How he tautly longed to eye her mufflered infinite!
That which hung encoded, skiffed and scudded, behind
Scratched cataracts of her teeming, purblind eyes.


3 6
Created conscious again in his dream-ripple,
Delux-outfitted in apple pants and a velour-
Lined waistcoat swarming with swan buttons,
Potted and puffed, germily germinating Absurdio
Bloomed, attempting the Tristian romantic manouver
But abandoned by the stern narrative frame
Of a contrite Christian’s uber-grace.
His hands, as pawns, nakedly displayed
His emotions’ opening gambit in a dream-slur
Of utter lovliness. He touched, she shuddered,


3 7
As if to dissipate, a distraught wisp
Or shy butterfly flittered from a lepidopterist’s
Urgent lurch, more cuffed than coaxed;
A cranky collapse inaugurated by the drastic lack
Of available, unavailing, RAM space.
She shivered, but held. Her spongy shoulder
Underwent a faint shimmer, as if conscious-
Ness were being beamed aboard. Her patient skin
Was still all ash and shale, but her awaiting hair
Lost its stiff crispness, gained a honey-tone
And the delectable bubble-bounce of “body”.


3 8
Deciphered sounds now entered her transparent ears.
A distant bird minced its watery treblings
With the gorgon terrors of her first, lurid heartbeat
In her registering brain. A pale breath escaped,
Although Absurdio would’ve sworn he had not heard
Any inaugural breath tipple and enter. Her eyes reared
To know what stun had touched her as they flared
Into wet, instamatic life. Their pristine prisms
Socketed a world within her newly permeable skull.


3 9
Yet where was this wizard woman’s twinkly spark
Among all the engrossing chaos of her fabulous mass?
He had not yet eyed within her eye that smarmy,
Human cloud of becoming fogging her skyey iris
Which marks troublous love’s trembling, intrepid step
Contra-distinct from lisping lust’s insipid limp.
Not yet, not yet. His playful paradise was still
Too innocent in its ivied, idyllic clarity
To boast of that human ruination dubbed Love.
Stars crossed gaily, like kites, in night’s meadows above.


4 0
There was always some sort of gangly changing going on
Within the weathery swirl of this inner world
Beset by the dramatic setting of Romance’s
Hurrying hurricanes and tortorous calms.
Her addled belt slipped at his toying touch
To couch in the creative vulcan valleys
Of her slippery thighs. His dizzy head
Danced, lassoed with animate, singing stars,
As in Disney-visions where cool cutlery
Carols hausfraus and bold boy hunters subdue, solo,
Lugubrious bull-moose. He was in love, she lived!


4 1
A freckled Mrs. Frankenstein whose veritable veins
Pulsed bloomed beads of blood up her supple neck.
Living swans lounged in her frowning brow;
Honey lozenges waterfalled her scuffy alto
Into azure pools of purer contralto. She spoke!
Her new words, her first, purred: “Absurd—….”
But he had already stopped her half-
Articulate baby talk with the sweeter understanding
Contained in a kiss he hoped unending.


4 2
Her happenstance phantom, her tech-lechery
Semblable, spasmed by benign self-deceit,
Flowered into frissoned being on his primped lips.
He let the solipcistic kiss linger, linger,
As a royal rosepetal will huddle on kinked, kingly lips.
The gamey wind was game to applaud their parading,
Clapping aspen leaves whose whirl on them was hubbed.
What they knew somehow was what was love.
Of the universe’s immensest aviary, they knew
That they themselves were the central doves.


4 3
For this sceptred instant, grinningly alive
In their sparkling cave and sprinkled spire,
Absurdio and his girl were joyously joined,
Twin instances of some remoter, scumbled One,
Identical startled arcs of a single desire.
A stately elm jigsawed the rooted stars
With wagging shadows, while moonlit music tooted.
Oh, they kissed and kissed until heaven split,
And split again in moody, Mandelbrotian, fractal fit.


4 4
Love herself had jokingly sponsored their sparring war
Of embraces, each deep cincture tighter and tighter.
Her teasing taffeta said slurring, silken mumbles
Against his entranced hips burning rope-burn sudden
At her cloistered damsel’s clotted knot veiled within.
She did not hesitate, but with rapid hand
And palliative tongue urging extra surges
Moved with the remover to remove.
Had History’s grainy memory vouchsafed their names
Their wantonness had been famous. As is,
They tickled and tilted, strained and parted;
And strained again, until joy’s jubilant hulahoop
Rattled to napping quiet at their intermixed feet.


4 5
And the nasty narrator choked on their lifesaver
Halo (rubyfruitier).

finis

 

Unused Bits

 
[for climax] 
On her home-town Mon Venus, the swarthy pitcher mounts 

Against death's delerious impact and mossy Time's 
Verdant verdict, that takes back (not yet, not yet!) 
Our personal, rag-tag, tattered, hole in the ground 
With wild mounds of lushness. Held winceless

Aug 242020
 

 

First Works 

Copyright ©1994 by Gregg G. Brown 

Published by 
BLAST PRESS 

    


Diminution

 Smaller than a shut nut in its
 Candy can skin, 
 The silken icecube melts, 
 The compact cricket swells to distant hymns, 
 And the tough grass suffers into seed. 
 
 (It is a bantam birth.) 
 
 Many of the big things in this world 
 Can be described as 
 Small. 
 
 The delicate ballet of 
 Mountains bowing low 
 As bathtub waves between 
 The popsickle peaks 
 Is 
 One example, 
 
 But there are many others. 
 Many many; ask the brilliant 
 Corn-kernel sun, and he 
 Will tell you. 
 
 I myself will tell you and tell you 
 Until finally, balled like a baby, 
 I diminish into happiness.


April Mechanical

 Organized neatly between the
 divisive particles of air 
 near the old scratched moss 
 of some ending season 
 
 grey beneath green as 
 anxious among concrete park 
 benches it spreads, the air, 
 blue in imitation of the 
 
sloshing fountain water, the water 
not an expression of thought 
but rather in its deepening 
stance a mirror for 
 
angry clouds cherry-red 
with the long brittle atoms 
of a slashing sun, a few 
rough trees deport 
 
their skinny limbs 
into the jealous sky, naked 
to speak to us with their 
completely unhinging buds


Quote

'She who hesitates is
lost," she declared.But 
what is there to 
lose?Only innocence 
 
in the small pale and 
not completely impartial turn 
and plod of her delicately 
dancing feet.Only notice 
 
the impartial fervor 
of that tilting lily-head 
against whose stone we (approximately 
may measure ourselves. 
 
Our faults lie open 
and are described in an 
amazing minutiae by those 
thin dim cracks between 
 
the feathered petals.They 
only serve to emphasize 
the fact with their apparently 
indifferent oblivious blooming


Cold Moles and Dreams are Roots

Creative as the curl of candles, 
When they burn, the going deeper 
Of winter shrews or summer friends 
Asleep and burrowing out their 
Blankets.That calmest of thinking trees, 
The dream, divides and redivides its sunken 
 
Cells; placenta tentacles lie down 
To the birth of buried baby 
Shrews, hatched in dreaming imagination; 
And the dreaming sleepers scuttle, crab- 
Like on their hands, lid-full eyes 
Dull as old spoons.Disordered bits 
 
Of life rise to fill their empty 
Minds as grey and pearl as parachutes.Star- 
Nosed moles furrow through their drowsy sight, 
And crab-like on their hands they dig 
And dig between the different darks 
 
Of night and sleep.Rooting for 
The peace of meals kept deep in dirt. 
Oh, turn the naked number down! the failing 
Sleepers cry --- flustered fingers still 
Half-dragging through the sheets.... 
 
And the red sled, snaky arm without fingers 
Ferries its bald insanities back 
To the cluttered basement of old dreams.Yet, 
Nothing sinks but clatters when it lands. 
And the long awaiting eyes, cool as a moist 
  Mole's nose, wake at last and eat the day.
 

 

A Bar of Ivory Soap
Sitting Near the Faucet

Just manufactured.Its original skin has been thrown away.It is no
Longer needed, the pure self has emerged, Virginal and white.White
white white!Expansive plantations of snow or one dimensional
lilies.The souls of St. Francis of Assisi and Thomas a Beckett look
something like this, I have been told, Precise in its new rims it is
the magic castle from a distant story.In the high dark window there
is a tiny, elegant woman waving and waving.



Destination

I have thought of heaven, often,
And of hell, 
 
Everyone is hurrying to get there, 
To be in the big rooms with the wide floors, 
And the carpeting up to your armpits, 
And the smooth marble corridors 
As empty as thought. 
There are no urns to clutter up 
Your mantelpiece, and to become, by dote, 
As big as a baboons chest 
And as blue as his anger. 
 
Everyone is hurrying to get there and see 
Just how big 
The windowpanes are.




Night Lures (I Am Sleeping)

Softly, 
The moon blues, 
Substanceless as any dead day. 
Like the loyal marsh at Baybridge who jingled 
And who I liked 
In the high August frosts and mists. 
It was like a large drunken friend waiting 
For me to find the misplaced knees and socketless stray arms 
And admire them.And wait. 
The ground there was soft 
As broken-in shoes. 
I used to 
Bank off those marshmallow shores, 
My father's shallow boat clipping neatly under me 
 
Under a cool noon.I 
would like to have my stomach launched into 
Me like that again. 
 
The grey-green water lies all around me. 
 
Two catfish leap 
But do not dazzle. 
They hover in the timorous mid-air. 
Their fins half blue from shadows. 
A fine detail of foam follows like a sketch 
  Their fast bodies 
The shapes of moonhills. 
The white commas of their undersides pause silently 
Before me.I love to watch them in their 
Paradox.They are helpless 
In their joy. 
From behind one reed thin as a needle 
A blue fly's head pokes. 
Curious with eyes 
It is amazed at these otherworld avians 
As wet and smooth as washed stones. 
 
I landed home empty-handed.
 


The Eagle has Landed

Ralph, the man who saw with feathers spread, 
Leaned his bones over (they were golden in the dawn 
And said: 'I'm not an eagle am I?' 
 
“No, you're not.” 
 
Vertebrae, vertebrae 
In arch of back to circle rolling. 
The red rolled east.It was a perfect morning 
For flight.His beak was red in this bent light. 
His beak was red shaped 
And ready. 
 
“'Tis time for bed, my Ralph, 'tis time to sleep.” 
 
Ralph was gleaming golden in his forward shoes. 
'Am I not an eagle?' His arms were lit like down 
In this light, The man put fingers spread 
And leapt. 


The Dark Roots

Hugeappletree 
appetite big enough 
to eat 
all your own 
fruit-- 
 
The sun 
circular on the leaves 
and echoed 
in the production-- 
the 
dangerous droplet 
 
An apple, 
it will suffice 
in one bite 
to dissuade you 
thinking of the sun 
 


from out the tomb like a cloud

Above this town where I lay sleeping 
young happily birds convulse minutely 
one tremendously blown hilarious 
green leaf of wind (in ochres of eve 
it is dying) come suddenly finally up 
from compactly hysterical graves.Bliss 
fully mindless is of these faces 
on the pickets these sweatless heads 
in dole attire; these pink purple blades 
 
who are flying who are the dentings 
my footfalls have said along the edges 
of day and crisply space and down down 
dwindling once wells of when remit (for 
it is summer and pregnantly snowingly dusk) 


Display Against Society

One day, cloudless, 
Refined to a clarity, to one colour 
        as with a wall, 
The famous international explorer, 
Saint Jacque, to escape the strictures of his race, 
Leapt (formally dressed) 
Off of three bridges, leaping 
With triple-reenforced rubber bands Celastics") 
Gripping his British African ankles. 
‘I go to save all men,' indignant, jumping, 
'After the manner of the Afriks.') 
 
His tux-tails catching the airs wings, he went. 
 
Be pulled up just short 
Of the water (or the rocks) whichever 
Was appropriate in whichever case. 
       And after, when I proposed: 
Why why (the background sistrums sheathing 
Sounds with sounds) 
His teeth cried out (smiling): 
To feel as if alive. 

NOTE: The ritual described here is taken from a reclusive tribe in the Congo where it is a rite of passage for young boys intended to make them independent of the shrewdness and courage of women, the story being that a woman ones, to escape from her husband into the arms of her lover tied vines to her ankles and jumped from a cliff; the husband was too scared to follow, thus making good her escape and happy her life. (Now a common sport in North America.)

 

 

Last Year

the dogs were in the house and sniffing 
the last decayed amours of left lasagna; 
clack and tap the toes, fur stuck out 
between the friendly pads the entire 
summer, no other noise, 
everyone dead or gone, vacationing with cameras 
to return with a foreign inspiration; 
'thank you,' and my thin lips vomit at the grace. 
To no other sound but the happy clacks 
and hanging, painted tongues 
I wrote; I even wrote: 'the flowers nod 
and peck like too many a sun.' 
Today: 
'the day grows down in dismayed capitulation.'
 


India

An idol 
tall as three big men 
curving lines 
 
bridge 
of the great green nose 
to the still arches 
 
drawn without motion 
above the poignant half-sad 
lips with the same 
 
memory of 
decayed gardens princes 
lazy about the 
 
common grounds smiling 
at the women to the women the women only 
faintly portrayed 
 
by the best artists 
linens 
close about their bodies thin 
 
unfraying silks 
on them about them 
unconsciously 
 
as the air itself 
or breathing 
lightly 
 
the final descending lines 
of the chin 
raising 
 
the ogling eyes 
of visitors here gathered 
strangers to the courtly 
 
past lust 
back upwards thereby 
putting 
 
the whole 
face into focus assembled 
block by block
 


Ritually

the amoeba 
squeeze and bulge 
their green and 
thinly syncopating 
bodies while, 
at their sides, 
there are (beating) 
the smoothly 
flagellant supplicants.They 
will suffice. 
 


Mated Pheasants

Their carriages are upright
in a dry green.They stand 
at once passionate and familiar, 
 
His beak is respectful, level, 
rather than diffident in uptilt, 
his tail a downward sloping tube 
 
like a story.His face is bright 
and remembers everything, one formidable claw 
hangs, while flat the other holds him 
 
steady to the earth, hangs gloved 
in dust immeasurably.While she 
in straight grass stands 
 
Popped-up from an unexpected bush.


12 Bowie

Here and now the kindly frost invites 
The snow.Ice along the large pond 
Buckles for breath in he thin season 
Over spacious spans of silence.The pipings are 
Hushed, the geese put to flight and quiet. 
Grass does not grow but waits 
With a small eternal presence, the mantle 
Warm and lightless.It is a white lid 
To a green furnace, waiting.Patience is long 
Along the meadow along the pond along the frozen, 
Drift-thick ice.The oaks with the sharp melting current 
Are patient, through their trunks, the tilted hills' 
Green soldiers, bent for the calling, the sea 
Straining its wide tides.All are patient all 
Are waiting.But shortly 
Their patience 
Will snap.
 


At the Theater Doors and Almost In

Again and again.The tickettaker's hands are
Emphatic.Her shirt is red 
Above the useful elbows.In her small hands 
The last cries of startled paper 
 
 Unger. 
 The thin red tongues that dribbled out 
 Of the faceless window 
 Are shredded and shredded. 
 
 Her careful fingerends 
 Are red with little screams. 
 And at my back a blank anonymous bear 
 Reminds me of duty. 
 
 Slowly, I offer up 
 My tiny victim.In close air.At last, 
 At last, I stumble towards the common dark 
 Without a tongue. 


The Timid Stars

 
 It is
 among the stars 
 that I stick my shaggy head. 
 They sag and turn crimson, 
 sag in a sky 
 
 bruise blue 
 because winter has struck 
 straight across 
 (negligently) the heavy 
 blood-filled breasts in stretched cotton. 
 
 Has struck 
 as they shiver 
 (appreciatively) has struck shining 
 like a bronze cymbal.


The Seasonal Dead

 
 Winter kills the cruelest of the deer,
 the ones that want to live, freezes 
 their heart-stubble, runs them  
 past the dawn grey fields 
 and trips them up on the subtlety of a stream, 
 solid with its fear.They lie down dying 
 in the rising floe; the stag, the fawn, 
 and the doe, collect their shivers severally 
 and blanket their wet fur 
 with the whitening glass.See 
 Their dark long legs are so softly 
 bent that they extremely seem to be 
 too much alive to be an accurate model of death. 
 They fly with sinking passion to he snow.


How We Die

 Perhaps
 It is like walking straight upwards 
 From a clear shore 
 Until the wren's singing 
 Is only water.And we float about freely, 
 Completely under. 
 
 Or, perhaps, 
 Flying and stinging like wasps, 
 We leave half of ourselves dragged out behind us, 
 Beating and hurting.


TV

Multifarious on the miniature screen 
the tiny greyish teardrops trickle 
out of sympathy; out of luck 
they land in a ponderous conflagration 
like butane-drenched strange paratroopers 
invading every eye. they only come 
to liberate the lusterless, glitterfy the gone, 
unwanted melodies curled uptight asleep 
in moldiest mind.Melodramatic 
the chromatic tube revivifies its display. 
All the misconceptions of real-life rant 
in flesh-tone undeniability.The biggest baritone 
saunters to his place, steps upwards 
at the Met, decked in best brightest tent array, 
 
to sing until his face dissolves to truth.
 


June

The abyss in the iris
Darkens. 
The lilac's cones shrivel, 
Impotent nubs. 

And the waterfall wings 
Of grackles gnash, 
Impatient as teeth 
For something to eat. 

Blossoms or buds hang 
Lazy as puppets 
In their nets, or masses of colored balloons 
Tied to vulnerability. 

Rubbing their silk heads to static and still can't think! 

Everyone breathes beneath 
Wide woven hats, -- 
Lying, breathing, 
Lame as shot seals on the lawn furniture. 

And everything is hot. 
The garden is is still and hot. 
And the conservative gardener buzzes about planning, planning 
For next spring's eruption. 

A uniformity resides 
In all this damp lessening, 
inexorable and 
Irretrievable 

As ants or gold lice, tiny and metallic, 
Ticking past the plastic petals. 
The entire arrangement 
Walls and withers, 

Tribally. 
The folded flowers scream. 
White as live eyes, the trees 
Scream, steaming. 

The magnolia's 
Fists sweats.
 


After July

The one cop
cracks his beat, tuesdays, 
thursdays... the tapped cracks blurr into the blue, 
days join years, rim to rim 
a used pile of hubcaps rise 
to topple the sky. 

He lowers his eyes. 
He frets the shiny lower buttons 
off his coat, in the off hours, 
in a silver-tinged sort of 
maternal sublimation. 
For him 

the end 
of labor, and the quench 
of thirst, lie bound-- a single note-tone-- 
in a fist-sized, pawable 
golden glob of pocketwatch. 
We wait 

for the crinkled, 
the time-worsted, the failing 
cusp of a summer's end, expiring 
in teacups.Your mother's 
handstitched, colorful, orange and yellow, gingham quilt 
wilts with August. 

Nearby, some butterflies, 
a handful, hover over 
the midtown intersection parking lot 
of our pin-sized Pepperell village, watching 
the sky-dark cop 
endlessly circle himself, wishing 

that they had stings.
 

Contents

Slate Steps Descend the Hill

The blue stones
drop away from the self 
like ash 

dumped from an open freight car 
going 
a hundred miles an hour 

easily
 


Aside to a Crying Child

Do not fear.
The globe in your room 
Has no place to be going. 

Its greens are gold, properly arranged; 
Its browns 
Mountains of dried sugar.



Thinking About a Dead Man
I Wonder Why the Fireplace
Looks Emptier than it Ought to

Have you ever seen
The dark trolleys 
Transport the ashes 
Of a leaf 
Into a hole in the valleys of the moon? 

I have. 

It is a small hole waiting 
On the moon's 
Reverse side.


Pissing in the Snow

one finds among
the melting crystals 

the impartial 
pattern common 

to any 
work of art


Falling

In the tympany of the shattering glass there
is this: there is this photographic effect, It
occurs when, dimmed and fugitive, I see my own raw
face new as a pound of freshly ground beef in one
of the shaken raindrop particles faltering. (They
falter because they have forgotten the balance of
air.They are senile as snowflakes.) It is this
effect that makes me measure and measure the
millimeters of my pupils’ shufting. (They are black
as a circus seal’s fur, and wet as sweat.) It is
a little like what I think it would be like to find
a mirror at the bottom of the lake in which I am
drowning, The window bleeds its little glitters
down.They shine like pennies out of a shotgun….



The Holly Tree

 
The holly tree
as a figure 
not 

of dance (since 
that is too gross-- 
too many 

arms like tentacles 
hanging their appeals 
straight out) 

instead as, each leaf 
green against the sharp frost 
equally 

an equation 
it is conceived perfectly 
divisible 

by that love 
which makes the berries 
hard small 

and almost 
exactly round 
grow red


Seasonal

 There, sidewise from the
 breasting prow, between 
 the hushed and vertical 
 bob and weave of the 
 whitest icebergs, there is 
 the winter sea beneath it all 
 still green.


Foxhounds

 A trumpet whistles and the slow, 
 paced doily-work of discovery begins. 
 Soft, snow-petalled dogs descend 
 from higher ground to astound the dell 
 with the multitude of their white bodies' shuffle; 
 So many crowd into the little hollow 
 that the hand-held sky, time's mirror, 
 leaks a salty supplication to their lust. 
 They ground the dying grasses down to dust. 
 The ascending, coal-soft noses tender towards 
 the pay; the fox works well their mouths 
 of blackness into foam. 
 Abundance will reward most laborious chase. 
 Living feet stamp and paw the fertile ground.


The Gardener’s Lot

 This blade of land
 engendered by the sun 
 dances round and around 
 like everything-- 
 like you I exact 
 and supercilious 
 of all forms, even 
 flowers, for christ's 
 sake, bluebells 
 hollyhock, clover 
 goldenrod, sprints 
 of purple something 
 
 and, of course, the 
 wild carrot, even 
 the wild carrot, how 
 do you manage it'.? 
 Were not all things 
 in some measure 
 constructed (with 
 welds of cells in this 
 case, perhaps) you 
 could not overbear 
 them so with your 
 tweedling eyebrows 
 -- agh! how 
 can you stand 
 yourself! mirrorwise-- 
 look at it! looking 
 at you.Wont you 
 splash, red-handed, 
 into it?Won't you 
 break a cracker 
 and make it flesh? 
 Turn the pool to wine! 
 The way it stares! 
 
 Well, then, stand 
 there (ox/ ox/ 
 pool) dirty and 
 locally misshaven you 
 ugly cuss! --and 
 get stabbed by the 
 rust-colored sun 
 increasing on the 
 hill's edge.

Contents

Staring at My Face in a Hushed Brook

 On my knees I deeply kneel 
 to all you who are wailing and wallowing 
 before the fallen wall 
 and in it 
 
 Oh there is someone trapped 
 in those clouds there purely serene 
 
 As (lithely) I kneel 
 to kiss the mute stranger 
 he explodes 


What the Mountain Saw

 Embryo of blossom is dissected
 and without shame-- removed 
 
 to a further Light 
  one where guts 
 and stuff is not displeased by the eye 
 not made to squirm or plead 
 against the logic of sight, with their only 
 velvetvoiced argument, which is that they 
 were always here 
always cupping 
 their premature round faces-- to heaven 
 or storm without regard 
   until like tissue 
 they let their countenance fold 
 into dimness 
down to spring.


Do Not Know

 
 We do not know what 
 to do anymore--- 
 the high, evening voices 
 of the crickets 
 silver again 
 to grass.Grass and time. 
 
 A small, humped 
 frog is croaking 
 above the circle of his 
 
 swimming.Everything-- 
 everything is left 
 undone, 
The small, 
 red, perfectly predicted 
 perfectly in place, red 
 line of thought still ties 
 the 12 fat apples 
 to a bending limb. 
 
 3 dogs at a hollow distance 
 bay 
 to shake the leaves.


Watching Trees After Rain


In this sunset I am alone among many trees, the day a light stonygrey.
They don’t sway, but like a thousand notes of music they seem too deliberately
articulate their leaves in a mass, visible green chorus. Each leaf at its base
diverges to return in a point, the many pinnacles loping to their purpose;
they slouch down so low that a few of them almost touch the ground. The dark,
firm springs of wet pines straighten their voices like efficient women.
And in a steady glowing small, face-like leaves burst softly forward in slowly
growing fountains.The roundness of some of them sings to me like fishmouths,
silently and purely their praises go upward.



Night

 Darkness is not 
 a going of light but a coming of light 
 only 
 it is too solemn for us to see 
 

The Stone in Water


It is the round 
beauty 
of all things 

immaculate immobile immute- 

able to the last 
syrupy 
drop 

of that fine 
liquid 
which we drink into drunkenness 

on those lovely 
shaded nights 
of 

the black curtains 
hanging down 
like stars' beards 

whiskery to infinity 
The truth


My Blue Period

"I sti11 live inside an icon of despair,
abuse the abutment for my failing hands 
that once would gesture music; I grow 
into my age, see icecubes marching by 
like icebergs and notice theirflat shadows 
spinning to diminishment 
in the exaggerated weaflness of my 
mind, my lights lefting out like twin pack dogs 
lost to snow.There is no settlement 
of objects, half-arraigned and now 
abandoned to decay.There is 
no happiness here of the clean straight line. 
My abstract mind falters into particulars 
... it's the light that turns the lampshade round."


In Living Rooms

The
piano glassy 
the clock 

From 
a time of 
grandmothers 

And 
widows grayly 
done dancing 

Are 
clicking round 
sonorous moments. 


Lying

Lying
up In a hayloft 
my dreams fill the owl rafters 
with thin loops of gold. 

A few float down.


Sequence


I. Somnambulance

The mourning does are lying in leaves
For summer bleats and funeral ash. 
Somewhere shipwrights are planning for ghosts. 

II. Aftereffects of Silence

Singing, I thought there was a second 
Voice behind me. 
Only one dove was bowing. 

III.Promenade

In a forest strung with lanterns 
Night was slowly staring in after me. 
It stirred with a flutter of gigantic wings. 

IV.Pre-Evening Autumn

The mourning doves in thousands septembered 
Themselves to my yard and never departed. 
The sun rained all that day. 

V. Lesson:

The best notes are musical 
And exact; two doves 
On a dogwood at sunset. 

VI. Post Christi

Twelve silent doves are sifting in the snow 
And wishing they were white-- 
With their feet crossed. 

VII.Pre

The bald and aging Socrates 
Was last seen sleeping among mourning doves. 
Their slipperless feet were cool, 

VIII.An Eye at the Window

The extra room provoked much controversy 
Until, in the stifled minute it takes lilies 
To be imagined, the dove moved in. 

IX. Intimations of Salmon

I knelt my mind behind a thin steeple 
And embroidered the sky with memories of sea. 
They are even here. 

X. Image of Transparency

The moons settled themselves in a red cradle. 
The woman settled herself along with them, they 
In her arms.It was snowing doves all that evening. 

Contents

On the Neighbors Having Lost
a Daughter My Father’s Words

 'Who told them to swallow down their sorrow? 
 This year as much as last the rain will dig 
 New gullies near the roadside- even without 
 Their help.So what's the use of holding back 
 A g ief?They don't moan, but they still shuffle. 
 What's a man to do with relations 
 That won't cry?Beg it out with salt? 
 I won't pity them.Pity's too mean a thing 
 For living creatures, and, besides, its a sham 
 Emotion: it only makes the hawthorn wither. 
 And they themselves wouldn't even see.--- 
 Damn it, I myself have lost a son. 
 You remember that year, in late declining 
 Summer; we took down that small net 
 Of trash trees hemming in the garden. 
 Just their shadow would have killed off half 
 The crop that demanded al I the sun. 
 He left the sticky tree-stumps alone to stare, 
 A little like some human faces, 
 And then clomped off into a rain of maples. 
 Who could put out the details of his last 
 Living day?Do they think they own disaster7 
 Yet how anxiously they horde it!As if 
 Their slack jaws and ground-geared eyes could feed 
 On such distresses.It has been a year already. 
 I wish that they would just cut out the show.' 


Marina


1. Almost, Marina, Almost

Once, walking in the garden by the wood-- so close
Under leaves, the ponderous weight of unlighted leaves 
On trees, I overturned the mandrake root and found 
It'd grown in two; remember now, remember7 One for 
Me, for you? 

0 my daughter 
My daughter 
I have no boat to build. 
Zodiacs must come, they go, I yield. 
There are the seas-- no, no longer. 
Only time to slaughter 
0 my daughter 

Hold my dry hand, lean lean, as the dandelion bloom 
Of skeleton inflates; all is withered, each vine strangling, 
Dangling, collapsed within.All is late; 
Hold my dry hand 

Ice uncovers Icicles and cold lays on to cold. 
Spices of the Orient in my mind take hold. 
I remember now 
I remember how; 
Surgeon, scalpel, suction tube, then a pill for ease... 
0 my daughter 0 

You have bit the mandrake root, does April stir and 
Start in fits?Is twice too much for prayer? 
Layer on by layer, each thought uncovers brain; 
There is no pill for ease of pain. 

The mandrake is an ancient root 
Wearing none butwrinkled suit. 
And now and now and now 

I shall hold your dry hand now 
For I have not held have not held it long. 

Zero may be warmed to naught, my daughter, 
Zero may be warmed 

My daughter 


II. The Gardens

In the shadowed garden, dim
Remembered strains 
Played among the acorn shells, and left 
Dampened hands on the plastered grain. 

Jonquils died in torrents 
That summer, how I regret 
Time's contingency, and Death's. 

We had letdown the curtains 
That sheltered away the sun, 
And shelved it, 
Long ago.The house had tinkled like the rickets 
With the wind, long and orange 
Out of the west Our shadows 
Grew into the trees like years, that summer. 
Our blue hands turning blue, until 
They were the trees and the trees 
Were still. 
 
All the days were beautiful, 
And all the children sang. 
And all around the widening block 
The gossips snickered in; 
And all their blathering, chattering talk 
Could not 
Prove the littlest sin. 
A box is a box is a box. 
Not even the littlest sin. 
 
I might go back outside, given 
Satisfactory incentives towards that move.I might 
Reverse one summer's indiscretions, dear, 
If the picketfence of autumn 
Had not come.And only come to show 
How round the circuit of our fears 
Is expressed in every apple.I might 
Have dressed the dolls with leaves again 
And set upon a stage 
Their small white forms in the white sun's 
Glare.


The Abandoned Farm

All's astir.The slick, sick heat
of vegetating August lights the leaves 
with growth.The upright quizzical, 
Fire-white picketfence rails 
at its own perfection.Even 

the starved copper cock 
twirls and reflects he sun. 
Even the big red barn is actively bleeding 
cheap red paint in gallons 
to stain the soil. 

All day 
the cockleburrs sway and crack 
with misery, there are too many 
in their school; their sheer, high numbers 
the barnyard green. 

The fur-thick, dark-eyed groundhogs graze 
and waddle in the fields like cows 
now; free from shotgun-blaze 
anxiety, they lower their square heads to sup 
on farmers bones. 

Once, 
the dolled-up, rickety barn was gorged 
on spoon-fed hay.Its golden maw 
glittered edible riches, 
pure as a tat, fat duchess and all decked-out. 

The heavy hay 
would creak and rustle in the barn, 
and the land was gold.The torn mouth 
stands and stutters emptily, its innards 
whittled hollow 

by poverty and rot. 

The penny-colored 
weathervane crows and crows in the whistling wind. 
The saw-tooth boundary of the picketfence 
is lost in a sizzling 
sea of weeds. 


August

Unscreened weatherworn 
the doorjamb melts 
into what I remember 
was our private yard: 

The flowers on the trees 
(once red, some white, all 
green) have blossomed 
into leaves sung at noon 
drooped by four. 

The chickadees twitch 
among trunks for pebbles. 
The young birds eat them up 
and eat whatever else they find 
which pleases them. 

By some hidden wind 
they ruffle to wails 
in the usual hollows together 
with a few early leaves. 
Yellow and sun-white predominate. 

These are the colors 
of fullness and wait.But 
somehow my shrill eyes 
are missing you among 
all 
August sways on 
the stem because it is warm 
as flowers go. 


After July

The one cop
cracks his beat, tuesdays, 
thursdays... the tapped cracks blurr into the blue, 
days join years, rim to rim 
a used pile of hubcaps rise 
to topple the sky. 

He lowers his eyes. 
He frets the shiny lower buttons 
off of his coat, in the off hours, 
in a silver-tinged sort of 
maternal sublimation. 
He sees 

his patriarchal, 
moon-sick mom in every 
overripe, mindless bag lady creeping 
by like a bee, down the antique, tinselly street 
the shower blossomed blacker.His mom still hones 
the compact, lunar silverware 

every day at three.Nothing changes. 

One woman runs 
and ages.The black and yellow bags 
balloon around her like a raft.His mother's older. 
The traffic-light mud-dauber dabbles in adobe. 
The sweet air stares and stales. 
Nothing blossoms. 

His hands 
tick and scuttle like stop-motion wasps 
looking for the honey-drop watch.At noon 
the unprofessional, octagonal sunday school 
lets out like a pregnant cat.  The bleating 
bells tell. 

The tooth-smooth 
legs and necks of children 
nod, pollen-heavy and thin 
as goldenrod.He cannot remember 
the ridiculous number of years anymore.The vernal 
season's shorter. 

Nearby some butterflies, 
a handful, hover over 
the midtown intersection parking lot 
of this pin-sized Pepperill village, watching 
the sky-dark cop 
endlessly circle himself, blinking 

their still-wet wings like wings. 


Message Towards Morning

“Hey... shush!Rattle
of the half-starved bird, beak-bone 
clatter and snap of the throatless young, 
cry of the crow, the grossest crow, subtle 
after-echo in the back-wash; 
stilted king-fisher breaks glass, again 
shatter of the placid 
silver shingle of the pond, level, flat, 
beaten down with completion as 
up he comes!The air complex with industry, the shrill 
sound of the jay, oriole, blackbird, cricket-call 
singed feathers in the after-light, 
the pocked, pregnant moon in stately decline.'Just 
quiet down and get to work.”


2 Watercolors of 4 Birds

Jade-smooth the green
Head a mallards defines 
itself its limits 

against the frayed edge 
of a faded 
paper sky 

as together with her he 
climbs upon her 
blue wing 

foot to feather foot 
to feather to 
escape with their bodies 

from 
a scattering 
of just exploded cattails


II The Pintails in Spring

Black and yellow
the 
segmented stalks 

show the winds 
to be 
against them as frozen 

they beat on 
to 
turn the page 


The Spectrum is Discerning

Roses huff out of the afternoon train.
They cry 
At the dye 
Of the blue blue sky:

'Come, 
And we shall fuse you 
Into our red red selves 
Like 
Shot diamonds 
Into water. 

We are dead plain 
As in an empty room the strange 
Echoes 
Of 
Painted tin cans clapped 
Together.' 

Winnowingly, the terrible eddies 
Utter 
Themselves, seductive, 
Against the listening skin 
White 
As a rabid rose. 

 

Herr Professor

The stars revolve on darkness. 
A green moon thaws the black sea. 
And the beautiful regular young women 
       pat and pat their hair 
In anticipation of the spring. 

But none of this interests him. 
He drops his eyes.He has 
'Already read about all that.'


Mendel’s Garden

Ordained by necessity
--- the necessity 
of mathematics--- 

the blossoming sweet pea plants lie 
red pink white 
in rows 

orderly by a neat man well 
placed and spaced 
but not 

overly so the sex 
fused in them 
in 

the modest veiny petals 
center of the 
display 

there are those tall short and 
ones round and wrinkled 
the peas 

themselves encased the ovum 
grown fat with potential 
the seeds 

dangling cocooned in green 
from the stalks 
the stems 

the sepals dried up out 
of the attracting 
juices 

a withering 
revealing 
the fruit 

near these over a few 
feet a simple step 
bending 

ready at hand to put in the seed 
in his quiet black 
suit white 

collar strapping his 
neck hiked up 
to the jaw 

to put the seed 
to bed the 
man 

a cleric who named the traits 
himself dominant 
and recessive


Magnolias in New Jersey

Deep between the conifers dark as deacons,
And near the thawp and clump and utter of new-born grackles, 
And back round the minarets of foxglove like a picket fence 
They slacken their buddings to stars. 

But somehow it is vain, with the bloom of universe surrounding, 
And my feet cold and sunk in growth, 
And the spiritual white and pink-white leaves in bulbs fermenting, 
Somehow to lie and breathe into the upwards evening is vain.


Illness is a Calumny

I want you to know
Every day, twice a day, 
My heart turns blue. 
The shell of my skull 
Blackens to fragments. 

There is nothing not left. 
The tulip tree begins to talk, 
And I begin 
To listen. 
There is nothing anymore to keep 
The pearly ears of crickets from hearing 
What I think of you: 

The frozen shapes of tadpoles quicken 
In the edges of the ice. 
Soon enough, ' 
Their long black minds will turn 
Green with growth. 
And cats will quicken to eat them. 

My body lies to me, sometimes 
Three times a day.


Seeing It Is Evening I Watch the Mill Men
Being Let Out from Work

He breaks the wind with his shoulder.
He ducks into apples for home. 
Or hunger, 
He threads a blackeyed bluejay 
Through his skin. 
He is out of luck.His heels have thinned. 
His long, lonely face 
Sags, the color of a chipmunk's rib. 
His once dark hair is trying to lighten 
Into heaven. 

The effort fails. 
His strong, shy chest will blink 
Into the hard, open slit of the waters, 
Or the sky, 

He tries and tries 
To begin to breathe, 
But, 
The lake is as heavy as buffalos. 

There is nothing left here. 
He starts along the orange fields and 
matted grasses 
For apples.


Cranes in the Back-Yard

Suddenly-- in the middle of what was
the only green and subtle meadow that I knew, 
a dozen cranes or so with jagged wings 
settled their legs in beads of old snow. 

A dozen heads or so with accentuated necks, 
are staring me again, down twenty-four years like eyes, 
and I begin to see;-- they are stained so white 
that I think their wingtips cannot be as black as they are. 

Then, and slowly, their wide arms begin to beat 
until legs like straws let their linkages down 
above the lush wave that presses my throat 
so I cannot think except to gaze at their feet 

not touching the earth the least.


Piccolo: Notes of a Suicide


I. Entant with Needlepoints

Twice I stitched and watched her 
Sewing.The images of the horse and man 
and curling trees were imperfect.

II.Prelude in December

When the snowball diminished beyond 
The circle of my eye 
I was diminished. 

III.Adagio

The sun was a long slow line running through 
Rows of willows shaking their leaves in rows. 
A single green light transfixed the time. 

IV.Minuet Under Glass

The myriad black-headed chickadees flocked 
Through whiles and whiles of a white sky. 
Still this was not enough. 

V. Tablecloth quartet and Mints

The dining room was a room of space 
Holding four minds like circles in squares. 
The meal was vivid with a sauce. 

VI. The Through Nine Panes Bridge

The upright piano commonly lent notes 
To the couch.At once we found 
That the azaleas were blooming.Were red. 

VII.Fugue In Green

Pacasandra on the lawn exchange colors 
Of themselves between themselves, shrewdly. 
Their bodies In multiples are expanding. 

VIII.Wine at the Cotillion

The woman is softly, at night in the 
Dark in the stars, waving her veins at me. 
The quilt is a quilt that is warm. 

IX. Jazz Dance of August

Now the snowballs are falling 
And like moons are falling.And I am increasing 
Beyond my own eye like winter. 

X. Explanation

I once have seen the quiet energies 
Of a world building with the littlest hands 
One thread on a web in the comer. 


Anna, Eighty-Six

 “Oh, is he a persian?  They have a tendency 
 towards deafness.He's alright yet? That's good. 
 He's beautiful.I suppose you've had him fixed; 
 that makes them grow.It's like a plant 
 that's all circusy and wide 
 in the extent and circumstance of its foliage. 
 Ever seen an elephant-ear?Have no roots 
 at all.Half my first husband's breath would find 
 such a one crunched over, in green and disarray. 
 Al 1 headstrong and hurrying to out-race their limitations. 
 I know them.Oh, you have water here!Is it 
 a reservoir? And dammed up to the south?Yes, 
 we caught sight of that on coming here.What 
 an out-bound view!All slow anger turned to slow froth....” 
 

>

Tete da Femme

This lady is dead, I think,
her marble eye set straight 
into the eye of the viewer 
like a target.Her high nose will bridge 
the concept of her forehead 
     like an arrow! 
Her ear is round, and hangs 
as perfect as a cracker. 
Her mulberry lips 
are barely there and are not touching 
the tightly limed forward cut 
of her face.Here the brightness, 
which is too much for the checkerboard scores 
of her scored face to contain, 
meets with the absolute black 
of India ink that corners the edge of the page. 
Definition.Outline of darkness.The light 
enclosing like oxygen 
the rigidly formal cardboard grains 
of the symbolized female features 
of her face, in profile, in 
detail, in the profoundly crooked rivers 
of her darkly commaed hair. 
Just who is she?Tapped by some large hand 
into the tiny alleyways of the gopherwood... 
Squinting for a close-up, one guesses that 
perhaps she was a prophetess.And one sees 
that, at the center of the heart-shaped 
bulge in her head, there is 
a blankness, a clarity, a 
moment of resolution--- 
I Ike on the flat back of the served cure 
of a Moses-pill.Or in 
the carved hollowness of a period 
at the end of a sentence put 
on a rock, There is also, 
in this portraiture you will notice, 
a deep scar running 
below her eye 
       and above it.
 


Wild Azalea Blooming

 Only the test monotone pattern 
 Can touch your still cry. 
 Rival little red necks, little white lips. 
 
 You are unstoppable!Yet constrained in a place 
 From a pure prism hefted and chopped 
 To a block of a wheel. 
 
 A wheel wounding itself outwards. 
 Blooming to death. 
 Little red sticks stabbing the eye, proceeding 
 
 Away from the eye as well.At once. 
 Your bodies, 
 Disposable, 
 
 Are clear in memory 
 To December. 
 Brightly you travel 
 
 Under a small grey wood. 
 Each thin skinny 
 Clarion is color of dolor too.
 


The Bullfight

 The furry neck of the bull is 
 black, the sky a grey in this 
 black and white of a color lithograph, 
 Avant la Pique, the point of which 
 in a blunted splinter does not 
 advance or pretend to be 
 the concentrated nozzle 
 of any future or sequence of events, 
 unpredictable and true as above 
 the nail-shaped head of the matador 
 it tilts in a sequestered white- 
 ness like the bands of his 
 arms the v in his chest and 
 the downturned paintbrush ends of his feet. 
 There is besides this a knuckle 
 in the center of the leg of a horse 
 the picador has with careful aim 
 chosen for the day's events 
 and which is tall and solemn and sure 
 of its place in the scheme 
 overall.There is as well a cape 
 poised black above the well-dark bull 
 like avoid somewhat sheltering 
 the sight of the first blow (which is tied 
 by custom and thought, to the 
 last) from his, In this picture grey, 
 eye.


Melancholia

 Grey, dead-grey & black
 are the requisite composites of this composition; 
 sad Durer had looked too long 
 in mirrors, seen too many vicious invocations 
 of the holy hand upon the plainest blades 
 of grainy growing grass.Poor Durer 
 he has seen too many hollow olive 
 eyes; has stared too much at the imported monotone 
 African masks filled brimming and still ringing 
 with authentic bellowing sighs 
 and horror-filled innocent tears 
 from behind the widening whites of the eyes. 
 Pitying Durer in the savage dark 
 of accustomed thought saw the red in black.
 
 

Hieroglyphic

Delicately
she bends 
to readjust the rose 

its stem 
too thick the petals 
about to fly 

off and shout 
but, having initially 
advanced, 

she 
fails at everything 
the frail limbs disposed 

as before exactly 
everything 
unchanged 

she 
smiles they are 
too beautiful

 

sonnet

When (singing to the silent wide of your
eyes) I find that small almost innocuous birds 
have dealt with the thunderous evening increments 
by shedding their shells (into your eyes) orange 
speckled crying (for to breathe is to die) will you 
my most sweetly taut unstrummable note 
(placid in pride of your calm) will you (I 
want to know) take my new unfolding hands 
spread for a dismal uncommon febuary sun, 
sky dancing in the light of forever, breezed 
with original ironicless laughter, cackling dawn, 
and sew them up with a seamless surgary 
meticulous, as a rose locked away in its leaves 
eternally fruitless unbudded disaster or what?


When Into the Mouth the Death Cry Comes

When into the mouth the death cry comes 
Unamazed and odorless, 
Crammed by the ticking fingers of perpetual crime 
Down the rattling throat to sound 
An agony of conscience in the unshelled ear 
Of too much unlived living 

Then will the eyes start up blind 
And hair sprout hands for the head 
Then the unmuffled will of the stilling heart 
will damn activity, haul up dock to decision, 
Bless the unpaid mind with rest, tell toes to grow into feet, 
Knuckles reverse to blunt, loved palms, 
Shoulderblades dwindle to wings, 
Red ribs uncage to drop dead lust, 
And lagging heart kick all away 
To fall to a faraway sky, 
And all of these be mine.


These Atlantic Letters


1. From Brussels

The clematis in my window winds the wounded birch, and hangs
heavy with rain, this day of days- 
Your glad letter come back to me in the flat black crystal 
of your luxurious ten-dollar ink (bought 
in Brussels, shipped by clinking caseloads 
home somehow through evenings, the fat 
Atlantic waters hissing twice as dark.Will 
these waters burn?The glowing ocean oil thickens 
like a welt.Who can haul your miles, 
vainglorious spout and womb 
of history?Who, who, who?) 
These electric letters fly to reach me like a shock; 
they try but cannot read my white eyes boiled up 
like eggs, And you, in sympathy, writing: 
‘The silence today again has made me see.’

2. In Milan

“Statues rise like specters out of the blank sand
and bang the nose with their black batteries 
of dark pollution-dirt and rot, 
Oh, it's not like living was 
when we were young!Its not the same 
at all.My two beach feet flatten-out to overfill 
our honeymoon shoes, I look down 
this alleyway, past the piazza place I stay, 
and reckon up the centuries.What dewy crime 
or ruby mind cracks this asphalt 
like a face? 0 Milan, Milan, 
your buildings fumble into plots 
like popes shot down by time—you are dying; 
but you still breathe.... All the rest is gravy.”

3. From N.J.

The ragging rantings reach me, from your hand
like a fleshy kiss, lovers in the park 
so much disillusioned they clam their eyelids shut 
and think of Wagner's autumnal, crashing 
ocean music sandblasting out their inner ears. 
Its nerves.The paper that you use, dear, is tan 
and perfect as a Florida dawn; it shows 
to disadvantage the snow-white spiders of 
my hands --- webbing, webbing through your 
thin script; let me link it closer 
to the leaf-work of my veins, bleating 
only to themselves it seems, of late appallingly 
as sheep, I flat-down the third creased valley 
of the New Mexico plains, and read:

4. The Postcard

The congenital hoarfrost moonlight makes
this 3x5 of paradise a jail. 
Its edges catch, and ruddy people shine 
along the sunny beach, the sunny Florentine, 
fragrent with smiles.... 
Dear heart, dear life, you glare and goggle 
before my eyes with the faint flash and upward fade 
of fireflies: I miss you.And you 
dance on toes with skull-crossed death 
against eternity.... You bow & plead 
that your poor dress is stained, and then stand off to stare 
and lounge through crowds, the dying match.The vacationists 
are primed and primped for ecstasy, they 
drop hot hands to a warm salt sea.

5. In Florence

She speaks: ‘One dark night, unjust soul's repose
sunk in a midnight past my midday's cure, 
I rattled blind down corridors, stuffed 
my loud bright watch beneath a pillow 
to keep the silence out (the between ticks tick). 
I danced with mirrors, slept in blinks, 
threaded whiskey like a life-line to my glass. 
I spun our wedding ring to gold globe 
and waited the balance out; how it rang against the stone! 
I cannot think; the one world whirls.... 
The world's pink ears are crammed with speech; 
I, I, I, I, becomes a hollow sound, you 
infect my eye, enlarge to a troll.... 
My bruised head floats in a goldfish bowl.’

6. Near the Hudson

The palisades are golden in this light;
a washed bowl shines, bending heaven 
to its single-serving size.All the green leaves 
have rainbowed out to sea.It is September. 
The worst cold stays forecasted by the grass 
looking over, bending back 
from its view of the bottom of the cliff; 
one's attention's held, these days, 
by some old whittler's shavings as they pass 
and darken in the dew.Everywhere the clouds 
meditate shrunk foreheads into snow; well, 
it is almost snow.... Now it is an eye, this bowl, 
staring like a clock, knowing nothing not its own. 
Little comfort stays here, little goes.

Contents

Sun Song

 Where are you going? 
 Where are you going? 
 Velveteen hills are rusting to silver. 
 
 They grow old.Sweet dews gather and drop 
 Numberless, 
 Then brighten to burn, little caustic stars. 
 
 The rickshaw mantis' kneel and rust. 
 Sadly, they are singing 
 Without voices. 
 
 Their stiff attached wings, the colors of oil, 
 Vibrate, 
 Machete late lawns leap and shudder, 
 
 Taut as an eardrum against you, 
 You answer. 
 You answer. 
 
 Green knees bend and bury themselves, 
 Clean in dirt, 
 New at an acid altar. 


Freezing Autumn Willowtree

 Green, the pure prismatic color
 left its little stalling footprints 
 in the edges of the leaves.


The Change

 Behind a square stucco
 church (where daily there is 
 praying) a buttercup 
 
 lifts crookedly 
 
 its crown announcing 
 by its nature 
 
 the fall.Little 
 singing sacraments droop 
 and drop down leaf 
 
 by leaf 
 drawn to the ground 
 by a force 
 
 one opposite that 
 which pulled the petals upward 
 yellow to heaven


El Gato

 
 Mouth open 
 red 
 as a hawk's 
 
 the pout of sleep 
 limed 
 around the small 
 
 wide eyes all 
 almostall 
 gone as she lifts 
 
 the smooth head 
 seen 
 in no carving 
 
 at last 
 
II. 
 at my shirtbutton blue 
 as a sky 
 it nods 
 
 my 
 red carnation 
 nods 
 
 almost in sleep 
 equal to her 
 vastly silent roar


Polemic

 Cross over, cross over
 Without 
 Utility or art. 
 
 Nothing is of any use anymore. 
 
 I tell you. 
 
 I saw three grasshoppers 
 Sifting on a leaf 
 Until, until 
 Until 
 They had eaten it up, 
 
 I dreamed I was the king of the world 
 And rode the seas for horses. 
 I dreamed I was the king of the world 
 And rebuilt all the churches. 
 
 I saw three grasshoppers 
 Living in a dream. 
 They sat on a leaf, 
 They ate it up.


Visiting

 The Saturday cold rattles like a candy wrapper.
 The thin air 
 Weights my lungs with honey.A blue stew. 
 
 The old ford mourns skyward, 
 Heaving its wheels in circles. 
 We halt so slowly 
 
 It is almost flying.We fall out 
 Sideways; our petals drop and blanche. 
 I am so heavy 
 
 My feet 
 Almost touch the floor.The familiar 
 Fears near. 
 
 We are almost there. 
 The dirty mausoleum squats on the hill 
 Like a birthday.It's so big 
 
 It's obscene.Green 
 Laurels hunch in the corners like shadowy dwarves 
 Awaiting the signal to push.... 
 
 The starched arch, snow-simple, bent 
 Floats above our silly heads. 
 Counting: Two-hundred ten, eleven, twelve 
 
 And my father's father arrives. 
 We glide in ghost-clothes about the grave. 
 This is a family day.The inherited rings 
 
 Click and skim 
 As loves the shapes of hands pass over 
 The deep, square-edged name. 
 
 They rub and rub, 
 An eternity.Quiet. 
 They are finally clean. 
 
 When everyone else has gone blindly, 
 Over the blunt edge of the curved world, 
 Striding like heroes 
 
 Why am I left, weightless and colorless, 
 To stop 
 The flat slat light the tossed urn burns?


Behind 12 Bowie

Canadians lap and settle here through the equinox
Pond rough or pond white, they ruffle 
Skinny shanks in lank air.Indian memories 
Follow the goldfinch.Old mole brown and 
Groundhog grey the arrowheads.Webs find 
The old leaves soft below the Rowan red 
And Oak not.Coincidence labors in the clay, 
Turning red green and green red, at home 
Along the plough's length of idle irony.Poor 
White boring of the dove, And the dogwood 
Its white echo.The placid confusion of evening 
Is on, white on the spread webs, the 
Soft furled soil cooling.Again.


Not Until the September is Past

Not until the September is past 
And the grave dead all lie, unshakled, unburied, 
Alone in the frost's mouth 
(All dying done, all berthing begun) 
And every crooked, ear-marked child is led, 
By the dimming blood of a failing hand, 
To play away from the clock's haunts 
 
And stars are incited to shrink again 
The cragging moon's corruptible sphere 
To less than a pinnacle’s pinched inch of sky 
(Not until the September is past) 
And every weed grows down to die 
Up where the miracle dead were tossed 
In a frozen field gone over to snow 
 
And the cold wind in a cold throat like glue, 
Dying of wanting; and the blossomless trees 
Lift their skirts to let me fondle 
The bark-notched knees of autumn's parts, 
Sold old home of my father's wants, 
Will I catch cure in the cuckold wind 
For inextricable laughter and hate. 


A Mosquito’s Wing Along the Rail

It silvered where it had fallen
where the wind played it back and forth 
and the top of the lake considered it bluely, 
and the man rustled his feet on the porch 
 
As if they were leaves.Every moment separately 
considered the veiny object and drew 
the object in comparison with itself; 
the rail paint peeled and flapped 
 
In those places where it could flap, 
the wind and the lake crusted themselves 
with silver, the wing replied from where 
neglect had lain it And the man rustled his feet 
 
in repetition.


End

Aug 242020
 
 
Character poems of then-current events and personal romantic sonnets
 

 
By Gregg G Brown 
 
Copyright © 1991

Published by 
BLAST PRESS 

  

Jonathan Miller, U.S.M.

"It is night. Date-palms are rocking on the leash 
Of Time, the hurricane, that straddles our defeat 
With two-legged winds, and stalks the dusty town 
With a sheriff's clinkered heels until we're mown 
Down by our ambitions to police the world. 
Tonight the Mid-East's bunkered sandlots lash 
Dynamos of fire into the throttled air to crash, 
On cindered houses abandoned years before. 
The generals' camouflaged tent is staked 
In the vampired heart of our affairs of state; 
Our bloodless motive moves in for the spider-kill, 
Touching each fly-fat thread centered on our ill. 
 
All things are playthings, and the roar 
Of the black ocean here consumes our speech at night, 
Lifting its frail levities in a matchstick's 
Minute light. God knows I was not born to kill--- 
Who grew up in Indiana's tidy wheatfields tilled 
By machines as patient as mothers, giant-wheeled, 
That came sighing with sweet scythes when autumn cooled, 
Keats-like, and the silo's sundial shadow 
Met itself in the empty auguries of the meadow. 
Unhoused thousands are beating to our copter's mill; 
Prayers raise them cresting to their crescent moon 
And Allah's sweet-water paradise filled with girls. 
 
These are God's sufferers and wear his brand 
Of salvation creased in skin and hand; 
Doling out bags of rice and reconstituted milk 
From the throbbing helicopter's side, half tilt- 
Ing into the begging sea of faces, I wish 
For a lunatic's rare absolution of my guilt, his bliss. 
Stigmata almost washed away by weeping still 
Eat into the innocent wrists. Now, at Easter, 
They hold their small hands up, robbed 
Of all that held them, tongue-tied, to earth, 
And rise like moons, balloon-willed, lovely, free 
At last, to their creatured deaths; until we die 
Nothing stops the cresive wanting of our breath." 


Schwartzkopf, Duke of Iraq

"I will go wash; and drown these desert honors 
that stick in my throat. Three weeks before the grand 
defeat of our enemies, I dreamt my tent squalerous, 
ruined lieutenants killed by infiltrating mustard gas 
that couldn't sniff out the winning colors 
of our almighty flag. My aide snored on 
under his moony brow, refusing to wake 
for anything less than the Judgement Day; I'll pass. 
In the wheezing trenches we squeezed off rounds like mad 
in an unending philippic against the damned. 
Dust-erased faces blink skyward from their rust lakes 
of blood, off, on, off, on. 
Now downed in a North Carolina airplane hanger 
and tired of the itching laurels that itch my scalp 
I stare bemused at what our wanting has brought us here: 
Disinterred love scrambles up my lap." 

 

Nixon Now

"Broadbacked noon has come humbling among our wicked spires; 
I came trumping in, Ike's prat-boy VP, 
flipped the sinister death-ace on its head in Laos 
to a vermillioned flush, a cornucopia of flowers 
scissored off by dear Pat for my tweed lapel. 
Coronated by my foreign policy's jewelled accretions, old man 
of the treasons, whispers stitched to whispers, 
I age in New Jersey; grown familiarly bland 
I confer my Ovaltine-sweet opinions on the mass, 
saddled with a politician's over-zealous over-friendliness still. 
Whatever has happened has happened. 
Smooth-trunked Atwater by a humorous tumor felled; 
How many more must wither and lessen? Stopped 
at the bullet-proof pane all day, I watch 
the dogwood whiten and the rich magnolia finish... 
What love cannot conquer I leave to my will. 
The winning children still swing back 
to their crooked papa at Xmas... a few bright, colored lights. 
I am no thin-spined De Sade, adoring thorns!" 

 

William Casey

"Hitler once appeared to me in dream, grim, 
repentant, towing cowed Eva like a swallowed soul... 
a hang of flapping hair shut one demon-eye in, dimmed, 
wrestling with itself, whirlwind angels laughing in his skull. 
We killed him eventually; a few, true things 
penetrating to the innermost. I feel the arrow still 
my brother lumbered from my leg; atop a joyous swing 
I rubbed where its rubber cutting nose had thrilled. 
Our afternoons were resplendent, unhurried, vague, 
as we tumbled as cowboys and indians in an unholstered rush 
killing the shuffling vegetation and lizards that plagued 
our simmering summer patio. They would blink and push 
their low bellies in and out, alien, slow, 
themselves. I wish the doctor would come and kill my tumor now." 
 

Warm Tomb

Dad, high on inscrutability and his unconscious drive 
toward the meretricious, undoes the buzzing crust 
that baked him in place and disinterrs himself to give 
one final, lacerating lecture; weeds crush his memorial bust 
with an enduring, gorgeous green he'd scorn. 
Fearing the CIA and copper Kremlin in his West VA cave, 
his fevered eyes dripped in a marsupial's querulous skull 
as he cradled a shotgun's bucking butt to his shaved cheek 
rummaging for snagged fowl on the waste acres of his estate. 
"Interlopers... Boys, when the world inverts this time 
and the kikes come howling for your heart, nothing will be saved." 
His fat breathing heaved, "buy gold coins." 
What we cannot remember cannot save us. Blinking and appalled, 
I dream that the sun is one of us, like my dad, 
foredoomed, fated, monstrously alive. 
Disasters livened him, the minor death 
of a fly, stumbling and stumbling against the windowpane; 
the gross head all eyes, one damaged eye, limned in light. 
Dust leaps from the stone I skip, dust falls... 
I circle back: dust laps his grave. 


Middle Ground

Abandoned by our party in the garden park 
of Avon, I feel you shaken 
with a queasy stiffness; brackish 
as our garbaged New Jersey beach 
something's rising, radiant-spiked, 
rising, rising, to burst as light... 
Rocketing up from your ulcer's pit 
I ask myself, what is it, what is it? 
O how often have your hysterical, profound 
distemperate electricities hit ground! 
 
Spliced fire shams and sparks 
the matchstick held between us in the dark. 
Now undone by age, the spooky, loved 
hegemony of our plush masonic torch 
putters into mush in the gutted mud 
of the here and now, fading vivant, untouched. 
Still here after thirty remorseless years 
and too weak to laugh ourselves to tears, 
we lean like water against the sand: 
No world will hate what we cannot stand. 
 
Still posting for our finished race 
we stand outlined, awaiting grace 
that creeps against the boardwalk 
and seethes between the planks that cut our feet. 
Once, aching with a haltered wish to win 
and chalked white by spindly dawn 
we cantered to our easy beginnings and scoffed 
Bruno Latini on the loser's green. 
Remember winning? Scarred by crusts 
we cannot forget, that cannot forget us. 
 
Once, swelled by dreams, we labored down 
the awkward, parnassian slope, and stumbled 
crown over crown when we attempted Ararat... 
Religion had us stoned, overloading 
our middleaging ballast, filled 
with stones; they sat soldierly, 
round, white, yellow, white, alone. 
Look at what our childish 
urgent hands have crushed! 
An Atlantis lays buried between us. 
 
When the fatal plane zeroes on my heart, 
faint Fay Ray with cactus drink in hand, 
unerring in the air, amazed, alert, 
will you, love, move where I hurt, 
or like the gruesome Gorgon sprouting hooks 
spit useless fire still, caught in the traffic's brawl? 
Conspicuous the loss of consciousness.... 
rehabilitation the final joke of our crowd. 
Concentrating on the unmediated throb 
I think of you, myself, eyeing the prop. 
 

Election Day, Nov. 7, 1988

(A dying New Dealer looks askance at the changing of the guard)

"All night the grating visions. Curled 
in my electric bed against the prating arias of wind 
I watch my country go tiptoe towards the whirl 
.... The President's domineering, branded hip's unpinned 
by his eight typhooned, bleary years at the mast. 
Our older brother's younger rung squat-thrusts to the oarlock, lashed 
by the gold oar snapping from his grasp, spinning in quicksand... 
One Yalie summer nicknamed him, The Antidote. 
Unplugged by my heavy coronary, I lay lapsed, small. 
A tongue-red heart comes bleating like a wart 
sawn-off in the intern's dish, anxious to clasp my held-out hand... 
The anesthetist drops his mask. Mailing in my vote 
I weep for America's wrong, unflagging heart 
marooned like rescued Crusoe in the hospital." 
 

Edvard Shevardnashze

"Lenin in his tomb is white and weary. 
Before the world exploded into shards 
His voice was the bull-roarer, and it soared 
In waking syllables above the dreaming dead. 
Life's green branch is snapped above the boulevard 
Where we march shouting, and the stick 
Is in our hands whose slurring fire flamed 
The Kremlin's egg-shell spires back to ash. 
The ruling house is rubble rucked with tars; 
Tsars' bones cluck where dinosaur skeletons are. 
 
Smooth-skulled tanks from one-eyed turrets stare 
And move out like mastodons from their simple pits of ice, 
Rolling up the capitol with a wish to kill and eat 
The man-shaped offspring that teethed on mother-meat. 
It is incessant springtime now, and a rash 
Of bursting apples cracks the wintered bough 
Stunned by expectation and by prophesies; 
When I resigned Gorbachev to his statesman's fate, 
Telling off the congress with a blue face, 
What, love, rattled to the empty chute? 
 
Now we saunter and talk by the renewing river 
That sighs and shifts and corkscrews through Gorky Park 
Where the ferriswheel is shivering to its height 
And Moscow skaters wobble new-foaled, released 
From their eternal moment when Stalin stopped the stream, 
His mustache powdering like a giant Jack Frost pleased 
To see his humid hometown freezing into dream. 
Churches hold their quiver of new crosses up to light. 
Marooned in the humming populace of the Platz, larks 
Disperse with the bright bells beating like a gun; 
 
By starred asters starred children lamb and race 
Past buoyed parents walking, and cannot wait 
To see themselves staring up from the water's face. 
Dripping workers grown cold in soldered light 
Rivet the future's extinction together bolt by bolt... 
The Comintern's cragging inmates stare and scream  
Like storks in pilgrim plumage from their bobwire nest 
Topping the charring stacks; how long will stapled feathers stick? 
When the atom bomb blisters and their faces melt 
Before the torn waters of the burning lake 
What will rise in ecstatic showers to dissipate?" 
 

“All those who in roaring triumph died…”

All those who in roaring triumph died 
Must live in us, and, living, must suffer still 
Some bright ache of sacrifice enforced 
By a doubtful will. Aim no spade at that 
Chaste composure gods guard in forgetfulness. 
Remember the Fates' forgiveless testament, 
Nailing Prometheus to his crag at dawn 
For high hubris that was man's first sin; 
Or nodding Narcissus, winking at his twin 
Among gold flowers loaded with their own sweet dew, 
Until beauty like a surgeon's knife 
Had sawn him out of life to adorn a pool. 
 

When we lie with the hot worst of our beings spent

When we lie with the hot worst of our beings spent 
And may with the tired betters of our natures speak 
Conferring solidity to what had been lent 
When passion's cry had come amidst our squeaks, 
How can all our honest talk supplant the boast 
Perjured lust had disinterred with sighs 
Or gird our tropic with an icy coast 
Who had viewed spare reality through panting eyes 
That embroiders fine over grievous faults 
With threads of desire, spurring false shapes from dross, 
By peck and pull of the seamstress's wanton art 
Covering our many minor shames with one gross? 
When we into a twinned couplet twist our spans, 
Our bodies' rhyme is more than others can. 
 

Nothing is in a little space confined

Nothing is in a little space confined, 
And, once, confined, is finished in its effects; 
Not so the love that your eyes divines, 
In speculation out-vying philosopher's packs, 
In dwelling on what has no inward bound-- 
The sovereign rarity of a single soul-- 
Blessed with magnifying power to catch sounds, 
Showing your dimmest whisper true to all; 
That love which your eye to all eyes shows 
In universal application spills, 
Healing sick knots of hate that in loved bowers grow, 
Erasing from men's sins their stain of ill. 
As there is no staying of the sun by obstinate night, 
So there is no caging of such love's light. 


When, all insecure, before howling mountains

When, all insecure, before howling mountains 
Thrown, I make my breviary all of pleas 
And pull a dark choir of fears from one tone: 
That you forbid with "No" my devoutest "Please." 
When begging poorly after with my poor bowl of want 
Some thrifty grain of your rich rice to eat, 
I repeat my fervent graces for that sup 
Until all my kneeled body a trembled flare 
Of stark uncertainty resembles, 
My hopes all poured in the concentration of a cup 
That I might from the spices of your eye unpent 
Some seasoning of affection by my heat. 
But whether it is a matter of soul or bowl, 
The sum is this: from your least grows my all. 

 

My silent love is ripped by warring thoughts

My silent love is ripped by warring thoughts 
That troop to rebellion from my crowded heart 
And from my tongue's enemy camp cry all my cause. 
Armies in my veins raise blushing fires 
To burn me out of hiding towards your tender smile. 
But since I am so modest shy of light, 
And like the gloomy groundhog room in caves, 
My dark eyes may never touch your pure sight 
Or caress with lurid roll the motive of your sighs 
Which like a bonfire from space, neatly tucked 
Beneath quilted clouds of opposing rain, 
Burns obscured, or lies damped to dross unless 
Your dripping eyes these fired words drift across. 


The wasteful sun wakes blinking in morning’s weeds

The wasteful sun wakes blinking in morning's weeds, 
Stoking bland buds until they burn as leaves 
Adding shade while the sun must spend his seed, 
And end generation in a spilling breeze. 
Crowded near the generous golds you smear 
Greedy plants, like myself, stand wiped by light, 
Offering hungry faces that all in green appear 
To feed on molten surplus of your beams. 
Do not with banker's measure judge too hard 
All those who live in interest of your sight; 
Such scales would swing me too lightly into clouds 
And judge my weighty love a zero dram. 
Paymaster of all my joy's fees, with me descend 
Or cycle skyward, where all our wages end. 

 

Time has set his eating stamp on your kind face,

Time has set his eating stamp on your kind face, 
Infecting more deeply what each day's renown 
Promotes, until he has all smooth grace consumed, 
Raking acid trenches where flowered fields had blown. 
But you shall be revenged on what thief time can take, 
For though every flower dies that in April had its head, 
And woodpeckers mark seconds while they make, 
And blossoms burst, their shriveled petals shed, 
And mountains wash eventually to sea,  
They have nothing of what your soul intends--- 
For effortless beauty cannot from you leave 
That have in mental gates stored beauty others lend. 
In your mind revolves an uncorrupted rose, 
As in a glass ball, whose petals cannot close. 
 

Out of time’s cramped oblivion let

Out of time's cramped oblivion let 
Your gentle nature shake glad tomorrows 
That goes all honied now with sorrow 
And walks in shrouds of sighs blaspheming heaven 
That ever spiked such bitter in your palette 
Which only youthful sweetness had leavened. 
Do not tread in anger at the skies 
Which melt and change indifferent to men 
And all their waste of importuning cries. 
Return to dewy looks of love again 
And let the sad house of death, draped with pall, 
The merry carpenter delight reframe 
And with each love-look build new chapel halls 
Arched against the tart recurrence of your pain. 
 

Who can mourn what time has stripped bare

Who can mourn what time has stripped bare 
And left standing with an empty purse? 
If you cannot breed sighs for fleas, by time's char 
Defaced, and drained, weep not for me, nor curse 
That my descending bier, like the locust, 
Must hibernate some days in winking earth. 
My long shadow still scuttles on the crust 
In these crabbed figures you now rehearse; 
As long as men use some ounce of breath for speech 
My weight will not be all in bones dispersed, 
But may by their moist utterance some white heaven reach. 
All things in all things somewhat mingle; 
Death, whose wreath is thorns, but compounds the tangle. 

 
 

Let me not drape with too much dignity

Let me not drape with too much dignity 
The little sinful wishes of my will; 
For when I come cajoling from the wanting sea 
That beats within me, my dripping wishes make me chill. 
But even so, all sogged with indecisions, 
And trailing everywhere dark seaweed thoughts, 
My desires throng past watery hesitations 
To overpress your protesting shore of rocks. 
Then the cold squid that wraps my tepid heart 
Contracts, urging me all my wickedness retract, 
Who blusters lack-breath still among your parts 
While my inner sense eyes the sea's retreating tract. 
So it is I have come to love too all-sudden 
And with sighing whim walk backwards, begging pardon. 
 

When love’s swelling wound is by conscience pricked

When love's swelling wound is by conscience pricked 
And all the propping stilts like lily stalks 
Are with comic's timing out from under kicked, 
What is left that may be bandaged by our talk? 
Attraction's balloon, which gave us mild rise, 
Has had all its static power neutered 
By our cross looks, and no new-issued sighs 
Come lowing from our bellows here abed. 
Our tender wide swaths of kind regard 
Are stapled through by compelling argument 
Until we, bloody-fingered, but prop shards 
Against the next assault on our separate sinking tents. 
Still, when I feel you lying here, I think 
There's fire in us yet to swell our loves 
And all our rubber war of hatreds shrink. 
 

Have I not, laden with my melancholy

Have I not, laden with my melancholy 
Dose of liquid dreams, poured all out at your want 
And gilded laughter on my lips' disease 
Til your lips Midas' taste? And have I not 
A little nation of desires spent 
In the sovereign country of your thigh? 
Or the fission of all my atoms burnt 
Like a penny candle, extinguished by your sighs? 
And have I not, the gold of owning love 
Out of my pockets picked, made towards you 
With all the winking signals of a delighted ship 
No matter what tars in my ballast moved? 
Still I'll burn my tars, and my weightless body wreck 
If you'll still prove a catching coral for my wrack. 

 


Although you shrink in all the world’s commend

Although you shrink in all the world's commend, 
My eye, being so bound below, must see your state 
Exalted forever, and in lisping wish hear commands, 
Training all my weak powers to stand as your prelate. 
Although you wish stern winds in changed motion blow, 
Or face themselves, and in opposition end, 
They shall bend and stop as your desire goes; 
Although you wish time's ruin to suspend 
And keep vital death inactive that yearns to kill 
Or erase all your age's scars back to birth, 
Each small wish shall be the everything of my will, 
Overturning Atlas and his tipsy earth 
By my modest course; for what your least dream has said 
Speaks prophecies to my ear of lead. 
 

You had grown quiet in a snowy field

You had grown quiet in a snowy field, 
Stood a little near the fence, did not move 
But led sleeping flakes on your blushing tongue to yield 
Their bodies back to water, misting love. 
How like those little crystals, though in large, 
My solemn wishes harmless fall on your magnificence 
To dissolve in the huge waters of your marge 
And, losing all themselves, add nothing to your sense. 
For you are more, in your silent warmth, 
Like constant earth that wears seasons for her veils, 
Changing summer green for autumn's gaiety,-- 
More constant, more true, more everything of worth 
Than the fretful melts that touch your least detail 
And must, with touching, the seasons of their being interchange, 
Losing their winter dignity in your kissing spring. 


You into every raging ache of nature

You into every raging ache of nature 
Extend some modest drop of placid bliss. 
Have I not seen the self-conflicting features 
Of some close friend melt to joy at your sweet kiss? 
Have I not myself myself reviled, 
Meditating bruises in a moody wood 
Where mild leaves hiss seeming accusations 
And all my discontented soul moved hooded 
By low-flying thoughts, until you stepped brightly by 
Whistling secret smiles from my black shards? 
Each good that thrives steals some good from you, no lie. 
Until you stooped in grace, with leaning eye 
Peering from heaven into my sad case, 
And turned all my wrath to froth, I was waste. 
 

Sweet delight that perishes on the hour!

Sweet delight that perishes on the hour! 
How many more, to amend your faded score 
Of graces, must here attend and pass? 
Cakes left at Diana's virgin temple cannot sour 
Nor marching corruption force that holy door 
Blossoms have stopped up; those flowers are of glass- 
And sacred plantings cannot die. Although sore 
To go with you, and not one extra empty minute 
Be commanded to rehearse, I must die 
Now sometime after rarest bliss has left 
A lonely globe abandoned by delight 
Where birds twitter riches to impoverished skies 
Dumb of answering song. O, look, the light 
Is lashing westward once again, extending night. 
 

Bronze eyes that stare unmoving at the sun

Bronze eyes that stare unmoving at the sun 
While living glances wince, can no more stare 
At that which dances here beneath, and runs, 
Shouting dying cries to the deafened air. 
No sinking eye can raise re-lauded 
What went hissing down, no monument of tears 
Fountain forth what sadness mixed with water. 
Memory must her crowded chariot forbear 
And carry nothing, until statued grief 
By gradual time has her banded sands dispersed 
To stand no more; those distraught features lapsed. 
Distemperate art but paints a shadowed wreath 
Not real roses, nor can pinch dull clay to breath 
As spent as Adam's, and nothing near his worth. 


Prometheus Bound

"Do not think my penitential silence pride 
Or arrogant stubbornness. It is not. 
No, it is a consuming meditation 
That works in me when my mind considers 
The subtle hurts that load my outcast state, 
And of how in past time my estimation 
Showered ignorant honors on my jailers, 
Gilding their crimes before their doing of them. 
But enough; of what your hearts know how should I speak? 
Listen to mortal suffering,-- how I 
Spied them fumbling with their helpless wits, and helped. 
It is a tale briefly told. Not to scold 
Erring man, but to show how much his stature's grown. 
In their uncouncilled sight first spread vain webs 
Of woven pride that gave far-seeing judgement 
Close cataracts, obscuring heinous crimes. 
And into their young hearing they had poured 
Not mellow summer songs gathered from the air, 
But stuffed deaf ears with brays of their own praises. 
They were not men, but instead resembled 
The shapes we see in dreams, mingling all. 
To their burrowing lives I broke some light 
That had been darker else. Like timid ants 
They lived and ate, and kept house in foul caves. 
Neither stars of winter nor the presaging scent 
Of springtime did they know by counting moons, 
Nor was laden summer by signs revealed. 
But every matter was pursued in ignorance, 
Full of wrong causes, false heads and false tails, 
Inverting logic until I came and gave 
Risen stars names and mapped their difficult settings. 
I ferreted out the art of numbers 
That put in the simple scope of man's discretion 
The control of nature, and lettered rude mouths 
With speech that made but oohs and ahs before, giving thus 
Discursive memory its mothering talk 
That nursed the nine. By my gentle bough 
Beasts came lowing to the yoke and plow 
To perform with docile thanks hard labor 
Men laid idly by. I made them love the rein 
Who move lordly chariots with prideful steps. 
And from the burning tongues of gods brought down 
Stolen fire 
All these fool's arts I made for man alone 
Who can't glue together some salvation for himself. 
But when gods threat, saving devices perish 
And cleverness holds up stumps, not hands, to pluck 
This downcast body from its tortured state." 


Among Fugitive Hills

Caught in sweat under a May moon's baleful eye, 
Trembling in his stripes, the rapist's case 
Twists against him: cops are rooting in the cleft 
Where he has hid, and has bloomed his mortal joy; 
White was ever the webbed habiliment 
Of innocence, of youth not yet betrayed 
By aching age, the body stretched and splayed 
That had known quiet concentration for a toy 
And stared down blowing hours at a spider's weft. 
A spotlight loiters up the cliff in searing zigs. 
 
Red sirens in a burning forest moan, 
Stage left; another crooked mountain over, 
Another tragedy. Our killer in the brambles 
Mumbles curses, thumbs a furious bee 
Out of his dirty ear, and spits against night clover. 
Scratched like Christ, but cynical-tired 
As prosecuting Pilate, he must pause and puff, 
And stain the winter hawthorne that upholds a spray 
Of indifferent spring, swelling the sublime 
With idle odors under a star's demurring haze. 
 
But round again, like a repeating hymn 
Flashed the indicting needle of their light 
Pinning him, an ape-man up a tree, pinned 
Him who thought to leap and bite and still escape. 
Every downstream salmon dreams the ocean's home, 
Their first mistake. The manhunt's gripping snare 
Inches in, a time-lapse bullwhip zeroed on a tiger's nose, 
To ring an empty hawthorne hollywood moonlight spots. 
He'd fled nimbly bleeding from the hot 
Pursuit, but left his card; in an oozed gash 
Of one snapped limb, it read: "Fred, Illusionast." 


To A Young Man

I 
Close up the grave that called you idly by 
And bid you linger who, lingering, must fall. 
Although death's embassy out of tulips blows 
And spins fine madness from the spider's crowded eye 
And purls about the dusty adder's tongue 
Hissing salvation, and is by soft promise pressed, 
Do not listen; Ay, although it reason  
With a multitude, and fix the staring crowd 
On the last things, and make each one a ghost,  
Out of straining vapors traced, do not;  
The mournful tones of those forgathered tongues 
But make a solemn moan of bone to bone. 

II 
First stitch love to every circumstance, and sail 
The round horizon through, sunset-stained, 
To flat heaven, which holds all joys in one wide view... 
Then melt scars from the very hardness of all life 
And be resolved to a contented water-drop 
Before you question death. Was there ever sound 
Of trammelled corpses startled laughing from the ground? 
Although you tear at eyes decayed, begging see, 
And from dead tongues crave lavish answer, 
That can never come; those hearts are sunk through bursting ribs, 
Unmanned by living wind those lungs, that once 
Shouted down the busy sky's testament of thunder. 

III 
Walk a humbler track, kiss pilgrims' dust, 
Set your laurel down to shade a sleeping bee, 
Or leave some lonely sacrament in a hilltop wood 
Where it may go to seed in the depthless shade 
And sprout new sanctity to untutored wilderness. 
But first shake off those saddest looks that weight an unwiped brow, 
And lift clear smiles to those now clouded lips 
That indulged love, and from passion's unwearied kiss 
Grew frenzied, to touch, and stretch, and touch again, 
The final mystery with whitened lips. 
Then drown the hop-toad sorrow in anonymous wine, 
Let afternoons unravel in the sun, and rest, 
And drowse in each moment's uninstructed joy. 
 
Ay! Throw stones at your accusers' mirrored scorn 
And see yourself perched in their curled frowns no more. 
Life was a happy adventure first, where dewlaps sang 
In an undiscovered dale in secret Arcady 
Where grass was higher than our eyes. Once again, 
Though embattled powers and misted storms profane, 
Race to meet that child cringing in the din. 
 
[ NOT USED  II ]
 
When a man stares in his face, 
By rich deceit and intricate age undone, 

Teach the spirit that is your rich inhabitant 
To foster lilies 
For your portioned bed, to sleep and wake upon. 

 

Kennedy’s Inauguration Night, Nixon

 
"Eisenhower was a rube, I know, I loved 
to watch his pinned medals glitter against the sun, 
out-shining heaven in our low human eyes; 
even a deaf man hears the exploding power of a gun 
that's pointing at him. So I heard 
that hissing voice escape from a head bald as a tire. 
Unshaved in my happy rush to greet him at ugly dawn's 
each initiation, I kneeled and scraped 
the dog-lickings from my master's unwashed plate, 
revelled in the white-house grease, and after that 
displayed to my warm house-mate the tired, flat 
unscolded coating of my obsequious tongue 
unleavened by any pentecostal haste, or arching stab 
of truth's spirit, that catches fire on the worst dross 
to drag a grand thing back to its humble embers 
topped by a smoky spire. I would brood my ruins. 
But I knew how to keep my acid grumblings down. 
One knew what one was and what one wanted to be. 
But how did one know what wanting was worth? 
Have I closed up too much of what I ought 
to have left seething open? Was I too-much a mouse 
waiting for the lion's roaring chance as I peered 
out from my walled hole? The drain-hole 
that saves a whelming lung could suck my zest; 
I crest the world's wash, and watch 
the lancing TV-eye mount my blubbered burn, an Ahab 
on his wild whale, ready to needle me open again 
and sip my ambitious innards into its downward din. 
Around me grin and whiten the papers' lettered teeth. 
O Horatian mouth, drooling sibilants, o 
ocean hunger raising the rage of insistent seas 
that grind all my lifted fakes of paint to one grey truth, 
please forget me, a shrimp among your inks, a tired tale 
to regale dry old maids with, not a storming nation.  
After my quiet time I shall cut flesh 
to tailor my new suit with, all golds, 
to implore the masses' adoration. Eh, Checkers? 
so, absorbent nation, swear in your Kennedys and Johnsons; 
i swear, before the world has spun its globe to mush 
under a forgetful sun, I'll come back to win, 
surprising the reeling competition with a smile as thin 
as a knife-edge, and grind 
these snowy pediments under my heel to dust. 
But for now, turn in your watered sleep, bury me 
far back behind the advice column, or cramped ads 
for toothpaste. Sleep, o recumbent nation, 
while dreams are cheap. When teased into the arena 
by Fate's fickle feather once again 
and treated traitorously by our desires 
until we long for the approach of the lions, 
lying in the dusty sun, we listen to 
our overdue bruises mumble invective against us." 
 



End

Aug 232020
 
Aug 232020
 
Aug 232020
 
Jul 162020
 



A play about the words and deeds of Revolutionary Hero Thomas Paine.

GREGG GLORY

Text File
Web Site



"...our honored flag... asks no monarch
           to support her stars...."

    --- Philip Freneau, 'On Mr. Paine's Rights of Man'


****


Top^


THOMAS PAINE


In protestation of his time
He found the human mind divine,
Found the talk that made it up,
Spoke aloud, and would not jump.
"Clear words beget clear heads."
Clarity in life, clarity in death
Is the best man has to hope or dread.
In protestation of his time
Man completes the balance of his rhyme.

To rip at the savage face
To tear out the tyrant's heart
Was his only mellow wish, when once
He tottered at his infant start.
"Poetry's the soul in the hole
Of all our deluded union."
Never again to read in dread
What any briary tongue
Or lashed heart had said.

A pauper's son, a poor man's daughter
Live their fused lives upon the waters,
Bless the vision that lifts them in a trance
Beyond their haunted circumstance.
A steady voice, a glance like Fate's,
"All the million reductive deaths
Of a single soul in resistence
Find their measure, and their truth in Time
In the balance of a rhyme

Not otherwise."

Top^




SCENE ONE

[PAINE spins a globe outside of FRANKLIN's London office.
Books are scattered all over the floor.]

PAINE
Spin, spin!
Iron ring I am whirled within!
Arbitrary midget measure of my unconfining infinite!
A span of bands all flicked from flat
to this uniform globedness to ring my aching head
whose every thought is centered
on the latitudes you winningly bend.
Dear iron thing pinged from iron ground, rent
from flatness to the shape of Earth one man's brain intends,
you laurel my lauded humanity when
to my invented center and gravity you tend.
Spin, spin!
Those laws of nature that great minds reveal
may in yet greater imaginations strip repealed.
Only my blue eye (and my diamond eye within)
give credence to the luminous architecture you pretend,
flowing shined lines
through space and time
to end where they begin.
Chaplet-circlet of all the circumnavigated seas,
it is in my wide eye you thrive
and give me the image
my imagination divines,
plushly hover to deliver there, in picked increments
the measure that I had made back to me again.
Ah ha!
If cold-hearted Columbus knew you
through and through
I doubt that I'd be splayed here to beg
(an impertinent impatient menace to my own peace)
old Benny Franklin for his lettered word
to push and passport myself through one half of you
from the old drab world toiling here
to the Edenic new whom
that Italian's ballet-tighted stride
had mistakenly discovered. Meritorious maritime error!

[Inside FRANKLIN's office.]

MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT
There's too much talk of America for my comfort.

FRANKLIN
And not enough action for my satisfaction.

MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT
You know full well, Dr. Franklin, that your American
interests are represented in Parliament by your worrying
English brothers.

FRANKLIN
Yes. They worry our poor stag of freedom
to the poorhouse by their taxes.

MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT
Well, there's not exactly an exactness
in the extraction of your tithes, it is true,
but there is an approximate proxy of your solemn wants
figured in Parliament as near as our charter may permit.
Realistically, Benjamin, I don't see that changing any time soon.
This policy of ours of virtual representation serves
all our colonies around the mounted globe. Soon
the British flag-pole shall be her axis;
what you ask for is uneven, unfair,
and would knock our other more peaceful provinces
to rash action by its example.

FRANKLIN
But we are Englishmen like yourselves, and not
a conquered land. Surely that difference penetrates.
Our skins are as white as the flag's X-ing stripes.
We're blood and blood through and through.

MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT
Our wisest heads here at home have endorsed
the virtual representaion policy. And besides,
you are free enough in America.
What's the point of making trouble?

FRANKLIN
What's the point of being free?
We are virtually represented, you say.
And you say well. Would the King be as pleased
with us for nearly paying our taxes
and almost obeying his laws?

MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT
I have small doubt that it would be considered
a most treasonous rebellion.

FRANKLIN
A king is under an obligation to those
he proposes to rule, no less than those ruled
are obliged to him and to observe the laws
they make in common. You see my point.

MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT
And I shall take my leave. Proposes to rule?
He is our donned soveraign. These words of yours
deliver a treasonous treatise. And I, for one,
would not have my trunk separated from this crown I wear.

FRANKLIN
I spoke only, friend Terrence, as is my scientific habit:
in hyperbolic hypothesis alone. A junture of conjectures
conducted within the safe parenthesis apparatus
of our dear friendship, Terrence. I hope you do not
take me too amiss, sir, or ferry it too far astray
and deliver my words' import into the hellish harbor
of another's ears, who may be less disposed
to levy my enthusiam with his love.

MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT
Trust my silence, and my self-interest.
Goodnight, friend.

FRANKLIN
As benevolent friends let us always part
until these tight-stretched times tear us apart.

[MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT exits by far door.]

PAINE
Ah, Chris, expecting old India and getting America,
were you pissed at the switch
the whirling world had slipped you?
Ah, Chris, Chris, you knew, you knew, didn't you
that the whole world is in the mind
and no place other;
and of the world, and of that mind
I am the lonely citizen.

FRANKLIN  [Entering.]
A jake jenny will spin as pretty, son,
and you might even do
some more useful woolgathering then.

PAINE
Turn a profit or turn the world:
which majestic enterprise
do you choose to pursue?

FRANKLIN
Few revolutions ever rotate to a profit.
Those that do most often mis-aim their circles
and round on nothing worthy, or had too low
and ungolden a stock to start with, sir.

PAINE
Human happiness is ever the right and highest aim;
and doesn't that slap of happiness
demand an infinity of wish lived the minute
we experience the weird, willed, insistant rush of it
wired alive from the prison of skin?

FRANKLIN  [Laughs.]
The blank page in the annihilating brain?
Maybe. Sir, I don't believe we've had a proper introduction.
I'm....

PAINE
Propriety be damned! Perdition it!
Have all hell environ its vetted
shalls and shall-nots in walls of fire.
Propriety, manners, graces sociale, the plume
of grooming, and the pander of please-easements:
junk all to a rump-superstition
trying to tell me by poxed signs how to relate
in the uncreated minute
I share with my glorying fellow-man.

FRANKLIN
But what ever should I call you, sir? Mr. Blank?

PAINE
If I really gave a damn about that...

FRANKLIN
Even my pussycat purrs to his syllable. Right Rog?
Unnamed is nihilism, for we must name to know.

PAINE
Well, sir, Sir won't do for a start.
Neither Lord, nor Your Majesty, nor You Jackass,
which my ex was so pricker-burr fond of.
All too stratospheric for my loving muddiness;
and yet, to say honestly, not high enough
for my fired-high Babylon-in-the-sky desire, either, sir.
Sire... has a ring to it....

FRANKLIN
But... I sense a hesitation in this gestation.
Beasts and kings both sire offspring; it seems
a wide enough label by all accounts.

PAINE
Wide indeed. But inaccurate when applied to my amours;
all have ended without such tissuey issue, you see.

FRANKLIN
Perhaps I'll call you rootabaga. And perhaps,
like a ruminative root,
you could cull your tongue a minute
and raise a squalling brood
by its intermediate burial.

PAINE
Point taken. I'll laugh aghast at myself
and flap about gashed to uselessness
if you keep me in your wit's crossfire longer.

FRANKLIN
Point taken. I guess I must wait contented
in the bathing aftermath of your compliment
for you to spit out your alias.

PAINE
Honest Tom Paine, you may name me,
if you wish to follow my mother's custom
who had it, as she puts it, from my dire father.

FRANKLIN
Dire...?

PAINE
A grim man; internment improved him
(his only writerly quality, now that I think of it).
Prisons and genius are linked by locks
stronger and stranger than any heaven's Destiny.
And, well, he did save me from the Navy;
that blasted ship went all hands down and had to crawl
on their water-buried fingers to hell.

FRANKLIN
Pray tell.
And are you yourself a writer, sir, uhm, Tom?

PAINE
Given to scribbling. Blood and ink
charactering forth the teeming memes
of this spade's-worth of pink brain, and all that.

FRANKLIN
Well. This has been most amusing, but I'm afraid....


PAINE  [Looking around impaitiently.]
Now where in bloody beavered double hell
is that fat bastard Franklin? He's kept me
waiting here in his rump room hours now,
all afternoon the sun has blazed through those wavy panes,
and there's not a tract in his pick
I haven't raped over my spry eyes
a million times before, an annoying hoard
of dead words clapped between these reamed boards.
I myself am near as dusty, and near as dead.

FRANKLIN
Well then, Tom, let me be an Adam to your ignorance
here in my habitable Eden, and name myself:
Dr. Benjamin Franklin, at your service.

PAINE
Blimy. I never met
an ingenious fellow as fat as you;
usually, they're skinny as cadavers
and rude to boot.

FRANKLIN
You seem to fit like a snug glow into your own
indandescent description, like a wick
nipped into its tallow, Tom. As for me,
I've decided my girth should mirror, not mask
the chubby depths of my inner resources.

PAINE
A plummet-line down the bellybutton to the soul...

FRANKLIN
And there you've got my spiritual and intellectual measure.

PAINE
A veritable globe unto yourself, eh?

FRANKLIN
The ladies like a fellow of some substance.

PAINE  [Laughs.]
Well now you've turned the coinage upon its maker
and whacked the spitting image home with a vengeance;
my trim economy is disastered by your brutal wit.
Still, I've never met an opponent I haven't bested yet.

FRANKLIN  [Pouring.]
Scotch and soda?

PAINE
Ay.

FRANKLIN
Health, Peace, and Fraternity.

PAINE
To the survival of the ideal in the real.

FRANKLIN
An interesting toast.

PAINE
I always toast that. Nothing else exists
worth getting drunk about.

FRANKLIN
A champagne extreme, it seems to me.

PAINE
Life's lace and ashes, Doctor, roses and dung.
I like what I toast better than that flat
Quaker oat bread I was raised up on.

FRANKLIN
We're both Quakers, then.

PAINE
Civility, insistent peace (but not a any price),
a solemn or wondering longing for God, yes,
by those totem tenets shall I keep,
and expurgate the speakers from my picked text;
winos, mostly, more interested in ass-sniffing
civil authority than in living up
to the bold moral obligation to treat
each reaching individual as your soulful equal.
Such cowed cows!

FRANKLIN
An upright stance before both man and God;
and no superstition warps the stature of your bones.
Highly commendable in a man sent
to myself for commendation's stamp.

PAINE
I cannot take a compliment while I seek a favor.
I'll take this as a taste of your liquorish taint.

FRANKLIN
Squarely said. Do you have an ample sample
of your writing? A quillful will do withal.

PAINE
A sample pamphlet's on the table. Written on behalf
of the King's excise men, of which I was one
haranguing his Highness for a raise.

PAINE  [As  FRANKLIN reads.]
Maybe here in England we're a little bit clearer
who have less spavined freedom from the powdered Parliament
than our water-separated neighbors, and so I'll not relent
from tugging you a bit nearer health by my stitches,
which these bitching words you pull at
by your nickering lip in fastidious judgement, are.
America's a right yummy ripe prize
the mincing king in his house-robe has sworn to squeeze---
scouting the palace for yesterday's newspaper,
   his shoes a hurry
of velvet on velvet while his ministers mangle
the masterful quadrangle of his royal foreign policy;
But when he with his fey ringed hand, almost a glove
of golden mail it is so richly ringed, enrings to wring you
with every sort of constricting blockade and strangling tax
don't say that I didn't warn of choking, even until
I myself did croak! And then your theoretical, heretical,
unEuropean Britishness shan't stay his envious, pretty mitts
but more merely spike the dregs with a tough clump pulp,
soon enough swallowed as a single undissolved sweet
in his gargantuan majesty's gargantuan gullet.
You'll rebel, we see that plain and clear.
Now, you folks won't say as darn much, that's clear too.
But when the itching squeeze arrives,
most intelligent types on this pitted isle surmise
(and not without some sour pips of bitterness)
that the reaching King will stretch and find
an aching fist of hawthorn thorns adorning
his shilling-supple grip, and not a lazy goose
or pioneer-reared American turkey on the table
hankering to honk:
"Where'd ye like yer golden eggies, Majesty?"
nor any docile dove cooing full eagerly
and baring a plucked pink breast to put
a bit of neat meat on his heavily buttered table.

FRANKLIN
An awful willful quillful.

PAINE
For a mind to hear its thoughts,
               they must be said:
and no one's howled it loud enough before:
my human loves move and near compel me
to root and roar in ramping brashness for your cause,
which, even if you don't see what that is as yet,
yet still it must be shouted about, and louder shouted:
for America, for Progress, for Humanity and me:
listen, my bespectacled aquaintence: INDEPENDENCY!

FRANKLIN  [Shaking paper.]
Quite a paean to procure a pittance, Paine.
A love-libretto to Liberty that might inspire a riot.

PAINE
The drug of love never slavvered me to much of a lather---
but Liberty!--- Well, I'm her most adoring whore.

FRANKLIN
I'll write out a note. Take ship with this
and find a printer's apprenticeship
at harbor for you in my beloved, brotherly
big-time backwater, Philosophical Philadephia.
Here's my impress. Whomever you deliver it to
will know its trueness in that colonial city.
Come. Take it.

PAINE
Thanks!

[PAINE exits. Outside office door.]

PAINE
No reason for me to keep middle-aging in England;
to woodlands wild I hie,
and to pastures new retire my ire!

[PAINE begins to whistle, then sings.]

PAINE
    Cap'n William Death was of bitter worth
    And he sailed aboard the Terrible;
    A crow their flapping emblem was
    And flamed down to the bitter seas.
    For defeat came blowing in French Vengee's sail
    Under clouds confused as a bruise:
    O the dead men's storm-breath was terrible
    Under clouds confused as a bruise.

    O Cap'n Death was of bitter worth
    For when the weather and cannons were wroth
    He sent his unpaid men ten fathoms down
    To collect their coral crowns.
    Beside their chattering skeletons goes,
    Serene as if in the sky,
    The burning bodkin of Ol' John Crow
    Who fluttered high but now's below.

    Black brother Crow's flap warns us all:
    For as ye rise, so must ye fall.
    Dead men's storm-breath blows foul and used
    Under clouds confused as a bruise.

Now to America I wing,
Of America I must sing.


Top^






SCENE TWO

[PAINE enters with a fresh copy of the Pennsylvania Gazette.]

PAINE
All language takes some stain of ill or good
from the character of the man that yaps it.
In my own zone of rights I write and knight reality,
and kneel to no mental soveriegn but the muse imagination
I rum-reelingly pursue. Come, blood-potent rum,
and serve the prophetic office of a tired Tiresian tit,
reveal to me in this minute's less some more consuming All.
Come! attendant angel or ministering harlequin
to the splay water-palace of my mighty-tided heart!
Overwhelming Fate's one gospel of 'Obey,' spill to my glum gullet
and trash the fabulous furies' fang-gaped destruction, come
and in my pleasant dreaming take up a torching seat,
for you in molding fire all shall choir 'I am free!'
and I shall spatter out the language to make that freedom ring.
....Ah! Argh-oh how I am spun to dumbness
in this walling world that prisions me!
Here evil ministers jangle unreachable keys of speech,
deny me paper and shout down my rising voice;
through the dawn-dashed bars they hack at my words
and unstitch my life-lexicon to mere mumbles.
Witness well their degredation of-- of themselves!
They steal my speech and claim my saying as their own,
hollowing out its virture by their rotten lives.
How shall my hard-held honor this dishonor sustain?
How renounce this attack on the very sound
of myself, the very soul of my talking enterprise?
Prised apart and pitted empty, my words are spit-spattered
away from their durance-resistant usefulness
and let to loll unacknowledge in the gutter
of common discourse. My words! A told tool
I would not trade away for the nothings
so plangently proffered me by nothings.
I walk and talk these Philadelphia Gazette steps,
round-robining all day all the old news-of-the-day
with these current estimables, a smashing
cash crop of the red-nosed best of America,
merchants and others with enough free time
to pay their way to freethinking like me!
Here's the meritocracy, paying enough
to buy the public opinion away from those
who tax it royally to their blue-blooded side.
Pennies well spent! Their wary copper
buys golden souls that would offer themselves for lead---
and some day shall--- some day soon, too soon,
mark my history-honest words. I'll tell a tale  [Shakes paper.]
will kill some men.... Damn, the things I say!
Half the time I don't know why I say 'em;
half the time they're nothing but all that I've got.
What will my penny-a-day words pay me?
Let my ripping talk unstitch this trans-oceanic union;
it is a challenge to roll a world on one's tongue, non?
My loves have disappointed, and my eyes all are maimed
to see that kniving inhumanity until they are too much cut
to look a moment longer dry, and must perforce
weep out a ruin of pure blood on the blood they see.
I feel all a bear, and would tear a thing apart.
Here's the coffehouse where all the future stife and rule
of our not-yet-nation is avidly debated, and yet
through some causeless niceness is left to languish unpursued.
The noble word finds not it noble counterpart
in honorable action, and all lies undone;
we speak and spat of self-governance, who have none.

[Enter FRANKLIN.]

PAINE
Come, old tongue, let's talk a new union
into its existence by the brashness of our wish.

FRANKLIN
Paine! Paine!

PAINE
In the ass. In the ass. I know, I know.

FRANKLIN
Oh, really now Thomas, I was just wondering
how you were getting along here in the city
of brotherly love. Not quite the debate pit
you're used to.

PAINE
Much more so actually. Many fine talks indeed.
But if you mean, by how I am, how goes the cause
of insect-winged locust Liberty (how many years
since Athens first heard the wings!) well then, I must say
the locust is bursting through the ground in Concord
and Lexington; just yesterday as a matter of fact.


FRANKLIN
What in heaven's name do you mean, man?

PAINE
Read it in the Gazette, and you'll see soon enough.

FRANKLIN
Have some shocks in store for us?

PAINE
Just honesty, Franklin. A common enough trait.

FRANKLIN
If you say so. I'm on my way to our coffeehouse.

PAINE
Ah, yes, where all you continentals discuss everything.
I think I'll join you.

FRANKLIN
Here we are.

PAINE
In, in! What're you waiting for?

FRANKLIN
Anxious as a slaver with his unsold load of darkies!
After you.


Top^






SCENE THREE

[PAINE and FRANKLIN enter the coffeehouse.]

ALL  [Variously.]
Benjamin! Franklin!

FRANKLIN
Popular as ever, aren't you Thomas.

PAINE
Gentlemen! The continent has shouted out loud
for Liberty, and strikes at the chains that bear away
our taxes and our freedoms. And the first heart-blow
has landed in Massachussetts!

ALL
[There is a general outcry at this news.]

DICKENSON
The man's a tear-sheet specialist.

PAINE
There's a lady or two who might attest to it.

DICKENSON
His news is no news.

PAINE
Which then must be good news too.

DICKENSON
Would you trade wits with me?

PAINE
I'd not have your wits with a pound of gold.

DICKENSON
And if you had 10,000 pounds you could not buy one of them.

PAINE
No, for there's not one of them to be found.


JEFFERSON
Of all the noise and bother, man, spit it out!
What've you got under your tri-corner?

PAINE
Hold your horrors, and your tipsy cups contain
in steady hands while I my steady tale relate.
Listen to me, breathe all silent, and follow
on subtle steeds of imagination while I ride
to a distant dark that's yet too near our hearts.
No tall tale do I trip in here to you to tell,
all grenadier and gnash, no not so tall as they are,
nor as viper sharp as a Redcoat snaps, all brass
and splash and flash, but merely a minor story simply told
in amiable note, of small acts and large hearts
where a simple standing steady has effected
what all the bravado of words never could.
Men of the hour? No, not so grand as that,
but of the minute? Yes, they'll
          stretch to that extent
and be remembered as they have named themselves:
Minute Men.

RANDOLPH
Isn't that the Massachusetts militia?
Those old groaning fellas that put
their earlier steel to riotous trial
against raping Indian raids and those
French incursions of years ago?

ADAMS
Yes. And they've kept up their drumbeat,
the ancients,-- and the youngbloods beside 'em,--
putting away powder and blasting balls against the day.
They weekly drill their assembly on the town green
"at a minute's notice," as they so baldly claim.

JEFFERSON
And the Sons of Liberty all call from there,
their terrorist pranks and wild high times
making the ruinous incursion of the Brits
a laughing matter as much as anything else.

ADAMS
I swallowed all my light laughter the last time
they rifled through my havoced house in Boston,
and now grind all my guffaws to grist.

PAINE
While we all dreamed headlong on our pillows
in pleasant Philadelphia yestereve, and of shooting
heard only the hooting of the rustled town owl
or the low growling of a dropped locked-box
knocking the cobbles, men awake in Lexington
were laying about their harrassed ears with fast hands
to stopper-up the deadly bombast of British lead.
But wait! I do not want to jump the story,
confusing conclusion and lead, spiking titles
with the weedy inference of an afterword,
but shall lay instead this narration in one row only
that corn shall grow by corn in serried succession
and we all reap its meaning at once.
Well you know that Concord is the provisioning-house
of precious gunpowder and hard-caught musketballs
for our fierce Northern friends in liberty
who look to disengage the English Gage
from our Boston's harbor where he's sunk at anchor,
bottoming out our hopes of independency.
Well, that Gage last night had aweighed anchor
and shoved his dumb humpers into longman rowboats
to swish the blue inch on our maps
from Boston proper to the peaceful Back Bay swamps
(see page two of your Pennsylvania Gazettes, gent'men),...

[The assembled company all snap thier papers open to page two.]

PAINE
...his gross ranks breathing heavy in their bishops' hats
and tack pants, faces moony-garish and powdered,
squeezed cheeks carmined to set a raucauous red
to the parade red of their dandy red coats,
moved in uneasy union against the giving mush of marsh,
sucking away the calm silence of the night
with each bootblack boot's approaching gasp.
Who among them, in their defensive tenseness,
hunched into the long round hour before dawn,
regretted their intention to leave defenseless
their outback colonial charges by destruction
of Concord's hidden charges? Who among them knew
that in quiet Lexington lay a fuse to ignite the night
and out-firework all the stars that shined on them?

ADAMS  [To FRANKLIN.]
The garrison's active; this is a solemn business now.

PAINE
They approached the town with the unwiped mud
still clinging guilty on their soles. And then,
on the minute, and at the trial telling of a bell
a racing Paul Revere, pacing Prescott and daring Dawes
set clanging at the redcoats' coming on,
some few men assembled on the town green
exchanging nervous grins and greetings
cheated of their normal charm and pleasure.
And as those few stood shouldering difficult guns
a reasserted quiet fell from an empty sky
from which, it seemed, God's face had turned aside.
And then those brave few heard a heartless haloo
ranting anarchic through the rumoring wood
and the soul of each man-at-ease went bell-wild,
ringing each steady steeple to splinters, or nearly,
and yet each man still stood his minute stilly
to look on coming ruin with the same eyes they used for love.
Useless monks spend their closeted lives in sackcloth
righting their minds for the divine, but those 80-odd
knew more of all of God, and what God might
helpfully trumpet down to our skunking circumstance
than a million such widowers of miracle,
prayering self-abasers crooning to high heaven
for just one more fix of some diviner substance.
White heaven was in their mustered hearts, which red-eyed
Redcoats marched from the scarlet sea to bleed
into a single lake of blood.
These Minute Men, assembled mixed upon the green
whereby a red flood of near-enemy troops
must pass and parade, mustered softly in quiet pre-dawn,
waiting for the landscape to rouge aroused
           with their future. All alert,
and steady-still as ever their starting hearts
might make them, they heard the trooping song:
     Sam Adams and damn'd Hancock
     We'll take the bunch and clap the lock!
     And watch our leaderless colonials scurry
     Back to our royal order-- in a hurry!
     Every Englishman cry ho! Ho!
     We are the law where'er we go!
     No more talk of rights and shit
     When Sam Adams and damn'd Hancock are in the pit!

DICKENSON
How was the conduct of the troops? Did they
brandish anger, or seek simply to keep the peace?
How lawful was their goal?

ADAMS
Tell us a story we can live within. My taste
is not for such a bloody tartness.

PAINE
I'll sharpen your ardors to the spur
with the whetstone of my story, and nag to neighing
our native horse's sleepsome flanks until they hang
in bloody flags of victory!

DICKENSON
Yet, how was the conduct of the troops?

PAINE  [Pointedly ignoring  DICKENSON.]
Maximum courage mustered then!
Eyes straight, backs clicked, men sixteen to sixty
who knew that their stiffness here would put
a backbone in their new-made American nation
stood steady and at ready when those Redcoats
bled into their sight. Old Jonas Parker,
spavined captain of the ticking Minutes
kept his roll-call of boys at regiment-ready
against the bright influx of Major Pitcairn and his men,
neither giving offense, nor yet bending his neck
to the black boot of wrong law; steady
for themselves more than against the troops.
"Ye devils! Ye rebels! Lay down your dour arms
and disperse! Space to your waste acres!
This is Britain, and I am Britain's hand,
you the smacked rump of incivility," cried Pitcairn,
and Lexington's men, outnumbered two or three to one,
did not pretend to obey his voice, but waited
with civil incivility in their paitient ranks
until they heard good old Jonas Parker call "Dis-
missed!" and, patting each shoulder as he spoke,
bade his men each one to "Go on home, son,"
with a "We've taken our stand for today, friend,"
or "no God's peace'll we break this day,
nor yet obey the slimy blackguard limping by."
Tis a point easily missed, but vital:
no deadly offense was taken, nor none given
as our men walked slowly toward their homes and beds
or out to reap private fields, arms shouldered
and not thrown down, a rifle each by their ears,
and no offence given, but all a slow obeyance
of their own chosen man, Old Jonas, and none other.
And then it came! The glory of this story!
An empty shot snapped apart the infant dawn.
Calamity! Heart-wrench! Confusion! Death's
hovering covenant that seals all pasts and
pollutes all futures with its bloody baptismal
made his harrowing entrance upon the scene of retreat
and came raining vengeful down on that innocent crowd;
none knew the source of that discordant noise,
all were witness to the shrapnel result of it.
Bodies crowned the common ground; gaped corpses,
chipped limbs, shouts, distortions imposed by force,
wild, angry, bitten faces, lightning arms,
trigger clicks, astonished blasts, after-effects
of numbing thunder, displacement of peace, fists
ramming renewed shot into a musket there, beside
a dead friend's final look or dying stranger's howl,
the British line all a pall of gunsmoke
as if in angel's wings they were enshrouded.
A deadly start has this adventure of the heart.
Let none shrink from it! Our men fell there
blanketed by defeat, and swaled to their final home.

ALL
[Various expostulations.]

RANDOLPH
Do my ears hear truth, and that
from the long-faced scoundel Paine?

PAINE
My tongue does bear a true and fruitful report.

RANDOLPH
Fruitful is it? And bloody hell shall be
our orchard. Your words grow from a cannon-mouth.

ISIAH
Yes. We shall make a strange fruit a hanging
from a gallows-tree.

PAINE  [Throwing his gazette.]
You can read about our eventual victory that day
on the overleaf.

ADAMS
Victory?

PAINE
The British marched on to Concord, destroyed
some spoil of goods, a trifle of shovels, and some other
warlike items, and were greeted shortly after
by some hundreds of our "armed farmers."

ADAMS
And they fled Concord?

PAINE
And with a heavy cost. Two-hundred sixty-three
British were picked off by our harrassing fire
between wronged Concord and their Boston barracks.

ADAMS
And how many lost we?

JEFFERSON  [Reading.]
Forty-nine.

ADAMS
It's a miracle. Against crack troops....

JEFFERSON
And you think we can carry this fight
against the King?

PAINE
Who can know what is to be? I see not;
although my hopes rise with your honors.

DICKENSON
Yet how was the conduct of the troops; did they seek
a lawful goal or no?

PAINE
Their conduct was wounded,
their argument was death, and their goal
our sacred Liberty.

RANDOLPH
I don't know if I've the stomach to digest this talk.

PAINE
Have you a stomach then to eat the King's balls?
For it is your self-assurance of free days
that he cuts up on a golden platter you have paid for
and then feeds to you.

RANDOLPH
We are all free Englishmen here.

ADAMS
The Parliamentary system of government
is the best in the world. Peers speak
clearly to their causes and interests, and often

against the king. Are we without redress in this?
Surely our safety clamors somewhat in their mouths.

RUSH
Was it to the cause of our safety and future
that British muskets clamored at dead Lexington,
as Paine here reports?

ADAMS
I don't rightly know....

PAINE
Every evil law penned and passed against our interests
sped to our shores from that paid den the Parliament.
Oh, they parled our parleyed desires into their purses;
there's not a man among 'em who wouldn't sell
our birthrights to their bidders for one shelled-out
shilling! A damned evil bunch, I say!

FRANKLIN
Overstating the case, perhaps, but this notion
of virtual representation hardly seems to hold water.
Don't you agree Adams?

ADAMS
I do. To say that our rights and problems
are under the care of those who live in England
who have similar rights and problems, is the same
as being in England and voting for members of Parliament
ourselves, is well, as my Dad says, a stretcher.

PAINE
Virtual representation is actual tyranny!

ADAMS
Well, things are not so desperate as all that.

PAINE
Intolerable!

FRANKLIN
All our honest merchantmen have been hard hit
by these recent taxations and exactions,
these duly lawful Acts of Parliament.

PAINE
These Intolerable Acts impose the King's misrule.

ADAMS
The Parliament is the best system of government
yet devised by mankind.

FRANKLIN
Surely, though, not perfect.

ADAMS
Nothing is as perfection would have it.

PAINE
Let us take our chances as they spasm at us!
Democracy's a caffeinated wind in our choiring quarter;
let's let an able nerve convince arms to move
and not a tongue alone. Our dearest object
forever is and must remain: INDEPENDENCY!

DICKENSON
Revolt! Treason! It's death for us all by your say-so.
It's not for honorable English boys, as I swear
we are all, to knock so glimmering a thing
as a royal crown into rabble-democratic dusts.

RANDOLPH
I am not ready to dissolve into revolution yet.

PAINE
Resolve, I think you mean, for all's now certain
that had an airy unrealness to it before.

ADAMS
But what method of independence do you propose
beyond the bloody dawn of anarchy? How can these colonies
hold together for a common purpose without a common center.
This is what the living symbol of a monarch provides.

RANDOLPH
He's the father, we his children. Let's let
our loyalty prove as royal as our parentage.

PAINE
That fucking rex-hex is a veritable Saturn of paternity.
He eats his spawn in the gross pleasure of his table.
All monarchy is crime, and steals its air of authority
from the soveraignty of the common people, who can only
consent to be ruled. That consent denied, all is crime.
We have no voice in Parliament, yet must obey their laws.
Gentlemen, help! Are your reasons so impaired
you see not your chains? Am I not to see
where I stand on earth, and make conjecture
of my future state from a concern of self?

DICKENSON
Is not our soveriegn our source of soveriegnty?

RANDOLPH
To kill a king is no good work for those
born beneath the throne.

PAINE
Kill a king? O to crush a dirty worm
is every infected party's part. To cough oneself to health
the irretreivable right of every sick man
in protesting protection of his natural vigor.
And tyranny is a foriegn ill indeed. No thing for men
on this untried continent and infinite land, all future
from our shores past green-infinite mountains, to... where?
We cannot see to the far end of this paradise, sirs!
And would you be the wasp-coated servingmen
to dish it up as if it were a new sherbert
to midget empery's appetite? O tell me you would not
docilily serve such self-serving vanity!
What faces shall we wear so that our souls
start not back appalled? Look to India
if you would see how the King will treat us
by slavish domination: sell us to a corporation
for eons of unendurable lackey-work.
Under the elephant's stupid foot! Not a place
for me, at least; I'll resign my part on earth
before I'd crimp my free white neck
beneath such a ton of gross fat greyness.

FRANKLIN
And killing the king was never seen by me
as necessary to assure our own liberty.

PAINE
Even a moronic ox knows that once he's thrown his yoke
he needn't trample out his guide-man to stay ramping free!

DICKENSON
A moronic ox!

PAINE
He eats his children! Lexington was a snack, and he's
a starving robber defending his filtched appetite.
What could be clearer?

FRANKLIN
An old man gnawing on his pile of bones.

PAINE
Thirteen piles of bones, make no mistake!

FRANKLIN
A strong image, Paine.

ADAMS
A painful one. Do display more taste, Thomas.

RANDOLPH
The king has promised to hear our late sent
ambassador with his good ear, and overview
all our penned petitions with a nearer eye.

PAINE
That eye of his put out Concord in the dark;
how shall it see honest parlance in its home-hole?
Of his cheap, deaf ear----

ADAMS
Paine, Paine, Paine, Paine, there is no
easy touch of pleasure in this tough talk.

PAINE
If it is in the hard touch of truth to hurt you
take the wound stoutly, and put into your endurance
conviction to hold those bruises honorable.
The pain we take for the convictions our best mind
judges right enhances the goodness of their ends,
and with this right end in view the intermission
transmutes itself to a bearable necessity.
Pleasure herself is a sort of raunchy taunt
when dandled from a master's open toy-box, and not
earned by a more decent labor of our brows and backs.
A Dad's treat to trick his ranting child
to a returning calmness, and then an ignorant sleep.
But pain, if deep enough applied, can hack at lies
and leave us without those false comforters
or with none but that rough comfort-burr of truth:
on such a thorny ground I would barefoot go
and discount the cheap tinsel promises we have now.

[PAINE exits.]

RANDOLPH
Can we come to no agreement or cordial compromise
on these impending matters?

RUSH
And what of the dead at Lexington and Concord?

JEFFERSON
I wonder if they'd be pleased to know they died
in the spirit of compromise.

[JEFFERSON exits.]

DICKENSON
Independency! Really!

FRANKLIN
Our old lives lie extinguished by a fiery word.

RANDOLPH
Shall we make adventure with all our lives and loves,
even unto the death, upon the thin subsistance
of a word?

ADAMS
Let us make our banqueting hearts eager to eat up
the roaring employment of our days ahead.

[PAINE and JEFFERSON outside collide with a PASSERBY.]

PASSERBY
What do we have here? What's this?

JEFFERSON  [With a warning note in his speech.]
Paine....

PAINE  [Blissfully ignoring him.]
A moment, my friend, when speech and circumstance
might intersect, and the right word tell all.

JEFFERSON
Well. Now independence is on the tongue.

PAINE
Soon it shall be in every farmer's hand
and each rough-and-ready plow-black hand
shall be flexed alive against the tyrant-ranting King!

JEFFERSON
Well, I don't think everyone's exactly convinced yet.


PAINE
Oh, but where the able tongue purloins the sense
long enough for uneasy conscience to make
its essence's slippery entrance, why then
how long laggard will the deciding mind remain behind
that sets its sharp fence of reasonings against
any backward step? This trined tongue of intent
but once insinuated into the clear air here
where our most honest thinking occurs
overturns an eon of inherited predjudice
and flatters us to action.

JEFFERSON
Revolution occurs first in the minds of the people.

PAINE
And words alone may make the mind revolt!

JEFFERSON
Total treason.

PAINE
Common sense.

JEFFERSON
Paine....

PAINE
Are you ready for the revolution?


Top^






SCENE FOUR

[The Rush household. PAINE is hunched over an apparatus, intently.
RUSH is at a second table.]

PAINE
Back when I took the book at the Headstrong Club,
obnoxiously orating on my dual theme
of free and freer, I never thought I'd race to a Rush
who collapsed history's wide actions to his narrow minute
and then decided to make that pressured minute EXPLODE!
Oh ho! I've homed in on the Homer I adore,
into American image has the Greek passion passed surpassingly,
willful Iliad, all fight and farce; that was the book
the most ornery, obstinate talker packed back home
from our rum club there in pederasted England.
How can you hear a man's ideas clear
when all he want's is you to tiddle his slumming bum?
Here the air's freer, even the gal-pals I've got
would sooner nail me for my abolitionist views,
and hear them articulated through and through,
than dwell adored in the moony blues of my open eyes.
They turn my ocean of appeal into a puddled pond
of "whys" and "why nots"--- defending deafeningly--
and deftly!-- each of their own articulate points
with finnicky pricks as razor-exact as any man put forth.
Rush! Rush! That vile white thing, spin it here.

RUSH
I've measured it to the grain, Thomas.

PAINE
Against the grain were better service in our cause.

RUSH
I've gotten enough splinters trying to get this damned...

[PAINE lights a short dry rush upon a tallow and inches it towards
 the apparatus.]

PAINE
And now...

[A loud blast, fire and light stains them. BETTY rushes in, with
 needlepoint.]

PAINE
Ha ha!

RUSH
We need to run a confirmation trial.

BETTY
What is all this noise? You and your songs, Mr. Paine, really!

PAINE
Music it is dear lady; the potent pop
of your own soma-dose of freedom, madam.

RUSH
Betty, you'll never guess. We've probably got
a home-source of gunpowder to gag the gaggle of Brits
clipper-shipped to liberty-clipping port
in old New York.

PAINE
A practical means of resistance.

BETTY
Resistance? Oh, like that slow glow
that goes along a spiral wire
because its fighting the shock-circuit of electricity,
like Dr. Franklin showed us that one time.

RUSH
Uh, yeah, I guess so!

BETTY
Nice. That's got some potent potential for that handsome,
non-spurious, supposed future you reference so sweetly,
I suppose. Maybe my granddaughters in that then
will reel alive in the freedoms that you scribe, Mr. Paine.

PAINE
Miss Rush, your brother and I have been systematically
eliminating the apparent obstacles to the inevitable
separation of the United States, if I may so term it,
and heather-buried England. That is all.

RUSH
I'll be damned-- uh, pardon me sis, if that ain't ALL.

BETTY
And do you think this swivel-switch from hitched
to ditched and unhitched inevitable, too, Benny-boy?

PAINE
I'll make my glad-handed geopolitical appeal:
The interests of two such mighty continents cannot go
forever together. Nature's stitching plates pull apart
all such useless causes in havoc and catastrophe.

RUSH
Volcanoes and earthquakes are the makings of such
opposite energies; their spumed fumes increase the splendor
of our sunsets years after such upsets, and that's a sign.

BETTY
So now you believe in signs, brother, whose medical studies
seek to have the physician's hand rain tender cure
upon itself, opposite the stupid superstitions
back-land indians chant and leech-hacks quack at the corner?

PAINE
The coming hail that'll separate us and England
shall be in a maiden's mittened mit minted in a trice,
a housewifely confection of saltpeter, etc.
playing the displayed hand of raging nature
on the timescale of one human mind's design.

BETTY
And how will you pay for your halo, Mr. Paine?

PAINE
In bliss increments, and laughing all the way.
How, dear Miss Rush, will you dividend your sorrow?
No thing in nature is sad that follows
and fellows its natural qualities.

[PAINE hunches back over the apparatus as BETTY and RUSH talk.]

RUSH
Let's pick unlocked snoring Pandora's
sweet locked box.

BETTY
         Would you midwife chaos
out of so infolded a coffer?

RUSH
And stand a panting paterfamilias to a punchy Paine?
For shame-- if I would not!


BETTY
Hmmm.

RUSH
Sweet sister; think of how all the world would unfurl
in that stolen moment's triumphant freedom.

BETTY
Hmmm.

RUSH
The blood of Concord is on our souls!

BETTY
The colonies in congress assembled have not yet
resolved for independence. Indeed, they seem more willing
to barter back King George's oppressions
for some few tax concessions and call it victory.

RUSH
After the story Paine told everyone today, you wouldn't
talk like that, sis. If you had heard it, felt it.

BETTY
Would you rush to war all alone
my imploring little brother?

RUSH
I'll race to it!

BETTY
In childhood you were ever an utter terror
and leapt to grow up to my mark upon the doorjamb,
crying, "I'll be bigger than Betty, ever!"
As, indeed, now you are. And I had washed you
in the cradle, and given you all my light-touched cares,
and tended to you every way-- no matter!
You still would raise up your eye at me
and say, a very presumptuous seven then,
"You are but a woman; I will be a man,"
as if that made all the difference.
As, indeed, it has. For you outpace me every way
in the world's affairs, and take the stick
to idiocy, where I may merely, indeed, I must
creep contented to crosshatch stitch my sayings
and put all of my wry commentary, all the luster
and insight of my rich story and view-point
into needle-pointed pillows for your big feet
that have battered back home at a flat run
from high deeds indeed, wherein (or where-out, rather)
I had been by my sex excluded.

RUSH
But you are a woman, sister, and all
the revolutions of the earth cannot turn
that fact about. What do you think of him?

BETTY
He's a rude man, and a strange.

RUSH
He's a great man, and right when all of an age
lavishes itself in wrong opinions.

BETTY
A kingly man.

RUSH
Don't say that, or he himself will blow
before ever another report of powder sounds.

BETTY
Do you not now note how that he hears us not,
but is all by his fluid mind engaged awash
in the high-tide flooding of his destructive pulse
whereby he sees a world engulfed; and yet he sings,
and that not humbly and to himself, but loud
and tunelessly. Has that hanging face of his
ever tied on a smile that was not a one
tried out in high irony, a sort of victor's ribbon
of sly teeth grinning his awkward opponent down?

RUSH
There is something in a man's part to love
that which sparks some friction in its giving,
and thereby's not too slickly conquered.

BETTY
Indeed, he is a great contrarian,
and takes it as his pleasure to be opposed.

RUSH
And yet he'll answer you point by point in argument,
broadsword aside his million rapiers how you will.

[RUSH hands PAINE something for the experiment.]

BETTY  [Aside.]
I'll give his wits a trial, and spot out
the color of his cholor with my brightness.

PAINE
Thank you, Rush. There. Now we must wait a minute.
Now, what were we discussing?

BETTY
Why men must make war on their common sense.

RUSH
Like that soused Davy Rittenhouse who failed to perfect
his skyward-aching inch of telescope from his couch?

BETTY
His Orrery accomplished the opposite,
downing downy heaven to the ground.

RUSH
You can peer at the Plieades from a squatted perch
and still reach pleadless your two finger's-worth.

PAINE
Say, rather, that he and I raise man into his sphere,
and there see celestial fire. For man's all vision,
a heavenly eye widowed to the earth,
an interplanetary planetarium of one.

BETTY
And what of India, Mr. Paine, what vision operates
to manacle that subcontinent in so white a vise?

RUSH
Everyone knows that its simply appalling over there,
all lice and infection, and worse, and more;
this sick world itself has how many untreated sores.

PAINE
Let's get black Sam in on this one: Sam!
Samuel Lemuel, alert, arrive, at once, speed,
hoist aboard, hop up, jump the gun, jam with us,
spike the volley man, and get your ass in here!

[SAMUEL enters, stands in solemn silence by the door.]

PAINE
Listen.

BETTY
Again, what do you think of the British errancy
in India, Mr. Paine? Is it an experiment
in increased slavery-efficiency, the turn
of mankind on man, a lesson in whips
and a pungent moral on productivity,
sprung all awry and a-wrong, or is it a thing
more simply evil in its derivations?


RUSH
They really do clobber those people over there
something awful; the stories that pour from there.

PAINE
Is it really much worse than the charmless oppression
a moody husband may in law dagger upon his wife?

RUSH
The white Rajah last month put twenty men to death
for disappointing his wife at her afternoon tea-taking.
The relatives of the dead men were hard-put
to pay their burial fees, since before killing them
the white Raj had fined each man the sum total
of his back wages to purchase the repair of his wife's
"injured tranquility." Can you imagine?

BETTY
Don't have to, quite obviously.

PAINE
No more barbarous analog of man's inhumanity to man
do I know to shout about.

BETTY
Is it the worst I've heard, or felt on my flinching skin?
I couldn't honestly say.

PAINE
To honestly say: it's such a treasure.

BETTY
Wifely obeying, sisterly sashaying,
is there not to be more of me than the female means
to some redoubtable, spouting male end?

RUSH
Sin, sin; to so self-slay and self-say so.

BETTY
And yet I'll still be the one to cook up
the skunking gunpowder at home, so you wild boys
can be out and shooting off your guns. Hmmm.

RUSH
Why don't you write it up, Paine? Put out plainly
why American and Britain should part ways?

PAINE
Perhaps I'll start. I foresee a day
when the tripartite freedoms of 1), America from Britain,
2) blacks from the whites, and 3) women from
the scourging and scouring positions, will occur.
A good day. Let's purge the scourged. Why can't
the spastic rest of humanity see as me, and know
the limitation on the freedom of one consciousness
claps chains about the rest? Severe delimitations
of the honey of one-one-one-i-oneness. Why the output
of every nation would double on the morrow
if every slave hand and female back could see
an honorable profit in their own actions,
ain't that plain?

RUSH
Sounds like common sense to me.

PAINE
Common Sense. A good, solid Scot's title.

BETTY
You're an alarmist. Always shouting wolf
when most folks don't feel that bad off.
It's a comfort-level thing, and not much else.
This tissue of issues tears to nothing
when pressed to the pins of daily affairs.
This talk and bluster, what's it ever accomplished?

PAINE
Then let's be precipitate! I'll call all the hail
aghast from heaven onto our current crop of snotty
not-problems, and crush the grain until all's level!
An Alarmist? Yes, I like it. Alaruum!!
Unshell the clarion bells in carillion tones,
each note echo-honing on its brother tone-- oh ho
what a mastery of symphony would America then be!


BETTY
You want to be under the thumb screaming bloody
murder awhile, then you'll see-- most folks, well,
if they're not in hell with you, they don't
give a damn. When you're in a coma long enough
you get inured to the hurt. Worse thing you can do,
sometimes, is raise the hopes of the injured.

PAINE
Well, Samuel, you've been silent as Pylades
and cool as a Pharaoh;
ywhat's your take on this?

SAMUEL
Seem Mis Betty got de view o' de oppressed.

RUSH
True enough.

SAMUEL
Ain't no easy thing living out in dese times
gots everything of yourself shackled to another
his words switching you every way which and back
running your life around an' no respite
no water-break on dem dere hot backbreakin' days.
Over your own shoulder go your eyes, instead of front,
to see what the future got in store for you
at the mad hands of another, no wife-hands there,
no chil' touchin' a knee you can keep, no folks
or other love-thought guiding the master's hand
or tempering dat man's any act; damn no humanity in dem things
got all twisted about some who-knows-how!
Your eyes all lookin' and no sass passable
out ov your mouth no matter: damn, the things I give
jest ta say my mind right out once afore I died.

[PAINE has been busily re-doing the experiment.
A loud blast, fire and light stains him.]

PAINE
Rush, our hypothesis is uncannily and without con, confirmed!
We've got the unlocking formula for cheap gunpowder
sifted from shelf-available ingedients! O pretty Betty
and damned Samuel-- you'll run free and rack the world with cries
of all-ecsatic exultation unassailed soon enough!







SCENE FIVE


[PAINE sits composing Common Sense. He is drinking steadily.]

PAINE
A searing halo-scab crusts my forehead;
I do not know how to make my imaginings real.
Not God, but my own luminous mind has brought me here,
a shuttle of empty light over tar-dark waters.
How intemperate is this life's little tempest that
convulses the scarring rictus of my neighbors' hearts?
I paddled the black Atlantic on my sheer wings to say the one
right word that will flame this marsh-gas bay
of waiting rebellion into the manifesting Heaven
    my vivifying vision begets.
Destruction and creation are chopped from but one block:
the diamond iceberg of imagination is my worker's pick
I pick and choose with, editing the mired files of reality.
It chimes and rings against-- against I know not what, but yet
it rings-- oh-- it is against itself it rings the hardest,
chimes and rings with a futile fury, as if
it burned light to so strike itself and be thus made
illuminable. And I am a charitable, black matchstick demon
chained to the whirling mill-wheel of this work,
striking and striking in the blinding brightness of the Pit.
Oh, well, I know not how well I am, or yet
how well I may be; there's a soapy hope, shall I grab it
merely to have it slither from my gripping?
Each hour's a blinked link in Life's gold chain:
we demand our days be daisies and link them in vain.
Every boiling colony seethes hissing against the king;
his trans-Atlantic scepter rusts in the salt distance.
Wild opinion everywhere is corrosive against this tyranny,
this thing mouthing royal order and tradition
against a fraying wind. So this is how my magic mist of Liberty
begins its insinuations: in the libelous acid-bath
of naysaying complaint. Well, you never know what
you want until, like a baby denied its nipple,
its tickled from you. Sore feet pay the cobbler, as they say.
How will the common people my Common Sense ingest?
History has its tides, yet I'll surf the crest
on my hand-made revolution for the masses, by the mass!
I'll be the first to print what they niggling feel
and reduce all loyalty from monarch madness to sane
themselves--- as infinite human potentiality, nothing less.
Hunched in my prision of skin, how insanely rips
my ineluctable spirit towards its transcendence!
A free bird will shread its wings against a cage,
no matter how golden. Men will in one blood-thumped second
destroy the finest system of governance devised on earth
in all her generations to get back a single whiskey-lick
of the uninhibited Liberty they had tasted heretofore.
One reckless pulse, and all the noble past
            is pushed to the stinking heap!
Desire is infinite; possibility is finite;
but the true, determining actions of men that shape
their crowded cowed lives hived striving together,
even to the half-done mark half as well
as a lazy anthill's improvisational organization
are few, few indeed-- and sparely placed in history.
This is my minute to push the wisp toward incandescence,
my arriving fire's the one to transmute rebellion's bonfires
into individual Liberty's multifarious candleabra,
the thousand stabs of light burned true out of today's
inflammable haystack of discontented "maybes."

[PAINE pulls a quill from an inkpot.]

PAINE
Come, my feather, and fan the damning flame,
we're fallen angels all and still squeak at the light
like deluded bats in our hopeless caverns: fly,
my feather, on hopeful airs and the destruction's
daring updraft, on into the sun of reason, a winning Darius
fuelled by his whipping ambitions from light to light.
Below us, all the old monarchy's fluxed in immolating ruin;
above, the reasonable sun draws us on until as sweet mists
we rise to his imperishable realm: a radient and radical
farmfield of high Enlightenments. Flock to freedom,
my angel minions, or perish dully all in hesitation's flames.
  [PAINE begins to write.] I write in light!






ACT II



SCENE SIX


[Before a tavern. Enter three idiots.]

JOHNATHAN PLOUGHBOY
 These are suspicious times.

TIM RIDDLE
 Then it were well to suspect everything, and keep a watch-out.

JOHNATHAN PLOUGHBOY
 And our civic duty too.

DICK CIVIC
 And if you keep a watch out, you shall find the time to
 be roundly burgled. Watches are rare jewels in a poor place.

TIM RIDDLE
 Well, then, how else to find out the time we're in?

DICK CIVIC
 And if we're suspicious, we can deduct it.

JOHNATHAN PLOUGHBOY
 Well, it is night plainly enough.

TIM RIDDLE
 Know you by the dark, or by the lack of daylight?

JOHNATHAN PLOUGHBOY
 Why, by the lack of daylight, for there's many seasons
 for it to be dark in.

DICK CIVIC
 Ay, my wife will put me to 'em oft and oft.

TIM RIDDLE
 It's tyrannous tough to be a bride's thing.

DICK CIVIC
 If the bride have a thing, I would suspect myself,
 and think me no true man.

JOHNATHAN PLOUGHBOY
 Then what if you give her a thing?

DICK CIVIC
 Why then I would respect her under near examination, and
 have no more doings with her, if a divorce could not
 settle the peace between us.

TIM RIDDLE
 Absence then would keep the peace.

DICK CIVIC
 And a peaceful piece is a pretty peace.

JOHNATHAN PLOUGHBOY
 And the maids will be warring their skirts over their heads again
 to get out the piece.

TIM RIDDLE
 [Looking around.] This is someplace hereabouts.

JOHNATHAN PLOUGHBOY
 It behooves us to entrance it-- if it is a tavern.

DICK CIVIC
 I have some reading. I shall spy out the sign, if I see any.

JOHNATHAN PLOUGHBOY
 Spying is a bad offense, unless it be plain.

DICK CIVIC
 Then, if it be a plain sign, without marks, I shall spy out
 if I shall read of it, or no.

[PATRON exits.]

PATRON
[Sings drunkenly.]
    Lib-bert-ty tib-bert-ty tree!
    Lads of Athens, faithful be
    to thyself
            and Mystery!
    All the rest is perjury.
    Lib-bert-ty tib-bert-ty tree!

TIM RIDDLE
 Well, is he a spy or no?

JOHNATHAN PLOUGHBOY
 I see he is a plain man with nothing to doubt him above
 the average.

TIM RIDDLE
 Are you well-knowing of it?

JOHNATHAN PLOUGHBOY
 Ay, he is enough like me to leave no assurance. And I am as
 plain a man as never took note.

DICK CIVIC
 Well, then, if he is as plain a man as you, I shall attempt
 a reading of him.

TIM RIDDLE
 As long as there is no sorcery about your business. I am
 from Salem.

DICK CIVIC
 My business has no beginning to source it, sirrah. Not even
 a passim Salem.

TIM RIDDLE
 Well, and he was as drunk as a skunk, was he not?

JOHNATHAN PLOUGHBOY
 A plain drunkard, as I ought to know who owns a mirror.

DICK CIVIC
 I revelation that he was drunk, sirrah.

TIM RIDDLE
 And what think you well of that?

DICK CIVIC
 Well....

JOHNATHAN PLOUGHBOY
 Well...!

DICK CIVIC
 Well....

TIM RIDDLE
 Come, sir, what think you well of it in all these wells?

DICK CIVIC
 Well... I think it be as plain a sign as any that we're
 come to a tavern.

JOHNATHAN PLOUGHBOY
 Oh, well then, let's make a boldly into it, and mark an
 entrance where he did come out-of-doors.

TIM RIDDLE
 Come; let's subtly then.

[They enter. A RECUITMENT OFFICER is signing men up for the war.]

DICK CIVIC
 What are all these men a-standing about and signing?

TIM RIDDLE
 It is a signal that I am suspicious.

JOHNATHAN PLOUGHBOY
 Ay, then let's sniff slowly.

DICK CIVIC
 I for one had rather not smell.

TIM RIDDLE
 Then nose about without breathing.

DICK CIVIC
 And thus sufficate? I had rather smell myself.

JOHNATHAN PLOUGHBOY
 No you wouldn't.

AMERICAN RECRUITER
 Why do you men stand in such amazement?

JOHNATHAN PLOUGHBOY
 Why, because we've found ourselves in a maze, and cannot
 wend about of it.

TIM RIDDLE
 As long as there is beer, I shall bear it.

DICK CIVIC
 Ay, in your gullet.


TIM RIDDLE
 As long as my money holds out my arm shall hold out too.

DICK CIVIC
 Ay, and a mug at the end of it.

JOHNATHAN PLOUGHBOY
 And your gullet too; pouting out fat and burpish.

AMERICAN RECRUITER
Are you men ignorant?

JOHNATHAN PLOUGHBOY
 I suspect.

AMERICAN RECRUITER
Are you ignorant of the news that the Continental Congress has
passed a resolution for independence?

JOHNATHAN PLOUGHBOY
 If I am, they have kept it independent of myself, and assorted
 their cause of independence right well.

AMERICAN RECRUITER
There's a maze in such a speech.

DICK CIVIC
 Ay, true said, friend.

AMERICAN RECRUITER
According to the resolution, we are now to be no more of England,
but only of ourselves.

JOHNATHAN PLOUGHBOY
 And if I am not myself, I am as Englished as any that
 never spoke a true tongue.

AMERICAN RECRUITER
Well, then. Have you read the Common Sense by Tom Paine?

DICK CIVIC
 Say yes.

JOHNATHAN PLOUGHBOY
 Yes.

AMERICAN RECRUITER
Then you know he makes the case plain to every faculty,
that we should be a separate peoples, and that the king
is no more than a brute beast to oppose us.

JOHNATHAN PLOUGHBOY
 The king a brute beast?

AMERICAN RECRUITER
Ay, and tyrannous. And that we have the power to form a
better self-governance than his could ever be. And that we
have the power to make the world over again in our lifetimes,
if we but put our shoulders to it and follow our hearts
and hopes.

JOHNATHAN PLOUGHBOY
 Then, if the King rule us, we are no governors, and lack a rule.

TIM RIDDLE
 Why, that's plain anarchy.

JOHNATHAN PLOUGHBOY
 And if we would run about under that, it were a dark day.

DICK CIVIC
 Ay. And no light to see a tavern by.

JOHNATHAN PLOUGHBOY
 But I see one plain. Or what else do I spy?

AMERICAN RECRUITER
Your friends are in some confusion....

JOHNATHAN PLOUGHBOY
 Ai me! Then it is anarchy come down among us from on high,
 as they say.

TIM RIDDLE
 It is the crucible of God's will.

DICK CIVIC
 Very plain, very plain.

JOHNATHAN PLOUGHBOY
 Then we must be governors at once, and no delay for light
 to see ourselves by in suspiction, lest the time fly by.

TIM RIDDLE
 That's a truism.

JOHNATHAN PLOUGHBOY
 And a friendly one to lead me on. [To RECRUITER:] Say,
 if I sign this, is governance back among us all?

AMERICAN RECRUITER
We shall fight for it to be so.

DICK CIVIC
 And blood shall be spilt in the contest?

AMERICAN RECRUITER
Ay, or else it were no fight.

JOHNATHAN PLOUGHBOY
 And all this is Common Sense?

AMERICAN RECRUITER
Very common.

DICK CIVIC
 Oh. If you read this thing, friend, your eyes are traitors.

JOHNATHAN PLOUGHBOY
 For certain a traitor.

TIM RIDDLE
 Ay, it's very plain, very plain.

JOHNATHAN PLOUGHBOY
 And did I say I read this?

TIM RIDDLE
 Ay, you did, and with no little prompting of friendship.

JOHNATHAN PLOUGHBOY
 And if my friend lead me on to traitor my eyes, shall
 the rest of me be anathema?

DICK CIVIC
 Ay, very much so. And if you are anathema, you are
 no friend of mine to my nose to stick out stinking so.

JOHNATHAN PLOUGHBOY
 Oh, and if I am no friend of yours, I am no traitor,
 since then no friend did lead me on to read this
 Common Sense.

TIM RIDDLE
 There's the king's man!

JOHNATHAN PLOUGHBOY
 And none no more so loyal as I.

DICK CIVIC
 Then are we ready to look down at your papers and
 sign up, sirrah, being no eyeing traitors, but that we
 give out an equal naying to all.

AMERICAN RECRUITER
 Here's quill and ink.

JOHNATHAN PLOUGHBOY
 But yet hold off. And if I sign this, what shall I be?

AMERICAN RECRUITER
 From your loudness, I'll put you down as an ordinance officer.

JOHNATHAN PLOUGHBOY
 And if the ordinance be of a great enough caliber to keep
 the peace easily, I shall be a peace officer too.

TIM RIDDLE
 Only if it break the peace.

JOHNATHAN PLOUGHBOY
 Ay, truism enough. And then either way I shall be an officer,
 which I was in England.

DICK CIVIC
 And that's as sure a truism as ever I heard, or they all be false.

JOHNATHAN PLOUGHBOY
 Let them all be false, these truisms, so long as that mine is true.

TIM RIDDLE
 And if it's true, your shooting will go well.

DICK CIVIC
 If it makes others go astray, it shall.

JOHNATHAN PLOUGHBOY
 Truism enough, friend.

TIM RIDDLE
 [To RECRUITER:] And what shall I be in the lists?

AMERICAN RECRUITER
A dead man, most likely.

DICK CIVIC
 You're a true enough large caliber target to get killed.

TIM RIDDLE
 And as long as I count as two hits, I will be satisfied
 to have played a bigger part than most.

JOHNATHAN PLOUGHBOY
 That you do already, friend.

DICK CIVIC
 And if I witness such purgation, I shall be happy.

TIM RIDDLE
 And I too, if I should live to see my death.

JOHNATHAN PLOUGHBOY
 God save you! And if you should chance to see it not,
 I'll report it to you in the hereafter.

TIM RIDDLE
 Slow your oath! If God saves me, we shall miss each other
 in damnation.

JOHNATHAN PLOUGHBOY
 Ay, I had forgot that. And I would not miss you for all
 the world.

DICK CIVIC
 If you miss him, you are no ordinance man at a shot.

TIM RIDDLE
 True.

JOHNATHAN PLOUGHBOY
 And if I am true, I am an ordinance man; so I shall not
 miss you, friend, on either the field of battle here or
 hereafter; and if I am an ordinance man, then I am a peace
 officer again as well, and serve the King by example what
 my loyalty is.

AMERICAN RECRUITER
 Ay, all that, if you sign here.

JOHNATHAN PLOUGHBOY
 And then we should be back among the English by your scheme?

AMERICAN RECRUITER
Yes. And many a man better than you.

JOHNATHAN PLOUGHBOY
 Why, there is no better Englishman than myself, God save the
 King, sign me up.

AMERICAN RECRUITER
 Sign you up, sir. Can you make your mark?

JOHNATHAN PLOUGHBOY
 And if I was not as loyal an Englishman as the King, I could
 sign my name as well in any language, mark me.

AMERICAN RECRUITER [Offering paper.]
 Here then.

JOHNATHAN PLOUGHBOY
 And will I serve the King a good turn, if I assign this?

AMERICAN RECRUITER
 Ay, if you disturb his sleep enough to give him a turn.
 But truly, sir, you can do the King's service no better
 service than to remove yourself from his.

JOHNATHAN PLOUGHBOY
 And I will be among English again, if I go my name here?

AMERICAN RECRUITER
 Ay, I have said so. You'll be thick among the thick.

TIM RIDDLE
 And what was our aim among 'em?

AMERICAN RECRUITER
 Why, if it's a right good aim, to rid the land of them all
 by death or expulsion.

TIM RIDDLE
 Back to England?

AMERICAN RECRUITER
 Ay, or hell.

TIM RIDDLE
 Oh, well then, you were a constable in Exeter, were ye not?

JOHNATHAN PLOUGHBOY
 Ay.

TIM RIDDLE
 And you will be back among the pushers to Exeter then.

JOHNATHAN PLOUGHBOY
 Oh, and I will be at the front of the pushers, policing
 my fellow Englishmen back to district, as was my wont at home.
 Oh, now, if this is my duty again, sign me up, and God save
 the foundation!

DICK CIVIC
 And I might be a legal spy, among the Englands, with no threat
 of the interminable?

AMERICAN RECRUITER
 If we end this conversation, and you all sign, there is
 no more interminable thing on earth that has ended.

DICK CIVIC
 I see your meaning hidden plain. Sign me up too, Johnathan.

TIM RIDDLE
 Ay, me too. I cannot mark to write, whether I will or no,
 so mark me-- I am as loyally suspect as either of you two!

ALL:
 God save the King!

[They sign.]







SCENE SEVEN


[At General Howe's Long Island Headquarters. The three man
troop escort in this scene are the same three new recruits
from previous scene.]

PRESCOTT
At Bunker Hill and Breed's demoralizing debacle
we showed his highness' ass-men something of our toughness.

FRANKLIN
But we were defeated!

ADAMS
I'd sell them a thousand such hills, such defeats,
if they paid such a price for each overweening tiptop.

PRESCOTT
We wouldn't crouch and scat at the first smacking.

FRANKLIN
Indeed. We hissed a something spectacular
from the advantage of our barricades. While we held them.

ADAMS
And now we are off to the foul Howe dispatched
by the snatching patch-work of Congress
ambastardored to sew our mini-victories
into this truce-rag of defeat. We come to combine
our bilious biles in one puke of peace,
nothing more. It's foul, I say.

FRANKLIN
Then be the watchdog, Adams, and, if things issue foully,
lick back up such peace to its initial indigestion.

ADAMS
If I must, I shall.

FRANKLIN
Tom Paine put a pretty piece of the populace
behind our designs with his invective.

PRESCOTT
My brother signed up the moment he finished his first
read-through of Tom's lopsided Common Sense.

ADAMS
I have offered my corrections to his ill-digested ideas
as Publius Civis; there's no way we can live with
his spastic democratic demands.

PRESCOTT
And yet, without him, we'd be almost armyless.
I can't tell you the crowd of talk his
pamphlet shouted out of hiding.

FRANKLIN
And such a groundswell re-geared the keel
of our Continential Congress, Adams.
You know it. The July Fourth resolution for
independence would never have passed without
that tippling inch of doing pressure
undoing our tentative members' insecurities.

ADAMS
Yes, yes. The man's a genius demagogue;
I'm just glad he's on our side.

FRANKLIN
And now we have a real war on our hands.

PRESCOTT
Speaking of which, I don't like the way
our sullen Sullivan came limping back captured
from our host Howe's enemy camp so fat and feted,
legging it to Philly all hot and ready
to pant a peace and plant upon our honors
a king's kiss.

FRANKLIN
We're well to walk here warily, inching our steps.
It's certain no compelling king, in his habit of command,
ever gave his executing general his full mind
since time and kings began.

ADAMS
You step into my argument like a trace-horse, Franklin,
and make my meaning race at double-speed. Let's circuit
our commission to its finishing here and now
and decide against Howe's howsoever persuasions
before he licks us nickering to a different ribbon.
To whatever he says, we'll be Yankee stags,
and bray all nays.

PRESCOTT
Yea, I say, if ye'll have me
stamping after your quick fetlocks, Mr. Adams.

FRANKLIN
Too fast, too fast! My coursers, discourse!
Often has a score of words done more good than blood.

[Inside Howe's Headquarters, as a servent lets the Americans in.]

HOWE
Bunker Hill was not worth the blood that muddied it,
all with sour redcoats harshly sauced. We're alone
on a continent of able axes anxious to hack at us.
Our detatched detatchment runs too ruinous a progress
against the tartness of their muskets' invective;
force of arms, so detatched, is too gruesome a prospect
to assure our royal appetite's respite. Where's dinner?
These cordial colonials who served us comeuppance
in the cups of our own heads are coming mustered now
to my marooned house in strategic Long Island,
stepping to the drum-tap I command. With a swelled sweetness
will I greet them, and with honeyed words defeat them.
There's enough lush fat in this America to go round!
Take the damned lamb off its twisting spit at once, Pierre!
We'll throw these rough-housing, somber blue boys a tax break
and mate them back to the hungry bum of our loving monarch:
a king's kiss! God save the king!

[HOWE toasts. Party enters.]

FRANKLIN
We had some difficulty in finding you.

HOWE
Old grievances are like old shoes
and make every new step painful.

ADAMS
We'd gladly give you the royal boot
so you would only be forced to paddle back
to England, and not march on to war.

HOWE
Your tongue's too sharp-- upon my soul!

ADAMS
Do not make it slash practice upon your heart
or you shall bleed for it.

HOWE
Come, let's to dinner, and bury our hatchets
in some four-footed meat. This Paine of yours, with his
Common Sense, prates like another Pericles,
but instead of honorable union with his King, his tears
and tearing protestations rip a fetidness from fertile fields
and from the bludgeoned dead of cold Concord
draws out in dark and dusk the musky fungus Discord,
and lets set florescing the million attendant lichens
of intolerable Democracy. Surely such a scheme
set rotting in so pure and wide a garden as America
is anathema to gentlemen such as yourself.

ADAMS
Democracy's a mob in a garish coat of laws
so patched and pinched with imperfections
the crazy wind of Anarchy will chill its wearer
to the bone.

HOWE
There's the fellow!

FRANKLIN
Not all of us are of a color to tinge
our constitutional formulation to his solution.

HOWE
There's the fellow! So, know from me
that the King shall all his purse of taxes
pour back out upon these shifting shores
and leave to the discretion of yourselves
all nattering money matters in the future.

PRESCOTT
So Sullivan said, who jogged to jar
all our apprehensions with your words.

HOWE
If Parliament permits, of all this I can assure you.

FRANKLIN
That smacks of a start.

ADAMS
If the King is willing to resign in principle
his sovereign right to tax without consent....

HOWE
In principle? Never; how could he lose those rights
that God and all law's precepts align to grant him?
But he shall relent in the unspecified interregnum
and let your novus ordo seclorum play alone
along these shores' as-yet-untested serrations.

FRANKLIN
Let's taste more.

HOWE
Here's another slice: but re-swear your royal loyalties
to crown and England as we down this swish of wine--
and all the rebels shall stand with a pealing repeal
of soveraign pardon upon their clamoring crimes.

ADAMS
Come you here with the power to pardon?
So you may say. But you are wrong. You have not that power.
He who can pardon can only pardon one who has
by erupting interruption of some hallowed right
done some wasteful wrong. Since we did give no such offense
your presumptive pardon lacks its puissance.

HOWE
Not swear back again to the King?
How then could you be his loyal subjects?
How then could the fraternal breach be healed?
What other budding buss should be our business
if not that?

ADAMS
And should we swear our allegiances to this King
and against our sacred Liberties? I think that each
man-jack among us would rather die today and be free.

FRANKLIN
Our enduring liberty is to live and be
self-deciding, self-governing, and free.

HOWE
The King himself is now more royally aware
of all your colonial gripes and groanings;
should he now go deaf to them? But trust his majesty!
He feels your pain.

ADAMS
Should the mugged man trust the cut-purse?
One who then, to palliate the offense
promises to pardon those he has offended?
Only the drug-addict and his pusher continue
in mutual love when all basis for trust is cut.
I'm not so high on the purled word Sovereignty
to muster up my trust for absent kings
absent the gravest assurances.

HOWE
Grave assurances shall we all have in eternity
if we four cannot conduct a living peace
to this entreating table tonight.

FRANKLIN
Yet you yourself declared your guarentees
provisional to Parliament's approbation.

HOWE
How could it be otherwise? I own not a man of them.
They are free to vote their conciences before the King.

FRANKLIN
You see my point then.

ADAMS
They vote freely, and with free voices,
while we are bound in a virtual reality.

HOWE
But they shall approve at home what I do say
in the field; I know it. I know they will.
I have the King's consent in this, and his voice
shall over-master their static, if they profess any.

ADAMS
One voice is no voice if it rules others to silence,
but is itself rather a sort of pestilent silence,
choking all.

HOWE
But the King is the State.

FRANKLIN
If that state is a desert.

HOWE
I am a man of worth, and a worthy gentleman;
my voice will float upon the controversy of these waters
and oil to a calmness the place of Parliament--
My voice and impress shall not there be ignored.
Mercy or annihilation is mine to procure.

ADAMS
And yet, you have no power to say the last.

HOWE
Dash it! I am an honorable gentleman! And that
is enough; or else there is no England for you
to spurn or rejoin.

PRESCOTT
Any who would consent to these bribing bids
loves not himself, and deserves not his Liberty.

HOWE
Let your rebellious feet leave my premises
and walk alienate from soveriegn sod forevermore
if you are all of a mind to decline this overture.

ADAMS
My Liberty is not so cheap as your threats.

FRANKLIN
Nor is mine available at the price of your promises.

HOWE
  [To an aide-de-camp.]
I hereby proclaim a general amnesty to all
American troops; post it on every tree.
Any who would come in to us, bring in,
and in they shall dart, back to the royal right;
oh they'll come, and at a run, to the fraternity
they had so unbrotherly abandoned.
And you shall all be hung on the yardarm
like damned pirates, without so much dignity
as a peasant who expires in the dirt. Get out.

ADAMS
Come. We'll pull ourselves away.

[They exit.]

PRESCOTT
Howe's amnesty could scuttle all our hopes,
and leave us with not a man at the yawning gunwales
of our ship of state.

FRANKLIN
Ought we to have been so obdurate, Adams?
Perhaps our perversities will scurvy us
on these ominous high seas of independency.

ADAMS
Our fruits at least shall be of our own growing
and not vined tentacle-like from glum London's
emcumbering Parliamentary hothouse garden.

FRANKLIN
We'll go forward then, and not froward.

PRESCOTT
Damned be any backward hand now.







SCENE EIGHT


[By a campfire.]

PAINE
I sit here, in seared hearing of this bleak defeat
of stormed Fort Washington across the bleary Hudson,
tapping out my day's thoughts atop a resting drumhead
with my slim measure of ink and brain. There's England,
arterially red, pulsing well against our held position,
crashing in on our cornered troops. Gate's smashed;
the flimsey picket fence is overrun with stumblers and others.
My ambling hands stain with this useless soot of words
while those patriots gore the earth with blood.
Did certain sniping words of mine send out
certain men the English shot? I've nibbed my quiet quill
to loud killing, and redden my shameful papers
with unlucky deaths, haphazard as a rash of dotted i's.
Its what I wanted, non? And yet: to win is all.
To half-carry our half-escape hunchbacked into raw dawn
and not to win by our hard-bearing turtle-crawl
I count a sin against myself that I cannot grave
in any shape of peace. We must win. We must.
How to do it, though? That's the fucking crux---
and my dreams all harshly in my lumpen throat
cry me quiet until I wake unworlded, and quite wordless.
How much harder will it be for us to win free?
I follow my boyhood dream of liberty like a beir
from funeral to funeral.... How long til it's my own?
Our boys tumble in the grass with graceless playlessness
and speed toward the imagined safety of the dark.
We haven't the boats to nip across the uneven Hudson
and tuck our losing men back into New Jersey's nighttime.
As thin and blue a line as my retreating vein
scatters from the hazard of the onslaught, a blood splotch
of advancing redcoats; all green's blotched black
in the firelight's withering fritter of light.
Tiny legs, tiny arms, tiny, silent screams
that only roar back awake in my rearing dreams.
What deserveless death is coming to those humble ones?
All the hard hopes I had stitched together in a gale
to reach these unimpeachably peachy shores
are forced apart oh so easily in the deadly breeze.
I watch these snows thunder silence upon the dead.

[A BOY enters.]

BOY
Sir, Genr'l Washington's requestin' your presence
respectf'lly next time he hits a camp in the sticks.

PAINE
That'll be Hackensack or some such.
Danke, boy.

BOY
Danke? What's that?

PAINE
German for "Thank You." Something to say
when the Hessians overrun our frail position,
our wickedly thin picketline of foundling blood.
Not your own, I hope, of course.

BOY
Nor you neither, sir. [Pause.] With respect, sir....

PAINE  [Thinking.]
Yes? You still here? What is it?

BOY
Am I dismissed, sir? I think I gotta drum retreat.

PAINE
Hmm. Yes. [Hands BOY the drum.] Scat!






SCENE NINE


[At WASHINGTON's tent.]

PAINE
Today I shall wowingly reimagine my swatted world
and its crookedly connived constitution with truth's force;
divinity, with a little human imagination,
can get the job done. These are the times....
I shall orate an augerful of frothing truth
and not swallow back a word while I live!
This dirty tent, thrashed in the back-sizzle of new hail,
tied frozen down in these grimy woods,
here's a place to lay sweet newness on the earth,
inaugurate a heart to the swift weird will of one,
here's a place, an altar of activity to actively
announce my grown-tough truth, a fabled place, perhaps,
where future disaster or glory laps at circumstance
and sheer human will overturns all the tides that meet!
Ha ha! I in my mock coracle-cockle will toss the turbulence
in my humanly mouthed direction on towards perfection,
and not drop dropsey-sick into the old worm trails
that so lovingly lattice the past with irking defeats,
the benighted unlightedness of my predecessors.
What have they ever lived to light their way to
besides death and the present tyranny?
This present tyranny and trumpeting injustice that makes me
curl curdled against it and call to the remote sky:
I must! I must! Can Justice exist when all are not free
to imagine it into some hammered shape of perfection?
Come rain, come storm, come snow,
   withering blizzard or puffing drift,
      I see the forecasted crests' shapes
and do not spurn my own straightness of purpose!
I'll knock at the tent-- and may that tent let me enter!
   [Crowing:] I've come! I've come! I've come!

WASHINGTON  [Waking up.]
In God's name, who the hell is that!?!!

PAINE
Tis I, in the blaming name of no God but my own:
Thomas Paine. I was sent for, and adjudged the cause,
and, having backhanded the winter that would stop me,
I have arrived.

WASHINGTON
Out of the rocks themselves, it would seem.

PAINE
Out of the furious snow storm, certainly.

WASHINGTON
Sir, you have arrived with the chill swiftness of a ghost
swirled from the white nightmares of my dead sleep.
Even this midnight entrance brings my writhing mind
to the one thing, one problem constant as a drumbeat:
desertion. My ranks are as thin as Franklin's pate
and as hungry as if he had sucked up all their suppers.
General Hamilton corralled his men on Boston Commons
and harangued them in a shaming speech to ask 'em
if they'd extend their rebel enlistments by a stretch
of even four days forward from the new year nearly here,
and not one in four stepped forward. A general amnesty now
would unman us down to zero. I thank the Deity
that Howe had lied to Adams and them on Long Island;
our cause could not survive his generosity today.
This is our first hard year of winter, man,
and is like to be our last. Our cause
in bloody abortion stands, and the restless snows
are cherried with our deaths. Exhaustion cannot rest,
but churns on harrassing dreams even in ditched sleep.
We cannot win. We must not lose. What brave words
do you bring to one so confused?

PAINE
That liberty is no ghost, genr'l, but our only reality;
as alive as the men and women that imagine it.

WASHINGTON
As fiery as your pamphlets, Paine.
I wonder, are you as soon burnt when tossed
into the crossways rash heat of war's crucifying fire?

PAINE
The test! The test! My tongue itself's a flame
and my heart smoulders knowingly enough aghast against
cold England's distant injustice, heart-pressed
by the eager evil of those Tory lords
to our honest American breasts, jammed
by that pampered tyrant rattle-ranting
from his damned castle to pull our pitch
of mutual coalition back into the spastic Atlantic.


WASHINGTON
This damned seige of defeat has the men down
and near drowned. They won't take it, and it's
hit them hard in the balls, by God.

PAINE
Self-slavery will hit them harder.

WASHINGTON
Well, if the troops could be fed upon long letters,
I would believe we have the best commissary on earth.
Until that time....

PAINE
If they live long enough to take their ease
after a beating defeat by the Despot
(those who don't go hanged, or bang-banged by a squad),
they will live to sire enslaved great-grandsons
on an English fiefdom, a Parliamentary playground
carouselling their dear ideals into bright, shining lies.
They'll mint their new mine of liberties to cuffs
and not coins of free exchange for their inheritors.

WASHINGTON
It's hard watching your soldiers starve.
Nursed in the pilgrim night by three generations'
crazy liberation, I don't think they're ready to back out
blackened in the eye and soul by imperial men.

PAINE
I'd hope no man so backward and willful
against his own golden chance. This hour'll
not come round again in our winding down, Washington.
This glad hour must be held aloud and told on every wind
or die soundless as a tear in a velvet coffin.

WASHINGTON
Still have to shoot 'em if they go south on you,
can't have commiseration turn to dissolution,
shoot 'em in the back if they won't turn round and take it;
damned hard to take, giving out the orders for that,
and their own blood frozen on their broken feet,
      swaddled in scraps, feet looking like bloody babies,
both the feet of them that get shot, and those
that do the shootin'. Nothing good in any of it.
Can't even bury the ones you shoot, really, pile ice
over the snow, call any whiteness sticking up ice
and hope you're not in the same place same situation come spring.
There was one we near buried just today,
        how young was his soft-seeming face
turned brutal-hard. I looked down at him, the neutral shovel
splashed the lime like powdered light upon him,
down on his face, down his shoulders, and on down.
Little hope and great heartache. And the Brits
sit in fine fettle, fat Hessians eating Christmas goose
and other potables denied us in this war.
Stings, hurts; too tough to tell of,
      even to speak a word, in some ways.
War's not for honor. Little accomplishment, vain days
blizzarded against us. No gentleness left in nature
or ourselves....

PAINE
No gentleness....

WASHINGTON
So, you're the demented Brit who gloveless shoved
the demos-rabble toeward towards sabre-rattling self-
emancipation. So, what do you think of the present situation?

PAINE
My divine mind, in uncluttered creation of itself,
followed out the currents of the current, royal knot
and proceeded by hard thought to daringly undo
each weave-waver of the fiber that I could
back to the looming first pluck and spool
of their dreaded threads, the initial conditions
that made tyranny the inextricable inexorable
tangle of that spun thread's outcome; primary causes
and first principles alone I allowed my by-myself mind
to trace, fingeringly unravel and sinlessly unstitch.
Let us begin as I myself had started: since the king
is as cipher-zero without his thousands of subjects
(and since my ton of words is a weightless nullness
in his Highness' lead-adapted ear, a nothing of disgruntlement)
I interviewed those who knew of their self-soveriegnty.
And in this I came to the native wildness
of individual Liberty, the unsold self we each
reach into the create a god or nod to a soveriegn,
or rebellingly unleash a quicksilver rain of disdain
on these things that had kited over us
in the temporary high-wind of our self-ignorance!
The clowning crown has clasped these freedoms to crow
a know-nothingness of impressive feats and feasts
and dangling fates down the echo-alleyway of tin-eared history:
here a man is pinned to a rickety stick
on Golgotha, there a Spartacus rises whip-angry
against a reviled slaver's salveless hand.
In the caved-in carved tomb of our own commonwealth
there is glorious evidence and incident enough
to black the tides with ink of their telling.
But these secret histories of freedom's shouts
I'll not relate beneath your tent tonight.
To those others who knew it not, I reminded them
that they are born free and only sell themselves
into the ruined pool of subjugation by their actions:
the daily prayers to resign their wills to a blank diety,
the dread repeat of illegal laws obeyed, and not examined,
like a stupid boy camp-following a dumb drum
for its deaf, mesmerizing beat, and not because he knows
the red fields of timeless agony he's entering.
By these simple repetitions a life is lived---
and if it makes me spit my charming heart
like a ravaged, bloody flag upon the nation-stick
of my invective pen...
well, then, that's the least I could do,
moved to make a human sound at all I see and feel.

WASHINGTON
You know, don't you, that I never toasted
"King and Country" after I had read
your damnable scribble?

PAINE
A sound decision. Redounds unbounded to your
inevitable credit as a freethinker, Genr'l.

WASHINGTON
Oh, things redound to me from all directions,
Mr. Paine. Hundreds of things come cannon-balling my way
daily. It's a fell acre of hell out there. Fell indeed.

PAINE
Your Americans need you, Washington.

WASHINGTON
My Americans! Fuck, I need a drink. The rum, Tom.
To splash my unbelieving eyes with horrored sights
and tear out my clear hearing with death-sighs
seems this war's only purpose. I swear
this retreat eats out our hearts before the Brits
can shoot them out of our chest, via the spine.
To all tyrants' demise!

[They drink.]

PAINE
Tyrant and subject, master and slave....
WASHINGTON
Master and slave are the old world's vaunted divisions.

PAINE
A vision of divisivness! Old blind-maid Fate!
Such a damned dumb mummery, an antique peep show
unfit for the finer feelings of mankind.
Why would I rape my innocent innards simply
to be declared, by my own owned slave, the winner?

WASHINGTON
A thin satisfaction for an enslaved brain, I agree.

PAINE
Where's the meat for a heaving heart
in that withered domninion?

WASHINGTON
I don't know. I don't know. It seems
an unreal disease to me, a Macbeth infliction,
going to bed on empty ambitions to awake in nightmare.
Its a dirty world, and Hackensack is the center of it.
Now it seems, at least. But you are a fine man
with a pen, Paine. You're Common Sense united a nation,
named it, gave it a sense of itself, etc., etc.
Can you turn the trick again on my demoralized boys?
They'd like a vigorous victory, a proud hour
upon the field of honor, but if we took on England
full force to force in coercing battle, we'd be down and out
in a minute, bayonetted embarrasingly back to colonial status.
This retreat through New Jersey has been a heartbreak
to every barefoot dogface shivering with us.

PAINE
I'd love to, but I'm plumb out of rum.

WASHINGTON
  [Opening a trunk, pulling out a bottle of rum.]
Sit your cockney ass down and have a few;
we'll warm the warning ink over the fire here.

PAINE
I always keep a juicy pouch in my crotch-pocket;
if it freezes down there, I'd just as soon
snap off my whole career as a pen-man, monseuier.

WASHINGTON
Have another.

PAINE
To the survival of the ideal in the real.

WASHINGTON
What can we do for each other but get dunking drunk?

PAINE
Fabius, baby, the best of life is but inebriation.

WASHINGTON
You know, don't you, that after I read Common Sense
I could no longer toast 'Long live the King?'

PAINE
Go to bed, Washington, go to bed.
Your head's in a rum sack, and my heart's
far too tense-excited to beat asleep now anyway.
I'll write, I'll write, and give these fragments of a dream
hard words. Let no tyrant sleep tonight
but that some oppressed slave
goes by his bed breathing nightmares
upon his naked neck. Open wide your restless eye,
for I shall be a scampering Scavola, I swear,
with a rib-tickler of heart-stopping razor words.
[Pause.]

WASHINGTON  [Dead drunk.]
I'm going to bed.

PAINE  [Also drunk.]
Master and slave, master and slave,
what ideals are these that I, I Tom Paine,
give my rewinding, revolutionary mind
a flickering minute's undecided pause?
Oh, I'll do it as an exercise for my right mind,
to think on the world as I wouldn't want it,
as it really is without our devout success:
all sliced into that dicotomy of master and slave,
saved and burned, trashed and polished, sweet
and sour... heh heh. That'll clear my brain
for the real theme free selves, even stuffed in slave-skins,
tragic masks of forced labor wearing gulag scalplocks,
get crucified on the high wire of history for: Liberty.
If I were a wailing slave, a murderer and a bum,
what would my outlook look like? I'd sing:

I trod to prison on burning feet
Accompanied both before and back
By squadroned angels in heaven's black
Receding into the abject divine;
They ferry souls upon their backs;
I was trussed against the horizon's line
But had no captors I that could see
But my squad of angels to accompany me.
I am John Brown and will not come down;
Cold murder of the one or the all.
   Spartacus defied when hard men called
   And deified more angels than God.

My hands were bound in threads of blood;
I struggled against harsh cordage once
And was blinded by a golden hood.
My guilt has come and gone many times
As I recalled or forgot my crimes,---
Yet all about me I feel the wings
Of my locust angels on everything.

The Executioner flips his lash
In mockery of innocence:
Irrational murder has made him
One with the common tide
Raising his spade with the bladed wave
That falls to his own side;
By every blue, angelic face he may erase,
By every thought he kills, he's less.
I am dead but still can chant
All a passing artist's passions out:
Interior echo of the outward shout.
   Spartacus defied when hard men called
   And crucified more angels than God.

Are my grim limbs, hanging inverted here,
Above the midnight chrurchyard's grave
Above all that ghostly-priestly rant and rave
All exalted sacrifice has won
All ecstatic triumph has known?
All scatters backwards madness-chased
Into a rolling blizzard-ball;
Insect angels surround my ground
And their wailing wings buzz-sing:
Whore or chaste, the world's laid waste

 Come kill the one or the All.

These are the times....

[PAINE begins writing.]






SCENE TEN


[At the tent the next morning.]

WASHINGTON
In God's name, Paine, get your fucking ass out of bed!

[WASHINGTON kicks  PAINE in the head.]

PAINE
In God's name, never. On my own account, well,
I'm still too curious to see how the sun goes round
to not get up. I suppose.

WASHINGTON
Hmm. That was one fuck of a twister
we had on ourselves last night. Hmm.
Got your damned words?

PAINE
Yes, yes. They're all here. I'll need
a windless spot where I can be tender
with the stiff sheets, though, the midnight ink
froze on the pages before it could dry right.

WASHINGTON
Stand in the shadow of my horse's ass.
That should almost be cover enough. The men
are trembling assembled in the field outside.
God, what a poxy lot! Yet I need more
of their innocent number if we're to remain
free in theory, and grasping after the fact.
Wipe your sandy eyes and read, Tom.

PAINE  [Reading.]

“These are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the
sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of his
country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks
of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have
this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious
the triumph. What we obtain too cheaply, we esteem too lightly: ‘Tis dearness
only that gives everything its value. Heaven knows how to put a proper price
upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as
Freedom should not be highly rated.”

TROOPS  [Singing, sort of.]
    Rum and water for old Tom Paine,
    With rum and water he'll save our ass again;
    The angels he'll entreat
    To parliament and debate---
    Convinced they don't exist,
    They'll dissipate for shame!!

PAINE
I am a glorious boy and spiral where I will,
giving ground to none on history's high dunghill.






EPILOGUE



SCENE ELEVEN


[Seven years later. PAINE and WASHINGTON are on a small skiff
at Rocky Hill, testing the waters there for marsh gas.]

PAINE
Fart in the jar, George.

WASHINGTON
Thomas, hand me the fucking wine.

PAINE
We only have champaign; you know that.

[There is a loud, resounding sound.]

WASHINGTON
This patriotic celebration is costing us a fortune.

PAINE  [Hurrying, knocking  WASHINGTON out of the way.]
Cap it! Cap it! We'll have to seal this with wax
as soon as we paddle back, duck and stroke home
to test the gas' composition and capacity.

WASHINGTON
Yes, Tom, yes. By all means, immortalize my farts.

PAINE
Ah, George, can you really believe its all over?

WASHINGTON
Oh, I can. I can.

PAINE
What's next then for our interminable freedoms,
our unfinished zip to achieve and be?
What new-foliaged laurel shall we yearn
to pursue, where will our dragonfly likes alight?
What driven-down or under-rated item
shall we ressurrect to its original worth and virtue
as we have the Roman Civitas regained,
regained and raised to a serious, religious,
real and human highness?
WASHINGTON
Good God, Tom, do you really need a cause
beyond the simple one of peace? Look around--
our continent and countrymen are at liberty;
we do as we choose in loose co-mutuality. Ain't that
enough to subdue your rough wishes and manicness?
I could live a thousand years on a simple acre.
And if we keep this acre free, I shall.

PAINE
My future includes a rupture of the ancien regime
and a spectacularly faceted new Republic for France.

WASHINGTON
I've heard of the stacatto of disturbances
from over there. You'll have to be quick.

PAINE
They themselves have seen our experiment go aright.
They themselves have helped it come to be.

WASHINGTON
Their country's perhaps high-tide high enough to try.

PAINE
They elevate the meaningful mind
to a fair height.

WASHINGTON
I believe they might marshall a martial example
from the flying bayonet involvement thay had here.

PAINE
Layfette and his flueur-de-lis lisp
took some narcotic quench of our opiate trip
and trapses to try his new tropes
against the Paris galleries' rope.

WASHINGTON
Salons and sinister men. Old guard Admirals
fin the dry land like sharks there, Tom.
You be careful.

PAINE
If I take my naked innocence with me
who can denude it?
I'll add my optimistically throated note
to their plangent Plantagenet choir.
We'll uncrown a king
and set a fresh French 'mister' on his feet.

WASHINGTON
Nothing like seeing how unhinged reality really is
to buck up those with a new good thing
to begin to believe in.

PAINE
Amen. [Pause.] And I've an iron bridge design
I'd like to place across the commercial twirl
of a swinish seine over there. Someone may buy into it.

WASHINGTON
I wish you well with your ungovernable,
fanatic fondness for newfangledness.
Harness it as best ye may.

PAINE
I shall. I think each day somehow
has a new, untried trueness in store for me,
if I can but strike an aim at its burning center,
release myself,
and fly fast enough to the alarming target.

WASHINGTON
Perhaps your iron bridge will arrow you there.
Good thing we weren't trying to unrivet one
of those things as we retreated from the British!
We might've lost the war if your ingenuity
had quicker tempo, Tom.

PAINE
Some new solution for it dissolution
would've come to dismantling hand at the time.
Of that I haven't the slightest doubt.

WASHINGTON
Neither the Continental Congress, nor any
private subscription among the victors in this contest
has been ferreted to light to fund you Tom
or underwrite out of sheer gratitude your existence.

PAINE
It figures. Just as well I'm on my way then.
In fact, I might construe my dear adieus as overdue.

WASHINGTON
This ingratitude of an entire nation, and that
nation my own, and yours, the nation we invented....
well, it shames me deeply, and I am weak
against the shame, dear man.

PAINE
I gave every penny-ounce of my thousands of pounds
earned by my copyrights of Common Sense and the Crisis Papers
to buy wool mittens and good socks for our soldiers.
I don't regret that for a second.

WASHINGTON
You gave the cause all. And now they'll let you starve.
It sheds a low dishonor upon our high enterprise.

PAINE
History and latter ages will whip 'em with it.
Ingratitude's a monster. And folks love
a good monster-show.

WASHINGTON
If I catch 'em first, I'll tan their asses
and pick their clicked wallets to the last centavo.
By my word, Tom, I will.

PAINE
We'll spat first. After all, I'm a real bastard,
don't forget.

WASHINGTON
I will never forget you.  [Pause.]

PAINE
Here I sway, myself a slender reed near under,
assailed by restless visions, atop my mass of swamp
and lurching as much as any church
from my crow's nest tip of tippling star-farsightedness;
yet out my mechanical uncertainty I'll fix up
a metronome of reform and dance its spectacular minuet
until all the thin paper-writ music is trashed
to my stamping, and then revives, recomposed as ashes!
Beyond this midnight miasma, past the trinking taunts
of revellers drunk in their assumptions
or dear friends ready to measure their coffin-acre
of sweet peace and lie quiet down until
(all egregious through torn lips) their skeleton-smiles
appear, I see a certain city arise, arise and assert itself
in the indefinate halo of a final outline
amidst this subtle shower of soft-starring sparks.
Amongst the plush pastures of memory, and still
here in this present dark of work and hope
I see a filiment-winsome construct of pure light arise
and flicker about me over the sussurations of these reeds.
O barbarous clearness in this evening's dark! I see
great cities of new men and new women, full of
free sex, free life, kindnesses, harlots and cymbals!
But of their dancing souls they have made no whores;
hazeless lightness and two million souls alight and free....
When morning's blue minute ticks over me, her hands
fallen gently upon my upward dreaming face,
her few, revolutionary rays tempt me from the haze,
her igniting light reviving the shapes of angels
in sculptured flight, cracked as this faint lake
in the river, whose soft sounds fall lonely and proud
on ears so attuned to softness, they seem of stone.
Tonight, the Alleghanies sharpen our idea of the sky,
and each unknown height we arise to lifts our expectations
higher than ever the simple fickle breeze allowed.
What pealing vistas now sound me out from core to pore,
each real thing I see sprouts me new inward eyes
to view the renewing of my own blue-black soul!
Tonight, newborn and pure, there are angels
in my heart's moist architecture. Hyped
on the hypnotic caliber of my ressurrected senses'
insistence to feel and be free, I spot about
and find myself the solo founding clown
of this: the uninheritable! A dynasty of wishes,
with each free man or woman their own subaltern of want,
the maker of their own aching,
              where the capacity to make
tidal-waves above our cloud-shrouded heads unimpeded!
The sea's free step mingles music with my quick swishes.
I am a pounding Poseidon commanding nothing
but the high wet wailing of my own hard-held heart,
a thing never suspected before in history!
Now, and for the first time (ever!) we arise aroused---
unknown music vibrates in booming theaters of real sound;
our bones flare out in trumpet-expectation. Shall
we squeal revealed, and arise in no reprise, but first
and then forever, born unchristened and new? Hopes dome
a billion glass minarets of spinaretted thinking.
My tongue injects the sky; each soveriegn tongue
carols its own beloved self-knowingness into new skies,
each cry an alternate universe electrified to life!
We walk amazed, with new muds upon us, of new births,
new daring, new enterprise, new eyes staring to new noons;
forever unsettled in our wish to wish again.

WASHINGTON
Ah, yes, yes, Tom, how could any world deny you
her churn of womb as genesis-crucible
for such fierce dreaming?
I pray I don't see this infernal globe decompose
to such an eviscerate, infertile dryness, friend.
A few brief, blind sighs bind us to this life;
and oh if those sighs moaned out all meaningless,
how could I even in this accident be reconciled to live?
My eyes take leave of their dryness once again;
I'll baptismal your departing hope
with their wet graces. And now you transfigure
each dark thing with such a harnassed wash
of wanting, Tom. The light, the light!
I am diamond-shot with stardust.
Only our awkward continent's tough, abrupt newness
can shove above the watermark as mountain enough
for the discovering blues of your high-stepping eye.
I myself love the unlevelled tripping of your whim.
I myself feel somewhat more guyed and bouyed
toward the honeyed fire-frets and fangles of the sky
than I had been before in my drowsy daze of peace.
Yet still, I think, I'll stay here, and if
your iron bridge steps you to a wider France
where armed Liberty in her brightened gown contests
Champagne plains with Kings, and her blooming bubbles
are all of vilest violet blown from bleeding mouths,
as restless then as my self-imposed repose
shall then become, still I'll stay here and endure
an unmourning peace, nor moult a doublet
of fresh eagle feathers for my mounting spirit
but stay here by my doughty rounded hill
and look up at our old stars
in dewy-new happiness still.

PAINE
Let us harnass our unmarked stars tonight
and rip the quiescent swamp with light,
as we've made this empty outlined nation
take our chosen colors of the limitless.

WASHINGTON
Torches aloft!

[They raise their rasping torches on the quiet set.]

PAINE
    Liberty Tree, o Liberty Tree
    What ye are ye know well, but oh,
    What ye mean to be!
    Listen, flusterless swans of the swamp!
    Oh hear the tale, hear!
    Never was one so drear,
    Of how all the tyrranical powers,
    Kings, Commons, Lords and sours,
    United on the hour
    And at one stroke
    Had thought to choke
    Our Liberty Tree, our Liberty Tree.

    But then, and then, hee hee!
    From North to South
    Called the trumpet's mouth
    And when we'd gathered
    With ourselves in a lather
    We united on the hour
    With all of our power
    And far and near
    Conjoined at a cheer
    In defense of our Liberty Tree!

WASHINGTON
You do make the worst ditties, Tommy.

PAINE  [Picking a fight.]
Take your teeth out and say that!

WASHINGTON
If I take my teeth out now, it'll be
to keep myself from biting your fool head off.

PAINE  [Shrugs.]
The marshlights are coming up
in a uniform blue to the left there. See ye?

WASHINGTON
I see. A soft spot of color on the eye.

PAINE
Let us conclude the experiment.

WASHINGTON
We heave ourselves beyond experience with this!

[They throw their torches in high arcs that fall in a swale
of light into the soon-blooming swamp. The swamp catches fire.]

PAINE
Everything is illumination in God's suspiring fire.


THE BEGINNING


===FIND THE ORIGINAL LINE!!===






WASH speaks of death-fears. Paine replys:
These irrational itchings are as nothing
to my sainted clarity; my clear cerebration
shall not scab its supple greys with superstition.



PAINE
Like Pericles, I shall not perish from my time
but live on, an ever-ringing voice of high snap,
regular to the regular folks, a jolt
to those nuzzle-nursed on the old fogy ideas dead-past,
accepted ways batted into raw heads and kept
out of tired habit and petty custom for the sake
of that nappy slap-happy pontifex, Farce.
Today I shall wowingly reimagine my swatted world
and its crookedly connived constitution with truth's force;
divinity, with a little human imagination,
can get the job done. I shall dance to my own tough
and jangled, mangling jingle,
              ice skate over the void,
here in the sweet salt aftermath of creation, my own,
the sweated spray every individual makes and spades from torpor,
his own mossy square acre of oceanic freedom.
Only Poseidon, of the old gods, stood by Prometheus
as I recall, the welter salt spray of water okaying
the backdraft spread of the englightened flame;
he saw their realms as mutually imperishable, no doubt,
the flounce and rash flash of flame no threat
to the underwater underworld wavery haze-vision of Neptune's
misted mirth, the roly-poly water god girdled
in frowning sea-coral fronds and crowned with a spiked squid
petrified by the old wet man's honor in choosing it
from his wonderous habidashery. Ai! Electric eels squeeled
in dry delight at Prometheus, friend of the free--
they, whose dear god took every shape and sweated ecstatic
up to heaven to weep back down in the ramming rain.
I am wild lightning in those black swells, and a fire
on the highlands of this first and best time of men!
These are the times....
I shall orate an augerful of frothing truth
and not swallow back a word while I live!
This dirty tent, thrashed in the back-sizzle of new hail,
tied frozen down in these grimy woods,
here's a place to lay sweet newness on the earth,
inaugurate a heart to the swift weird will of one,
here's a place, an altar of activity to actively
announce my grown tough truth, a fabled place, perhaps,
where future disaster or glory laps at circumstance
and sheer human will overturns all the tides that meet!
Ha ha! I in my mock coracle-cockle will toss the turbulence
in my humanly mouthed direction on towards perfection,
and not drop dropsey-sick into the old worm trails
that so lovingly lattice the past with irking defeats,
the benighted unlightedness of my predecessors.
What have they ever lived to light their way to
besides death and the present tyranny?
This present tyranny and trumpeting injustice that makes me
curl curdled against it and call to the remote sky:
I must! I must! Can Justice exist when all are not free
to imagine it into some hammered shape of perfection?
Come rain, come storm, come snow,
   withering blizzrd or puffing drift,
      I see the forecasted crests' shapes
and do not spurn my own straightness of purpose!
I'll knock at the tent-- and may that tent let me enter!
   [Crowing:] I've come! I've come! I've come!








FROM
SCENE TWO
If an upright fellow speaks low, why the poor word's
discredited and given some high sheen of his
moral height and more sober quality, against
the insistence of its syllable; and if a man,
a base, a twisted, a poor and lunatic soul
to whom the phasing moon is monitor and mirror
of his unsteady moods and inconstant thoughts,
backlighting the weird proceedings of his strange eye
turned blank inward on a sick imagination,
if such a man, a vile, distemperate wretch
should speak in clear ululation, as even
the reckoning of God on his last Judgement Day
(when all is overtaken by his mystery of mercy)
would have all men speak, in accents to shame the angels
with his bright crystal syllables and sweet tricks,
why then the very heavens themselves take a taint,
a very palpable taint, from his silent loud-spoken
bastardry. His very perfidy will roar him down,
though he sing a hummingbird to stillness.
No matter how clean, no matter how absent of evil
go his words to their intended hearts
they shall inherit an afterburn all of black
and burnt miming umber umbrage by his stooping use
of those chosen words, and not others, those words
until all that was thought fit for tender human ears
is blasted, blocked, confounded, drowned in deaf tones,
poured void upon the incomprehension of the world,
erased from the tight mating poets crave
of sound and sense. The entire penning tenor
of my trial of life is to the language of its use
blameless stranger in this respect, and pleads in tongues
a real nearness at the docket of the hours every day,
a nice binding of human man and mouth-motion
which no other ordination I know of so obdurately requires.


END

Jul 162020
 
		Experimental adaptation of Euripides' 'Bacchae'
		    to modern-day South-Central L.A.
 
 We're the kids, we're the kids
      and we don't give a
                   shit about tomorrow.
            Anonymous Song.
 
  Rightly to be great
 Is not to stir without great argument
 But greatly to find quarrel in a straw
 When honor's at stake.
   Hamlet.
 
 Words are no satisfaction for words.
   The Code of Honor.
 
 There exists in our country a privileged class, soi disant,
 men of honor, who have established for themselves a higher
        law. They put their foot upon the criminal code and trample it
        in the dust.

        They may and do commit murder with impunity. I have
 no objection to a privileged class built on virtue and
 intelligence. But I protest, and shall to my dying breath
 protest against an aristocracy of crime.
  Reverend Arthur Wigfall, mid 1800s.
 
 There is no one here but carries arms under his clothes.
 At the slightest quarrel, knife or pistol comes to hand.
 These things happen continually; it is a semibarbarous
 state of society.
  Alexis De Tocqueville.
 
 "God damn you," Goode swore, standing over the dead man
 and firing twice more. "Maybe that will satisfy you."
  Fox Butterfield, All God's Children.
 
 These heavy-headed revels make us traduced of other
        nations.
  Hamlet.
 
 
 

SOUTH CENTRAL L.A.

      

No work in the hood,
nothin comin up;
violence is drunk by us,
violence makes us drunk.
Pistol, Whippets, China Doll,
Tammy, Shakedown, Dog, Larry,
Monster, Crip-boy, Terri,
Linda, boyz and girrls all;
As men and women we must fall.
Toke it, smoke it, better not choke it;
hammer comin down all over dis town.
Back on the street, I is Fleet;
killer nigga witha attitude,
killer stare killer cool;
my hatchet will wack it,
PCPs in my blood will hatch it.
Mayhem is my plan,
Chaos is my tool;
rod and rocket,
fuck you we gonna lock it.
Tribalist hate, lying in state,
Crips whip sissies,
sissies gotta take it.
Make it, can't fake it,
my blood is buzzin
cause your death isa comin.
.44s, .32s, sawed-off righteous,
teflon bullets come'n kiss this.
Workin down the alley ccol as a cat,
our feet like moonlight, light like that.
Nevah mutha-
fuka gonna fuck ya;
cap in yo nappy head
lickin asphalt dead,
my rule is crimson
hatred is my brimstone;
walk this world stone alone,
put a cap in my enemy befo I's gone.
Victory, victory,
chaos gettin inta me,
wildnight action,
adidas-fast traction.
One dis and you get this;
muthafuckin nevah gonna miss.
Handy, dandy, my colt .49;
effortless, endless,
these scraggy streets is mine;
highest, wiredest,
my flight's so tragic-magic
I paff out the rest best;
I kite it, I bite it
no matter how windless.

This which is in me
is my only kin, see,
nothin else can win me.
Violence, violence,
put its crooked root in my tooth,
grow outa my shadow
to shatter the vacum.
Outer space gonna waste
when my god give the nod
and unleash what's within me.
Up from the Dime,
down to 299,
all the way I'm gonna riot
ride it, abide it, alla that fly shit;
nothin ain't no sin, Jammers
just so long as you win, Bamm!
John Wayne Gacy, Dick Tracy,
they all say it and lace it
inside like a sidewinder,
just a little reminder;
Like a Medusa, we'll reduce ya
until you crawl in hip-deep;
make your little sister weep.
Yeah, yeah, yo mamma gonna cry
river a tears, bye n bye.
Ain't no offer, I'm gonna off ya;
no amnesty served up with your tea.
Wackin and swackin
and crazy-ass crackin
is all you're gonna get
from the boyz wit the hit.
The God a Din
growing mighty within;
I puff him and huff him,
I'm down with the dragon,
your blood, my religion.
Deflower is power
and I get it by the hour.
Every tear of your fear
I lick until it tickles.
Runnin with a Mustang
chillin with the Gangsta gang
baffin' with the master man.
Yo, color! Yo color!
A militant flip-off
is enough to get ya knocked off.
Adrenelin
rushin in,
flamin it
never taming it,
my juice is a mighty tower,
my snakey spine's a howler.
Whip it, drip it;
cordite smoke, I lip it.
Givin every sign
I'm possessed by the most divine.
Yes, it's spastic
but the girls dig my brass stick;
unwavering they savor it,
gettin humble just to flavor it.

Now this night is diving
like wine from a shiv in
somebody, a stranger,
a kid in a manger;
don't matter, it splatters
its darkness that flatters,
making me restless;
I'm up and I get dressed.
Night combat black
to match the sky's black attack;
Under my old stereo
my hand spans, there it go,
just like in the rodeo;
I pick up my pistol,
neveah gonna let it go.
Oh no, ho no,
out the house, I'm on Patrol.
Who's dat comin
My heart starts thrummin;
whatever's out, I'm in.
Nothin's ever prettier
than me and my boyz sittin sure.
Our waistbands are packin
when we start the dragnet
It's an old old story
rosy, erect-reared phalloi,
testosterone to the bone
bring tha muthafucka rollin home!
Pot smoke, ropes of dope,
crack-smackin, our heads be whackin
with honey-nugget naked dreams, oi!
We smash with the mastering noise of the Boyz!
Our eyes like blazin .38s,
heaven's angels at the gate,
satan's flamethrowers just can't wait
so we shout
while our arms sparr routs
pickin up the little ones
to teach em all the killin fun;
In our enemy's fear
our hearts sail clear;
our dreads sled better
when they're deader and wetter.
Snortin and flarin
wild and darin
like some high-wire act
we dance in the flak
hotter and hotter,
demented as otters!
Mighty in our joy
boyz among boys;
Holy loud-proud
our hand signals make the rounds
til every fucka in the hood
just wishes that he could or would
throw his hand around his heart
and break it flaming like kindling wood!







PREFACE SCENE


[PSYCHO SIXTY holds a gun to the blue-swathed temple
of an enemy Blood, who kneels cuffed before him.]

PSYCHO SIXTY
You rude, intruding Bloods covet too much
what my better glove alone must hold.

[PSYCHO SIXTY shoots the kneeling man dead.
All the other cast members are there, except
BLINDEYE, ROBBER G, and MONSTER. All solemnly 
approve.]









SCENE ONE

 

[In front of ROBBER G's house. His little sister is
leaning at the door.]

BLINDEYE
It's Blindeye knockin-- its time to start rockin.
Let's kick it; we're wicked. I'm sick a just waitin;
tonight there'll be no hesitatin. Yo yo yo
Robber G-- Let's go! We built dis damn town
Now is the hour to tear it damn down.
How else have we got to show our firey crowns aroun?
Li'l Sis, its my wish-- go get yo bro for this.

ROBBER G
Is that you tinkerbellin my door? Yo Blindeye,
here stands your able man in ripped-up Hell.
I'm strapped with my gat; let's kick it.
Let's shotgun our enemies, for violence is sweet!
Rowdy-crowdin these poor-ass steets
we're heroes, we're Neros, one hand smashin
one hand upliftin resistless the gold node of our "set."
Homeboys of the pure noise, we need to bleat.
Duck in your heads, resisters, before you get beat!
On my bike I am strikin.

BLINDEYE
Most merciless.

ROBBER G
With curses I'm rehearsin;
No stick shift help me with my deathwish. 

BLINDEYE
Yeah, deathwish for those suckers.

ROBBER G
I don't care if I die, long as I flyin!

BLINDEYE
I seen death many multiple times.
What his most ferocious incarnation, Robber G?

ROBBER G
We is!

BLINDEYE
Righteous.

ROBBER G
Made like an ace mace in the USA,
I'll split the illin' face of every disgrac-
ful flounder down under our 60th st Parallel,
I'm bulgin and boyish, not old and churlish,
holdin on to all the things I own
as if they'll save me some day. I am
my own creation, built to slay.

BLINDEYE
And that's how we'll stay.
But we still gotta pedal over to Psycho Sixty's
momma's house an get him up together with us.

ROBBER G
All one proud cloud of righteous trouncin!

BLINDEYE
Down in my neves, in my guts, I'm bouncin,
wired to the surprise. Yass, yass.

ROBBER G
This the Tradition. We down with it.
Older'n the hands that slapped down
these mean streets. Our augering god was cuttin
faces from their owners, ruinin unions,
smearing a weirdness over the cold nighttime,
napalm-lobbin our erect status outward
to girls and strangers since before Life,
practically. Damn, can't go gainst that
no way.

BLINDEYE
Who wants ta? I'm a live wire!
I'm burnin to be gettin it on, cuz.

ROBBER G
Let the old beware, and the young take care,
we here to rip their stars from existence.

BLINDEYE
Psycho Sixty! He cool like that.

ROBBER G
Yeah, he wit the hood all the way. 
Do or die, like the goddamn Marine Corps.

[Enter PSYCHO SIXTY.]

PSYCHO SIXTY
Gentle citizens! Has you heard the clap trap
bombasting its wailing rogue spell
into the clits' ears herebouts? Damn,
they sweatin they spandex off for some
new yule log, hotter'n our pistol-whipping
six-inch dicks. Say he like a god over there
and all, got the whole block scooted over
by one bushy nieghborly neighborhood.
Got every black female squattin at his shack.
His residence is "the Presence," what they say.
They shootin and hootin, gettin all kinda
malt liquor drunk over there. I don't know.
Shaneesta never give me no blow but she
down on all four in the bay window for this mo fo.
I thought I was the top cat, blacksters.
Can't no one go howlin at my black moon
lessin' I gives the say-so, you know?
Them girls all pretendin it some tenderness
in they minds that make them wild-ass wild
like that, strayin from they home-made beds.
I put some serious kidnapping on their sleepy asses
this wicked dawn, long befo yo asses was up.
They down in my basement sweatin it.
Rest a them squallers beat it, like a anthill
smashed by a passin holocaust, my death breath,
when I went down their bolted hole,
all ragin and maniac, sportin my mask
time has chiselled to outrageous disaster.
I'll catch 'em out later at leisure
when they come crawlin back to ol' Psvcho, not crowin.
Damn, my own Moms hot-footed it to that party,
she was hollerin and drinkin up with the rest of em;
and she can really do down some brew to, y'all.
Got all this on my iron hands, and what else?
This stranger baps his hip-hoppin ass onto the block,
a juggler, a magician out of Lydia,
head all nappy blond and fire-wild,
ringlets trapsing down his neck sweet-scented,
acne-free and one dear green eye to boot!
Says he got Lady Love on his soul's side;
well damn if he ain't buckin our honies
all day and all night too. Screw, screw, screw.
But I tells y'all-- and watch my scratched eye--
I ain't lying, neither, if'n I catch him,
by his gold-ringletted necklace of honey-locks
I'll shake him so down he can't dance shit,
his left foot be so disconnented it can't find
the right; his partnered hands, which been
snatchin my snatch so near me, they gonna
forget what a clap is, laddies. Yes they is.

BLINDEYE
Damn, man. You gonna bap our happiness away from us,
jest like that? I ain't havin it. You nuts, is what.
Since when you been against a little partyin,
Psycho Sixty?

ROBBER G
Shoot'em up and ride 'em high;
ain't that what you always say?

BLINDEYE
Don't make no sense, gentle citizen.
Gots to respect the wildness that's in us,
give it free let and insane run. Be humble
before the river courses of your adrenelin.
Ain't life just one rollercoaster whore, padre?
You talk like a cat that's swack, but you
ain't makin no kinda solid sense, mistah.
When lovin and hatin come against us, we break.
Our innards scatter outside, and freeze
in whatever shape overwhelming desire or
insurmountable hate has trashed em into.
C'mon, Psycho Sixty, you know. We head up
for that damn party ourselves. Gonna get puss.
Gonna get high. Gonna kill some swell-heads
in the park about damn midnight. What up?
Why not? Our god done grow solid within us.
Rage and chaos dance. Suck my cock
or stuff a sock in it if you ain't down.
What kinda leader is you without your baton?
So this new one on the turf ain't no good?
That ain't what I hear. This Monster, yeah,
that his name; this Monster got a chomp on it,
hold the whole hood in his mouth like it nothin,
he could done damn spit it out again.
He gonna be ridin high Old Gangsta style
quick as a hiss-mist grafitti swish a silver Dutch Boy
hit them splintery city walls. His name
gonna rise and shine; all a all the rest....
They gonna fall. Don't ask me how I know,
I know. You damn know I get them frenzied
sessions when I'm outta breath, trapsin
homeward way after some slash and action.
You know what I see flashin in my head then 
is the God-awfulest truest things there be; 
I get my Blindeyes then, white chocolate and starin'.
Robber G hadda drag my sorry ass off of Florence
that one wilding night, scrapin my heels raw,
I was so blind-righteous with my vision, cuz.
Monster, man. Partyin, yeah. Get your soul,
wrenched from your nervous skin, flyin high
and feelin whole again; ain't that enough?
Ain't that what all the all be all about, Psycho?
Can't feel no wretchedness in us when
you floatin mighty enough to touch dead Heaven,
see everybody there, all my old homies ressurected,
kickin it at a fat-ass barbecue, smilin,
laughing on the butteriest summer afternoon
that ever was. Sincerely, Psycho Sixty, man,
that's what all I seen last time I rolled
into one a Monter's monsta Parties.
And Belinda weren't no shy Aphrodite that night!
Pinned her whimpering body on me like a
shishkabob, bro. My Heaven one wet place,
Lester, I'll tell ya. Your babes, man they
be gettin it on or not once you out that door
just like they please. No monster got
a remote control on all that. They do like natural.
Don't be shootin me those evil looks and all that.
Shaneeta wanna be your li'l princess,
well she'll keep her legs crossed then anywhere;
one party ain't gonna make no horndogette
outa her if she loyal to your poinger.
Shit. You know how it is when you get The Rage,
your eyes roll up red like gumballs,
and your lips bow over theyselves like some
African mask Miss Pederson tripped on the class
last year; sayin about our heritage and all.
Yeah, yeah, that's just a buncha crap. I know.
These streets is my labyrinth, back and forwards.
And Monster, man, he got some kick-ass biceps,
22 inches, and a bazooka forsooth stashed
at his wackin shack over past the rended Hendersons'.
Damn but the mighty eye of him will bend 'em,
even the most honorably ferocious-rough
of 'em, down to a cowardly knot of nerves;
sometimes, anyway, they jes' break and scat.
Seen it happen; they had the guns, and he just
had that moon-blind eye a his, blood solemn.
You think you got the way with all the block
just cause you the Power here? Think again;
something high and wilder goin on when Monster stirs.
Robber G and me, we your loyalest,
shout out Psycho Sixty forever! and blow
more than one rival clean away into yesterday.
You know we done that, how many times together,
clearing midnight with all chambers empty.
How many wakes we drive by laughin our asses off?
Every crib sibling of our troop say first
"Psycho Sixty!" before they pop out "Moms"
or "Daddy," oh yeah. But I tell you, Psycho,
although you the first word round here,
you ain't the last or only. You like being high?
Monster put a zip in it make you think you
pure undiluted sky, commander. You like
to see stitched Xs over your enemies' eyes?
Monster gonna whip those Xs in fast as kisses,
and get you ripped on givin 'em, too.
Whee ooo! Come on down, proud crown!
Step mildly to this new wildness;
won't wear out no welcome at the Monster House,
nobody there see what comin or going.
Their minds is gold-blown, his stash is so noble.

ROBBER G
Blindeye sayin just what he seein, by Jesus.
Priceless advice ain't often gotten so free.
It only a goodwill gesture to take what he givin
at the very lees of the least, my Priest.
I know your holy vesture is crossed with a baretta.
My prayers all open up hot like a hollownose
shot too, Psycho. It ain't about that at all.
If he givin on all whacked and false-like, well,
at least the ecstasy today's gonna be real real.
What more you need to know 'bout that than how you feel?
You don't come down, some a the others may
get smellin that you're weak, put off, shy
of divin inta what's here. Now why would
that be? they might ask. Psycho Sixty,
he the real down with the downest man around.
Maybe he slippin, just a li'l bit. That's it.
Next thing, someones be skating past our wake,
a triple one, gasping laughs into their hands,
and drooling their Coors out they noses, jose.
I don't like it, but there it is.

BLINDEYE
You gonna fade up like a bruise you not careful;
I don't care how black you think you are.

ROBBER G
C'mon, man, Blindeye here right. Real right.

PSYCHO SIXTY
You keep your hands straight off me, now, hear?
I don't want to hear anymore of this Blackenstein shit;
superduper Monsta Trooper. Y'all can just stall all that.
They call you Blindeye... huh... well they gonna
call you Lefty soon, cause all you gonna have left
is your left nut, homie. Don't be pullin no stuntflying
in my zone, Mr Bones. You got it? One more slip,
you won't even know what happenin'.
And that ain't no stale threat, jet. Monster-Man,
I'm a gonna deal with him most harshly.
Yes indeed. Spliff, Fast Matthew, c'mon,
we gonna rouse them lazy asses kickin back round
Yolanda's house. She been diggin his ass
most unrighteously of all. Her and her wondertunnel.
I'll spurn those he's turned away from me first,
that'll burn him most deep and creeply, I know.
Him and his pretty green girl's eye, well hell,
they can just be trippin on seein
all the homies torn away and spurnin him.
You go there-- tell him that. He just
a hissing miss until he take me out;
I'm the wack trap that'll zap him, no pre-lim.
And when time come round to blistex his ass
for the final, humiliating kiss of my colt .45,
let him see the hardy party he been plannin
disintegrate to tears while he wailin.

[Exit PSYCHO SIXTY.]

BLINDEYE
Damn but that one-hundred percent whack!
Monster ain't no threat to his po ass.
Damn! Psycho Sixty is within inches
of being the top dog among top cats, and he
blowin it bigtime. He just gotta go along
a LITTLE with the adrenalin high Monster havocs,
then everything'd be real cool. Ice cubed.
Let's you and me weave over to the Monsta's house
and put a molten spotlight on Psycho Sixty's
good deeds and charming ways. Monster'll see
and make sure Psycho repent his ashen ass
step'n'fetch-it quick. That's sure.
Monster'll play straight, and no mistake.
'Long as Psycho Sixty play along, jes a li'l bit.
Some bowing now will save his sassy ass from howling.
Maybe it'll look like we beggin a little,
but let's throw our whole hearts inta it, cuz.
Everybody get a bit pleady and wrecked when they buzzed.

ROBBER G
That fool talk like a fool.

BLINDEYE
Gospel.




    
Crackin on a six-pack
golden liquor makein eyes slack,
distributing hilariousness
handin over some fleshy miss,
Every kind a lovely sin
Monster pulls pulsin in
with a smoke-wreathed grin.
High times with him be certain.
No troubled hand draws a curtain
on the revelry, the mystery,
the peek at ecstasy.
Don't be bleedin no worry
on the magic carpet he procures.
Harps and snow-flurries
mix it up with the crack now.
Snap it, and trap it, c'mon hands let's clap it,
Monster is a comin in with his wings a flappin.

Thrashin and trashin,
it's anarchy he's hatchin
it's a method of freedom
when your heart is a speared plum
when your eye sockets
feel like a dirty pocket
--seen too many corruptions
to pull together your gumption?
then let thy soul be free!
Take it from me, for yourself take take it,
mindless happiness is in these veins
when you let your blood be insane
and thoughtfully derrange
what happens in the brain; hop that train,
ride the high wire,
club your dick wit desire.
Expand necromancin, with the DJ trancin,
twirl like a girl, no one will be wiser.
Monster, Monster, in us he's exercisin.

Being wise is just for fools;
shake the house of the righteous,
that's the golden rule.
When trouble is floodin
and your thumper be bubblin
a karma-calmness like dew bedights
rage-reared heads day n' night;
forget hurry, forget-worry,
spear freedom's angry page,
take a life but take it sage:
owning every action-- never sorry.
Your eyes smile in the blast,
in the muzzle-flash I'm trashed;
by death's clear light I'm washed.
For every dissin' victim I've executed,
the Monster in me washes pure what conscience polluted.
I'm a bigger bigger bigger
with my finger on the trigger.

Eyes turned inward see your thought;
what's secret becomes what not;
the unconscious, the monstrous,
vomit visible in the roar's hush.
Before you born, who hung your face
before they skulls, cuz? What place
galloped your heart alert
from void and unbeing, the universe's dirt?
Buttermilk skulls harden to a grimace;
death had your face befo you was in it.
Mr. Bones still dance when flesh dismissed;
you be what you be, cuz, not what you wished.
Orgasm's deaf death spasms make eyes inch inwards;
heavy bodies drop lards, skeletons lighten skywards.
When Monsta has gotcha, yo tweet like a bird;
insane only insane for them that ain't heard.



SCENE TWO

     

[Enter SPLIFF and FAST MATTHEW, escorting MONSTER.]

SPLIFF
Man, his ass is silk.

FAST MATTHEW
No spine in his kind. Comes all simpering.
Let us cuff 'im too, wrists out poutin.

SPLIFF
"Truss me, buss me, just don't make no fuss. See?"

FAST MATTHEW
He came sayin at us with his nice green eye n' all.

SPLIFF
Swayin sweet and neat. Got us laughin and
so sorry somehow inside at lockin and knockin him;
Damn, when's the last time I cared I scarred
some stranger's sorry ass too hard? Yet
with him I was all gentleness and niceness.
Something in him. Some potent flow of twining
wine rhyming a wildness under his slick skin,
Psycho Sixty. I swear. Mister Monster,
me n' Spliff didn't take you on our own recognizance.
Psycho here done ordered it all. That his way.
Shoot first.... He crazy for his honor n' all.

SPLIFF
You know all them other folk we got chained
and chillin to the waterheater in your basement?
Well, they angels now, or somefin.

PSYCHO SIXTY
How angels?

SPLIFF
They done flewed the coop.

FAST MATTHEW
Loop de loop, dey flew de coop. 

SPLIFF
Yeah, and wasn't no lock nohow smashed.
Like they had the keys all forged and molded
that escaped 'em, Psycho Sixty.

FAST MATTHEW
Pretty nifty, huh?

PSYCHO SIXTY
You're a magician, ain't you, you Monster? 

MONSTER
What seem like magic sometimes de simplest thing a all.

PSYCHO SIXTY
You think you could undo a lynch in such a cinch?

MONSTER
Got to know what death be to undo a death, I guess.

PSYCHO SIXTY
Where you from? Ain't from no round here.
You infiltratin. What hood's backin you up?

MONSTER
My kind are from all around. No place everywhere;
You see a fire, you see a fight, I'm from there.

PSYCHO SIXTY
Uh huh. Any place more specific?

MONSTER
No. Naw, not really. My folks from out the cuntry.

PSYCHO SIXTY
Why you draggin all your wildass rollin-eye shit
down to my part a town? Don't need no voodoo boo
washing away our homicide outlines and marks a war.

MONSTER
Things I got in me just gotta come out.
Wherever. Whenever. It don't matter much.

PSYCHO SIXTY
Yeah, I can sip that, but I can't swallow
what everyone else gets just jammin away
at your hollerin wild-loud shindigs, stranger.

MONSTER
What they get stay in their eyes, but you can't see it.

PSYCHO SIXTY
Fuck that shit. You just jackin me up
so I'll let you loose just to get off myself.
I ain't buying that. You tell me. Get me off now.

MONSTER
Some things only come out in the doing, not the tellin.
I can't teach you howta fly lessen you jump up
to my piece of sky, Psycho Sixty.

PSYCHO SIXTY
Uh huh. You ain't tellin me shit, genius.

MONSTER
Wise things sound like fool things to a fool.

[PSYCHO SIXTY cracks MOSTER in the head.]

PSYCHO SIXTY
Keep that up you ain't gonna be wearing your tongue
too much longer, Monster. My dog be chewin on it.

MONSTER
Hidden things in you gonna whap your ass backwards,
Psycho Sixty; and it ain't me that'll do it,
it's your own ignorant self. That's a promise.

PSYCHO SIXTY
Damn, that's it! God damn you, you Monster!
Don't nobody step on my respect.

MONSTER
What horrors will you scar me with?
PSYCHO SIXTY
Gonna shave your dread head. That my first cut.

MONSTER
Do that. just know you ain't playing with no Maybe.
These dreads are a river flowing,
and ain't grown out to be chopped. They're sacred.

PSYCHO SIXTY
Girl hair on a man ain't sacred. Now hand me 
your psychoactive stash, massah. Ha ha.
Whatever it is you got a lock on ain't
gonna stay locked away from Psycho Sixty, sister.

MONSTER
I can't give it up. You want to take,
then let it be on you. Your stirring deep shit now.

PSYCHO SIXTY
Yeah yeah; I don't let no bald woman
tell me what I'm doing or not doing.
Now do I fast Matt?

FAST MATTHEW
You the rockin rooster a the roost, Psycho, no doubt.
But still, he ain't done nothing much. And maybe....

PSYCHO SIXTY
Maybe shit. Ain't no maybes in Maybe anymore.
Don't step on my respect.

FAST MATTHEW
No no. Nothing like that Psycho, man.

PSYCHO SIXTY
Yeah. That's fine then. Hog-tie this muthah.
Then drag his scraggy ass back to the basement.
No second escape about to happen on me. And hurry up,
those cocksuckers from over on Hoover lookin for us.
They just be itchin to be triggerin us
to rancid splats on the sidewalk. No more talk.
Lash him, and let's exit this disaster zone.

MONSTER
You bind me now, you be setting somehing loose
even you don't want no peek at Psycho Sixty.

[PSYCHO SIXTY strikes him.]

PSYCHO SIXTY
Trash that backtalk. I'm a martyr your ass.
I'm the master on this plantation. Strafe him.

MONSTER
You don't know spit about what your life really is;
you don't know nuffin at all about who you are.

PSYCHO SIXTY
Chain him to the light fixture with the bike lock
like I showed you. If he moves, he'll be
electrocuted in the darkness. That'll be
his only enlightenment. Fast Matt, Spliff,
move it! I'll grab Betty, Shaneesta and them stupid chicks
back to my dominion lickety-split again.

MONSTER
You sure is crazy Psycho, just like your name say.
What you lockin up wit me can't be kept pent.



Tidal triumph, awash like graves
Come to kill y'all, not to save.
My mind's unbalanced,
Entranced, with wicked motions dance;
But what's more subtle, right, brighter,
Me insane or you in chains?
Psycho's blind to what makes him wind,
He just a kite in this wind;
Now I look myself over, head to toe,
Just what I am, I just don't know.
But not to know is half the score,
Or more, cause Jazz to the soul's a whore.
Rap just happens, spontaneous combustion,
Of will and world it is the junction.
And all my plain "just Ignorance"
Overbrow's that Psycho's show
Of foresightful jurisprudence.

I'm a dunce, I'm a dunce,
I dance like I was drunk;
I drink like a dancer's waver;
Every gold footsole go clunk,
Many a times, not just once,
We live and die forever.
Of this stupid truth I'm treasurer
Cause my mind's expandin ecstaticer,
Ecstaticer until I cannot stir
Without the mutible union come
To do and do til my bones' undone.
Deep in Monster's interlocked skull
Lies a Zoroaster's indomitable skill
Will to swill and will to kill,
Together lie down on the rapist's hill.

But I dance in a trance,
My blood's as bold as an old lance
Dashin fantastic through my happenstance
Like a teflon-infected bullet's truth
That only in death may find a truce.
How we gonna this ecstatic state induce?
It come when it come, and that's the truth.
I won't degrade what's played into spoof,
Or uncoil my moil of heart with ruth,
Things too imposssible
Come and give me thrills
Time and again, as if Time stood still.
Monster and Psycho: are they equals,
Bone's cold truth, and tyrant's hot demand?
Before this play's final line's declaimed,
One'll drink gin grinning from the other's skull.







SCENE THREE


MONSTER
Hey hey, Betty, you gonna get it on with your steady?
Here I am, and I in the clear. Get near.

BETTY
Close as halitosis, Monster. You touch me,
man you put my pants on fire. Say, how you
get outta Psycho's clutches so fast
without so much as a scratch on your wild hide?

MONSTER
Betty, that sold fool Psycho don't know
who he is messin with in the least. Not the least.
I'll cut him up like butter, muthahfucker.

BETTY
But didn't he have you all painfully chained,
or somethin'?

MONSTER
Can't put a lock on lightness, baby.
Can't chain the mainspring, no way, no maybe.
I learned me a few tricks a gettin outta
my Moms' womb. After that trick, every other'n's
simple as snatch, natch.

BETTY
Not always so simple.

MONSTER
Don't even play that with me, Betty.
You was as easy to knock over as a toddler.

BETTY
There's something you're not a-tellin me,
Monster. Those locks didn't just pop off.
Psycho's no fool no matter how many ways you say he is.

MONSTER
Oh no? Catch a ear a this, then.
They had me so locked up, with so many chains
wrapped about my boisterous body, I looked
like a arrested tornado, Betty Boop.
Did that put old Monster down? Did that
crinkle the pure linens of my spirit? Did it?
Ahh, no. You put me lookin like a sunk slave
in your basement rooms and you find out damn fast
that down just ain't where I's stayin.
But, as I was relating, I was so ass-wrapped up
in these chains, that I couldn't hardly move;
so I had my arms out all christ-wise
and Psycho hisself and his helper hadda help
me move to my imprisonment, one broken step
at a time. And they dids. And I had my hands
clapped upon Mister Sixty's exposed neck;
and what was in my mauling hand? Now what
do you suppose was there?

BETTY
Beats me.

MONSTER
I tripped him out with a li'l slipped dose
of something totally morose and potent.
A most engrossing substance; all romance
and moonlight, with no follow-up dawn
to bring his senses back to a sense a belonging
in this ol' world. His nappy head
was in the most far-outest space sayable
inside of thirty seconds of my benediceion.
Soon's as sayin, he was a-wrappin my swayin chains
around the waterheater itself, and handin me
a uzzi from his personal arsenal.

BETTY
No lie?

MONSTER
No lie.
He was fumblin aroun and fiddln with many things
like a blind man with a combination lock.
And I was right there next to him, lookin over him,
him not seeing me at all, or with wasted-out eyss
overviewing my present frame, thinkin me
some out-of-alignment pillar o' the house.

[Offstage.]

PSYCHO SIXTY
He gone! Snap to, units! Get my slack soljers assembled!
Jump to my house, jacks! Monster's gone!

MONSTER
Hah hah hah. Guess we in for a li'l company.
Psycho, Psycho. He a man fightin against flashes.
What is men's meaning in life compared to me?
I'll knock out agony and joy in one wailin heave;
him? He gonna rage all a his days in a blaze,
not seein the true beauty of violence for his fires.
Ass up in the air, wigglin around, sayin
"I'ma shoot mo' fo'. I'm a shoot his eyes out,
gonna cut him up baaad." Hmm hmm. I'm wise
enough to see this ol' world with my own eyes.

[Enter PSYCHO SIXTY.]

PSYCHO SIXTY
My head is swimmin' like to universe's chaotic begining.
I had that Creature Features Monster spangle-bangled
with razor wires in my bloodletting basement,
and now he's out, gone as a hour burned past.
How'd that happen? Betty.... You! Down on your face,
fucker, nobody get me goin and creep outta my house;
nobody douse me with that humiliation.
I'm a drown your stray cat ass immeadimento, Pablo.

MONSTER
Relax. Your incompetence ain't your personal
diaster; everybody round here got a share in it.
You owe it to all to stall out that vengeance shit
until you see for yourself whether I bring some benefit.

PSYCHO SIXTY
Everybody, do a shotgun patrol. Now.
You see one strange head in our hood... Pow-pow-pow.

MONSTER
That ain't the answer, Psycho.

PSYCHO SIXTY
You so wise-ass wise. You got all the answers,
cept when you need to be tellin me true, bruiser.

MONSTER
I'm true when I need the truth. Then I'm truest.

PSYCHO SIXTY
Say your last prayer, pilgrim. This the apocalypse for you.

[PSYCHO SIXTY holds gun to MONSTER's head.
Two guys on bicycles scoot in, squealing to a halt
before the tableaued pair.

PSYCHO SIXTY
WHAT THE FUCK IS IT? I'm ready to waste this shit.

[PSYCHO SIXTY holds a confused hand up to his aching head.]

FAST MATTHEW
Everybody on the block has flocked out of it,
down towards Florence and Normandy, commander.

SPLIFF
It's true truth. And everybody strapped to the max.
They're out wailin and nailin everyone and everything.

FAST MATTHEW
I saw my little bro on his Big Wheel
tricyclin by with a slingshot.

SPLIFF
We arced around in the dark. Slammed
our breaks by a car chillin at the light,
y'know, near Hoover Avenue? Bap-- trashed
that ol' man in it, pulled him out
to old Mrs. Witchett's garage in a red rage,
stuffed his shirt in his mouf, tied him way down.
Left him there wit' some mangy hound lickin round.
Then we took us a fine drive, moving lightning
at our weighted waists and itchin fingertips,
plenty of trouble and noise available to our egos.
Saw Shaneesta, melon-head in a silk dew-rag
walkin sly and stylin outa the 7-'leven.
Damn she a evil beauty in a tropical skirt, Psycho!
So, we trail her, silent as silk out silkworm's ass.
And she stormin down those streets!
Makin time like a rock-climber in zero-G.
Her heels' clickety-click only sound out there
besides the moon's hollow burn-through
where the streetlights was out. Fast Matt
crackin his neck all-ways sideways to see
if any of the Hoover Bloods is in the water
sharkin our exhaust. But everything seemed clean.
Then China Doll meet up with SHANEESTA
after about half a block, not sportin our colors,
but got on instead the purple-blues the Bloods use
twirlin through their fine high hair.
Then Larry and Shakedown show up, movin too
down the same block, same direction,
toward that Normandy whir-pool center of action
and dick and quiff atteniion. The cold moon
smoking over all a us like a spurted gun.

PSYCHO SIXTY
You keep on talkin, Spliff. If
anything he say implicate you, Monster,
your blown-open neck gonna look as sad
as a chil' when his balloon get popped.

SPLIFF
We turn the corner, and whoa Lord! Hordes
a Bloods with zip-shivs, automatics, bats,
are dancin entranced as Manson aborting li'l
Sharon Tate in the white wilderness suburbs;
every fine hand was lifted, every piece cocked,
every hard eye targeted as clockwork
tickin the death-seconds back to the zero-hole
that eats the victim's life away. And victims'
startin to fall too, all over, like a dance
collapsed-- r'member that time we all played
musical chairs at your Moms' house, Psycho?
Like that. But the music stop and nobody here
have a chair, they all fall all every which ways.
Matted blood dull in the moonlight. Street-
lights shot out in favor of nature's dark
long time gone, maybe, as if the dark was forver.
Then me an' Fast Matt gets this queer idea.
Y'know how your Moms was out there an' all,
well, we thought we should go chase her ol' ass
and drag her back to the habitat, so she
here once an for all, whatever else is a comin,
and that's that; Fast Matt give it the nod
and off we shoot, moving through the cruel ballet
and sloppy bodies' hectic sprawl. Damn if'n I
didn't slip more'n once times in black blood,
my heels still bapped with that baptism.
Now we had just passed a smashed-in Sam's
Wont-Mart, not gone too far beyond that at all
when into my flyin ears came a stingin' singin',
can't describe it no other way, high keenin,
stripped of velvet humanhood, a raw caw
but beautiful too, as if every extragance of voice
had been torn muscle by muscle off, and only
this solo bone of hollow knowing, this hurt chruch
of moon-induced croonin was lef'. Shift
every flap of my heart backwards, it did.
And who we see at the quackin head a this choir?
Whose angel-face, intense as a punch,
and masked all from brow to drippin chin
in another's blood, the mask makin' her look
all holy and insane or somethin', but your MOMS
Psycho? No one but her unleashin that wire
of diamond sound down the corntracted alley.
And she flayin' some space cadet like a filet mignon,
right there in de crags a the trash,
makin this wail and tearin a man to pieces---
with her nails! Damn but that sight went mighty
right through me; I quailed; troubled somethings
almost undid my guts like I had the shits.
Moms bringin the life inta this world
and axing it out as weil-- that ain't damn right;
that for soljers and others to muscle through,
not moms whose titties is all molten over
with milks when you puts up o 'em. Not right.
Damn not right. So me an Fast Matt move to her
gonna just grab her ass or knock her outs,
if we have to, no disrespect, Psycho,
when she raise up that strange mask-face,
all Afrikaans or some shit, right from the heart
a the man she disastered, looks straight
through me, through my whole soul in one look,
with dismissive eyes, and then turns her howl-hedd
to the right and bites the night air
with these words-- oh Lordy I won't forget 'em soon!--
"They, untouched by the monster's grace
seek to touch to undoing our violent chase,
as if the mens owned every insanity!
AAhiiiii! Speed with me deathly! Deathly and free!"
Then she and twenty others batted at us,
flapped dark in the darkness, all speed, like she say.
We barely 'scaped. Scraped knees an hands,
pulled the '78 camaro through twenty backyards,
a rile and a ruckus all fucked up,
tearing the air with angry sounds, rippin stars,
alarmin' all who saw us we had such scared looks,
fear sucked up from the bases of our beings
til all I am emerged in my high screams.
No way I'd be goin in there now again.
Shoot me here, Psycho, but I ain't to budge.
But that Monster she talk about, if that
anything to do with this man here, well then,
I'd be piecing him into my future plans
and not tearin' him out at all. No sir.
No disrespect to you Mistah Monstur. No sir.

PSYCHO SIXTY
You talk like that to me again, Spliff,
I'll have no care that you my li'l bro,
none at all. I'll put a cap in you
and not wait to hear the whap your ass makes
hittin' and disintegratin' against the pavement.

SPLIFF
Don't be makin me go back in there.

PSYCHO SIXTY
You ain't worth takin.

MONSTER
I can give you entrance into their madness.
Would you like to see such ecstatic faces up close?

PSYCHO SIXTY
I did NOT tell you to talk. Keep shut, fucker.
Spliff, go get every last asshole you know;
I want all the troops scooted to my front yard;
any riot within my range goin to be by my hand.

[Exit SPLIFF and FAST MATTHEW.]

PSYCHO SIXTY
Now. What the fuck were you insinuating?
What off-the-wall plan you think you capable of
that can't do myself for myself twice as well?

MONSTER
Nuthin'. Ain't my way to be tellin you
how to do and how to be-- that's best
left up to you, Psycho. I don't know no-how nuthin.

PSYCHO SIXTY
Yeah. Your ignorance clear clear enough to me.
But I can see my way clear far enough
to listen to your stupidity in clarity.
Don't let nobody say just my hands and not my ears
has brash audacity. I'll listen. You speak up.

MONSTER
It's not me the women praise and kill for;
it's what I stand for; to unify the tribe of man.
The wicked things and endocrine surges deep in us
that make Crip and Blood divisions a mere whimsey,
and false dividing of one big WHAT IS
into two lesser what's nots. I'm the frenzy
and the rage; I'm the gorilla in the cage,
his wild black heart, his jonesin for the jungle,
brother, nothin else. No more than a killer's 
operatic score. I'm the leopard makes the zebra fall.
I am the tooth. I am the claw. To that feelin'
there's no known way of rightfully denyin.
For that, they'll slice up their sons,
coin treason in their loins, eat sperm
and make strangers' blood fountain for their cause
instead of your petty internicine rivalries.
Crip 'gainst Crip is cursed. Even Bloods
can be unified in the chaotic tide whereon I toss.
Got to give this idea its fealty, Psycho,
or for the rest of your 'hood its no go.

PSYCHO SIXTY
Make chaos my cause! Aii and to it quick!
I'll toss heroes and enemies' heads upon my prick!

MONSTER
You goin' lose big time, that way.
Your bike wheels be spinnin' skywise at the night.

PSYCHO SIXTY
Everything I say, you say is wrong.
I must always cease in silence, while your talk
plunges on strong, strong, strong.

MONSTER
You command these kids. Its all
still up to you to give in and win, or gall.

PSYCHO SIXTY
I just have to give in to their wicked kicks
and kick it, is that it? Hmm, shit-for-brains?

MONSTER
Naw, not at all! I'll git the wommin' an'
others back here without a nick and explain plain.

PSYCHO SIXTY
Yes. First I let you go. Then you come back attacking.
Can't play that trick on me, I'm too much a prick.

MONSTER
You want th' right to kick all and be all
but don't offer nuthin' more'n a fist to worship,
and that high fist must be your own. Ain't enough.
I'm tryin' to help out, and you pull your attitude.

PSYCHO SIXTY
Get the flare gun, Spliff. Whiff this!
I'll light up your heart in argent mists!

MONSTER
So you want to see the revelry there on Noir-Mandy?

PSYCHO SIXTY
Yeah. Crazy broads squallin n' all. Suits me.

MONSTER
And why is your heart suddenly alight for the sight?

PSYCHO SIXTY
Naw; it'd hurt me had to see Shaneesta and MOMS
workin' hard for the Bloods' cause in the splutter-light.

MONSTER
But you'd get a quick-dick in that ripping sight?

PSYCHO SIXTY
I guess. If I could stay away in the shadows,
deep in the dark recesses, myself a doe.

MONSTER
They'll sight you, however ecstatic-blighted;
they're supernatural in this state of excitation. Quite.

PSYCHO SIXTY
I'll go with my boom-box under spotlights, by God!
You're right, where I walk a God must trod.

MONSTER
I know what they all jazzed about; should I help?

PSYCHO SIXTY
Take my arm; I don't wanna stumble, whipped and whelped.

MONSTER
Take off your Crip's crippled reds. Instead
wear the blowsey blues of the Bloods, arm and head.

PSYCHO SIXTY
Snare myself in my enemy's cold colors,
drop my hot reds for the low blues of the others?

MONSTER
Unless you can take a teflon-coated in the cortex,
consider what I say to be your holy text.

PSYCHO SIXTY
Yeah, my ass is grass. I'll do what you say, an' pass.

MONSTER
Wise.

PSYCHO SIXTY
There's a bag a rags in the kitchen, some blues
just my size.

[Exit PSYCHO SIXTY.]

MONSTER
Everything's straight and steady. At the ready.





The hounds mad, chewing their chains,
whines gone up from their darkness,
compact bodies aft of Pentheus,
Pentheus aware now of the wine-smell,
delicate waft of the wine amid mountains
and the howls at first indistinguishable,
grey in the viney greyness, no more,
now unsure wind-whine, now stiletto voices.

Murder's moment is so nearly come. Attend.

Voices arriving out of midair
Pentheus showing his face over his shoulder,
the beard worried, glint in the eye-spots,
this out of darkness, not else, a breath
abstinent, unclouded mind of wonderment,
and hounds sounding like arrows thru the foliage;
thru the foliage, racing, racing,
and Pentheus half-turned to hear them.

Murder's moment is so nearly come. Attend

Musty singing through the still cypress
"Evocci! Evocci! Io Zagreus! Io!"
Slurry chants and maidens singing,
torchlight, shadows crawling upwards,
yellow shapes on the naked maidens
cuneiform bodies in constant motion
by the deep pool throwing the sounds,
strange stabs of light sheeting blackness

Murder's moment is so nearly come. Attend.




SCENE FOUR


MOMS
Get this to the Bloods: all Crips
is either to our side or quits.
Their troops move to disunity,
but not to the chaos that makes us free.
My son's one. Psycho Sixty, they leader.

CHINA DOLL
Electrify his entrails.

SHANEESTA
Strike out his cancelled eyes.

MOMS
Leave him to me. I got him on his Pops,
I'll lop him out. Sisters, keep company,
these displeasures I'll visit on him
are fit remembrances we shall later sing.

[LESLIE and EXACTA enter.]

MOMS
Now where's our Monster got to, you two?

EXACTA
Psycho Sixty, who had him locked in a box
is sneakin into this wild conjuction,
Normandy and Florence, just this minute.
But he actin' all weird n' all. He doth
bend his eye on vacancy and converse wit' the empty air,
Mrs. Sixty. Nobody wants to get in his way
he seem so crazy, talkin' to the air that way.
But I don't see no Monster with him.

MOMS
Fetch out my straying seed from the wilding field,
cross concrete, leap ditches, fathom fires,
smell him out like a martyred fart, anything,
then joyride him back here like the whore he be.

[Exit LESLIE and EXACTA.]

MOMS
Justice comes in chains with pain;
each hurtin put a truth to triumphant test
til all that was silent caterwauls
and the forbidden or hidden leaps clear inta words.
Victor and victim move in unison,
one thin ribbon of blood pulled out by a gun.
Psycho, that boy done earned my curses,
thinkin he could put such a power of violence
into his striking arm, and not have it strike
beyond him. Once a hit has started it,
all the world must bruise and come to our blood blues.

[Enter PSYCHO SIXTY, held at gunpoint.]

MOMS
Who that? That the traitor a my poignant loins?

SHANEESTA
Nearsighted tyrant, it's him.

MOMS
Hog-tie his raggedy ass.

PSYCHO SIXTY
Moms, what you meanin at here? Sweet momma, think
this my 'hood you doin me in in. Hold off,
and love me a li'l.

MOMS
Use the wire there. Now, I says.

[PSYCHO SIXTY is tied down.]

SHANEESTA
Tight, like he say he like it at night.
Tight, tight.
CHINA DOLL
He a traitor staight.

PSYCHO SIXTY
Ain't no traitor trait in me, I'm clean,
merciless ladies.

MOMS
Snap him to the hood. My bastard,
you gonna find out----

[SHANEESTA punches PSYCHO SIXTY in the balls.]

PSYCHO SIXTY
By every kiss we twisted, it ain't fair,
you hittin me down there, Shaneesta.

SHANEESTA
Such sweet wishes risin from a shitpile?

PSYCHO SIXTY
You a bad woman, Shaneesta, givin me lip.
My balls'll stalk your nightmares and accuse ya.
I'm the one that done says what's what in this hood.
Your creamy hands gots better things to do
than strip me of my dignity. What else you to do?

MOMS
Truth time. What right you got hoppin
on our Monster like you done?

SHANEESTA
Tell it straight, cause we know it all.

MOMS
Why you keep him from his connection, son,
makin an enemy outa the vileness you prize?

SHANEESTA
You an' he the same, but you buck his blood.
How come?

PSYCHO SIXTY
A stranger came to me strangely. Scented,
and with a swagger in his swayin'. How I
s'posed to know he was the Incartion? I ain't Karnac.
Somethin' strange about him. I saw that,
him talkin tall and walkin the walk. I stopped him
knocked my questions against him, and that
the finish of it, sisters.
MOMS
Smart.

SHANEESTA
Lies.

MOMS
Where you gots Monster now?

PSYCHO SIXTY
Wherever he got hisself to, I swear.

SHANEESTA
Answer straight. Where wherever? Ain't you locked him---

MOMS
Yeah, where's wherever? Let him speak to that.

PSYCHO SIXTY
I'm blooded, and don't see nothin but wicked fins 
in the troubled waters that surround me.

SHANEESTA
Where's wherever?

PSYCHO SIXTY
I can't gatekeep his blackness, its fathomless.
He tripped from my chains a dozen times;
he turn me to a fool under my own rule.
Gots my own Moms hottin' after his ass;
how he do all that? You treason your sense.

MOMS
Enough. 

PSYCHO SIXTY
Yeah, enough. I'm tired a play-actin' for your pity.
Kill me if you wants, you witches and snatches.
I killed him already, ladies; he dead as ashes.
Glad I done it too. He beggin' and sweatin,
an' running his hands all down the sides a his bald head
I had shaved naked not a hour before,
just before I came out here to get y'all home.
My boys are soarin in even now. We got you.

MOMS
Ain't no seein in your crystal ball.
China Doll, Shaneesta, hurl him hard
to the ground --now hold, hold, while I put
my fingers in his seers, and pull, pull.   
  
PSYCHO SIXTY
Cruel goddess-- you blight what you brought to light, 
throw your own kitten to an ocean night.

SHANEESTA
His balls will make his eyes look awry,
we should shorn them also.

MOMS
No seein' and no breedin' for thee.

SPLIFF
Stop it now. Oh God. I never saw what cruel was
til I did this injustice now allow.
Shaneesta, Mrs Sixty, wait a minute
this angry mist in your eyes will pass by
and you'll see your son in the clear again.

SHANEESTA
What's that, Spliff?

SPLIFF
If I was strapped, I'd snap you out cold,
Shaneesta. It's Psycho there, not some anonimity.

MOMS
Coward boy!

[MOMS strides over and chokes SPLIFF.]

SPLIFF
Look to kill'em all while you can look,
Psycho. Now I'm gone.

SHANEESTA
Dumb scum.

MOMS
Let night be your nightlight, my son.

[MOMS plucks out PSYCHO SIXTY's other eye.]

SHANEESTA
I'll pluck his other nut.

PSYCHO SIXTY
All lost and heartless. Where my posse?
Soljers, jerk awake and let all L.A. burn
til night shames the day with its brightness
and every mansion stares with the hovels
in the emancipated rubble.

SHANEESTA
Die, rebel-lover. Your troops looted
your house first on this night that takes
all down. This town a sensesurround earthquake,
darlin'.

PSYCHO SIXTY
How little harm was in my harming, then.

MOMS
Let him lick his blisters in the streets.
If we hazard into him again, I'll lift
his head spiked upon my fist.

SHANEESTA
Kick him in the balls whiles he pukes
against the ravaged wall, scribbled red with Crip script.

[PSYCHO SIXTY crawls away. FAST MATTHEW follows.]

MOMS
Teach him to walk. I regret that I ever did.

[SHANEESTA toys with ball and eye as earrings.]








SCENE FIVE


[Enter BLIDEYE and ROBBER G holding PSYCHO SIXTY's
headless corpse between them on their bicycles. TVs
and other loot are balanced on their shoulders.]

BLINDEYE
Sad this fate, and slow lows the mourning horn
for Psycho Sixty, for he is dead.
The clear hood which was his home and rapist's habitat
clouds now to the divinity of violence unleashed;
Psycho first yelled the killing note,
robbed and shot to build on human souls
his bone throne. His terror ruled the roost.
But the human heart can't be caught in the cage a fear;
when your bullet-bought superiority
most nearly really real that when it spill and fail.
Every clubbing gun can kill its winsome owner,
no rage obeys even a maniac's harsh rule.
They more in us than our reason can fool.

ROBBER G
O let us cry at th' tongue, and make tears
ruin our hot faces. Let us mourn and torture
those who from Psycho's Sixty's terrored grip did slip.
Let no spoke pop from his deadened hub;
Let all Crips circle him in his absence still.

BLINDEYE
You know that not to be, Robber G.
Can't ration our future days on the past, no way.

ROBBER G
You right, Blindeye. That, I see.
But why Psycho got to go from us the way he did?

BLINDEYE
Psycho out way beyond our rumor and obeyance
both now. This you know. Love done gone hollow
long before this night catched fire.
Extinguish the pity that pisses tears down your face.
Close up your vents of sorrow and see what real.

ROBBER G
And what that? What reality is here?

BLINDEYE
No longer the calculation of skins and winces,
the Crip grip hard-line that Psycho held.
Monster's monster parties are what fallen to us
to behold and motion our current hearts to.
The ashes this city is this dawn fit into his hand
like cig'rette ashes in a ashtray. No maybe.
Why this new sway and danger? I don't now.
Its zappin chaos seems to be what was at center
of all the robbin and high times we had before tho',
that existential clash of wish and disaster.

ROBBER G
Here come a emblem of all hates unhinged;
his Moms has climbed to violence's apogee.

[Enter MOMS and SHANEESTA. MOMS has PSYCHO SIXTY's
head spiked upon her fist and raised high.]

MOMS
Eternal church of the worst of the worst!
My dark griefs I bury with the stone cold hopes
my son's blind fly-ridden eyes symbolically embody.
My joys, like vampires of the night, burst to unhearse
and frighten the skyline with their terror.
Pride riseth not from its golden home, my soul,
to course the darkness with personality.
Neither beauty, as its commonly understood,
nor the apocalyptic treacheries of sincerity
are given root in my dark places, my swaled basements.
Out of my hollows come swelling songs of lust,
trim triumphs, rashnesses; my arias are mighty
and stones leap up from where I spit.
The streets are torn where my vengeance drags
and death adds his weeping to my keen sighs. 
Chipped eyes insinuate the night, daily.
For I have come to the hole of tornadoes in myself;
my voice is no voice, I am witness and doer,
my veins ascend like flowering founts into blood-bloom,
my dooms are meted out to the righteous and iniquitous
with equal vigor and violence. I am no-face,
and voids hallow my passing, a black star eating light.
God's remorseless course is racing through us;
Mother night reclaims what daylight lent us.




No work in the hood,
nothin comin up;
violence is drunk by us,
violence makes us drunk.
Pistol, Whippets, China Doll,
Tammy, Shakedown, Dog, Larry,
Monster, Crip-boy, Terri,
Linda, boyz and girrls all;
As men and women we must fall.
Toke it, smoke it, better not choke it;
hammer comin down all over dis town.
Back on the street, I is Fleet;
killer nigga witha attitude,
killer stare killer cool;
my hatchet will wack it,
PCPs in my blood will hatch it.
Mayhem is my plan,
Chaos is my tool;
rod and rocket,
fuck you we gonna lock it.
Tribalist hate, lying in state,
Crips whip sissies,
sissies gotta take it.
Make it, can't fake it,
my blood is buzzin
cause your death isa comin.
.44s, .32s, sawed-off righteous,
teflon bullets come'n kiss this.
Workin down the alley cool as a cat,
our feet like moonlight, light like that.
Nevah mutha-
fuka gonna fuck ya;
cap in yo nappy head
lickin asphalt dead,
my rule is crimson
hatred is my brimstone;
walk this world stone alone,
put a cap in my enemy befo I's gone.
Victory, victory,
chaos gettin inta me,
wildnight action,
adidas-fast traction.
One dis and you get this;
muthafuckin nevah gonna miss.
Handy, dandy, my colt .49;
effortless, endless,
these scraggy streets is mine;
highest, wiredest,
my flight's so tragic-magic
I paff out the rest best;
I kite it, I bite it
no matter how windless.

This which is in me
is my only kin, see,
nothin else can win me.
Violence, violence,
put its crooked root in my tooth,
grow outa my shadow
to shatter the vacum.
Outer space gonna waste
when my god give the nod
and unleash what's within me.
Up from the Dime,
down to 299,
all the way I'm gonna riot
ride it, abide it, alla that fly shit;
nothin ain't no sin, Jammers
just so long as you win, Bamm!
John Wayne Gacy, Dick Tracy,
they all say it and lace it
inside like a sidewinder,
just a little reminder;
Like a Medusa, we'll reduce ya
until you crawl in hip-deep;
make your little sister weep.
Yeah, yeah, yo mamma gonna cry
river a tears, bye n bye.
Ain't no offer, I'm gonna off ya;
no amnesty served up with your tea.
Wackin and swackin
and crazy-ass crackin
is all you're gonna get
from the boyz wit the hit.
The God a Din
growing mighty within;
I puff him and huff him,
I'm down with the dragon,
your blood, my religion.
Deflower is power
and I get it by the hour.
Every tear of your fear
I lick until it tickles.
Runnin with a Mustang
chillin with the Gangsta gang
baffin' with the master man.
Yo, color! Yo color!
A militant flip-off
is enough to get ya knocked off.
Adrenelin
rushin in,
flamin it
never taming it,
my juice is a mighty tower,
my snakey spine's a howler.
Whip it, drip it;
cordite smoke, I lip it.
Givin every sign
I'm possessed by the most divine.
Yes, it's spastic
but the girls dig my brass stick;
unwavering they savor it,
gettin humble just to flavor it.

Now this night is diving
like wine from a shiv in
somebody, a stranger,
a kid in a manger;
don't matter, it splatters
its darkness that flatters,
making me restless;
I'm up and I get dressed.
Night combat black
to match the sky's black attack;
Under my old stereo
my hand spans, there it go,
just like in the rodeo;
I pick up my pistol,
neveah gonna let it go.
Oh no, ho no,
out the house, I'm on Patrol.
Who's dat comin
My heart starts thrummin;
whatever's out, I'm in.
Nothin's ever prettier
than me and my boyz sittin sure.
Our waistbands are packin
when we start the dragnet
It's an old old story
rosy, erect-reared phalloi,
testosterone to the bone
bring tha muthafucka rollin home!
Pot smoke, ropes of dope,
crack-smackin, our heads be whackin
with honey-nugget naked dreams, oi!
We smash with the mastering noise of the Boyz!
Our eyes like blazin .38s,
heaven's angels at the gate,
satan's flamethrowers just can't wait
so we shout
while our arms sparr routs
pickin up the little ones
to teach em all the killin fun;
In our enemy's fear
our hearts sail clear;
our dreads sled better
when they're deader and wetter.
Snortin and flarin
wild and darin
like some high-wire act
we dance in the flak
hotter and hotter,
demented as otters!
Mighty in our joy
boyz among boys;
Holy loud-proud
our hand signals make the rounds
til every fucka in the hood
just wishes that he could or would
throw his hand around his heart
and break it flaming like kindling wood!
Jul 162020
 
A rhyming adaptation of Sophocles' 'Antigone'

Antigone stood up like a periscope,
discerning truth, descrying hope;
She was battered, borne along
by Time's monumental stream of wrong
until into truth's white crucible
she sullenly withdrew.


their minds on matters of philosophy.
Yet, for all this, Elric's thoughts were forever
turning to Zarozina and the fear
of what might have befallen her.
The very innocence of this girl,
her vulnerability and her youth had been,
to some degree at least, his salvation.
His protective love for her had helped to keep
him from brooding too deeply
on his own doom-filled life, and her company
had eased his melancholy.

---- Michael Moorcock, Stormbringer

SCENE ONE

[ANTIGONE and ISMENE are sewing shrouds.]

ANTIGONE. 
Whose is better, darker, Ismene,
of these silk parachutists' shrouds we weave
to float our brothers Hellward while we grieve?

ISMENE. 
 By our industry and fair eyes
they shall be made to rhapsodise;
Your shroud itself's a masterwork
of timely love and deep-felt hurt;
in its lacy and lovely weave
you help your glimmering eye to grieve.
And its perfect, or nearly, dear,
with but one lose thread... there.

ANTIGONE. 
Oh, yes. You're right. I'll need
to even up the stitches with the needle.

ISMENE. 
 Let justice weight up her scolding scales
with equal wonder where two lives have failed;
with equal equanimity just this once in death,
let our doughty fighting brothers' breaths
the golden grace of their spent days exhaust
as before in the lives which they have lost,
misplaced, they strode in double, loving arms, they two,
alike extraordinary above the common view.

ANTIGONE. 
Are you done with that little needle yet?

ISMENE. 
 Almost done, Antigone, yet
Eteocles' E still needs a flirting filigree,
a flourish to please Charon's craggy eye.

ANTIGONE. 
My shroud for downcast Polynices must
be nice enough for him to win love from dust
and steal Persephone from Hades' heated side;
less success than that in the afterworld he won't abide
who for his own hard-garnered self-regard has died.
Upon the crooked little field of death he stood
with brazen eyes defying, how proud,
the tatter-rattle killing tricks
of his enemies' glittering sticks;
In Hell he should have the bride of Spring
as the smallest help for his pride's comforting.

ISMENE. 
 Eteocles too stood like a god,
as though he were made to live forever, trod
the mangling hazards of our civil war to stuff
and never shiver with the common guff.
Two brothers, both alike in greatness,
now a double duty for two sisters' neatness,
sewing tidy shrouds to twine their griefs
worn by weeping to terminal unbelief.
Here's the thread. Now, watch the needle!
You'll spike yourself if you're unheedful.

ANTIGONE. 
If this needle, potential sore,
yet light enough for maids' endeavors,
could be forged a sword by hate and sorrow
strong enough to decapitate tomorrow
or spark some mercy by a trick of light
from my war-hollow heart poured stiff concrete
I'd lay it in my side though God himself forbade;
I'd consecrate it's bald bold blade
with my every drop of virgin blood
and never sew another shroud.

ISMENE. 
 Don't talk like that! Your heart must yield.
....We're almost at the battlefield.
Here ghosts that died so full of vengeful victory
in the height of useless hubris yesterday
will hear your vow and be offended
that a woman's words so warlike sounded.

ANTIGONE. 
Calamity's the great text
our sorrow-sighs must punctuate.
Sisters in misery, we fare not well
under a hard hail from Hell.
Who's got a better right to cry for vengeance?
The dead have lost their old intemperance
and lay in rotten equanimity all day---
it's us, we need someplace to throw our hearts away,
some bloody spot of ground to shout alone.
Soldiers and women both inter the bones;
but only women have no place to vent
the things with which their hearts are bent;
our heads of our greifs we can't delouse
while men make all the world a charnalhouse
and for their killing get crowned as Kings,
with ruby wands decreeing royal things.
We women in our low office may only weep;
unceasing calamity, Ismene, is ours to keep.
Oh, that of the royal house of Oedipus
I knew nothing, and cared less!
Topping it off, a rape has rasped my ears today,
sharp soot from the dragon's-mouth polluting lucidity,
dark words evilly twisting the clarity of air,
the few clear things we've scraped together
from the stark wreckage of our hates and hurts.

ISMENE. 
 What words, Antigone, can nail me worse
than those our father Oedipus' horrors
hammer in my nightly terrors,
repeat and echo in my heart's herse?
Keep your words and roarings terse.
Coursing, ribald, disrespecting war
has rivered me from myself so far,
it is the only blood moves in me now;
unceasing seas of inclement reds allow
our brothers' bare bodies on the killing field
no time to mend, or my heart to yeild.

ANTIGONE. 
You have not heard, then,
of Colonel Kreon's creeping dictum?

ISMENE. 
 The battlefield's lousy with lost bones,
kinsmen skinned and left ungroaned;
here sightless eyes may scratch
all night at the stars' hard latch
seeking entrance to a dignified heaven
their unburied state keeps them exiled from.
This I know. This I have seen:
rummagers and mummified mourners
lost among the belladonna
step toe-careful through the loot
and lornly bawl, and to no boot.
This I know. This I have seen:
lovely Polynices
embracing a bruised Etocles
in limitless suffering of the dead
come at last to their simple end.

ANTIGONE. 
Here's ETOCLES. How grave
and graceful are the things death saves.
This solid ground has held long enough
the weight of which I long to feel the crush;
Soon enough the earth in her ruin will get
eternal possession of all I loved, and love yet.
Come, Ismene, help me lift him that I may serve
the office of the earth in brief embrace. Observe,
I hold the brave beauty of his body
that proved too frail a home for his immortality.

ISMENE. 
 Brother, ...

ANTIGONE. 
The soldiers too will shout like lovers,
beat their bronzen breasts, pull out their hair,
toil in tongue-tied oratory toward God's lair
to gasp their grief, and blare upon the air
with trumpets in their lumped throats. They'll tear
and cry for what all their pride did first inter
beneath the dirt with Etocles together.

ISMENE. 
 It's right they should. Oh, brother
let such honors as our customs connive
hold you above the loam awhile, alive
in cheating eyes still blurred by death.

ANTIGONE. 
And Polynices, out of breath,
whose lagging sails and body's ship
the punishing waves have stripped
breasted the selfsame oceans of this war
that Etocles and ourselves abhorred
and from his topmast is drowned as deep
as ever our own Etocles did sleep.

ISMENE. 
 Yes, Polynices, you too shall we wrap,
with balm and comely unguents trap,
until our love-touches may render
your wounds shut up with heavy lavender
that opened such holes in us. But wait,
dear Polynices, just a bit,
while we bind and bandage Etocles,
whose priority in these housekeeping deeds
lies only in that he lay over you.
Thus our one atom of love's made two.
Although in life and war you two stood
on the bitter spectrum of faction opposed
and picked out, like boxers, opposite colors,
yet in death shall you rank together.

ANTIGONE. 
They say that... God curse these crows!
Dread harbingers! That Kreon... No, no!
You'll bear no bit of human meat
obscenely heavenward in your black beaks.

[A trumpet is heard offstage.]

ISMENE. 
 Kreon...? Here comes his motorcade
with flag and bright insignia displayed,
an annoucer reared on the back seat
bearing a scroll that must yet
announce some new decree of law,
applying peace to these new-finished wars.

ANTIGONE. 
Let us attend.

ANNOUNCER. 
Let Etocles be buried with the great,
for Etocles has served the state.
Polynices must rot, for he did not.
Military medals will drip from Etocles' chest
since for the State alone he did his best.
Polynices did not, and therefore must rot.
Tuesday's parade, led by this motorcade,
in triumphal, sumptuous march down ol' Main Street
will shill the war-orphans a special treat.
Polynices, however, our bitter enemy,
stays where he lays for all to see.
Let no hand touch the such-and-such
whose dark swat at our metropolis was too much.
Let no hand in his burial play a caring part,
the State decrees itself quite pleased
that dogs should eat out his heart.
On pain of Death, it is decreed in Thebes!
The hollow longing of his staring skull
will serve as warning for one and all.

ANTIGONE. 
Ismene, here's suds, in this sweet water jug
to lave and love Polynices when we've dug
his gravesite in this battled clay
and put him to rest for the rest of the day
and maybe wrote a poem to help arrow his bones
past the pearly death-gates where he'll roam
half mindless in his fulltime Hell.

ISMENE. 
 Antigone! Perhaps you don't hear so well.

ANTIGONE. 
Public announcements are for public
consumption. I am a person, and shall always click
my consciousness to seperate, private stations.

ISMENE. 
 But that decree means our cremations!

ANTIGONE. 
Ismene, listen. We are just dust.
Cremation's only one more formality
confirming our transient humanity.
Its your own mind you must listen to and hear.
Help me or don't help me. Whichever, dear.
But there is no middle way.
Not yesterday, not tomorrow, not today.
I know this world is muddy, obscure with fear.
But some things that were clear stay clear.

ISMENE. 
 Help? What...? I don't get it. Nothing's clear.

ANTIGONE. 
Help me bury Polynices, of course.

ISMENE. 
 Bury... but... Kreon... the decree....death, and worse!

ANTIGONE. 
A person has to bury their brother,
I know that deep as I know nothing other.
Although no dictator's pen has written it,
yet no monarch's censoring eraser can efface it.

ISMENE. 
 But the risks are hideous! We'll die
and rot out here with Polynices, catching flies.

ANTIGONE. 
Are you coming with me to the farther wall?

ISMENE. 
 But KREON. 
He's so harsh and all.

ANTIGONE. 
What tank could ever outflank a daisy?
The State gears forward, making lazy
figure eights on its rotored treads
searching for enemies and loaded with lead.
All his messerschmitts and schnausers
haven't the justice of a single flower
willing to die to bring to new seed
the blossom of truth its sap decrees.
Political ideas have gone to their heads!
My future estate lies with the dead.

ISMENE. 
 Sister! Our troubles are already triple.
Oedipus in love with his infernal riddles,
ripping his eyes out to see terror better
in the acknowledged dark where life is bitter.
Life's a mess on the family plan,
Jocasta axing herself out of our clan
as soon as she knew just what she had done,
giving incestuous birth, fucked by her son!
Snatching a curtain cord, screeching "umbilical!"
she twisted her life out by the empty sill
full of sunset's exploded glory.
And even that's not the end of the story.
As she lay there, remotely moored
by Fate's crossed strings to the livingroom floor
there came the muffled scuffing of a hundred drums
announcing the pronouncement that our end had come.
War rolled in like an incinerator, wild
to burn up the last dry leaves of our lives.
And when Kreon marched smartly from the officers' barracks,
you laughed impolitely and said he was garish.
But Kreon's was the only steady hand
careful and regular under Etocles' command;
and summer had flashed all our land to one whiteness.
And then Etocles and Polynices
still handsome and young, fell spitted like pigs
playing their opposite numbers, sweet brothers, sweet figs,
tossed on the glory of each other's swords.
It's been enough for me to foreswear the Lord.
You see my point, sister? Our life's a bust.
And now who's left of our whole clan? Just us.
Want us to go down the same way, with a flare and a fizz,
unsure of everything but our own righteousness?
A pair of girls! We aren't part of the army,
we left that to the men; it's far too alarming
to think of fighting them now, all alone,
---not all the men, all the army. Antigone!
The law's a strong word whose only
counterpoint's a punctual "I obey."

ANTIGONE. 
If that's your opinion,
then I don't want you. Shuffle on,
ISMENE. 
 When exciting multiplicity
withers to single simplicity
from all the coulds imagination displayed
we humble humans inevitably degrade
into the choices that we've made.
I'm not too good at making demands of others,
the dead are best at that, our brothers
whose twilit, silent insistence,
incites a kind of conscience,
knowing we live a little while in pleasure
and that in cool death we die forever.
Go on, go do as you please,
set up a life for yourself, it's a breeze.
I'm burying my brother. Seems he's got
one less sister than he thought.

ISMENE. 
 All this battle, and now strife between us.
These offerings of the gods lick of bitterness.

ANTIGONE. 
These offerings offer us a chance at passion,
a head turned to kiss what's now out-of-fashion:
human Justice touching the immortal Right.
And more than that, ex-sister, we can't ask to get.

ISMENE. 
 The gods I know how to honor in their temple,
the repeating seasons each recieve their sample
of my ceremonial devotion on the burning altars.
What I don't know is how to break the law, or alter
the one and only thing that's made exactly the same
for all of us, no matter who we think we are.

ANTIGONE. 
Every renegade must have reasons,
every anxious stay-at-home excuses for her treasons;
Pardon me, Ismene, please excuse me
while I get on with burying Polynices.

ISMENE. 
 Antigone, I'm afraid.

[ANTIGONE give her a look.]

ISMENE. 
 So afraid. For you.

ANTIGONE. 
Don't bother. With fear I'm through.
All these furiously luminous fairy tales of yours
scar the dark so serenely that they bore,
dwindle to a blink, and then blink no more.
Your concern is touching, but doesn't reassure;
Got to think about yourself. I understand. Sure.

ISMENE. 
 [Looking around.]
I'll keep your secret, Antigone, I won't peep;
I won't tell a soul, not even in my sleep.
Maybe you'll get away with it, who knows?
Then everyone can be happy, like the first day of snow.

ANTIGONE. 
Happiness is like a dream which passes
out on a punctual pillow, and doesn't hear its glasses
shatter on tiles' evil configuration;
your concern for me, like a strange inauguration,
comes through haphazarded by static, fluffy, wrong, untrue.
Don't stop youself talking. Tell 'em all. It's true!
If you race around the Spanish esplanade
you can probably catch old Kreon
discussing troop dispositions with the gods.
Go on, rabbit after them, go, go on,
chatter with the evil beings posing on the lawn.
Just reason to yourself about how distrustful
Kreon'll feel when he knows you knew it all.

ISMENE. 
 Aren't you afraid at all? It makes me cold
to think of being so breezily daring, brave and bold.

ANTIGONE. 
Just doing what's got to be done, is all.

ISMENE. 
 But can you really do it, simple as a song?
I bet you can't. Not really, not for long.

ANTIGONE. 
That's a point. When my strength abates
I'll give it up-- when my bones break.

ISMENE. 
 But why should you die for what can't succeed?

ANTIGONE. 
Get out, ISMENE. 
 Before you know it,
I will be the one hating you. If death bites
for honoring the dead, it will be for me
an honorable death. Get out, ISMENE. 




SCENE TWO

[Battlefield previous day.  ETOCLES and POLYNICES.]

SOLDIER UNDER ETOCLES.
Two valiant brothers in titanic conflict
clear a field of foes with gigantic fists.
What Etocles becomes, Polynices counters;
each for the other's drunken army is the bouncer.

2 SOLDIER. 
Their angers are the rawest in the field.

SOLDIER. 
One to the other will never yeild.

2 SOLDIER. 
Those two conquer countries within:
the soiled uttermost of brother-hatred is their sin.

SOLDIER. 
Etocles becomes a fury,
thousand-armed in his bloody hurry,
and settles widows by the swarm
with every dainty swing of his mighty arm.

2 SOLDIER. 
Polynices no less---
with each great step he kills a mess,
plantations graveyards, and swamps
our alfalfa fields with bloods beyond our mops.

ETOCLES. 
Fore, fore, to the fore!
Let every backward heart cower like a whore,
flailing backward and bedward which should march more!
Let feet be geared to onward use alone:
rearward gapes a retracting cliff.
Fore, fore, to the fore! No ifs!
Let onward men view virtue in the face
of dead enemies whose valor we debase.

POLYNICES. 
Oh worse than night, you bloodblack men, away,
that slow the righteous rising of my day!
A fallen Etocles must my horizon be
or no new dawn shall roar aloud in Thebes.

1 SOLDIER. 
Etocles, ever onward! [He's slain.]

POLYNICES. 
Slave! fear justice and her terrible sword;
I think there are no men that fight for Etocles,
but these counterfeit counters.

2 SOLDIER. 
Death to the invader! [He's slain.]

POLYNICES. 
I do believe the world's all heads
and limbs stuck in its crust; my foot's in a sea of reds.
I should switch my infantry for gravediggers
to get a single square yard of land clearer
that I might convincingly contest.

ETOCLES. 
Brother!

POLYNICES. 
Etocles!

[They argue and kill each other.]

KREON. 
Two mighty hearts in turmoil contest
and beat each other to silence in the sand,
absent boastful besting. [Aloud.] Victory, Thebans,
mounts on lightning wings to our defended city!
Let none say, however unpretty,
that the will of God was left undone;
here you see where his terror shone
upon these dead brothers he once enthroned.





SCENE THREE


[MERCHANT, soldiers, widows, others.]

MERCHANT. 
[From list.]
Funerary candles, fifteen-hundred,
silk shrouds for the cadavers, ten ton,
fifty priests of Zeus with tough knees to say
everlasting prayers, tend everlasting flames all day,
ten days of mourning drama-shows
depicting heroic deaths, and their lives below,
three-hundred twenty-five epitaphs we commission
to give grave-visiting a fab frisson;
a wailing crier to sing out the names
of our honorable dead, numerically arranged.
Other minor matters, too small to mention,
but included in the contracts. Sign here, Kreon.
[KREON signs.]
Good, good. Now everything is bought and paid for;
The last detail of every victory's a funeral.

KREON. 
Dead hands pull palls
to curtain our dark State
which yesterday had bloods full
enough to race in headlong gait
heedless of the finish ribbon that tripped us up.
Now our old dignities, due for a checkup,
steady themselves on the doctor's treadmill,
pausing after the last pant up the final hill
that seemed a topless, insurmountable mountain
inaccessible to our steadfast intent. Yet, citizens,
your dear devotion and plauditory patience
reap hard reward's overdue benificence:
Peace in every suburban hedge is what you've got,
just what unhesitating obedience has brought.
To Laius you bowed in lauded rows;
To Oedipus presented contented countenances;
When he was exiled by the windmills of the gods
to be blown across creation, a poor old sod,
your loyal hearts embraced his kids,
rare exemplars of our Greecian Ids;
dear Etocles and mighty Polynices
accepted loyalty oaths of your future services.
Yesterday, in battle royale, Polynices slayed
Thebes' defender Etocles, who had strayed
from his command post too youthfully enthused
by the sight of his old school chums oozed
across the battlefield like football players
a vengeful god half-massacred, a bluster-
ing coach too tough with his exhausted team.
Yet success' sunlight still on Etocles' shoulder beamed,
and he took for his post-game winner's trophy
the useless life of his traitor-brother, Polynices.
They met in an embrace of bloods their tomb,
who once were pried in sequence from the womb.
I, as uncle to these great ones,
to the inherited mantle of good government have come,
politic, conservative, yet in full power
I walk the corridors of State in a direful hour,
enchanting to the magnates, and brave to the plebes,
I ascend this long-contested throne of Thebes.

MERCHANT. 
Law distributes the rights our leaders construe.
Someone has to know how to
know and what to know and how to do.

SOLDIER. 
Without a body, the lolling head rolls useless;
Let our arms be your arms; our legs, your Zeus'
thunderbolts against rebellion,
dissolution, and damned disunion.

KREON. 
Remember that. Your loyalty will be tested yet.

MERCHANT. 
We're behind you 100 per cent.
But we have to keep an eye to profit,
not every public service can pay the private rent.

KREON. 
Fine; but that's not quite what I meant.
Sixty sentries already walk the bloody quad
and six sharpshooters practice for the firing squad;
I have a plan for an enduring peace, of course,
that I simply want my citizens to endorse.

MERCHANT. 
100 per cent; what more could we say?

KREON. 
It's what's done, not said, that will win the day.
Harbor no lawbreakers in your uptown house,
the State is a dog when its home to a louse.

SOLDIER. 
Disobey, and incur the risk
of sharpshooters six ready to whisk
our souls into idiot oblivion?
I'm not that brave. Or that dumb, for one.

KREON. 
Most solemn comes the State's sharp pen
to delete the life of a citizen.
Yet, coin jingles bright with money's delights
and deep indifferent wisdoms have often been
seduced by its tinny attractions time and again.

[ENTER SENTRY.]

SENTRY. 

Colonel, although I risk my neck,
my breath held steady and my mind a wreck
I have a report that I must make,
though twice on my way here I did a doubletake.
I turned around. Once, just at the gilded door.
Once, when I overheard your passionate disparagement pour
on apperceived disloyalty in basso counterpoint
to your praise of death selected by the State Adroit.
My knees went backward like a bird's
hesitant and repentant at such hard words
to push forward through atmospheres of fear
churning in my gut's hurricane as I neared.
"Go back, you imbecile, why won't you listen
to me, your mind's sinuous apprehension!
Don't go whistling to your deathtrap, halt!
Can't you hear Fate's gears grinding to gestalt?"
So I paced, then heard your soldier's solid loyalty.
My heart took heart, and my stomach calm,
I arrive ready to reveal, as I was ordered,
what my senses in the State's employ recorded.
Although, it may not make much sense, my senior.
So, then, when I got---

KREON. 
Spit it out you crippled idiot.

SENTRY. 
Hey! I didn't do it. Didn't see who did.
The battlefield's a forest of the disloyal dead,
desecrating the State's impersonal decorum,
with faces frozen stiff by death's intimate abhorrence.
But don't you worry, sir, we didn't choke,
we left the cold unburied in the rain to soak.

KREON. 
You should be an advocate at court,
the pertinent is absent from your report.
Just what was this something-nothing that you saw?
I'll need all the details. You know the law.

SENTRY. 
Dreadful... ghostly...
Um, strange, livid, nearly unearthly...

KREON. 
Spit. It. Out.

SENTRY. 
No need to shout.
Beneath, between, the mists that purled and paused
upon the obscure battlefield like first-aid gauze
the corroded dead continued, rigor mortis,
to shout about the pains that caused distress.
But time's silent stuffing fingers in their mouths
gagged to windy whispers all their howls.
Out there, near Polynice's end of the field...
Well... Seems a touch of dust had begun to build.

KREON. 
Dust?

SENTRY. 
A thin, really thin, layer almost, of, of--

KREON. 
Dust?

SENTRY. 
Dirt, sir.

KREON. 
Surely the dead are dirty.

SENTRY. 
And what they smell of....

KREON. 
Dirt....

SENTRY. 
Someone was trying to bury him, sir.
All about, the close-packed earth was stirred
as if Polynice's ghost had rose up in dirge
for his unburied body. This they tried to cure,
whoever they were, spilling wine and soil
over the indignant dead man Etocles had spoiled.

KREON. 
A long battle. Dried blood looks like grime;
sweaty work, things stick to the skin, look like crime.

SENTRY. 
Someone had put him under. Handful
by handful. One foot was neatly buried, the sandal
packed under neat handprints. Dirt in the wrinkles,
not fallen or scattershot, but lovingly sprinkled.
A last ablution of earth.

KREON. 
WHO. DARES. DO. THIS? THE TRUTH!

SENTRY. 
I swear I don't know, Colonel Kreon!
Sir! All that fog. And we boys was tired, gone...
from the battle still; all that fat feasting after.
My ears still rang honky-tonk tunes and laughter.
We looked for signs, but couldn't find none.
Just Polynices put under, not another single one.
Silence all the night. No talk amongst us,
too weird with all those blue bodies in the dust,
some brothers to us, our places so close
but so different. It'd be strange to be verbose,
their restless ghost tapping in at will
from the other side; moon baleful on the fog, a veil
of nothingness smothered in absence, and then,
before long, dawn trundlin' up from Apollo's pen,
staining our apprehensions with day again.
The corporal saw it, not me, I didn't notice.
A small... a extra limning of darkness on the premises.
Somehow Polynices seemed just more not there,
if you know what I mean. It was quite a scare.

KREON. 
I do not.

SENTRY. 
I wasn't me, I swear! Didn't see nothing.
Nothing there, not really, just a thin layer,
of, of.... something.

KREON. 
Dust?

SENTRY. 
A sort of something that the nose
perceives as musk or musty, clottish, knows
mostly from an unread scroll, an eviscerated crust
common sense and experience dub as dust.
But on the wide, absract, identical terrain
one thing by its very absence marked the plain:
scattered among expressive corpses lacking tact,
no indent or dusty comma of a paw or track
appeared, there was never the least sign at all
of even the remotest type of animal,
and this, like a magic trick, to our soldier's acumen
revealed the intruder as something human.
A nest of accusations when I returned to post;
things real quiet for a sec. Boys on my shift,
well, I gotta say we started finger-pointing promptly.
Visciousness on the parade grounds where we'd stomped
or whispered confidences, little things, sought
private views on public topics, where we fought,
such like. All came to nothing, rude
fear in our voices morphing to instant certitude,
rapid logic making airtight cases,
calling back swear words and rushed excuses.
Whole jurisprudence process was rather crude.
All came to nothing. We didn't know who'd
done what, if anything. Bad news, all of it.
Then I have to see you.... sir, tell the tale, spill it.
I mean, someone had to go to tell the Colonel.
Stared the graffiti meaningless in the barracks urinal.
We stared hard at our feet, restless, restless,
and I drew the short straw... my luckiness.
No happiness in the news, none in the bearer.
Nobody shines to see a bad-news man draw nearer.

KREON. 
And you all saw nothing?

SENTRY. 
Absolutely. Not a thing.

SOLDIER. 
Maybe it was the gods did it. A sign.
"Ferocious prophecies first often seem benign."

KREON. 
Gods!? Money! You were decieved and bribed!
Sentry-- you'll wish that you had died
eviscerated on a poinard, if this damned corpse
gets dunked in dirt again, like they taught at church.
Watch steady, night ain't too long. Keep your poise.
Money turn your heads, boys?
....I'll twist 'em off!!

SENTRY. 
[Aside to himself.] Dumpkoff, dumpkoff, dumpkoff.




SCENE FOUR

[ETOCLES and POLYNICES before their troops.
One day earlier, morning.]

LIEUTENANT. 
Where's Polynices?

SOLDIER. 
Gone to view the defenses.

2 SOLDIER. 
Their men are nearly double ours.
For every four grunts they've a dozen howitzers.

LIEUTENANT. 
Praise Zeus we have two arms each, then,
to double up the dead and slain.

SOLDIER. 
It's bad odds, Lieutenant, and what
we've come all this way, tramping at night,
the rutty road waterlogged, horses slipping
and men crying crumpled under 'em, then stilling....
Too far from home or victory to change our places;
tomorrow's unlucky dead today have breathing faces.
Who knows who? Today a riddle's all they'll tell us.

[ENTER POLYNICES.]

2 SOLDIER. 
These warlike jaws that snap around us!
If only we could plant their dragon's-teeth
and grow more men!

SOLDIER. 
         That'd be a relief.

POLYNICES. 
The jaws that snap!
Why, Euroborus, let them trap
on air, or, like the dragon of your name,
engulf its own tail in hungry shame
--- before it slither-slumps away!
Who has the greater cause today?
The greater work to do, honor to win?
Our victory will change the world again.
Nature bites at changes, dogs fleaed,
like sleepy dragons, snap, once stirred
even if by an angel's foot. Such teeth
we do not need, nor would I have them,
for who would so late desert a cause,
even were it the wrongest flag on earth,
him I account of no-account, a less than dirt, no worth,
a thing, and not a man. O traitorous hope!
I hope Etocles doesn't pull back one
ounce of spitting venom. But let us win,
if, by the gods, we are deemed and fated
to win this great contest, against all we hated!
The harder fought, the more our fame's assured,
the greater the odds, the greater god's grace purrs,
moving though our rough ready human limbs
as does our very blood! Roar on, great dragon!
We'll cheer merry swords into your gullet, snake!
Thus your awesome voice shall be slaked
by the loud levity of our shouts, all of one
coiled killing intent when your death comes!
[The lads all cheer.]

ETOCLES' CAMP.

KREON. 
What's that?

HAEMON. 
It seems a boisterous roaring
from Polynices' camp is coming.

2 SOLDIER. 
My heart is struck with fear,
pouring ice for my veins in by my ears.

KREON. 
Courage, swayback.
Here comes Etocles to enhearten us, fool.
Let your cold ears hear his incendiary flak.
Let him pour his dragon's soul into you.

[ENTER ETOCLES.]

ETOCLES. 
No speech given out by the top dog, sir Sir,
ever made a lesser cur bark louder.
No talk, however eloquent, however electrifying,
ever shocked a coward into bravery,
or raised a drooping army to vigorous attack,
or gifted a man with cause to fight who lacked.
Yet it is customary for a commander to give a speech,
and so I will. I guess another usual reason's
to get to know the troops, strangers shanghaied
into some State affair for quick reward.
Maybe that applies to Polynices' troops,
culled from the barbarous Spartan mobs
coming to loot our houses and rape our Moms,
but not to me and you it doesn't apply.
We grew up playing war together, low and high,
wrestling in the same sandlot! Yet,
it is customary for a commader to give a speech,
and so I will. Our enemy, too, is our intimate,
kicked sand in your faces, twisted my arm,
laughed with us and pledged love to our faces,
which love he now demeans and disgraces.
Let the measure of our former love
dole out the extent of our hatred now. So far
as you were his friends, that far
is he a traitor. What's to say? Our
mute hearts are eloquence. Yet, it is customary
for a commader to give a speech,
and so I will....



SCENE FIVE


[KREON sits for 'royal' portrait.]

ARTIST. 
Is it with an awkward moral cognizance
that in the rising star's dark presence
I feel myself, almost, transmuted into trance?
An artist's only error is lack of diligence.
Decay, corruption, malfesience spur my palette
as well as hope, triumph and glory on the mallet
of the supreme sculptor sit calmly folded as a wallet.
All's art an echo of the poised, Platonic Reality.
Chaos and the curule chair both indispensibly
litter the tones and values of my smudger's art;
the frowning brow, the virtuoso heart,
both play, unto rerun, their artist's miscast parts.
Draw your face into a helmet, til resolution
alone still fits on the immortal face of Kreon.
Excellent, excellent. That's it.
[Sounds offstage.]
Is that the lithe Antigone I see? Come in and prance.
Quite a face, ethereal, yet in charge, a strangeness
as if she'd seized the world in a single glance
and found it wanting. A greatness... of arrogance.

SENTRY. 
Colonel! Here's the one who... hey,
is that a crown on your portrait there?

KREON. 
Report, Sentry. Artist, turn the picture.

SENTRY. 
Right here, this one, caught her
carrying the dirt in her skirt, trying to twist
Polynices up in a silk shroud, better his condition,
gentle him up for the far side.

KREON. 
Antigone...?

SENTRY. 
God throws the dice, we play the numbers.
Man alive is born to wonder.
I'd've sworn I wouldn't be back
to see you! ...That ramrod back,
that thundery brow, the artist
got it pretty good there, way it twists....

ARTIST. 
Thank you, young sir.

SENTRY. 
Well, one look at that, sure....
I was shivering half the night, my spear
rattling against my breastplate. Kept me wide-eyed, though,
I'll tell you that, Colonel. Things you threatened....Whoa.
Well, how'd I know she'd prance right up,
kneel by his side, praying and making sup
with drippy libations. "Solved the case," I told myself.
"Arrest the waif, handcuff the little elf."
No short-straws this time: I ran, by hell.
And Antigone kept up with me real well.
She didn't seem shy at all out there by Polynices.
Go on, take her, question her. She'll clear me.

KREON. 
Antigone? A woman, and Etocles' sister?

SENTRY. 
She was heaving the dirt over him, yessir,
I tell you!

KREON. 
IS. THIS. TRUE?

SENTRY. 
What else? Unless my eyes are liars,
what else can they say that saw her?

KREON. 
Details, details. We'll see if your story tallies.

SENTRY. 
[Gulping.] Uh, well,
after all that shouting last time,
me and the boys raced back to Polynices' body,
holding our uniforms over our faces from the smell,
his face going awry; brushed him clean,
touching lightly as this personal grooming
might look itself like disloyalty; knew him
from his place on the field,
more than from his bloated looks, deep stinkpits
for eyes, a blackness of mouth, lips torn
from a skull, not a smile, of course, but
an irony there about the jaws. We sat upwind,
wary and awake, I can swear. No celebrations,
just us scared out of our togs, hearing the mind's moan.
We'd spear each other awake, for the State
must guard its prerogatives vigilantly.
All day nothing, and the wind getting hairy,
seeming to scratch a rash on the land,
dust into our watching eyes harshly fanned,
big afternoon sun obscured, dark as a bush,
plain, trees, debris, all snuffed out in one whoosh,
a whirlwind! That should keep him clean,
we figured. Can't bury no one
if the earth's up and on the go!
Whirlwind lasted a long while, everything unfixed, so
blurry... A dream it was, but, as with dreams,
it passed on into clarity, a semi-obscene
picture developing like a polaroid in the trees,
stars starting to peep out again, colorless clarity,
everything in our eyes pale as a corpse.
Saw a scuffle in the rags, a nervous torso,
and it was Antigone! She'd let out a start
to see her previous day's work torn apart,
Polynices made naked by the night, no cover
for the sake of respect. He's a traitor,
like you say, and I don't hold that he should
get the honors a patriot'd command;
but it was right pitiful, laid out so careless
when we'd all had a drink with him timeless
times before, before it all. She was crying hard
crying, crying over Polynices, and then we heard
her curse us, curse the damned hands on him
that undid the respect she'd risked life and limb
to wrap him in. Then, from her skirt, more dirt, more!
Blessed by a priest I reckon, and three or four
sprinkles of fine wine, our mouths dry as dust
watching her give over for his itchy ghost
the libation to quieten him. That's when we grabbed her,
and she as calm as a kitchen matron,
and she didn't seemed surprised at all, not at all,
but had a calmness in her eyes, "seeing though fate"
my grandma calls it, even when we charged her
with the desecration of the law, she stood steady.
Put me out of sorts, I'll tell you.
She gave me a slug of the wine, held me up.
Told me to take her here, so I did.
Feels good to get out of a death threat,
but lousy to give over another to it.
But she held my hand, said it was alright,
knew what she was doing, that it was her doing, etc.
(Personally, I think she was grief-crazed.)
But, here she is, and I'm safe out of it... right?
Nothing so safe and sweet as your own skin.
KREON. 
Lift up your face. Do you confess,
Antigone, to this tryst with lawlessness?

ANTIGONE. 
I deny nothing. I did it.

KREON. 
Dismissed. [SENTRY exits.]
Tell me. Tell it all. Did you even hear
the proclamation in the tramped agora, dear?

ANTIGONE. 
You saw me standing there. Shit,
when you broke the news to your loyal lieutenants,
lining up your whore-score of votes,
I knew you were a man to whom god's dignity was remote.

KREON. 
And you defied this decree?

ANTIGONE. 
I defy. Resolutely.
God wasn't there chewing the fat,
just you and your poor cohorts.
Justice stays exiled to Hades, deep below,
while men still prate and gape above. I know.
Our laws change with the electorate's indifference,
die when we die, and fail along with us.
Ask Etocles, he'd agree with me.
Your edict, tricked out in consensus,
withers when the Eumenedies fix their eyes
upon its temporary littleness.
How brief a space has man, how great his pride!
An underpaid tailor in a greenroom wardrobe
takes the godly measurements for his lonely soul,
trimming Fate to the requirements of his starring role.
Spotlights add a little glow to the final disaster,
making pride and hubris consummate faster
in the fourth-act pathos of the story
where pride of self consumes the glory
a humbler noticing of exacter circumstance
would assign, in careful retrospect, to chance.

KREON. 
Well, don't you take the prize for pride?
A woman's coarse voice roaring from a child.
Honey, when you, like me, are little older
you'll submit to the wisdom of your elders.

ANTIGONE. 
I won't grow old enough to know.
The edict predicts death, and I go
gladly to my exile. To the state,
my life, I won't hesitate;
to the gods, all that made
my life my life-- an even trade.
I knew that I was doomed to die, even before
that stuffy proclamation of yours.
You think you invented death?
Not so bad, not so tough,
dying after being born.
Death's an eternal grace malingering life adorns.
Life is so filled with evil days and acts,
deluded Oedipus' and Jocasta's sex pact
concluding in the numb triumph of this war
of brothers once equal even in your love, Kreon.
How can Death be anything but my friend,
my darkly needful helpmeet at the end?
Death will free me in its final shout,
while guilt will bind your conscience in a knot.
My death's a footnote at best,
astericked on a forgotten page in jest,
a silly ancillary to the argument
of which your horror will be the trump.
I'm a nobody. A little girl
underfoot about the house, unreal,
who only knows how much it hurt
to see her brother crest the dirt,
cursed by each official, proclaimed word,
and left unburied for the birds.
Each evil beak whose gnaw I followed
bore me aloft and left me hollow.

ARTIST. 
Oh, Kreon, that ironic smile, hold!
You have all the spiffy dignity of a god.

ANTIGONE. 
You think so too, Kreon? Really?
Kreon the Eternal! A fool convicts my folly.

ARTIST. 
The daughter shows her father's scorn,
alike as acorns; hard as acorns thrown.

KREON. 
I know your personal passion
seems necessity and not fashion,
however, what is and seems is a form:
absurdities decreed elevate to norms.
The horrid, undateable hunchback
given public dignity, which he lacked,
goes in moments from abhorred
to Cosmo's 'most winning bachelor.'
And so I tell you that your passion
is naught but a sixteen year old's whim,
come to your head, no doubt just lately,
from late-night reruns of some Greek tragedy.
But if with this smote emoting you persist
not even trying to resist,
I warn you, in your ignorance,
high in your insolent tower of pretence,
that very soon you'll start to teeter,
then the long fall, in timeless millimeters,
passing tidy, illuminated rooms
to one dumb girl's luckless doom.
Even mustangs, in their western estates,
their stiff-necked necks must break
if, once beneath a knowledgable hand they're lain,
they hesitate to obey the rein.
If you go on breaking laws
with no excusable why or licit because,
and then grant a primetime interview
undercutting what I'm trying to do
saying sound bites like "God's
word is my heart's sole command,"
etc. and so on--- damn!
That's when the shit hits the fan.
And all because copper Kreon was nice
enough to let you escape with your life.
If I let you live, let you go,
the law's prestige in the popularity poll
will drop to zero. We're
in a delicate way right now, here
in Thebes, the way things are;
room in our small sky for only one star.
Who's going to be telling the populace
what's what, which regulation face
to wear, how to act, what to do?
Difference 'tween me and you,
when moms gab in the produce aisle
or clerks smoke by their empty files,
well, that difference gets pretty thin,
slim stuff, mere wordings;
the way a phrase aligns, sometimes,
can decide what's cruel or kind.
Me, I need ultra-loyal ears
hearing what I need them to hear,
minds thinking what I need them to think,
Thebes is shoved that close to the brink.
Right words do justice to the State,
give the man in charge, myself, a break.

ANTIGONE. 
What's this got to do with my choice
to bury my brother?

KREON. 
              Your voice,
and not dirt on the dead,
your voice is what I really dread.
[To ARTIST:] Damned girl's bitched in the head!

ANTIGONE. 
My dying going to make you happy?

KREON. 
I'll dance to hear hegemony
honored by the plain folks' horror
shuddering respect at the deathly-whisper:
"Antigone's dead, dead, dead.
Against her right King's rule she rebelled."

ANTIGONE. 
In that case, kill me. Enough!
Talk tires me out, wears my ears off.
Bad taste in my mouth from all this palace palaver,
and I'm sure you're tired of me in a lather
shooting off about the gods like a prophet,
and me not hedging me bets by mandate,
not so half unsure of myself, not cutting it fine,
to increase the temple donation down the line.
These soldier-stiffs propped around here
like clay Kreons-- even they'd agree with me
if it weren't for your mania
for cutting the gods out of the power structure.
Not everybody can shoot off his mouth
like a King.

KREON. 
Only you think that, ANTIGONE. 
Truth.

ANTIGONE. 
Are you really so naive?

KREON. 
The guilt is yours, not theirs. Believe.
They obey, you defy. They are good,
you are not. They shall live, and you would....
and will die. There is no overlap.
You are too naive, perhaps.

ANTIGONE. 
I honored my brother, as any would.

KREON. 
By spitting on the memory of Etocles?
Polynices stabbed him in the heart, you see,
while Etocles was defending his city.

ANTIGONE. 
I wrapped Etocles in his shroud!

KREON. 
Are a traitor and a patriot the same?

ANTIGONE. 
Death has made them brothers again.

KREON. 
And you are their sister. Join them.

ANTIGONE. 
Let the gods be my judges then,
for in every sign that they gave me, in every
inner feeling fallen from heaven, they told me:
"Go on, don't go back on what we ask of you."

ARTIST. 
Her reasons are inspired, true,
every artist must hold them valid.
What are your reasons, sire, I mean colonel,
sir, for prosecuting this difference, so ephemeral,
between the dead and the dead?

KREON. 
Rebellion, you idiot.
That's my reason. Don't you get it?
There was an enemy army
out there day before yesterday,
and a bloodletter of the royal house
waving at its head, leading the grouse.
What am I to do, ignore such spectacles
as if they were parades, spectaculars?
Ring the boring barracks, call out my troops
to stand by and watch the show? Ridiculous!
If all my men need to help 'em think
is inhale the indifferent stink
of your dead brother, a dead enemy,
in order to discourage mutiny
do you imagine I'll hesitate
to let Polynices disintegrate
and whiten into a skull out there?
Don't cry. See here, see here.
It's tomorrow's bloodshed I seek to avoid;
Against that future cost, I'll endure the goad
of all the gods and holy men
women have ever kneeled to. Amen.
And now, when at long last
I think the danger a minute past,
what happens but that there springs
a traitorous viper at my heels' wings.
You, my dear Antigone!

ANTIGONE. 
Me, a threat to the State! Hardly.
I'm barely old enough to get married.

KREON. 
You're old enough to disobey the law.
Should my first edict command guffaws?

ANTIGONE. 
Do you really care about the crowd?
Should pollsters legislate what is allowed?
Is that what makes you more just,
or less. More Kingly than common? It must!
Is the approbation of the mob what's destined?

KREON. 
One must always listen to the winds
stirred up in the crowds' hurrahs, keep close ear
on their early nays and niggling whispers.
A king cannot afford to isolate himself for long,
expecting distant dictation to master the throng.

ANTIGONE. 
But won't the wise and good citizens
suspect that you relented for the dead, their kin?

KREON. 
The mass of men....

ANTIGONE. 
The mass of men don't really matter.
What happens with them is chance and chatter.
They never make a decision for us,
or themselves, in either calm or crisis.
If they did, then they really
would make a difference, the scales reeling....
What a heaven we could engineer today
if alabaster could be made of clay!
What vast paradises of the common will!
The State would be awash in wisdoms, swill
the Dionysian inspiration at the cafeteria
in plastic cups, manufacturing the poet's hysteria;
foolish things and idiot schemes, curtains
of mauve and turquoise, would be an oddity unknown.
But what they do does not matter, for they
know not what they do. And they
cannot be forgiven, no, no,
for what they cannot decide to do.











SCENE SIX


[Outside tavern, fencing several weeks before the battle.]
POLYNICES. 
Oh, what hot work! My throat's the worst.

ETOCLES. 
These make-believe battles fight us into thirst.

POLYNICES. 
Indeed. Let's get back to the tavern, fast.
Haemon! Set us up with some liquid relief.
[Drinks.] At last, I feel a little clear of grief.
So long those funeral trappings held me shut
into my own mind.

ETOCLES. 
             Perhaps our emotional glut
will help to make us mothers of the wounded state
so we can band-aid the hearts tragedy made us inherit.
To Polynices!

POLYNICES. 
To Etocles!

ETOCLES. 
Let's trade bouts of drinks as titans
traded tirades with Kronos long ago.
[They clink cups.] Requited!

POLYNICES. 
Yes. Let's drown out Neptune's trumpet
by the hollow ringing of our tankards' clunking.

ETOCLES. 
Barman, fill, fill.

POLYNICES. 
Haemon, my closest friend still,
besides my brother Etocles, stand us a toast
to prove our friendly happiness is no boast.

HAEMON. 
Which of these golden suns, now glistening,
will rise above our State as King?
With this bright pair my love to dual love has grown;
Let craftsmen dovetail two elaborate thrones
joined at the arm as your two strong selves
are joined.

ETOCLES. 
A dual kingship?

HAEMON. 
                   A salve
to punch us from our crutches, brothers. [Drinks.]

ETOCLES. 
I hadn't thought of it, little brother.

POLYNICES. 
Why not? It seems a good solution.

ETOCLES. 
Solution implies a problem.

POLYNICES. 
Well....

ETOCLES. 
I am the eldest, POLYNICES. 
This you know.
That will not change, although Kronos
was overthrown. You are as special as a lover,
and will continue so, a valued advisor.
Thus trusted and kept, even as you are now,
in the office of brother.

POLYNICES. 
Office of brother? What rites or
prerogatives has that? What armies can
"brother" raise, against a cry of "king"?

ETOCLES. 
Armies? What nonsense are you speaking?

POLYNICES. 
You know our neighbors in Sparta
are ready to invade and divide our
fractured State which tragedy
has already so nearly sundered.
We must have a solid front and ready display
to out-face them.

ETOCLES. 
Kreon has courage enough to confront them.

POLYNICES. 
Kreon is ambitious. Kreon....

ETOCLES. 
Kreon? Heamon's father? His ambition
extends no farther than his duty, surely.
Isn't that so, Haemon?

HAEMON. 
So it seems to me. Up in the morning
polishing his boots and buckler, drilling
with the soldiers back of the barracks at four....

POLYNICES. 
And yourself, Haemon? Is your
duty so small itself? Do you see your life
given meaning by such small-minded stuff,
such meaningless circumscription?

HAEMON. 
Etocles is the eldest. Tradition
would choose him, and so would the law.

POLYNICES. 
Good God.

HAEMON. 
Your sister, Antigone,
as you know, is promised me;
but how should such a promise hold
if all the world of laws were sold
to Hell? My love is with you, Polynices,
but my duty augers
I should support your
brother in this quarrel.

POLYNICES. 
[Aside.] Perhaps I ought to
mosey on along to Sparta
where my arguments, and not my years,
will find more amenable ears
to hear what I have meant.







SCENE SEVEN


[KREON is being measured for a royal gown and crown.]

DRAPER. 
And so, the folds will flow thus and thus,
the sharpest, latest fashion for a king's a must.

KREON. 
I'm not the King just yet.
Coronation casts the only net
that catches rightful kings, and labors
to haul them kicking to the rulers' table.
Law and tradition place on the mind
a subtle weight of story, of a kind
that helps to keep the chessmen of the game,
however shopworn, virtually the same.
And now our story's of a death,
my son's betrothed, and the comdemning breath
must be my own, for all the rules arrayed
are never by king or demimonde betrayed.
I shall play my predestined part.
No kingship thrives that at the start
quakes uncertain as the king's own heart.
Learned that in the army. Taught it, too.
That's not going to change anytime soon.

DRAPER. 
And now the measurement for the crown.
Let me tie this ribbon right. There we are.
Speaking of your son, here he comes now.

KREON. 
I've said my last word on that girl

ANTIGONE. 
Do you march in here loving me, or hating me?
Haemon, you've always been good.
Obedient, chipper. Don't change your stripes, bud.

HAEMON. 
I come as your son, my father.
I remember marching into the long strides
your own footsteps made in the dirt outside our house.
But when you jump into a palace,
I must stretch myself another way for solace
and find my course by some nearer means.

KREON. 
Let that way be the law's way, Haemon.
It touches you as it touches any other citizen.
You are nearer my heart and council than any,
but if you alienate yourself from the law,
you make yourself a stranger to your father
and walk beyond my helping.

HAEMON. 
Won't go that way, Dad. The thing is,
you've always been my guide; you clear things up
for me, turn me straight when I would wander.
I just had to come and see you. I felt confused.

KREON. 
You did the right thing. Good you came.
Obedience profits. Disloyalty consumes itself.

DRAPER. 
Good sense, your majesty,
and done up with braids of dignity.

HAEMON. 
Dad, remember when we walked to the temple,
sizzled the entrails on the ample altar,
knelt, asked about what might god decide
after Oedipus' exile and Jocasta's suicide?
We waited a long time to hear our answers,
Tiresias clickering over smoky coals like a geiger....
and he hedged on several key points, moreover,
shaving himself some room to maneuver.
Wisdom, he called it. Learning how to listen.
You agreed, and said that we in our mortal condition
should never push the gods for sureties.
That reason is the one gift of God to man, you see,
and so damnably easy to be given the shove.
I agree when you warn my reason's lost for love.
It'd be a stunt for a child to engineer
his Dad's tragic fate into the clear,
or show him how to act and think. But,
if my reason is God's gift, hear it out!
Let whatever divinity shines at my lips' brim
light on you, illuminating what's within.
Its reasonable to learn while on your ass,
knocked there or in a paid chair, class is class.

DRAPER. 
My chalks and knots encode my sire's height.
I mean, sir, sire. But, the boy says right,
no uniform complements even the most strict
officer if it pinches in too tight.

KREON. 
A Dad get spanked by his wanking kid?
Oh I'll wail back to my mother's skirts in a trice
before I'll listen to such childish advice.

HAEMON. 
If I'm not right, I'm wrong. Fair enough.
But if I'm right? What notice takes the right
of youth, or age, or anything but being right?

KREON. 
What's right? Right to be on the side
of damned anarchy, boy?

HAEMON. 
No, no I don't. I don't truck with crooks.

KREON. 
Ain't that little girl a criminal?

HAEMON. 
A criminal girl? Because she grieves?
The entire city populace would deny it.

KREON. 
The city, eh? They to teach me how to rule
who's been commanding men since I gained my age?

HAEMON. 
Your shooting off teenage-like enough now.

KREON. 
From one voice comes rule, comes clarity.
Didn't we have enough confusion already
with those two tawny brothers grasping
for the one solar spotlight, both together gasping,
grasping and tearing and muddying things?
One voice alone can bring things plain,
help straighten out scribbled melodies again,
erect all things aright. You'll see.

HAEMON. 
One horn don't make a symphony.

KREON. 
The conductor is the symphony!
I am the State. Way it is, way its got to be.

HAEMON. 
Yeah, if the State's a deserted isle.

KREON. 
My boy... selling out to a mere girl,
the most powerless member of the community.

HAEMON. 
If you're a girl, Daddy,
then I'm a sell-out, proud to be, the only
person I'm worried about now is you.

KREON. 
Worried about who?
Write "love" on your fist
and strike my gut, sinking to the wrist!
All you're worried about is getting even
with the man transformed into Antigone's demon.

HAEMON. 
Is it better that our new King wrestle
against Justice in the streets? Is that your stance?

KREON. 
All I do is within my rights as ruler.

HAEMON. 
Dosen't that attitude strike you as insular?
Rights of the gods don't start from you, Dad.
You're only right is the right you always had:
to listen if the conscience of Justice is speaking, sir.

KREON. 
Shit of a son! Sucked from me by a fucking girl!
What has she done to you? Have you two slept....
I'd have you hung as an example, but hate
the cost of a court marshall, and demure.

HAEMON. 
You're not my Dad, that's for sure.
Out of remembered honor only am I terse
and keep from calling you utterly perverse.

KREON. 
Seduced boy! Pussy-
whipped! Don't you bandy
blank words with me!

HAEMON. 
No. I'll let you be the talker.
After all, you're the State. I'm the gawker.

KREON. 
[To GUARD.]
Every great leader needs a great obeyer.
Now get on out of here and slay her.

HAEMON. 
I'm not taken in by any vileness, father.

KREON. 
But every word of yours is hers!

HAEMON. 
What did she say to you?

KREON. 
That she would gladly give her life
for the sake of the law! Better answer than yours.

HAEMON. 
My answers look after you, seek you.
Trying to find myself, my meaning,
in all of us. Where are the gods in this room?

DRAPER. 
Sir, if I may....

KREON. 
DISMISSED!!

HAEMON. 
Dismissed?

KREON. 
You will never marry her, you know,
not while she breathes. Her only marriage bed
will be the dirty earth.

HAEMON. 
Then she will soon be dead;
but her dying kills one more, now.

KREON. 
One more? Who? Senseless son,
are you threatening rebellion?
Would you hold your life in opposition
to me and your own bleeding reason?

HAEMON. 
How can I oppose my father?
He's already dead. Cancelled, rather,
a prime time TV soap opera type,
glossy victim of his own hype.

KREON. 
I hope you live to regret this son,
regret these airs you're putting on;
in your ripe old age is where you and I
will finally agree, when we lay side by side
in the military graveyard of the State.

HAEMON. 
Yeah, Dad. Yeah. It's a date.
And when the long sullen hearse
glides to the curb in reverse,
I'll load your corpse with tidbits,
honors and flowers and all that shit,
just as much, and to the same degree,
as you bothered with the body of Polynices.

KREON. 
You are nothing. I am the State.

HAEMON. 
Rave on, with your insane mission;
you have no friends who'll listen.
You won't see me again. My eyes,
King Kreon, shall not see her die.   [Exit.]

DRAPER. 
This doesn't look right, my leige.

KREON. 
Doesn't look right? Will you instruct me now
on how to run the country, toga-maker?

DRAPER. 
Sire, I only....

KREON. 
Not anyone's sire yet, ay?
Antigone I will carry far, far away
until she becomes, like an enemy over a cliff,
a worry discarded. Out in the walless wilderness,
sealed in a vast vault of living stone.
Honor the dead, she says? We must atone?
She wants to honor the dead so much,
let her join 'em. Oh, well, I won't, as such,
condemn her quite to death. Requiescat?
Let her gods' laws do that.
Food in the tomb, some vinegared water,
as the custom has it, freeing the State
from the killing cobra-strike
of her demise. I bear no spiking spite.
Let her pious declamations
ring in her ruined tomb unheard, unquestioned.
Maybe then she'll learn-- too late!--
that piety and pity shouldn't be wasted on the dead!
Then let her prate.










SCENE EIGHT


[Four months before the battle,
betrothal picnic of Antigone.]

JOCASTA. 
Let's toll up our tipping pile of lucks:
Plague, with its slopping vomit-buckets,
disinfectants, crosses and cadavers,
has changed its intrusive thermometers
for warm milk, gingersnaps, and peace
how many happy years ago now, Oedipus?

OEDIPUS. 
Enough for the dark daughter of our nights
to have blossomed up to betrothal height
and look on the plauge-sick infant, Haemon,
with eyes that dare tramsform him to a man.

JOCASTA. 
[Ironically.] Then let us give to the nodding gods
good thanksgiving, who might marr our odds
or dog our days with devastation and death's disgrace
if we forget to hide in hands our grateful face.

OEDIPUS. 
Normal joys are worn away by lapping lassitude,
the timerous ticks of waves, days, ingratitudes.
Let the playful peace that we have got
stand a statue, eternal horseman, who trots
forever on his shining, prancing hinds.
Don't throw rotten rocks at his high behind.

KREON. 
Amen.

OEDIPUS. 
And then,
you know today our dear Antigone
is to be betrothed to Kreon's Haemon.

KREON. 
The great gods in their cloudy watchtower
demand our vital vigilance each turn of each hour
or else all our feasts and bridal fetes
decay to fatal famines.

JOCASTA. 
I won't forget.

KREON. 
I lived here through the plague a boy
and discipline was all that held us steady
until you came with your magic words.

OEDIPUS. 
Well... I did what I could.

KREON. 
And were well rewarded with a Kingship.

JOCASTA. 
We were all so glad you gave Fate the slip.
Even you, Kreon, who stood in line just after Laius,
acclaimed our savior Oedipus to the dais.

KREON. 
He who has use of the law must be
respected and obeyed by all, your majesties,
everything you say is quite correct. Never otherwise.

OEDIPUS. 
Here comes your Haemon now, Kreon.

JOCASTA. 
On his armored arm, Antigone.

OEDIPUS. 
And her brothers revelling after the pair.

JOCASTA. 
And teasing them.

KREON. 
While she twirls her glistering hair.

ETOCLES. 
Why don't you loves swear your vows
and stitch your poverty of two into one double dower.

POLYNICES. 
Hold your dovetailed hands like Spring and Winter,
then summer's transcendence we'll truly enter.

HAEMON. 
I'm too young yet. And Antigone's younger.

POLYNICES. 
Oh come on, don't be a stickler.

ETOCLES. 
Leave that to your dad and his hoard of orders.

HAEMON. 
Dad's right about more things more
often, than anyone else I know, including Tiresias.

POLYNICES. 
Oh ho! Colonel Kreon out-guesses
prophets now! That's some soldier's discipline there.
Must be all those camp-outs peering at the stars.

ETOCLES. 
Don't mock, Polynices.

POLYNICES. 
I know, I know. It isn't "nices."

ETOCLES. 
It was Tiresias' boiled-blind eyes that saw
the kinks of Kreon's fate in a shooting star
stitching quick through six constellations
before it flashed and faded out behind the yellow moon.
That forebodes high office and fabled towers,
control of men and fates on earth. Much power.

POLYNICES. 
That's ancient history. You make your chance.
That's what all philosophers of free-trade
in the agora say all day, if you pay your way.

[Boys laugh and go off.]

ANTIGONE. 
I would swear my soul to you today.

HAEMON. 
And it is here, in warm human awe,
that true blue duty shifts wish to law.





SCENE NINE


[ANTIGONE's tomb. ISMENE is decorating it,
funeral-bride style.]

ISMENE. 

Lupin, verbane
leverets, eyebright
kingcup, cockscomb
pennywort, soapwort
speedwell, groundsel
cottongrass, scabiosae
yarrow arrowroot
chervil, marestail, teazel....
Sweet flowers, brighten this tomb around me,
give my eye a safe place for retreating reverie.
Although here is so much of what's beautiful and best,
I cannot think of her but hurt.
I see Antigone, and I cry. Oh flowers,
ephemeral, eternal, sweet, idiotic powers,
how can you still be cheerful, and not crack,
trading all your rainbow looks for black?

ANTIGONE. 
 Do you look at me with pity, sister?
Do not, although the Archeron flow faster
for the down-draw of my downfall.
My voice mixed with Death's will all
be mumbling sleepy night-talk soon,
as I whisper in the ears of my brothers, gone
into that eternal, ephemeral, emerald glade
where all flowers are of nightshade.

ISMENE. 
 Yes, you'll die. Its the common lot
of all that lives to consummate in rot.
Down in your dirty grave, the final horror
of decayed, vampirish, drear decor,
there will shine a kind of honor
alien to those of us who die at random,
killed singly, or undone in tandem---
for you have chosen ruin with willful love
and with brave lonliness all human law
denied. You never bowed before a tinsel sword.
Even to the dead, you never went back on your word.
ANTIGONE. 
Endless rain in the underworld,
they say; limitless drippings, whirled
beneath bone-cold feet, while grave ghosts stare
demanding to know why they are there.
Gathered darks and frozen omens,
the dead themselves only half-sensible
as in an interrupted dream. I feel
the loneliness of death all too well.

ISMENE. 
 So, all glory for you is gone?
None in this world, none in the one beyond?

ANTIGONE. 
You're laughing at me, Ismene.
Tell true, you can't wait until I'm dead, can you?
One less trouble under you legs,
racing to my disaster impelled by dear ideals
the law mocks, and you feel
too self-indulgent to be real.

ISMENE. 
 Far past that brightness where
human hearts alight and dare
your high heart has taken you, Antigone.
Look around. To the halls of justice you have come.

ANTIGONE. 
Trees and rivers of this Thebes,
weep for me, if you will, I have seen
your gods, obeyed, and was unjustly judged.
This is the place you pointed out. I didn't budge.
When I came here, I came flying
to the stone hole of justice, grieving, dying.
Now  I'll sleep in the abandoned bridebed
where my father and his mother did
it, and made me. Crime, crime, deep infection,
bleakness beyond what we see of meaning....
Their marriage worms up from the grave,
eating my hope, killing my marriage.
And now I'm the stranger in my own home-place,
homeless.

ISMENE. 
 You came to death at your own pace,
nevertheless.

ANTIGONE. 
Let me go, let me die.
Truth is a hard word to hear, to say.
The sun removes itself from my eye,
leaving everything vast and cold and sick.
Lead me to my last vigil, quick, quick,
before I dissolve, empty
of lamentaions and of loves.
My passions have drained me.

KREON. 
If a dirge-ditty could keep death back,
the first man would still be wailing at the crack
of the first grave ever made.
Throw her in; the place is prepared.
Distribute the honeycakes. If the gods,
determined to to distribute unevely the odds,
give her sustinace as they impelled rebellion,
she shall live. Our hands are clean.

ANTIGONE. 
Our family darkness gathers in the tomb,
Uncle, pressing every instance of light out of the room
execution has made too suddenly, awkwardly cozy.
I die unbrided, my children locked in me as a rose is
locked and loaded into its miniature seed.
How easily discarded are those things once known as need.
Now deep, too deep, within ungerminating rock
my designs to be a bride eternally are mocked,
a Michaelangelo statue giving me the finger.
Never let my loving Haemon linger
here where all my hopes are bedded,
writhing within the stone that I have wedded.
Be witnesses for me, thin, effectless ghosts!
I poured the holy libation, I covered Polynices,
departed Dead, according to your laws and ways!
My own hand grows spectral before my face,
I dissolve and all my future intent's replaced
by a story told and over with. Remember, Ismene,
my story, although you have opposed me.
Say what I have done, and repeat it carefully
all your days, for the dead forget, they say,
and wander in dimensionless mist,
always moaning on about old crimes, listless.

ISMENE. 
 O passionate heart!
As unyeilding as tormented!

KREON. 
Guards!

ANTIGONE. 
The voice of death!

KREON. 
I can't say if you're mistaken, Antigone.
As these guards bind you, so my duty binds me.

ANTIGONE. 
Last sad daughter of a string of kings,
damned by the confusion of confusing things,
a maiden butterfly bereft of wings.
Unhappy kings, all unthroned to Hades,
where already in thought my thrown shade is,
you will recall what sadnesses have occured here,
here, in my heart. See what I've suffered, dears,
at these hands, incautious, abrupt,
but always royal, even when they cuffed
a girl curled against them in her ribbon stuff.
And still, after all, they think themselves human,
but I kept first the ordinance of Heaven.






SCENE TEN


[Years earlier. ETOCLES and POLYNICES are
children, rollerskating. ANTIGONE a babe.]

POLYNICES. 
I cry with a wild cry.
You chase me just to waste me. Why?
High-speed, here's ETOCLES. 
I feel
in my neck the rollerskate's solid wheel.
Monkey's uncle! Mercy, Etocles!
Your foot is really squishing me!

ETOCLES. 
Say it. Pray it.
This dog's day isn't over yet.

POLYNICES. 
Oh... Etocles.

ETOCLES. 
Say it.
POLYNICES. 
Please... please....

ETOCLES. 
Say it.

POLYNICES. 
You're just as meany mean
as old Unc' Kreon.

ETOCLES. 
Fiend.
Say it. Or I'll make you double-time
march until... until dinnertime!

POLYNICES. 
Dinnertime!

ETOCLES. 
Say it!

POLYNICES. 
[sing-songs.]
When we're ready to be princes
beloved in the world's embraces,
plastered on the summer magazines
kept in adolescent dreams obscene,
poked and prodded, adored, implored,
by the tired mechanics of Fame's one door,
it's Etocles, not me, who'll be
the glass of fashion, and king. You'll see.
It's Etocles, not me,
not me, it's Etocles who'll be....
It's Etocles, not me,
not me, you'll see, it's Etocles
who will grow up to be
king of everthing he sees.
Etocles, Etocles,
not me, not me.

ETOCLES. 
OK. Good enough; get up.
It's almost time to wash and sup.

POLYNICES. 
My neck is cricked
you prick.

ETOCLES. 
Wanna play "soverign and his councillors"?

POLYNICES. 
Nah... What a bore.
It's Antigone I wanta check out.
See if her bunched-up face is normal yet.

ETOCLES. 
All right. To the nurse! Double-time!
POLYNICES. 
You said no double-time.

ETOCLES. 
Did not. I said double-time til dinnertime
if you did not crown me king. That's not
a promise of no double-time, it's a threat.

POLYNICES. 
Same thing, silly.

ETOCLES. 
Not really....

[Enter NURSE and JOCASTA.]

JOCASTA. 
Today Kreon returns with his forecast.
I never saw anyone so certain and self-assured
so anxious about the half-sayings of the prophets
and fortune-throwers.

NURSE. I'd have thought it would fall
beneath his dignity to get any advice at all.

[Enter OEDIPUS.]

OEDIPUS. 
Don't let crass Kreon fool you girls.
His crew-cut style hides feigning wiles.
Half his dignity's his uniform,
pressed and polished, that's his norm.

JOCASTA. 
That's the visitor's pipping trumpet.
Let greedy ears hear what the prophet said.

OEDIPUS. 
Yes, let's.

[Enter KREON.]

OEDIPUS. 
Well, Kreon, what news from on high?

KREON. 
Such news as might make stone men sigh.

NURSE. Oh, sir, look at his face! I, I....

OEDIPUS. 
Here, take a pull on my flask.

KREON. 
A dark and dirty task
has been assigned to hard-pressed Thebes.

OEDIPUS. 
Then we'll launder it to light's reprieve.
KREON. 
Its a pollution from long ago.
A splotch that necessities did throw
from our minds. Can't think about honor
on an empty stomach, or you'll double sorrow.
Nor when half the city's sick with plague.

OEDIPUS. 
The Sphinx gave me a promise. She did not renege
when I solved her riddle about the legs.
I'll do the same for this problem. And simply,
now that I'm the King, and it's my responsibility.

KREON. 
Well, it's a real riddle again, right enough.

OEDIPUS. 
Hmm. These augers often play with double tongues
and curse those who most expect a kiss.
I'd rather not be a patsy in their plots.

JOCASTA. 
But what choice have we got?

KREON. 
None.

OEDIPUS. 
Such is the whim of God. Let's hear the knot.
What can we do, but be good guessers
and attempt all the obstacles in life, the greater and lesser,
tripping and leaping by turns?

KREON. 
Shrewdly said, sire. There is a stain....

OEDIPUS. 
So you said. Make yourself plain.

KREON. 
A blotch... a murder.

NURSE. Murder!

OEDIPUS. 
But there is no murder, unless I err.

KREON. 
Brutal and ruinous, and the culprit
still at large. "Laius," said the voice, I still hear it:
"Laius; find his killer, or mighty Thebes is no more."

OEDIPUS. 
But he was killed long before
I even got here!

KREON. 
Oracles can be pretty rough.

OEDIPUS. 
Oh, this makes the puzzle tough.
KREON. 
Murdered on the open road; the man
and his entire entourage..or, nearly. And
now the gods, going through the oracle's cold throat
command we track the killer or they get our goat.

OEDIPUS. 
Why wasn't this matter devined
time out of mind, long sad years ago? I mind
a regicide loose in Thebes!
For all I know, I could be next!

KREON. 
Anarchies.
That's why we dawdled as detectives.
Wasn't looked into because of the plague;
folks passing out in the streets, faces greyed,
dead as the weather in yesterday's papers. Dead inks.
No time then for any riddle but the Sphinx's.

OEDIPUS. 
Once more it seems my task
to disgorge these dark things until they bask
in the temperate light of day. To my head,
it is good and lawful to honor the dead,
never too late to set things straight with heaven,
blot out evil wherever it lies hidden.
In my own mind's quiet self-report
I can scan nothing more important.

[Enter the children, screaming and running.]

OEDIPUS. 
Children, enough! The time
for play has come and gone.







SCENE ELEVEN


[Coronation of KREON.]

ANNOUNCER. 
Let this chosen of the gods
be shown of special promise and strictest bond
to guide the stray arrangents of our state
with kingly competence, and put no bad act
before the eternal temperance divinely given
when gods attempt to teach justice to men.

KREON. 
Beneath this State vestment I must frown
and find my fellows lacking as I turn round
viewing the world from the gold hedge and ground
of your principle endowment: this crown of crowns
or haughty scepter whose powers enforce
a king's singular essence of moral choice.
These tidings and these trinkets
I accept without a blink, yet
I acknowledge they were only theived
from you, dear citizens of Thebes.
Having so lately defended yourselves
from a most horrible attack upon your homes,
I take it in victory, and in sacred trust,
that civic will and private itch keep us robust.

TIRESIAS. 
Above me, a pretty speech cries out.
Who speaks? He has the rough measure of Kreon
of old, but talks of citizens and kings, not men,
horses, battle, and such warlike use of words
as was his common way when I knew him good.

KREON. 
It's me, TIRESIAS. 
Your boy has eyes.
Doesn't he tell you when to bow before a king?
TIRESIAS. 
King? King? I thought you just said
you were KREON. 
I know your voice. You are.
Now, how is a Colonel a king? Tell me boy,
for this Kreon is trying out a jest.
I guess for everything there's a first.

KREON. 
You've stumbled into a coronation, prophet.
Were you looking to sadden some widow before her time?
Please, don't let me detain you.

TIRESIAS. 
There's many I might make sad today.
Yourself not least, KREON. 
Listen to what I say.

KREON. 
I don't recall ever NOT listening, Tiresias.

TIRESIAS. 
Good. You've done one good thing there, wise.
A good start for a new king, indeed.

KREON. 
Yes, yes. To you I'm indebted for past deeds
and prophacies. But what new fate comes today?

TIRESIAS. 
Listen: Kreon, once more you sway
uneasily on the bladed edge of some great fate.

KREON. 
What's this? Your words discombobulate.

TIRESIAS. 
Kreon, Kreon, can't you tell
from the trembling insistance of my prophet's yell,
I'm giving you a chance too oft denied
by Fate's roulette wheel busy spinning in its pride.
The gods who blinded me are blessing you;
but they've handed it off to me to tell you what to do.
You know that little chair I've got up on the mountain,
set wildly high, where geysers shrink to fountains,
and the humungous ocean is reduced
to a puddle children's feet traduce?
Well, I was sitting there, feeling the sunlight
and the air, and the birds that make it to heaven's light,
and back, swirled all around me, all set a-chatter
(nothing too unusual in a prophet's business matters)
when out of their beaks there came contrasted
this sound that just, well, it sort of blasted
more than anything else; human in that screechfest,
like a child being dissected in an eagle's nest,
a person's voice set alight by the gods and burning,
a bonfire of consciousness, pure flame roaring
out of the anonymities gathered there.
There was a fight set off between 'em all in the air,
a seriousness of division like a war, wing-whirr
and furiousness. I put my hand out for the boy,
got him to swear up and down what he tol'
was what was happening. Didn't trust the, the
extraordinariness of it at all, too uncanny,
I thought, but the gods've left me dangling,
and brought me round to stranger things.
Here's what he saw, the boy, what my ears witnessed,
and no mistake: some of the bigger crows had hissed
a little dove over on its back, flayed out the wings
while a series of flyers looped low to sting
at the virgin breast, ripped and ripped, ceased
when a human voice leapt out of the distressed beast,
far louder than its size, a widow's moan
that in that violence was a sound alone.
When all was done, and no more to be heard,
I put my thumb in the open bowl of the bird,
trying to feel how the heart made out, what state
it was in for the augury, and I gave a start,
almost put my old thumb through that dove's ribs
and out the back, felt liver, and lungs, some greasy tid-bits,
but the heart, well, that was pecked completely
out, an absent mansion in my hand waiting
for it to flap back and start pumping. I was lost!
What could it all mean at this point?
Didn't know what to think, retreated out-of-joint
to my usual altar fires and such like.
But Hephastos failed me. Fire and no smoke,
no sign rising from destruction that should choke
black the heavenly skies. That's a fact.
I was in a panic. All the earth was out of whack!
Sonny, some things start out serious, stay that way
to the grave. This is one of 'em. What I say.
Everybody makes mistakes, no matter how exalted,
diligence is needed to see what the fault is
as well as to carry on with a difficult chore.
The gods chortle at our morose doings, none more
than our puffing up in pride and staying puffed.
But when goodness licks out of a man like holy fire
and by its light he sees his wrongs, and does
something, anything almost, to fix 'em up in gods' eyes,
that diminishes the evil, sets it at naught,
if done timely and with a sincere heart. Kreon,
think about things, who's standing up for the gods'
old ways in spite of man? Don't conflict
by policy with what moves above us... Ain't politic.
Ordering strong men to swim in armor,
march a million miles; orders have an issuer,
but results are not guaranteed. Kreon,
this Antigone thing.... It goes against God.
I've seen it, and ran here. Best tell Kreon, I thought,
he's always kept a level head on and whatnot.

KREON. 
Birds of Zeus! Are you sure your boy
didn't whistle while you dozed in prophetic joy,
perhaps sipping too much of that bacchic wine
that brings insightful frenzy to the near-divine?
Can't my coronation day, in a country wide-
open with a peace we've earned, be free
of these nasty natterings and edgy anxieties?
No, Tiresias, even if your lauded eagles
carried Polynices up to heaven, regal
bit by stinking bit, I'd not yeild at all.
All my life I've put up with fortune-tellers;
He defied me in life, let his death be the exemplar!
I didn't pollute any temples, was always solemn.
The gods themselves are immune to us, no man can smack 'em.
You'll have to go elsewhere, go away
with your filthy business, I won't pay
to have my brightest day ruined by some
sour old blind man with his abacus of curses. Come,
Gather 'round! Tiresias sells his wisdom
to the highest bidder! Worthless words for hire!

TIRESIAS. 
Is there no man left inside you to fear the fire?
Are you so completely withered to this length,
a single conceit of earthly power and tyrant-strength
that you, an armored prawn, would defy augury and all
that heaven gives in grace to the earth? It appalls!

KREON. 
All right. Give us the phony aphorism.
Here's a dangled drachma for your boy-whore jism.

TIRESIAS. 
Is there no man left in you who'll
know that wisdom outweighs any wealth, you fool!

KREON. 
Right. And bribes are baser than any baseness.

TIRESIAS. 
Bribes leave both the giver and taker with less.

KREON. 
I would not presume to counter a prophet
who's so good at counting what's in his pocket.

TIRESIAS. 
Do you still say my prophecy's for sale?
That for some monkish junk I'd sell the Grail?

KREON. 
Prophets have always thought it a touch too keen
to catch the sordid future in a drachma's gleam.

TIRESIAS. 
And kings have always loved warrior's brass,
and the brassy brayings of their own voices!

KREON. 
Watch it! Your king stands before you.

TIRESIAS. 
I know it. I prophecied that too.

KREON. 
You, Tiresias, are not without talent.
But foreseeing my rise may not be thought
too spectacular. No one worked so hard for their fate,
trimming my sails, and staying up late,
stabbing back at intrigue, watching for my chances.
Face it Tiresias, a lucky guess. And now my guess is,
well, now you've completely sold out.

TIRESIAS. 
Sire, fatal words are in my throat.
Do not unclasp their lock. There is no antidote.

KREON. 
Here. Place this coin under your tongue,
that useless lock for those flapping gums,
and unburden yourself of your bleak words.
But remember, no matter what is said or heard,
no further coin will I give you for defiance,
although maybe I'd pay for some uncommon silence.

TIRESIAS. 
Although these words charge your life in fee,
yet, you cannot afford my silent tranquility.

KREON. 
No doubt. No doubt. I'm listening.
Your audience stands attentive, prevaricating performer.

TIRESIAS. 
Very well, then. Take this, Kreon,
and take deep to heart! Not much father will
the days advance upon your royal time
when you shall be charged to pay all
back that you have taken: corpse for corpse
and flesh of your flesh shall pay the price!
You thrust one wondering child of light
into damned antechambers of soul's night---
innocent Antigone, who kept to the gods
and did not stray, into Hades too terribly sudden,
living in night before she's made a shade.
Also, you have perversely kept above the dust
another soul, marooned here on the earth's crust
that should have been with dignity interred.
One graved before her death, the other denied
holy sanction of a burial. These are your crimes,
Kreon. Fear the Furies and the dark of time.
Fear the great, dim gods of Hell:
Their punishment is moving swift and fell.
So swift and sure their flight at you
that you cannot even hear the fatal arrow
fletched by my prophacy. Are these the words,
Kreon, for which you wished and paid?
Soon, soon, as night and day revolve again
around your guilt, targeting in,
your house shall know loud lamentations,
men and women wandering eyeless from tears,
distant curses will come up close.
Cities grieving their unburied boys
will bend in ill will at your policies,
pushing the sink of the dead into beautiful Thebes,
even as high as your palace. These are my words,
Kreon, free of charge. Now you have heard.
[Throws money at KREON.]
Come, boy. We have seen enough.

SOLDIER. 
These words work in my heart, make me cough
like a plague unleashed. Tiresias is gone,
but his bitter knowledge lingers in the air.
Old as I am, I can't remember him lying ever.

KREON. 
Ah. It is hurts to even think whether....
But I cannot remember him ever lying either.
Damn it!

SOLDIER. 
If I may advise....

KREON. 
If not always very wise,
you at least have served me. How could I woo
that troublesome Tiresias and ignore you?

SOLDIER. 
Thank you. I am worried. I think....
KREON. 
Yes? What is it? Speak.

SOLDIER. 
Get Antigone out of her tomb,
and put Polynices in there. Trade 'em.
Maybe the gods will take the hoodwink.

KREON. 
Friend, of all my campaigns, I think,
would you really have me do this?

SOLDIER. 
As old as I am, I'd hate to see
new sorrow bring my old captain down.
Now go at once. You heard how swift
it must be done! The gods are never slow
to punish men who wrong 'em. No.

KREON. 
All my heart's against it, all.
But, yes, all right. I'll
not wrestle destiny for a corpse.

SOLDIER. 
And go yourself,
that's the right way with these things!

KREON. 
I will go. Servents-- fetch axes,
pull shovels from the farmers' hands.
To Polynices first, he's the first thing
I'll take out of the gods' sight and put right.
Quick, quick! The gods are stonger than us
and all our little hubris of polity;
a man must serve them till he die.





SCENE TWELVE


[OEDIPUS in Thebes, answering Sphinx.]

OEDIPUS. 
It's a hard day full of light
as opposite a cramped, paranoic night
as a traveller'd dare to care to have, or get,
until it seems that that old soul the sun, cart-
wheels just for fun, rolling toward oblivion.
The road's all dust, and a plague, they say,
kills a city, Thebes, just one cross ridge away.
There the Sphinx, flinty singer, stone muse of mystery,
riddles every passerby to intermit the plague
but none who've answered lived, or answered as a sage.
But as I was born a wanderer with swell
feet, I might as well
attempt what answer I can make, or makeup what I can't,
--for what use is life without a little of romance?
Life's philosophy's eternal whim;
too much permanence must make us grim,
seize our sighs to breathless glaciers
and put our passions on permanant vacations.
I'll try my maybe answers to get the golden pouches
proffered by the populace. There she crouches....
Now let me take a chance; she's overheard!
Time to make my stand. Sphinx! Lion! Woman! Bird!

SPHINX. 
I am SPHINX. Take counsel, and be afraid.

OEDIPUS. 
Be afraid? And drill myself to silence?
I'd rather be an inquisitor in your presence.

SPHINX. 
Time mocks men that mock their fears.

OEDIPUS. 
I came to ask you what your riddle is,
to delve it out or die.

SPHINX. 
                 I am SPHINX. 

Take counsel, and depart.

OEDIPUS. 
[Aside.]         A jinx.
Take counsel and depart? Where, sorcerer,
would I go, a homeless wanderer? [Aloud.]
I am ready for your riddle, Sphinx.
I'm after this city of Thebes' rink-
y-dink reward. There's advantage for my risk---
enough to allay my fears, maybe, sans mock's 'tisk.'

SPHINX. 
Prepare for death, mortal man.

OEDIPUS. 
Lay it on me, sister.

SPHINX. 
             Answer, if you can:
What walks on four legs at dawn, two at noon,
and three legs when the sun is gone?

OEDIPUS. 
Beats me. I give up, what is it?

SPHINX. 
Your life and soul are forfeit.

OEDIPUS. 
Hey, I was just kidding! Man!

SPHINX. 
Man? Make your answer clear, or soon....

OEDIPUS. 
Yeah, yeah... Man, that's it. Dawn
is infancy, crawling on all fours; noon
is adulthood, when we walk upright, and....

SPHINX. 
I have seen the mighty of all nations
look appalled upon the pit, and die at these equations.

OEDIPUS. 
And evening... evening is, well, uh, would be,
that is, or would be, would kinda haveta be,
well, you know, old age and all that. See?

SPHINX. 
An old age you will never know. Prepare!

OEDIPUS. 
In old age man walks on three... three...
[Aside.] Stick to it, OEDIPUS. 
Stick to it, stick, stick....

SPHINX. 
Stick? Your answer now, be quick!

OEDIPUS. 
Yes! Evening is old age, when man
walks with the aid of a crutch, a stick, when he can,
you know the deal. Well, monster, that's my guess;
am I dead, or delivered from this mess?

SPHINX. 
Live.

OEDIPUS. 
Now to see what the Thebans will give.





SCENE THIRTEEN



[Inside ANTIGONE's tomb.]

ANTIGONE. 
Already I am done with waiting.
Already I wish to be my consummation taking,
and with these waters and flowers sweet
end my too many days in this rock of night.
Never again will the sun come unto my face
unless it be in chinky disfigurence,
rough oblongs that obscure what they set upon
as much as may illuminate. This bride-bedecked tomb
differs less than many might have thought
from the airy daylight world I left,
filled, as that world is, with sights obscured
by ambition and prideful puffings of the self
enough to make this dismal chambered
dark, bright as the broadest noonday to myself.
But already am I done with its smalls charms,
and though it make me a respite from harm,
and all the corrupting rack of earth outside
that seems a more populated dark of brutal tides,
I am done. You have directed my feet, O gods,
to this place, accept me to the afterworld
as in this harried round of menace and ambition
you disgraced my simplicity and devotion.
I am done. Now I'll tear my veil
and shread my neck from breath as well
who should pant upon her bridal bed
like a wild leopard left unfed,
saying "Haemon," and "love" and such smallnesses
as this, which new-marrieds will make to pass
their days in restful glory and in bliss.
[She hangs herself.]

HAEMON. 
[Outside.] This is the most desperate spot
Thebes or the entire earth has got,
which everywhere else has such unequalled good;
This ruined landscape, flat, devoid,
measures well with the harsh expectations
of my empty soul. You, and you, drop your rations,
and tear with me at these false-risen
obstructions obscuring my life's business,
these stones of earth that cage my heart.
My father is the supreme head of State
as well you fingers of his power know
whom he posted here. Now, let's go!
Would you deny me, men? Think on it:
would you deny his son and risk the worst?
Good. Now, to it! O State that makes such men
so concerned with their skins and not what's within.
Antigone! Since I cannot from
the blasted blankness of this rocky womb
deliver you to life and light again,
which life lacks light without your presence,
I've come to bury myself with you
where my heart already lies entombed.
There, it is done. When I am within
this inky place, seal all up again the same
and I shall thank you as though you were my saviors.
Antigone.... do you sleep, or in prayer labor?
My adjusting eyes are hard put
to see you or anything in this murk.
Here's a cup of brackish water, a cruelty condoned
by my father to hurt your last days alone.
What's this? Soft... flowers strewn
almost to heaping! I thought is was yourself, Antigone,
nothing else. Now the chamber's darkness dies
and starts to glow like lurid moonrise
over sandy wastes; things appear,
but not in their true character,
but merely, as it were,
half-aware of what they were in daylight.
I seem to see within my eye, and not without.
What in the very center of this chamber floats?
....A ghost! [Florishes sword at Antigone.]
O spirit restless
whose place I trespass,
greet me as a younger brother born
to share an immortality like your own.
But wait... Oh, I am done with waiting!  [Slashes.]
Collapsing on the stone floor? What? A weighted thing....
[Discards sword.] Now I own again my full sight
to look upon the desecration of my heart.
O Antigone! Were you so impaitient to be hurled
from this sinister fascination called the world?

[ENTER MESSENGER.]

MESSENGER. 
Guards, stop your lawful punishment.

SENTRY. 
This is a trick. We're ordered to finish it.

MESSENGER. 
KREON. 
He's changed his mind.
He spoke to Tiresias, and decided,
better to gamble with the gods than against.
The state is not the only arbiter of mens' estate;
he grasped some greatness within that helped him
do one thing great. He rushed off then,
spade in hand, to bury Polynices' properly.
I had helped, starting out over there with 'em.
We had to... to.... It was awful...
Then he thought it best to post me onward,
here to the tomb, to bring tidings to Haemon
and ease his troubled mind. Haemon!

SENTRY. 
You'll have to shout considerably louder.

MESSENGER. 
Why? What evil is in your laughter?

SENTRY. 
Haemon's in the tomb with Antigone.

MESSENGER. 
In there? Why? He was not condemned.

SENTRY. 
He wanted to be with his bride
to break-in the bed.

[A cry is heard from within the tomb..]

MESSENGER. 
What's that? An evil sound of lunacy.

SENTRY. 
Let's give the honeymoon couple some privacy.

MESSENGER. 
But Kreon orders them out!

SENTRY. 
I'll await Kreon's orders. Don't pout.
You know what a hardhead he is.

MESSENGER. 
He sent me on ahead to tell you this.

[Another cry.]

SENTRY. 
Have you ever known Kreon's mind
to ever change? The man's adamantine.

MESSENGER. 
Out of my way then; I'll dig them out myself.

SENTRY. 
Not while I have breath....

[They prepare to scuffle. ENTER KREON.]

MESSENGER. 
Sire!

SENTRY. 
This man tried to break into the tomb
and undo your orders, sir. You're under arrest. Come.

[Another cry.]

KREON. 
What's that? From the tomb! Those cries!

SENTRY. 
Just Haemon saying his goodbyes.

KREON. 
Haemon! Haemon! Are you in there?
What is this crying out? Dear,
son, speak to me-- I come here on my knees
begging forgiveness. Unloose me
from this parental nightmare of regret.
Let me see my son again obedient
to a wronging father who corrects
himself by the forgotten love he recollects
---I am as new-made as light
within a sharpened diamond's made more bright
by the outer hardness it discards
to redouble illumination's shards
and give back twice to the paitient eye
all the glory looming in a summer sky.
There, through this hasty chink
I see you in the center of the rock,
lying athwart the darkest spot.
But beside you, what's that you've got?
Something white a little to your left;
It looks like Antigone's veil, bereft
of her fine face and flung awry.
I've buried Polynices, Antigone!
Washed him up with my own hands,
first with holy water with my own hands.
And then into the mellow ground, you see,
now all the grime and dirt's on me.
Tiresias knocked sense into me, until I saw
I've no war with the dead, except how
to honor them more highly. Haemon!
Shall a father not be answered by his son?

MESSENGER. 
We're almost through, sire. Here's an entrance.

SENTRY. 
Watch out, this heavy stone is losing its balance!

KREON. 
Haemon-- voice of the damned dark, talk!--
Is Antigone dead, did her body balk
when I criminalized her love?
To my sunken ear her light voice dove,
deformed by aquatic harmonics, till
I only heard her mumur against my will,
my will magnified by water into The State.
I'll dash away these tears and wait
to hear her voice again from under shale.
She has hung herself with her unwound vail!
Haemon, Haemon, let my grief
reverse engineer her death back to relief,
and may my taut repentance
rekinkle our cold aquiantance,
for a father and son should be united;
then her death might be less blighted.
O my son, let my sorrow, my tears, impart
by my new-washed intent, a place in your heart!
Forgive me! All's done ill.
Here, take my hand. No! This chill
and evil fiction in your eyes!
Haemon, the father in me dies
to see you see me through such lies,
a vail of hating falsities.
Nor can I expect a blink's reprieve
from the long stabs inside your sight
that show me as I am, not as I might
have been: a father loving and alive
to all his only son might give.
Ah! now he's stabbing at my face,
stabbing, stabbing at my disgrace,
the delineaments of age and error
that no longer awe him into terror
nor any obedience any longer.
Son, o son, I wish I had been stronger!
and known the fictions of renown
make their victors victims of their poem.
Now... No! No! Haemon, slice
nothing of yourself for your father's vice!
Turn the wild knife's erratic
attention back against the vatic
idiot who forgot his only duty
was to tell his son to love his beauty,
and let young Haemon, and pretty Antigone,
live and love and be.
Come out and kill the wretch
who held a burecratic pen to sketch
a tyrant's tragedy among the stars,
and cut his heart to a hash of scars.
Come out and kill me. Oh fair boy,
whose rose of blood lays unalloyed
on Antigone's dead and paper cheek....
You have won your bride, even as I speak,
and I have lost my son.

[The stone is rolled away. We see
HAEMON and ANTIGONE dead.]

End

Jul 162020
 


a tragedy

by Gregg Glory
[Gregg G. Brown]

Published by BLAST PRESS
copyright 1988




SCENE 1

HAMILTON Cornwalis has overwhelmed our Gates In South Carolina at Camden-town Where the crepey willows hang their sad limbs In liquid embraces that clasp the air Incestuous summer's sultry melting Clots with riotous cries of our defeated. This, and other engagements that went Against us begin to bind the free determination of our course As with water that cannot choose its level But drops indeterminately to the base They that cannot see to steer their courses Funnel blindly to black ends. But we are men, and do not flow unwillingly But rather march our rivers to a sea Of our own devising. Hortatio Gates Being the main hand of our forces south Should bear some load of blame for our flank's wounds That were insufficiently defended. ADAMS But Gates is a good man. HAMILTON But the gate was weak. And others have proved false before this. This is the worst dark year of war Criminal monarchy has knighted on us yet. The British boar gores our youthful state, And the foundling nation bleeds dangerously. ADAMS Each honorable drop the unaccepting earth Will vomit up at warty faces And drown their fatal squeals in innumerable floods Rained so fast dizzy sanity must think All the weeping face of nature broke blood sobs To gape on woeful corpses of Americans. HAMILTON If things stand as they are, we stand defeated. [Enter Messenger MESSENGER Sir, the British, in sharp ambition To retain their sovereignty in these states (Which, by God, and by my blood, they shall not) Have cut the French fleet off at Brest, The harbor of our hopes, with a deep blockade. WASHINGTON It seems dry powder has stopped up What otherwise would flow to our advantage. [Stuff missing...] England has bottled France's valor up And you would launch this tirade instead. Rashness makes a gentleman look ill; It spots him with the indecent cheek of youth Heated by inconstant purposes boiling all at once To make intemperate kettles sing and pipe, Fuelled by logs from his own wayward eye. You have me at a disadvantage in our fencing That I must sit by and seem to straddle it. Congress will have much to say of this. I shall not send a commendation yet, Forced to the narrow end of our sharp argument By outward circumstances. Be at peace-- And know that I shall meditate in state On this grave, vital matter. And I think Even our hissing Southern fires must wait To be quenched in decision's cooler hour. [Exit all but he Discord in these linen ranks does not suit; A more polished rupture in our debate Will make itself felt presently, I fear.

SCENE 2

FATHER Welcome, gentlemen, to all our royal roast. Feed on what your appetites have pleasure To consume: piled tables, music's sweetest note, And ladies liberally dispersed Twitch skirts to the fiddler's cricketing. Formality is left tarrying past sundown. Put out your worries of these flashing times In our pooled merriment which chills those heats. A shooting star is the only shot we'll fear. So, men, summer's last dragonflies let's be: Clip on fancy's wings and navigate these smiles That tell of rustic silence in a booming mire. Ladies, attach your sultry glows; Flit lithesome and into dark rushes blow. [Aside] We've had our country quiet ripped by war Instead of the fiddler's jumping saw. Too much death leaves pleasure at the door. MAJOR ANDRE Cannons sometimes are veiled, and soldiers sleep. FATHER To dream on drums' martial melodies. MAJOR ANDRE Perhaps it is so, but while our joys can stir Drink up the entertainment you have poured And put on the evening's delightful gear That must mask our more familiar faces. FATHER Major Andre, although you must visit Secretly, in deepest danger to your self And of your loyalty make some pretense As might a spy, you've determined me to laugh. I'll speak no more of war. Fiddler, scratch! [Goes off MAJOR ANDRE While my honesty must dissemble here I'll study out how to read these masquers' looks And trace tracks of deer in these confused woods; There's one white hind whose heart leaps plain And in colonial marshes wears a crown. His wife, obeying some royal cue, tips Her antlered wine glass and prepares To hoof. But here walks a man among ranks Makes a solemn clowning of our license; Dignity in motion, with shoulders to bear his crown; Among the jumping minions of these woods He bears a royal poise. Who is this stag that makes such noble browse Among the rude reeds offered here? FATHER Arnold. Pothead, leave off that lady's slipper Unless you'd have a flower trod on you. POTHEAD Aye, sir. [Aside] Although it'd be a pretty bruise would bloom. MAJOR ANDRE Benedict Arnold? FATHER The same, He who bravely saved Saratoga from retribution's whip With limping victory. ---Cullion, Scissors, Fetch the rich broth and tar it on their hungers Need makes misbehave. Mr. Andre, I must knock skulls or find no brains; pardon. [Goes MAJOR ANDRE Perhaps my secret purpose, burning low, has here Found some powder for its hidden light. FATHER Peggy, lift a leg, and show these ladies How to reel that never hopped before. CULLION Are women frogs to hop like that? POTHEAD Hop-hop Is too lewd for frogs, but not too loose for maids. CULLION You stuff ears rudely, salad-maker. POTHEAD There's dancers behind the kitchen fires Stomping on a flat spot. Cullion? CULLION I'll dance you to shards. MAJOR ANDRE She dances with the tempered grace of one That never made immodest show before. FATHER You shall come to know my daughter hereafter. [Benedict and Peggy dancing BENEDICT Let these soulful travelers quit travail On your cold lips' firmament; restful earth, Let me stretch out my full measure on the ground As final mortal toil all lies down to do Even to this last particle of desire. Taking the measure of my life's content, Stir still contentment to disclose a love Close encamped in his stilted tent, Ready as a pilgrim in the wilderness To study out the flowers how they bloom Or how dull whippoorwills take punishment of rain, Or anything, or nothing, or any service give Beneath the starry barbs fixed in your glance. On this grass field that tombs up men And builds no further monument of dust But wild everlasting weeds I'll lie down And become myself some substance of the grass. FATHER Daughter, daughter! Stand on ceremony And sing the saddest song you know to out-weep These egregious wars. BENEDICT The willow song. MRS BENEDICT ARNOLD It goes against the gladness of the hour. BENEDICT Not while you have breath, or the song power To enchant sadness, opposites must turn As one divided face in a mirror meets Itself; antinomies, reconcile. [Peggy, soon to be Mrs. Benedict Arnold, sings the Willow Song MRS BENEDICT ARNOLD [Aside] This weighty general treads a heavy slope; Hard walks shorten the breath, yet invigorate The breather--- so he takes his duties with this death--- A heavy slope, but always tending upward To a rarer air his appointment will survey. If I tend him in this most grievous hour, My fortunes with his merits will incline. [News of Benedict's wife's death is given to Benedict MAJOR ANDRE Someone whispers her death to him. WOMAN How does The news adhere? MAJOR ANDRE Like some sad Pan of the woods Forcing spring sighs from melancholy pipes He makes some measure of polite delight Blow through the hollow of his sorrows And excuses himself from festive faces. WOMAN Wistful already on a new continent Greater than the ocean for men to make Discoveries on. MAJOR ANDRE These woods are already Old in blood, and familiar death will make The strangest places home. Let's call ourselves Poor Arabs under wandering stars and moor our sorrows To the nearest ditch. We've sunk a fen in heaven. [Exit Benedict FATHER All good things must have their ends Or else in surfeit cease to please. Goodnight, and God bless the king!

SCENE 3

LAFAYETTE This is a bad way to growl the hours off. HAMILTON It is unmannerly of me to drag Our nation's fatherhood into question. But had we all so many fathers Inheritance would grow old waiting For their departures. Death's bounty granted, Half a world would fall under coltish feet. LAFAYETTE What a mother to lie so foully seeded By so many men it must change her hue From virgin white to heavy ripeness green apples aging against the frost That splits the skin. HAMILTON We must modify this Tacky image that sticks unwanted In the guileless minds of the people. Pick another has not so many heads To breed confusion with; one sterling man To break this slavish earth from the tyrant's chains, Stamp freedom on her rejoicing heart, And tie themselves like lovers in Silken bonds of holy matrimony. ADAMS That would save us. LAFAYETTE And make the country's sons Jump to destroy their mother's naked foes Who, all unarmed against their laying on, The weak wailing enemy they'll tear apart As a bear a babe. HAMILTON George Washington Is a man who may stand the test of this. LAFAYETTE He has virile character enough. ADAMS He is Cato enough to make modest Any citizen. ____: And the people love him for his wisdom. HAMILTON Is everyone agreed then? LAFAYETTE Washington! ADAMS Washington. HAMILTON No one could elect a better father. ADAMS Washington it is. HAMILTON Thank you, gentlemen; We are all well bred in this.

SCENE 4

BENEDICT Will the state have me for a general? I have deserved it before this, but redcoats Like the march of blood to a loving heart Carry my cause forward, past timid debates, To a blushing estimation. You hold In a commanding purview all my cause And, as a coursing eagle, have reared up One equal in sinew to yourself Tipped with wings to caress new heavens with. discern and decide, sir; As a man, I will not buffet you from The nest of our mutual resolution But I may resign. WASHINGTON Seal up your thoughts. Tomorrow Flies at us out of a boundless night infinite in hopes, uncircumscribed By today's pace, universal In expectation, beyond scope in device, Past description, assignment or fixed state To which at dusk it narrowly returns. Threat nothing, and train shrieking councils silent Until this weaning cause bears some issue. BENEDICT Will the state have me for a general? I am not softly barbed to this extreme Like some tender babe crying at cold hands That tender only its own fostering But I must know. Will the state have me For a general? WASHINGTON I have no idea. I must shut myself up, priest-like, In meditation until some crowd of thoughts Clamorously emerge. From my chamber I'll then proceed with the curative For these uncertain ill expectations That have unhoused sleep from your breast And stalk night for comforts. Until then Go in the company of good thoughts And take what peace you can from this: my love Which, like a small warden following your thoughts, Walks with you in this indecisive hour. BENEDICT Do not let the public censure of my Private house weight anything in your Fraught deliberations, sir. WASHINGTON I shall not. Controversy could not so mar your wife That I would not recognize her merits. I may have wooden teeth but not even An oak leg could make me forget her dances. BENEDICT May the night give you happy dreams, sir. WASHINGTON Thanks. May my gracious wishes give you some cause To rest. Dismissed, and good night. BENEDICT Goodnight, sir.

SCENE 5

[Four skinners on the road]

FIRST SKINNER
Is this the way into the fort the lady said?

SECOND SKINNER
In the way or out of it, either way is a safer way for us.

FIRST SKINNER
How safer?

SECOND SKINNER
If in the way, we’re on our way, and we should discover the fort, and that’s a safe place; there beg food, and that’s a safe thought for our bellies.

THIRD SKINNER
If our bellies could think.

SECOND SKINNER
Why what’s man but a thinking belly?

FIRST SKINNER
And if out?

SECOND SKINNER
That’s safest. If out, we’re in ourselves, which is to say by ourselves, which is to count our four selves. And if for ourselves and by ourselves, then that’s a proof of choice, because of self-election. And its better to be choosers than to be beggars.

THIRD SKINNER

Ay, and out of harm’s way as well.

SECOND SKINNER

And, if in the harming mood, out of the way of catching ears.

FOURTH SKINNER
Wait. A horse. Hide yourselves, you bellies, if you need necks.

[Enter Major Andre


SCENE 6

[At Benedict's Wife's graveside] BENEDICT Quiet, heart. Here is one has stored Her mellow contents in the earth. Quiet earth, That such a mellowness would burst this confining dirt Fallen on it! And like the repeating sea Surge to cover me and with blessing waters Wash my guilts. All my dead grief lie Congealed in thee. Too-bruised a soul To bear out her mortal term one more day. When you took breath, you breathed me in And, feeding the brief sustenance on which you fed, Held me for a breathing moment consoled In every breath, and banished with the last. Expelled into a harming world, all wounds, And this the worst. What made these small ones, Inspired their dust or molded their forms From nothingness, what set the skipping creatures up to Kick, weep, damage, sing, race, trip And make all manner of motions on this Pocky flat of weeds and mud? What gods play With us so that our shadows throw a pattern That makes hearts break? O to wive the earth Is better than marrying shadows. So you this inanimate steadfastness wed And be content. There's material to shift Into a dying memorial for thee., There's ivy glosses the weak side of the hill, And a blood-touched cowslip advantages the root Under a guarding tree's solemn nod-- And here's a peck of bruised violets Nature's quiet weep may keep fresh. [Enter Andre BENEDICT Here comes one will give my ambitions Weight to lever the barricaded world with yet And pluck it from its setting. MAJOR ANDRE Mr. Arnold! I have had letters of you of late, sir. Shall we unfold their contents in this Windy place? The bed-moans of ghosts make me unquiet, And many shelved here have died of the pox. BENEDICT For the least sick inflicted me, I stand Ready to ill the world with maladies. These inmates of the earth will understand The business between us better than most That caper naughtily above. MAJOR ANDRE The price Last given in our correspondence suits His majesty, General Arnold. BENEDICT Thanks, sir. MAJOR ANDRE Do you accept these terms, sir? They are yours. The commission is affixed by lawful Signatures in every degree required. [Holding paper BENEDICT A bloody hand upholds it, and an impatient vengeance Urges me to it! The subtlest wrongs Have I undertaken to prosecute. Dead crimes Moldering forgetful ages in the crypt Demand witnessing airs; I'll unpack them And render the impaled, drained corpses up To the forgiveless justice these times impose. But I have more recent instances To prick me into action. Pale Washington, Whose stiff demeanor showed him a boy In his father's boots, prating in a voice More fit for Christmas caroling than these August hours, has refused my due promotion Among the motley rebels.

SCENE 7

BENEDICT Continent Liberty! Blasphemous child Whose maternal love curdles in your teeth As though the very hour of your conceit had soured, Die on this rock of tribulations with my curse To salt your sweet breath of youth. What chainless father, deep in thought upon this present brink and brood of time would shed one precious drop for pity's sake on this old infant famished winds have sucked empty of moist life? Its fist of face turns mummy-looks to the patient mother gasping down her tongue. What man would claim the irreconcilable absurdity of so puling and morose a babe That has not his presence in its features Anywhere, no habitual grimace Or thoughtful look, or any other sign Of the slightest lending of his blood? Stand that man before me, if he lives, Who can love such a one as this--- Sprawling, unconnected and like to die--- And I'll make such yeasty homage to his paternal gore As will feed a teeming wilderness of orphans Nurse the bitterest pebbles to airy peaks Play uncle to the wily crocodile Hold all-hated basilisks for sons Declare strange fish for grandsons, never eat Of anything possessed of eyes again And name a father for every drop of rain.

SCENE 8

WASHINGTON These slim letters give much base for great fear, As much, indeed, as if they stood rampart Against the unbearable ocean. My fear, God save us gentlemen, builds much on them And sees the whetted sword of treachery Rise from coils of fog too-late burnt away By this papery light. Over us treason's blade Hangs from a thread as slender as was Our hope to escape hanging, gagged and cauled. LAFAYETTE What is in paper to make us shake so? WASHINGTON The blackest ink that ever poured From a treacherous heart. LAFAYETTE Treason! HAMILTON Black words to a loyal ear. [Wash. reads aloud the price agreed to, when and where first treachery to take place, at west point] HAMILTON Blacker still. [aside] I fear this charge of thoughts May unseat his gallant reason Ridden so hard upon. To see this Safire of his eye that he prized so much Cast in the mud. Reason thus cast down What skeleton or scarecrow fear, tremor-stuffed, Will sit enthroned in his usurped crown? WASHINGTON Cold, my heart, now that all your blood has left you? The bleeding time's unstopped, and far must race The most precious element the cistern Of our state had cradled-- until the gripping ground Rip open and crush it darkly to its breast. What wrong word struck him from our chambers, Outpacing fear to fence a globed ambition In the circuit of a crown? Did we scourge Our hero of Saratoga from us? Have I mistaked myself? To hold a man Properly in discernment, to neither Increase his credits at too dear a cost To the creditor, nor to hold him a purse Prematurely empty, discarding what May pay a future debt, is wisdom's trick. It seems I have lost gold in this business, Fumble-fingered in early mock of my Witless age, still all unhatched before me. HAMILTON Who has hands enough to catch all the dropping Sorrows of our state? LAFAYETTE Still be still. He is Still in the rapture of his puzzlement. WASHINGTON It's lost; it's lost. Our cause Undoes itself. With this grave loss, all that's Bright becomes confused, and a smoky film Dulls all our polished reasons to one dim; And honor's high name is beaten down. The absolute model of fierce virtue Cracked from our estimation, falls splintering Manly sorrow and war's roaring griefs To flooded tears that overwhelm our breasts' basin Once so full of hopes to baptize ant with grief Whose tiny hearts great nature never taught To that sad purpose. HAMILTON This is not a grief Supports our purpose; justice leaves us If we infect the least. Therefore, proud men, Despise this traitor who abandons hope For the small prosperities of the minute. God floods the sickly flea with perpetual Renewal of its blood; so much more shall we Find medicine to prop our valors up In this bountiful land. Let's look to us To remedy these debilitating griefs Unwarranted disaster prompts into our eyes And dryly try some healing action That'll cut the killing cancer from us And toss it blackly in a surgeon's basin. Noosing thus foulness to it pit, this snip Yanks us, pulley-like, to blind justice's Equilibrium. ADAMS We stand at the point Of this deeply ravined matter which may fall out To either side. HAMILTON Slight starts have great effects. LAFAYETTE Then let us start. WASHINGTON He holds towards the fort. LAFAYETTE We follow first who shall lead him later. ADAMS It is a most unlikely daisy-chain Where causes fly barking after loosed effects. HAMILTON This dog has changed his master. LAFAYETTE Live, justice! ADAMS If Benedict die, it shall. LAFAYETTE Live, justice! HAMILTON The horses stand prepared, and wait by the post. WASHINGTON Now that the operation's upon us, Let us feel nothing, and act as men. [Exuent

SCENE 9

HAMILTON A dangerous silence infects his tongue Who should speak plain truth, carry victory On winged speeches, and subvert defeat With heavy damnations thundering down The most buoyant enemy. What canker Shifts his emphasis from plush can and must To lisping cautious coulds and sighing shoulds? What ocean of doubts in his mouth has drowned His fighting spirit? That such a bravery, Corroded to a speechless face of rust Puts tin ears on to frustrate [muffle] other's pleas That still richly ring his former note [out loud] Mocks love's gold syllable. [Enter Washington] Quiet! Dead steps Echo after us. WASHINGTON Mr. Hamilton, I shall not grant your wish this day. ... HAMILTON Are these alphabets worthless that you grant My letters nothing? WASHINGTON I have thought it out. I cannot sustain your current loss From this office. You knot the cords of revolt To this controlling post, and keep strict leash On blooded hounds which, following too close On boorish hooves in the heated chase, Would nose themselves to slaughterhouse hooks. That knot I dare not let slip to looser ends; But must keep my tight designs circumscribed Within the pre-dated orbit of success. HAMILTON Leadership reads men, not stars, sir. WASHINGTON Alex, Take this: my good will, from me, and be dismissed. I'll call upon you presently. HAMILTON Aye, sir. [Exit Washington

SCENE 10

BENEDICT Where did you spy out dead Andre's death To carry back this sad report to me To break my eyes with your tragic witness? MESSENGER From the crowd. It is a story shortly told. That taught one how to weep for nobleness [Andre in cell sentence here That never cried before. Hamilton's final plea, Stopped by great Washington unflinchingly, That the man be proudly shot to his face Instead of hung like a spying dog, Arrived at a late and useless hour; And Washington, praying for ignorance To support fortitude better than resolve, Let him languish in hope. The gentleman Ascending the scaffold at crooked dawn, Let nothing of fear touch his noble looks But bore all patiently, until the taunting crowd Taunted itself to silence, and then Forgave his murderer's hands before they struck. But when the pressing moment was upon him, Distasteful of the executioner's vile grease, Cried out: "Black hands, off!" And sweetened the thin rope around his neck To smooth his own way to death. Sorrow sweated From us below, that the baleful sun should glare On a sight so pitiless. He swung too long Kicking in the evil heaving air Till stranger hands helped press his case To a choked end. BENEDICT It's said death's a great corrupter of things, Robs men of their looks and makes all smiles hang From one jaw; the contrary sexes are mixed In death's crucible, and in hell all's stirred Indifferent alike. Death sweetens a little partridge That's left a-hanging, left too raw by life. Here's one dissolved to a simple skull Stares from its breaking handful of bones. A feather's stir Indicates the meter of life still ticks Its pulsed spur with indifferent vanity Towards an undiscovered conclusion. Some worm is in him that yet eats his breath. Evils do die when their prosecutors perish. Where the maps end, there ends England. Not before. With the royal fabric stretched out so, We'll snip the lists And trim ambition back from its massy sprawl. There is no martyrs in our woods, who for this Ghostly union still unprecipitate Will surrender up to heaven in a breath Their moist souls. Salve, salve! My conscience burns! Sweeten this wound a little With healing oils. It was left too much alone And began to rot.

SCENE 11

BENEDICT When I see my love Some acuity in my blood, unrepentant still, Shakes this house of bones almost to death; Flesh unclasps its shape, good meat from the sticking ribs Lightly falls-- and all that in some portion Added to this man to make his body up Retract their actions. Not one stands with him. No or conjured ghost Fostered by the blood within this quaking vessel Nor sempiternal spirit more real than brass Flashes forth on this moment's dark haunting. Probing lights through the dim forest come And the stately elm and oak, made ghastly Cast cold apparitions against our hearts. I ran, But the sudden presence of the light Cast after me its searching fingers in the dark Distorting what bright day made plain, so that Furled shadows opened and hung empty in the air.

SCENE 12

[On the Hudson River BENEDICT Men, that have rowed half over This watercourse, join with me and the king To teach this upstart nation to better learn Their duties to their betters and the state; They cry 'freed!' that were never bound, salute boys Who mock their royal parentage out of house, And declaim against a sinless king Its grammar and its graces. Speak, lads, Whose tongues were corked with enforced oaths. Will you come to me, England, and reward? FIRST SAILOR One coat serves my turn well enough. SECOND SAILOR Perhaps we'll have to let it at the neck. FIRST SAILOR So long as no foreign leash can make me speak Against myself, I am content. BENEDICT Not one of you for promotion, stern coin, And the king? Poor farmers may find some use For a headless body stuffed with paper To augur against crows, but men cannot. What is this feather to beat back British lead? Row on, lost sons, into the middle distance Of the lapping Hudson. BRITISH COMMANDER Hoist up; gaff them! BENEDICT Good, sir; these men are your prisoners That pulled me, like a drowning lark, From the snickering jaws of an American fox Rabid with its last victim. BRITISH COMMANDER Secure them In the pitchy hold. For your comfort, sir, We're straight for Hitchings in New York.

SCENE 13

[West Point FIRST SOLDIER It seems a lean defense. SECOND SOLDIER We cut it from a calf Staked to feed a royal appetite For weak veal. FIRST SOLDIER We are too ready to lose The teeth of our defense. A broken picket Smiles southward, and there by the molded canon And wet fuel, the captain's dog trots through it For his bacon at the fire. O it's An airy ward stops winded cherubim And no rat else. SECOND SOLDIER Silence, I see a man Festooned with generalship marching up Who's not our thin minister whipping hence Flailed by some impertinence in his blood To scourge us to our duty. FIRST SOLDIER [enter Washington] Sir! SECOND SOLDIER Sir!

SCENE 14

BENEDICT To come on an enemy in the wilderness Defines bewilderment. O excellent Andre, though you death's quietus keep Your boot speaks my death. What will next cry out For drenching revenge? Indifferent nature Puts on accusing looks, great trees scowl down And wronged rivers overwhelm their banks with blood Seeking to break me liquidly into The general woe. Stop your welling mouths Bloated arteries of the live world's heart, That foul blood may not stain your cheeks of innocence! Fouled with blood. Do not stain those green cheeks Of innocence! Matronly nature herself parted pursed Shouts for a traitor's blood with her wounds. And mothers instantly their infants disembowel If in their crying time, drop signifying dews From eyes that did their future life contain Encompassing guilty acts weeping manhood Grows to perform, dew-nourished at the root, Until a mighty traitor's bloody orchard Bears black fruit forth. What element Will not shout against it? Speak, stones! There's solid hatreds in you; And stern-faced hatred may be returned, like for like, Would you broach this raging flesh with timid gags? Sooner would the executed leaves Rush up to weight winter branches down, or false day Cast man's shadow backwards into the sun Than true hatred be separated from its object. Our animosities cleave to us like sons That grow to hate us for our past defaults. Nature opposing nature, we two Titans will grapple at the earth's stone root To provoke a universal chaos That makes mountains moan, and the pinched sky Descry against these red violence until, Rock-like, one lies down and dies. So will I Overturn this time's natural course ... Preternatural cold, this killing heat, All this inconstant, unnatural weather Has tolled men and flowers down in equal numbers; Dislodged the heads of innocents in a rain of blood ... These unnatural heats oppress a man Yearning to breathe free. Vegetation Bursts its flourishing colors like a drunk Fiery juices set roaring in the dark-- Battering daylight objects with as fierce A scorning spirit and ten mens' strength As blinded Cyclopes yeowling Ulysses to the sea. [to some group, Brit soldiers(?)] This elixir will uphold your doubtful bloods Against charms adverse and curses magical Bolt cannons in your glance, whose wounding loves Shatter my heart. Such fires stir there now That would topple Troy again with their lashing sparks And call from her harlot's lodgings out of bed Dark Helen to her reckoning before Kind Greece's mild forgiving princes Who would pay the devil's pension For his forty years of effort with a pitchfork.

SCENE 15

[The Mad scene, 4th act pathos MRS BENEDICT ARNOLD Martha, can you not take cold tongs and pluck This blazing iron from my head? Dear God Teach some one of your creatures to act pity: Even if it is only a docile doe, whose hoof Brains it from me damagingly, or a mouse Whose small eye, even though no more Than a moist berry in the corner But shows some drop of pity as I die, I'll die comforted. Ah, ah, the transparent pain Burns my wits away, and I am left Confronted with visions. Wild orisons Whose surmise uninjured wits may make out With lenses undimmed by smoke Foretell injuries with images That ghost truth forth. This man's come To steal the laughing goodness of my pure child To some killing block, whose flaws, Now all filled up with blood, Open thirsty wounds again that gasp For some oily balm to close them up again echoless as graves. For the sweet closed cordial Of my child's life, they gasp. Such essence, Indiscriminately poured, heals the world. Precious beyond belief, my rapt child Forgive your mother's lunacy; she bought truth With the furious coinage of her burning brain And thus dissolves to ruins. Smoke, smoke, Boil out your impure entrails, so I get some light To view my wretchedness; my impure self Is almost entirely gone. Your dear father, Universally reviled, will crawl the globe To inching death, and creep quiet down All unhallowed to a markless grave. HAMILTON She does deeply wrong herself. Some tempest Has spilled her sanity past its bounds, Overfull... WASHINGTON I take it ill; These corrupt imaginings smell of truer woe. HAMILTON O her forging brain casts mad shadows on us all. And madness has a power to pour out such images As will make a spider weep.

SCENE 16

BENEDICT If I could regain the native virtue Of my lineaments, add leg to leg again And rise to my accustomed height once more Then this limber body would be base enough To vault the starry gates of fame, writ large In the fiery pages of the sky No hurricanes of chaos could erase. The day spills out. I would dance the time away But am lamely played to play out other tricks. ... MAJOR ANDRE Do you join victory. BENEDICT I join a fault in nature these tinkerers Of belling liberty cannot mend. MAJOR ANDRE Let us commence an act that will take off The head of grief that cries these times awry. A grizzly mane stiff with blood looms above Sleepless rings under pale festering looks Nodding dark affirmations to vilest thoughts The skull of man ever clasped within. Worms Have eaten out the eye of judgment That rested there; discernment by these acid times Is all dissolved away. Strike the vitals Of this lizard death and, as with an angel's Ministering sword, burn the socket clean. Thus much of a doctor may a soldier be. BENEDICT Your words stir new bloods in me that disturb Settled causes and stony truths long-held Since the credulity of childhood Propped my eyes wide. And for my new child This world, fire-lit with war and stories Of war, must put off catastrophe's dead look And assume [resume] its former virtue, wood by wood. MAJOR ANDRE Wood by wood, we must pursue the fight. The lark's high spirit casts a contagious eye Over the sorriest mule that ever paced its slow way To unlikely death, to make it dance. When our resolution into dullards' ears Darts, then mules shall dance, and take head, and start And every croaking revolutionist Join a royal choir. BENEDICT You hit a rich note That makes my exalted spirit begin to chafe At rebel strictures, heavily laid on. Are they God's anointed to dispose Of my several talents with one roared No? The washing mob may break huge stones at my feet Until eternity dims, and their angry sighs Disappointed sighs at last fall down In cracked earth's foundations laid Like so many birds robbed of their song Before I'll dissolve into their Ocean of souls. Eliminating Death Could not nullify individual spirit More than that blank anonymity. [Could not with its sleeping scythe nullify Individual spirit more than that Blank anonymity.] BENEDICT Should this herd of tax-cheats, stampeding fate To magnify their base estates in this Grave matter, gain all the best and my child Nothing at all? MAJOR ANDRE Poor sensate thing, To take the breathing impulse from a father Deserving more in though and consequence Than this startled nation, all wobble-legged, Dropped bastardly from lowing Liberty. BENEDICT An infant hydra, milked on rebellion, To rise to hissing victory in mother's blood? Damned abortion, that lifts its unfinished shape To bawl the devil's accusations in Her face, return to the womb and sew up Your premature pangs with gentle growth So when next your tottering independence You declare, similar fond looks Will beam down on a mannered child to help Its infant steps' solitary tread. Cannot a man cup the sun in his eye And conquer it by blinking? High moments make men proud To build to those epiphanies out of stocks. These grievous injuries, connected With a base ambition to be great ...

SCENE 17

MRS BENEDICT ARNOLD Husband, though you prepare a plan of blood, Draw peaceful melting looks like modest cloths Softly round your warlike visage, more grim than Jove's contentious heats which rend heaven's peace And break rocks in simplest expression. as when unformed infants in surprise mouth "O!" You dismembering looks in rude appraisal Flat opposing mountains,___ Suck the nodding crests from ambitious waves, Cut the lusty growth of vile anxious weeds And stop up the natural flow of breath That emanates from man. Composite totem Of all fears, your living words draw graves and tears Unbidden from the peaceful earth. To preserve your countenance against this Pruning time, put on shielded bloods. Prepare Looks of adamant and a brow of stone, turn Such a paleness to the world as will turn shears. Pull over your spontaneous face, which shows The least effect of bloods with red alarm This mask of paleness and lack of heart So arctic deep that lively eyes, sheltered Under ice-pale cliffs, betray nothing of your sense And cast cold fire on the ambling nothing beneath. [on B's love for England] Dislikes are usually petty, loves profound. An angry man is all in the moment Concentrated, all his scattered fury Dwindled to a panting second's Yes or No. Do not dwindle to an instant's rash act. Let sedate pity quell your breast, Injecting action with some placid drop of care To instill silent thought in the loudest hour The roaring voice of fury can fill out. Take these soft words softly from me still. BENEDICT Love, MRS BENEDICT ARNOLD Being much in love, he is much dissuaded Of this war's virtue against its mother state. The rebellious child must bite the mother's Fountain pap and dry the succor that would soothe the woe Of outrageous actions born in a wrathful breast That, all out of color In its new-found foundling solitude Berates the stones for heartlessness And starts ungentle wars against the skies For proving dry of mercy and comfortless. But no chilling brand is he Whose flame extinguishes into slender smoke Removed from the warm burning of the hearth That tended his fearful spark to a declaiming fire That spoke well of the father embers of his origins And grew rosy as the healthful sun In the still rising jets of their old flames. [unceasing jets] Dutiful boy, he has brought his bouquet home To a mother's watering hands, a father's caress; Due reward for his glory in the field. That which nature holds in dreadful sequestration Unpalatable secrets, more somber than loved affairs Shut from bald reasons prying eye And with hoarded dread ceremony made great Beyond the open capacity of its locked strength As an untold nightmare will breed day-dragons Before many days after the mournful child First started from his bed, so too Is this trick of treason, which once made plain Is a loyal toy with which even dogs may play And not bark and back away with guilty looks. This trick treason is a most palatable device--- An ornament to my soul's wide estate Which in its offices is like a tree Whose tap root touches the foundation stone Of the deep weeping rivers of the earth And there sucks such dark nutrition up as will spur Sap into these branches, well arrayed, And enlarged by careful thought as to their duties That sit kingly in the sun. This ornament, Sharp to its purpose, and placed to its perfection On the swaying top of the Christmas tree! So do these branchy arms of my intents Spread withering shade above my enemies And gather up my loves and those principle To my ambitious thought's success and true affections In one sweep casting both comfort and distress. That tree is England's empire, not some Upstart stock that tenderly clings To the merest rock, but a mighty, tall, And all-compelling oak that surmounts The hill o the world. And I, in my white treachery, Am cut from this new, unnursed, tender slug, This milkless bud that tears from the gangling rock ---O weaker than a babe emptied of its blood!--- And am grafted to that root.

SCENE 18

BENEDICT [of Mrs. B?] How can you, o cruel gods, This incorporeal spirit take and bind it Thus damagingly in the body's glass house? What whisper of reason upholds your airy whims? The body in its bottle may drop with age And end itself shatteringly, or let The slow work of beetles strip it piecemeal To naked death.

SCENE 19

MRS BENEDICT ARNOLD Constance, go and gather up Your master's traveling necessities And assemble all here. [exit Constance The hope of life Rides upon these measures. Other action Or tension's inactivity might tighten him Past his valor's breaking. A ban's as good as his bones, But bones do break. Silence must attend this crying hour Or else all will lay revealed, and the sky Wail for its bloody cup of justice--- For every creeping creature in nature knows Treason's an abhorred thing. [Enter Constance, with provisions Thank you, Constance. You do better duty to man. who's one illness Death is, than you can know. CONSTANCE Grace take you, ma'am. [Knock at the door WASHINGTON Where's your lady, ma'am? CONSTANCE Laid sick in bed, sir, And will not stir. WASHINGTON Steal into her presence quietly And give her our healthful wishes. CONSTANCE Yes, sir. WASHINGTON Is there any breakfast for these cold patriots Tired with long riding? CONSTANCE Warming in the kitchen [short list of breakfast items]

SCENE 20

[Benedict on Battlefield as British General] BENEDICT Drag the abject prisoner forward, sir, To let his fates engulf him. [Enter prisoner, with flag American, You are bound to the hour of your death Beyond the alteration of pleading mouths So speak the truth. How am I perceived By my former countrymen? AMERICAN I see the rope Being readied against the jaced spruce And shall speak my mind before it departs My trunk. BENEDICT Say on, say on. AMERICAN General Opinion Has you a monster, a pale worm Of your mother's and her brother's bed. And when she was too much charged with the Resentful pus of your sullen babydom With wicked cabal knives she tricked you out. Whereon, you stood, a babe still regal In his own mother's blood, who new-lunged shouts "I am Judas Iscariot, come back To damn an innocent nation, if I can." So much is said, and worse believed. With this as index, the charade of honor You have these past two-score years perpetrated Is laid as open as a raw skinned hare. So much is said. And it's promised that your leg, Shattered at Saratoga, we'll bury And hang the rebel (filthy) rest. [Throws flag in Benedict's face BENEDICT Bury the leg, bury the leg And hang the engine that drove it? Corporals, Drag the dead here. [Exit prisoner &Co. Face the judgment of the dead, damned Washington, As I these living lashes must forbear That more than cut my more than sinning flesh To harrow out of hiding this howling soul That afflicts me. I'll arrange these slain ones All arraigned in gory robes of blood And set their cadaverous wisdoms over him To condemn his sutured testimony Sewn from old rags of homey truth Into this motley American.

EPILOGUE

MAJOR ANDRE In the torn house of contemporanity Dull, fitful plays drag and start across the stage As like a play as is a surgeon's map to man: Packed with dry, expository words That bleed nothing, nor rend themselves, nor laugh, At the rich mystery of a discovered action Or apt comparison appareled in a rhyme. And so, to patch our playing with the critic's Attentive needle, we must first amend The base material with which we may begin. Silks, then, for sails to take us high and far, And leave the burlap for the butchers of good words, Glum comedians of a farce other wits began. Having studied my false part With diligence fit for an infant art That rages a mere moment and is gone I ask you, elders, to learn your bit And entertain yourselves as befits your years--- For, as the magic dark of love allows, Which, in this spotted theatre we may half sustain, To erase our faults and increase your youthful powers Each clap will grow you backwards by an hour. So strain, and clap, until you reach The lying cradle of some honest sleep.
Jul 082020
 
Televangelists square off against Satanist Anton LeVey
in a rollicking whacked-out play.
 
 If any God can survive the crucible of my will, then I'll bless him.

in.seang.un yu.han.han.dae
si.ram.do ku.ji.op.ta

Life has an end,
Sorrow is endless.

"Listen to this. 'Life has meaning but no theme. There is no truth
we can assign to it that does not in some way lessen the bright flash
of being that is its essential matter. There is no lesson learned that
does not signal a misapprehension of our stars. There is no moral
to this darkness.' That's some nice shit. Extremely profound.
But the man who wrote that, he's not watching the water for sharks."
                --- Lucius Shepard

"You're drunk on God, Sandoz."
               ---The Sparrow, Maria Doria Russell


 DEMON-WALKER
 The Story of Walker Railey, 
 First Baptist, Dallas, Texas 
 
 SWAGGER
 The Porno-Panegyric of Jimmy Swaggert 
 
 ATHIEST PRIEST
 A Morning in the Life
 of Madelaine Murray O'Hare 
 
 JOB'S JOB
 A Modern RENDering 
 
This pleasing insurrection erected by
GREGG GLORY

ROGUE PROTEAN PROLOGUE


[The scene. Procenium should be made up like a giant TV screen.
ANTON LE VEY is kicking the edge of the TV screen as the curtain rises.]

ANTON LE VEY, SATAN'S MINISTER

ANTON LE VEY
I am that anti-holy bastard Anton Le Vey,
Satan's minister, and revel revealingly within
my Mephisto-philosophizing and turmoiling role.
Oil me, adore me! But whatever you do, don't ignore me!
Hollywood's first, and most restless, rule-- the fools!
I'm a proto-atypical American success story
prostletyzing Faust for cash. I'm tired of TV's "seems"
and ache for the intermittent hurt of reality.
Technology draws our attention nearer, tweaks our brains
to the frame its making, and not to the God-analog
of the wistful fistful of substance glow-glowering within;
after all, this is simply air dosed with ions,
a gamma ray whisper the same as a chunk of God's snot,
a radio-detected and iron-cored meteor, senior.
Another rum Sunday's come on, another day to delay praying in,
sick with my universal wish to WANT to pray.
Ah Hell; Hell's the nearer circuit to salvation.
I wrote my ruminative book about it
writhing in a pentacostal pentagram of flame,
a cheap, thumbed paperback beneath the weary mattress
of every teenage metalhead in my America.
My plangeant, Satanic Bible, a gun of wrong
(perhaps!) to knock the righteous fuckers on their ass!
Sin is kindness in my thin grin
and under my black, rancid Elvis hair,
every evil takes on a certain sainthood in my eyes.
Let's see what choir-hummers will come upon
the electric scene-scenario my wattage has conjured here.
Click! Rearrange, my derranged mirror-ministers,
this hissing cathode ray to your boring dream;
I sense they sense a certain something in the Cosmos
they can't shut up about. Five televangelists are scheduled
to prate their aching minute beneath my wary stare--
the competition! Against 'em I'll win
or burn my own bible on the waxed hoods
of their long Lincoln Towncar Continentals.
.... Ah, my soul's all of charcol and chafes to dust
with my wiry able body's little wreck.
Antony Levy or Anton Le Vey, hey heh heh hey,
I am whichever face my tongue has the strength to say.
So saint or sinner be, but be be be! Whichever's wiser.
But half of both is none of neither.





-

DEMON-WALKER


WALKER
Blind on my righteous high, and erectly ecstatic after the miraculous,
I am Pharaoh here in Dallas, commanding the irreligious
from my grainy height of pyramid, the sandy pulpit
splashed by your unretractable prayers and spittle-bits,
my breath a Lazarus of chile peppers this sunny Sunday morn.
My divine invective flies out to scrutinize and research
the wicked hearts slumping in my pews, you, you, and you,
flogging the bishop, and grinding your lecherous sins
into your bad rear molars, sin-silvered, as if
the Judgement Day weren't razoring in on us all,
God's stukka narrowing on your brown-nosed nose.
And mine, no less targeted, but perhaps a touch divine.
Happy Easter, greetings, fleshing blessings from God,
the incarnate mystery rolling back the stone of Death.
Once again we're gathered in His absence, post-Ressurrection
apostles and wayward acolytes each and every one, flung
to our Dallas cathedral here, the seven, stiffened
concrete arches marching backward larger and larger
to the dwindled pulpit; says something about the human scale
of all our small things and doings before the huge,
ubermensching sanctity of God, don't you think?
But where would God be, in His gigantic, out-of-scale heaven,
if we myopic mortals hadn't the vision to see Him?
Think, think, think, continually on your knees
while you pray at the dais, my humble, cowboy tribe.
Now I know that the circumstances of this sermon are far, far
from the very best, but we Methodists are used
to setbacks; we deal with what we get, and put
God's hard-won trope of hope in our hearts,
our faces staying as masked with rapture as any
kid giving his Satan-grin on All Hallow's Eve,
thus proving His saving success. Puts me to mind
of that squib about God the Potter, all thumbs
thrust down and in to hollow out a soul, the golden goal.
But what blind foot spins the wheel? I'll confess
my account of hope's been bled low as trench water,
but seeing you, this spate of loved and loving faces,
my endless sea of congregation gathered to my rock shore
as if your righteous waters clashed eager
in timeless lines of divine and crinkled light
to subsume and crest my dry and alien land.... Well, folks,
lumps my thick throat with gratitude; my tears begin to wear.
A touching stone stands loaded on my chest, a milemarker
staking my heart.... Was it after midnight's witching minute
that I collapsed with my gasping Mustang at the house,
edging into the blacked-out garage, a sinister raider
of my own home, the nesting place; two eggs had hatched
and blossomed at our backs, my wife and mine's,
we hardly knew that they had come, and there they were,
alert, alive, not us, changing our lives forever,
stays against the hideousness even now. Did you ever see
us three at Galilee, my two daughters, those robbers,
and me? I felt like a rinky King Lear
lost in the sandlot of God. There was a presence,
almost, I'd swear, extraterrestrial, an angel in the desert
beating my timerous existence towards the Lord.
I was caught in the backwash of whatever
those extending wings were heading toward
and blinked against the light, a more morose, dour,
plunging and self-unloving Eugene O'Neill type guy
than I had ever planned or prayed on becoming.
Still I felt and followed where the wind twisted,
my own tornado of demons beginning their whirligig
within me. Yes, demons. I am not unannointed by the vile,
I only live towards the light, a humble heliotrope
barely better than a weepless cactus; I do not stand revealed
among the high mercuric scrolls of God's good clouds.
I am lost. I am dark. I am in the dark.
Rapidly praying here in Poe's peachy pit, tick,
tick, tick, as our waiting clicks towards the Lord's arrival,
pawing in nerveless, yuppied and active ladies' hands
an abacus of rosy Methodist rosary-bead Hail Mary's,
forgiving ourselves the sins we witch-hunt the neighbors for,
the one calculus of forgiveness I still can't get straight.
If they're guilty, why not witch-hunt them to Kingdom Come?
A guilty gilt of sweat slides off the bulbous forehead
I use to think at God. Oh how morosely now
do I retchingly recall how I drove over
my knocked-out spouse's blue, endearing, enduring, blue,
splotched face and quivering sexless body.
Paramedics told me it was the usual dum-dum response
of a body in rictus after a near strangulation event.
I swear I arrowed straight from the seminary library,
I told the officer, "go ahead, write it down, I ain't scared;
done nothing wrong myself I wouldn't tell you and Jesus both,"
snaking down the out-back highway lit-up as Lucifer
extending to innocent Evie his evil fist of peach,
my dank crankshaft grinding at the amoral fog
into which I like a Nazi paratrooper had so slyly descended,
my rubber wheels steel-belted and invisibly bouyant,
carrying me undiscovered through it all.
Not the best circumstances, all that just three days ago,
the fairy tale of Good Friday still pasty on my drying tongue.
Prescient as my years of hard-won prayers had made me,
even I couldn't see all the mistakes I was about to make.
Oh Lord, o lousey Lord, and my simpering parishoners,
forgive me.... spiralling my children to strangers,
our dear friends who looked at me and never guessed;
I taught them to worship me after God's goitered image,
and then, all at odds and ends, drifting at speed,
bouncing barbituates down with a stray beer, one handful
too many, until, like Lazarus gone sour, I turned
comatose on the ashen carpeting, a dumped urn of wormy regrets;
just one more stain in the two-star hotel room's history
of blobby emissions. Today, well, I guess I'm better.
Now pinned to the pulpit in a Bulletproof vest,
(did I tell you I recieved a death threat typed at this office,
right here where I slap my mincing madates
on the cherubic cheeks of my lazy cleric clerks? Well, I did.
And still my heart's not right with it, I can't forgive
those who haven't properly executed their sins as of yet,
now can I? Could you? Don't answer. Silence is golden---
I heard that passed between the spatting officers
in the squad car as they pulled me up to Booking.)
I ask you to reconsider the Ressurrection correctly
like I learned to do, straight from God's leaning lip
to my wimpling ear, He told me Jesus was evil,
knew the awful trickster to his snaky core;
His aquaintance with the abyss was everlasting,
his gospel a spastic chant to save his own erring soul,
trying to congeal in peace the ten thousand faces
he himself had drawn and erased between his birth and death.
Maybe those Romans had done our doelike soldier of faith
a favor, nailing him to his final expression,
and not the million guesses at finality his parables assumed.
Our Lord God incarnate plays solitaire with the whole universe, y'know.
Ten thousand faces had our hero the Lord, like you,
the ten thousand faces not unlike your blinking faces
staring there into the abstraction of the nave above,
that kleenex-gleaming, glass-vaulted, sanctuary air
of Heaven sparked with flecks of tinsel, marking stars
that arrow-out the Bethlehem in our Dallas, Texas hearts,
our toasted community of the wounded, gasping here,
burn-victim parishoners to mercy, every one,
as indeed we need to be on this one-hundred degree
Easter sunday. Check your faces, ladies, there's the Lord.
Unpack your compact vanity mirrors, and let your lounging husband
see his own careening demon there, yes, a demon
in each and every one of us, Jesus knows;
see the alarm-red horns peeking past your ears?
See them, see them? They won't melt back to skin or nothing
like the candy eggs you fob off your lambing innocents with,
melting uneaten in your Armani suits and snapped-shut
Betsy Johnson pocketbooks before they're even littered
to the kiddies after church, all your holy goal of extra-credit
generosity reduced to a choclately smear where our worn
hands end, and not much else. Now what kind of blessing
to hand up to Our Lord is that? Manicured, uncuring
fingers knitted in abject prayer again today,
Dear Co-Pilot, we ask you, please, whatever you may
make of us dullard mortals, squirming to sin
on the infinite blue of your homey globe, please don't
crush us too hastily to your downy breast. I'd die
if I had to die , Dear Lord, before I'd gotten just
one more score on my horney, dear Lucy Papillon,
the faded butterfly, my mistusted mistress, delicate,
irridescent, dying in her over-hasty haywire
of father-hatred and off-angles adoration, turning
and turning in her flittering yearn
to please the world and be left alone.
When I saw my honey twitching back of the Chevy....
skipping home from the SMU library, making choice this sermon
for ressurected Easter Sunday, after nipping in nappies
into my mistress' house for a quickie, three days ago,
Good Friday.... I turned into her driveway, following my car,
its hiss of whispering gasses, suggestions
I was too inertly normal to resist. Spectral trees
loomed like shades in the unappercieving headlights
luminescing past the gritty grille, my prison grate
holding back a two-hundred horsepower, fuel-injected lust.
I was Lucy's father-figure who told her what underwear to buy,
and checked the ribald purchase with small, inistant fingers
assiduous as the fabled Haynes Inspector number 17.
My lovely lady Lucy Papillon, the flustered butterfly,
how many hours had we downed, skimmed from conniving Fate,
to worm around and warm our skin-close, closed coccoon
in spendthrift, near-ecstatic flight!
However bumbling our new-wet wings-- they worked!
Remember consummating our tremble-tumbled liason?
Your palpitating lap dance, The Ressurrection!
The Ressurection! a tap dance for the gospel-praters,
breaking the bread and bone at Emmanuel's,
flesh and blood divided like a TV dinner on a tray.
Now I look up and recognize my savior too;
my mortal sin winks at me, wearing its Jesus-beard.
If I were given just one more chance....
Reporter came to see me yesterday, timid, tricksy,
asked me where I got off, polluting the plummeting union
of God and man; let me know, I said, the last time Jesus
gave you a blow job, and I'll holler all my God-spelled gospels
at your ratty, tattered alter, you ass-licking Jimmie Olsen.
Now get the piss out of here, and take your trash with you,
and, no, I don't care how high-profile, either to save or damn me
in the bought and sold wink of the national media,
you think you are, just get. Get! Christ,
an inveterate smoker, had a nervous capacity to unify
the most disparate instances of things, and all the cold
non-things of God, too. Do my parables break into a patter?
Well, consider that the one, final stroke of luck.
If I can sell enough people on the idea I'm Christ,
well, maybe I could step into the stuttering floodlight
Jesus Risen keeps X-Raying on my brain, my hidden conscience.
My conscience, an obscurity even I'd forgot.
Maybe then I could arise at dawn and memorize myself,
a maze of christnesses obsessively traced
into the answer of myself. You know, I feel schitzophrenic
whenever I'm forced to not be the Living God.
My mind like a white lightning Molotov fries itself alive,
each brimstone whiff a sweltered reminiscence
of the God I lied aloud and still couldn't deny,
a broken image of my own internal withering brought to light.
Now I am rising, like Jesus on a white pillar
of Yosemite steam; I rise, I rise....
My darkness spatters backwards at its cracks,
and I rise, rise in lightness among bright lights,
rise, rise, until I am in the light, am the light, all light,
nothing but that out-of-reach simpleness, that absolute blank.
I am made blind in the glare of sin I initiate.
No god wrapped my hand around my young Ryanna's turtle-neck,
I did it! Not God pondering from his inert sphere,
not you, alone and well-fed in your cloned homes,
not the six-pack of alieviating demons who'd howled
my soul though as if it were cheesecloth, or tornadoed up
my riveting memories like hurricaning hosts of ghosts
to churn my attacked senses into a tragic hash.
I know I am not God, or His Jesus next-of-kin;
I know, I know, and will give you the same revelation:
Look on my despoiled loins, my habit for disaster,
sinners, look, peer where a heart inches toward oblivion,
stare these essences to their ashes, and be appalled!
I whipped close to my zeroed black hole, and loved it
with all the loving lashes a bullwhip might make
against the uninhibited darkness of that obsidian,
my own stung, stone heart the universal center.
Like a drunken Hopi, hoping, I lay the tracks in black,
lash myself relentlessly with unforgiving cordage,
cut to stunned emptiness, and in that absence find,
discover once again, afresh, like a confused child,
the horrifying losses I had made mine.
My father never touched my crew-cut head approvingly;
other parts, otherwise. Perhaps that's true;
a shread of verity gives the worst lie some hue of truth.
If I can make-believe I'm innocent, so can you!
The mind is what we make of it, my fellow-man,
my homilies come blustering like Custer, custard-covered
only to be soul-edible to only sweet-tooth you!
Don't you believe me when I swear I am the raving Truth?
I am the Way, the Light, and the Glory. I am the tenth story,
from which, once jumping, treads Down into our only
imperative narrative Road. Ha, ha. Walk with me!
I am the Walker who makes mere gravity my whore,
I have such sure-lightness in my shilling touch.
Oh my paratrooping minions, dive-gliding at my heels
through the taxing Texas heat after my own, my true
paraphrasing parables, look, look into my mirror
and see yourself squinting for the afterlife in my rainbow-light.
Come, come. Oh, Lucy, swished on those sinning satins,
you're divine, your legs conceal the Book of Revelations,
arising and dividing like Satan's wild horns, faster, faster,
I swear you crooning sighs will be my epitaph;
the sheeny aftertaste of my own sweat makes me mild.
Is something wrong? You orgasm at my groin.
There, you're settled now, wing-weary, my monarch-mistress,
and status-satisfied. Yes, yes, I'll marry you after....
No, no, don't cry, don't cry. All better, my divinity?
I've wiped your distorting tears back to flesh.
"Walker, dear," she said, pupating on the pillowy
divan her rotoring thighs subsumed in frightless whiteness,
a white of sinew and renewal. Oh my Whiteness! When I touched
and stroked her emergent from the tomb, my monarch-angel
flying from her cracked chrysalis to the cathedral bell
we'd sighed aloud to pull. "Walker, dear,"
she said, pupating Papillion. "Again."
"Your flushed face is puffed, you know how that disgusts me;
I'm going to trundle to my loving home now, Lucy.
Lucy, next time, make it better." The sporting door
shuts hollow at my retreating back, my cross pin
glinting as I unstick it from my hanging tie,
given me by Lucy with a note: For the bishop.
How many times have I told you now of my arrival?
In my mind I keep coming to where she wallowed
on the gas stain, each asphasic, contorted
fish-mouthing of her drowning mouth an accusation:
"Walker Reily! From this damning shame, no running!
No speed or rearing chase of dream-desire can take you
away. Here's your destiny, the one, the fate
you handstitched against my neck and failing brain."
Wife! Wife! Every time I think about it
the flowing car seems softer, more cloudlike,
my gleaming feet floating through the door
to tap-land on the concrete apron where a chalked,
white, hop-scotch was scrawled by our dawdling daughter.
Oh god, god.....
I know you never abandoned me. I still feel adored.
Now, ah, where was I? This heat is enervating!
I stand accused, and still you come! I arc up
recovered from a suicidal coma, and still you come!
It seems my unending tribulations have laved me,
in name, at least, as the most popular preacher boy
in society's old, corroded high-school heirarchy.
You know, the dilettanting prosecutor, at ease
before his easel of low crimes and high misdemeanors,
would paint my paling contenance with a harsher brush.
Oh God, he might say, how I gloried in the blue, blurred
cord my righteous Ryanna remembers. She got strangle-altered
in the struggle to love unabatingly too, you'll recall.
I'm sure you've read all the papers, and will buy up
my three books, to be put out by Random House this fall,
my season for winnings and windfalls, a choice time
to tackle the passions that nearly strangle one!
How blind to the divine we are, your sinners, oh Lord,
crafted in thy crafty image, we regret
our inability to step back from the plaster finish
and crash the masterpiece to splinters! I, I regret
that my aiming hand was unsteady in the pinch.
Neither my gum-tongued wife nor I knew how
to consummate our finishing. How by the divine
we are squeezed until we are forgiven! Or forget,
our brain-mass a lump of dumped cells, like Ariana's,
my putatative, however unloving, tournequet-necked, wife.
My charming potato sack, my dropping star, my life!
Let's sing, choirmaster, after this fashion,
dink the triangle in rebelling praise, sing high:
"Mine eyes have seen the blackness of Satanic habitats...!"
Oh, when you're down, my listeners,--- on my coat-tails,
child and mother, and wastrel husband, come, come!
I am the Spirit of Christ-Mass present,
an imprecise arbiter of what's nice and not-so-nice;
when you're at the black bottom, come, descend,
follow your plunging heart in my eviscerating wake,
come, come, plunge to its thrubbed nub of nastiness.
Revile thyself! and expel the strength of Spirit;
are you here with me now? It is dark. In the dark,
your nose itched in filth and the fat lack-of-faith
I've described: no savior, no heaven up above,
like in that looney John Lennon song, then you know,
athiest on a tightrope paralleling no earth in darkness,
the death of Life, the death of Hope;
but the death of Death, no, that does not come.
In the trough of the abyss I've lain three bleak days,
the sun or God an unanswering dialtone in my ravaged ear;
an accordian of demonic voices demanded their ribbed hearing,
expanding and contracting throughout the vile Escapade,
and I gave them my whole soul in that blistered,
listening liason with the very Devil. I know, bone-hard,
I know my fractured pact was blissfully consummated
from my gibbon-narrow skull to my cracked nuts, not a jot
of whatever insists on being me omitted, not a jot.
Each assuaging, persuading, suede or harrassing voice
came tri-toned and insinuating: "Why not?", "Go ahead...."
I tried in my trial to deny that denial, but could not.
God wot! I was in a sulpher-crimson brimming stew,
my dick the stirring widget, as with so many of you, too.
When I had her corded against the kitchen sink,
my enormous erection at the small hollow of her heaving back,
vomiting a vile black blood bile, until her tongue
nearly came undone enough to follow her slipping supper
like a starving snake between her bruised, contorting lips,
each syllable of vatic ache she spewed sounded
like my own christian name. But it wasn't,
I was not present, I swear. Who is it who really dies
strapped between uprights in the electric chair?
The guilty man? Or guilt itself? Or is it our own fears
we charbroil into non-existence? I was not afraid.
Shadow of a cat, shadow of a cat, black black black
as the shadow of a cat, I came behind her without a whisper,
simmering in my new wardrobe of sin-wishes....
Slipping in the overspill of my jimmied Ariana's spit-up,
I nearly lost my grip and let her breathe. Easy
to make a mistake like that, I guess, I'm only
a part-time psychopath, not an Old Testament pro
like that yattering Yahweh. And, anyhow, my state of mind
is still no good excuse, I think all that Fruedian crap's
just a sloppy cop-out; even when the demons were in me, I knew
it was my triggering fingers on the jerking wire
I had harnessed at her limp, uninjured neck.
My trying eye does not understand the I of sin.
Doubting Thomas with the halo knocked off,
I speared a tear with my little finger's little fingernail,
from her bulging, suffocated, near sightless left eye,
drank deep its shallow Red Sea salt, and felt myself divided.
I stand birth-wet in the unbearable glare
of my own blistering sinning like the sun.







SWAGGER


JIMMY "JAMES THE SHAMELESS" SWAGGERT

SWAGGERT
I'm ripping this twenty dollar bill in half: take it.
I'll fork over its disfigured sister half when we're
all done here. Ooo Honey, Honey, shaking on the cheap springs
all Primavera against that cheesy flowered print, knees aghast
atop the dimpled bluebells and spattered Jack-
in-the-Pulpits squealing wildfire to your ham-handed,
rotoring and rugged, dry sweat masturbation!
Flail your sweet innards pink alive like St. Bartholomew
for masturbating me; my spanking Jack, a flogged man,
creamed against my satiny, jerking jogging shorts
when I first spotted your sultry ass hitched against
your Airline Highway and rust-sagging whore door Sunday
after the big preachment when I took that sinner Jimmie Bakker
down as fast as he'd had that plastic Jessica Hahn
on the oinking office chair. Hell, his ass was mine.
God had mentioned in my red ear he had a guilty dick,
so I circumcised it, cut his tongue off at the bled bud.
No one like that should be broadcasting to the people about my Lord;
his wife's white eyes black fountains of mascara tears....
These are my wicked ministry's secular resources.
A shameless shaman telegraphing desire on a nickering wire,
all taps and dashes and long undulant pauses.
Yes, yes, that's it. My cloven hooves clicker when you whinney.
Every heaven-minded man's bathed in sin. That's where, dear,
our molten ocean of knowing bubbles up from in spuming spoils,
this boiling pit of blisters I call my holy soul,
a cancer-hankering for the groin and heart unveiled
the total tumor pulsing revealed in an unbridled, raw,
rancerous and pimply pornographic tour de lux! No lie.
Christ himself died naked and afraid. Who's to say
Mary Magdalaine's sin-oiled fingers didn't flex and give
his little suffering man-in-the-pants one last lube?
What unshriven figure did her weeping hips lave and save?
She was a whore anyway, thumbed more times than my
filtched Gidean. You understand. Can you, can you... Ahh!
Blank tears tickle-wiggle past my roaring nose, and I get
the harsh, salt lick of death against my moaning tongue.
Hallelujah! I'm gonna die someday raving and saved,
my doughty boxer's sheeny limbs will roll folded in the Rapture's
swooping shroud, as backlit in heavenslight as an MGM production.
Little Lord who made me, I am but a wad of cotton
waiting to be nimbly picked and soul-raped by your risen fingers;
I kneel in the twister-riven fields until you're here,
UFOing from Paradise among the slashing stalks,
rare, terrified and adored. I won't want to click
my sin-pinned nazi heels like Dorothy and go home, Lord,
I swear I won't. I want to be in heaven with a silk dress
like yourself. But I cannot wrangle back to blessedness
the wayward ears of my mew-mooing parishoners in the pews,
let them wriggle as they will! Down among the dull swabs,
I alone hear the ballooned, importuning, heroic, vatic,
hollow on-high voice of my triumphant God.
O invisible!
Before thy stemming mightiness, I am as a twig!
O how unwell, I reach into the rancidness!
How rancid and entrancing I am, raked flailingly alive
here in the televised tent of my po' south,
evangelizing my crossroads roots. Here I twist and simmer;
everybody all weird elbows and sweat-dank shirt-sleeves
---room for everybody in this christ's-body tent---
I reach out to covet and knuckle your rearing ass....
Some siren of sense is alarmingly rebelling within me.
Jesus the Savior is knocking on my soul's house's doors.
I am ready for the charnel confessional of the truth.
At last, at last....
Daddy spent his time before the war and my birth
trapping furs, "a gettin' the little critters afore
they get the snap on us," as he brayed, and I still can see
the godawful racoon goo on his black fingers in my eye,
punctuating the florid story for emphasis. I see him,
picking pecans in due season, hard labor and unloveable,
playing the fiddle hard for whiskey and merriment,
and fucking mom. He had his crooked finger ditched deep
in every possom pie of our lazy days hamlet,
my little beleaguered, divine, divided, and deciding town
sweet Fairaday. The yokels he'd swindled loved to squint
up at his six foot five inch Ramses face and call him "The Sun."
God, with a bootlegger's simmering snigger, had seen
him baptized as Sun Swaggert, my righteous-assed Daddy.
There wasn't a dirty trick in the Devil's book
he hadn't learned to rue. Darlin', slower now, we're almost home.
His fatal eyes stared past death, stone blue.
I peeped up at him with a drooly infant's grin
from the slick backwash of Momma's powdery collar-bone,
first time, and cried. My first memory is of the briars
in his eyes. Momma chuched my rump and kissed my dew-lapped pate's
sweet-pea pompadour. Where could I hide my innocence
and watery, thunderstruck eyes? He was a big bright man
full of sweat and gumption, never met his like,
nor any doppleganger unlike of his either; he slapped
my candy ass with a bible-hard hand and quoted Deuteronomy.
I knew in my soft-soap bones I had been born to an immoral man.
I myself was the raw result of most degraded sin:
quicker a bit: baby, baby! Your sour rose undoes my crooked worm
flying all afternoons into one evening's ashes!
How could my blanching existence, however white,
however benignly pale about the bleeding knot
of my diapered umbilical and squalling, toothless mouth,
ever justify the spattered blackness of my setting forth?
I swooned, a marooned baby-bit of conscioussness,
against my mother's loving tit and pinched nipple.
There was no way. I had stared into the sun and eclipsed myself.
I, a midnight-eyed ape mendicant still too young to swing
himself out of evolution's tarry jungles, my swamp of self.
And Father's own wild life was set to atone;
Yes, he beat me to the savior's raptured punch
and heard the word of the Lord before speech sneaked into me.
He always knew how to change himself before he got too bored,
contracted the clap, or got L'isiana crawdads down his shorts.
He'd get even with all the quicksand world
that'd sucked him down, dragged his scanty white ass
past the precipice and nearly drowned, in mud,
the slick silvered areofoil of his quickened spirit
in this hissing trash of sex and life! Never, o never!
would he let any of his sin-spawned progeny dodge
the cold knowing of his gospel-doctored heart:
we needed his gracing spate of light to save ourselves!
He looked at Mom over his gilt-edged Old and New Testament
one searing evening at dinner, and let her know
there'd be no more of that "kissing business upstairs"
from here on in, even unto the erected Ressurection!
I sighed into my peas, whacked off in the attic, and prayed.
With Daddy's magic conversion, all the apocalyptic world
had to get its camel's ass into the reviving
revival tent too: none were to be eschewed, or God
Himself would thrash His wavering son Sun
straight down Hell's alley like a flaming bowling ball,
all fire-mottled, there to burn, incomplete, eternally.
Daddy had gathered us in the driveway at dawn
to disgorge his night-attack of vision. We knew....
Momma's face was black and blue with praying.
We would be battering-ram Daddy's little evangelistas,
his heavenly icicles nailed into the Devil's stew.
My poor dim-watt Daddy, I see now, was a sure-fire
hellfire and leather-strap man: whap whap whap
on my little brother's wicked little ass-- never mine;
I was the sunshine angel of our brood that Granma had prayered for
when out popped my righteous Papa; she saw he understood
sin too well to become beatified before the Lord.
But me, well, my powdered neck drifted in from heaven itself,
shiny-clean in my new haircut and perfectly white white shirt.
I gave all the townsfolk their sermons with a smile,
secretly defying deified God himself to knock me off
my pederasted pedestal; I was one hot holy-boy
steam-rolling sin out of our southern gospel town.
Fair-a-day, For-a-day, Fair-this-day, Far-a-way Fairaday,
my little beleagured, divine, divided, deciding town.
Your loony hopes had roped you to God's creation,
lashed like Ahab on his unabandonable whale.
Remember how, at nine, I prophecized Hiroshima
from the swept tabermnacle of my bedroom?
The ashen mushroom cloud bloomed from my small-boy's mouth,
tender as an eyeball one might refuse to eat, or see with.
Too gun-shy to talk Allied English for three days afterward,
I howl my moronic mish-mash of scolding German
and Axis Jap until half the state had made it
to our rickety outskirts church to touch and behold me.
Funny isn't it, how, sometimes, the whole world
shrinks itself to a cheap, tin pinwheel, glittering and flaring,
circling back on itself in a spanked child's little [baby] fist.
My steady hand never abandoned its blessing wrath
to administer any spat of doubt unto my simple people,
staring at my washed and clarified features as a proof
about how the days of future Rapture had come down
to prowl among 'em now. Yes! I was that
condemnifying angel at hazard in their midst;
I was their very conscience in my sunday best,
given a nickle a week to preach them straight,
administer old Sun's sallied broadsides until they loved
to hate their own twisted, purgatorial souls,
unsunned and sickened shit-black without my tongue.
And how they loved it all!
Each sin-grimmace flashed ecstatic to pulpitted me.
Nothing like eternal damnation to wake up the sleepy day,
and really, as we say, put a new curl in your pie-crust!
I recall being rolled awake one meek midnight by
my brother's raspy hollerin' in the next room;
it seemed some beery iron-clawed sin-demon had nabbed him!
I shook in my thin bed, sweating out the August dark.
What could be going on in there in the other, nearby dark?
Was he still quarantined in his skin, to scream
and carry-on like that? He sounded all blood and lesions,
one tortured and torqued voice, all maimed and baying boy.
Each slap echoed out louder than the last had crashed,
like a beaver's damned angry swap! mapping terror
out over the alarming waters-- have you ever heard it?
Miles it carries, they say, and they're right.
I hear it still.... every other night, or so.
But that was coming from my own brother's body and back,
rack after rack of hideous slaps
and whappings; the ceiling distorted with my tears.
I could hear him squeal his prayers bible-page thin walls:
"O Lord, O lord, come and rapture me afore Daddy
ever has such cause to revile me again....I don't care
if I go to hell, just don't let him be so mad again."
I arose at clear dawn to see the blood-vomit at his neck,
his face a knot-- hate and real fear combined there
as he slept, crunched into a curl so tight it seemed
he never wanted to wake up again. I prayed,
there and then, for God to make me a little wicked too,
put some touch of Satan in my makeup, smear my clearness,
so that Daddy's smacking hand could get a little tired
against my face and body first, before he'd beat
my brother to the grotesqueness of a bruised rainbow.
And the Lord did it. And I believed.
But my tired-eyed Daddy never blamed me a lick,
let me carry off every sin as if it was a medal o' honor,
like from the war. My guilt! my guilt! my guilt!
My ruse of bruises won't convince myself---
I am the one who should be undone by what I've done!--
I am the guilty party, and I rock in self-hate,
crushing my sweat-fat head back against the velvet
headrest in my royally on-rushing Rolls.
What argosy of incidents might unsettle me before the Lord?
Those were the glory days; Jerry Lee Lewis, my cousin, and me
revelling in the little pleasures of the flopping flesh:
My life at the pious piano had twenty flicking fingers, not ten.
My own hands and little boy Lewis' happily combined
to play our childhood souls to an amiable blankness.
No, that's not right, but I forgot some spiking hurts,
seated crosswise-ass from Jerry Lee on the sotted lawn;
there we were, a trembling terror of tenors
flying from low to high, rolling the black keys
like drunken niggers with our plaster-blanche palms,
rolling the black keys like the rut-wet whores
on our side of the racket-making tracks, fluid
under strangers' paling knuckles and loving fucks.
Our shoes were kicked off to feel the sweet, wet aspect
of grasses rustling under folding chairs pinned to earth
by the meaty buttocks of the congregation,
First Spellbinders open-air sitting church, too poor
to afford even a rented tent's swaying steeple.
Our wired hearts floated into the uppermost of the air,
winged by our rude harmonies and gospels,
there in the swart, flat field we scrimmaged in,
rummaged this sunday by a million faithful footfalls.
Marooned in paradise by our weird croons
and baptist mass, we gospelled the ringing keys
and made those disintegrating eighty-eights shine
and tremble before a scornful God and all his high pack
of quack magicks and Cecil B. DeMille screen-effects.
How passionately we dreamed to die angel-hearted,
registering our fatal love at the Lord's illuminated doorway!
Heaven was a honeysuckle we could pull down and chew,
no abstract majesty but our fingers could pull it through,
no mere fart of honor in a lackland backwater
like our already forgotten town, but the real deal,
opium-gold and landed among us: each impoverished, pie-fat face
communed with scripture, tortured word by word,
like removing a tattoo, and on each humble aspect
there in the spasmed grass, you could see the scar-shadow
faith had palimpsested upon the prayerful
like moonlight through a torn screen.
How our roused fingers impinged on sound to whorl
all those imploring buttermilk souls flooding loving
from their uneasy chairs into the ghost-crowded air!
The holy ghost itself, down for a cameo role,
broke out upon the parishoners' ecstatic faces
like a sweat; they moaned their own, lonely orgasmic assent
to each trembling tone of our stab at divinity!
Yes, yes, they cried, we are the afterwash of the Lord,
the mudflats and swamps that received drydocked Noah,
the fizzled helium ballons of aereonaut angels
crash-landed in Louisiana, wandering dead drunk
and light-headed at our nearness to God. Yes, yes!
We put off the creamy blazers of the Devil, never
will be his limber minions, or stumble lumberingly
among the downed lines of that master puppeteer,
a fallen luminescence forced by the purposeful Lord
to hold his own black threads above his knotted head,
careering blind-man's-bluff through his perveted dominions.
We made the heat-rich air itself shiver to our fingerings,
like that wild Sally Fletcher at the Corn Pone Fair
beneath the jilting ferriswheel earlier that same year.
For us alone in all the rumored world, the very air
split and lived to the rapidity of our quizzings,
as if we'd asked for nothing other than to know all ourselves,
there in the abject field, honeyed by daylight.
All eyes the stoned eyes of Eternity inflicted
on decaying heads, argent looks that out-shone the dead stars,
gave the lie to all gravestones, and all death's
dissolute dissolvings of the flesh at a flash.
To know and see, truly see, each and every
one of ourselves as we were and as we are,
kneeling there in the field with God himself by our side,
the one absolute we had engineered a syllable for,
the rest made up by passionate guesses we'd timed
our heartstrings to plink out of the cheap uprights
dumb luck had donated beneath our detonating paws.
Our battered harmonics were laconic: lazy
L'isiana's high-powered answer to St. Cecilia.
Our own young notes had spiderwebbed these green folks
up to choiring Jesus' highwire electric netting:
two billion volts straight through the admiring spines,
the small fry swivelling like the million eels
that fattened Mr. Pike's steel net in the bayou
out back; his tobaccoed, cajun-thick accent
the provenence of tongues, inspired Non-Americanese.
Come on, my tender wings! Ascend! Jiggering Jerry Lee and me
would bend and bend, helping each uncertain passenger on-board
our hunching backs as we dazzled the rearing keys
to Kingdom Come. It wasn't easy, but I felt fine;
fine as if my heart had never given out
to anything other than these implorings of the Lord,
Our Father, who art tugging me home by my scrotum.
And now the anxious nails come singing from my wrists;
when I cross them in pain, I get a sightline
viewing the eternal bastardy of God, The Abandoner!
I peer into the soul-ruining firmament until I'm blind.
Eyeless cows plough lowing through the fields,
their bony hips magnetized on new seed;
the ploughman's work-bitten hands dash pure wheat-golds
into the filthy nurturent ruck to make it yeild and breed.
O I was a carpenter of sorrow, and built my sadness true,
the unerring blueprint filigreed vein by vein;
In my house, all sky-blue verity's reduced to muralled pain,
Come hold the shivering brush, push clouds
into the plaster muck, or turn a humped
harried black blot of demon in the white, or make
particular however the haunted paradise you hunt:
I guarantee whatever evil thing you rush to caricature is you.
The child's wind-mastering pin-wheel stays stuck
on dreams and dreaming rainbows in this wind's created wake.
Now nailed, and dying once again, I ache
a waterlogged winter-soul anxious for the summer floods
to quicken and float me quickly to the top!
Of Heart! Oh, revenging, evangelizing heart, stop, stop!
I am whatever color is the color of my blood,
which bleeds, invented afresh, by these kind, expulsed
voodoo wobbly pins I arrow away from my skin.
How shall my charring shame come to its surcease?
A waste of rest to refresh my wreck! Spare me despair,
O Lord, whose source I cannot knowingly unknow,
--I have seen the ripped insides of my own bewildered heart,
the furious, angry engine where generating Destiny carooms.
Kneel by me, jerking Jezebel, weep, cry the fabled tears
that freeze the eyelash and shread the sight. Blindly tear
every wonderment of looking down to our longed-for nullity!
Here in the dark we drink, and we ourselves are ink,
our wanton souls the dry blotters for each sin spilled
by anxious, trembled hands upon the snowy fields.
Pray by me, a crooked man low-kneeled, afeared
in my hot polyesther and thinning pompadour....
Baby, baby, aspen-anxious in the creaking pew,
I'll tear the living God's cradle to flinders to shelter you,
weave a semi-sacred arch in our ruined southern woods,
shaded beautifically now in Proserpina's pagan spring;
I'll set you up as my new Madonna too, a thing all of gold
and enamalled blue, a Byzantine bitch, whose frail
white hand shall masturbate me through the wrenching gale
of all this wicked world's spitting storms.
Come, come. Let us adhere together, and sail in my grand
       cadillac
--luxurating on its mounded pouch of fake leopard skins
like your straining leotards, my friend in christ--
to our Airport Highway Motel Paradise.
Arch, arch, yes, yes, like that, like that, I'm saved....
Let me sop up this pus-sy holy water, spilled
where your manic, gracing hand had raved.
Who wouldn't grind a little gracelessly, and twist
to the the rainbowed aura of your halo when you pissed?
I was, my non-virgin Virgin, slutty Queen,
with your near-perfect lipstick, Carnation #12,
not quite right a little afterward. Small,
hallucinatory blushes blurred beyond the outline
of your cookie-cutter smile. I was, and am,
your most devout and devoted Vouyer votary,
peeking past your wise debasement to my wild depravity.
It seems that my personal Hiroshima, all legs and ass
and steamy profusions of eggy emulsions, to exist,
must be tele-evangelized. I quake. I speak.
I wait, in the abnegated space of the cathode tube,
for the exchanging rain of the flames' flakes
to hiss into my sin-wicked skin as soul-hot ash.
It seems these votive forces are forgiveless of my sins.
My guilt I may not expiate, not by gospel,
not by harried grace, not by the sweet swirls
of knowing notes we pounded on the warped piano,
rocketing Jerry Lee and I, out-facing Destiny and Satan
in the perverted revival tent we inverted to a Honky Tonk.
By none of these escaped likenesses shall ye know me.
I am the guilt of getting-away-with-it personified;
maybe one day I'll be more, be ill, a simple,
willed and living human being without a mounting boundary
I can't find the dirty eraser to efface.
I am the smeared line of lipstick on that girl who blew
me until she herself was blue. I am the target
for which I feel the awful lure. O Fisherman of men!
Drag your swept net however low, however down, and get me!
I shiver in my meek blackness to be once un-dim
to my own electric self. Surely Maureen, or Doreen,
whatever your tongued name is, my pimped up, dear
Madonna-Whore complex with the stereo too loud, surely
my lifting of you into the temporary-Eternal
will have some blistered bliss of effect
on me too? I create the icky sin we stick to
by flying, adult maggots, into each other's fly-eyes:
bumped heads and hearts and groins, all staticy
shynesses swervingly combined in our one minute's shine.
Now, my mopey sweet, to create this freak feast
as a true looming eminence-emanation of the whore-adored,
I shall unwhip these seven crocodile skins, the sins
my Daddy razor-slashed and wired to his sculling
birch canoe way back when, and wear them like a face,
one for each day of the terrified creation, snaked
out of the swamp and history of our putrid damps;
then I shall dance a dance to the murderous Word
like a circus-act, your sweating worshipper here
clowned out of the bayou woods and backwaters, myself,
and I'll pull them over us, still slick-shiney
in the apocalypse-light, like backlit clouds, silver
and mirrored in the rictus-center of your divine eye,
the true object of my aim, or almost, and I'll plunge
in naked abandonment until I uncover your undercover heart,
your bleeding, suffering, roiling, rancid heart,
and eat it out like the Last Supper with my jaw.

WHORE SPEECH, INSERT ABOVE
Aw, honey-baby, when I peer at you,
your dew-boy darling hair goes so cutely askew
viewed through the inverted V of heaving me...
Your swizzle-stick dick sure looks awful lonely
dandled in your ham-hand, darlin', whyn't you just
bounce your horny cornpone ass yonder and stir
my primordial crotch-broth?








ATHIEST PRIEST


MADELAINE  MURRARY  O'HARE


O 'HARE
God bless fornication's force! Fuck! Fuck! Fuck!
My well-heeled grey matron's bun shows off
my shiny-sheeny shins to good effect, ay? Ha! Ha! Ha!
Pretty Betty Grable of me, huh? I'll say.
Perch my aching legs above this steel steering wheel
and drive me home, Elvis! Doo wop me pop til my top flops.
Ugh, uhh, ugnh. Oh, I'm sorry, Sonny, I didn't mean to speak so
in front of you, to use that toothless dirty-bird word,
God; but I want you to understand you're an animal
or crawling onion with a buzzard's vagrancy-enhanced
turn-the-tide on the vouyered worm brain, a thinking something
to pick out the dead eyes of the nurturant lot with,
an animal, man, just like the sexually mixed rest of us, by damn--
And as your damn dam I oughter know of what I squwak!
And, yes, I know, since I tol' you, Damnation's just a game
we play one syllable at a time in this primal scream scam,
so-self-called Life. Get it? Here's a new tune for you;
tiddly-tum your bum tummy when you sing it, and you'll
feel better, I forswear swearing it, other than with
a ruinous blue tongue, my salty sucker, so-called:

     Little Lamb, who made thee,
     Dost thou know who made thee?
     Whitely do you buck and gasp
     And expire upon the grass.

     Little Lamb, who made thee,
     Dost thou know who made thee?
     Little Lamb, why am I free
     To create the God who created thee?

You know, don't you, untutored one, that I'm responsible
for every bluebird word that comes pecking at your tow head.
Little boy, and termagant of not, whenever I spoon some jejune
green food in you, at least, you are that not knot I can't unknot,
well, I won't back back from my eternal-maternal charge to teach you
sweet and sure out of all this world's altared whoredom
just what's what, and where that what stops at what's not.
Here, hold the wheel a minute, I gotta light a cig'.
Sheeit! You near reared that fool's-gold El Dorado, boy,
my elvis-headed mischevious princeling, freewheeling
these backward-ass Texas streets, spinning fast back
to the school that'll no longer make you stay and pray
just to get an education; smart's smart-- and that's not.
Leastways, not to my Baltimore-poured concrete stammering
brainstem and swizzle-stick stiff nerveless backbone;
I was a rocking rocket on those cement docksides of quay-graves
a double-barrelled Pelican bagpipe anxious for tripe.
I blacked-out once because I wouldn't shut-up to catch my breath;
if only I could make an audience so catch, heave and tip!
Har, har! You know, double-loved one, my algebra boy,
I couldn't have those scolding soldiers of Christ,
martinets of ministry, naybobs of cloudy hob-knobbing,
knocking your naked knees out from under you to reel kneeling
on the squealing gymnasium floor toward some awful God. Gad!
You're my genetic inheritance, not some other slob's.
Thanks, hon, I got a good drag going now. Let go!
Contrariness is in you too, I do avouch, each ouch
you cause this recalcitrant mother's heart earns a sob.
How joyous when you'll be your own owning tower of oneness
in this sway-backed, wildly wired world of the
perpetually new.... My one egg whirred you upright too,
evolution's goy, self-replicating without God's nod,
a wish mixed with groin's groaning, purloined insistence, dear.
And so now you're here. I love you; you know that dontcha?
This screwed universe can move a lonely heart to sceam.
I tear a damning blackness from my heart and start to dream,
the images a flicker-rash of happenstance and desire.
Maybe you'll listen to others as you grow old
and the acuteness of your hearing starts to go; I don't know.
I don't know. How could I? And that's the plastic
glory of it all: each one of us invented fresh
from the artificial mesh of our own dear doodled imaginings.
I am the spawn I propigate, nothing less.
I am all splashed flesh and wish, a nymphy fish
paddling my four-cornered heart with limitless desire;
what I may dream my weaning self to mean gives me all the excuse
I need to belch and be. Birragh-urp!
Life's a spermy-paisley expressiveness, I insist.
Ayn Rand and me, Lesbos' sisters of the anti-trinity!
What is the religious Want? To manifest the immanent
Individual into the public Something, not to dissolve
our arrival into invisible archival. I don't respect
religion's wry psychology on that point yet;
it keeps me from the parade of things I can be here and get.
Come join the rational revolution Ayn Rand and I spawned,
the founding bitch-hounds! Your religion's all of twigs....
I build my fading eternities faster:
a mass-produced inspiration that includes a universal joint.
What're you? A squirrel? A chameleon too?
My pleasantly plump Proteus riding shotgun
to my ribonecleic essence, sweetie, you're neat.
If I thought you sucked or weren't worth the breath
I nearly lost to get you, would I have you here?
Hell no! Sixty miles per hour over the cliff-face, baby,
and no shreadding gears in regret, neither.
I'd watch you go diapered into the abyss and never blink.
You know how I am; but I take my parenting
with a clear seriousness these painty-waste preacher's boys
can't begin to hanker an imagining for: my each
action has its impact in your bio-reared brain;
your brain is the basic basis of the consciousness-wish
of life as presently understood by those
who bother with any mirror of understanding, therefore
our time together is the everything
of which you breed your appalling all; you see? Sit still,
as long as the taxpayers here demand it, I must
jettison you for eight blue hours a day from my side,
a hurting birth that alienates our intimacies.
When I first looked down on fuzzy you, the red spot
squalling on my church of lurching lap, I wondered
at what new-born notion you would hug to you
to rip your life apart upon; that's the only question.
Everything else is a matter for spastic dandies
who neither build nor burn, but merely cease to be.
My non-God God is me; I am the Deity I elevate!
In America I shall assert my non-irrelevance ecstatically!
How do you explain your life to yourself? Sweet teat-sucker,
my poisoned arrow found me grinning in the target's shadow.
I had lashed my tarred ass to an unfashionable mast
and tarry weary there still. Dear, dear,
it wasn't fate that pinched me to an athiest, but God
hovering stony-loving above the sidelines
in an insanity of paitience, a waiting hail-rain
waiting for the precise aesthetic moment
to reveal His benificent magnificence as we died ugly.
O that arrow of thought struck deep! Its feathers brim
my knocked-in skullcap still. See, Cochese?
We're the wild indians to these slowpoke cowboys
and choose the ambushed height of thought we shall purvey
upon the diminished plains scuffing at our ponies' feet.
Grab the wheel again, Tonto, I need another piffling puff.
Left, left; how much drunken time do we have left?
I'll use the laws they make me pursue against 'em, I will.
I'll unfurl my victorious pinions until light fails,
and all their reaping crop of stolid citizenship
cringes atrophied to dust. I'll do my dessicate best
just as dad who had me on the kitchen table,
prayering the rapist out of himself against my skin.
The fuck! He would tear at the bandage on his scarred chest
and say I stole his heart from Mom and God.
Me, the Temptress! That's a laugh. My tongue's
too widow-withered whetted and sharp to out-harp God;
hard enough to find a man who'll keep near me nowadays.
A foul mouth can out-howl the saintly any day, too fey to growl
when old wolf hunger's at the door anyhow. A parable.
Thank your mommy if you feel a reaching need to pray.
Look too lovingly long at heaven, and I guarentee
that the paster's got his palm wormed down you pants, baby.
Pluck the wings off angels, and let them wrestle on the sill
with the unrested self-testing rest of us, dammit.
The world's changed from when I first kicked into it,
squallin' and shittin', foul at both ends
if you read the papers. But things are different,
people squiggle after their little worm of grub
and shove on without a thanks or a thought. Who thought life
so pitiless for the enganged brain and mind? Not I!
But I guess I was jest better at foolin' myself
in those young days; my glucose-count and intake
must've been a whirlywind few ticks greater then,
I suppose. I just don't know! Words you'll never hear
from that pinned and powdered, periwigged and
gem-jimmied besprinkled pope bunkered down on his
divine acres of palatial Italian paradise.
Money's just a sin unless it fall
from the golden hands of Christ! Har, har.
Irony will have its winning tickle-effect on me yet.
You know that hard-molded statuette atop my desk:
fucking bull and fucking bear? An image of
fruitless gain, fruitless loss: Money is as Not! Ahh,
I can't be as long in the tooth as the eternity I feel.
Do you have your biblical diorama ready for today,
How Pontius Pilate Served Justice in the Roman Citizen-State?
I just love the way you made Jesus look aggrieved.
And remember, don't pray on the sly with the others,
that'll reflect poorly on me. The newspapers'll get it
and rake me ass-ways from Sunday over the Newcastle coals
they'll bring to my public burning. Lucky I'm not stoned,
and you the jew-orphan out to start a Texas cult.
Stranger things have happened, blast it! You watch out,
not everyone who says they love you bleeds enough
to mean it. I have bled. I have established my credentials.
Well, here's the school, and all the yellow buses
cowering against their low white foot of curb;
remember, you are the nurturant Lamb yourself
among these protein-poor puce wolves here,
you're your own solace and sanctuary until the day's done
and I hie you to our groaning home staked on the sand flat
against the harrassing hurricanes the smoking Gulf
moves in huge ruin against us; there we'll play
at our atom by atom perfection, or notions and motions
silly-simple as Newton's dropping a bible
into a dirty pool, and then unwiring his equations
from a thus unilaterally uncluttered mind.
Just remember, God's an athiest, for he needs no faith.
Here, here, your grey diorama's queered
against the misshapen oblong of the turned-down window.
Hand me back my cancer sticks. I don't want to
outlive my wretchedly religious times into an Age of Reason,
that would shorten my horns and trim my grin
too much; an old heiffer like me's got to have
her flowery field to play in. I'll keep on,
no need to pull that long old face with me, Jr,
my loud cowbells dangle in my goitered wattle's shadow
with spoofing usefulness enough still;
I feel real well when I make my world feel ill.
I'll keep on just as long as I can reel assured
that my manure has use, and still stinks in the chapel.

 



JUST ANOTHER JOB

 

[JOB lies in a hospital bed, dying of AIDS.]

JOB
Here I am, laid naked to the braziers,
thin tin licks of flame spray me open to pain,
my spine's a garland of knotted hurts and worse.
Sunday night, and nothing on the hospital TV IV.
I need some holy words to spur my moans to prayers,
some heavenly-other spliff of righteous insistence
to puff my spaghetti-boil of turmoils back to simmer.
Ah God, drug, drug! I've been buzz-buzzing
for that spastic, ironed-neat nurse for half an eon now;
my rotten thumb crumbles against the button;
my broken hands stain the bedsheets.
With my high-flying dose of roasting AIDS
I've contact contracted that blue biblical ill
leprosy. Yeah, in this day and age. What's the year?
Look at me! tremors of the vast ecstatic float through
my vetted veins no more, no more. Call me Morte.
Morte Totality. Pleased to kick your ass on the way out.
Look at this shithole. Pardon, if my more expressive
rhetoric has tongue-tied me back to agued zero. I'm sick.
No hole of mine does as I would wish it.
Now God has shut widom from my mind
and the portals of understanding open not to my hand,
and wisdom is fleet before me, though I do run after it;
all is clouded in my sight which now sees farthest;
its limits clearly in sight, clouds are drawn before me
and a heavy darkness obscures from me what I might see,
horizons are foreshortened although my steps are tireless
and I lie in a grave's-den opium of ignorance
although I would ask to see all that I may behold.
But God's hand is against me, and his works shut me out;
his dominions rally against me,
and the elements become my enemies.
Where in this is Justice? I can smell what it is
and annotate with a bitter heart its absence.
To give a capacity for love and deny its object....
If God Himself ain't somehow Just, then what's the point?
my reason razors itself into me repeatedly.
And ain't God GOT TO be just somehow?
The seventh son of a seventh son, I learned
to be by rebelling, a rapturous repel
down lofty logic's cliffs, a nordic
sword-saga revealingly reversed. Down
to the gravity-well black hole nadir
instead of ascended into snow-blind heaven.
And if God ain't somehow Just, what's the point?
How else we going to count the ticks on this
tickertape parade? What other way we got
than to know a noble God lovingly unfurling our souls?
God: does her voice belong gonged to the annihilated ages?
Is she a sage that can whisper comfort
to my radiation-washed atomic-barraged sockets?
Pierce the wish, divine the desire, deem clean
the weird deeps of the dream, and THINK before
you answer, oh my how well unwell auditors!
Will your troubled verse last out the rhyme?
You're being insincere with me. Death is all
you get. Forget this prism-window
of jewel-lush Life; its crush-touch is past,
or nearly so, the empty suck of a train gone away.
To be alive and not to lie, that's a challenge.
Am I condemned to repeat the makeshift mumbles
of my sire-soverign, God? Then let them be
true sounds of Liberty! Oh if, if this injustice is His
and I a fish in his ocean of wishes,
shall I not as innocently-unjustly condemn
my wry maker with the crooked implement He's designed?
God's hollow thumb has fashioned a boomerang,
KA-Tang! Whang! I spend my whittled spittle
against his craftily cranked downward and
steel-engineered cranium; oh my porus Lord!
to let your wavery undeserving servent
be poured through your baffle and exit thus!
I am not so crossways-wise as Yourself,---
And oh the skin-mist rain's a prayer
God has flooded against us feeble ones
drowning for that love of another our skin can't supply.
Whyn't you shuttle down on an airfoil, Lord,
and shoot the breeze with your targeted marked-man,
one who has been roused to a beggar's indignation
by your prayer-piss rouse-- I look
at every poor face and see death's injustice writ
therein; every fabulous face of wealth is cankered over
with a deceit of life, a something given
they haven't yet thought to throw away
with last year's diadems and cadillacs
into the glittery trash.... Why have my man's bones
been stolen upright from the stony earth?
They shall lay there again just as soon;
flesh is misery, wherein I apprehend delight!
What's Justice, and how can I feel its scab-plaster
on a skin so ripped open and acid-fragile?
And yet, and yet, some bullet in the brain
is making its hacking exitus, the gun of conscience
revelling in its unrivalled use of explosion's force
to come to some energy of purpose: I'm fucked!
I am narrowed and nailed to my railing life:
my syllables have come to put sinews to this use:
God is unjust! God is unjust! God is unjust! God is unjust!
Yet how may a man imagine his creation
and imagine a justice while living in it,
and still that justice own no home in the Architect?
Great are the sheaves that feed us, and yellow with life.
Great are the moments that meet us, and make us
this life despise. To be Just is to know all things,
and merit each iota to its final place;
to be Just is to know the place of Place,
and to know when the course of things is overturned,
and when they must return; to be just is to know
all potentialities and discern the best,
or discern that "best" is a falseness in Eternity.
What feeling has justice for us, who cry for it?
My hair comes butchered from my ripped-open head,
my face is a wine-cask dark with weeping, flush to busting;
I thrust my hands before me as in darkness,
I search every blankness for hope.
A legless man, I stand, a drowning bruised torso tossed
armless in the tempest that sends these waters above my face;
my raft has surged over the departing swell
and the greenness that hems me in is baleful.

ANTON LE VEY's voice:
And then God, whirly-winded, bespoke
out of his temple-tempest to the pest:

GOD
Who's this wondering thing? My claustrophobic creation
whose dumb damned words blacklight my shining design?
Are low-witted and dull-watted you the thing you spew,
Der Mensch in Der Mitte? Hahr, I larf at you!
Pluck up, and stand masted like the man I made you!
I shall ask the questions here, on my real world,
and you, poor doomed plume of flustered dust,
shall answer:
Where were unspooled you when I cement-spit
the splendid foundations of this earth,
its rumored basement of gems and curtained caverns
of crystalline stalagtite might? Tell me,
daring dunderhead and worm supreme, if you know
what you know; if you understand, what understand.
Has meaning heaved cleaving into your hammer-clawed skull,
or is it the murk-mist of insistence merely
rinded like margurita-salt behind your hind brain?
Who settled the roaring sea's sway-dismaying dimensions?
What hand sharped the coral and bladed the triagular wave?
Somebody on the bus whispered that you, yes you,
would know the spasming answer to my God-query
so let's hear it, zit, explain it plain to ME,
let me in on the gimcrack gist of it all, small one,
give me the replete lay of the unland ocean, o Man.
Whose plummet-line zipped past the seas' wet limits?
What divine line appeared from nowhere, repelling past
that place where spinning world and womb had stopped,
giving begotten ground and spermy earth its swollen span?
All mountains that spume up as dust-splash cannot last;
what thing rings kite-string past them to dissipate their peaks?
Where are the roots of the wind's pillars?
Who bludgeoned from naught the cornerstone nut of ground
down into pounded permanence; who engineered its wicked kick,
lullibied all rumor to rucking rest
where stars spur skyward to speak (this is, I mean,
the wicked wick flick of your self, selfless-- for what's
a thing as dumb as you to do with willed selfhood?);
who gave place place so some scarred start could start?
When all the morning stars sang together
and the thousand sons of nodding God shouted aloud,
what besotted face before the infinite presented thou?
Who peered angel-eyed upon the pinking wink
of the reccusive sea's restive entrance, when she veered
jellyfish-floodlight from the drumming womb of sand?
I it was and I alone, know thou, thy great God, alone
(in all the universe of tones the Tone), I alone
who was so moved to discommode surging ocean's
squallorous spread and spry sprawl-clawed-crawl
from its icy gasp and washed swipe at Eternity--
I it was, and I alone, who subsumed its movings in fine fogs,
I alone who stretched a stitched coverlet
of roofless clouds to down its bounding. I alone who said,
This far, o ocean, shall you sway thy ton of suds, no more;
here's land to become a door to halt your waltz,
give your infinite swish its slaking brake, redound
your emerald turmoils in coiling spoils upon
themselves, all in hissing backwash burning as if fire---
roil thyself in vast confusion, ocean, and no
further step shall you steal upon the large.
In all your limp dick-inch of life, punter, have you ever,
my good and growing knowless human, have you ever
arrowed up the dawn from its vault of heart,
or laid red the barbarous target for its arrival?
Did you, ruminative, teach a speech of light to the day-star,
rivering its run of tongues upon bleed-born earth,
or rebel-bell the morningglory from its weak wilt?
Hast thou shaken away the dog-star to its appointed oblivion?
Do not lie to me, but speak out plainly and be plain,
I hear your withering things, your unshrouded shrinks
to blinking nothingness, void moving over void,
your small coward's ice-whispered self-melt, o man,
quavering a snake's nest of shivering quivers
beneath your sheep's bleat-cloak of might's and mightn'ts,
too small and dull a dodge to slow my all-seeing eye.
Didst thou ever slip'n'slide to the sea's one source
or walk awake in the unfathomed deeps, sleepy one?
Doth the gore-loaded lore of all-lording LIFE
unlock at your wicked picking? Does it, must it?
Have the serenely pristine and aquiline gates of dear DEATH,
all a pearly curl of skeleton-enamel above a waste plain,
been thrown Hercules-aghast to welcome thy breathing form?
Have you gone, heart heat-beating, through the soul's wheatfields?
Do your heart's valves saloon-door open backwards
from death to life at your ticking beck? Hmm?
Have you yet God-spotted in you high-res com-sat sights
even the tipsy hat of one of the all-tall doorkeepers
kept at that lowest place of places, or is it all just
a smash of myths and mumbled fables for you still,
fabulous trash? Has your poor comprehension and low-score
SAT serenity ever compounded to blank the vast expanse?
Come, come, you garrolous old lung, fun bunny-girl
or more serious, AIDS-diseased spoiled boy,
tongue aloud the sum total of all you know to me alone
now I've an unvanishing eternity of timeline to spare!
Thy moored core is pourous, o softest squish of wishes!
Speak, speak, and hesitate not to detition's tripping,
tittering, tip-tip, halting and troubling timing--
I'll understand your oogle-bugling ululations well, mortal man.
Can you photon-skate your willed way
to light's first residence, or may you neon-out
the ultimate Not where weary darkness dwells?
Can you take a sunbeam by the hand
or hold all-eternal darkness in your mouth?
Escort a satr upon its twine-spineing path
or beath out of nostrils the universal bulked black
through which its loops its lone way along?
Yes; yes you can, I'm sure of it.
You're no lowly trilobite, mister, centipede-pedalling past
stone muds to a proffessor's lab-table 2,ooo years hence,
are ye? No, no. You're a human man, and know all--
weren't you the thing rich-birthed before the cosmos-smoke,
and don't you exist after its wisped finishing?
Spandexed man: of your screeching skin I hold the measure
and of your every diminishment, I carry the past expanse;
clear squeals of your eeking spit and spirit
flip from the tittle-pip of pipping pipe ripe at my side;
your commodius mind's my small-change purse, slug-bug;
your wide-window view zooms to a luger-sight
narrowed on nothingness compared to my barrenness,
so vast am I.
Have you stepped into the storehouse of the snow
or kept slickly afoot among the proud arsenals of hail?
Who indices the tuneles rumor-mongering of the avalanche?
Who's silver sire of the swept-kiss of this hissing rain?
Who has zephered slipstreams for the holocaust,
or made blank space appear before the roaring downpour?
Who has axed a passage for the high-hurdled thunder?
Who birthed bastard land's aridity to eat up the moisture,
who commanded its derelict loins
to spurt to an annointing greenness before ye,
whereof ye eat sweet-fingered figs in the wilderness?
Can you bolo aloft the Plieades, master-man,
or untie the stars to open Orion's white belt?
Do you, o lame and sour dewdropp drop-kicked here,
proclaim with loud sound-surround the governance of heaven,
or do you put obeyed law into the everythings of Earth?
Who has taught freedom by the destruction of chaos?
Can you stand demanding distorted forms of clouds
to cover-up your foul flux with their weight of waters?
If you bid the limber shins of lightning streak the dark
does it say to thee: "I am ready"?
Who poured airy wisdom into obscure, unscoured dens,
who laced up understanding with the spider's web?
Does the unleashed ox nose open you shaken tent
and consent to serve you without slavery?
Did it stand beside your creaking crib before you learned
how to shackle its wildness with thy cunning?
The stunted wings of the ostrich twitch proudly,
but are they the pinions and plumage of love?
Have you carpentered the horse with his sweet strength?
Have you clothed his neck with thunder,
who says among the battle-trumpets, Ha Ha!
and smells the whiff of war afar off?
Are you stiffnecked enough to dispute the Almighty?
Should he who picks sticking arguments and quests questions
with God Himself, should such a one talk back?

JOB
Behold, I am of small account.
What shall I answer thee?

GOD
Arise on your hind, hidden, wooden legs like a man,
stand brittle and apart, my little, from the rest
of my mazed creation: you, worm-turd, are a human!
Does your wrecked face dare deny that I, I am Just?
That the wayward tumbleweed turns to my true word?
Are you unhinged enough to put your crossed Lord
at the witness-stand defense's stable table so that you,
blue-suited in thy skein of veins, might prosecute?
Would you crow-crowd me with cried-aloud Wrongs so that you,
silent as a null sentinel,  might rise as Righteous?
Do you bowl me to the see-saw's low-tided side
that thee and thine might vaunt up even one mite the higher?
Do you have a mighty arm as God's arm is mighty?
Is your snoring voice coiled in the thunderclap?
Patch your pride, undim your dignity,
robe in pomp, and spark with splendour--oh my little
tittle-bit and wolfed somnolence of utter dust!--
do all as best you may and if you may and as
you may: scatter acid-sharp the fantasic attack
of your planet-racking anger, let your poured fury
undo the wicked and disincarnate the fiber of him,
let it glance kings unthroned into the dirt, let it
look on the proud regent and take no fault of fear,
ignore thy tax and spend no worry, scowl thee
at the broken brow of the high and proud
and humble them to stumbles, throw down injustice,
hide evil in an inconspicuous grave, and shelve
their catastrophed bones in the shattered earth
with your looks. Do this, my mini-kingdom man,
and I'll whirl pirouettes to your great greatness,
bow soberly all day to your drunken mein,
admit like a matted wrestler, crying sweating
to the invisible weight hovering over his pinned shoulder
that your own right hand can grace ressurection
on heal alone your current littleness of crippleness.
Man is in such a desperate case,
churning headfirst into his disappearace!
Yet how fierce a morsel he may seem, when once roused
to the snarling stature of his testosterone!
Who's left to stand aloft against his impaitient measure?
What creature bears the rainbow veins bright enough
not to pale away to extinction in his tincts?
Am I myself to be the animal I send against
his self-titled mightiness, his stumpy lunge
at the greatness he sees conveyed in my being?
I am Leviathan.
Can you mince-meat my skin with whipping fishhooks,
or hood my awful head with the sharp hawk's?
Who will pass over tongue-tied the manyness of my limbs,
or ogle unawed at me in contemptuous silence?
In powerful grace I descend, and graceful arise;
who has scratched by a micron the least scale of my hide,
or pried open the storming portals of my face?
I am all shields, my impenetrable eye sheer flint,
my spiring breath is ice, or charring fire;
stars' cauldrons chuff from my mulling hum;
no stop makes good before me, and inevitable energies
rear me on forever; eternities dance before me
like fireflies; my firm heart weaves lavas
through its rock, a millstone at home
in my grinding ever-onward design, eversteady....
Iron and stiff steel touch me as straw against a strong
thing, all crumples; millions duck at my merest passing,
warheads phase out against my skin as chaff
fritters after the buffalo's passage; the harshest club
is as a bent reed near me; sabres and F16s
fashion my heart for laughter at their launching.
I sprawl in my God-awfulness upon the drubbed mud,
I am Leviathan.
I charge hurricanes out of the chapel-water heart
of Lake Michigan in a wish, whipping its deeps
like cudded fluff in a spinster's mixing bowl;
all trails shine at my going on, and my wake
is stardust; the great river everywhere is made mad white
with the furious apprehesion of my feafulness;
my equationed equal resides not upon the earth,
I am so terrible; forests flatten at my shaking dry;
no part of my magnificence has a single stamp
of the least tremulous timorousness of fear at all,
I am so unassailable and sourceless.
I glare down in infinite and terrible happiness
upon each and every creeping creature of the dust,
even the highest; king of the king of beasts am I,
without a sparring breast to beat my great chant upon.

JOB
Omni omni omni;
I talked without understanding of great things
too wonderful to be wondered at, so smashed
is every brimming thing with thy
dawn-spawning awfulness.
I had only heard of thee with my ears,
wild tales and fables torn from books,
campfires and stray table-talk,
songs at school, and the passover prayer....
Now I see thee in my very eye,
in my very eye you appear, and I see thee:

Therefore, I melt away;
I repent in dust and ashes.






Top


End

Jul 082020
 
A rich re-telling of a Chinese ghost story in play form.

                          the gods corrupt
us; though I never suffered their abrupt
seductions, shattering advances, I
too bear their sensual lightnings in my thigh.
I too am dying.
                      ----- Phaedra, Robert Lowell, Racine


DAUGHTER
Human beings are to be pitied!

OFFICER
You've found that out!

DAUGHTER
Yes. Life is hard, but love conquers all.
Come and see!
                     ----- A Dream Play, August Strindberg



****


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SCENE 1

[Mrs Chang's visiting room.] MRS CHANG Dear daughter, Chien-nu, always tapping at the mirror, always sighing and saying, with infinite regret repeating: "When will I be taller! Breasts, come out now, now is the time for Wang Wen to arrive, dropping his glory into my life under the plum trees, transfiguring the house-garden with romance." She does not know what she says! She is not ready for the love of a man, his mysterious speeches and strange allure. She is not ready to look such high excitement in the eye. Not yet, not yet. [Enter SERVANT.] SERVANT Mrs Chang! Mrs Chang! There is a stranger at the gate, and he has the look of trouble about his person. He is smiling and whistling at the strangest things. Chou-chou the old pup came running up to him, biting his silks, and he smiled as if he were being licked and kissed! MRS CHANG He is too happy, for certain, whoever he is. The years are too evil for this lightness of heart. Fetch him in. I will discover his fancy plans and spit them out too; like these plum pits. [MRS CHANG spits out the pit of a plum she's been chewing into a lacquer dish. SERVANT escorts WANG WEN in. CHOU-CHOU is chew-chewing his pant leg.] SERVANT I am announcing a Mr Wang Wen. WANG WEN The seven austerity-slackening courtesies to you, dear lady. What name's this rascal go by anyway: Nevah-been-fed? MRS CHANG The thousand fanning how-dos due to a houseguest to you, Wang Wen. WANG WEN Thank you. May the bones of your ancestors never be played upon by your enemies. MRS CHANG Thank you. Why are you here, Wang Wen? I did not call you out yet. But like an irreligious owl who forgets his devotions in the dark, you come blinking to my house in this early daylight. WANG WEN The early thaw this year is uncustomarily gracious to travellers, and I am anxious to see the delights of the world. Even the most studious owl must sauce his books with sunshine now and again. And I was soon to be on my way to the imperial examinations anyway. So.... MRS CHANG What have you got there, under that sly smile? What are you doing grinning and walking in here as if you owned the town? WANG WEN I own myself. I guess that makes me happy. Not a lot to worry about, if you've only got yourself. MRS CHANG You are a poor boy, now that your father's dead. Your inheritance fell to your brother, who is off in the shipping business in Peking. WANG WEN I guess I came here to increase my sorrows and collect a wife promised to me before my birth. ---No matter, I'll honor my familial obligations. [CHIEN NU pokes her head into the doorway. She watches silently.] MRS CHANG Your politeness covers discourtesy. Stand there. Be silent. WANG WEN [Aside, looking at CHIEN NU.] I am watching her. Is she seeing my heart? CHIEN NU I keep my careful eye upon his hands, not regarding his face of moonlight unless he is turning away. This way, I keep my modesty. Oh, if he could only see how my thighs and eyes are wet with sick waiting beneath my embroidered silks and blue eyelids. MRS CHANG [Aside, to SERVANT.] What is to be done! His family's penniless! SERVANT He's got a cocky tilt to his head. The proverb is: Be bold in all things. MRS CHANG He's that, alright. WANG WEN Eyes, eyes, how shall you master this brightness? CHIEN NU Each day, I shall end my day swaled and scented in his dark, consoling silks. Yes! MRS CHANG [Sharply.] And you have not passed your exams yet. Is that right? WANG WEN The great mystery is before me. CHIEN NU I am so tenderly made, if he looks at me again with those oceans of his eyes, I shall dissolve! WANG WEN [Closing his eyes.] Eyes shut, mastering their darkness.... MRS CHANG Everything's too uncertain. My first obligation is to marry my daughter well and increase the family wealth. WANG WEN [Not bearing to look at CHIEN NU.] How is your daughter, Mrs Chang? She looks well. MRS CHANG Chien Nu! Take Wang Wen to see the garden. CHIEN NU Yes mother, right away. Please, sir, this way. [Exit WANG WEN and CHIEN NU.] MRS CHANG I've decided. No marriage until he passes his exams. SERVANT When he has the prize, he will be a prize, and Peking's embroidered ladies, who buzz the examination's chambers and with beetle-brows overlook the winner's list will attack his new carriage on the instant in the street like june bugs on a gorse bush, madam. MRS CHANG Still, I've decided. No turning back now. What else can I do, hmm? Damn it all. It's not easy being a widow and running things. You try it. SERVANT I am but a poor servant, and have no great household to run. MRS CHANG Nor any prospect to get one, like that. Stop your stropping back-talk, at once, or you could have the grandest roof of all --- under the stars. SERVANT I am silence. **** Top^

SCENE 2

[The garden.] CHIEN NU Our green garden is not so dour as my widowed mom. WANG WEN However dour, I see she is yet adorned by her daughter's heightened blossoms. CHIEN NU The love-eschewing yew breeds darkly in her eyes. Her stunted, wounded earth is gashed wide alive only to welcome cold coffins now. Even the bearded pinecone's winter seeds (accustomed to bring forth life in harshest seasons) are blown ungerminating across her lap of snow. She'll have no other children besides myself. Her dirt heart's gone under with the onion, spaded sourly beneath life's sweetness, layered away from our mutual doing light of day with bitter remembrance for her only company. WANG WEN There seems some wrongness in those so aloof (as a maiden bee that flies highest for her mating) that they from Nature's sweet open treasuries can receive no honied cup of succor for their peculiar thirst, although the honey is such that thrives the busy, common hive. CHIEN NU This sensual glade is yet a pleasant garden, and for all the world I know none greener to foster loving endurance and courage beyond the razing, raving times of grief. When summer's hushen heats proclaim the healthful virtues of this quiet place loud as whispers, where this sun-bussed bank of daylilies blows, such tiny trumpeting as sounds out of the azeleas' muted throats soundlessly aglow almost, until shy silence herself does seem to break her convent quiet and speak her matin prayers into the dawn, such triumphant trumpeting, I say, ---though silent as ashes else--- in my willing heart does find a hearing ear. And their beauty, their happy silent song I carry with me where I go. WANG WEN Strange story! What's the shadowy history of this horn-crowed garden abrupt with trumpets that find their choir in silences? This garden that in busy brightness is so loud against my eyes it shouts the rainbow back to a single color! What has caused this prismatic miracle to occur back in some dark stretch of place that I can't see the reasons now, and plain as burning, of how this singing garden takes the light so sunningly it outdoes the petalled flamings of the sun? CHIEN NU Here my father's buried, a spirit interred, that gives to common dirt a holy aura (for they say a dear death makes questioning Life more lucid for that afterlife's backlighting). Many cold gone dawns ago he broke his back upon his miller's waterfalling wheel and stopped their grinding gears with his grinding agonies. He screamed, as like to pierce the sky in which he hung, harmed and helpless above us.... And then he came pulled back to ground by six men (forever calm and sage in peaceful death as in roaring life he was agitated) to lay like a firstling leaf inside a unplucked bean in his lacquered box beside those tumbledown graves. O he is not so restless in perfect heaven now as to come ghosting down among us again in any form of visitation. No, we never see him at all, although I'd swear some acre of light in this garden knows him. And so my mom, guideless, assumes her more awful guises, frowning at strangers, and repeating worn advice like a pastor's long-memoried homilies, and stales her conversation. What masks we wear to visor our eyes from frank sunlight, hiding in our pretending skins! So she buries all her old hopes in old rituals again and again, inferring comfort from repetition. WANG WEN Lead me; let's walk a narrow furrow farther on unseeded by death. CHIEN NU Every inching step of life takes some print of poison as it goes-- WANG WEN And yet here what's buried does come again, and fragrantly inherits the air that closets us about. CHIEN NU True. The crocus bud no matter how often shovelled under always erects itself to find the spring again in fresh-gilded progeny, and stalks the new air first of all the flowers, although it is the earliest dier too. WANG WEN First in death and first in life renewed. CHIEN NU All mirror-backwards, this procession that might be as easy as life to life, and life to life again, lacking blank death's heavy intercession. But come; over there the weighty willow hangs in lofty ease, and makes even bouyant Spring an occassion for yawns and couches. WANG WEN It seems a pleasant way away. CHIEN NU Is it always the singing lesson of a fable to aria forth what artless nature shows us plain, and double in mirror-mangling singing the simple doings of simple nature thus? WANG WEN If we could tell ourselves a story as awesome as a sun-headed daylily peers (and in humble glory out-judges the wildflower field that hedges its soft nobility, adjourning all the meadow's mellow whispers with its sigh, in easiest happiness as ignorant as joy) so that merely to look upon its open hues or hear it shush the air that waggles it steals the laurel from our painters and leaves our poor panting poets breathless, why then, I guess we could fable our existence from a syllable, history roses with new scents, charm the sun to darkness with a black chant, river mysteries from a melting stone that first grew soft to hear us sigh, or any other catalog of impossiblities make true by the plangent puffing out of our sole breaths in the self-interrupted tossing cough of talk.... well, then we'd be a god and garden unto ourselves, and sunder thunder from its scariness with our kisses, make peace with the twisting agonies of death, know that all roads led home again, and never stir an inch, or desire aught, but that we already had it, and in quantity, in ourselves in this our place-- complete. CHIEN NU I myself am nearly told over in your telling and nearly convinced that such a power as lingers in the daylily has touched your lips and put some unused tongue of its mightiness into your very speech. I would that I could curl into your mouth and find myself reinvented in your breath. Speak again and I'll bend an ear to know if sassing nature does not silence herself to hear you. CHIEN NU[WANG WEN breaks off a willow branch, begins playing with it as CHIEN NU talks.] WANG WEN Chien Nu....hold this wily willow-wand a moment between your fingers. CHIEN NU I will. But why I should, I don't know. WANG WEN I myself will with continual grip apprehend this distant end, and between us will arise a rainbow of but one greeny hue touching us both. CHIEN NU Yes, I feel your hand, almost, within the tender writhings of the wand; it is a curious connection. WANG WEN And one in which nature is complicit, for she herself first shot forth the tie drawbridged between us by our different pressures. I would swear I have your pulse's measure in motion through the sap. CHIEN NU I too, almost, would swear the same. WANG WEN And here we are, without abridgement, our whole selves entire and with all the enterprise of our minds engaged using nature for our metaphor, our touch in transformation changing what is into what was not. How like a pair of autumn-dusted trees stand we, whose overlapping branches by continual nearness of quiet years in shared garden shade have grown together, making of two tough roots one gentle bough. CHIEN NU And that bough.... MRS CHANG [From offstage.] Chien Nu!! [The lovers are inclining toward each other, but at MRS CHANG's cry they accidentally break the willow switch.] CHIEN NU ....happy. **** Top^

SCENE 3

[Chien Nu's room, and the open road.] CHIEN NU Since our hands have parted, bitter fingers curl open as smoke, as empty. Vanishing to the horizon, my heart sighs for our hour in the garden, past times and harnessed laughter. Vanity! He shall not come. Not today. In the spring wind, the double gate knocks against itself: stone and iron, a terrible clanging. Wound about like the ivy, my hopes and sorrows together; grievy and drenched, I slip to stillness, my hempen shoes go mossy, and I wait. [We see WANG WEN walking along the road, to his boat.] WANG WEN Sorrowful plum-leaves grieve the road red; black branches mourn at their lightness. If only my arms were weighted-down with Chien-nu! How truly sad I am only a great architect can know. Planning one thing, I accomplish another, my designs become dusty memories of unlived utopias. Expectation cancels out reality, and I cannot be where I am. And yet, I must depart. Desolate sounds scurry out of these absences around me. My feet follow the road like strangers, each following the other out of mistaken hope that one or the other knows where they are going. [We see CHIEN NU in her room, mooning for WANG WEN.] CHIEN NU My heart is entranced with its own beating, my pulse is supported by thunder. Seeking love, I have doubled my sorrows. Now I shall try a remedy. Think of small things and narrow ways, my heart. Don't look at the sky too long, as if it were another shade of his eyes. Seek corners, confer with baby spiders about their miniature hangings, white portraits in obscure places. Fold into a chair and let the armrests serve as Earth's four corners. Let your nose out-scope the horizon. Quiet, quiet. Oh, to anchor my meditation in a sparrow's house and not among the wide world of his wanderings! My heart, be still. Condense, contract your fistings--- titter and hymn with the mouse, modestly, and all will be well. And yet, and yet.... I know; I will drink this yew-berry brew [[nurse had gathered in black lace stockings [[don't use]] with knowledgeable fingers plucking only the thundercloud-colored ones at midnight,]] and sleep, and have no dreams, for this potion kills imagination. [We see WANG WEN in his boat, paddling upstream.] WANG WEN Deep abiding flies from my heart. My white feet wander where they will. The ghost of Chien-nu visits the marshlands, her heaven's breath a freshness among all these rank things, her absent eye a beknighting diamond lighting the cage of stars that falls upon this heavy dusk, and I am lonely when her spirit stirs. How can this be happening? Why this aching and betrayal of joy and justice? Has my imperial wish to succeed and be a bride's man clouded the clear lake we were to sail, fracturing its clarity with this turbid dirtiness? [In CHIEN NU's room, we see a second CHIEN NU arise beside her bed, in ghostlike solemnity, and pace in peace through the window into the quiet countryside.] **** Top^

SCENE 4

[WANG WEN is drinking wine on the river, bitterly missing CHIEN NU. Her soul appears, they talk and embrace, they make wild love, and she dissolves as he goes to drunken sleep. He is wild with grief, but is overcome by desperate exhaustion.] WANG WEN Whatever's in immortality, that's not in this wine I declare insufficient to the causes of infinity. [Pause.] The time is gone a little by when I, a studious boy, threw down curious books to pull a blackeyed yew-berry through my hook and perditioned afternoons to pull up a trout. Night herself is losing her closeness, her darkness as I remember yesterday afternoon, which glows how strongly in my lit recollection. How simply she took her limpid tea to her tipping lips! [Pulling on his fishing-line.] My silvertongued hook pulls at the blackeyed yew-berries, dipping in triple-time to get a dripping fish. [Hoists up an active trout.] As hard to hold as a girl's attention! Chien-Nu! My muscular wriggler, how I have tried-on your whapping thighs in my whole heart's thought a million searing times already! Chien-Nu! CHIEN NU Wang Wen! How callous your hands looked as you left my side, your face open to the open window. How quickly you have leapt away! How barren my days and hours since, nothing in the garden to delight me, no walk but your steps echo after mine, empty and emptier. Now I stand, all soul, and move past riverbanks, sashaying through skirting mountains as if they were no more than magic lantern images thrown up in the theatre. Ah! If I don't make it to the riverbank by dawn-- how far will Wang Wen have floated! When will he race back to our sandlot on horseback, the wind prideful in his hair? Silent, faint, high and quick, my ghost-steps dissolve to frosted banks, walking the river's edge in tamped moonlight. A thousand mountains, a thousand streams, dash past my marauding eye, and are gone. Heart, heart, remembering the sad eyes that parted pair by pair, like gingying birds to distant nests. Sweat pearls against my aghast face, I race to his silent boat on the moorland, my hair gone a thousand ways in the air-stream. My faint feet are bruised with running. What tavern is he carousing at on the Chi Huai? Sudden horses, calm voices, night, night, indistinct commotion opens beyond these willows. My heart yatters at me-- speed, speed! Is that you beyond this solemn grove I've come to, beating on a ch'in board and dropping soaked lines for fish? Here will I crouch, and hear what the west wind brings. Insinuations of my love-- float through this torpor! Grass at the sand's edge is slick with frost, my green skirt hangs water-weighted to the ground, my steps heavy and drenched slip to stillness, my hempen shoes go mossy, and I wait. [The sound of a ch'in board being beaten is heard.] WANG WEN How like a picture is everything now to me! The bleak river at twilight, moon and moon in sky and on the river's flat: Heaven over my sad head and under my slow prow. How like an icy jar brimmed with water, a jade without flaw. On the far bank, a wild duck, green head and blue wing, whirls alone his evening colors. Dry vines tangle the darkness, old trees, ancient figures in the mid-dark, ravens accosting the dusk. Listen: the solo note of a flute, or is it a girl singing? Her tender timbre is like that of my Chien Nu. Is it you, Chien Nu? Chien Nu? Ah! how idle is my heart in this black. CHIEN NU [Singing.] Hear the lonely whippoorwill he sounds too blue to fly; if my heart can't touch poor whippoorwill, I'll be so blue I'll die. Softly, softly, whippoorwill, oh can you hear on the valley's blue and lonely rill, softly, softly, whippoorwill, my voice to yours is coming, dear, no need for sadness now. [We hear CHIEN NU singing.] WANG WEN Talking to ourselves, we hear another; introspection resolves into remembrance.... my tongue cannot tell a tale, but is caught kissing you-- the whole object and instance of its incessant wagging. CHIEN NU A thousand feelings have a thousand voices, and all of them sigh away like you on this river to me. Nearing happiness, we confront blunt dangers; sharpening our hearts for ecstasy, we bleed raw tears. Whichever way I turn, asleep or wandering wakeful your immortal countenance confronts me; I hail my nursemaid: Wang Wen! Talking to mom, I spot you laughing over her shoulder, making faces. When any feet approach me, first I hear your sandals, the sho-wood resounds with your coming and my heart knocks hollowly in time to the traffic. When I dash my face to my pillow in bitter disappointment, your face is already there, and I can smell you; Deep in my pillow you comfort the fresh onrush of my distorted tears. WANG WEN Is there some spirit left in flesh that I feel the winds' chill run thru my bones so, a march of air upon my skin, and a march of upright gooseflesh answering? [CHIEN NU comes in sight of WANG WEN.] WANG WEN Why are you here, and how have you come, dear thing, out of what darkness is this vision resolved flooding my fouled obscurities with light? I cannot see you without thinking myself too soon blessed with daylight; I who had thought it shut and dungeoned from his sensible being in the eons since our leave-taking. How, how, how, how, Chien-nu, are you here? CHIEN NU A desire asks me I seek not the reason; when a love that held me fast pulls me after, I go, were it even to damnation. WANG WEN But Chien Nu, how are you here? CHIEN NU Do not ask again, for I myself do not know. [They kiss, etc., etc.] WANG WEN Why this unspeakable clarity in the light's playfulness? Pleasure's leisure and simple lease thus rapturously released? CHIEN NU Our bodies fell into confusion when we asked for love. Felt apparitions of some drumming weather smote our bones, and now we arise skin-lashed from these matted grasses; WANG WEN Desire came, swift to enter, turbulent at egress, sessions' cessation, the met wept hands palpitant, tired, CHIEN NU worn smiles renewing laughter; WANG WEN our thrown robes unioned on the peach-branch, impatient for our bodies' return. CHIEN NU [Satiated.] Now I know my body's body, that shape wherein my imagination molds me. How does a tree hold itself up against the blue immensity? The watchword of root and branch, bole and soul is this: I dream myself a tree, and therefore come my buds pushing sugared airs away, sap and barking back hurl from seedling on to ancient limb and lightning'd hulk by the mute power of the dream's suasiveness, not otherwise. Were I to blink and think myself an agile fish nervous beneath the agate stream, a mere sixty white years, a death, a body's lapse, and I would wake re-sheathed in those glamours of new flesh, and gaze with sideswiped eyes at a world submerged; water-reeds would chasten my agitations; my slim fins would cling to air only for the dim length of a breath held, and I would die fossilized in the muds, my skeleton the dream's only remembrance of having been dreamed. Oh spirit, oh self! Give yourself the will to recall such a strength of dreaming when unconsciousness sets thee in thy sick-bed body again. Victim of this pernicious illusion never be again, nor drape your longings on so frail a hope as flesh. [CHIEN NU sighs and disappears.] WANG WEN Ah! how I am thrown, a rose into a furnace, and disappear in ashes. Eyes, curse yourselves to have gazed so longingly on love, to be revenged by its absence to this nullity of night! Hands, clump and curl, wither back to stumps of somethings, to have touched a radiance you are now denied. Oh every sense is by its saturation overthrown and burned when that fulfillment, though all unexpected first, slackens, and we roil lost in our new amplitudes of searing wants. My love's contestless softness sharpens every rearing dagger of that hurt which stabs me now. Uncoil, heavy soul! and into this shattering night disperse, as a campfire's disturbed smoke goes from greyness to nothingness beneath dull stars for your final gladness. Cheating Time has put all my tossing future in his bone sack and knotted the lot with the garrote-wire remembrance. Absence inflicts! Courage comes not to these empty hands nor recalling eloquence to these lips--- Oh nothing do I know, I know, except what from me slips; when even my shapeless shadow from my body falls, dissolute as night, how shall I rise to you, Chien-Nu, my shut light? Top^ ****

SCENE 5

[Chien-Nu, stirring awake in her sick-bed.] CHIEN NU A miraculous moment.... NURSEMAID Here's gingsing, a spice to brighten wide recalcitrant eyes and ease them into day; and here's tea, to uncrumple a stomach fed on nothing but a fever-pallet's madnesses --Ach! what a ferocious crowd of hours you've spent in the naked solitude of sleep! CHIEN NU An exquisite minute.... NURSEMAID Three days a-bed; not even in my howling youth did I maelstrom the bedsheets so! CHIEN NU There was a storm pouring toward us from the horizon's crescent when I passed from daylight to my private dark. NURSEMAID And your hair is all a storm of tangles, lady, as if the city of your virginity had been sacked by handsome Mongols all these starry days thru. Well, there's a story I could maybe tell you: but dark eyes keep their secrets and twinkles longest, honey. Ach, enough! CHIEN NU Has the storm harmed aught in the orchard? NURSEMAID Swill to the level of the laurel-daubed inner decoration on this proffered cup, my bug. There, there! Your hair's a little less like a wild galaxy now. CHIEN NU Is it day or night out? Whenever my eyes close out the cloistering tapestries of this room, and these hanging gazelles bound beyond my being's business for one second, I see him, I see Wang Wen, stretched in ecstasy on a pallid riverbank, the near grass melted back from its frost-freshness by some plenitude of his dreaming tears. Ah! Wang Wen! This love-sickness is killing, my crushed chest an aching whirlpool among your bruise-black torrents. [MRS CHANG enters.] MRS CHANG Do not drown in such nothings, darling. I know we treasured imperial hopes of his appointment; such apportionment may be ours one day, or it may not. Sigh away your breath too long, lithesome one, and one day it shan't come back. NURSEMAID Oh, my poor possum; upside down, and unconscious with dreaming when the day is busy beneath you! CHIEN NU I cannot stand to lie unalive without him one drugged moment longer! The cures I need are stronger, ladies, than the soups and roots you proffer me. Wild lightnings in dragging air, Wang Wen! Come touch forever what cannot be possessed! Caress an indomitable thigh, and tongue a woman's heart damned to interminable daylight without you. Oh, those words, those crow-moans, without you! Where's the root of a longing purloined from the gods? I thieve ecstasies from your too-absent face, Wang Wen! MRS CHANG Appalling, this bitterness. [Aside.] Nursemaid, double her dosage. I'm scramming to get the old priest. He'll tie her spirit in a knot so she cleaves here, and to us, once again. NURSEMAID Oh, my poor possum. CHIEN NU Since our hands met in a last goodbye, all's vanity and is vain; sight, that comprehends him not, vanity, ears that hear him not, vanity, touch that touches him not, nor is touched by him in sweet return, vanity; eyes that close to a darkness absent him, vanity, eyes that open on a world unseeing of him, vanity, lips that open and kiss him not, vanity, my dumb tongue that may taste no remembrance of him, vanity, vanity, vanity, vanity. Every sense is emptiness without him, and yet Bhudda-enlightenment escapes me! Sure the bitterest cheat in life is leave-taking. The thrush knocks not against the abyss of night when her lover dove is snared in the hunter's net with one note more of longing, than I. When I speak, my breath is limp, no force follows my utterance, nor am I heard. Inside myself, I am too weak to concentrate. When I lie down, I cannot fall together enough to even sleep. Fine wine is bread paste against my palette; spiced things come to my tongue tasteless, not even their effervesce survives. Medicine's effectless; no cure emancipates me. I know well when this hidden ill began, when his face evaporated from my approaches, I dreamed, and his arms held me not, I fell to the ground, hard on a tilted hip, and he was gone. If I am to be well again, it will not be until full sight of him is restored to me; my sundered senses re-soldered, my million divisions viced to singleness and glued. One minute, I am sheer lead, nailed to the bed, the next instant, I am floating over the roof, viewing ruined landscapes that contain not him. Next, all is clear, I am myself again, my body my body--- then all is confusion again, I float unroofed, rootless, aghast in terrible airs, black winds, endless night, stretched agony, my unattached spirit searches past each infinity blisses get mixed with heart-stabs, ecstasies moil with rotten longings, diamonds flash to ashes in my uninhabited chest, I seek, and seek again, invisible, fragrant, dispersed, all Eye and no eye, and I cannot tell the Heaven from the Earth. [CHIEN NU falls asleep.] MRS CHANG Child! Wake up! CHIEN NU Sick already, what new sickness wakes me to appall? Is it my death? Come, black charger, and let the dark thunder of your monsterous hooves consume my aching soul away! I am faint, faint, a disappearing ink under thy trim nib, and am nearly cancelled from the lists of life. This flustering weakness that I feel can be nothing else than sweet Death hurrying near, kneeling to take his incisioning kiss. MRS CHANG The priest is here; he's to heal your soul. CHIEN NU And if my soul is elsewhere, on what shall he lay a hand to effect a cure? MRS CHANG I send for Wang Wen. I'll send somebody to ask him to come back. Pass or fail, I'll have him come here. Perhaps seeing him will fix you up. CHIEN NU Too late for your regret, your repentance, Mrs Chang. Death has made me his mistress, and I am charmed a little by is forthright solemnity; he's a sad child holding forth his one cherished clump of posies, how could I refuse him? MRS CHANG Survive, child! He laughed at everything, and now to see how you grieve and wither. It's, well, its sore to me. CHIEN NU I close my eyes and find happiness. I see him. Wang Wen! PRIEST Stop it, child! You are not to talk this way and aggravate your case. Until Wang Wen is returned to the precinct, you must rest and let others pray for you. CHIEN NU I see from your grave habiliments, Mr Priest, that you have endured a thousand deaths, a thousand ends, held the hands of mourners by the ditch-edge until tiredness brought oblivion to mourning; what's one more slip-up, one less human remaining still all a-stir above the dust that engulfs us? PRIEST Dominae sanctum, tortoise purposum. CHIEN NU I am touched with a burning hand; My life is in my mouth, my mouth ingests the sky. Love falls to sickness in this wicked world, like yesterday's drunk-high, asleep under the spring willow, like cattails a-whirl over the meadow-path, swallows lofting the east wind, vaulting the pavilion small as childhood beneath them. I am young and I am cast away. I can't recover myself. Who cares about one's youth when one is in possession of it, even if one is throwing it away? Perfect days go shunting blindly by; my longing blossoms darkly, sadness increases, frost on the loved bud, blight against beauty. The larks offer a most charming intensity, their lyric chunks against a wood head, my own; Nature delights herself in display, not me. Simple sounds startle my sorrowful heart. Let me die today, avenging grief by shortening its tortures. Let me die while Spring is whistling its merriment outside and my argent soul may follow awhile fleets of flying flowers. PRIEST Dominae sanctum, prolixus verbaenum, verbosus. CHIEN NU I am struck down, if I am struck down, half human, half a ghost. Oh, go away, and let me sleep. Top^ ****

LAST SCENE

WANG WEN I sit, and with concentrated brush put my flung tongues on the calligraphy paper fluttering under my flat palm here. Soon I shall pass or fail these travailing exams. My conscience is scrupulous as the wax that hold the wick, a condensing tightness of melting colors hungering themselves liquidly around a flame. What shall be the outcome of all this light and smoke? Total happiness, or misery unendurable? All holds to its purpose; my mind is firm and my hand turns to this effort alone. I shall not wander from my scholarly concentration nor discourse with any darting dreams of Chien Nu while I make this exam cubicle my ruminating room. All thoughts, marshall to mastery! Confucian mysteries sing! Knowledge hard-won and encoded, see here, chirrup when I carol you! [CHIEN NU appears.] CHIEN NU Come and burn with might and immenseness! Throw down your books, your lives, and fly! This empyrean stream invites an everlasting life, an aching socket for transcendental fire. Come, come, my one, my desire, my flame and fame, eternity echoes emptily for me without your name! WANG WEN Chien Nu! CHIEN NU Look, your hand is cramped with knowledge, your future life a tense battle of expectations, myself prime among them. Help me throw both your hand and your hurt away forever. WANG WEN Chien Nu, you must tell me, how are you here? CHIEN NU I remember the river. I came. I am all at my spirit's lifeless bidding now, and have but one hanging body's fragment of myself dying abed back home. My body's dying, immolated in a fever; it was too weak a thing to touch so strong a desire as mine for long. My insistent spirit discards its lilac casing and soon will blossom against the gasping stars alone. WANG WEN To die, to cease. You ask this of me, you invite me to my own destruction? In such a hurricaning leavetaking, love, what simple willow wand could stand assured that it would whip back to the mate that left it amid such hurried circumstance and rush of death, in such an overwhelming wind? CHIEN NU None, my love. WANG WEN None. None, none at all? CHIEN NU No, my love. Not a single assurance may slipstream from my ghost-mouth now, all drawn to you and the truth. And yet, I ask. Come to me, die to me, my love. WANG WEN My body's a tissue against wishes so strong! CHIEN NU Then flash it to a thinness of ashes and step these airs and fires your breath insists I inhabit. WANG WEN There is an adoring glory in this agony I embrace to taste you again, Chien Nu! CHIEN NU How can there be agony in a flesh dismissed to inexistence by our twinning wishes? WANG WEN Is there a human summation in this finish? CHIEN NU Never, never, never, and never! There's only us, silvertongue. WANG WEN Chien Nu.... CHIEN NU But step to this certain synergy, sweet sweet one, and all's a tasteless ecstasy tongue's absence makes. Divine the radiant choice you uplift in joy to take and all else swirls away from you into 'below.' Here, first burn your exam. There. It is easy, see how the light takes the paper? WANG WEN I see. I see. CHIEN NU So shall it be with you. A touch of immortality and all your mundaner self will wither and resolve to such a miniature sun. WANG WEN A sun. A day I shall never see. CHIEN NU A central intensity, certainly. My dear, here, give me some dark lock of your hair. [WANG WEN cuts off some of his hair, hands it to CHIEN NU.] CHIEN NU A handful of raven's feathers. It is well. There. See? It is you I burn here, and it is not you. How easily will the rest fade to this spirit's lightness. Do you see it going up and up, the drifting smoke, while the flared hair all vanishes at the line of the brightness? WANG WEN I see. I see. CHIEN NU Take this oil lamp's instructive illumination, now, and pound it open upon the coarse reed mat. WANG WEN Shall I do this? [WANG WEN takes the lamp and smashes it upon the floor. All goes up in immense flames of destruction.] WANG WEN I can barely speak into this black brightness: spoken floods of germinal loves choke black, underlit by your wordless countenance's unifying perfection. Look, the fire talks along my ink-stained robe, all whispers and insistence; its not too late to snuff them to deafness.... Oh, Chien Nu; oh I long to be with you! And yet my heart, like a double-drawn bow that has two arrows fletched and at the ready, one marked white for life, and the other black as death, I would live and die at once. I'd have both arrows knock against the rattling target. Desires spike my anxious limbs, and a rain of heavy nails, my devouring fears, frame liaisons with this flesh, entangling neurons against my spirit's unbinding willingness to die, and so live with you. Oh the strings are at my back, and I am prepared to fly all ways at once. CHIEN NU All ways move my way always. WANG WEN My heart is dense. Why do these motivating tensions of a free will tied to my body's estate harp on their unknotting as my own loose end? Must it be so? CHIEN NU Will it be so? WANG WEN Have your spirit's revelations becalmed these aching wires of unknowing that burn within my chest, pulled tight in anxious apprehension of my future state? What will happen to me? Shall we meet on the other side, to picnic upon that dread and death-rich turf as carelessly as children after school? Or shall I ravel back the whole, sweet fruit of my life to one dark, shucked skull teneting an unhosed hole? Shall I die to be free? CHIEN NU Shall you? WANG WEN I do not know I do not know I do not know! CHIEN NU Move to me; as light must beckon light, I ask. Dearest, the conflicting flames that your body throws but backlight your more incandescent soul. Sweet let the light I am indite the darkness that your kneeling body crimps to feel; one touch and all's a raiment rayed in peals of laughing light where not one shadowed echo of a shadow goes. Move to me; as cool water tempers a burning bone, let my love's assuring peace and quiescent licence touch some momentary quaver of yourself, sweetness, where no fleshly feeling, precursing ecstacies, goes. I gospel a romance that shuns infirm grace, devouring reticent roses in its holy, violet spires of spuming firelight once held in living vision's sparse intensity. You die, and that which once had moved and loved only on the lowly, sodden earth, restless for intensities, now all in one glory resides among the rafting fires of eternal shine. WANG WEN Have I done this? CHIEN NU Yes. END NOT USED: The day fall off to badness, and time starts to see its own bedraggled face in eternity. Would you have all your golden corn robbed, gnawed to a raw cob? WANG WEN Powerful over the prow of my unsteady self came this unmastering impulse MRS CHANG Well, Wang Wen is on the road. He must return with the imperial stamp on his lolling forehead, or no Chien Nu.
Jul 082020
 
Racy adaptation/theft of Sophocles' lightning-lit play 'Electra.'

 A VERSE TRAGEDY

 SCOLDING SOPHOKLES' ELECTRA

 TO A NEWNESS



       ULTRA

       renewed by

       GREGG GLORY


People spend their lives trying to exercise control
  over others, or trying to give up control of themselves.

No philosopher eats his metaphysics.

All material education consists of learning how to manipulate this or that:
Hands On.
All spiritual instruction can be said to consist of the injunction: Hands off!


 KLYTIE       the Old Bitch
 AEGIE        the Lover Boy
 CHRYS        the Bullshitter
 ULTRA        the Whiner
 ORESTES      the Young Bastard
 TEACH        the Old Fuck



Top^


ULTRA'S FIRST STATEMENT TO THE AUDIENCE

ULTRA I stand naked in front of you. I can't lie to you for one second. This is my story you will see. I see it as one of redemption, Justice. But how you will see it, my thousand eyes transfixing this darkness, I do not know, and I cannot say. I only know that you have entered it, my story. You will feel it in my blood as I feel it. I do not accept that any distance can exist between us. Not any distance in space. Not any distance in culture. Not any distance in time. Not any distance in language. Not in blood. Not in hope. You are me, in this. Who you will be afterward even you do not know. I stand naked in front of you. I can't lie to you for one second. Oh, my thousand eyes, my thousand eyes.... Top^

SCENE ONE

[ORESTES and TEACH among high rocks.] ORESTES Vision is tested at these rocks. Visibility nil. Anxious air. A mist hazarding the white peaks, all blasted and devoid of any flourishing touch of nature. Seems to have been for all time, this bareness, this timelessness. Was it always like this, Teach? TEACH Long as grown boys have attempted to repeat the careful words their fathers tried to tell them while they crawled; a long time, maybe. ORESTES Dawn's obscured. Night's infiltrations linger. Tell me: at daybreak, when christened by the uninterrupted glory of the sun, how is it then, this land beneath me? Doesn't burn then like the visioned Justice? TEACH Nope. Stays bleak like it is now. Same bleakness held in front of men's eyes. ORESTES No change from shade to sunlight? What a parable on inconstancy these changeless rocks reveal. Hold still, heart, and let a steady purpose roll you to a rock that may run these mazes unamazed and find the finish you imagined at the start. Say, that marketplace over there, in that ditch of rock, resembles what you told me about the Lukeum; but is that it? Is that the Lukeum, Teach? TEACH Used to be. The wolf-god Apollo charmed the spot, but the spell's faded. Only traders and merchantmen bare their canines to each other there now. ORESTES That's right. And that big temple on the left, what's that? Got to be Hera's holy place, right? TEACH Right. Everybody's heard of that place. The wife of Zeus, and she can bitch your fate if you're not careful. Jealous of her rites and due praises, she is. Like any wife. ORESTES Then we must be near where my father landed home from the war. Is that scythe of beach it? TEACH Damn, but you've licked up your learning. That's it. ORESTES And down below this curve of earth I see busy Mycenae, a trade capitol, barterers for all things gold; whatever human ingenuity deems transposable, there is bought and sold. A wind's chasing up from the enfolding ocean; it steals the soft mist from the hillside. TEACH Salt tang in the sniffing air here, very full, very full. Salt preservative keeps meats eatable, and many things past disuse. These grievances we carry, salted by our care, come to an appropriate port. ORESTES Now it stands clear in glittery miniature, there, in a thin wrinkle of the mountain, white as any bone, Pelops' palace, my home. I was born in that fleck of light. TEACH That's where I picked you off your dad's bloody body. Had you straight from your sister's hands, you know, and packed us into exile. ORESTES Yes. That's where the murder was done. A dirty story. TEACH Time's helped us circle back to your Dad's wet footsteps, from Trojan blood-sweats to this cliff; war-exhausted, war-driven, war-enduring, he limped here, thinking only of home and his sweet wife. ORESTES Damn her. TEACH And she's still your mother. Nothing simple in looking at her and putting the knife through. Braver than you have gone weak, a failed hand spatting away tears and not mopping up blood-stain; so swallow hard before you start. This business requires a finish, not a botch. ORESTES Let her maternity rot with her stinking bones in eternity. TEACH All the rites must be obeyed. ORESTES Kill her! TEACH Prayer insures good luck and success. ORESTES Fuck her! TEACH First, go to your Dad's tomb, pray, get the gods on our side. ORESTES I'll bury her! TEACH Give over with the proper libations and all that. ORESTES Dawn has come in blood-floods. Enough clear light to see my mother's face by. [TEACH hands ORESTES a dagger.] TEACH Here's a mirror for that face. A gift from a loving son to a mother beloved. ORESTES She will see herself in this. TEACH Fifteen years walking here, and this your last chance to wrestle back thy primacy of place, get the glory your Dad intended should be yours. Fifteen years the length of wait imposed by law, remember, before contested kingships cement to certainties. ORESTES These hourglass laws shape our acts, each sand grain ticking us forward to what's next. TEACH The process, the process, all things change but that, the way learned things get stuck in your head and stay there, make you do what you've got to, the process always staying the same, men performing acts boys get spanked for, seen it forever, women growing into their mothers, same belt cinched about fresh hips, Fate binding all things close that'd fray and rot otherwise. No forgetfulness in nature baby acorn rising into an oak, and not otherwise, flimsy birch seeding-out like offspring, spacious grapes shooting out tendril after tendril and every vintage tasting the same, or near enough, same stock same result. Vengeance dawns, and a human day grows up; wrap your man-sized sinews in veined revenge around the killer's throat! All the things I've seen, I've taken to nursing hatred, see the sense of getting even, nursed a solid hatred in your tenderness, boy, since from your father's peaceful garden you were bodily ripped. I thumbed the seed of your selfhood in new dirt, but loved it with the old blood, the old stories raining down day and night to bloom in dreams as evilly as nightshade. Sweet the scent! Baleful moon, nacreous sun, loom over all our plans, our hopes! [ULTRA wails or shrieks.] TEACH What high wailing was that? ORESTES A shrieking ghost. TEACH Restless dead. We came for them, and for the living also, settle the old scores, right things up in the gods' eyes, make some sense out of the fate we're doled. Some unquiet shade may be about. ORESTES Let's find out. TEACH No, no. Due sacrifice first, first business for you to go out on. Hike on over to your Dad's spot, pour the libation, quiet things down on the other side. I have to go into town and deceive the slaughterers. Nobody'll be looking for you if they're convinced you're dead. ORESTES All right. Top^

SCENE TWO

[ULTRA, at palace steps] ULTRA Sorrow! Sorrow hard-bitten and unending; grief's mountains do not yield to sun's kiss, all heavenly redemption in living love's cancelled, gentle rains by bitterness are gripped each tear turned to frost-nail, increasing the unendurable mountain, dark weight added to blackness; the grief, the grief! O father, o father, fallen between the still pillars of our miserable house; you, who raised them up crumpled like trash at their feet, wild with weeping, war-stoniness gone out of you, screeching for mercy, your man's voice out of register, hysterical through your gray beard, thinking to end your days in kingly peace. But, see, Aegisthus stands fast above you, ax across his shoulders brass-sharp as sunlight, inevitable as nightfall, in his grin no tinder of mercy, only lust-sparks burning for the rose-hipped bed, the sex of your wife! Your bed, your bed defiled! How many times? I conceived there, and my brother also, soft words in the house when we were growing up, how many caresses saw I and Orestes, saw us flow between you and your caroling wife, father and mother harmonious as sun and moon all the days of our childhood, bringing us up to love the gods and accept what's given. Ah God! Ah me! Grief! Grief! Night after night tearing my heart out, each star a rip in my skin, forcing light where I can barely abide midnight. Father, you are with me; the stars hurt us, I cannot look within any longer, all there is devastation, coal-black ruin, loving memories sharpened to tortures, blank space where a million joys had resided. [Pause.] And down whirled the ax. I saw it fall a thousand times before it fell. A million times every hour since that hour. Brains spattered everywhere, and a body on the flat stone, the life gone elsewhere, just a body there, a human body, a ruined thing disastered on the pavers; all life flown. And nobody else in this house seems to mind. [ ULTRA goes very near the entrance unseen. CHRYS is arranging flowers on a table in the palace.] KLYTIE How wonderful. What wonderful flowers now grow here. Thank you, Chrys. Don't you think they're wonderful, Aegisthius? Wonderful, wonderful. CHRYS You'll make me blush. ULTRA [Aside.] Ought to blush, in shame, damn shame, living with your father's slayers this way, bringin' 'em flowers, doing small chores, small things, keeping things fresh over the gravesite, while our father rots in Hell. O neglected shade, rise up, with all the earth gowned about you! All the air shall take up your vengeful measure and cry with your cry in a single heave: Death to Klytemnestra and Aegisthus or else in this hard world there is no Justice. CHRYS I grew them myself from dry discards. I gathered at tranquil dawn from rock sills dew-drops to water 'em every day. It's not impossible to keep any place looking new, no matter how it's used. Nothing's impossible with the right attitude. ULTRA O sisters' blood, that flowing from such opposite hearts can find no common good! I must find my father's grave, and interr my spirit there for some time of meditation and plain quiet. [Exit. Sits down near steps.] KLYTIE Don't you think they're wonderful, Aegisthus? AEGIE It's an absolute miracle, my dear. KLYTIE Wonderful, wonderful. CHRYS See you at dinner. KLYTIE Thank you, my daughter. [Takes off earrings and hands them to CHRYS.] And here, take these, a little gift, a silver thank you. It's a bull calf and a pregnant ewe, sacrificial stock, and handcrafted too. Silence. Enjoy them. [CHRYS dawdles unseen near the door.] KLYTIE Chrys is such a nice girl. AEGIE Not like that Ultra. KLYTIE She's a scratcher, that one of mine. AEGIE She doesn't seem fully enclosed by her own skin, itching at everything like that, feeling everybody's hurt worse than they do themselves. KLYTIE It's all just slights against her, the way she sees it, whole world against her. AEGIE And now the lovers are alone in the room. KLYTIE And to think, a little deed of death and all this was made over to us. AEGIE Come to bed. KLYTIE Here's the marriage altar so recently soaked. AEGIE His blood warms us. KLYTIE My Agamemnon's blood! Who knew how much there was, how much there could be, running to the bed-edge in waves of blood, getting between the cracks in the masonry, making every sure footstep slipshod. AEGIE I remember the act. I put the ax squarely through his brains and don't regret it. KLYTIE Oh Aegie, you wicked wicked darling, to do all that for me. AEGIE I'd do it again and again. [They kiss.] AEGIE One last round of negotiations with our neighboring states and all shall accept our rule of Mycenae as legal. KLYTIE But what about Ultra? She throws her voice as if she had arisen bearded from the grave, crying out to every visiting dignitary: "My father! my father! You trade with his killers! Can't you trade in justice just this once?" It makes their consciences almost as heavy as their purses. AEGIE We're in the clear, the fifteen year moratorium expires today. They've heard her claims,-- who hasn't?-- but if they were going actually do anything about them, about her snipping out, they'd have done it by now. And once they are finally assured that business, all business, will proceed as usual, with a little extra thrown in maybe here and there, the ghost of Agamemnon, and all of his old mercantile ties, will have been severed. Then we shall be able to settle down to a prosperous reign. KLYTIE Oh Aegie, it's just that... that.... AEGIE What is it, dear-heart? Come and tell. KLYTIE A vision has interrupted my night each night these last seven nights. Nightmare or hallucination, I don't know which to call it. All I know is I feel insubstantial when I wake, as if I were the imaginary thing, and not this horror imposing itself on me. Only in your arms am I myself again, gelled together enough to allow my throat to speak what my dreaming eye has seen-- the dread continent my drowsy heart has undertaken to visit. First time, that night of absolute silence, I could hear my heart telling lies in the silence. My blood coverlet was soaked when I woke. The quiet windows looked in on me, howling. Never thought I'd close my eyes again, clutching the amphora. And you so quiet next to me, a solemn air of vigorous detachment, breathing to breath, with no thoughts or fear about you; I, shaken with apprehension, touching the cold stone floor with my cheek as if fevered, your hand a normal warmness when I climbed back into the bed. That was the night after the big storm that took out part of the fig grove, and the dream-- well, I don't remember any of it. But that fear, a heart-hammer, that was something else. Two more nights I woke up like that, straining to orient myself on starlight, see the constellations, make sure I was in the same universe I had departed at bedtime. Fourth and fifth night I didn't sleep at all, trying to make the best of my fear, going over all of our doings with hard thought, retraced our steps with a clear head, arrived at the same conclusion as before. Still, each night, a trembling washed over my frame, like moving through a sheet of icicles and leaving skin behind on the points. We had to kill Agamemnon, had to, killing my girl that way for a whore, and our love so new, so real, giving me a human hope. The sixth night was a hellraiser, I'll never erase it from my mind, its in there, boiling away as furiously now as when it first erupted in my sight. I dreamed I stood alone in pure sunlight, a cross-breeze from the sea at my feet and all the land about me drenched in light. And the scepter of power was there, golden, in my hand, holding forth from my fist like a second sun and I tell you I felt at peace right then, seeing everything beneath me peaceful and prosperous. I was as white as Artemis, and nothing could touch me. Then it came-- ooooo-- that feeling chiming my ribs and turning my heart molten; I felt fever-weak, and the sunlight didn't abate, what I wouldn't give for a cool drink, my arms like a scarecrow's without the straw. I rolled my eyes every which way to see what was sneaking up on me-- but there was nothing, nothing! And all this time dread whining in my ears like a spool of wire being zipped out at top speed. I took the scepter in both hands and whipped it around in the emptiness, slashing at air until I stumbled, touching the dust with my open palms. And that's when I saw it --ooooo --that hem unmistakeable in sunlight, the cresting pattern handstitched in gold, wave on wave circling around to swish at my face abject in the dust. I didn't want to look up, but my eyes lifted of their own volition, and in truth I saw a resurrected Agamemnon standing, hands on hips, above me. And my heart failed, and black tears blotted him out. Then last night, after wine, my eyes failed and sleep entered me. There he was against the sky, same as before, grim as before, impossibly real. But now my idle hands gripped, as pulsing worms will curl and uncurl in the dirt. Idle hands discovered the discarded scepter, gripping it, arising to my knees with an airless scream, for no sound issued at my mouth, but all was most secret, most silent, and most still, even as when the murder had been done that threw Agamemnon revivified to my dreams. With the strength of ten living Agamemnon's did his apparition appall. My heart condensed, a strychnine of fear sealing it shut against all feeling operation. I hunched back from his terrifying face, eyes all fire in the unnatural face. Silent accuser! I was thrown to my confused essences, and I spat back! The scepter hissed into his chest, his face-- that I had kissed how many times!-- crushed itself into lines of astonished agony and as the scepter sunk to mid-chest, as I shoved its golden node through a heart I remembered had emboldened a thousand acts of courage, that face became transparent as an acid bath will show clear the skull within the corpse. He tottered at the shock. And every tottering emboldened my resolve, and I shoved, and I shoved, till he on his knees was placed, till he flung spattering with his last gasp to earth, and sunlight strong as truth over all. I stood back from the ghastly exhibition, smilingly alive, the thunder in my chest a drum of victory, and him all asprawl. The scepter, as you know who bears it most often, is delicately made, fine leaves and vines entwining a solid rod, as a sign of fruitfulness, a mellow hope encoded for the glory of the state. In this dream-light each leaf had glittered sharply, stood from its next nearest leaf in prim distinction, sharp as light, each goldenly alone. These leaves then, as I had noted, so sharp, so bright, turned all dull at once and lost themselves in a new profusion of that single stem. The rod increased in girth, branches and arms of long wood shot out from a tree suddenly grown tall out of the hole in Agamemnon my determination had created. Before two thuds of my heart had gathered together and gone, this tree covered all of Mycenae, and shaded dry valleys with sweet fresh globes of some golden fruit an infant could reach and pluck for sucking. AEGIE These vague makings of hallucination bear no force of fear for us. Dear, dear, wind your mind like a tightended bow bent to the final target, and now, even now, our destiny will fly to its center mark without obstruction. KLYTIE Oh Aegie, it's just that... that... AEGIE What? Do you believe in gods and ghosts and all-that-kinda-shit? Because I don't. Never have, never will. They ain't what got us here, honey. You know that. You know that. Whatever we did is whatever got us wherever we are. And right now that wherever's a not too disappointing status quo. KLYTIE I know. It's just that.... AEGIE The reading of your dream is simple: Out of Agamemnon's death, we shall flourish. Time's come nearly past due for our fifteen year's attendance to this orchard to bear some fruit that we can eat. KLYTIE Oh Aegie, it's just that... that... AEGIE What? That Ultra? Once we produce an heir she'll be considered as nothing more than the minor annoyance she always was. KLYTIE Yes, but until then.... The amount of talk that pours through that girl! And every raving cry a call that "just one act of Justice be done." AEGIE Once I have the sworn understanding from Athens and Sparta that our rule is legitimate, fixed in the common sight of law, as this fifteen years expired will make it we can have her exiled to some no-account town where she may wail to her heart's content. KLYTIE And no one's dignity's offended. Well and good. O Aegisthus! You are wonderful! AEGIE We must sort a life out of all this chaos we have courted, or else what will have been the point of any of it? [AEGISTHUS crosses to door.] AEGIE And make a libation, that should put off the gods. [CHRYS races past ULTRA, who is a bundle of rags.] KLYTIE Is it impossible to want as much as I want? Does desire, which shapes us, mar our faces? Do two lovers rut snarling, like dogs? Have I been undone by accepting the reality of my own feelings and wishes? I thought what I thought, and wanted what I wanted. Infinite came those final feelings, infinite that wish that provoked them in my heart! ULTRA [Aside.] Your heart? Excrement! KLYTIE Such fresh air! Subtle mist, buff of pewters blunting the rockspar, obscuring, curing such harshness. I have my grand house, and I rule it. I have my young fuck in the old bed, my father's betrothal gift, satin sheets and all, and I rule him too. No ghost, no guilts! [Laughs.] And the birds come to freshen my doorstep with the clarity of their singing, my only judges, as if I'd made a better place for singing than their blue-varnished heaven! No. No songbirds this morning. [Notices ULTRA.] I might have known. Damn you, Ultra, out here shitting on the stoop again? Talking to the birds? Chased away by your caw I've no doubt. God how you grate! "Killed, killed, killed! Doesn't the world know how my father's brains were spilled right here where I keen, blue turds all over the walkway? And injustice smells worse than death...." Blah, blah, blah. And you condemn me with a spitting mouth to the hissing gossips of the neighborhood; you make complaints upon my virtue who are the first issue of it breechment! Is not a woman born to be loved? And am I not a woman, mated and in her house, obeying all the proprieties of the town, circumspect in everything, in nothing overzealous or unseemly, but chaste of face when a calm front is called for, making sweet oblations to the dear dead? Even now you see me walking with my wine headed for your father's hellacious rockpile, and after all the wrongs he done me! Leaving me alone so young, a widow in all but name, chafing myself at home, nothing to do but keep things tidy until he got back from that stupid war. Going across the seas for another woman, as if there weren't cause enough at home for him to lift his sword. A paltry relique it was when he came back with it, dangling between his leathery old grieves. A bolt of rust and not much else, I'll tell you! Hmm, well, enough of that. I'll start sounding like you-- in another year or two, if I keep it up. And you know I had just cause in killing your father. Who I did kill, I'll admit. ULTRA Yes. Who you did kill, you'll admit. KLYTIE Oh, Justice was at my back, Justice held my blade hand steady. O how I did prompt my new lover's manliness to the task! Nothing but righteousness could shell his heart with hard enough a determination to perform so ugly an act in light. And I had cause enough, oh I had cause! ULTRA Cause enough to kill. KLYTIE Remember little Ipphy, your sister, the other, the younger, setting sail to war? Gods in a whirlwind came down to the deck demanding her sacrifice in lightning, or else no Helen for Menelaus, uncle Menelaus who'd take used goods and send ten thousand to their deaths to get 'em, too. And your father, the great war leader, sweating before the cloud-face, not facing his men; clean in his conscience to kill her, to kill your very sister! Ah God, God, what bloody hours I groaned on her birth night to get the little wriggler out of me! Your father sighed and fell asleep when she was concieved. Made on this same wine I'm bringing to his ditch today, to spill. If out of the raving madness of the sea your dead sister could manage a voice, what would she say about him? Your Dada? Not as you cry would her aggrieved ghost cry, nor would render your father's sad accounts on my overburdened back. I'm too old to live with such cruelties anymore. Let your hard words harp against the dead, and let the living live. Put the blame where it belongs. ULTRA [Aside.] My tongue is a knife, and will part your heart soon enough. [Aloud.] I notice the cunning escape-work in the way you talk, letting onto truth by implication, and sideways, but directly saying nothing at all. Yes you killed him, but there was no justice in splitting that noble man like a hamhock, no respect, and him the founder of our lineage; can't have offshoots if the roots are plucked up. No blossom in the dry air, damp earth sweating to conceive to no purpose, the firm white seed removed by evil hands; I can't hang crucified in the air and have you sound me out like a treetrunk. Ain't gonna happen. My new roots require blood. KLYTIE Split him to the spine, and still not enough blood? Revenge ain't no way to justice, no how. ULTRA Lust-sweat won't help you skid to a steady stop, and that's all the reason you killed Dad anyway. KLYTIE Shut your whore-mouth. Shut it now. ULTRA Ain't gonna happen. You asked me to talk, so I'll rumble my bellyfull. Ain't often I get a chance to say what's eating me and have you do anything besides curse and walk away. KLYTIE All right then, all right. ULTRA [Misperceiving for another 'shut-up!'] No! No, you listen to me. You listen. If you'll make my dead sister stand witness to your crimes as reqium, then I'll gladly prosecute. Ten thousand men, you numbered them were locked airless between Illium and Troy, no way to stir the breakers in their direction, endless flats of water, tedium endless, grey-green and no let up in sight, 1o,ooo terrified, waiting for scurvy or starvation, not knowin', and not a breath of god-sent wind to puff them onward. Then the word came down from the gods: a sacrifice.... and that's what she was-- holy holy holy-- a sacrifice. Saved ten thousand men by her blood-let. A tough situation and a brave resolution, no less. What were they going to do, blow themselves to Troy? KLYTIE Agamemnon had enough wind for it. ULTRA So you don't agree with the way I see things? Our histories miss each other, each sailing off to separate destinations, distinct Troys; only sea's chaos the same, similar journeying, specks of thinking light lost in the greyness. KLYTIE Histories. Well, at least I know what I've done, the why of it not escaping me neither. And, no, I don't agree with you. Nobody does. You're on your own. ULTRA I wonder if that's because there's no sense in what I'm saying, or no profit in my being right. KLYTIE No profit? That's a nice thing to say to your mother. I've talked to everybody, and nobody's got your view except you. Folks know what's what, which heads hold up through storms, which banners can float undamaged. And nobody bothers to remember your father anyway, his ghost's just so much dust to us living folk, a fragment of folklore even the slaves won't sing anymore; dusts and ghosts of dust, nothing. ULTRA Can't you put a little remembered divinity in your looks, a spatter of real prayer against those yellow old teeth? Hissing and spitting against Dad like he was still here getting under your skin more than ever. KLYTIE Why you little bitch! ULTRA If I'm a bitch, I inherited it; no bark but I learned to crank it out from you, performing on your hind legs like that, paws jiggling, and another innocence slaughtered; you hopping through the right hoops in proper sequence. KLYTIE You're insane! ULTRA What's sanity? KLYTIE You can't go against the whole world, girl. Nobody has that kind of strength. ULTRA I don't need strength. I've got what's right right in front of me, no swivelling eyes abject to dirt, or saintly to mountaintop necessary just a straight look and a steady pace, get me where I need to go. KLYTIE But you don't obey what's right. Off on your own clamoring and throwing dust on yourself, practically speaking tongues to that pile of rocks that's got your dad under 'em. Hysterical screechings off every which way going on about justice and injustice looking every day dirtier and less like my daughter, less human, and taking no concern over it neither. It ain't right. You don't follow the way things go. You're a perpetual annoyance, and not just to myself. Nobody likes you. There's not even anything pretty left in your face. You're older than your own mother, Apollo knows! ULTRA What do any of these things matter? I build myself up out of my thoughts, no flesh about me, not the real me; built the house, live in it, my sound tower, can't see it from the outside while residenced within. KLYTIE You stick your neck out too far, somebody'll cut it off for you. I don't care what you think its made of. ULTRA Things you say, surfaces and meaningless frictions, no more, no less. What's right is right. Go on. KLYTIE Apollo knows I tried to rear you the best way I knew how, considering everything, terrible years, you and Aegisthus my only bright spots, and the obedience of the people was a blessing. They know how things are supposed to go, which way order comes down from the top and best obey it, that way's prosperity. The best way I knew how, considering everything, I can't be responsible for that shiv of tongue, though. That's all your own pure invention. ULTRA Apollo knows. KLYTIE You've got to pray for what's expected, dear, follow the rules, listen to consensus on things, see which way the cards fall, then play your hand, how else are you going to know what to do? What's permissible and what's not? ULTRA Strange advice, coming from you, you with all your murderous history, ignoring every force that would've stopped you, holiness and horror both. KLYTIE You do what I say. I know what's best. Experience hurts; and I've learned from the beating. Can't go on what you feel all the time, that's just chaos. ULTRA And Justice isn't to be expected? KLYTIE Apollo, No! If there was any justice, do you think your father would have abandoned me the way he did? Cruel as a tapeworm, the way that ate at me. But you have to take what's given, accept the lot as it falls out, deal with the contingencies, be flexible, pursue opportunites by scent, see when they pass by, not rush it. And don't go outside the acceptable, it's as simple as that. ULTRA And that's sanity? KLYTIE Yes, yes. It's what's normal, for god's sake. ULTRA Follow the rules. Like a circle of dogs going nose to ass, nose to ass, following themselves nowhere everywhere. Follow the rules, don't break the chain. Or else, how am I going to know what to do...? KLYTIE Yes, yes. ULTRA Follow the rules. What's permissible and what's not...? KLYTIE Exactly. ULTRA Exactly. KLYTIE Well, I have to go and make my libation now. ULTRA I'll follow you and make sure everything's done straight. KLYTIE God don't work save by letting what's to be, be, child. You'll see. Top^

SCENE THREE

[KLYTIE, making her sacrifice at the grave. ULTRA has followed her. Continuous with previous scene.] KLYTIE Drowned by all this circumstance: ungrateful children in a grinding land, no longer may my body dance that was wild under Agamemnon's hand. I've had my full load of suffering and no more may I take, I gave all I got of love and then that fountain found its brake. Dearly do I love thee, Apollo who handles the sun like a song; blood and wine in the libation ditch, oh I have prayed for long and long. Spare me if you can, Apollo, hard words that knive from this bitch--- One killing doesn't make me a killer. I live with a gentle fellow; though old, I'm no murderous witch. ULTRA Now I could get her with one of these rocks, kill her, throw her down with Dad. KLYTIE Hard words can knot the virtuous whether they've some truth, or none, come lick this libation, virtuous, obeying your laws every one. O Apollo Lykeios, decide! Your decisions must fall as a dream: if lucky, that dream shall I ride out of this narrow nexus, a stream carrying me to wider skies. [KLYTIE begins to exit.] KLYTIE [Aside.] But if some stream of evil should flow from your mouth to mine, I'll drown my enemies in evil and bob with what lightness I find. My cash shan't float from my pocket, obscure all cheaters' eyes! This house that I rule, now lock it, this scepter that I stole shall be mine! O Phoebus Apollo, you hear me now give me all that I ask; friends that I've got, bear near me;--- stay near me, my children, I ask: all bitterness in your dark breast refute, for we are strangers in such gloom; that spite in your eyes-- confute,-- it strikes my wild heart with wild doom. [Exit.] ULTRA I feel like Philomela, raped by the death-dealers unable to tell a soul my troubles, helpless to revenge myself or seek justice, filling my spendthrift days with curses and no hope of satisfaction on the horizon. Still, pushed to the limit, stampeded into the obscurest corners of howling night I don't need to stay silent for any reason. If time wants to shine on murder and grief and keep on shining, let it at least see the real thing. Can't stop the nightengale sighing interminably over her terminal young; can't stop me from sighing, right on the front steps of the place, making strangers stop and stare at my insanity, and hearing my cause. Let all the world become an ear, and I'll shout my grievance past hearing's capacity. O deep Hell, and drab Persephone who goes mooning about among the dead waiting for enchanting spring to free thee, if prayers or petitions, or any cause of right has ever followed the breeze of its intent and made itself heard to you, then let mine enter your ear but once, for I have with hurricaning bellows blown it down below: OO Queen of Avenging, O Vengeance! Hear me! You who see blood spilt, see murder, see tyranny, see promised beds flung adulterous to another, Hear me! Hear me and curse! O god-creating Furies of doom and revenge fly from the burning ground of these hot graves---- aid and defend the innocent with fires of wrath, flaming swords and daggers turn inward on the guilty hearts of killers. Avenge, avenge! Abide not my father's death, give meaning to hope, kill all.... [Giving up.] and send me my brother. I can do no more on my own: This grief is too heavy. [Enter CHRYS.] CHRYS Still wailing to the skies about Daddy's dying? ULTRA Tired of my fly-buzz chatter around your dungpile? CHRYS Well, yes. Yes, if you want to know. Don't you ever get tired of being so right all the time? ULTRA What's right is right. I didn't make it that way, but I'm not going to forget that it's right, either. CHRYS Oh look, an olive tree. ULTRA Full, dull green, heavy and ready. CHRYS Remember what a stripling it was? Planted that year Dad died, shivering so skinney against the wind. ULTRA Same age as Orestes. CHRYS Now it shadows me, and I'm a tall woman. ULTRA Yes. It's fat with dusty olives. Let each one be pulled and pitted with hot pimentos, then spiked in Klytie's gorge, and I will call it a tree fit for picnicing under. CHRYS That's horrible! ULTRA A grave feast, and a serious eating. Look closely, the fruit almost breaks the bough. CHRYS Another winter, and this tree will kill itself. ULTRA Perhaps the tree will find some comfort hacked up, the chosen wood for some death blaze, the funeral pyre of some pious woman about to die. CHRYS You sure have a cruel way of saying things. ULTRA Can't you see, if we let Dad go unavenged to oblivion, let things fall as they fall, no human opposition defining and raising us against the blankness, a shadow out of shadows, at least that, that we're nothing ourselves? CHRYS I just see how agitated you get over what seems like nothing. Been talking like this for years, now, bewildering years. ULTRA And through the straights we need to navigate will you take it, buffet upon buffet, roughed up by the circumstances, crashed in the rapids, a screaming skull moving ninety toward a waterfall, mother kicking me, and father gone to hell, you yourself pried out of your inheritance, washing dishes for the usurpers, smile if you feel like, smile if you don't, dishonest in action even if honest in heart-- will you take it, so much, will you take it, so much death, and such unknowingness? CHRYS Maybe its better not knowing anything. Accept things as they are, shove on. ULTRA A lesson. Dogs and death. No lonely howl of mourning; they bark and aggrivate the earth with their short claws awhile, and go on. The briefness of their grieving teaches me to cry longer. CHRYS A wolf will mate a wolf for life. Does that teach people to get divorced? ULTRA If it does, at least it doesn't demand that the parting laws get carved with axes on the husband's heart. CHRYS A dove whose mate is shot from the sky will coo long evenings with sorrow and not drink a drop of mercy or eat a crumb of kindness until she dies too. ULTRA Did the female dove construct the bow wait titivatting in blinds and twang the arrow onward with her beak? CHRYS Of course not. ULTRA Ah, how I long to have wings that adore the air! I would tangle myself in Klytemesta's grey hair like an evil bat, shitting and shrieking, shrieking and shitting, and lever out her eyes like rare eggs, eating the sight out of each as they stared at my eating teeth. CHRYS Ultra! She's still our mother! Say a kind thing, temper yourself, we hatched at her nest, not elsewhere. ULTRA Then let her discover what a cuckoo she fed. I will live for my revenge. CHRYS You are dangerously insane. Can't kill mom no matter what she's done. No beast eats its dam. ULTRA No, only heroes can manage that. Sniff out Justice, my dreams tell me, however faint the scent, and this my father's corpse stands a mountain of murder to scout out some Justice from its rotting peaks. It fairly stinks to heaven. CHRYS So, you're gonna sniff like a dog, scout about like a vulture, wive a corpse like a maggot and meditate murder like a psychopath. Ultra, my sister, stop, and think, even a dog, a bird, an insect, a psycho knows enough not to go up against the people in power. And Aegisthus rules here, Klytie is his instrument of state; this is where we live, this is our home, and its only staying that way because they'll allow it. They meet the executioner's payroll, not you and me. Dad and Sis are dead, isn't that enough for you? Do you have to send this whole family to hell? Use your head to think, and not just your mouth to howl, keen, snip, yawp, and wail: revenge! ULTRA I would rather be any zoo of creatures that could still remember Justice than a daughter that could teach herself to forget her father. CHRYS We're one sister short of a condemning quorum, can't jump the outcome, can't pole-vault to a narrow winning by just one truth, and that your own; reality's sandpit, just lying flat, will take your measure, your heels' imprint landing in a stiff spray among a million contestants', scattershot footsteps leading off in every direction, confusion of intentions, no mark deeper than another. ULTRA One sister short.... CHRYS You ever feel that way, missing little Ipphy, her delicate heart excited about everything, trusting Dad more than the sun, laughing on his shoulders, more expecting the dawn to blow out than Dad not rise everyday and love her. ULTRA Can't change what's happened. Don't expect me to start forgetting it out of venal convenience; Dad and Ipphy, well, what's between them's buried. Mom's another matter-- and I ain't DONE nothing yet; convey the facts, line up the truth, that's my point of view, then let judgement stalk the territory. CHRYS Ipphy knew how to talk to you, access your sweetness, touch you; to me you're a mystery, troubled, troubled, the past glowing harder in your eyes than today's plainness. ULTRA And the future comes up sharp against me too don't forget, a razor focus, drawing days near, getting things clear out of the present fuzziness. CHRYS Ultra, there's something I've got to tell you. ULTRA Uh-huh. Say it out then; we can say anything to each other. CHRYS Well, you know that the fifteen years' wait before the grant of legitimacy to Aegie's reign is over this year; this year he gets the crown, and everybody'll smile about it too. ULTRA Fifteen years; a long time to live with murderers, inside or outside of the house. I'm just glad he's not around today; one less hassle. CHRYS Well, you don't know this, but when Aegisthus gets back they're going to nail you shut in a closet. No eyehole for eyes, no slot for your supper. ULTRA Really? What do you mean? CHRYS Mom had a vision. Scared her, I can tell you, and it doesn't bring you any good news either. ULTRA Spit it out. But to one side, please; I don't think I want you touching me. CHRYS Aegisthus was leaving to sew up their position in Athens and Sparta, make sure that any feeling that you'd been slighted by their power-grab was dead, that commerce and trade talks could go on as usual, jabber and cash transactions as usual, all the ships in their slips. ULTRA Good, good. I see. CHRYS Good? I don't think so. Cutting us out it sounds like. But anyway, mom came out telling this dream; and her face was a mask of sheer terror! But anyway, I think she dreamed that Agamemnon's back. ULTRA And that scared her. CHRYS You should have seen her eyes, pried gigantic at a cloud that dragged as Agamemnon's beard had dragged. ULTRA Let her eyes roll out like dice, her age rake trenches for her false tears to boil down her face in heated rivets. Let her spinster's finger gesture hexes-- I don't care! Let her hair out-shriek an apocalypse of ravens, my indifference remains. CHRYS Your coldness scalds my skin. But her face-- her lips, her blue ruined lips if only you could have seen them you'd have cried, twisting and jerking in pain to give her noiseless nightmare even the substance of a syllable. ULTRA Her lips! Let them jerk and tear and twist, grimace and implore, shake straightness from their meeting, resign an infinity of smiles to a tragic, imploring gulp-- let them! For now she is on the hook, Agamemnon's ghost has gaffed her. Jerk and grin your little blood mouthfuls while you can O Mother, O Klytemnestra-- the wire of God's will still reels you by your skinned heels to Hell. CHRYS Bitterness, bitterness.... ULTRA This bitterness betters me, This senseless hating hates not to hate; un-hate is my only enemy, only lack of passion is a crime. In this, my mother and I consummate, sparring flares of hideousness, she and I. Our spasms and passions, alike as excised aortas. CHRYS To live and to kill, is that it? Stabbing and gasping, and stabbing and gasping what kind of life is that? ULTRA Life is where all the real killing happens. Look at me: I ache and subside. CHRYS But you'll recover yourself, and kill. ULTRA Yes. Yes, I'm a huntress. And mom is an absolute bitch, a pure whore lifting her skirts to Dad's attacker, rubbing her white cunt in the blood. CHRYS God! Can you really think that? You are a monster, a catastrophe, fed on the bled bone of an eyeless justice. How can you see any rightness in suffering? Ultra, Ultra, sister, sweet sister, show some pity! For your own sweet sake! ULTRA Pity is no part of divinity. CHRYS Even a cat will bite the head off of a fish first, before eating the heart of the carcass. ULTRA This is our millionth winter of living here, under the stone house white and alone the stone portico sloping over the wreckage. Mom's god-eyes enlarge and shark at us: we swirl under her, white, small, vulnerable as pebbles. She is an old stone Gorgon fishing for stone fish with her petrifying glance. I am trapped. I cannot shrink again to the necessary slenderness of escape. I cannot go minnow-thin and disappear again under her exploded nova stare. Can you? CHRYS You look at me too much. That righteous stalking stare demands bibles. My faith is small and personal. I don't have any spirit to spare. Your quest's inquisitive ripples backwash my silk silts to ashes. [ULTRA begins to protest.] CHRYS My altar is subtle, a dim thing, quiet velvet comforting a minor god. An incendiary substance, your 'Justice', pushes me towards sulfer, a raucous avalanche of religious lights and bonfires; your cause and my cause burn clean together. We are sisters of a single slaughter, of a single murdered deity, the twin daughters. But I cannot flare and brighten as you do: you are my sun, my sister, gigantic, I am a dwindled candle, dully lumed. I cannot wake in a dawn of pure injustice and increase myself to avenging horizons, a sheer bloom of dooming illuminations. My gown doesn't shout itself to starlight, my dark heart doesn't ache for rightness. What is justice to me-- sister, listen!-- What is justice to me who cannot hear the wind's grace when my new earrings mingle their silvers? ULTRA Add your little light to mine and how much greater we shall shine! ....And when Orestes gets here, CHRYS Well he's not back yet, is he? ULTRA You should just see how mom goes all pale and trembly when I start shouting that Orestes'll come back and fix her wagon. CHRYS Oh what's the use of talking trash: "Orestes'll this, and Orestes'll that you wait till Orestes shows up and then you'll see..."? ULTRA But he will come. And dread and holy will be his coming. No holds on Justice then. What's right'll come out. You wait and see if it don't. CHRYS There you go again. [Pause] ULTRA When Daddy died, I slept and dreamed on his grave, called him up, all the things I love that get ripped away from me, my hands a girls', my love unforged by grief, by harshness but getting the anvil all the same, hit, hit, hit, getting put through it, and no choice about it as if all that harm wouldn't change things forever. But I kept to my dream, seeing things my way, steady, trying to rescue heaven by the way I think about it, keep meaning in the stars, our touches, not letting that fade and wander fixing it in memory and attaching it in act so that my decaying substance might accomplish one thing, one thing against the eternities. CHRYS Language strains, can't carry the load experience gives it, breaking our thoughts when it fails. ULTRA I've tried it, stuffed the sun and moon in my mouth, a saved heaven, and every star still shining, all the loved things communing together, and it doesn't work; failed, failed. Tongue's no replacement for the things it speaks of. The weight, the heaviness of this life, burden unbearable and no groan to unload it; ferry ourselves to escapeless death we must, grinding all our livliness to the one dust. [CHRYS tries to hug ULTRA.] CHRYS Damn it, why won't you let me hug you? ULTRA Nearness is difficult... there's a death between us. If I find it too hard to touch whatever it is that surrounds me now, for a kindness, say it's because I touched bottom as close as drowning once. CHRYS If Orestes comes back, it'll be in poverty, and alone; he won't come marching with an army at his back. I'm sorry, this truth isn't meant to hurt you, but your chances of finding 'Justice,' spying out what's right, discerning the circumstances, knowing fog from danger, and doing right when you see it, with this family the way it is, won't be any better then than now. ULTRA Oh no. No. There you're wrong, and I know it. When death hatched spitting and attacked Papa, swerving Mom's warped skull like a snakehead, Orestes was nursing on a new, venomed egg; his teeth grew points and he raped its innards, sucked down vengeance and remembrance in the same ragged gulp as his existence. Then he sucked harder on his human thumb, dumb rememberer, and chose, like a lion, or an angry crow to grow and kill. And now he'll come, bloody and bloodied, an embryo gone wrong, stalking ashes in the chalky womb that once upon a time had burned and made him. Oh and then-- what a chloroform halo he will cast! His glance will strip her to the viscera, his fingers transfix to the knuckles in her undressed chest, feeling and stabbing for the cancerous worm of her absent heart. God, what a death! And he will come. He will come. And dread and holy will be his coming. CHRYS Something's happening back at the house. Let's check it out. [Exit CHRIS] ULTRA Come to me my justice, young man with a straight look, straight eyes screwed into a face unafraid to look, look and see things they way they really are. Come to me my Justice, ratchet back the skin that veils the hidden heart, shut out self-seekers from your clarity arrive with a stance of pride, and leave prideful head snapped straight up on young shoulders walking into the mix of things and not quailing or looking back in dark doubt. Come to me my Justice my Orestes risen and beatified my Orestes unmolested by years or by hours the tall sun still sharp in your glance no moan in your demeanor, no mope, but quick truth firmly grasped, thought strong and right-minded, action following as the incredulous lion follows the lion-tamer, as water follows the waterfall-- how could it not? action well-disciplined and reasonable, a strange thing on these acres these days everything flowing out from the center, truth established in principle and the tenets laid out plain. O Orestes, my handsome Justice! come to me and wash out these crimes see that the evil gets pent back up in Hell and free creatures can talk in daylight greeny asphodel under no shadow night and day spliced back together in peace not as daymare and nightmare rudely chained but as a joyous circut linking light and its lessening never the utter black again as now, ichorous eclipse at siesta, noon run out of the sky drabbled in filth.... Maybe then I could sleep some at night no more screams at moonrise. And come soon, come soon my brother I am in such need of thee. Top^

SCENE FOUR

[ULTRA goes to join CHRYS near the palace. They overhear TEACH's story. Continuous with previous scene.] KLYTIE Tell us your story, strange man. ULTRA [Aside to CHRYS.] Listen sharp! and tell me if you can hear any truth in his words. TEACH Didn't shill my story to strangers, await the kin, they told me, and I waited. Now here we are. Takes a stranger to tell a strange tale. Divination not my intention but straight truth unwatered. Come close. Orestes came into the city like a whirlwind, anxious for fame, never seen the like, dust up to his eyeballs, and a desperate glance, but dignity withal, he had it, dignity unshorn, and him with all his troubles, and an exile to boot. Came dirty and road-weary, came afoot many miles in a luckless condition, came with a grim determination to win all, reverse his losses, change his luck, "I come here for the Delphic prize, no less," he says, his eyes white out of the dirt-smear, and no friend to bathe his head or get his legs in shape for the race. So I done it. Clipped him short, washed him, put his name in the lists like any friend would do; and when the herald called the first race, a baritone and a herald, a low note over the fresh-raked track, and the runners came loping out, easy in their stride, I swear I could only see Orestes shining out as the sun clipped the stadium edge, god-fate shining through him, more than his share, conquering the moment, a dawn embodied, so high above his fellows was he, and the crowd wild with admiration that had been yawning and making chit-chat before, and the judges too, staring down, and he won the first prize, first race, like that, without panting. Never saw the like, wearing the crown of victory like an afterthought, an emanation of that prize face chosen for winning before they thought to scrape the track, before the judges thought to judge or the people gather to witness. His body followed the runner's form and perfected it, finished up before he started, no room for error or gracelessness. I can't tell all of it. Some things are too subtle for old eyes, some things not. But he took all five first prizes, faultless, like the general would've, spirit of Agamemon racing through young Orestes there. All saw it; judges slapping each other on the back, trading stories from before the war. KLYTIE Spirit of Agamemnon! ULTRA My Orestes! Now you'll come running home for sure. TEACH But the gods are not moved by mortal shows and keep a constant divinity in their wills, unmoved by our doings as by our wishes. Who would kill the unkindness of the skies that gods in wayward tyranny rain down on men must slay with prayers. [A SLAVE GIRL gives TEACH a drink as he recites the tragic events without really disturbing the flow of the story.] Next day was the chariot race; first on foot then high astride, that's the rule. They dragged out the regulation chariots. Little boys up before sunrise, giving them a spit-shine, putting all in order. And the horses were combed to a sheen, dawn burnished by the flanks a-tremble with strength, shimmer greater than on the chariot-works. Orestes got a white horse, a fine Aneian responsive to his whip hand, calm eye and a stiff pace, raring to go. And the bronze horn went off while I was fiddling with something, and I didn't like that: inauspicious. I looked up and saw nothing but a fumble of dust as high as the stands, all heads peering into the confusion, and the trumpet put to silence by the racket of the race, hooves and harnasses loud as Hades. Then a blinding wind came in, clearing out the skirmish, threw dirt against the far side of the stadium but I could see. Orestes leading on the inside track, not sparing the whip, but laying it on to get the job done, and I was glad to see it. Out of chaos came came his strong arm, sinew light and shapely, strong as stone, or like the pull of a vine toward sunlight, that living tension; him white, face all yeowl above that horse of blurr-blancheness. Then that man from Naxos came up on him, sudden, and a whole band of out-lyers jimmying him into the pillars, shove of axle against the ungiving pillar, sparks in the dust-bank, explosions of light under colorlessness, unruly light, and my heart jammed against my breastbone, but he steadied it, Orestes steadied his horse, hung back for a turn, watched it out like a trained hunter, too smart to lose all. No berserker, but a human being at the reins, thinking, thinking, quiet under the thunder. Then he saw his chance, the pack had spaced, the center still crowded, but on the inside a space appeared, where a skilled hand could dart in quick, regain the lead. Alot of any race is iffy, but skill makes chance favor itself. And he worked himself in there, steady, steady, himself between the pillar and the pack again, and the white horse shy from the first go-round keeping more to the other horses than before, swift in a squadron of swiftnesses, and then they were on the leeward side of the track and the dust offended their nostrils and the other fella's horse shimmied into Orestes and he took the flaw hard; brown dust was hollowed by his body's whiteness, flagrant against dark, and the blood dark, appearing from nowhere, head and legs airward at once, horses' legs and men's legs pointing up streamed with wetness, a simple wetness, dust not yet solemn over it, a black wet not yet obscured to road-dullness. And everything was a tangle and nothing was clear. And my eyes stopped looking, but the wails penetrated my senses. Awful, awful. A god in the dirt. And a team of athletes was sent, laurelled and not a loser among them, to carry the disastered body out and bring back the ashes. And here they are, in an urn too little to hold the shed tears. KLYTIE Orestes has been hacked out of my terrors; Aegisthus, come home soon. TEACH I won't give him an elegy, me, who's overdue for one himself. It was an awful thing to see. Nothing worse. And that's my story. KLYTIE Bring me the ashes. I need to touch him, somehow. Oh I don't know just what I feel! A mother first, and not a queen, you understand? So many sorrows come with a birth and no end to trouble. TEACH If I have given my thinking over to the grave forgive me, for I am old, and yet still see no hint of splendid consummation in my finishing. I am old, old. KLYTIE I'm still seeking some sign of sense myself in the undecipered texts the gods let fall to us. Top^

SCENE FIVE

[CHRYS and ULTRA walk toward the gravesite area. ORESTES arrives at the grave, and quietly offers his libation while CHRYS and ULTRA chant. Continuous with previous scene.] CHRYS God gazes on. ULTRA Eon after eon proceeds. CHRYS Stars drop like gnats against sand. ULTRA And the absolute zero of God's slashed face becomes a traffic-pattern of wheel-ruts, CHRYS each dark char a star-mark. ULTRA Meteors hack a passage down his august cheek. CHRYS Oh, Orestes! ULTRA Agamemnon and Orestes scale the lunar cliffs of his brow, a black ant and a red ant. CHRYS One carries a lit candle, one a snuffer. ULTRA God can't see us from his snowfield of heaven. CHRYS All things good, all things evil crawl along his eyelid like slugs, ULTRA sliming, humping, sliming, CHRYS on their irretrievable way. ULTRA God spits, and a sea occurs. CHRYS God smiles, and the earth sweats summer. ULTRA God winks, and infinite horizons snap shut. CHRYS God breathes, and the planets start their dance. ULTRA God pisses, and my heart fills with acid. CHRYS God cries, and a million spiders web and display the tears. ULTRA God kneels, and the outraged rise in complaint. CHRYS God barely concentrates, for a moment, and every soft calf stumbles to sacrifice itself. ULTRA Another moment, and all life storms the altars, every face goes lightless. CHRYS God shuts his fist, and annihilation is created. ULTRA God laughs, and justice is crushed in a horse-race. CHRYS Death, says God, and we all fall down. ULTRA You do understand! Are you with me? Everything'll only come out right by your action and my action, not otherwise. CHRYS I'd better go finish my chores now. [Exit CHRIS.] ULTRA God stutters, and words shake off the page. Mother and sister both against me, no way out. I cling to empty space. O God, O Vengeance, why have you abandoned me? Orestes, dear, you're buried deeper for every racing, rising hope I had. ORESTES No, I'm not. ULTRA But, but.... ORESTES Hush. ULTRA Now all that was drear is transformed to something dear, fear, not emnity, forgot; fictive fate forgives the harrassing dreams I've got, forgives them, Argives, nay, redeems the lot! Vengeance is Justice when Ultra has her day! Out of cold mind's dismissal a saving voice arrives, a missive from plundered hopes to one who thought all undone; Oh, my blessed Orestes, is it you who've truly come? Vengeance is Justice when Ultra has her day! If joy shall not break my ear, sustaining hope did never hear this living voice that voids all distress and leaves my happy heart a wilderness. Ahh, yes, yes, Orestes, it is you, I'd say. ORESTES ...Vengeance is Justice when Ultra has her day. Stay hushed, my Ultra. Truth doesn't need a gong. And even a just death requires stealth. ULTRA How much louder shall we crow and bay over Klytemnestra's grave, than today we may say. ORESTES Brother and sister then may kiss. ULTRA And howl! ORESTES Oh how much moreso then than now! ULTRA I've got a plan.... ORESTES That old fella who just told that whopper, that's Teach, brought me up in exile, my only friend. ULTRA Never saw such a beautiful old head, raising up a flat lie to serve what's noble. ORESTES Kept me informed about your sorrows too, every diplomat coming back with a sad story, every year something worse, travesty after travesty, and nobody giving a damn, not one hand extended down in mercy, or holding fast in solace, because it was against the will of the murderers in power, the killing elite. ULTRA A cabal of blood, running over my rights every which way, day after day, as if I'd inherited nothing. But I've got a plan to fix that.... ORESTES Nope. No time for that. Got to get on with it while the lie's still holding up, giving us a clear chance, an unfair plus. Is she in the palace? ULTRA [Nods.] Crying up a storm of fake tears. ORESTES Back over this way, isn't it? ULTRA Um. Yes, it is. ORESTES [Gripping dagger.] That's the way he taught me. ULTRA Father, I won't be back without Mom's body to stove up next to yours in the family plot. [Exit.] Top^

SCENE SIX

[Before the Palace. Continuous with previous scene.] ORESTES She's in there. I hear her stone step. ULTRA Oh, what should we do? What should we do? I can't tell which things are happening outside of me, which within. My head's spinning. ORESTES Do you know how many hard asses she's got working for her? We screw up, it's our asses going to Hades, Ultra. Straight sleighride to the shithouse. No reprieve from the reaper. Fuckin' A, she just senses I'm here she'll grind my ass into oblivion. ULTRA No backing out now, every tremble moving us forward. ORESTES I'm going in. She might smell trouble if she knows you're here. Stay outside, play lookout, that's safest. She won't be expecting me, thinks I'm dead, don't want to ruin the surprise. [ORESTES enters the palace.] KLYTIE So, you would kill me? Is this justice? ORESTES I am the word made flesh. KLYTIE Pity your mother! ORESTES Prepare to die. KLYTIE I am that which made you. No less. ORESTES Get ready to walk the hellground, bitch. KLYTIE If you kill me, you kill motherhood. ORESTES If all mothers were as you are, I would slay them all. KLYTIE Is there no justice in mercy? ORESTES Life is unjust. Only in death can there be perfection. All endings are sacred, or possibly so. But I think maybe you forgot I'm your son. Did you forget than I'm your son, Mommy? You forget that? KLYTIE I didn't. I didn't. I swear I didn't forget. ORESTES Yeah. I think your dumb ass forgot who's ass you was fucking; I do believe you are ignorant as to the issue of your loins, mother. KLYTIE No. No. You're my son. See? I remember. ORESTES Yeah, I see. But maybe you're just saying that to try and save your miserable self. How am I to know if you really remember or you're just trying to save your miserable ass? KLYTIE I remember. I remember. We... We.... [Outside palace.] ULTRA Aegisthus! That rising dust can't mean anything else! Got his whole gang with him too. Shit. Back to the disaster scene, and at a bad time. [Inside palace.] KLYTIE Who shall endure to bring forth children again? I have carried my executioners to term. ORESTES In my birth your death was inexorably encoded. KLYTIE My nipples weep to have fed you. ORESTES The terror of life has rushed me to this hideous reckoning. I betray myself if I let you live. I must destroy you, my source, in flames of justice to be able to continue to exist one more minute. If you made me, and I am some sick continuation of yourself, then I cannot live with that terrible knowledge. And to prove that surmise untrue, I'll kill you. KLYTIE But we are one flesh, one being. Cut me off and yourself shall suffer. Kill your mother and you have no origin on earth. Untouched, unwept for, no orison of history to make your own. O my unowned young man! Circumstance and fate are harder knots to untie than this. ORESTES I am a worm that seeks your flesh a maggot of death that your squalid life imprisions, and though I must husk your torso a thousand times in nightmare from this second on, each raving detail complete and bloody enough to augur madness in a saint, I'll do it. This knot of my life I shall not unknot; no, I'll do it. I will kill. I'll do it. KLYTIE Every drop you take shall be your own, for you are a weak stream of my mightiness, and shall cease as I lessen. Nature's inexorable source corses through me. ORESTES I was formed to live by forces of which you are an ill-tempered instrument, nothing more. Your pouch of womb carried a seed of fire and not some ruined homunculus of yourself. KLYTIE Your words attack me; my ears are filled with daggers. ORESTES With axes. KLYTIE Oh, my son! ORESTES Get over to the bed. Lie down on it. [Pause.] Now that I'm here, on the point of it, I can't kill you. My arm rebels, my limbs flimsy. Where's my cruelty, my determination? Is Dad's wet death evaporated by your hot face? I'd have thought such murder engraved for eons; and death was new on that blade, the cut unforgetable. Did Aegisthus' ax sit so gingerly-lightly in Dad's awed-open skull? Ah Mom, Mom, I don't know what to do! Is revenge no portion of justice? Do handless gods look down from their white ward and groan, having given me hands to be their instrument? God's a paraplegic. I am his thought brought living. Come. On the bed. Lie down and die. KLYTIE I grow a new inward eye for every word you speak. And they all see red. ORESTES This isn't what I was trained to see. Her new eyes, like poisonous orchids, float free in this scarring hurricane and infest my sight, teaching me how to see. Teach, did you serve me or yourself when you fed my childhood with all those angry words? KLYTIE I am praying now to die. My heart murmurs a death-prayer, and my own lips echo it. ORESTES What's this that lies beneath me? An old woman curled on the bed. That is all. No more, no less. What is Justice to this? A body barely breathing. No more, no less. The world must come unhinged in rioting bloods if I kill her now. Lying there, meekly submitting. Her killer's conscience examples me, the she-wolf learning the lamb how to bleat; can't beat human nature for surprises, revenge comes thick in my throat, a gross word full of heart-melt, spring ice flowing up by pity from a store of swallowed tears. I go rudderless in these bewildering waters, all my world one chaos, flux on flux human heads indecipherable from beasts shadow tangling shadow and the light of justice scrambled that had settled it. A waterspout, all wildness, knows more of its own way now than I do. A second birth I owe to you, dear lady, though you know it not. Be born again yourself by my mercy. [ORESTES exits, dropping knife on floor.] ULTRA Is she dead? Is the bitch ready to stick in the dirt yet? Orestes, speak! [ORESTES collapses to steps, head in hands.] [ENTER ULTRA, howling.] ULTRA Death, death, death, death, death! [ULTRA runs in, picks up discarded blade, and starts slashing wildly. KLYTIE is still on the bed; the bed cover gets ruined by ULTRA'S stabs and slashes. Then ULTRA scores a hit on KLYTIE. Both women stand silent, ULTRA panting. It is the first real blood of the play.] ULTRA There is a constancy of ecstasy in this tension. KLYTIE Ecstasy in death? In the engineering of a killing? ULTRA Can't you feel it? These ministering excitements of deep terror! The true lure of comitting some one final thing? KLYTIE Coldly I do eye you. Stranger, I'll call you, spawn of another's blood, not this. [KLYTIE indicates her wound.] ULTRA Ha, ha. Can't crawl away from this accusation: everything I learned, I learned by watching you. KLYTIE Kill, kill. I regret the blood I reveled in. ULTRA Would you spare me the same regret? A kindness is in that thought. As you have spared me the stolen comfort of lecherous gold, monies of the house brought by Dad home from Troy? As you have spared me the shelter of my ancestral house, gory now in heavy memory? As you have spared me even in the spiteful mouths of hypocrite neighbors, who pliantly tongue the coarse and filched authority you and Aegisthus wrenched from murdered Dad's scepter-hand. And how should I for this spare remembrance give thanks? Sparingly? I who have been made strong and determinate, decided as well as decided against, homeless in sight of my house, wandering, wandering pinched feet wandering days on unforgiving rock talking to sparring crows as to brothers. Do you love them too, as you love me? We sheltered equally well in your care, caw to caw in equal syllable. Here I stand no longer spare, nor sparing. KLYTIE When I go out of this world, what horrors will come walking in? ULTRA Justice, maybe. What's right is right. Can't bend that, Mom. Can't bend it for you even. KLYTIE Oh Ultra. Come and kiss me. One last one. ULTRA I am inexorable as God or a waterfall. Kissing you won't change that. KLYTIE Come, come. We must kiss. What else? We are mother and daughter. [They kiss.] Do you forgive me? ULTRA I pray every day that I won't. [Outside Palace. Enter AEGISTHUS and his lieutenant.] AEGIE Consider Ultra exiled. Or dead. Maybe I'll exile her corpse. Let her bones yatter on about her Dad, at least my ears won't have to listen to it. ORESTES Hearing the way some people really are, worst part about being born. AEGISTHUS [Sees ORESTES.] And who are you? ORESTES Someone I had not expected to meet. AEGIE I am Aegisthus, carrying urgent news from Athens for Queen Klytemnestra. Stand aside. ORESTES So this is what Aegisthus looks like, can't stand aside for that, not me, like a man fixing dinner for the one who'll rob him. Your news will wait a long time before it's heard. AEGISTHUS Klytemnestra's queen by universal declaration now, words catching up to the irreversible facts, and I'm no longer a royal consort carrying out dicta from behind royal skirts but a king beside her, engraved in name. ORESTES And Ultra your inked successor. AEGISTHUS No, she's a thing erased from the lists. ORESTES Erasing people born into the rulership game can get kind of sticky. AEGISTHUS I shall be the seed of new kings and queens for my Mycenae. So it is written. ORESTES Not as easy as supposed, x-ing out the living to make way for some hypothesis. AEGISTHUS Stand aside. ORESTES Afraid I can't do that. The queen is busy, taking a very important and long overdue conference with her daughter, Ultra. AEGISTHUS What's Ultra doing in there? She hasn't seen the inside of that place in fifteen years. [Pause.] Get out of the way. I won't ask again. [Inside the Palace.] KLYTIE I am ashes. Ashes. ULTRA I am ashes too. KLYTIE How can I die? I am too miserable to die. ULTRA Why can't the knowledge come clear, no obstruction, justice pure and simple, a slapped hand, and the right one applauded, not this intractable mess, my head full of thoughts? KLYTIE The heart requires an archeologist its sins are so old. ULTRA But you and me, here, we're clear, we're in the clear, aren't we? You're the killer who must be killed. KLYTIE I'm the killer who must be killed. ---This anguish is too strong to ever cease! ULTRA All things keep rolling. Death is death. KLYTIE Honey, I love you. ULTRA I love you, too. [ULTRA stabs KLYTIE to death.] ULTRA Now there is a fixation of horrors in my breast. I have added to their sum. Orestes, outside, you see nothing of the wretchedness that lies within. [ULTRA comes out of palace, sees ORESTES and AEGISTHUS.] ULTRA Now I feel true sadness, who sought true Justice, one act born right out of all this imperfect death. What we come to know about what we have come to do, well, its less than a candle in the vastness; I curse such decisionless dark, and stab at it, blindness, blindness, beating our way forward with a stick. [ORESTES grabs knife from ULTRA.] ULTRA No no. Orestes. ORESTES We can't go on killing. One death outweighs a million if its on your hands, slaughter sinking into the skin and not the righteous excuse for doing it. People need to change but can't manage it, fighting an interior tide, compulsive thoughts blacking out the thin ray of a decison cleanly come by. ULTRA But what's doing right going to mean if you can't trust yourself not to be flotsam, skittering everywhere according to this force or that, heaved back and forth by this desire and that willfulness, decisions unpredictable as guesses and no surety in the outcome: blood on hands laced for prayer death coming harsh to the meek victory seeking out wrong-doers marriage kisses exchanged with your killer hands clasping magnetized on what was to be avoided. ORESTES Nothing I was taught to be have I become. Blessed or blasted, I can't tell yet. [AEGISTHUS removes a hidden dagger from his clothing, dashes at ORESTES.] ORESTES [Killing AEGISTHUS.] When are you gonna learn the dead don't die! [Pause.] I look you in the face as you die. [AEGISTHUS' guardsmen enter, en masse.] TEACH The usurpers are dead. You respected murderous force before, that put them on the throne; you must respect it now. All hail Queen Ultra. All hail. ALL All hail Queen Ultra. TEACH Everything that happens has God's sanction. ULTRA Well, I have tried, I have tired. I beg my dreaming eyes to murder the race of man. END. for the little darling lord Top^
Jul 082020
 

Post-modern play about future technologies
conflicting with human moral imperatives.

Should I be rid of my R.I.D.? Like eyeless Oedipus,
go testicleless?
— Johnny, in deep dreamtime blackout

JOHNNY DEMONIC

FUTURE HUMANS:
TAKEHASHI
JOHNNY
ALDO
JIRIKI
XCETERA
JESUS
TECHNICIAN ONE
GREGG GLORY

SCENE ONE


[Johnny, strapped upright, optical wires spouting from his
forehead, is getting uploaded with illegally obtained data. He is
masked, with a mirrory sunglass type set-up obscuring his eyes; we
can see his mouth as he talks, the wires, at forehead level, his
hair, but nothing else; he is gowned from the neck down, his figure
invisible under the surgical green cloth.]

 JOHNNY
My harassing dreams are meaningless.
Stray formulae, hit-and-miss bits snipping
my sniping synapses to a rhumba beat
of ones and zeroes. No holy trinity
zings in to save me, beating seraphic wings.
My world is base-2 grounded. My skull's amorphous;
its contents, even in snore-storage,
bleat and repeat more pay-worthy information
than any other ten-thousand humans CAN carry,
burdened by the kludgey input of pubic ed.
I, however, am access-inhibited.
A closed Coney Island of iridescent graphics
and save-the-world synthetic cure-alls
circulates in my limitless skull, but I
can't touch it, can't initiate the flip-switch
that spills the light to some dark outside, anyplace
my frowning face inhabits, that my tongue triangulates.
I'll never know what I know; know-it-all
knowledge landmine, with my tongue unplugged.
But I can carry it, whisk it from here
to elsewhere. I can; its in there.
Incessantly at dreamtime, my miming mind
gets ultravivid vid-bits of wacked static.
Images. Gross sub-subconscious stuff, weird feels
spastic up and down my electric skin,
or weird-wired sequences of neon numbers
and zapping sounds. But meaningless, all of it,
meaningless, meaningless, all quite meaningless.
I would hazard that I'm disastered, at a loss,
but I've no way to calculate that fact.
I used to dream all the time, regular stuff,
lollygag days stealing crack from the local hook-up....
He was too trashed on his own white stash
to notice, half the time. A cyan-dilated
Heaven-high in his fixed-open eyes. I'd sell it,
get a corndog and six Mars bars, beat it back
to the old-time asphalt shingles on the roof
of my uncle's rain-ruinous bodega, splay out,
soak in the sunshine long afternoons,
doing nothing, sleeping and belching.
At least, those were my dreams, if they were mine,
if that's my childhood I dream and remember;
if not, well it's still pretty pleasant, and who cares
nowadays about a stasis-source for self anyway?
I'm whatever I make myself up as; that's a fact.
A fiction. Whatever. All that real/unreal talk
just gives me whiplash. Leave that for
the saliva merchants running the country.

[JOHNNY's mask flips up, lightwires start to flash off and on as if
winding down their operations. He has silver eyes, utterly opaque.]

 JOHNNY
Chrome eyes. Edged metal moistened by living eyelid,
delicate lashes moving over a silverfield. First thing
people notice about me. No pupil, no targeting
center for other eyes to eye. Where is the person
if you can't see how they see you, spy you out
into existence? My R.I.D. Retinal Input Device.
Let's me do my courier service work, aboveboard
or below; legit jobbing pays OK,
but when I can, I'll smuggle the odd gigabyte.
Not a customs service in the world
can decrypt the human brain; any kind of scan
they've got to buzz me with, I come up
normal pigflesh; my eyes scan out a standard
blind-eyes cure. You know, modern medicine.
No abnormalities flood up to their peeping screens.
Hey, they never could read your thoughts,
now could they?

[Lightwires fall from his forehead.]

 TECHNICIAN ONE
Download sequencing complete.

 JOHNNY
Lightwires slip out of my head like ejaculated
neon spaghetti, dangling dark at the slick ends
of motor arm that disappear into recessed wall sockets,
light into black, like always, even in those
cold Nordic sagas. Lightwires up the compression
algorithm geometrically, folding infospace
as distinctly and compactly as my emerald cerebrum.
Maybe it crowds out a few faces from my past
in the process, but, then, maybe I don't mind that
so much. It's an information economy, as they say,
and nobody'll pay shit for personal mem. Would you?
All this stuff they've got here, sparkling and dark
in this wild Hong Kong lab, very fine, very hifi.
A technician applies carefully and fast
a ring of band-aids around the top of my head,
where the lightwires exited, giving me a sticky
and dead red crown of thorns, automatic
antibacterial sinking into the incisions, as he
nudges me out of this sooped-up dentist's chair.

TECHNICIAN ONE
Bonnie banzai, rocketman. Good fucking luck.
Talk to Aldo before you bolt, though. This isn't
the usual zip and run, Johnny-san.

[TECHNICIAN ONE offers JOHNNY a disingenuous glance of
mock-condolence, then grins, his teeth a high-decibel purple, a new
craze on the vids.]

TECHNICIAN ONE
Bye bye. I'm going virtual before the Yakuza
snap the plastic on this little secret set-up
and spike my hard drive. So, don't you try
to contact me in any way. I won't be in touch,
so don't you be in touch. OK Johnny-san?

 JOHNNY
Before you wipe: I just want to make sure;
half the pay charge is in my account.

TECHNICIAN ONE
[Tosses what looks like a credit card to Johnny.]
Sure, Johnny-san. No problemo, lobo. Grand
Caymen account, locked on your vid and voiceprint.
Would've used a retinal lock too, but
you've got those crazy eyes.

 JOHNNY
Yeah. Drives the girls wild.

TECHNICIAN ONE
[Hits a button, a plane ticket to L.A. prints out, he hands it to
JOHNNY.]
Here's the plane ticket to your destination.
Fastest ram-scoop out of this piss-hole; you leave
in one hour. Talk to Aldo.

[ALDO comes over; he has been wandering around the set, helping
with small clean-up chores, disassembling the illegal set-up.]

 ALDO
Let's get scarce. That boy's going to be harder to detect
than a rat's fart in a thunderstorm. These insert jerks
like to pry open your skull, give it a lightwire fry,
dump their hump of illicit gigabyte, and then scram.
Very anti-human, like you're just one more output device.

 JOHNNY
Which, I guess, I am.

 ALDO
Hell of a way to make a living.

 JOHNNY
Man, my head is aching. What'd these geeks do to me?

 ALDO
Like narrow-eyes said, this ain't the usual zip and run.
You've been arced. Its a chaotic compression pattern,
running a Mandelbrot sequence encoded into heavily
drugged synapses so that the pattern is decay resistant.
The chem-net they installed infiltrates in micron-doses
your slumbering baby's brain with a dreamless wash
of thought preservatives, pickled like a dino-fetus
in some up-to-date modern form of rheumy amber,
keeping the natural chaotic decay of that hot archived info
to a cool blue minimum. Even so, some decay's inevitable,
that's the law of the world, every night our organized self
unfolds from neat daytime to the wildness of dreams,
each morning the face in the mirror's a stranger,
randomer and randomer until it wakes up dead.
Law of the world. That's why, on the other end,
when they catch you back to earth, my Johnny-san,
they've got a complexity adaptor rigged up somewhere.
I don't know where. Your contact knows where, and I'm sure
they'll tell you then, or take you blindfold to their nest.
That adaptor sees the pattern inherent
in chaotic decay trends, reads between the lines,
and forms a self-solving extraction-equation
on the spot. Very complicated stuff. They'd need
some mondo big machines, hombre, to do what your three pounds
of swiss cheese is doing. But let me warn you,
you've ONLY got twenty-four, count 'em, twenty-four
hours to get that gelled-in sequence out of your primate skull.
Otherwise, well....

 JOHNNY
Otherwise, what?

 ALDO
If you don't get decoded in that magic twenty-four,
that single day, well, then, then....

 JOHNNY
Then....

 ALDO
Uncoiling random lines of information will begin
to unleash themselves inside your head, synaptic leakage occurs,
and all of that archived information will start
to decompress. That much information would require
an aircraft carrier of brain tissue to exist
in an unarchived state; all that information unfolding
in a space the size of a small loaf of Italian bread.

 JOHNNY
But what's that really mean? What would happen to me?

 ALDO
Maybe you can't blink; some part of an equation
flares out and takes over the blink synapse in your head.
Can't blink, nothing much, right? So what, right?
Can't blink, your eyes dry up, get little itty bitty
dust motes in them, collapse back into your skull
irretrievably infected. Can't blink, you're blind inside
a couple of hours. Eventually more and more
of the compressed data will snake out
into the surrounding tissue, filling it up
with information that's different from what's there now
... your memories, what your name is, what planet you're on.
And it would progress geometrically, unfolding, unfolding,
each fold unfolding another flower to unfold;
after a few minutes, your life would disappear
in a clashing hash of indecipherable statics.
It's like Alzheimer's, except that instead of emptying out
your mind to some sun-blitzed Bhudda's zero-sum,
its kicking into hydrocephalic overdrive,
filling it with thin physics-ribbons of stuff
these techie-sans get hard-ons just thinking about.
Eventually, you just forget how to breathe,
you lay down somewhere, or are kept catatonically erect
by some wrong-wired misfire, but not breathing, forgetting breath.
Wouldn't even think to call out to your Mommy;
she wouldn't exist for you. Then you die.
Total information degrade. Nobody'd even want your head, then.
The Company's logo hardwired on your medulla oblongata.
Irreversible wet-crash, Johnny-san.

 JOHNNY
Can't I just keep micro-dosing this brain-freeze drug?

 ALDO
You could, but its kind of like curari; works by
paralyzing the synaptic messengers into a hardwired state.
If it didn't kill you outright, or convince your heart
to stop for a beat too long, I guess It'd eventually
just hardwire everything in your head pretty much
the way it is now. No new information processing could go on.
You'd be Atari Pong, stuck in an eternal Now state.
Might be some people's idea of Nirvana, but its not mine.
Same blip going back and forth between the same, two switches.
Whatever your last thought was before the curari
slammed it in its pasted place, that's what you'd be thinking
forever. If you were pissing, you'd be on permanent drain.
This stuff's poison to both human and rat anatomies.
It poisons you, but not fatally, not for, let's say, a week.
Of course, nobody's been on a micron filtration drip
of pure taxtaxinol for a week.... But you could be the first one.

 JOHNNY
I don't think I want to find out.

 ALDO
I didn't think so.

[JOHNNY presses a small hypodermic gun to his neck with the ease of
a practiced move. A small hiss escapes from the gun.]

 JOHNNY
Stim.

 ALDO
A real vim and vigor lifter. Give you a real
adrenaline sheen. Noticeable to the right eyes.

 JOHNNY
Or the wrong ones.

 ALDO
That slick shit'll jump you up higher than the Kwannon Towers.

 JOHNNY
I've got a feeling this is going to be an extended duty 24 in
realtime.

 ALDO
Hey, if you can't hack reality, you've got some real bottom line
considerations.

 JOHNNY
Yeah, well, reality's what you make of it, they say.

 ALDO
Test everything. Don't let anyone slip one doped chip past you.
Fastest way in the world to get fucked, Johnny. Ain't even gonna
have time to cap it with a condom. Test everything. One slip, and,
man, your cherry's gone.

 JOHNNY
Thanks for the advice. What's your angle on all this, anyway?

 ALDO
Born right here on the mainland.
Upright walking, jive talking, mother fuckin' chinaman,
Jack. Won't never take that back. A real
Hong Kong-born, majong-playing ace of spades.
Slipperiest citizenship in the world, and don't think
that ain't useful. Never been anywhere else--
and I don't need to go either. Whole world
plugs into Hong Kong, if they've got anything
to trade, that is. And everybody's got something
they'll give up for something else-- as long as
that something else is something they ain't never had.
They say dreams are priceless. I seen that price
get fixed every day out on the street.
Only problem is, sometimes
that price is more than you've got to pay.

 JOHNNY
Why's this information so important to the Tigris Company anyway?

 ALDO
I don't know. Maybe they've got a serious case of tech-envy.

 JOHNNY
Very serious.

 ALDO
Hey, it's not my job to know. I'm just supposed
to help get the info from one black box to the next.

 JOHNNY
Yeah. Except that this black box has got ears.

 ALDO
Like I said: helluva way to make a living.

 JOHNNY
Use my lauded head to ferry other people's genius.
Why not? Lotta first class plane ride everywhere.
Good money. It's easy. Get where you're going,
they dump you out, leave you high and dry, the way I like it.
Plenty of little free shrimp on those plane rides too.
Use your head, I heard that all my life. Well, what else
am I going to do with it anyway, right?

 ALDO
All these gleaming things. They don't mean that much to me.
Regular food and a sweet woman, that's my gig. Hell,
I still read the paper. Print it out. Old-fashioned,
hard copy format. Put my feet up. That sort of thing.
Pretty dull, huh? But you, Johnny, this stuff's
just a part of who you are, like a high-impact
ceramic skeleton, an indelible skull
like the ace racers hov-jet with. Another gleaming thing,
those racing shells fighting the 500 mark.
You, Johnny, you're inside the shine. It ain't
gonna catch you. You're lucky. You're inside.
All these gleaming things. I live with 'em;
I live near 'em. But you-- you got them in
your bone and brain. They're in you, and you're
in them, Johnny. You're inside the shine.

 JOHNNY
Why didn't you ever plug in, Aldo? The money's easy.

 ALDO
Do I look crazy? This head's gonna stay just the way
Mrs. Howard squeezed it out of herself. Call me
old-fashioned, but there's still a place for the un-
enhanced flat-Jacks like me out on the street.

 JOHNNY
I hope there always will be.

 ALDO
You ain't just laughing out your ass, digital boy.
Now just unplug before the Tigris Company's
Yakuza swat-team us with their late-night
John Belushi impression.

 JOHNNY
Samurai roadkill. You leaving?

 ALDO
No. I'll stay here. Like I've done all of my life.
Besides, these guys obviously need some help cleaning up.
Still gotta wipe your own ass, even if you use mylar substrate,
right? Now pretend you're a photon and wave.
G'bye. G'bye.

[Exit JOHNNY.]

BALLET SEQUENCE
[A troop of Yakuza enter, elegantly dressed. All strip to
beautifully tattooed waists, including women. Except Jiriki. Yakuza
kill everyone in the room, including ALDO, destroying machinery.
One data screen remains active. As destruction goes on all about,
Jiriki goes to the screen, inserts a small datapad, and types
rapidly. A kitten is killed, the left-behind pet of some
technician. After everyone is dead, Jiriki looks up from the
data-display with a smile.]

 JIRIKI
L. A.



Contents

SCENE TWO


 TAKEHASHI
My vision splays and jags. Hyped on hypnotic
displays day after day, I echo its electronic rush
and hiss to fulfillment, but feel a lingering emptiness.
Click on a dithered executive, ash suit, conned and conning
conservative attire, tired and still aspiring--
to what skyscrapered height, I don't know!
My Zen discipline isn't winning against this
info-loaded argosy a subsidized rice-farmer's son
hunched rice-ball bunched into as a sound career alt.
  [TAKEHASHI swings a beautiful samurai sword, beaten 500 times.]
Stainless steel, diamond-dusted edge. This jaded blade
cuts nothing that knows not that it is a blade.
Out of what air-blasted, time-lined avatar vat came you,
my thin insistence on tradition and razor-meaning
pressed swishing into the plastic circuit board
of my quantum solid-state and existential existence?
This filtered air riffs against me, nearly frictionless.

 SECRETARY
Sir, I apologize wide-eyed, but...

 TAKEHASHI
...Jiriki has arrived.

 SECRETARY
Hai! [Clicks off.]

 TAKEHASHI
A good Yakuza makes his enemies work for him,
slaved to his live and deciding PC.
This causes the enemy the greatest humiliation,
and is useful to the slave-owner.

[Enter JIRIKI.]

 TAKEHASHI
Report to me on the disposition of the data.

 JIRIKI
All of the smuggler's team have been executed.

 TAKEHASHI
They were traitors to their company. No flag,
no combine, no country even of the wallet.
They have no honor. There are of no concern to us,
alive or dead. We are the warring Yakuza.
Report to me on the disposition of the data.

 JIRIKI
They had stolen the information to sell to another firm.

 TAKEHASHI
You are not telling me anything I do not already know!
We lost the illicit bid for the illegal information
to a darker contender, and your team was to put that right
and get us the goods, honto-pronto! You are insolent,
as when you trained under me, Jiriki.
Do not let your film-noire arrogance betray you
as it has betrayed these slaughtered smugglers.
Arrogance has a narrow gravity-well; its multi-dimensional
slopes are error-prone honed to a slippery slickness
and may not allow any devious slant of light an exit.
Beware. I assume that you do not want to be
tripped and tipped into the same lamb's fate
they have met with.

 JIRIKI
The data was wiped from their equipment.

 TAKEHASHI
Word on the street is that the traitors
wiped the Zony mainframe before they began this charade
that has led to their deaths.

 JIRIKI
If this is true, Zony will no longer be a viable
competitor on the international market for anything,
except, perhaps, baby food.

 TAKEHASHI
Undoubtedly they are wailing like babies now,
surreally angry, and willing to crap on and slap
at anything and anyone that is between them
and their still-warm bottle of dada data
before their powdered milk of resources evaporates.
Do you have any intelligence confirming
the mainframe wipedown?

 JIRIKI
No. I apologize, Takehashi-san. I have failed.

 TAKEHASHI
Nevertheless, Zony will still undoubtedly be
quite anxious to recover their data.

 JIRIKI
Hai.

 TAKEHASHI
We must see that this does not happen. Our sources
happened onto their data heist by accident. A lucky coincidence,
allowing us to sabotage the saboteurs. By this killing
we may have already shown our hand to our enemies;
Zony will know that they are not alone in their quest
for the stolen data. We must trust to speed and ruthless
efficiency. Tigris demands that there be no failure
in this regard.

 JIRIKI
It is doubtful that Zony has even heard
of the execution of their traitors yet.

 TAKEHASHI
Don't be ridiculous. We must simply hope
that our own handprints are no too clearly distinguishable
in the flooded blood of the Hong Kong debacle.

 JIRIKI
All clean-kill procedures were followed.


 TAKEHASHI
And the data, the data was already gone....

 JIRIKI
Hai, Takehashi-san. I regret we were not on-site
quickly enough to prevent their strip-destruction
of the courier-insertion copy.

 TAKEHASHI
And the courier himself has escaped.

 JIRIKI
Regretfully.

 TAKEHASHI
There are only a sticky-handed handful of conglomerates
that could profit by receipt of such data.
But which sinning one is the courier headed for?

 JIRIKI
There was no mold of a clue remaining on-site.

 TAKEHASHI
Regretful that there is no one left alive to tell us.

 JIRIKI
It is best to leave no witnesses.

 TAKEHASHI
Secrecy is of vital importance.
Zony is a serious competitor.
I believe you will remember the last time.

 JIRIKI
Yes. My brother will not come back to life.

 TAKEHASHI
It was... regretful... what happened to your brother.

 JIRIKI
Yes. Our information was faulty.

 TAKEHASHI
There was no way to know that.

 JIRIKI
Hai! Yakuza-san.

 TAKEHASHI
Hai! Yakuza! [Pause.]
A Zony vendetta is to be feared and avoided.
If they do not come to understand that we, Tigris,
are involved, then they cannot retaliate until
it is too late. Once we have the data, and word hits
the market that Zony's mainframe is merely
an empty shell, their stock will plummet, and they
will cease to be a viable threat. To anyone.

 JIRIKI
I was able to discover where the courier was headed.

 TAKEHASHI
Tell me.

[JIRIKI pauses.]

 TAKEHASHI
Immediately!

 JIRIKI  [Shrugs.]
Los Angeles.

 TAKEHASHI
You must go there at once, without your team.
We cannot risk broadcasting our presence.
Take the next flight. Immediately.

 JIRIKI
I already have.

[The next thing we see is JIRIKI taking off her VR goggles; we
realize that she was holo-conferencing with TAKEHASHI the entire
time.]




Contents

SCENE THREE


[JIRIKI is revealed removing her vid goggles aboard a transpacific
flight.]

 JIRIKI
My highflying banzai eye skips the scudding
pacific effortless-- what a beautiful rueful day!
Takehashi's all frantic-splenetic at our catastrophe.
My failure to nab with carbon-based hands
what precise, silicon plans demand. Like Hitler diminished
to his third-tier Third Reich and subconscious bunker,
Takehashi sees his Pacific Rim's Tojo-Axis red
all over the watery map, arrowing out the victory track
past burning men still smouldering in their bombed-out Panzers.
His hyped holographic highrise of Yakuza supremacy
will vanish beneath his florsheim's one night
in a bit-instant, every at-attention one twisted round to zeroes
all unable to give purchase to his slick, stamping heel.
Takehashi's ghost of willfulness courses through his black
enraged eye, a collapsing star of small-mindedness
bending every rearing ray to its quicksand sinkhole
like VanGogh's one, sultry, sunken raven
punching through the blazing wheatfields at Ardennes.
Asian Ahab with a wooden heart to my
step-at-fetch-it Starbuck, we spit our spatting,
snapping histrionics on a tilting deck of pressed circuits,
themselves star-stuff like the rest of us, waiting
a rapid hint of free electrons to surge and shine.
My brother, if you can hear me from your lacquered level
of purging purgatory even now, burn knowing
that I will not be caught saluting that jerk
when his personal, vortexing apocalypse appears
reeling him to the crushing no-space of a quasar
by the torqued tongue-instrument of his own
freshly pressed tie.




Contents

SCENE FOUR


[JIRIKI sits at a bar with her back to the audience. We do not
recognize her until JOHNNY talks to her and JIRIKI turns around.
JOHNNY does not realize that this isn't his legitimate contact, but
we do.]

 JOHNNY
A charming establishment.

 JIRIKI
Yes. I come here often; its in the neighborhood.

 JOHNNY
Really? I've never been.

 JIRIKI
Well, then, welcome, Mr....

 JOHNNY
Oedipus. Rex Oedipus.

 JIRIKI
Mr. Oedipus.

 JOHNNY
Do you have the other half of the payment?

 JIRIKI
[Holding up paycard.] In this account. Do you have the data?

 JOHNNY
Its staring at you.

 JIRIKI
Ah. Yes. The so-called wild eyes.

 JOHNNY
You are very beautiful.

 JIRIKI
An irrelevant comment, Mr. Oedipus.

 JOHNNY
I've had one sweat of a day.

 JIRIKI
It is very pleasant to meet you as well;
I never knew someone who'd hollow out their skull
for a few dollars, or a plain yen-infestation
of their bank account. It seems a dirty thing;
a soul perverted to pay a bill. But I guess
some people are in paradise if they can sell
one kidney to keep the other one slummed in beer.

 JOHNNY
Yeah, well. Its real nice to meet you too.

 JIRIKI
Tell me,-- do you mind if I call you Mr. O?--
Tell me, Mr. O, what's it like to sleep with a girl,
do her, to fool your body into its measured, rhythmed
dick-tick of boy-joy and juice expenditure
and not know if that woman sleeping next to you,
a swollen lust-bunny and tired angel, was your
fucked mother or reamed-out sister? What does it feel like?
I have a squat, powerful curiosity.

 JOHNNY
What the fuck is your game? You some kind of
mag-lev perv, getting off by being so repellent?

 JIRIKI
Hey, whatever shoots your goose. Right, Mr. Oedipussy?
[Pause.] Tell me, have you ever hunted?

 JOHNNY
I don't really have the downtime. And, besides,
the preserves are smaller than God's Providence these days;
ten snapping Nikons to every twitching bush.

 JIRIKI
The killing attracts me. In parts of China you can still
buy out a bushido-style lancing safari. Very black market,
but the officials are as corrupt as cancer out there.

 JOHNNY
I've heard that they don't even have eye-in-the-terminal
bigbrother technology in the ditches there yet.

 JIRIKI
Some places in China are still very primitive.
Occasionally you run pell-mell across an entire village
that still believes in Mao's little Red Book.



 JOHNNY
The bioluminescent tatoo artist in this neighborhood is very good,
I hear.

 JIRIKI
Yes. Fine work.

 JOHNNY
He once did a bird-of-paradise on a sumo wrestler's
kicking midriff, with mating display air sacs
that could fool to wooing another bird-of-paradise.
Or so I hear.

 JIRIKI
I have seen it in photographs.

 JOHNNY
They say that the wrestler keeled over at Mickey-Ds,
trying to keep up his wrestling weight, and they
cut the neon-suave tatoo out of him there and then.

 JIRIKI
Yes. Its true.

 JOHNNY
They say its on display at the MOMA now.

 JIRIKI
Indeed it is.

 JOHNNY
Say, if you're from this neighborhood, you must know Aldo. Grew up
around here somewhere. Been in the business forever.

 JIRIKI
Oh sure. Aldo. Great guy.

 JOHNNY
Hey, I've got a splitting headache. Do you mind....

 JIRIKI
Go ahead. Don't take any aspirin, though. It'll throw the micron
readings off.

[JOHNNY gets up and heads towards the bathroom.]




 JIRIKI
Spired and alive on my freemarket highwire,
I perform fearless feats against the cold quartz clock.
Zipped from a split-screen meeting with holographic
Takehashi, I rocked my supersonic ass across the Pacific
doublequick. Speed Racer erasing this distance.
All the Hong Kong flights had their outbound relays delayed
by my chortling cohorts at HK International Airway;
the skyglide had some fractil gravel flipped
beneath its sweet, silver, sweptback wings-- cha-ching!
And now I'm here, and in the clear to zero-out
my Rex's rich head to a lopped-off nullity.
When he gets back from his piss and patented
head-tread massage-o-matic in the bathroom-- vvvvipp!
I'll bowling-bag back the crimson lump of data
to my restless master pacing his eterna-wear carpeting
back to pressboard. Ha ha. Life's easy, sinuous, and free.
Everything is possible with the right backer.

[In the bathroom.]

 JOHNNY
Shit. I've gotta get out of here. That's not my contact.

[JOHNNY presses at the edge of the sealed window; it gives.]

 JOHNNY
Test everything.

[A minute later, JIRIKI comes into the bathroom, dashes out the
window.]






Contents

SCENE FIVE


[Interior of vidiphone. JOHNNY has just escaped JIRIKI using a
hologram. He punches in, using a phonecard lifted from someone
along the way so its untraceable. Calls his X-girl. She's in a
rockband, but very sheik hi-exec type. Has serious Madonna-class
negotiation skills.]

 JOHNNY
Lean adrenaline shifts into me, giving Stim-shakes
to my wimpy limbs. Fetal-curled in my plastic cocochannel-scented
and probably soon to become tomb-- too soon tombed,
I punch for who, sweet Lord!, who to be my last treasured gasp
of the realistic-fantastic? I had thought my 24 hours
more blatantly impastoed than this fate's twisty titty-twist.
I need my gaping grave's immeasurable reveries
to be more fly-thick with incident before I'll
refuse to whinny and kick the presswood coffinlid
back into outer space, like that 2-3-5 proportion propulsed
icon-object in Odyssey 2001, hon. I've fobbed
this soggy callcard from a alley-plunked drunk,
some Stim-junkie swilled into unconscious bliss
in a cobalt drool pool two zagged blocks back.
That Yakuza semen-storage device gave chase, and I accepted.
A mistake. [Puts card in machine.] Who do I know in L.A.?
Memory, memory, work, work; this screen's empty as a lily,
pale blank, waiting for my shivering fingers to remember
some name. C'mon, guys, type! Here, I'll help you:
here's a mnemonic code I heard in the first grade.
[Sing-songs:] abcdefg-hijklmnop.....qrstu...vw...xy and z.
[Pause.] X, y, and z. XYZ. X! X! X-cetera!

[JOHNNY types, an instant later we hear:]

 XCETERA
You've rocked it in the socket and locked onto the X-girl. Have a
sip of saki and state your business or you're not getting on the
guestlist.

 JOHNNY
Uh, hello, Xcetera?

 XCETERA
Glistening.

 JOHNNY
Um.... Do you remember me?


 XCETERA
Not yet. [She looks at info offscreen, reads.] Howard Chicichigano?

 JOHNNY
Uh no, this is Johnny. I'm sure they're radaring the net for me.

 XCETERA
Johnny! Well, I do remember you. How've you been? Are you in
wow-town? Why'd you call me?

 JOHNNY
I'm not really sure. I remembered your name. Kinda flamed out at
me.

 XCETERA
Ought to flame after that game we played last time we got together.
Who's looking for you? And who's Howard Chicichigano anyway?

 JOHNNY
I lifted that card. And, I'm not sure who's after me.

 XCETERA
You always were sorta absent-minded. Absent mind, but what a grind!
Hey, Johnny, are you OK? You look a little shivery, out-of-focus,
you know?

 JOHNNY
Slightly unmanageable Stim-adrenaline overcharge. Muscleclature's
having trouble stabilizing in just three dimensions.

 XCETERA
Oh, baby. You need to relax. Is that vidphone VR capable?

 JOHNNY
Yeah, it seems to be. But what....

 XCETERA
I was sure it would be. Well, I was thinking, y'know, for old
times' sake....

 JOHNNY
Jesus H., what makes you so horny, Xcetera?

 XCETERA
C'mon! It's not like you ever call.

 JOHNNY
No, really, I don't have time for this.

 XCETERA
Do you want my help or not?

 JOHNNY
I need your help....

 XCETERA
Into the pressure sheath then. I don't want to miss one wiggle of
that x-tra cute bod of yours.

 JOHNNY
Xcetera!

 XCETERA
Velcro-up and initiate, toyboy.

[JOHNNY reluctantly slips into a superthin mylar sheath that will
give sensation feedback to the wearer. To us, it looks like he is
in a martian sleeping bag.]

 XCETERA
[Licking her lips.] Virt time! I hope you don't mind if I make you
an American Gladiator.

[JOHNNY's sheath is still. XCETERA begins horny monologue;
eventually his mylar sleeping bag begins to wiggle.]

 XCETERA
There it is, sinner, beneath an open, mesmerized sky
anti-aliased electric blue: Our white, sweet, antique,
chrome-loaded chevy Impala, baby, locked on automatic pilot.
I used to honk the obtruding horn whenever
our motions got too close in bliss during our
erotic rovings-- two self-willed adolescents yearning
to breed free! Remember its triple, Italianate accent?
Reep reep reeppii! Push back the leather strap---
there, there, no, there! Oh Johnny, jiggle over
and give us a kiss. [Pause.] Your hot tongue's the last
word in virtual thrill; my teeth must ai carumba!
for another shove and jangle just like that.
I thought a honed, rainbowed Nevada skyline
would smack of just the right, apocalyptic bliss.
See, the green, flora-chlorafilled cacti are all
erect... ripe! Spikes as sopped as tugged jugulars
against a radiant, pristine me. Lick
the tender effigy you see clean of sweat.
My smiles abandon fashion and curl into self-fulfilling
fractals now. Oh Johnny. Your wildly styled eyes
are x-raying a cinematic me to glory. Lord,
if your insisting gospels had half his
insinuating touch, I'd snake my way to mass
on bleeding knees to get your blood and body
in my mouth. Johnny, I'm transparent-ecstatic
beneath your advancing glance. Is there something
in this rush of fluids that has a spine?
You make me see myself rolled back to one
primeval ache. It must be love! Double-gloved
and lightwired, as we seem to be,
each compelling touch is rough-rouged or cozened
by the hot electronic mist this interface
imposes; I know that what's boning me
to this unreal glow is real-feel real, dear.
Can't you feel it too, my Johnny?
That dactylic riff, the idyllic lick I apply
in alarming lures to your swiftly constructed skin?
Lurid under the instant thunderstorm, and plowing
90 down the road, the rains, the rains, are hissing
lovish appellations as we reach our applauding finish.

 JOHNNY
That almost did finish me.

 XCETERA
Confess: you never could resist my wishes, dishy.

 JOHNNY
Ahh, phew. [Stepping out of sleeping bag.] Now, about that minor
assistance I was asking about. Can you safehouse me? I'm going to
require some major in-tech support.

 XCETERA
No can do, babearoo.

 JOHNNY
But Xcetera!

 XCETERA
Sorry, joyguy, we're just two halves of a double
helix that pass and kiss in the gene pool. Look,
I've got to go on tour in exactly 39 and 1/2 minutes.
All the Pacific Rim wants a twist at Xcetera.
Can I help it if I'm the most popular girl in highschool?
And this time, I didn't have to blow all the jocks
to get there. I'm not going to flummox
my own success for any brain-fry cadet, I don't care
how annoyingly vulnerable he is. [Pause; no response from JOHNNY.]
Hey, Johnny, you look seriously cruised.
You should check in somewhere, chicano amano.

 JOHNNY
Yeah, well, I guess I'll do that then. You know,
you can be a real harsh miss sometimes, Xcetera.
A sinister bitch.

 XCETERA
Si-- and I mean sigh-- onara.

[JOHNNY, drained, staggers down the street a few paces, collapses
near the bum who's callingcard he lifted, Stim-twitching in
restless dream.]





Contents

SCENE SIX


[JIRIKI has circled back to the bar in search of JOHNNY. Her
cellular phone rings, bleeps. It is TAKEHASHI.]

 JIRIKI
Jiriki.

 TAKEHASHI
Report.

 JIRIKI
Takehashi-san. Things... have not gone well.

 TAKEHASHI
Report on the disposition of the data.

 JIRIKI
The courier is at large in L. A. But he is weak, confused.

 TAKEHASHI
Where is the data?

 JIRIKI
Still with the courier.

 TAKEHASHI
You have failed me, Jiriki.

 JIRIKI
Yes, Takehashi-san.

 TAKEHASHI
This is not honorable.

 JIRIKI
Hai!

 TAKEHASHI
I shall be in L. A. in three hours. Locate the courier. But do
nothing until I arrive.

 JIRIKI
Hai!

 TAKEHASHI
Do not fail me as your brother did, Jiriki.

 JIRIKI
Yes, Takehashi-san.

[TAKEHASHI clicks off. JIRIKI's face is underlit as he punches into
the Net to find out where JOHNNY's scurried to.]

 JIRIKI
Bashed and abolished in Takehashi's ramping eye, I stare
a chastened tiger left to nose his noosing confines
and drink the grateful milk his captors trickle
to his imprisoned dish. Raarr!! I'll not confine
my blood-browsing to our target-flesh, but turn,
a battered parricide of sorts, on whatever
white-cuffed, pleasant hand has held me
to my permitted meats. My brother's lolling neck
was gnashed on monofilament barbedwire
that night we hit the chip printing installation
at our paid enemy's glass-towered camp.
Takehashi had rushed the singing wire blind
and sent out a piercing, high-decibel trill
beseech-screeching loudly at the starred sky.
I remember my dash-mastering brother's final act:
a silhouette against the nothing of the night,
losing an untouchable gush of blood
from his carotid... he still held himself lightly
against gravity and the light tripping
of the metal threat alarm. I saw him die
upright, trying to save us all in the spasm
aftermath of the foiled attack. And Takehashi
saw what I had seen. Their security satellite's
relay microwaved retaliation at our matt backs,
dull in absorbent black. We raced beneath our cheap,
starlight-reflective mylars through the burning grass.
I mirrored to the android submersible
to pick us up like sandfleas off the shore.
A mile out, through the transparent serpent
of the periscope I watched my hopeless
brother's body burn high on the midnight wires
like Christ deified.





Contents

SCENE SEVEN


[JOHNNY's X-girl finds him unconscious on the street of his
previous scene. She administers some sort of medicine to him.]

 XCETERA
Half-alive. You've got to live with all of your skin,
and everything writhing within. What do I keep telling you,
Johnny? This high-mem courier gig is for encephalitics,
not my sweet thing. Oh Johnny, Oh God. You felt
so nervous-alive in the Virt box. God. [JOHNNY moans, stirs.]
That's it, that's it, keep on rocking. I can't believe
your vital stats are so frayed and bad. You're boxed
in with the reaper already, nearly. You're in
the knocking room, the knocking room. Wake up,
Johnny. Johnny. Look who came to you.

[JOHNNY wakes.]

 JOHNNY
What the hell are you doing here?

 XCETERA
You looked a little albino around the gills;
so, I ran a simulation based on physio signs
picked up via vid, calculated a probable
knock-out radius, and here I am.
....You're the only horizontal thing on the street
besides that bum who's callcard you stole.

 JOHNNY
Quite a pair.

 XCETERA
Why, thank you.

 JOHNNY
No, not you. Nevermind. I thought you had a flight to catch, a
concert to lullaby at in Adorationland.

 XCETERA
You know, I keep telling myself: Beautiful,
stop thinking with your vulva, stop thinking
with your vulva, stop thinking with your
vulva. But, by the third vulva, I've forgotten
all the other words in the sentence.

 JOHNNY
All right, all right. I'm sorry. Thank you for saving my ass, your
highness.

 XCETERA
You should talk to me like that more often. I night be inclined to
do a little more than dust your sorry ass off and send you
monorailing on your way.

 JOHNNY
I hear you, I hear you.

 XCETERA
If I'm going to be involved in this,
I want to know everything. You'd better come clean
right now; dump your core, Johnny, or I'll
have to spacewalk out of this sorry scenario
right now. I can't operate in the dark.
I'm not going to end up in some Multi-User Dungeon
on the darqside just for you, screwball.

 JOHNNY
All right. Here it is. I've got less
than seven heavenly hours to eep and decompress
my utterly overly compressed brain, or I'll
splurge my neuron-trodes all over your
shiny shiny boots in one big ugly way.

 XCETERA
You've arced your meat hardcore.

 JOHNNY
Yeah. Something like that. And if I don't
unzip and download soon....


 XCETERA
.... its a lifetime winter vay-cay in lovely Catatonia.

 JOHNNY
Something like that.

 XCETERA
You know, I'm starting to not like you all over again.

 JOHNNY
It's like the first time again for me too, darling.

 XCETERA
As it is, I'm going to call a friend of mine who might
be able to hack your ass out of this mess, sweetness.

 JOHNNY
No. Absolutely not. I don't want to involve
any strangers in this. Have to keep a zip-ship
encryption-strict security girdle on this
or its a total no-go.

 XCETERA
Speed dialing.

 JOHNNY
Xcetera....

 XCETERA
Connect.

 JESUS
[Online.] Jesus Saves Refuse Unlimited.

 XCETERA
Can the salespitch, Jesus. This is Xcetera.

 JESUS
Hey, I thought I read that you were on tour.

 XCETERA
Well, I am scheduled to depart in 06 minutes.

 JESUS
Well crack my ass, you didn't have to call to say goodbye.


 XCETERA
Jesus, please, don't let that moniker go to your pretty head. This
is Xcetera, after all.

 JESUS
Well, then, what's the deal.

 XCETERA
My friend here is sick, real sick.

 JESUS
Put his head up against the phone.

[JOHNNY leans over, puts his head against it.]

 JESUS
[Low, appreciative whistle.] Wow. That must hurt like a
motherfucker. What'd you do, use your head to storage a
surreptitious copy of the entire human genome?

 JOHNNY
Something like that.

 JESUS
Wow....

 XCETERA
Can you download him? Jesus.

 JESUS
I don't know. No. Not with anything I have here.
There's no hardware to work on in there. Its all
just lapsed synapses fluxing in a steady-state,
tripping the same billion handful of neurons back
and forth, waiting to be read-and-released. Right?

 JOHNNY
Right. Aldo said something about the download device
creating a self-defining decryption algorithm.

 JESUS
Yes, that makes sense, given the encryption medium's
inherent chaotic tenancies. But you's need something
alot more sensitive than an MRI to read the initial-state
synapse status. I'm afraid there's not a damn thing
that I can do to help you.


 XCETERA
Shit.

 JESUS
You'd better find your contact person split-second fast
and let them wedge you out to download status pronto.
You've already got some pretty serious neural degrade.

 JOHNNY
Great. My contact was killed.

 JESUS
Go to wherever he came from then. But I can't
really help.... So, Xcetera, is your tour cancelled,
or just the first concert, you diva-vixen yeowl-howler?
I was kind of looking forward to catching you on MTV.

 JOHNNY
But I don't know what company my contact represented!
[Noticing he's being ignored.] Jesus Christ!

 JESUS
I told you I can't help you. I don't have
the set-up for anything nearly that complex
in biotech reach. You're fucked and hexed, rex.

 XCETERA
Jesus, is there anyplace around that might have
equipment sensitive enough to help Johnny out?

 JESUS
Well....

 JOHNNY
Yes... yes....

 JESUS
There might be one place. Down in the valley.

 XCETERA
Praise the Lord.

 JESUS
And pass the ashes. I did some freelance consulting
at this one place last spring, bringing
their trash facilities in line with Kalifornia's
new eco-standards. I remember seeing a sign in the valley
for an experimental decryption facility....

 JOHNNY
Oh great. And I'm going to let a garbage man root
around in my junked skull?

 JESUS
Waste management is very serious business, mister.
Mafia's all over that catshit. You know, though,
there's only x square kilometers of habitable earth
surface, and each squealing human being
in our present state of technological grace
requires y kilometers of that flatness to support them.
So, we have to minimize and manage our waste products.
And haste makes waste, my friend.

 JOHNNY
Yeah, well, in six-plus hours you can hump me
into the human parts bin in back of the medical
center; I'll be 100% waste then.

 JESUS
It would free up a few kilometers for alternate use.

 XCETERA
Jesus.

 JESUS
But I see your point. I guess I'd better
hack some facetime on this mission, miss.
Meet me here immediamente, Xcetera.

 XCETERA
We'll be there.

 JESUS
Stay clean and stay Green. Hate the Grid,
but love the Net. A crypto-Anarchic creed.
My personal praxis? Definitely.





Contents

SCENE EIGHT


[TAKEHASHI arrives in L. A. to cut off JIRIKI's thumb.]

 TAKEHASHI
Pilgrim grim in my IBM issue business suit,
I stalk my subservient, Jiriki, through the trick matrix
of his fuzzy deceptions, crashing from their apogee
in my high, black, blind eye back to disastered earth.
Her hiroshimaed shadow is grounded now to dust.
Her whiz-biz methods and black-jacketed audacity
have spent their new sheen to narrow nothingness.
Its time for the farmer's boy to pluck luck
back out of distress, save our sassy asses,
and then mount the pure air back to longing Hong Kong,
our clients, and one fat untraceable account.

[Enter JIRIKI.]

 TAKEHASHI
Oh Jiriki, your golden eye trapped like a whale's
flotsamed to the gritty beach, stares at the wrong man
for the wanness of compassion. I will not
pale and weep; I will not lose
honor to gain mercy at this late date. We are not
some harikari brat-pack with wise almond eyes.

 JIRIKI
Can't I ginger my disgrace with some saving gesture?

 TAKEHASHI
Too late. Avert your defeatist face.
I am tired of looking at your eyes.
You've crash-landed in the wrong century
if you want to meet the buddha face-to-face.
[Strips off shirt, readies blade.]
His peace is the peace of Nirvana-hounds, while I,
I only believe in howling hell herself.
Can't you see the skin demons that gird my arms about?
They are not there to laugh my soul to peace.
Pace, pace, is for Roman tongues, not mine.
I've sabered together my hatred and life-flash
from eons of culture-trivia, and know that the choice
was mine. "Garbage in, garbage out." This is all
the mantra-motor on which I will willingly rely.
Thumbs up, so I may like a marauding Caesar
mow it down, please. [Cuts off thumb.]
Thank you, Jiriki. Now place the blood stub
in that plastic forensic, mummifying cup
over there. It will preserve it to a blue, strained
stain-- a thumb lump of marble crushed
and petrified in mezazoic muds. Good soldier.
There's a generic box of aspirin
by the gilded Gideon on the nightstand.





Contents

SCENE NINE


[Before the door of the high-tech NAVUS company in Silicon Valley.
JESUS uses a video-enhanced fake head (perfect-register video
image) to trick the security system, which is totally automated,
and therefore can be tricked in this way.]

[JESUS pulls a mounted transparent head from a bowling bag.]

 JOHNNY
What the hell is that?

 JESUS
The Admiral's ghost. This is the head of NAVUS;
P. J. Spindt. The Admiral started NAVUS
on technology he smuggled out of the Navy.
The first tax break-in of many many for old
"teflon sides." This gimmick here's
a perfect register video image projected
into a transparent latex matrix. The high definition
video is indistinguishable from the actual,
since security never uses a high-res set-up
to grab their image. Too expensive. Waste of good technology.
We'll go by probably a thousand cameras
between the front door and the lab-- every one
standard issue; I guarantee it.
Even old P. J. Spindt's retinal pattern
is back projected behind the pupils.
And the fleshlike quality of the latex lets
lets the security computer think that a real amigo
is dawdling at the yipping gate, and not
some high-grade computer-simulation being fed in
mouth-to-nipple on the in-house video line.
That's how this kind of break-in would normally
be attempted. They know that. And that means that I know
that, and that I know that they know that.
So, I'm using a throwback technology that they
won't be expecting, and aren't prepped
to guard against. If the cavalry expects you
to use high-res lasers, throw rocks instead.
And, since there's no human operator in the security sys
at this minimal level (since human operatives
can be bought, or their caring families
held at nazi-hostage)-- there's nobody in there
to wide angle the camera and see that instead
of old P. J. Spindt standing demanding
that "these fuckers pipe me aboard," its just Jesus
and his apostles ready to rob the grave.
This plastic baby is a failed precursor of the hologram.
But it should do what we want it to.

 XCETERA
Praise be to the Lord.

 JOHNNY
All this is really interesting. But can we
get going? Pretty soon I'm going to have a headache
that makes Mt. St. Helen's look like a job
for Flintstones chewables.

 XCETERA
Jesus, plug that silicon monkey in,
and start chattering.

 JESUS
All I have to do is caress this indentation
and old P. J. here goes into ectoplasmic morph.

 JOHNNY
Do it.

[JESUS touches the button.]

 JESUS
Disney!

 J. P. SPINDT
Vox identification J. P. Spindt. Request entrance.

[The computer whirrs silently for a moment, the door clicks softly
open.]

 COMPUTER VOICE, FEMALE, PLEASANT
Identification accepted.

 XCETERA
OK, commandoes. Let's get the Encyclopedia Japonica
out of Johnny's head here.

[They go in.]





Contents

SCENE TEN


[In the laboratory. JOHNNY is strapped in, as in first scene.
TAKEHASHI and JIRIKI are standing there as the lights go up. JIRIKI
is silent, next to TAKEHASHI.]

 TAKEHASHI
OM. AUM. Son of the one and Sony Only,
I must have your head of you. Now now now.
This is the will of TIGRIS, and I mayn't be amiss.
Prepare for the honor of being included
in our non-delusional database, Johnny. Your head
has hacked a 21st century miracle today. It seems
you see with sweeping vision the rude suicide
of the future past. History reflects grammar,
you know that. And today's grammar lesson
conflates the stripped ego-I of yourself
into the near seamless industry of Us. It is
never too late to be appropriated by the debate.
A detournement? Perhaps. The powers that be are only
sad shadows of themselves; every grand god gets
his heaven from those who stoop to praise.
Not in any other way. Jiriki and I are the realtime
kneelteam forcing prayers and payment
from the buckled-in and reluctant. Lucent enough?
I know that my god needs me. Hiss blessing
will suffice my truncheoned and nodding know-node.
Every dent bleeds obedience. I gain my significance
by the swiftness of my adherence. By believing that
this solemn rumor of communion occurs, it does.
Each prayer completes its nattering circuit,
and I am pulled bootstrapped by my own, loved.
rosy and stolen prayerbeads into the heaven
I invented. Your death will bequeath a mantra
I will repeat in my flitting Porsche
by the datalight your own buzzing bits emit.
I regret that your death has gone the narrow road
to become our only saving solution in this situation.
But, I must have your head. It sheds
its charcoal and aesthetic side as well:
one man's death, and a billion billion numerals
and lines of running programming will roam free.
A very American phrase for this nexus
of a nearly Greek necessity. But, I must have your head.
Fate has held her high-watt candle to your egg,
and found you nearly hatching. But your data is far, far
too valuable to go flapping into the safe,
Pacific sunset. No. You must hatch bursting
into our neural Net, and flap to the flip profit
of the garden that makes a statue of you.
You will be in our pantheon a long time, Johnny.
Your headless honor will be long upheld.
A good fate for one as inherently insignificant
as yourself. Other gods have played
their flaying game with us, eons out of mind;
bitter centuries that spent their thin hours
defying time only to be once again defined by its
bright passage. So it is with us. So it shall be.
Formulated in your brain is a pro-rated program
that has discovered a new law of physical intercon-
nectedness. A law that will bring all of cyberspace
under one comprehensible rubric of imagination's fancy.
The company that owns that program will define
online reality by having a superior understanding of all
events that unfold there. Not a mere simulation,
or model of a model of the universe's perverse
halves soldered whole, but the complete
thing-in-itself, the face in the cybersky,
revealed. Einstein's spacetime for the inner real.
Root and website, floating point fluency
and the innumerable numinous.

 JOHNNY
Great. Just great.

 TAKEHASHI
Be content, not contentious. Your hissing spleen
demeans you. Did you think that you would never die?
That your morning's prayers would forever
cease in noon? That noon would trundle on
to night, and that dark bring back some waking
from the heralded nightmare of your sleep?
That the circuit that you ran and ran
was supercooled, frictionless, supreme?
Yourself the white electron of that
hyperborean dream? The corporation is the home
of our small-m mythic identities. It will harbor
all that any dim one may glow and give
in the synergistic many of its waves.
Geodesic sunlight will split upon its crests.
Light supplied, and light divided; prismed
to a startled pitch, a rainbow vibration
of significance. Electrons, racing ever, there will find
some rest. "Johnny" is the marker of one, just one,
sequence of surfing, superfluous bytes and bits.
Markers on a game the maker has forgotten
how to play. Takehashi is another marker, and hops
where he is shoved. This is the way of the Way.
And even your disobedience translates into
"Well, OK." Jiriki, your friends standing here,
the blank billions who dot the globe, all, all
are markers and dot their bingo cards
embryo-blind as lab mice. What number will
be called from the algorithm infected with
raw chance? The hollering caller is blind,
the corporate players have put out their eyes.
They play the final game every day
with giant thumbs that manipulate human lives.
Pretty, pink bingo pieces that may shove back,
but still are shoved. Our corporate sponsors play
this pink bingo daily, but never win.
The game goes on. Only their ferocity to win is real,
and gains its reality at our expense. Pink
bingo pieces smear the cards. the game goes on.

[JIRIKI, to whom TAKEHASHI has handed his ceremonial sword, beheads
TAKEHASHI, with a cry:]

 JIRIKI
Hai!

[Everyone looks at each other in total astonishment.]

 JIRIKI
The people I represent will perform a micron-depth vivisection of
your brain matter, scan the autopsied synapses, map them on a
computer-generated grid, model your brain unerringly, and then
extract the information we need from that model using decryption
methods already available to us.

 XCETERA
Can't you just yank it out of his aching head, like we were just
about to do just now?

 JIRIKI
The interests I am employed to satisfy are not non-invasive
capable. This technology is too cutting edge.

 JESUS
Nice pun. Just let us download here. I've got a handle on it.

 XCETERA
And we'll give you whatever we extract.

 JOHNNY
Hey, I'm under contract....

 XCETERA
Johnny, shut-up.

 JESUS
You don't even have the time to get him to any facility before he
goes critical. The data will be irretrievable when than happens.

 JIRIKI
You need him alive. I do not. I simply require his head. I hold the
advantage. I do not see where our goals overlap.

 JESUS
Even dead, his steady-state will begin an irreversible decay
process. The information he's carrying is extremely delicate, and
the cryptology more massive than anything I've ever even heard of.

 JIRIKI
That is a chance I will have to take.

 XCETERA
But you don't have to take it. The decryption equipment is right
here.

[JIRIKI pauses.]

 JESUS
We didn't set off any intruder alarms, did you?

 JIRIKI
No.

 JESUS
So nobody knows we're here....

 JOHNNY
But I won't get paid!

 XCETERA
Johnny. Shut. Up.

 JIRIKI
My company can recompense you.

[Smiles all around.]

 JESUS
All right Johnny, let's see some mercury. Open them twiggy peepers,
I'm about the read your mind.

[They attach eye-shielding, lightwires.]

 XCETERA
Just who do you work for anyway?

 JIRIKI
Soma-E. A subdivision of Zony.

 JOHNNY
That's who the information was pirated from in the first place.

 JIRIKI
They outbidded my loyalty from TIGRIS-eyed Takehashi.

 XCETERA
Pointless. This whole routine. Totally pointless.

 JESUS
One more iteration through the feedback loop.

 JOHNNY
Aldo said they'd probably be pretty anxious to retrieve their data.

 XCETERA
I guess "Aldo" was right.

 JIRIKI
Aldo was executed when my team hit the impromptu lab where you were
uploaded.

 JOHNNY
Did anyone else make it out of there?

 JIRIKI
[Insulted.] I am efficient.

 JESUS
Commencing download sequence. Now.

[Lightwires flicker on. A moment passes.]

 JOHNNY
Oh....

[Stage lights go down, except for a spot on JOHNNY, strapped in as
in the beginning.]


 JOHNNY
Who am I? Who amI? If I knew, would I tell?
I can't disclose those cancerous clues,
they eat identity alive, and, in this case,
that's mine. If I'd decide to die, this finishing minute,
who would I send packing to the chopping block?
What soma-droning and drowning boy have I become?
Was Takehashi right, have I no I in my lead sights?
What love or inspiration lingers at these
graphited fingertips? Zoned on overloaded silicone,
and trapped in one final, ecstatic Now,
I'll know my ground zero when I feel it, not before.
How many times can a man divide and evade?
Am I glad my face is melting as if it was never made?
A formless mess puddles into mercury, and drains.
I watch it slither after gravity, and laugh,
a fine, Stim-jimmied extroverted snort.
My moody mortality unmasks me. I stare
into its laser-licking glare and wince.
Who am I, essentially, once the last mask
is ripped back to skin, the final lie,
the lie of self, of something being me
instead of nothing constituting myself
comes up a blank cartridge, a recursive
syntax looping on zero.... What then, what then?
Who then, then what is all of this, this thisness?
What has all of this been? No memory to rudder
my oblivion in some self-defining and self-
creating dream stream self-fashioning; not
even the lazy image of an overhead-projected
story to go by, some ultravivid vid img,
some loved blood on the TV snow. No, not
even that, nothing. But still this head, this
voice, these arcite eyes, skin of antimony,
surreal interior visions and revisions,
still that, until the last moment, the cubed
solution. My question commands silences.
My pause is sempiternal, solemn.
Then, when the microtape fails and fritters,
a thumb on its steel reel, then even
the pause pauses. [Pause.] Pulses of light pass the cave mouth.
I am a sleeper asleep in his cave, in love
with flowing water, all light, the small,
serried series of wet ticks that compose
the human concept of infinity. That deep repeat.
I am in love with my dim cave, its shallows
of lights, its deep darks, the surprising
grottoes that give a sense of unexpected
distance under my suddenly suspended feet.
I pass hours the way an owl, still hungry,
overlooks a vulnerable mouse at the fir's
crowded root. I know the waters pass me
in the dark. I know I am space suspended,
a miracle bridge with no heaven or horizon
to cry out unto. My eyes attract small,
blind fish. They are suave and attentive.
A minute passes. They turn away from me forever,
suave and diminishing. Then they are gone.
I am alone. A minute passes. The waters walk away,
suavely evaporating. A minute passes.
And the cave disintegrates. I am alone.
Space abandons me. There is no medium left
for suavity to express itself in. There is
a darkness so dark that I cannot see it.
Pulses of light pass the cave mouth.
Somewhere else. I am alone.

 JESUS
Disney!

[JESUS pops a cd-rom from its reader, hands it over to JIRIKI, who
exits.]




Contents

End