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.

Dear Planet Jesus

 [Plays], Dear Planet Jesus  Comments Off on Dear Planet Jesus
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

The Soul-Splitter

 [Plays], Soul Splitter  Comments Off on The Soul-Splitter
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.

Ultra

 [Plays], Ultra  Comments Off on Ultra
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



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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^

Digital Boy

 [Plays], Digital Boy  Comments Off on Digital Boy
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

Jan and Marsha

 [Plays], Jan and Marsha  Comments Off on Jan and Marsha
Jul 082020
 

Comedy of twin sisters’ hi-jinks and envy.

FIRST SCENE

[JAN AND MARSHA’S APARTMENT. JAN IS ALONE, STARING AT THE PHONE.]

JAN
Ring. Ring…. Ring.

[PHONE RINGS. JAN STARTS VIOLENTLY.]

JAN
‘Lo. No, no. Marsha’s my sister. Yes, I’ll tell her. You thank her. A thousand thanks. Yes, yes. Got it. G’bye.

[PHONE RINGS.]

JAN
Hello. Expecting a call, actually. I have a life of my own too, y’know. Hmm. Yes, yes. What’s that, sultan? A limo to the airport, free tour of the United Arab Emerates? Great, great. I’ll tell her immeadiately when she comes in. Where’s she now? Oh, ah, binding feet in China, that sort of thing. I know, she seems so nice. Not everything is quite what it seems, is it?

[PHONE RINGS.]

JAN
No, no. Marsha’s my sister. Always likes to insert a helping hand, doesn’t she? You thank her. Yes, well, that’s very generous of you. Look, all she did was change a flat. Get over it.

[PHONE RINGS.]

JAN
No, no, I’m not. Well, she’s my sister, actually. Shared a womb at one time. Very cozy. Low rent, young kids on our own, that sort of thing, you understand. Twins, actually. Always being mistaken for each other. Zygote split, long long ago in the dim dark past, etc. Quite a nasty charade at times, really. Expecting one sister when, whoops, you get the other. Ha, ha, universe has played a quick joke on you. No, not everyone in the same family gets the same amount of niceness. You have me there. Must agree. What’s with this third degree, anyway, some sort of survey? With the census, are you?

[JAN listens to dial tone, looks at PHONE; hangs up.]

[PHONE RINGS.]

JAN
Hello. Oh, the Bronx Zoo, that’s very nice, you’ve got all those nasty beasts hunkered down in prisons or cages over there, haven’t you? Good job. Can’t help you myself. I’m a people person, you understand. What? Oh, you want to speak to

MARSHA
It’s Marsha that you want, is it? Well, I’m not Marsha, though, am I? So, get to the fucking point! You would like to thank her. Thank her. Yes, I get it. I’ve got it. Writing it all down, aren’t I? [JAN “WRITES” A NOTE ON THE AIR WITH HER FINGER.] “Thanks for reading the Chinese fables to Lingling and Yingying. Makes them feel right back at home among the swaying bamboo groves.” Got it, got it. It’s all down here on the Rosetta stone. Lovely, lovely. Yes, her Cantonese is perfection. Y’know, she had a pack of those greasy Tienammin Square exiles camping out here for about six months. Nothing quite as maddening as an apartment full of freedom-fighting computer nerds.

[PHONE RINGS.]

JAN
No, no. Got my own life, haven’t I? Expecting a rather important call, you know. So, buzz off. Thanks, that’s a good buddist. Free tibet with every meal. Yes, yes. Spin a prayerwheel for me then? Drop dead.

[DOORBELL RINGS. JAN PICKS UP THE PHONE.]

JAN
Hello, hello?

[DOORBELL RINGS AGAIN.]

JAN
Oh! [ANSWERS DOOR. BEAUTIFUL FLOWERS ARE DELIVERED.] Sign here? All right, then, off you go. OLR

[JAN LOOKS AT THE CARD ATTATCHED.]

JAN
Prince Charles! That Marsha doesn’t where to draw the line, does she? Damn well rebelled from Britain two-hundred years ago, didn’t we? Still, they’re lovely flowers just the same. [READING.] “In recognition of your outstanding services in re-uniting the Free State of Ireland.” Well, I’ll be. Quite the little diplomat, that

MARSHA
And I was under the impression that all she did was serve tea tuesdays and thursdays at the United Nations. The girl really has no sense of proportion.

[PHONE RINGS. JAN ANSWERS THE DOOR. PHONE RINGS AGAIN.]

JAN
Oh! [ANSWERS PHONE.] Hello? At last! What did you wait so long to call for? The line was busy. Yeah, well, I’m the sister of mercy’s answering service. Is everything set? It’s all go, then? Four p.m. The parade grounds. Two minute timer. Got it. Yes. [HANGS UP.] I’ve got to get changed.

[JAN EXITS. MARSHA, HER IDENTICAL TWIN, ENTERS THROUGH FRONT DOOR, HAULING A HUGE BAG OF ALUMINUM CANS. MARSHA STUTTERS.]

MARSHA
J-Jan? I’m h-home.

JAN
I’m in here, getting changed, apparently into a contender for the World Wrestling Federation chunky-butts championship throwdown, if this mirror can be trusted.

MARSHA
D-did I get any m-m-messages?

JAN
No. Nothing. Not a one. Been a real drop off in your popularity ’round here, sis. A gratitude abyss.

MARSHA
Kind of a r-relief, r-really.

JAN
I’m sorry, Marsh, what did you say? It’s been so quiet around here today, I’ve sort of lost the habit of listening. An innundation of silence. Don’t know how those monks ever readjust.

MARSHA
I’m still n-not used to this eye p-patch Jose Feliciano had sent over for Nat-tivitad.

JAN
Yeah, well, it’s a bit premature, don’t you think? Don’t they make braille calenders in Mexico?

MARSHA
If I d-don’t break it in , what will Jose say the next time he s-sees me?

JAN
That’s a puzzler, but, that’s what you get for donating your eye to a blinded seeing eye dog, dearie.

MARSHA
You d-don’t understand. L-little Joselita is s-so c-cute! I-I just c-counldn’t not.

JAN
God, this thing makes my tummy look like a beachball. Why I ever agreed to help you out with this…OLR, specify help.

[AS MARSHA SORTS HER GIANT STACK OF THANK YOU NOTES.]

MARSHA
So, Jan, how’s your boyfriend?

JAN
Spunkenstein? He’s all right.

SCENE TWO

[SAME. LATER. MARSHA is sorting cans by brand.]

MARSHA
Jan, I’ve got an awfully big favor to ask of you.

JAN
Favor? What makes you think you’ve got the right to ask me any favors?

MARSHA
Nothing. Of course, you’re right. I don’t know how I could’ve asked, really.

JAN
Marsha, you’re such an ass. Go ahead and ask me. I was being sarcastic. I couldn’t really turn down St. Teresa, now could I?

MARSHA
Oh, has she called again?

JAN
Hasn’t stopped. Not since you got her that cellular last Easter.

MARSHA
Well, I was wondering…. I know you like to gainsay all these charities and things….

JAN
Collecting sperm from endangered elephants? How could I mock something as solemn, and huge, as that?

MARSHA
Anyway, I was wondering if you wouldn’t mind…. The thing is, I just know you’ve got a heart of gold in there under all that yakety shellack and those barbed comebacks. You’re my sister, after all, and you couldn’t hide your true nature from me.

JAN
No, of course not. Not after all the childhood anxieties and proms dates we’ve swapped. All the teachers we tricked. Get on,

MARSHA
Gee, this is so edgy and real….

MARSHA
Well, you know how untidy people are at parades….

JAN
Do I LOOK like a maid, Marsh?

MARSHA
No. That’s not it at all. But….

JAN
But I do look great in a frilly apron, right? You sound like Spunkenstein.

MARSHA
They’re always imbibing their favorite brands of deliscious refreshing brand name carbonated commensibles…?

JAN
Yes, yes. All the old horses with their schnozes at the diet cola trough; little ones rotting away their dental inheritance with the sugar-loaded type. Big booming business selling us what we don’t need with ads that we don’t like so that we can go on being NOT happy in our very own very special American way. Happy capitalism day! Hooray! And your point….

MARSHA
A lot of those aluminum cans wind up sloppily discarded on the sidewalk; doing no one any good and creating a minor traffic hazard.

JAN
How dare they! I already asked you if I looked like anybody’s maid, didn’t I?

MARSHA
Yes. And you don’t, really, except maybe Fran Drescher a little. And of course, that means I look like her too, doesn’t it?

JAN
Just like I look like her. Right.

MARSHA
You know, that’s a great deal of top notch aluminum just going to waste.

JAN
And just what are we going to do with it?

MARSHA
Oh, Jan!

JAN
Hypothetically.

MARSHA
Well, since we’re going to the parade anyway….

JAN
Ye-ees.

MARSHA
We could just collect the stuff…. Hypotheically.

JAN
For what conceivable purpose? Another Sputnik? Tidyness’ sake?

MARSHA
Well, same reason I’ve got these. For Jerry’s kids. For crutches.

JAN
Those drooling dolts you have to stare at on Labor Day telethons? Marsha! Get lucid!

SCENE THREE

[THE PARADE. MARSHA picks up and deposits a can in her nearly full sack. JAN’s is empty, except for one or two passing parade viewers have tossed in instead of using the garbage can.]

MARSHA
Clank! A good strong can there. American aluminum.

JAN
Kiddies well on their way to tin limbs, are they? Almost makes me wish I was short a limb.

MARSHA
Well, you are slightly clubfooted,

JAN
That’s how mom always was able to tell us apart..

JAN
Thanks for reminding me, bionic eye. All my life, I’ve been able to slip on my special shoes, and as long as I didn’t mix up my left and right feet, I was OK. Didn’t think of my hanicap at all. Thanks for reminding me of my stature, compared to you, dear dear Marsha.

MARSHA
[recalling.] Big L and big R; mom drew them on your feet with indelible ink once a month like clockwork.

JAN
Like a pediopheliac tattooist, you mean. She used to do that in my sleep. I was ten before I found out that R and L weren’t birthmarks. I still have nightmares about the Tickle Monster… eeuagh!

[MARSHA clinks another can in her sack.]

MARSHA
Look. You’d better get on the ball. I’m getting way ahead.

JAN
[squinting at MARSHA.] The ugly head of competitive spirit, slowly raising its fanged countenance….

MARSHA
It’s what makes America great, isn’t it?

JAN
Oh yeah. It’s what Thanksgiving is all about, really. Corporate pilgrims smashing the competitive daylights out of the Indians on the Maize stock exchange.

[A line of mimes goes by, pulling themselves on an invisible “rope.”]

MARSHA
Oh, mimes! I just l-love mimes.

JAN
I’d like to hear your impression of one about now.

MARSHA
Oh, look. They’ve hauled themselves over to the P-pepsi stand.

JAN
Mimes. Make enough noise when they slurp that stuff down.

MARSHA
Oh, J-

JAN
They’re off duty. Let’s s-see if we can go get their cans.

JAN
[Going along.] Maybe they can shut you up in one of their invisible boxes. And soundproof it.

SCENE FOUR

[LITTLE GIRL SCENE— THE PARADE GROUNDS. The LITTLE GIRL in this scene is indeed one of Jerry’s Kids, and has crutches of aluminum.]

MARSHA
This is a once in alifetime opportunity. Pepsi is sposoring the parade this year. Just think of the discarded cans!

JAN
[to LITTLE GIRL] Are you done with that yet?

LITTLE GIRL
What?

JAN
[Imperious.] Can.

LITTLE GIRL
Can?

JAN
What?

LITTLE GIRL
What?

JAN
Not what, can.

LITTLE GIRL
Can I what?

JAN
Can you give me that can?

LITTLE GIRL
Can I give you what can?

JAN
That can in your hand. Milk-besotted youth… rocknroll is making them all deaf.

LITTLE GIRL
There’s a machine right over there.

JAN
I don’t want a machine, I want that can.

LITTLE GIRL
It takes bills.

JAN
Do I look like a duck?

LITTLE GIRL
Duck?

JAN
Duck, duck! Quack, quack! [flaps arms, etc.]

LITTLE GIRL
You’re a strange duck.

JAN
Look, will you give to me for a buck?

LITTLE GIRL
I said you were a strange duck.

JAN
Do I look like Donald Duck, is that it? There’s Donald, quacking his way through the stratosphere.

LITTLE GIRL
Oh, Donald Duck! Hello, Donnie D!

JAN
Look… just… here’s the dollar. Now give me the can.

LITTLE GIRL
A dollar! Is it real?

JAN
Is it real! Of course its goddamned real…. Who would go to the trouble of etching and printing up a fake… oh, nevermind.

LITTLE GIRL
It certainly looks real.

JAN
It is real. Now give me that soda can.

[LITTLE GIRL pockets dollar, drinks from can.]

JAN
aren’t you done with that yet?

LITTLE GIRL
Donnie D! Donnie D! [she waves furiously.]

[JAN takes the can, dumps it out, clanks can loudly into the bag with the two others, and looks over at MARSHA with a prideful smirk.]

LITTLE GIRL
…Mommie!

MARSHA
Hmm. Well, I guess that’s one more can than we had.

JAN
Look, you might just try thinking of me for a change.

[MARSHA makes “Hmm” thinking sound.]

JAN
What are you doing?

MARSHA
Trying to think of you.

JAN
Well?

MARSHA
Turn around.

JAN
Turn around?

MARSHA
Well, I can’t very well think of you with you looking at me, can I? Don’t you have to be absent or something? Isn’t that the usual way? Dear Fondly-Recalled-in-a-Distant-Land and all that?

JAN
Try harder. I mean, how do I feel for christssake? Hmm? How does neglected and bedraggled two minutes younger, clubfooted Jan feel? Ever ask yourself that? Maybe if you were just a shade more selfish, I could stand the unbearable fact that you are as giving as your are. But, no! Not a chink in your buffed and polished aluminium armor, is there! What a blinding shame! Here comes Marsha the invincible princess, driving her nice new Nice-CBM missle right down the sunny side of the street! All hail princess Nice!

MARSHA
W-would t-that r-really help you out, s-sis? If I w-were m-more like you, t-that is? More b-brutish and s-s-selfish, a female Donald Trump?

JAN
Well, yes. It might; it just might. But not is you’re selfish to me, personally. Try it out on strangers first.See how it feels. Snub a Vietnam vet, or kick a puppy….

MARSHA
I-I s-sup-pose I could try it. F-for you….

JAN
Don’t be all smarmy about it. That would sort of ruin the whole experiment, wouldn’t it? Sheer ruin, that’d be; the whole lab up in napalm. Don’t be selfish for me, be selfish for yourself. Nit.

MARSHA
I g-guess….

[LITTLE GIRL and MOTHER re-enter. MARSHA waves sweetly to her while JAN struggles with selfishness similies.]

JAN
Oh, look. It’s easy; it’s so easy. It’s like… like stealing candy from a baby. [Seeing who MARSHA is waving at.] Great! See that rotten little harridan with the soda-fixation? Figured she’d be in psychotherapy by now with all the fuss she raised.

MARSHA
All right. Right. What do I do now?

JAN
You are a pathetic creature, aren’t you?

MARSHA
My thespian instructress in sixth grade said pathos was a very valuable, as well as evanescent, dramatic trait.

JAN
Just shut it. God! …What do you do? What do you do?

MARSHA
Yes. How do I be selfish?

JAN
If you have to ask others of to be, to be…. Argh! I feel like Lucy being licked by that insufferable beast, that dog, what’s-his-name!

MARSHA
Pathos!

JAN
Was that the dingo’s monniker?

MARSHA
No. You were just such a good example of pathos just then.

JAN
[Going on from before.] Must’ve been named by an out of work actor…. How would you like to be a good example of a cruxifiction, Marsha?

MARSHA
[Going on from before.] Oh. Don’t you just love Snoopy? And, and….Look, there he is! It’s the Snoopy float just rounding the c-corner at the ta-taysachs clinic!

JAN
Yes. That’s the one you’re always bleeding at, isn’t it?

MARSHA
Someone has to be the guinea pig. Science would never advance without a few useful deaths.

JAN
Well, just remember that when you go over to that little girl over there….

MARSHA
Remember what?

JAN
[Lost in thought.] A useful death…. Hmm….

MARSHA
But how am I to be selfish?

JAN
[Flinching from habit.] I am not being selfish,

MOM
Why’re you always on my back. Look, Mother, you can just….[Realizes she is addressing Marsha.] I, I wasn’t being selfish,

MARSHA
I was just lost in thought. [Recovering her self-possession fully.] You do think, don’t you? Can’t serve crumpets at the UN completely without a stinking brain, can you? Perhaps one pickled in formaldehyde?

MARSHA
No, no. You can’t. I mean, yes, I do. I do have a brain. But I still don’t know how I am to be selfish.

JAN
If I told you how, it would hardly be selfish on you’re part, now would it? [Gives a friendly shove while MARSHA is still trying to unpuzzle the logic of her last statement.] Off you go….

[MARSHA goes toward the LITTLE GIRL]

JAN
A useful death, useful death….

SCENE FIVE

[PARADE GROUNDS– MARSHA AND THE LITTLE GIRL]

LITTLE GIRL
Eek! Mommie, it’s that horrible lay. And now she doesn’t gots one eye!

MARSHA
A h-horrible lady? Where?

LITTLE GIRL
[Pointing at MARSHA.] There! there!

MARSHA
T-there? Oh, but you’re pointing at me!

LITTLE GIRL
You took my can of soda.

MARSHA
I’ve got a lot of soda cans here. Now, which one was yours? We’ll fish it out.

LITTLE GIRL
[Taken off guard by MARSHA’s wacky tack.] I-I don’t know.

MARSHA
Well…. Do you know which brand of sodapop it was?

LITTLE GIRL
It’s not the can….

MARSHA
N-not the can? But, all I’ve got are cans. See? [MARSHA shakes bag. Cans clank.]

LITTLE GIRL
I want the soda back. You poured it all out on the dog.

MARSHA
On the d-dog? You mean that c-chia-h-hua-h-hua?

LITTLE GIRL
Chi- wha-…. What?

MARSHA
W-what?

LITTLE GIRL
[Making fun of MARSHA’s stutter.] Wh-w-what?

MARSHA
P-p-poor th-thing! You’ve g-got a st-st-stutter t-too, haven’t you? Well, I know what it’s like growing up with that af-af-fliction.

LITTLE GIRL
[Guiltily.] Pretty tough…. I b-bet.

MARSHA
Well, I can’t tell you anything about it that you d-don’t already k-know. However, don’t let them get you d-down. Just pretend you’re humming your words. Like a little song. [Hums.] I’m a yankee doodle d-dandy… a real live niece of my Uncle Sam….

LITTLE GIRL
Dandy? What’s a dandy?

MARSHA
[Stops humming.] Candy? [Aside.] From a baby! [Aloud. Narrowing her eyes.] You haven’t got any candy, have you?

LITTLE GIRL
Candy!?

MARSHA
I’m afraid I haven’t g-got any candy,

LITTLE GIRL

LITTLE GIRL
…candy?

MARSHA
[Aside.] Selfish. Be selfish. [Alound.] No, I definately do not have any candy…. And, and if I did, well you can be d-darn s-sure I would give you any. [Proudly, conspiritorially.] I’m selfish.

MOM
[Not even turning around to see what’s going on.] Hush, hush, darling. What do you mean, we don’t have any candy? [Pulls a whole bag of candies from her purse.] Now, here, you and your little friend shre this equally. I don’t want any selfishness in my children. And pay attention to the grand parade! the enthusiasms of youth cannot be duplicated! Oh, look, there’s Snoopy and that chittery sidekick of his, what’s-its-name! The yellow feller!

LITTLE GIRL
[Morosely giving half.] That’s half. I’m Melissa.

MARSHA
And I’m M-

MARSHA
Thank you. [To herself.] Maybe this selfishness thing is going to work out.

MOM
[Humming.] Seventy-six trombones in the big parade….

MARSHA
These Cracker Jacks are sure drying out my throat. [Coughs. Opens purse for change.] Wanna grab us a couple of Pepsis?

LITTLE GIRL
[Face lighting up.] Sure!

[LITTLE GIRL gets sodas. They lift them to their lips.]

MARSHA
Well, Melissa, as my friend from the UN, Sven Sorensen, says: skoal!

[MOM turns around, instantly alert]

MOM
Sven Sorenson! I haven’t heard that name in thirty years. Have you heard of him?

MARSHA
Why, I should think so, I gave him a crumpet and a vodka-spiked herbal tea just yesterday, around fourish.

MOM
Did you know that he and I… Well, I haven’t seen Sven in thirty years.

MARSHA
Well….

MOM
My dear woman, Sven and I were affianced all those years ago… We met on a pleasure cruise amongst the great and scenic iceburgs of the North Sea when… when…. [MOM begins to break down.]

MARSHA
When your ship smacked against one, and went all hands down!

MOM
Yes, yes. Greatest disater since the Titanic. I thought Sven… Well, they never found him, nothing at all. And yet you say he’s… he’s….

MARSHA
Alive and in New York. Yes he certainly is. Is your name Morainia?

MOM
Yes! Yes, it is.

MARSHA
Well, he talks of nothing else. He’s been a bachelor these thirty years, and taken to vodka and tea on a regular basis. Sad and proud in a drunken Icelandic way.

MOM
Does he… does he ever mention me?

MARSHA
Talks of nothing else by his third tea, although the tea’s a bit thin at that point. “Morania, Morania dearest.”

MOM
Oh, darling woman, you’ve changed my life!

MARSHA
[to LITTLE GIRL] You’d think he was singing an anthem to a country named Morania, practically….

MOM
I see you like candy. Here, here’s a bagfull. I’ve just divorced the wretch that that makes these Crunch ‘Ems, this girl’s father. But what ever happed to Sven? I mean, they never found….

MARSHA
Caught in a thermal stream. Probably the same one that make the iceberg crack off the glaciers you were touring. That, and the Greenhouse effect. Sven’s the head of head of an international panel I volunteer for on that subject, bye the bye.

MOM
But what happened? Why couldn’t they find him?

MARSHA
Very strange really. I’ve heard the story a thousand times! “AAnd ssen, aafter I scramble oop onto se ledge ov an ice-cave, insiide de iceberg…. I begin to shaake, like de deviil has my soul on a rope, it is so cold. So, soo cold! I tell you.” Oh it was an adventure right enough.

LITTLE GIRL
But then what happened, Marsha?

MARSHA
Well, it gets kind of bloody then.

LITTLE GIRL
Bloody? Oooo….

MARSHA
Yes. Evidently, this fat walrus waddled onto the ice ledge. Sven slayed it, and crawled inside to keep warm. An illegal Japanese whaler found him three days later, howling and hallucinating in a dancing walrus-skin. They almost speared him.

MOM
Oh no!

MARSHA
Oh, yes! He had a case of Arctic amnesia pretty bad for the next ten years, off and on. Signed up with the Japanese deligation to the UN, and got his memory back when he met his first Icelander here in New York. Since then, it’s been nothing but Morainia this and Morainia that.

MOM
Sven!

MARSHA
Told me the whole story over a tuna sandwich we split at a global warming conference in St. Moritz.

STREET HAWKER
Videos of the parade! Sign up for yours today! Only 19.95! Rewind and relive the enthusiasms of youth! Video! Video!

MOM
Oh, I must sign up for one of those. Come along, Melissa, we’re off to the UN. But first I want to hear the gallidet marching band. You have my eternal gratitude,

MARSHA

MARSHA
Well, all in a day’s…. I must run too, my sister’s expecting me.

MOM
[to LITTLE GIRL] Come along!

LITTLE GIRL
‘Bye!

MARSHA
‘Bye-‘bye, Melissa. [looks at candy bag.] Maybe this selishness thing is going to work out after all. Like taking candy….

[MARSHA GOES back to JAN.]

MARSHA
Well, p-pretty g-good, huh?

[JAN, speechlessly angry, strides over behind the LITTLE GIRL and takes away her crutches. But the LITTLE GIRL… can walk! A miracle!]

JAN
She’s only clubfooted! Like me!

MOM
Melissa’s never set foot in a club. She can’t possibly be club-footed.

SCENE SIX

[THE PARADE. JAN has tied MARSHA to the Barney float, along with a bundle of high explosives on a timer.]

JAN
Your pain, your suffering, your desperate eye searching for an escape route. Darling, I’m in heaven! What’s that? Can’t hear you, darling. The gag, you know. Would you like a final word with your darling, evil sis? Well, maybe…. No, better not. You might just stutter out a scream or some such thing. Can’t understand you half the time anyway, stuttering like a woodpecker on speed…. Better yet, I’ll do it for you. I will perform your final words for you. About time you were out of the spotlight, doll. Even Glinda the good witch took a day off once in a while to polish her crown. Here, give me that damned glitzy eye patch. What were you, doing the Pirates of Penzanze for political prisoners on an Amnesty International road show? I’ll give you a dose of your own medicine, Dr. Feelgood.

[JAN pulls off eyepatch, puts it on, and begins to do a mincing, savage impersonation of MARSHA.]

JAN
I-I j-just l-love d-d-doing g-good d-d-deeds all d-day! That’s you,

MARSHA
T-Think I’ll fly to R-Rome and give the P-Pope a b-b-blow job! He hasn’t had it in God know’s…. Here comes the man for the float now. Now you be good…. Just keep up the habit. You’ll keep lonely-wonely Barney company, won’t you? You’re slung just about where his testicles would be, if the purple monstrosity had any. Not too diff from most males, really….

[BARNEY FLOAT begins to rise, taking MARSHA away.]

[ENTER the MOTHER.]

JAN
[Not yet noticing MOTHER.] H-hope I can get the loan of the sc-schoolbus to trot that gang of orphans over to the rerelease of M-mary P-p-p-poppins!

MOTHER
Marsha?

JAN
[Surprised out of her wits.] M-m-mother! [Moves down stage to distract MOTHER from seeing the real MARSHA, who is struggling frantically.]

MOTHER
Oh, good. It is you,

MARSHA
I never could tell you and your sister apart. I was just wondering when you’d show up. There’s been an accident involving the Momeschanch mime troop.

JAN
Oh, g-golly! Nobody done-in, I h-hope.

MOTHER
Just down the street on Two Rivers Ave. A sewage truck and a float. Talk about parting the waters.

JAN
W-what h-happened? [Aside.] The old stinker really has a nose for a story.

MOTHER
Well, the mimes were all miming away like windmills, and apparently the Chippawah-Peaceful-Way-and-Holistic-Vegan-Veggies-Incorporated float driver and that sewage truck driver thought they were a patrol of traffic cops giving directions. Ran ’em all down.

JAN
How h-hor-rend-dous! The whole troop?

MOTHER
To a man. Or whatever they are under those leotards.

JAN
T-terrible!

MOTHER
I’ll give this to them, though, they stayed mum through it all. Not a man-jack of of ’em screamed or bleated. Silent as the grave.

JAN
Well, they a-are p-p-p-…. p-professionals.

MOTHER
And, dear, I’ve got to tell you. Your father has just turned me out. I’ve nowhere to stay. You’re Mommy’s homeless!

JAN
W-well, I guess….

MOTHER
I can stay with you! Oh, darling, thanks! Where else would I go, an old bag of bones like me? Unloved, alone in the whole world…. We’ll never be apart again, MARSHA. From this day forward until the day I die! We’ll be the dynamic duet!

[JAN begins to weep. Almost.]

JAN
I’ll w-wipe your b-b-bum, Mum, when you’re old. [Wails out the word ‘old.’ Aside.] I’m stuck! I’ve become what I hate… someone good!

[Explosion sounds offstage.]

MOTHER
Good heavens, what’s that? Oh no… Looks as if the Barney float’s just done a Hindenberg right into FAO Schwartz! What mayhem!

JAN
[Aside.] And not a scrap of evidence.

MOTHER
What’s that? What did you say dear? You could roast all the Thanksgiving Day turkeys in New York in that inferno!

JAN
I j-just thought…. A-all th-those un-un-un-unhappy children!

[JAN smiles.]

[END]

Prometheus Bound

 [Plays], Prometheus Bound  Comments Off on Prometheus Bound
Jul 082020
 

Poetic versioning of Aeschelus’ powerful visionary drama.


POWER
We have slid a long way down, to earth's end.
Now we are in an arid gorge, close rocks
Hem our freedoms and our bruised feet have reached
The lowest place. Hephastos, turn your mind
That forged the golden playthings of the gods
To harsher endeavors; let invention
Wither, and let love's meaningless surplus
Be dried up. Have your ire flare again 
In residence where he's made your flames vanish,
Putting out the light of goldenest craft
To help sprouting man, who rankly weeds
A gardened globe. Forge in violent fires
Bellowed large again by your oppressed heart
Thorned chains to lay him against these hard stones
In unmoving misery.

HEPHASTOS
                    I do not
Have a muscled heart to bind my brother
In these abandoned crags, or close in stirrups of iron
Feet equal to my feather.

VIOLENCE
                              Do not let
Filial affection unleash what you must bind.

HEPHASTOS
The commandment of Zeus has found its voice
In you, Power and Violence. In me,
Its uncertain hand, that which would rather break
Against itself that harm any dead hair
Of Prometheus else.--- Here he comes dragged.
[Enter Prometheus, dragged]

I have come commanded to bind in pain
His mobile spirit, which moves as a ductile flame
In each instant of the wind, following icy shocks
Of the chafing air with hot nuances of a mind
All on fire with itself. See how slow now
He comes to the cold lead of these chill slopes.
[To Prometheus] Brother, my love is all by whetted
 sorrow nursed            
And throws large shadows over this stale work.
When would it have been fresh? It stinks of old crime.
What has fallen to our days and hands? Like
Neglected fruit our poor duties lie rotting,
Which, had they been picked fresh, and shared, and ate,
Might have bulked us fat in feast, fat in love,
Fat in everything that sifts in tenderest rains
From Zeus' puffed perfection. Supine duty
Now inhabits the ditch, and in grim famine bears
All its teeth in hunger, none in love.

VIOLENCE
Generosity is not the want
Of prerogative, which chooses what it gives.
Prometheus betrayed your artist's trick
Of shaping fire to those who kept the dark
For all their light, and crept in dreams to day,
Mere moles who nosed their barren track in dirt
Without the bright aid of your rigorous flame.

HEPHASTOS
Neglected good has led us to these barren times
Where larders stand disgorged of multiplicity
And nature's rich display of choices shrinks,
Winnowed thin by too strict conservation.

POWER
Your one secret now shifts shafts of day
Into any peasant cave where two straws
Are not yet rank with urine. Does it not offend?

VIOLENCE
That which drew perfect Venus like a moth
To your cloven love and questioning shape
All hunched above the blazon of you art
As limping earth shadows the central sun
Stealing its various greens from one white,
He stole from you.

HEPHASTOS
Do not make such use of him.

POWER
Fear you not Zeus, who casts him in his state?
Fear not that such anger overborne may spill
And like the solitary volcano cracked 
Drown the least rat with the greatest vole,
And so grant you a current way to death,
Bedded in the pit with Prometheus?

VIOLENCE
Now shape your craft to the need; bind him close.

HEPHASTOS
It is done. The free man bound that was free.
I've gone a long way to come round to hate.
[Exit]

POWER
False prophecy has assigned its name to you
Falsely. Portent of nothing, stale omen,
You refuse to hear the bear's warning rustle
In the bushes at your back. Freedom's telling lark
Chained by enticing art to rock cannot bark.
[Exit]

[Enter the Daughters of Ocean, soaked]

1  DAUGHTER
Egregious terror trines our ocean-hearts!

2  DAUGHTER
Anemones all are drooped, and coral blanched
That once held quiet communication
With the soundless sea breeze. Swift sharks stood still
That must die in pauses, and far above
Came the venomed sound of iron beaten.
And now we see how your restless hands are bound!

1  DAUGHTER
How I long to comfort that brow, grief-distraught.

2  DAUGHTER
Manta Rays flared in stillness with wantless mouths,
Whales hung like sad mountains overhead,
And all the ceaseless activity of the
Yearning sea did to a remote slowness thud,
Forced by a forged means. Hephastos' hammer,
For what other ring of doom could charm waves,
Bent our ears to silence--- Save the one sound.
Sorrow has hung thick syrups on our eyes.

1  DAUGHTER
And those restless hand wringing whirlwinds
From the idealess dust, now warming short chains!

2  DAUGHTER
Tell us why you have been punished, for you
Have been punished.

1  DAUGHTER
                     Tell us Zeus' reasons.

2  DAUGHTER
Name the heedless crime.

1  DAUGHTER
                          Tell us.

BOTH
Tell us.

PROMETHEUS
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 uncounciled sight first spread vain webs
Of woven pride that gave far-seeing judgment
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.

[Enter OKEANOS on a winged beast]

OKEANOS
Enough of your hovering comforting!
Brother, you cling to the heaving rock
Of your own willfulness, but I have come
Taming this dread beast by my thoughts alone
To break you of bad habits. Come, let me help
Who has no more dearly watered a love
In all his submerged dominions than that love
I have borne down these darkening airs to you.

PROMETHEUS
You have come to watch a vaulted heart crack
That has not renewing waters' suavities
To bear faults harmlessly, and repel
Sinewed attacks like the geysering behemoth,
Swallowing all. I am made of earth,
A counter-realm to your own ocean,
And must crumble, or blow like willess sand
When weeded from the compacting rain
That moistens all, lashing independence down.
Dry frictions of the upper air tear me
Apart at last, for I'll suck no more
From Zeus' tap, whose bitter dregs swell contempt.
You've come to watch and dive home to your conchs.

OKEANOS
It strains my spongelike affections to see
You in such torture. Let me talk to Zeus.
It was by right reason as much as force
That he hurled Kronos from the throne. 
You must at least, since all do chorus it,
Applaud his generalship.

PROMETHEUS
                         I'd rather laud
The humidest dung with reeking laurel wreaths
Than crown him thus.

OKEANOS
                     Ungrateful god, to say so!

PROMETHEUS
I have been his companion in these wars.
I knocked Kronos to his knees that Zeus ascend
To his present height on the conquered back.
Now let him from that crooked pedestal survey
Pestilent fields blacked by my bitterness;
He shall find no edge to that horizon
That commands all space, for my poor heart,
Like a coal used and burst, has swollen
Acres by his ingratitude. O, I've sopped
Millions of hurts in his service
Silent as a maid.

OKEANOS
                   Your jeweled wit
Which was in Thetis' rich womb in-treasured
Does but some gleam of His lightnings redirect
And is not the cause of all.

PROMETHEUS 
                              That's hard talk;
And hard words make poor entreaty.
[Aside] Perhaps he comes in good conscience and not
As Zeus' spy to view my wreck, or pry
My hidden prophecy from its safe place.
Either way, if he's come to help or hurt
I must whip him hence, for his own good
And mine... Go, dog! Fly my anger!
Your love is dust and advice a scourge
That must lash like feathers against adamant,
Uselessly. Go! I'll treat with you no more! 

OKEANOS
That's hard talk.
Have you all your gentle manner abandoned,
And like the skulking cur beaten from its house
Bark kind hands back, to spike me with such speech?

PROMETHEUS
O, yes, you're the one spiked and chained, not I.

OKEANOS
Do you make a tenant of your reason
To throw him out thus when there's rent to pay?
Your diamond arguments were once arrayed
By a blazing mind. Now my substance weeps
To see noble wits like paupers dressed
And set stumbling in the streets.

PROMETHEUS
[Aside] Brother god!
Your lashes sting me for my betterment.
[To Okeanos] Nevertheless, if it is not your desire
To see my frissioned death, it is your fate.
For what other design could pepper hearts
With a love that calls them from their rest to see
That love's destruction, besides blank-eyed Fate
Who, like the lanternfish, but with a fruit of mirrors,
Gazes in herself to find our dates?
Hopeful seeds must witness the vanquished
 flower's fall.             
[Aside] So you, who seeded friendship in my heart,
Must watch cold roots break what nourished them.

OKEANOS
Beg sustenance from Zeus and all will be well;
For he brews such stuff as will raise titans
From discarded dolls. You know I love you well--

PROMETHEUS
These words feed me well, who teems on discontent.
Sway on, ocean.

OKEANOS
                 To move with the marrow
Of a great strength shows no weakness in yourself.
Brilliance is not all in solitary
Leisure consummated, nor is obedience
Any bodiless thing but a substance
Of affection stuffed into a man
Makes him loyal to God's descending prayer;
For only those below have this power:
To lift what's sacred higher than themselves.

PROMETHEUS
What's this? One god still loyal as a dog?
[Aside ] Those below have this power... does he hint
At overthrow? Surely what's tacked
In the sky may be by good carpenters
Dismantled. 
And what's Zeus but an uplifted image?

OKEANOS
The mightiest sword-hand that ever lived
But obeyed its bones. Do the same yourself
And thrive when times are direst. I'll talk
Zeus out of his sternness; it is an affect
Frowned upon him by your dark broods.

PROMETHEUS
[Aside] Whatever else you are, or yet may be,
Your eye lies waterlogged by surging sleep
To see me thus; you are not yet awake
From Zeus' sea-dream of the perfect state.

OKEANOS
I'll talk, and with oceans of arguments
Subdue his silhouetted heights to one calm.
I'll talk, and let such a sea of speech
Subsume his reason, he'll welcome back with banquets
The despised prodigal, who banished found
His way home to true love in foreign fields.
And if all this does not settle him
I'll infect his dreams with loving whispers
That transform all the wild fancy of his mind
To your belated praises. This I swear.
And if with his lightnings he'll try the waves
We'll dodge 'em!

PROMETHEUS
Brave Okeanos! O brave!
Now my heart cracks in truth, to be so loved.
Now shall I endure my trial as much
In comfort as in terror; you've cozied
My jolts with your gentleness. Look, my guards
[Shaking chains] Shiver to behold a countenance
So alive with friend's love. The stones are friendly 
For me by your example, and nearly
Melt for my release, they are so deeply moved.
You'll contest his trined lightnings with your own
Thrown up by splashing water? Good brave god!
But do not throw yourself in the chasm
Of my cause. No, rather let me suffer
My ordained ignominy as I must.
For then will the mute chords of nature break
And the stars like mourners torches be cast
In deep waters; all order unhinge
And the chaos that lies in things flow loosed
Over the whole earth, to see such injustice!

OKEANOS
But let me speak what your countenance conveys---

PROMETHEUS
If you'll not by Zeus' command be bound
As this brave embassy proves, then be bound
By mine to silence. Untongue yourself here
And issue not your honest thoughts to Zeus
---He'll carve dwarves of them. Its God's firm habit
To batter after what cannot be bartered for
By threats and faces. Instead stand silent
And stare high clouds down with that dignity
Which does my soul soldier's service thus.

OKEANOS
But let me talk...

PROMETHEUS
                      Do not.
A prophecy I hold close keeps me warm.
Hold your teeming tongue. Do not speak, but go.
[Exit Okeanos]
I loved him ever.

1  DAUGHTER
                   You say prophecy
And then say silence.

2  DAUGHTER
                      What's the mystery
That feathers stone beds?

BOTH
Tell us.

PROMETHEUS
         I know my immortal story.
It was a gift beguiled before my birth---
[Enter IO, stumbling, beautiful]

What loveliness is this that astounds the stage?
Silence, ladies, it is my heart that stumbles.
Her glance heals me all. She carries soft looks
That sit cased in the face of Patience
Who gazes miseries past their durance
And makes my suffering small by looking on it.
Who are you, soft creature? Why have you come?

IO
In truth, sir, I run from my troubles
And am hunted by my own frailties,
Which bay me to your company.

PROMETHEUS
Sweet girl,
What are your troubles, who must not suffer
Or prove the world too cruel to live upon
That sweetens its hard tooth on such fresh life?
Or, if true hurt, but suffer as the lamb
Made sad by want of playmates. Say, innocence,
What song you brother angels sing to catch you;
Teach me those notes, and, by life, I'll lung them 
Back to heaven! Say, dear, what is your name.

IO
Oh, heavens that have cursed me with such a one!
I had rather been blanked of hearing all
Than know my name.

PROMETHEUS
                    Even so, you have one.

IO
Even so do spiteful breaths that say it
Make me sail away, by their puffed impulse
Repulsed. Do you still require my badge of me?
Your silence implores it, which speaks you well.
I have ever loved a quiet moping look.
Even so came Zeus to my father's fields,
Crowned by that affection eyes alone may speak.
I knew him a king, and myself a woman
Equal to a king's desires, and anon
We joined while the hay shuffled; anon loved.

PROMETHEUS
Bickered to sin by jealous Hera's tongue?

IO
He lugged an obscure grudge from Hera's bed
Into our talk, and I gave God my pity...
Even so, to escape her haughty hate
Was I stuffed into this rough cow-skin suit,
Fenced with her beasts, and by Argus guarded
Whose thousand eyes were trained on my disgrace
Until Hermes in one swat shut them up.
Since then I'm followed by this stumbling bug
Who stings me fresh to new misfortunes.
Now you've heard my story do you know my name?

PROMETHEUS
Even so.

IO
          Even so, I am Io.

PROMETHEUS
Io! Sorrows ravens hover near you still.
In truth, you're legended among gossips,
And no ear escapes the buzz of your troubles.

IO
If I could drown disaster with a flood of tears
Or tear vengeful Hera from her watchful post
By cries inflicting lightnings like those
Her husband owns, I'd do it. Though Nature swoon
To be so usurped and have its queen
Plummeted from still stars to the churning mud
I'd do it. Zeus himself was the first strong arm
To bruise the celestial order, which runs
Corrected by his divine direction.
Cannot a woman do it, whose swollen loins
Drop kings into their kingdoms, and whose breasts
Milk tyrants? To be so stung and beaten
Makes me, like the dog caught in a hailstorm,
Hate all that's above.

PROMETHEUS
You shall not do it.
Although you make a nation's millions march
Against the skies, you shall not do it.
Although you stalk his crimson heart
From the ladder of his ribs, and with a cannonade
Of brass take aim, you shall not do it.
Nothing in the empery of man or god would prove
Arsenal enough for your objective;
Sooner should grass crown kings and legions bear
Feathers for their killing swords, than you should win.
Almanac of all absurd desires,
Pinnacle of impossibilities!

IO
But why? Why?

PROMETHEUS
My dreams herald against it.

IO
Then Zeus shall reign forever, and Hera
Forever be his surmounting queen.

PROMETHEUS
Come here; let me whisper to you the truth.
[She goes to him]

IO
[Breaking away]
I can't stand it! I cannot stay.
[Exit]

PROMETHEUS
Sweet girl.
So truth drives beauty out, or mad with its stings.
Perhaps I must lay me at fortune's foot
Which rolls over all, and not from this mount
Rehearse my troubles to the earless air
That can no further than a coffin's silks
Carry dead men's prayers. I'll lie quiet.
Here in the dust, father and mother, 
Our indignities end. Let me lie simple as a butterfly,
Pinned and grinning. Dulcet air invades these crags
And must each enmity suffuse until its joy.
The ground is not adverse, and harshness lessens.
In his black mouth, the fox has brought a berry
For the unkilled bird. Look, she dabbles in its gauds.
Oh, I'll die singing now, seeing portents live.
Every creature knows its secret brother
In such sights, and by such seeing blessed.
Let opposition perish. All must love. I'll rest.
[Daughters of Ocean make a noise]
Who's this stalks upon my meditation?

1  DAUGHTER
Still, tell us how Zeus will be brought down,
How by patient fate unpinned from the stars.

PROMETHEUS
Zeus amid his lusts will marry trammeled Io,
And get my vengeance on her fertility.

1  DAUGHTER
Zeus' son will undo him!

2  DAUGHTER
                         Zeus will fall.

PROMETHEUS
I will outwit death. When pasturage gloms
His blades, and the mower's skis are tongued in green,
I will worm from my putrid root, shed death,
And groan in glory toward the sun again.

1  DAUGHTER
We must keep silent.

2  DAUGHTER
                      Pray Zeus does not hear.

PROMETHEUS
It will be hard for Zeus to outrun
My whispering words. He shall fall fated.

1  DAUGHTER
Don't you tremble at your own daring?

2  DAUGHTER
Bound down and roaring like the freest lion!


PROMETHEUS
My mouth speaks graves where Zeus plows
 but dead ground.        

1  DAUGHTER
Oh, quiet. Even blind gods can hear such curses.

PROMETHEUS
Then let him windmill daggers at my voice,
Naught will drown it. Let him rage his white skies
An eternal red, and it shall stain me
No more than colored glass in the chapel
May pierce  a baby's sleeping cheek. I'm not fated.

[Enter Hephastos]

HEPHASTOS
Zeus has heard everything. You must now say
What will come dismembering Zeus as night
The softest yellow body of day consumes.

PROMETHEUS
You come bearing the vengeful cup of Zeus
All muddy now with blood. Dictatorship
Speaks weak words through confident megaphones
That boom the shouting opposition down
And drowns the quiet censure of its victims.

HEPHASTOS
Unlock your prophecy.

PROMETHEUS
                      Never, never
Will I go throwing gold to my starving foes
That they may banquet fatly at my defeat.

HEPHASTOS
Have you nothing for you father then?

PROMETHEUS
I stand wounded in his debt, who has taught
Such tough lessons that I can only wish
To answer with repayment.

HEPHASTOS
                          Do not mock
You last hope out of hearing, Prometheus.
Wise words tell wise acts what to do.

PROMETHEUS
Then why
Have your parrot words not puffed you upwards
To out-size Zeus? Are they not his swelled thoughts,
His din of instructions, that you sound here?
Is it any other voice that carps aloud
His squeaking pleas? "O, Prometheus, say
What is in your mind that we cannot guess."
Say what you cannot guess? Surely my thought
Is less wise than that you high gods possess.
Say my mind? It would gainsay all you have
Pronounced, and be most unholy.

HEPHASTOS
None of this helps.
Will you go against God and rave forever?
What sweetness can be heard in one's own voice
Dropped in an unechoing void?

PROMETHEUS
My case
was looked into and verdict passed long ago.

HEPHASTOS
But frame your answers to your miseries
And you can go as free as any prideless bird.

PROMETHEUS
Your words crest and break against me lightly.
They beat in vain against decided stone
That shall not loosen. No small moss of fear
Creeps into my heart to dislodge courage
From determination. I was not made
To shatter at any asking, or turn
Bound hands up begging mutinous mercy
To release pensive chains from straining wrists.

HEPHASTOS
I do not love a hot rebuke. But show
Some contrite design in the words you use,
Saying "Pardon..." or "I forgot myself..."
---But let your tongue display some modest flavor
As when a strutting peacock nods to get
Progeny on his mistress, relaxing
In the sweet summer air his strenuous song
And I will melt. Zeus withholds judgment yet;
Remain untoward and our contrasts must yield
As a furious star into the thick
Ocean fallen, nothing but blind fogs and steams.

PROMETHEUS
This world passes like a prayer in the dark.

HEPHASTOS
I do not wish my ill success in this, or wish
My prayers to crawl like a crying worm
Into deaf ears that feel only the nearest trumpet,
Insensible to all else. But you are hard...

PROMETHEUS
Chop and prate with me as you wish to will,
You shall not hew my meaning to your ends.

1  DAUGHTER
Unless fierce interchange swap gods and men
And men show more of gratitude than sharp nature
Points them to already, you are eternally cursed.

HEPHASTOS
Then hear how you shall suffer. Hurricanes
Of God's ill will shall come dashing lights
Against these hard rocks in hungry strokes
And eat up their solidity. But that
Won't lard our Zeus whose righteous anger
Keeps him trim as the vital viper. For then
He'll throw such thunders at the earth
Every stony crag shall abate its toughness
And obedient tons of earth liquefy
To drown rebellion. Then... Then you will fall
More black years than you have already lived
Recounting your crimes in meditation
Until you crash to the appointed place.

2  DAUGHTER
Shall the sinner there have hope of rest?

HEPHASTOS
None.
But, after a while, light will come circling back,
Though you will not see Zeus come reproaching you
With blows, he will send his loyal dog to feast
On your chained liver. Out of the dawn sky
Each day His loved vulture's abhorrent head
Will slide thirstily down on buffeting wings
And tap you to the marrow. When painful night
Stitches up your severest wounds to
Fresh bruises once again, and you sit plumped
Like a rich raspberry in the sun
That bleeds its virgin ripe to the first hand,
God's bald vulture, renewed by hunger, will return
With his fingering beak.

1  DAUGHTER
Will you show no mercy for this perfect
Creature? Prometheus, bow down your head.
Haughtiest power forgives such obedience.

HEPHASTOS
Do not dream that this will ever end.
No god will change his bracelets for your chains.
No man will trade his own disasters
For another's. God's mouth cannot say
Other than what is, and His every word must break
In action, or have no living meaning.
Decide how best to unwind your brash fate
Before the dizzy clock must terminate.

BOTH
Prometheus, repent! We must go.

[Exeunt]

PROMETHEUS
Words at last have made the earth convulse.
Thunder shivers the dust from these rocks,
Light flashes out, as if the thought
Of some terrible mind issued itself in fire.
Air shreds. Boulders leap like hares from the sling.
Sea and earth are confounded to black mud.
See him, a tongue of tinfoil in his
Tiny chariot, raised by obedient winds
Above the argument of the storm? Fire licks the wheels.
I think, when my heart stops for a minute,
I can make out the pinched shadow of his frown.
[Disappearing beneath stage]
O blue earth, O blue mother, love me
And see me suffer.



END

Life of Riley

 [Plays], Life of Riley  Comments Off on Life of Riley
Jul 082020
 

Lyrical exposition of the political apocalypse of 20th Century US history.”

CHOIR
O everything is nicely iced
Waiting for the birth of Christ
Waiting for the candle to
appear

[Gregorian chant intonation for 2-10 seconds, breaking into Moslem prayer-call plaint, modulating lastly to a deep ‘AUM’ sound with punch]

NARRATOR
This is the initiation of the story, the bloody scar– Boil wind, mouthing– the word is doctrinaire.

JOHN
Bound to thieves.–

CONSTABLE
We have a right to see every week. For editorial purposes.

NARRATOR
You see here Self-preservation.– You see, we are our relief– Gross of the people their misery– 116 sextons cast it– Plague bush emanating loud undesirable in blank flesh, stage left. This is the announcement of the birth of Christ, stage left. Please board at gate 12. At gate 12 please board.– Died fourthousand with a handbarrow–General calamity and rue in his mouth–Most dreadful his own mouth–

CONSTABLE
No doubt there been broken dead bodies– Go and fetch my lord gravedigger and bearer of the dead.-

MARY
I lay there shivering with the other animals on the straw. And then the great heave, my body radiating sweat, and it was done. It had been done to me and it was done. The thing finished that whispers started. The thing finished. So bloody and little. Like a thing thrown away, really. A god in the dirt.

DOCTOR
But is it a corporation? On the advice of specialists in the United States, circa year Zero,– the buzz of lamentation dry over Dead Sea scrolls– has this project been aborted at last? A wide variety of sources are up 22% and all the bets are not yet in– God diploma of death is a rare catch.

CONSTABLE
Just try to die or get born without the official papers in this district!

JOURNALIST
Variety of headlines possible– The Shape of things Too Messianic– Corporate dream of taking obscurely praised by specialists– each mocking in separate pews– house of god, church of christ– All bets are off!– this babe guilty of many calmnesses–

DOCTOR
The greatest mockery is to perform the office– God upon us others assembled, witnessing the gold haloes sticking up like combs– from the holy heads.– Has God continued officiating the event or no?– His hand checked a most deplorable spirit–

JOURNALIST
A photoreconnaissance mission reports
“And they came….”–

CONSTABLE
All births require a signature chalked in Japanese. Then the wax seal.– Third priority the autumn.–

NARRATOR
Slamming his blind Texan voice into the barnyard without noticing– An atmospheric distortion:– Reap hand spacious above mushroom trees– yellow double golden snakeeyed trees– spurting death color in a red blanket sky.– A nearsighted nurse rattles the crib. The doctor meditates:

DOCTOR
Dead bodies caused me. But is there any money in it?

MARY
It is over for me. Over for me and over me. Who has constructed this body from such metals?

NARRATOR
Berlin in the thirties was full of neon. A cultural mecca on the rise. From our zeppelin we can spot the Doctor and little Ziggy Oppenhiemer displaying their brains to each other in the shadow of a wrecked church.

DOCTOR
Dead bodies caused me– electrified frog nerves jumping and active on the lab glass– smoky eyes set at minimum height. They were furiously in love on the laminate surface– one set of eyes rigor mortis grey under a white cyclops mask.– Even here in the graveyard X-ed out minimalized bodies copulate under the earth in occasional skeleton clacks as flesh falls.– United bodies vaporized as spirits lift into a cadaver sky–

OPPENHEIMER
My mind is not spared– God please please no more–

DOCTOR
Knowledge is profit. Learn how to read.

NARRATOR
The doctor fades out. As little Oppie knells towards maturity at a fixed rate the Doctor thought would later relieve his tax burden, the signs and omen about him increase geometrically-

OPPENHEIMER
Philtres, exorcisms, amulets, and I relive themselves– The papers are full of it.– Walking the hands of these streets possessed by knots– forming a triangle or pyramid of one thought in my mind, one that reads:– My spirit is I am.

NARRATOR
Time caught Oppie cutting his theory thin, yet still accurately delivering enough high–

DOCTOR
That’s right! Oppie always was a cheap sonofabitch.-

NARRATOR
Oppie, whose calculated gaze would later raze cities, inaugurated a massive pogrom of precision daylight bombing with colored flares. He was tired of kites– Funds independent of sources began to arrive deployed– He was playing big business now, at ejaculast with his chemistry set.– Death enters, stage left.– Mineral traces hop a gravestone– Captain Oppies eyes are sandpines.– He counts his cells– millions are spectator’s benches.– He squints–

OPPENHEIMER
Today the acquisition business– In addition, Tomorrow–

NARRATOR
he notices Death in his sulking robe.

OPPENHEIMER
[clearing his throat] I would like to start a corporation.–

NARRATOR
He gushes apoplectic with his own erection–

OPPENHEIMER
I love is– whose eyes are animals….– Our firm is to design the disabled, retirees, or dye-cut models of finished lives.– We could be limited partners– no personal debt if it all goes under–

NARRATOR
Oppie taps Death on his ginger shoulder– a thousand scorpions break in a sweat from his back– Oppie stutters–

OPPENHEIMER
Partners, usually,– umm…. tax writeoffs–

NARRATOR
Death sockets his abrupt clock face towards Wallstreet– Black silver teeth gate out like bullets–

DEATH
Begin reap–

NARRATOR
it intones.

ACT II

NARRATOR
In chapter two, the young Oppenhiemer, messenger of God, declarer of the aphasic word, and haircutter to the stars, founds a secret society dedicated to impregnate multiple Marys in the bland hope of fathering eventual redemption. They know the myths, they know their physics, and they wear dead leather and rhyming chains. They call their hip little tea club, The Open Conspiracy.

OPPENHEIMER
The Open Conspiracy, the collection begins
Electric Engineering Economic majors, infected at the start with grandiose conceptions, dreaming of mind stars and death atlases, will be our first recruits.

DOCTOR
I said to them I had diagnosed as Spanish– perhaps even to those who had been declined another passport on account of an oriental name and cheap mystery wicks– I said to them– to them straight in their burning eyes I said
‘the death-cart’s in Whitechapel, was rolled off by thieves in Whitechapel, laying jammed under those linden trees there near my pre-nuclear set-up and diet drink.’

OPPENHEIMER
Hmm. Can we use the abortion cast-off of these whores in building the perfect savior?

DOCTOR
With enough rivets and venture capital you can do anything.

NARRATOR
Time wandered bleak but whispered SOON as the demented Doc and little Oppie sauntered past the Hungry Institute for Theoretical Physicists. The Doc, a gaunt bald Russian, his real interest in the entire Savior Inc. affair carved and set before them in the nighttime dialog like a hammered bust, whistled his approval of the bloody riots post WWI.

DOCTOR
Stronger progress in our death-march will come of this stomach-nihilism.

OPPENHEIMER
Gunpowder saved Germany from too much thinking or PhD’s after the armistice. Max Planck’s wearing a new German edition– The partly empty informal collegiality of the students stands angrily inviting. The ocean levels are dropping this year. Europe’s ego bled a boiling armistice, and eventually, well, I just thought it was time to make the bomb.

DOCTOR
Let’s go turn some heads.

NARRATOR
Oppie saunters in a timewarp, foreknowing the outcome– A neon sign sizzles and pops over his head– vanishes– He kicks history’s oak door under an attic sky. He and the Doctor grasp at the future with obvious tentacles. They stand above floating down. Visiting a WWI cemetery with his abrupt steel cane, the Doc restores physics students to intoxicating life–

DOCTOR
Opp– oop from zee dirt– All zee dead dears…”

NARRATOR
He flipped them up like cards– led by his rope hand–

FIRST STUDENT
Shall we mate in first person whispers?

SECOND STUDENT
Shall we bear them still bleating from the abortionist?

THIRD STUDENT
Current trends in the market indicate that we can still get away with this if we’re drunk enough.

ALBERT EINSTEIN
There are no laws to stop us. I’ve doublechecked with the universe and God.

OPPENHEIMER
We can get the Doctor to preside.

NARRATOR
Almost a guild of international scope, Miles van der Rohe designed, they took Berlin by storm, upsetting the cabaret tables and silky prostitutes with their ritual activity. The elderly, rosy face of the city was blanked out by their antics, wild and unearthly as a salaried civil servant. Oppenhiemer breathed in zeroes and paid out cash– Death’s agent.

FIRST STUDENT [to Doctor]
Are you a student too?

DOCTOR
I am a student,

NARRATOR
he explained,

DOCTOR
of ADVANTAGES.

NARRATOR
It was 1933, you understand, in the bleak Berlin suburb Unter den Linden. Oppie wiggled in his death-pact– White hate mask descending in an iron grid over his face– his empty face dispelled– The plastic transponder in his throat began to cough– snow crystal speaking in morse code–

OPPENHEIMER
Attempts to change this public offering are punishable. These able profit shelters will enable the bomb to be born.

NARRATOR
He gauged the blotched map-colored landscape with stone eyes–

OPPENHEIMER
The United States has shown a green feasibility to foster us later. But for now what we need

NARRATOR
he emitted–

OPPENHEIMER
is the Bund.

ACT III

NARRATOR
Meanwhile… General Barko and a stout spirit begat gospel music on a park bench, injecting cruel antigens into innocent bystanders until their minds blanked out and their throats opened in song.

BARKO
The thronging choir lined up, damn it was splendid! Bent to my one will, we exited the decaying park and headed for Oppie’s hideout.

STOUT SPIRIT
Everybody sing: silver, silver!

BARKO
Christmas carolling in July in front of the Whore’s House, on abrupt knees trying to scoop up the cash.

STOUT SPIRIT
DOWN, I told her first–That it was technically not possible, second.

BARKO
Mary was such a good girl before she noticed the red hot halo hanging like horseshoe from the holy erection. Here we are. Lopsided Oppie is still in his brain phase–

NARRATOR
Ten thousand quacking chinamen crowd to the rosy window to breathe out fog and see the action up close.

STOUT SPIRIT
Let us sing.

NARRATOR
Oppie had been forced to abandon– the good drugs were still in him, making him sleepy as the blue Mary whores proved fertile and had conceived from death’s sperm these possible Jesuses. Outside, General Barko pulled on his long cuban, belching smoke, starting everyone on the song cycle. First in Mandarin, then in the sad, triumphant ooloos of the poetry of black. The Chinamen slouch around, needling the air with their bird tongues. Their gold arms performed–

10,000 CHINAMEN
Dolla Dolla–

NARRATOR
Shout the moneyhungry fish.

OPPIE
Oppie picks a bitch out on the bare mattress. Using descriptions like “the gold” he squinted sweating in the direction of her holy folds.

10,000 CHINAMEN
Dolla Dolla–

OPPIE
His drug head heavy and sad, his Doctor friend nods OK to the use of a medical jar in which the presidents genitals formerly floated pickled.

DOCTOR
Sprinkle the wild red roses on them, Oppie boy. Yes yes, out of the big jar with the blood pentagram on it.

OPPIE
45.50 FOR EACH OF US OUT OF THIS MANGLE, RIGHT DOC?

10,000 CHINAMEN
Dolla Dolla–

DOCTOR
Go and see if you can get that choir to hang itself.

NARRATOR
A boiling wind moves through the room and evaporates–

10,000 CHINAMEN
Dolla Dolla–

NARRATOR
Glazed vinyl eyes moisten up at them– the Marys mouth “Ouch” with exquisite lips–

DOCTOR
The idea,

NARRATOR
said Doc,

DOCTOR
is to introduce tougher anti-drug Americans.– All the herd needs is one leader. And we’ll build him.

NARRATOR
He shifts the slow red jar.

DOCTOR
Moomsday is coming–

NARRATOR
he prophesied, wait to cradle the induced abortion cast-off.

DOCTOR
WATCH THIS PAPER.

OPPIE
He noosed the jar with catching plastic–

DOCTOR
Break my dark child hungering on the cold wind–

OPPIE
The whore rolled, her stomach riveted–

DOCTOR
Somebody wipe that mess up,

OPPIE
declared the Doctor, spilling a little Jesus spook full of thorns from his scabby hand.

DOCTOR
Grab those pills first. I need joy.

OPPIE
To which Oppie replied, staring at the fingered mess containing extra heads, in astericked syllables– “The God of this Bacon…”–

NARRATOR
The use of fetal tissue transplants to treat the divine image on the mountain will soon be proved functional or a joke.

OPPIE
Oppie swept the vomit under, seaweak and sickening, said
“Is not falling down pilgrimage?”

DOCTOR
The whole business

NARRATOR
quoted the Doctor,

DOCTOR
is business.

NARRATOR
His opaque eyes rang cash– Gold silver brass–

OPPIE
Barko and his Spirit taxied into the room from On High. The downed Whores twitched when their asleep minds sniffed Barko’s chemical ride. They berated his old and changing music knowingly and braced themselves for a forced glance at the slogan festooning his uniform and gave his black church before the anesthesia took full effect. Using prayer to publicize his version of events, the billboard sticking out of his neck said:

BARKO
They came 20,000 strong to God.

OPPIE
Barko and his spirit arrived at North’s house on Maple, to make money. To grow better at it, the choir sang:

10,000 CHINAMEN
I’ve decide to make Jesus iron!

OPPIE
strafeing their tin cups over the barred window, laughing at the heaving Marys with their tongues out.

10,000 CHINAMEN
O Let Jesus Fix It!

NARRATOR
Oppie scratched his arm with a plow. Inseminated with lament, the brown sperm of intergenerational justice, he winced.

BARKO
You’re not just the United States and the two who acted. You must be responsible for everything from here on in.

NARRATOR
The tome voice put dust in Oppie’s veins. His blisters wept–

OPPIE
I cannot conceive–

NARRATOR
he admits, staring at the blue Madonnas fertile and quivering a hand’slength from his white desire. He thinks– thinks hard– to put his paranoia in perspective.

OPPIE
Robots may hold the key to the enigma
America, Art and Leisure, the president, current films about adolescents… Once ritual is made cathartic by robot means… Hmmm. Only where the New York Times is available? A second key? How would this charade work? Entrance granted by a stamp with a secret star–

NARRATOR
Oppie opens a new debate in his mind–

OPPIE
Maybe the sex drive is dead and a mechanical replacement necessary. Still, it makes the beds surge. Crying and tossed medicinal Whores breaking the cold wind. A diverse coalition becomes clear. 3,000 students in a hate group. Maybe it’s us.

NARRATOR
The radio screeches like a nail-ridden blackboard. Invisible officials announce a new institution
The Engraver. A clicking soft hiss like glass emits from the speaker.

RADIO
A man with a pick axe and a state stylus will zoom by your neighborhood soon. He will employ many nightmare techniques in the slashing night. Each gravestone blank waiting like a forehead is to be initiali by the state. An ID numeral pimpling the newborn to be considered standard equipment. The dead

THE NOT YET DEAD
only categories understood by the state.

NARRATOR
Great tufts of this knowledge hit Oppie. The Engraver kneels at the curbside– albatross white in the dead moon.

OPPIE
For us they fell…

NARRATOR
Oppie mumbles, trying to repeat, to memorize the goofball formula–

OPPIE
We parallel their fall..

NARRATOR
he dreams of the new order
Technology at the beginning of life. Numbers etched in acid on each forehead. Long front bangs a crime of obscuration. The birth room slopes. Blue Whores spill onto the carpeting, cockroaches jump from under their asses in a perpetual distort. Rose wallpaper shifts. The camera dances. Doc cradles the red jars in his cellulite. Dust appears. A time crimp folds the wet bedding. And the edifice falls…

OPPIE
Oppie swoons at the first blood exiting. His radial head tilts. He sleeps, including lots of people… The Sunday radio drools….

NARRATOR
The forms take infant shape–

PROTESTANT
Protestant–

CLERGYMAN
Clergyman–

BHUDDIST MONK
A Bhuddist Monk–

FARMER
A Farmer–

WORKER
A Worker–

LEADER OF HEADS
A Leader of Heads–

OPPIE
A banner unfurls from the collective skull: WE FETAL TISSUES CELEBRATE THE ABORTION DANCE. The resultant composite fetus walks upright in the dream sequence, clocked hands whirr, performing the pre-destined motions.

PROTESTANT
The brain tissue technique to a created salvation is perfected.

CLERGYMAN
If we’re lucky enough maybe we’ll all blow ourselves up.

BHUDDIST MONK
Christ is fission. Esoteric studies prove it.

LEADER OF HEADS
Created by fission and a few spare parts, we learn how to hold the Institution’s top administrative positions in three days.

OPPIE
My whole being in the feast!

FARMER
Eat the conception. Radiation gives you such a healthy glow.

PROTESTANT
Now think, also. The world we celebrate is a sweet mess also. Libyans seeking a reconciliation with taskmaster death also. A whole new market for the atomic stockpile also. A flowing erect Arabian on a sweating horse with a majestic nuclear device in his fist. But Oppie must work harder to achieve this first also.

OPPIE
The king had a hook to pluck those blue mortals out by the eye, Oppie thinks, staring at the duplicate Whores. A transplant to replace the Father, and therefore to be killed.

CLERGYMAN
My Lord now turns, turns only.

BHUDDIST MONK
A tambourine clicks.

WORKER
A string of firecrackers orange out into the footlights of the World press.

OPPIE
She kicks a blue foot, her pelvis making an O-mouth.

LEADER OF HEADS
The rumble of a dozen organs farts out. These I will incorporate into the We-Flesh.

FARMER
Oppie speaks the relentless theme of the Iranian, another Homer, spurring a new tradition which wafts up from every room.

OPPIE
The Blue Madonna Whores start up nailed,

CHORUS OF WHORES
God is spent. We have the blood pool to prove it,

OPPIE
echoes out of each. Concerned hands flutter over their crotches sweet and unobservable–

ARCHBISHOP
As musicians rehearse their rents through the ceiling, scalds notes drift down, tearing tubas– gutting a sax.

PROTESTANT
Gibberish! Gibberish!

ARCHBISHOP
Claiming a foreign heraldry, they came, enforcing WASP, to bind the loose, to keep the present purpose alive from these scattered parts. Baby noses and barking seal fins. The relentless theme the pattern.

OPPIE
In Berlin again, they came, riding rosy-cheeked and blistered on the surge of medical interest in these small shapes we have gathered here to re-assemble.

DOCTOR
We’ll set up a factory in that abandoned lot. The students can fuck ’em, then wind up here on the cutting floor. We can edit to the proper atomic holiness. Nes pas?

OPPIE
The Engraver punches his own button and dies, in the niNth inning. Oppie looks up from the spilled floor with a changed mind and dream indecisiveness. His crab hands red with Governmental remains; tissue from the aborted fetuses has crowded the waters. Ultimate death-peace approached by temporal dissolution. To diminish the self has come back in style, with a wicked hemline. This God’s starry hemlines end in dark hills. Cliffs rise pale unexplainable against Satan. Angry brothers march from the soggy womb, returning terrified to the light, eyeing the Whore’s crotch with suspicion.

DOCTOR
They’re all born erect, ready to mate, to repeat the mistake.

THE ENGRAVER
The United States has my choice. I’d rather die there than anywhere.

OPPIE
declares the Engraver, dead, and punches his vote button.

BHUDDIST MONK
Include a Star of David in the feast!

OPPIE
shouts the Bhuddist Monk, who hunches.

CLERGYMAN
The Clergyman emerges from his robed back–

BHUDDIST MONK
Hunchbacked as I am with eddying eyes spelled in stark Sanskrit–

THE ENGRAVER
The government is linked directly in these implications. Let’s sign a pact and start a nation. Swap spit on it. I do sololy swear…

WORKER
We do we get to start killing?

DOCTOR
Right away. Just mail in your subscription form with three box tops and aim.

OPPIE
Oppie pulls the Empire State Building from a vein, rubbing his marked forehead with a velvet rasp.

ALL
Blind and old they kneel. The collective fetus kneels on one knee.

OPPIE
In the event of a crisis, they play Al Jolson to rapturous seaweed crowds.

OPPIE
the Guide people wave their arms and shout in unison. The Director of the University stands up in the packed vault house, directing the silent traffic. Imbibing mothers with ghost infants crapping in the aisle shuffle to their seats. A gloomy prophet deadly pale leaps on stilts to the stage, a Farmer.

FARMER
Welcome to the theatre of hate.

OPPIE
His crop eyes turn slow and reap audience. An example of the outright segregation of the stage– everyone with their backs turned out like a reverse magazine rack. Performer and performed upon, irreconcilable as Whore and john.

NARRATOR
Oppie’s head leans into the dream tunnel, the near Whore’s bedspread a wash of curtain against his cheek, mambo cockroaches eating the fetus parts rhythmically before included in the Frankenstein savior who will invent the bomb. Oppie himself comatized and all audience (the Elected form of the oppressed). His lax mouth emits a pus which joins the afterbirth on the swayed carpeting, witnessing his own birth.

WORKER
The Worker builds his own church. The Leader of Heads directs him onstage as the worker sings
“Amen or Yes Jesus when we wounded walk from the Biomedical Church. Praise this extra heart sewn in. Praise the intestine blue heaven above me. Solace is a short forelock.”

OPPIE
The choir of one face and six limbs repeats the refrain:

CHOIR OF ONE FACE
This is the Ultimate Issue.

OPPIE
Sullen Nations depart the theatre with tired eyes. Clogged aisles are photographed cold and scientific, trying to pinpoint when the bomb emerged, for later identification of the participants. A man/boy/whore of all types and countries is later held for questioning. His blue face squints. A shadow behind the inferno light demands

SHADOW
Do you know this highly publicized but little known sore from London?

OPPIE
a processed photo flashes wormeaten and smeared; the light brightens).

CLERGYMAN
We know who is guilty and why it’s not us. I bless this first stone overturned to get at the nuclear idea.

OPPIE
the Protestant protests in quirky legalities. His holy voice commands in Farsi:

PROTESTANT
A fear like birth and babbling women afflicts– leave us.

OPPIE
A stream opens in his mouth. There is NO sign of protest.

NARRATOR
In a real world Oppie’s neon light blinks off.

CLERGYMAN
The Clergyman lifts his robe with a commanding wrist. Halogen lights from under the hem sear the optic nerve of the audience.

PROTESTANT
The protestant scurries under. You can see a desert landscape with lines of pilgrims under the high skirt.

FARMER
The Farmer scuttles under too with a plow between his legs.

LEADER OF HEADS
The Leader of Heads is coaxed under the bloated robe with a decapitating finger, his lips forming airless words as he ducks under.

WORKER
The Worker dissolves hammering a steeple nail. [Dissolves] Empty scaffold creaks buoyantly. Armless hammer falls to the stage.

BHUDDIST MONK
The Bhuddist Monk is chanting over an automatic pistol. [Chants] Apple-blossoms escape his lips. He raises his weapon like a bubble. His arms gold and tan under the circus illumination.

CLERGYMAN
The Clergyman grips his cross like a .45.

OPPIE
Snow shatters in a glass ball.

BHUDDIST MONK
A boiling wind blowing void shifts the Monk’s hair over his forehead and he disappears.

CLERGYMAN
The Clergyman is transformed
shrinking skull, hands inflating to the size of footballs. Mechanical innards eat the robes off his back…

NARRATOR
A dead hand enters, stage left, and engraves the presidential Seal on his chest while paired taperecorders repeat the Oath of Office….

1ST TAPERECORDER
Do you solemnly swear…

2ND TAPERECORDER
I solemnly swear…

1ST TAPERECORDER
To uphold and defend…

2ND TAPERECORDER
To defoliate and upend…

1ST TAPERECORDER
This constitution…

2ND TAPERECORDER
This prostitution…

1ST TAPERECORDER
I so swear.

2ND TAPERECORDER
I so swear.

1ST TAPERECORDER
I now pronounce you…

2ND TAPERECORDER
I now denounce you…

1ST TAPERECORDER
president of these United…

NARRATOR
His face opens–Oppie’s and the Clergyman’s– opens– vacant–

OPPIE
“THANK YOU FOR ATTENDING THE WORLD OF INVESTMENT BANKERS’ MUSIC FESTIVAL!”

[END]

It’s the Sex Pistols!!!!

 [Plays], It's the Sex Pistols!!  Comments Off on It’s the Sex Pistols!!!!
Jul 082020
 

It’s the Sex Pistols!!


A bold, contentious exposition of the meaning of the
Sex Pistols rendered in high Shakespearean style.

GREGG GLORY

GREGG G. BROWN




In the beautiful world, you have to respond.
                             --J. Lydon

 JOHN LYDON       the Young Bastard
 SID VISCIOUS        the Lover Boy
 PAUL COOK        the Whiner
 STEVE        the Bullshitter
 and MALCOLM MCLAREN        the Old Fuck



Top^

["Anarchy in the U.K." plays as the narrator ascends the stage.]


 PROLOGUE

[To be spoken by Lester Bangs, Richard Hell, or Griel Marcus.]

We gather here some summers past his death;
The air near us bears its sweet fragrance yet
As in the dim past it was accustomed
To have borne. We come to document a trial
Of youth, and speed, and the chase of fire
That edges young veins anxious yet to burst
The bare confinement of the body.
Ambitions churned in mills of desperate hope,
And clear vision upreared from smoky tenements
Crouch within our subject's city-bounds as well.
Everything not incidental
To a prince's birth in loathed ashes
Shall be told in what we are about to speak:
Mire costuming here a spirit as rare
As any that went naked in greater ages
Whose philosophers, incidents, and strange tales
Whisper still in books passed down to us.
He was one-- I cannot speak it-- but let
Him show; he was one to tumble Jove
Or put into the gestures of his peers
Antics to mimic truth out of hiding
And mock empty vaunt with its own faces.
He was as Michaelangelo's god of boys, set down
In despite of time, vaunting, vague,
A fishing rod as able in his white fist
As any furling sling to draw tyrants down.
Now I before your gentle selves appear
And ask you reconstruct from rended memory
This man, whose trim vitality works wonders
In us yet; who, as though king among those ghosts
We are yet to join, he captains our resolve
And sails us, briefly parted, to those parts
And kingdoms of ourselves we quail to glance at.
Let one summer stand for millions,
And let a universe of lives be exampled by
One life, one death. It is fair enough.
Let not identity struggle besmirched in the mass
Or roil in the crowding roll of oceans
Of limbs-- so like a war is any hived
Metropolis. Instead let concentration fall
From our high heaven of observation
Into the single life and particular fate
Of our chosen hero. Let him be unveiled:
     [Spotlight comes up on Sid, biting a hangnail.]
You see he fits the mold, but not how well;
That is the office of our tale to unfold
--And, if you will but tailor your wide
Imaginations to our narrow telling,
Refining in mind what our rush of detail
Must leave gross, and fitting yourselves
Into the garment of our object here
As if the skin of the protagonist
Himself, flushing round what was left in need
By the author's drying pen, we shall succeed.
Let us, and him, find what name will fit him best:


SCENE ONE



PAUL
Sid! Sidley...!

STEVE
Boredom blows bright the dull grey sparks
Of his eyes, until all the yellow charge
Of coward youth in love with nothing else
But mirrors to sigh the sick hours past
Is burned, burned quite away, and nothing left
But still that same desire fuming there
Simple as a flame.

PAUL
Oi! It's hot enough as it is.

ROTTEN
He meditates too much
On the particular cause and instance
Of his private hurt, which cannot be made
To answer the general injury.

STEVE
Fucking Sid!
What can you do with a boy like that, hey?

PAUL
He nurses an inward wound with wayward looks.

STEVE
He's been talking a lot of trash lately.

PAUL
His winning spirit's spiralling in
For the incinerator again. Last time... Gaw!

STEVE
"Hangin' up me spurs," he says. "Gonna shove
It in and liv' w' me mum." Suicide!

ROTTEN
Each man's civil temper's his own to keep.
That coolness lost, by the heat of events
Fired aside, or from the burning steeple
Of a towering grief thrown down sparklike
In a roaring wash of rainbow flames
Deep into the hellish mass of circumstance
And all deportment, measure, surity,
And freezing reason that should coldly show
The icy signature of a man
Is lost and damned, hotly dispersed, in anger
Or any other rage of fuming ruin
Past individual recovery.

PAUL
By that harsh measure
Every man, like a matchstick, at a single strike
Of his fiery righteousness would be
Trashed to ashes.

STEVE
Aye, then were we ashes all.
Stoked by a too stern lightning to nothingness.

ROTTEN
Stoke up!

PAUL

[Pleading.]

 Let's keep Sid civil.

ROTTEN

[Relenting.]

 All right then; we'll show him how
To raise his sad laughs again amidst our howls.

[Attention shifts to Sid, who opens with soliliquy as others approach.]


SID
 And indeed, as you can see, my shirt reads me:
'I hate.'
Plastic holds itself as natural, warm
And capable to my raw ass and hand
As any hippie love of heaven, sea
Or indian soil would cause here an inch
Of father's affection. Their stench is ripe.
They chant in a ring for heaven's dear love
But disdain the fight that gets it.
All's struggle. How out of turmoil to pry
The clear and lucent love, that's the question.
To deny the struggle is to confound
The chance; and they're liars. Rather close up
Those affable gates that let in the stench
Of rankest hypocrisy as though it were
Light and air-- damn them up, I say, damn them--
Than leave them lax to such vicissitudes
Waiting for a thrilling whiff of the best
To enter out of pardonable hope.

PAUL
Hey, Sid.

SID
 Yeah, I'm against it. I waz jest
Tellin meself how bad it all waz.

ROTTEN
Horrible! Yer a degredation, Sid.
Cold, isn't it?

SID
 Sure, sure. I'm cold.

STEVE
 C'mon, Sid. Cheer up.

[Steve sings, to the tune of 'London Bridge:']

Margaret Thather's a dry old hole, dry old hole;
Because of her we're broke and bored, that ho' ho' ho'.
We've got no jobs; we're on the dole, on the dole.

SID
 My fair lady. Haw haw haw.

PAUL
Let's do something.

ROTTEN
What is there to do?

SID
 I'm cold. [Rotten throws lumber at Sid.]

ROTTEN
How boring!

STEVE
Nothing to do.

PAUL
Oh, I don't know.

[Sid has been gathering debris, pulls out lighter fluid and sets all ablaze. Smiles.]


ROTTEN

How boring! It's hotter than Satan's arsehole out here, and you go starting fires.


[Enter McLaren.]

MCLAREN

Hallo, boys. I've seen you lads moping about. My name's McLaren. Malcolm McLaren. What's your names?


PAUL
John.

STEVE
John.

ROTTEN
John.

SID
I'm hot.

MCLAREN
C'mon then. Follow me. My kool Sex shop's cold.
Ever seen the drafty rafters there? Mannikins,
Naked like us to the world's dicked stare,
Hanging in aerial abandon; skinney limbs
At fleshtone dangled rest above my loitering
Patrons' guessing heads. Keep them guessing,
I says. "No dead time," etc.
     [They reach the SEX shop]
My puppets-- for what's man but
A stick that sings?-- my thoughts have swelled on fire
Before this cold hour from spiteful breaths enough
To ash the cordwood. I'll ask your service now
To douse my substance before its drowned in flames:
The unadoring world must be made to pay.
Too long unloved, a man begins to fray.

ROTTEN
Are you proposing something, McLaren?

SID
Let's hear; let's hear what there's for us to do.

MCLAREN
Time's persecution pursues us all
And the grave levity of his law
Allows no trick of escape to flaunt his cause
But like the paitient bailiff waits beside
Until old and infirm we cannot stray away
From the impaitient leash curling at his waist
But all are from the judge to judgement brought.
And since this guilt of birth we may not shake
Until we have shaken off our lives themselves
But must under the sentence chase our lives
Like ill dogs to their predetermined ends
Sniffing for chances, in shivvered packs secure
And yet insecure-- remember still the end--

PAUL
A dog's life.

MCLAREN
Then let us be such dogs as roam in wild pride
Barking with horrors, redeyed fiends each one
Basking in bloods when the hunt is done.
Let's own such shocks as lesser men run from
Founding nations damned to breath a day
Past us-- and no further-- for believe me
Caesar was one such dog as we are
And his terrors have hounded his renown
Round the globe, as if it were a single ear
And he the sweet lover whispering in it.
We have such voices too, believe me all--
And this world is such a place of fjiords and flaws
As they shall find deep receipt within it.
Now, to choose the script and paint our faces.
Come, my hangdogs, have pleasure while you may;
Ridiculous age should find us sated.

ROTTEN
What is it exactly you are proposing?

MCLAREN
What has ten times the voice of modest men
Declaring their hearts in modest, fervent tones?
Who crouches in the ear of active youth
And shouts invective to an empty brain
So like a stone it may stoop to fondle--
So like, yet one cannot shout stones at faces--
Yet one may shout stoned men to action, eh?
So like the one the other is, stones, brains, all
Grey and servicable rounds, rounds for fire:
Ready from the cannons of your neck to bolt
And deliver destruction of this place,
My word the lynchpin.

ROTTEN
What? What does have that voice?

MCLAREN
Have you not seen the boy bent to memorize,
All studious torment in his crinkled brow,
Stiff as any anxious lieutenant
To catch the letter of his instructions
Above the wolving howl of bursting war?
There, down by the speaker in his own room
He listens for the news. Whose news, though, whose?
Beatles, Stones, Byrds, why should these objects talk
And we have no voice at all?

SID
 Let's start a band!

ROTTEN
We'll need instruments.

MCLAREN
Instruments I have.
Pour your liquid essences forth, let voices
Cry your rain of judgement loose on this world!
Flood hypocrisy from its dobber's holes,
Rape the senator's wife, confound floated bills,
Let Pigs drown before they fly at us
All unable with billyclubs awry.
Pour forth, and in the turbulent judge
Of heaven, who squints from the hurricane's eye
Laugh for all the terror of his wet,
Dishevelled reign.

SID
 Cry Anarchy at last!

ROTTEN
I'll undertake some study of this part.

MCLAREN
Boys, be rascals to my jiving knave
And to all this long-haired world we'll give a shave.

["Seventeen" plays cheerfully. We hear the chorus: "I'm a lazy sod."]


Top^



SCENE

[Rotten and Sid’s bedsit. They are playing the prison game of Chicken where the forearms of each contestant touch side by side, cradling a lit cigarette between them. Whoever pulls their arm away from the 2,000 degree heat of the lit cigarette first, loses.]

ROTTEN
So what do you think of the band notion?

SID
I think I wanna vomit what I’ve eaten; [Sid farts.] But it may be too late.

ROTTEN
I already have a few lyrics in my head.

SID
Yeah?

ROTTEN
This could be something.

SID
Death or glory? It’s just another story.

ROTTEN
Rehersal space is there for us, Malcolm was saying. Equipment. Couldn’t you learn to play something besides ingenue?

SID
Yeah, I could learn things. I got pretty big hands.

ROTTEN
Well, it seems like a chance. Twenty-five quid a week from McLaren, guarenteed.

SID
It’s gonna be a lot of work.

ROTTEN
Alright! All we haveta do is stand up and say something. And we have to stand up.

SID
I don’t want to work.

ROTTEN
You know, make a noise. Be something.

SID
I’m not going to work.

ROTTEN
A man must do something.

SID
No work.

ROTTEN
Alright!

[ROTTEN jumps up abruptly, losing the contest.]
It’s gonna be something, Sid. We will.

SID
Ahh, yes. No doubt. I win.

ROTTEN
First rehersal is around seven o’clock.

SID
I won, Johnny.

ROTTEN
Won. Won? Oh, yeah, the game.
And your wrong, Sid. I won. I definately won.

SID
The bass is a must.

ROTTEN
Everybody can pick out an instrument at the rehersal
And figure out what they want to play. [Exit Rotten]

SID
It’s with our dark lives we lightly play.
And contrast, being the one instruction men know
Who cannot learn a difference twixt likes
Unless the one is all of violentest white
And the other black as blood; how then teach
Tender love, which is but a difference as soft
As silk enwounding down, where dreams may slip
As silent as breath held to their fantastic births.
So that the all-enduing white may seem
Itself, and love as love stand and not yeild
To any onslaught of ignorances
Here I’ll be a blot all black as death
Which shall by my mocking homage be overthrown
In the minds to which my meaning does appear.
So that some may love truly, and without false looks
Betray a need in giving, I shall hate.
O such a hate as makes mad dogs appear tame
And the hot blood freeze up of those who on it glance
Be their fairenheit and celcius doubled
By war-rage raised to the boiling point of stars
To burn a blank in heaven, they shall stare
And turn cold inward stares upon their hearts
To witness in his heat the casque of a man
Glowing radient with so fierce a hate!
So wrought with a furor shall my mind bend
Upon bloody thoughts enough to swell the earth
And fish for a burning glory baptised there
That should in Hell hold honor against the devil.
How many then shall suffer to simply look
On this distemperate visage panting here
That has shaken off its particular face
To stand consumed all with flames of hate
And pure as any visionary ghost
Commit its aetherial offices of fire
To action.

Top^

SCENE

[ROTTEN resolved to be a completely honest human being. TV is on in the room.]

ROTTEN
I’ve told McLaren that Sid’s up for it,
The experimental apparatus is jacked into place,
Wires spouting from his forehead.
Being an apparatchik for the Individual has its perks.
No ghost of guilt puts its sweat-sheath
Of indecision on me. I out-face my sheeted semblables,
Mirror-pale in witness of their parents’ chimplike diminishment.
Each man’s diminished, or dismantled
From the sacred whimper of his intent, when he lets
This blistering world scissor him apart:
Once into “son,” twice as “man, husband,”
Or “citizen.” Never let them tell you what you are!
How NOT TO trust the fissioning essence in us,
Burning each unencumberd nerve alive
As a toothache– a cascade of blisses
As likely as any other fretted thrust or touch
Of this chummy, glum globe’s impingement
On the imminent individual by his
Sang-froid “oi!” from his fetters freed!
But to be yourself without the rolling
Fear of eyes, individual, alive, and free… what else
Is there? I am resolved, renewed, now, here,
A completely honest human being I’ll be
And nothing fear.

[SID from next room, booming] I think I got this riff kicked!


ROTTEN
This finniky generation is gonna get a kick!
Loud as a wacked statistic I hear my nothingness proclaimed,
My name erased and flinching face razed
From the knowing scroll of society's adornments.
This pithy bit of wickedness I will unwill,
And make the glossy ad-assed tabloids shout my name.
The queen will roll my name with curses in her sleep
And recite me in her ernest prayers to God
That we be stopped.
One week to the first gig, and then
Let that dread which thumbs other men down
Rapsodise as my tom-tom. Be my troubled, thudding beat
As if all war in your electric hollows rolled!

["Holiday in the Sun" plays, the bit about "this is the Berlin Wall."]

Top^


SCENE

[Outside first gig]

SID
Hallo.

NANCY
Hiaw.

SID
Oi, my bass is broke, and that ain't good, ay?

NANCY

You in a band? I came over to London from New York with my boyfriend's band. But he won't give me any of his stash, so I gotta do tricks for whatever I can get.


SID
Tha' wanker! He doesn't play the bass, does he?

NANCY
What's it to you.

SID
What's yer name?

NANCY

Who cares? [Softening.] Nancy Spungeon. And my boyfriend jerks off with his guitar; musicians are so testosterone-sick..


SID
I wuvs ya.

NANCY
Fuck off.

SID
Why? I got a few quid.

NANCY
Oh?

SID
C'mon, yer good. Let's have a shag.

NANCY
OK. Gimmie what y' got.

SID
[Obviously stone broke.] Uh....

NANCY
 What the fuck. You cheap asshole. I'm worth it.

[SID sees a way to divert attention from his poverty.]
SID
Prove it, cunt.

NANCY
All right. Down with your slacks.

SID
Uh.... Y'know, I gotta play me bass in a minute....

NANCY

[All business.]

 C'mon, c'mon.

[SID drops 'em; we see he has on his leopard-skin or red swastika underwear. SID busts open his bottle of Bass Ale and does a cheap sexual grind display with beer-bottle-as-penis.]


NANCY
Wow.
[Off comes NANCY's shirt.]

SID
[Going to his knees.] Gaw, yer beautiful. So fackin' beautiful.

NANCY
Really?

SID
Yeah.

NANCY
Be my dog.

[SID drops from kneeling to all fours. NANCY puts a chain necklace with a padlock on it around Sid's neck.]


NANCY
Now your mine.

SID
I can't fink a nuffin' finer.

NANCY
Are you holding?

SID
[Rising to his full height, feet spraddled wide apart.]
Yeah. [SID grabs his crotch.] All four inches of weenie glory.

NANCY

Ugggh. No, you fucker.-- You got any DRUGS? Any heroin, horse, H, smack, anything?


SID
Uh, yeah.

NANCY
Where?

SID
[Obviously not holding anything besides his dick.] Uh....

NANCY
WHERE!

SID
What's this? Da third degree?

NANCY
Shit. Nobody tells me the truth, whatever there is of it to be told.

SID
Yer really beautiful, Nancy. I mean it. Really.

NANCY
I don't know what's really real anymore.

SID
What's real is the way you feel! And fuck the rest of it.


NANCY
[Trying out the concept.]
What's real is how I feel. If I ever figure that out...

SID
[Aside.]                 Sere, sere
The tragic countentance you show obscured,
Displaying griefs, hiding harsher substances
Veiled within. It's a face to break saints.

NANCY
...I'll let you know.

SID
                         It is a cold allure,
Burning without touching; faint fire, faint fire
Within me chalks the haloed outline of your face.

NANCY
I am untouched and soiled, corrupt and pure,
The virgin whore Greek slavemasters adored;
Compounded of clay by dirty fingers,
Still a shapely vessel for holy water!
Tongued and speechless, dumb and breathless,
This girl's variable soul put to the test
By no man's flame as yet.

SID
                         'As yet'? Put your hand
Against this heart and it must withdraw gold
Purified by fire.

[She reaches out, leans against him a moment. A voice off stage shouts: Sid! Sidly! Bass solo's up! Sid exits]


NANCY
Something good in him.
I think I might like him. The shy white chest.

[Sid stands with his bass, thinking aloud while he mimes playing, as usual.]


SID
And if I were to die upon this instant
It were in a dream I'd die-- and there
Death has not taking but is a sweet addition
Of time and dark to lead the dreamer on.
Where's the harm if this picture that I live
Returned to curtained obscurity, from where
Nancy's hand now draws it like a lamp?
If it were to suffer no measled spot
Of corruption but endure the same as now
Even into that memory of perfection
None has joyed to have since the fall of man?
If from the disintegration of critics
This resolve itself still inviolable?
What harm, if on this patched imperfect globe,
Perfection seal perfection once from our own
Too-invading touch? If petty habit,
Or the all-ravaging, time-incensing blade
Of injured wit, which longs to enter
The innocent ears of those it apprehends
Have injured it, and rend there the brains
Of guiltless mouths with ravings; for no sooner
Does the sunday preacher speak hellfire
Than we, our apprehensions so aroused
By the word-- waiting alive within us
As it were-- begin to feel our own skins
Peel and burn, were themselves-- justly and for once--
To die and cease in this?

[The chords of "Pretty Vacant" strike up.]
Top^

SCENE

[Famous “fuck” TV interview plays on in a working class flat with man and wife watching. At the end of the interview, the man cries out :”Oi!” and tosses a brick or his chair through the TV set. Dialog below should be used if a videotape of the interview cannot be obtained.]
GRUNDY

Twenty million pairs of eyes are on you now. So tell us what all this atonal noise and dressing up is all about, if you can. I mean, it seems pretty downright silly to most of the rest of us.

ROTTEN
[To himself.] Shit.

GRUNDY
Pardon me, what did you say?

ROTTEN
Nothing. A dirty word. Next question.

GRUNDY
No, no. I’m really very curious. I insist. What was that word?

STEVE
[To himself.]Dirty sod.

ROTTEN
Shit.

GRUNDY
Well, that’s not really very intelligent, is it?

STEVE
And I say your a dirty old bastard.

GRUNDY
[Spluttering.] What? What?

STEVE
You keep looking at Susie like you wanna shag her right here on the couch.

SUSIE
Do ya?

GRUNDY
Well, I never.

STEVE
Go on, say it ain’t true. Fucking rotter.

[Sid laughs. Rotten sees it all going down the tubes.]

ROTTEN
Bloody fuck. We’ve ruined everything. Again.

[“EMI” plays up to “too many people have the suss/ too many people support us.”]


Top^

SCENE

[McLaren and Viv’s apartment.]

VIV
I can’t believe it! Are you all packed yet?

MCLAREN
Almost.

VIV
An American Tour. It all popped together pretty quick, didn’t it?

MCLAREN
I suppose.

VIV
The first two record signings completely blown. And you got to keep the cash advance. Quite a deal.

MCLAREN
Dodgy at best.

VIV
And then a third signing for even more money up front! Well, that’s a lovely irony, isn’t it? And an international tour arrangement thrown in! Not bad for a kinky old buzzard like you.

MCLAREN
I suppose not.

VIV
Oh, that flotilla on the Thames. Having them play in the middle of the bloody river. Going straight up the the Queen’s Jubilee! Brilliant! Bobbies and everybody having to wait until you pulled ashore before they could even try to arrest you.

MCLAREN
A real swipe at Authority.

VIV
And getting them to sign their record contract on the steps of Buckingham Palace, no less. And Sid with his stiff quiff. I was pretty impressed, I can tell you.

MCLAREN
Rebels without a pause.

VIV
Rebels with menopause?

MCLAREN
Eventually. One day.

VIV
Hand me that hair iron, will you? Thanks. I’ll be downstairs; the taxi’s due any second. What do you suppose this rush of publicity really means? I mean, the papers make it sound as if we’re about to organize some sort of international anti-everything movement.

MCLAREN
People do it all themselves. All that beautiful political crap.

VIV
What do you think you might make this into, anyway? How much harm or hurt can four beastly boys zipped up in rubber goods do, anyway? What will you make out of them? The way the papers write about it all! As if we were terrorists. Or a sharp-edged Danger Mouse flailing away with a fully-loaded automatic guitar. “Oh God no, they’re plugging in. There goes the country.” ZZZapp!!

MCLAREN
A real amplified re-fleshing of the old anarchy bivouacs.

VIV
Cells of resistance, and all that.

MCLAREN
Sounds very biological, don’t you think?

VIV
As if we were an infection in the body of Mother England. [Laughs] What do you want, anyway?

MCLAREN
Just another commercial venture, darling.

VIV
America… I might have a chance to hunt up some fresh fashion ideas, mightn’t I? [Exits.]

MCLAREN
I'll have all a chaos. When effect meets not
The cause, and old age crawls to the baby's cradle
And there bawls its second weak infancy to the sheets
My wry smile shall widen to an earth-engulfing gash
Ingesting in toothy winces a wrong world
The intensest squints could not correct.
With this intent, I shall in America with my protege club prevail!
For years, Teddy Boys squeezed into my ripe Sex shop
Pear-pale, peach-sweet, thin and slinky in their kinked clothes
And now my charmed boys in their ragtag come marching out!
A decade of manipulation's not enough.
Sensible extirpation is my willing wish against sin,
To FEEL free is the only free there is, a sweet
Release from the clapped weight of intent
From which clapping hands raise and praise the supplicant.
How many jiggers of winning did I need to drink?
I won against my lolling generation, and then beat myself.
John may be a bit of a sticker, the prick.
Sid will give and give, docile as a housewife.
Why look you, once his mind's made over, his body
Follows adoringly, even to the precipice.
So all-of-a-kind is his nature that intent
And action have no more division between them
Than wind and wave. What one directs, the other
Slavishly obeys; its a virtue that may serve
My turning of it. After this, I'll burn as if
The indued lust was in me, firing all my thoughts.
They dress in the fagged-out rags of my harrassing dreams,
Hold a face I've pancaked against the furnace of light,
Wink at my blinkered insistence, chime to my timing
And let their voices uncork the change something in ME demanded.
All chaos unleashed in a stabbing minute unrehearsed....
These youths I shall to my alarming purpose bend,
Give voice to the vortex I feelingly live within.

[McLaren closes suitcase and wheels out of the room.]

["Anarchy in the UK," plays as we go to America.]
Top^


ACT II (America)

SCENE

[At the Homesick Cafe, Ark.]

[Boys on tour bus reading their "shocker" headlines out loud to each other. Except Rotten, who glares.]


Various: The Foul-Mouthed Yobs!
WHO ARE THESE PUNKS?
The Filth and the Fury!
Rock Group start a 4-Letter TV storm
Just because Steve called him a fucking rotter?
Grandmum Furious at Filthy TV Chat
Viewers in big protest over shock outburst
More Uproar as viewers jam phones
Grundy Goaded Punk Boys Says Record Chief.
Nufin goaded me, you old load.
Worthless, decidedly inferior, displeasing...
All: Yes!
The ragged face of Punk Rock
The Punks-- Rotten and proud of it!
Obnoxious, arrogant, outrageous... the new pop kings

SID
 Hey, Johnny, here's what they call you: The Ragged Rebel.
 Haw. The Ragged Rebel.

ROTTEN
Oh, Sid, you're so bawring!

SID

O, look you now what an unworthy thing you make of me! Should my concentration on this point of debate be anything less than tyrrannical, or dominate me less than the oppressive sky, then I, an erratic flicker of breath between unbreathing birth and breathless death as all men are, should lose my own weight of conscience, and disperse the only quality of mind that gives men effect or worth.


ROTTEN
Yeah, well, y'know.

PAUL
Food, food, food.

STEVE

[Taking up the chant:]

 Food, food, food!

ROTTEN
No luxuries cramp my stomach like the queen's packed larder,
Fat-back pork lolling between the ice-green truffles...
Knowing your 70 minutes' hunger each hour defines you is harder:
Spirit is trash, and god the garbage man is still on strike,
Uneaten piles of human flesh foul the bright air
Strangling the wayfarer who's forgotten how to die.
Dry heaves reassure me; my white neck's too knotted
For the hangman still. Watch my stumbling tongue,
B-S-ing to the hissing end! It's all just so much sass
I learned to spit at Grampa's deafened, wrinkled stump
Pearled with old, oil-red, oiled eyes.... Hssshahh, hssashah, snap!

PAUL
Hossannah, hossannah. All eat now of Johnny's manna;

STEVE
That'll choke us quicker than any hangman's yank.

PAUL
What makes you so fucking blessed right anyway?

SID
 We're all as hungry as you are, John.

ROTTEN
Yeah. But you're all wrong, ain't yeh?

[Bus pulls up to diner.]

TIBERI
OK, OK. Everybody off the bus!

[Inside diner.]

TIBERI
Eggs and butter for the British brats here.
Eggs to settle their stomachs from a hen's ass,
Butter for all the gold they'll get paid.

ROTTEN
Sincere pain, sincere joy, what else is there?
Nothing's in us, and less is in our stars.
Did we ever tell you about the time we met
That asshole ---

PAUL
Anecdotal violence! Anecdotal violence!
I love anecdotes.

SID
 We tol' ol' Bill Harris to shove it up
His withered cunt---

ROTTEN
Back at the Playpen
Where we'd lean into our drinks, and drink, and think.
Sid was ashamed of Bill's being so dull
And tried to save him with a slash; "a bash
On his ripe noggin'll straighten him out"
He'd said: and wham went the theatrics, Wham!

SID
 You gotta live and bleed to be, ya see?

ROTTEN
Fuck dental floss: who's gonna live that long?

SID
 Operational utility, see,
Is the only ungimmicked gauge of success.
And when I cut him, he was free, free,
And let loose against me as if I lived,
Not in the papers or on the TV,
But there in the room with him, within reach.
His knuckle was my suckle: haw haw haw.

ROTTEN
Bill was a cop who knew the Bandits well.
Well, what of that? I'd gotten clobbered plenty
By the cincured cops I'd grown up near.

SID
 It's true enough. Authority buys its face with pain.
Fear in weak eyes can paint a popinjay
Above the status of an eagle's stare.

Top^



SCENE

[Hotel room]

MCLAREN
Tiberi, my boy, listen up. Item:
International image. The permanence
Of celluloid fantasy. Item:
Cash advance for everybody.
Who can we call?

TIBERI
MGM.

MCLAREN
Columbia.

TIBERI
Paramount.

MCLAREN
Calling the 20th century!

TIBERI
Warner Brothers.

MCLAREN
Warner brothers. Brothers in arms!
It sounds tasty and correct in a flat, unleavened way.

TIBERI
They're already paying for this tour.

MCLAREN
So they are. Why not?

[Mclaren reaches for phone.]

Top^

SCENE

[The auditorium in San Francisco. Tiberi greeted at the door by a stage-hand.]

COHEN
Who do you serve?

TIBERI
Why, one that’s better than myself.

COHEN
Why do you serve him?

TIBERI
Because he is better.

COHEN
Many men in their various disciplines have a superior touch. You cannot serve them all. Men must serve themselves, or else this divided loyalty would allow but very little sleep.

TIBERI
He’s better than me. If I would not serve him willingly, then he, being better, could make me. If I werte to contrive for distance between my master and myself, his farsightedness would foreshorten the leagues of my leavetaking, and I would be as good as by his side even still.

COHEN
Perhaps you could serve him well, but hold aside your heart and keep it secret and alone.

TIBERI
If I were to so withhold, and in myself keep that affection owed outwardly, then he, knowing my measure, even to its height and pitch, and exceeding that measure as much as a whale does an inchworm, would discern the shortfall in my affections. Yeah, if I were to withhold even one particle of all my mind from service, he, whose mind encompasses and surpasses it, would percieve the debit and hold me owing. And such owing to such encompassment, I would not feel.

COHEN
And you serve in hope to better yourself by such example?

TIBERI
I serve because the worser obeys the better part of man, or else all is chaos. There’s many tragadies that have played on that.

COHEN
But is there no improvement in your scheme? No profit that may be had by you from your master?

TIBERI
I serve one who never shall be as bad as myself. There’s a profit of trust and confidence for a man in that.

COHEN
Self-treachery! Never have I heard it so bluntly put. Who can know the doings of another’s heart? The change and expanses hidden there? Why each man’s a walking maze or undeciphered rebus, save to gods or madmen. A madman makes no udse of it because he is mad. The gods game with such insights to while away eternity, showing man a riddle to himself. Gads! Think on it.

TIBERI
My pledge is a matter of honor in myself, not to swerve from it. It is a constant in myself that I most do guess at, not in him I serve.

COHEN
And yet, here you are, pledging service to– to a blank stone! Hell, one might do better thus: the stone will keep its qualities, a man may not. You say that he’s a better by viewing of his past acts, which are as much the charge of accident and chance as deportment, and by that view squint into tomorrow. For all service pledged today is but a guess at constancy tomorrow, that the pledge may be returned or paid in kind or still find honor in its subject. Yet you plegde a riddle, and hold it as it were a star above your head, changeless and remote. Do this and disserve yourself.

TIBERI
It’s honesty.

COHEN
Who’s the nearer gainer?

TIBERI
Just help me lug this shit onstage, ay? I thought San Francisco was supposed to be a friendly city.

[Stage Hand helps with equipment.]
[“Schools are Prisons” plays us to the radio station, where BONNIE turns it down to speak.]

Top^

SCENE

[Radio Interview at K L A M, as in ‘My Lamb,’ the lamb of christ, on the lam, as in (lowercase) 1[one] am, as in Clam, as in money, as in female sexual organs]

TIBERI
You boys have GOT TO do this interview right. Understand?

ROTTEN
Oh? What if we don’t?

SID
I don’t give a fig about you.

BONNIE
On the air in five…. Welcome to San Francisco. This is Bonnie Bonfires, and we’re talking to the Sex Pistols, the outrageous punk band from England who’ll be playing the Geffin Concert Hall tonight. Well boys, have you been having fun?

SID
More fun than ever. So much more room over here to be fun in. You can spit across Britain.

ROTTEN
NO FUN. NO FUN. NO FUN. NO FUN.

BONNIE
Should I play another cut from your album.

SID
Who cares about the music?

ROTTEN
The music was never it.

BONNIE
Well, OK. Here we go. [Plays another cut from their album]

Sid and ROTTEN
Blah blah blah.

TIBERI
You treat this little lady nice.

Sid and ROTTEN
Blah blah blah.

TIBERI
Lemme make it easy for you. You do good, and you each get a leather jacket.

SID
Nobody tells us what ta do.

ROTTEN
Oh yes they do. I’d sell my soul for a leather jacket.

BONNIE
Any new material?

SID
Got a song about God.

ROTTEN
And all the pretty angels…

SID
It’s a real attack. A death march.

BONNIE
Really.

SID
Got one about South Africa. How the niggahs gonna rise up.

BONNIE
What kind of school did you go to, Johnny? Parochial?

ROTTEN
Schools are just another prong in your conformist machine.

BONNIE
I have to do a radio ID. This is K-L-A-M, San Francisco, transmitting on….

Sid and ROTTEN
Blah blah blah blah.

SID
I want to talk, to say something.

BONNIE
Go ahead.

SID
Hallo? Is DeeDee Ramone out there? Just hallo. Hallo!

BONNIE
Do you like the Ramones?

SID
I love the Ramones.

ROTTEN
I hate the Ramones. I hate them I hate them. They’re boring and mundane.

SID
[Sings.] Nothing to do, nowhere to go oh… I wanna be sedated!

ROTTEN
I don’t want to be sedated. Absolutely not. And neither should you.

BONNIE
Well then who do you like?

ROTTEN
Me.

BONNIE
I would hope so. Anybody else?

ROTTEN
Not really, no. Not at all. I don’t like rock music. I don’t even know why I’m in it. It’s just the only way I can destroy things. It’s the best way.

BONNIE
Tell me about your song ‘New York.’

ROTTEN
It’s about imposters from New York, all those cheap assholes who call themselves poets and take themselves seriously and all they’re doing is destroying music in a trivial way. It’s like they’re serious. At least we’re destroying it practically. I just want to ruin everything. Have I earned my leather jacket yet? This is so tedious.

TIBERI
Two sleeves.

BONNIE
This is hard, isn’t it?

ROTTEN
Yes. For a young man like me.
[Pause.]

ROTTEN
I am the defeat of your social engineering plan,
And the timid victory of the individual.
My annihilating mind reduces every other one
Back to zero cause it can and that way I
Can really get started and exist. In a world of mirrors
Every one of you becomes just another face.
I must spurn the temptations of the marketplace,
And not sell the shards of what I've gathered here.
The nihilist in me shouts you up against the wall
And then, I shoot until there's nothing left;
My lesson plan includes an ineradicable I, which then
Can say I'm everything, or anything, or what
I want to be. In a universe of ciphers I,
I am the only one. And then, when that becomes clear
and (the atmosphere in here is damp) all
Of you get sick of being so erased, and scream
"I exist!" in your sickened state, well then
Maybe I'll have done something to unleash
The little man inside of you at last.

BONNIE
Are you going home after tonight's show?

SID
Our visa's expired.

BONNIE
Do you think its different here than in England?

ROTTEN
You've really got no idea how stupid you are.

BONNIE
What do you want out of us 'Yanks'?

ROTTEN
MOREEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!
Complaisant slugs, gumming up the air with your foul breaths.

SID
Nothing here but dirty cowboys and sore-thighed wives.

ROTTEN
Gimme a fix of the pure, the real, the clean LUCRE
That spic-and-span life commands. A toast to the country
With the least. Drink up Sidney! We've earned our
Leathers by now. Gimme the free bleed
Anarchy asks. Out of each man ranges free free free
The dispelling shadow of his own unowned soul.

SID
Hee hee hee. [They Exit.]

BONNIE
Thanks. And good luck on your show here in San Francisco tonight. [To mike:] Well, I think they heard me.

[“Problem” plays briefly as we head toward utter disaster.]
Top^

SCENE

[Last Engagement, San Francisco.]

MARCUS
I'm Griel Marcus, bald-faced punk's
Rueful, truthful rock-critic supreme;
Whatever I say becomes whatever I see.

BYSTANDER
[Bumping Marcus] Fuck off!

MARCUS
Drunk in the cockpit of this moment's corse sussurations
I hear hippie history's dismissing 'brava!' in the floor-boards' squeal.
Johnny's spinning skull must fly off its spitting spike next,
His rare form magnetic, a showboat on fire.
Watch the wicked, watched world grind itself down
To his loose, hissing tooth. Tonight, tonight! Now.
I've watched. The hysterical, real saint-Just
Wishing hysterical happiness to everyone he couldn't kill.

ROTTEN
Bang into the flopped heart of America I flapped,
My long, grimed tooth my instrument! Catch fire
From this piss-stream of lip-jizz; I say fire
To make Carthage blush, and the pillaged babe
Don her habitable virginity
Fresh as any haight-ashbury herb cure.
We'll make such faces! Breed on tiger-milk
You who wish to finger what we offer...
We'll make such faces, turn to ack-ack hue
Our enlarged gourds til teeth burst: such smiles lick
As respected age will treble tremble---
Fathers curse inheritence, and stones yeowl
To be whittled into junior pebbles
Out of so grave a bulk. Mothers curse sons
Whelped by nursing pains to urgent manlings
Of size to whine into this hissing mike
That scatters truth into dumb fertile ears
And like seeds of lice or liscence perk there
The bandaged arms of Anarchy! Rise, lice!
And overwhelm the blinded head of state...
Take what wisdom would not give. It's time!
Crawl into every margin of the law
And breed upset. With perpetual strife
Upbraid laced dignities, and cause small wars
To fruit the earth with disrespect, make change
Frequent and large, dash reason, and with blood
Let each man's Caesar's freedoms be regained!
O royal hue! To convey the marrow
And very essence of a life. By pulse
Revealing to the stale outward intant
Time's constant arrow moving forward still.
Blood in my toothpaste dish makes me sick
To think on time's waste. Hear the moment's beat
In your stagnant ears? Listen now to blood;
Lift a gun or tongue; swim in such instants---
Freedom is a minute you can't forget,
Nothing more. Texarkana's next this tour?
We are many in the dark. My sneer's a bombshell.
Let's bludgeon our faces against the light...
Blot all torches. We'll make such faces...!

MARCUS
There they go, fabulous at last.
The fabled anger fated for parade.
See how blind John stares and stares.
The black, quickened eye disabling
A head trapped in history.
When will we unleash ourselves and die free?
What man believes the stories he tells himself?
You can overhear a dozen prophets at any bar
Betting their dreamed guesses into oblivion...
Sauced, sleepy, slurred unhurried drears.
How many hunches have I discovered and doubted,
Telling myself I'll live forever on the sly
Drenched in wrenching death-prayers by the score...
Something tells me that the boot is braver
Than the twitching man who kicks me with it.
How many other minutes will singe and sing like this?
The annihilating sound, the screaming face alive
Retelling a dream interred. Interred and true.
Convinced and cynical in my writer's chair
Perched on some desert telephone pole
Like an eagle's quartered nest, I reach
For my blue, explaining pen as my foot hits the wire!
Knowing what I know, I think its the crash.
Unfullfilled desire leaves it debt in dreck;
Dada's marched-on heart is beating still.
Those fulfilled? Even more so. History keeps
Repeating its minutes, a bum that mumbles
His mantra to a swigged glass.

ROTTEN
Is this exceeding blessing, this individual
Excellence extempore, merely a receding grace,
A backwash of wish, naked in bare sincerity,
Made supremely visible by withdrawl alone?

MARCUS
What gain inheres? Nothing forgotten's real.
        Everything's forgotten.
Johnny's ribald face is burning the spotlight back to black.
His voice an echo without a source;
My dull feet are sore, I've been standing here since birth.
The theiving minutes pinch my imagined halo to ash,
St. Catastrophe without a wish to incinerate my sins,
I stammer on the moment's agile surf and glide
Fishing for a reprieve I haven't faxed myself.
Why can't I kill whatever I see? Asleep in his stitches,
Frankenstein mumbled love for the blind flower-girl
       Chaplin wooed.
Why can't I sleep and speak? The terrible dreams
Rise in the visionary nullity of Rotten's ripe rant,
Blaming the logjam of time every infancy invents;
What choice of fathers does a chilled begetting undermine?
My drugged druthers always centering on the whispered
       "Not I, Not I."
The nascent NA NA NA that ripped Elvis to the top!
How much more must I incinerate and disclaim? All's mine.
Mine mine mine! Disbelief's the easiest wish to insist on.
Its the hard, current, Jabberwocky of the damned
I can't understand, their bleating insinuations of reprieve
Manufactured and patented up-your-sleeve!
My dyslexic eye precedes the Lettrist revolt,
My dubbing ear Dada Ball's crunching balungo-beerhall putsch!
Decapitated atop my careening pile of crooked books,
I fix on the age's marginalia, squinting for a clue;
Haphazard history's gimmick's fixed by tricks
I engineer from here with a wink and a lisp. Follow close!
Cops are burning my wicker house to the holy ground.
The heat's in me still that put their finnicky indignation
To the torch! I hold a copy of commie Combat rolled,
Batting all comers with its tickle-whip of scholarly love.
It is history's Rosanante that I must skewer and cure,
Ferrying imagination's master-men to their mooted doom;
The mute ashes lash and flabbergast me as I stand
Winsome and sinewy at St. Joan's last barbeque.
No matter how poor in spirit you are, there is always
Desire. Desire unfulfilled, as it appears. A cinema wish
Snapping in the projector and evaporating, each
White, slaved, delectable evocation revoked.
Have you seen the serene mistress of this wish?
She rides all times as if swished backwash,
The sea retreating to the sea's indecipherable source.
Always there is the sweet reverse of the siren's chorus,
Less promising less and less, a minmalist's urge
Sanding away the unallowed surges our bodies offer.
Wolman with a silent, blanking screen at his command
Knew what the humdrumming camera's oceanic whirr allowed
Knew each lived minute demanded its hour,
Each hour, eternity. That girl Liberty
Kept her witching watch alert night by night,
Stik-on stars spangling her showbiz brow
As she danced down the photographed Paris streets,
A weeping illuminati with nothing on! So it goes.
Today she's done her promomade of Nos, the void
Loosed from her solo vowels and the crashed, done, down,
Flair of Petey-boy's Wall of Sound, ennunciating Void;
From this announced denial a scintillating permission slips,
My hands reduced to crabbed claws can fasten still....
Destruction on this rash scale proves creation's true!!!
My neon feelers tremble in the black box of night,
My undone heart moves its inchworm rounds renewed.
Nothing demands its consequence, I am the world I rue!

ROTTEN
Ever get the feeling you've been cheated?
Top^

SCENE

[Hotel room, San Francisco. Annie Leibovitz is trying to gather the boys in the shower for a group portrait. Rotten is on the phone.]

ROTTEN
Bloody fucking spanking wanker! [Hangs up]

TIBERI
Well, what do you know? San Francisco today, Brazil tomorrow.

ROTTEN
What?

TIBERI
You’re going to Brazil tomorrow.

ROTTEN
What?

TIBERI
Don’t you understand what I’m talking about?

ROTTEN
What?

TIBERI
You’re going down there to cut a film with the Great Train Robber holed up in Rio de Janero.

ROTTEN
That’s pathetic.

TIBERI
[Tiberi shrugs] He wants to call it ‘The Swindle.’

ROTTEN
He wants to make a mooovie; 'The Swindle!'
That would tuck us away all tidy and dead. Oooouuu!
What a sensation. They made my nerves tingle once,
But now I know it was all a game. How fun! Bloody...
I'm calling McLaren. That arse. What a circus.

[Sid stumbles out of the shower.]

SID
What's going on?

ANNIE
Just like that. Hold that sneer.

SID
[Throwing his towel over the camera] You whore.

ROTTEN
Malcolm's trying to kidnap us to South America, that's all.

SID
 Don't they have those naked parties down there?

ROTTEN
That’s not the point, Sid. He’s trying to pervert the entire experiment.

SID
Oh. Well…

ANNIE
C’mon everybody, back in the shower. Really good light glares off of the fixtures.

SID
Jam it.

ROTTEN
[Picks up the phone]> What’s Malcolms number? Anybody! What the frizz is the number where Malcolm’s at? Do I have to wait for that wanker to call here again? Anybody! What’s his bleeding number?

ANNIE
Click, click, click.

ROTTEN
Oh, that’s it. That’s too much. I’m out. I’m smoke. I’m dead to you from now on, OK? This is simply far too degrading, being paraded around like this. Malcolm McPuppet can go hang!
[Exits]

[“Belsen was a Gas” plays as we go to the next scene. Maybe show some clips of the boys in Brazil from “The Great Rock and Roll Swindle.”]
Top^

SCENE

[Hotel room, San Francisco]

TIBERI
He’s quit. John’s no longer with the band. With anything. He says he’s gone to Jamaica and fuck you.

MCLAREN
Ah, shiit! Slaying betrayer. Crimped infidel.
When he comes back I’ll have to say something nice to him.
I like his asshole. Or something. Shiit!

[Phone rings, Tiberi picks it up]

TIBERI
Hey, well, whatever. You better take this.

[McLaren on the speakerphone, talking to the movie guy.]

MCLAREN
Yes. Yes. I understand.

MOVIE GUY
The project is untouchable without Johnny’s drawing buzz.

MCLAREN
I understand. [aside] Ideas aren’t honey enough for the vixen flies. Attention in this blitzed world is a game of one-upsmanship. And I’m too persona-poor to play my own part. [aloud] I understand.

MOVIE GUY
Get Johnny Rotten back on the set, or my interests will witdraw all funding for this film.

MCLAREN
I understand THAT. [Hang up.] Look, Tiberi, we’ve got a revolution going on here. I’ve got a movie contract. This band is blistering the world’s thin skin, and they’ll pay anything to feel the pain. They want the illusion that they’re alive. But, there’s a problem, the face man has escaped. Johnny’s popped off to Jamaica. He’s sick-unto-death of us. Tired. He’s just a lad, after all. But he is needed. The mask of fantasy through which every heaven-drugged voice was pumped is getting a sunburn in the coral-mauve Carribean. Not good. The movie may be behind schedule already! And it’s the celluloid that’ll last, and not our wearisome noise. I must have that frittery inch of stained-glass church windowpane for my mile-high history.

TIBERI
So what are you going to do?

MCLAREN
Yes. What am I going to do?

TIBERI
Yes, what are you going to do?

MCLAREN
I’m going to talk to him. If I convince him, I convince him. If not…. I want you to go to Jamaica– an island of indecisive breezes– and try to convice him. If you convince him, you convince him. You won’t go unprepared. Hand me those blank pages over there.

TIBERI
These?

MCLAREN
Yes. Those.

[McLaren takes five of six blank pages and carefully puts his signature at the foot of each, then hands them back to Tiberi.]

TIBERI
What’re these for?

MCLAREN
Exigencies. If I cannot convince him, and your voice is dust in his ears, then note what complaints he makes, and note whatever his own desire may speak of. Note them. Note them on these pages as my own true intent. Whatever he wants [aside]let him think he’ll get.

TIBERI
All right. You really want to put him in the driver’s seat though? This could mean that he’d be tellin everybody else what to do.

MCLAREN
He already put himself there with his big star-biz ego-fetish GOOD-BYE fuck-off.

TIBERI
Is there anything else?

MCLAREN
I’ll tell you more of my intents after the phone call. Now you may get out.

[Exit Tiberi.]

MCLAREN
[punches a number on the speaker phone]
Hallo, Johnny?
What have we to fear, enmansioned, founded
Here where highest joys a trembling earth
Disposes, waiter to our wants even as she
Mimics and points them to their setting on.
The crypt of night is draped with jewels
And sick want, pale with wan fear,
Is fattened by our expectation to join those dear
Who have left us laughing departing hence.
God as king, worm or fool
Can knock us about no more than chance
Whose jaded tigers jab at us pinned to earth.
This being so, as indeed it is,
Lets talk among us as if we were dead
And loss and gain a game played
By those abandoned above our roof of turf.
This done, our new talk will range
In absolutes as freely as a kitten
Moves his mates among. Then shall we be,
As our abilities all have chance to turn flesh
Corporal spirits diamonded by tongues
And turn in flashing sequences of ourselves
As once the deciphered pages of a book.
O then what gainers will we be!
To know all ourselves, entongued here
As ages heretofore dreamed only
The provenence of heaven! To hold
Castled in the keep of teeth our very selves
And have their essence printed in the air
What fingers may fan! O secret bliss!
Uncased before time and times are done
And all the world's expansive 'Ah'
Constricted to a noose's tiny 'o'
To be drunk while still fresh in every sense
And our each little gate of perception
Overwhelmed with joy! Come, come,
Let's talk while we've tongues to lavish us.

["New York" plays as we fly to that black basalt city.]
Top^

ACT III (New York)

SCENE

[Sid 'N' Nancy's apartment.]

SID
What there is left of me that love would put
A hand to, hew down, and let drugs eat up
The surplus, even as they already have
Your hollow eyes consumed.

NANCY
                       Stop it Sid. Stop!
I do not have to dredge my heart for drams
But have love enough to wet you to the core
And send the efflux and semblance of your ghost
Drenched to heaven.

SID
There's no comfort in it.
But chilly do I move through these spare rooms
Turning visions and nightmares over in my fist
Like a restless paper, which tells more
In its rough square of life than I ever,
Ever shall do myself. Does it not
Astound?

NANCY
Do not, do not love me, and then
Draw a sour face over bitten fruit.

SID
Hmm. Yes. If I cannot prove out one image
With my entire life, and take this page
And append myself-- but momentarily!--
To its whirlwind, then what is't to've lived?

NANCY
Well, you're going to that gig I set up at
Max's Kansas City next week ain't ya? Ain't that
Something more 'n  a footnote? I'm in bad way,
Sid. Don't I always tell you you're the only star?
I set that gig up for you, honey. Ain't that
Worth a little sumthin', sumthin'?

SID
Is the carryover of existence
No more than the monumental footnote
Of an obituary? I think
It cannot be-- and yet, what is it to live?

NANCY
Aw, Sid, fuck off! I'm going to Richard's
For my fix. Give me the money, honey.

[NANCY grabs money from SID and exits.]

SID
Is there, in that drugged beast's look of hers
Love to expiate misery of self
Or is self all-too tangled in beastly briars
For any look of hers to burn by fires
Back to unencumbering phoenix' ash
From which some tired I might at last arise?

Top^



SCENE

[Richard Hell’s apartment. He is alone, reading Baudelaire’s Last Poems. He looks up.]

HELL
I feel blank.
[Knock at door.]

HELL
Oh yes.
[NANCY enters.]

NANCY
Gosh, who’d’ve thought you’d stayed so cute?

HELL
I didn’t think I needed anyone to tell me that.

NANCY
Hi y’er. [She leans up close against him]

HELL
I don’t mind givin’, but you have got to want.

[Nancy throws Baudelaire book at Hell’s head]

HELL
What? Don’t! [He tackles her] That’s my Baudelaire.
[pause]

NANCY
You hurt me, I hurt you. What the fuck?

HELL
What, the fuck?

NANCY
What we had was real.

HELL
I don’t know….

NANCY
FUCKFUCKFUCKFUCK.
[Pause]

NANCY
You don’t have any smack, do you?

HELL
Not that I can lend.

NANCY
Any I could get?

HELL
Well, I don’t know….
[Nancy crawls into his lap]

HELL
I do know someone who’s holding. Do you remember Rockets?

NANCY
Rockets Redglare? That skeevy little shrimp?

HELL
He’s probably at his place.

NANCY
On Houston Street?

HELL
Probably.

NANCY
SEE YA.

HELL
Hey, Sweetheart.

[Nancy exits. Hell sets up the Baudelaire book and addresses the picture on the front jacket]

HELL
Tell me if this is finished:
[sings]
Desperation takes us in its feral cue
as luxury lights installed upon a losted view
and terror tricked shadow in pitiless devotion--
imploring furious mirrors of singular commotion
     its true... its true...!

Animate angel fumes her retinue of dreams
Stabbing azure parodies and rending elixive schemes
with no respite for my insensate senses
enslaved in velvet dawns and sonorous tenses
     oh no... oh no...!!

Spirit exhales divine perils in exquisite quivers
dyed her in defiance and cool lipstick shivers,
like flatterers dissembling demented agitation
or tears falling like the loveless jewels of contemplation!!
     my-self...! myself...!!!

Top^

SCENE

[Sid ‘N’ Nancy’s apartment. Nancy returns, gives herself a fix on the bed, relaxes. Sid goes over to her and picks up the works with the following line:]

SID
Gimmie.

[Sid takes the ‘works’ to the bathroom, hunches up against the toilet and injects himself.]

SID
This rearing horse has neighed my veins alive;
It turns their slothful flowing to more rapid pace,
Spilling armies of antagonistic thoughts
From their safe haven and compeerless view
In the appointed temple of the brain
To those waiting slopes and mountain-arms
That tumble to our bowels, then stretch out to feet
And, like the volcano in his roaring, the body
Once aroused, rests not till all the landscape
Burns laved with that fire the brain compels
Out in a rain of fuming ashes over it.
Drugs are argent against a low self-conceit,
The beggar's into a tyrant's riches thrown
And chatters at the rats, his councillors.
High into his eye each purviewed object is excerpted,
Finding there its aptest use and valuation;
Be it less than a poor scrap of scrambled print
Tugging his ankle like a wet hand, or some dull word
Imagined in the wind, his altered state,
Being so high-enhanced and tragic-excited,
Seizes the wayward syllable, which trumpets in his ear
Of vast ambitions trashed, kingdoms undone,
The long low note of doom resounding soundless
In his brain alone, the subtle drum
That had urged him on, til cavalries entire
That had so newly charged in victory-seeking pride
Stand again in-reigned in sudden defeat.

[P.I.L.'s "Albatross" plays briefly, annoying us.]

Top^

SCENE

[Jamaica, Rotten's cabana. Poolside]

GIRL
Why did you leave?

ROTTEN
How could I stay?

GIRL
There's nothing here.

ROTTEN
There's nothing anywhere.

GIRL
Yeah, right..?

ROTTEN
It's only ourselves... It was The End!

GIRL
Our faces and our fears. Our freedoms, right?

ROTTEN
Our inhibited pissings, more like.

[Sound of rustling shubbery. Rotten pulls Tiberi from behind a bush at poolside]

ROTTEN
Shadow of vengeance! Tiberi, what’re you doing here?

TIBERI
Oh nothing. Nothing. really.

[Rotten pulls at camera strap on Tiberi’s neck:]

ROTTEN
What’s this? Eh?

TIBERI
It’s just a camera, you know, to get a few snaps.

ROTTEN
Slippery as a condottieri, Tiberi. Probably been sliming up the bush you dragged through to get a geeky peek at me.

TIBERI
All we wanted was your picture for the movie.

ROTTEN
My picture! all I own is my image. The intimidation of a shameless face.

TIBERI
Yeah, well, your story’s a lot of what we’ve been trying to put together.

ROTTEN
[grabbing papers out of Tiberi’s coat] What’s this? Well, what is it? [examining papers] McLaren’s reduced to selling his autograph, is he?

TIBERI
No. They were left blank so that I could fill them in. With promises. You know, like McLaren’s been talking about. You’re in charge. You can do what you want, make what you want. Any project. Anything– so long as I got you to come back to the group.

ROTTEN
Christ, I gave all that up. I don’t need any shit from the past. All that’s dead.

TIBERI
Everyone I know just wants to see you guys back up there again.

ROTTEN
Christ, Tiberi! Humping the friggin bushes to get me friggin picture…

TIBERI
McLaren figured you’d be pretty much pissed. Guess he was right. But he still wants the project to go forward. So, you know, whatever I could get…. And now you guys are so big. Now you could actually cash in on it a little. You know, make some money and be free to do whatever you want.

ROTTEN
Except quit. So now you’re going to steal my freedom from me too. McLaren’s holding up my money. Sid had my friendship. And now– for the best of reasons, to be a verbal martyr and fixed tidbit in kid’s dreams— I’m supposed to dive back into that mire? Can’t you see from the way they’ve got you crawling around behind bushes that self-determination is the LAST thing that they’re interested in?

TIBERI
Well, how about a line for the movie then at least? Its a mythological documentary of sorts—

ROTTEN
The Demise of the Never Beens? Dreamy. Fuck off.

TIBERI
Just say: “Who killed Bambi?” They can edit it in ok. Ok?

[As Tiberi holds up the camera to film, Rotten takes the lens in his hand and shoves him backwards into the pool]

ROTTEN
Zed, Hector! Kick his highness’ ass. [Enter two thugs who pull Tiberi out of the water and start beating him] That’s all the picture of me you’ll glom onto.

TIBERI
Ow. Ah, fuck. Hands off! Damn. Damn you.

ROTTEN
Watch how the image in your cracked skull, Johnny Rotten Magnificat, melts from the stiff indifference your wrong wish imposed; a posed, inverted, evangelical, shouting and strident gimmick for your gimcrack Hollywood picture,— back to the wavering and real, loving negation of a single man. Let my NO now hollow out my image where your false wish reigned.

TIBERI
Not even an instamatic fragment? Your anger’s really photogenic, you know.

ROTTEN
NOOOOOOOO! I’ll kick your ass myself.

[They punch Tiberi offstage.]
[“Liar” plays ironically as TIBERI is beaten.]
Top^

SCENE

[New York, Suicide Promise. Sid N' Nancy's apartment.]

SID
The soul of man to its true object is miscreant.
Smeared with fecal farce is our smooth wall of love
That upheld only projections of sweet heaven
Between us, once. Where has our strength of dreaming fled?
How gone, that which from the daily air drew in
Sweet opiate clouds? Our imagination's cancered over,
My heart a tumor lugging up my throat! I cannot swallow.
My dry eyes, empty of tender tears, ache to weep,
And must hang aching still, deprived of that
Visionary flood that lifts the animal in us to man,
The twitch of sympathy that had bound us as brothers
Knotted no less than pearls on the trim wire
Of our cause, has lapsed us now to this estate
A degredation even to the uncombining sand.
So far have we fallen, who thought to rise forever
Alert in the hilarity of spirits,
A pairs of perfect angels, turning higher
With each god-send of wind, until clouds themselves
Shrank dazzlingly beneath us, the lost sea a rumor
Of unendurable light. And are we now, even now,
Descended to this? O human liberty!
Let us scrape the dirty earth for our bones,
And charge our jellied flesh with treason,
For bones have abandoned us if we cannot stand against this.
Let us lose the hair that marks and mocks us even as a beast,
Rend sight from our sockets, sniff the absent crypt,
Stab hearing from our ears, cut the tongue
Howling from our mouths that can make no speech
Innocent of betrayal, and so convert ourselves
To ragged bleeding brawls of detested elements
All in a chaos so confused with themselves
That the least drear piece of life-- be it
As miserly as a toad!--- will take no stain
Of comparison from us, to say we share
Any quality convertible with itself.
     [Nancy sits up in bed, clear from her high and depressed.]
All charmed intent of tenderness has abandoned us.

NANCY
Let’s do it.

SID
Aw God, not again.

NANCY
C’mon Sid; for real this time.

SID
Why do you always wanna talk like this?

NANCY
C’mon, Sid. For real.

SID
Ahh, Nanc.

NANCY
Sid, Sid. I– I don’t want ta die.

SID
Too late. We’ve been born, and now we’ve GOT TO die.

NANCY
I know all that. I was just expressing myself.

SID
Funny way you’ve got about it, wailing with no one to hear but these blank walls.

NANCY
I always thought you were listening.

SID
Well, I guess so; not that THAT counts for anything.

NANCY
So much suffering on my part, and nothing to show for it.

SID
I forget half the things you say as soon as you say ’em.

NANCY
What’s this been but unendurable misery? Swallowing your kisses like pills….

SID
Love’s gone bust for you. Your heart was never in it.

NANCY
Strange days, skittering on the knifeedge. Strange, strange. And so long….

SID
Well, then, what’s left?

NANCY
Christ! Always asking that question, ain’t you? What’s next, what’s next?

SID
Well?

NANCY
Always pushing past the minute we’re fixed in. You think something great’s gonna happen out of all THIS mess? [He gives her a look] Well, well… I know. But can’t you just quit it for an instant? I can’t tell what’ll come no more than you until it comes hurling down and smashes us ta bits.

[Silence]

NANCY
Let’s do it. C’mon, Sid. C’mon. For real this time. For real. [She presses the knife into his hand] You have to kill me. You promised.

SID
What promise do you have to extract from me
To know the thrust and tenor of my resolve?
Does the thrush promise miraculous song
To the listening air, or does it merely sing?
Does the babe swear his mother's milk to drink
Or does its small mouth simply incline to drink?
Does the putrid corpse disclose its white ribs
To fulfill some deeded oath to the earth?
No more shall I then our agreement break
Than my face and body may my name avoid;
Call me liar, and perjure your enterprise.
I shall none of it, but instead be true
As these bones may not this frame abandon,
Which indeed they do stretch and define thus,
Stiffening frail flesh with determination.
I'll be true. So saying, know me thus said.
For what I am, I cannot be other.

[Lights go down with the knife in Sid's hand.]

[Lights fade up in Sid N Nancy’s apartment. Sid lies in bed next to dead Nancy.]

SID
 Leave off life awhile, it's overrated.
Nancy, your blue eyes toward death, as if toward
Another shore whose beating sands were war-drums
Marching you out of life and sense-- and love;
For I had loved you. Together we'd poured
Each hourglass with centuries-- to the crest!

[Sid falls asleep.]

[Rockets Redglare begins pounding on the door, opens it on its chain, eventually sees Nancy.]

ROCKETS
Hey hey! Sid, Nancy, I was able to score a little more stuff on the cheap. Come on, open up. It’s me, Rockets Redglare. I got some good horse. Premium grade. Sid? Sid, you there? Hey Nancy how about a little yankee doodle dandy on the meat-flute while Sid’s off? Oh, oh there you are Sid. Well, you gonna let me in? You…. Oh man oh man oh gad oh god. Nancy…. bloody bitch. Um, you guys are gonna have to deal with this yourself. Sid, Sid, this is some serious shit, Sid. This is way deep. I gotta crawl on out, pal. Sid, man, you’re damned for this one. Serious, serious.

[“No Future” plays briefly as we go to the recovery room.]
Top^

SCENE


[NYC Hospital]

SID
Blue and ruined in my hospital bed, the dredged
And unending canyon-cut of history chopping my heart
To chasm-splinters, I wait for the explicit lisp
And white-noise hiss of dawn's razoring entrance
To wake me like the guillotine's scissor-whisper
Wakes the aching head it drops back to sleep.
Raw dawn infects my eyelids. Spider-light
Creeps against my strung-out skin. Creeps, creeps.
The fabulous crash and disaster of being alive
One more time! How many times, time times time,
Have I hunched into my skin to face the skulled annihilation?
How many grins unhinged from that skull of grins?

[Phone rings]

MCLAREN
Hallo, Sidney?

[SID mumbles; a bludgeoned “Yeah?” emitted]

MCLAREN
Is anything left alive on that end, Sidney? Anything still in pain, any victim alert and hurting?

SID
Yeah, yeah. Whadda yew want?

MCLAREN
Only what’s best and most dangerous, as always, boy.

SID
I’m so sorry Nancy’s dead.

MCLAREN
You must come back and play for me, changeling. The film’s in the can; you’re a gonna be a movie star, boy. But first you must come back to me. You must guard the carnival.

SID
I’m so sorry Nancy’s dead.

MCLAREN
Everything's irreversible. You know that.

SID
I don't think I know anything. I'm just so sorry.
I want to touch her. I want, I want everything.

MCLAREN
Oh, I see. You want a cure. A salve, a taste
Of the bliss salvation. A pope's denoumont.
How christian of you, Sidney. How lovely and protestant.

SID
Why can I still see her as if she's here,
Standing by my bed, her hair all haloed in the light?

MCLAREN
You need to beg forgiveness, Sid. A dram of baptizing
And all that. It'll do you a world of good. A whirl
Of the condemning waters almost snatching you under now.

SID
In atonement velvet as the dust I'll
Bear myself through the inscence-shrouded dark
Into the very corner of ministry
Where peace of conscience like a nerve-wracked mouse
Shivers in self-captivity; I'll palm
The prize, and bear it like a beating heart
Back against my bosom and into the light
Of common day.

MCLAREN
You see how easy's said;
Its easier done. Forgiveness is a game.

SID
[absolutely trapped]
What do I have to do. What do you say.

MCLAREN
You shall kneel and I shall bless your low head.

SID
Yes, yes. Bless me. Yes.
I wanted to escape, but I can't.

MCLAREN
Crowns of more vested rank than your's have done it;
When the impious impetuous Henry wet
His knees in the snow at high Canossa
The Pope unbent that king, stood him up,
And blessed him. So I bless you now my boy.
   [Sid kneels, holding the telephone receiver above his head.]
Return to your kingdom of the TV.

["Bodies" plays, up to the repeat: "I am not an animal."]

Top^

SCENE

[SID in a taxi, going home from the Max’s gig after NANCY’s death.]

DRIVER
Boiy, dat Max’s Kansas City sure is some wild joint, mistah. Was you plain’ in dere wit’ dat raggedy bass guitar on yer lap? You’re a braver man than I am, that’s fer sure.

SID
Keep yer bleedin’ hole shut, old man.

DRIVER
Youse younsters. I ain’t seen one a youse who….

[SID whams the plastic divider ferociously. DRIVER shuts his hole.]

SID
And now, insensible and languid
As any milky tear, I watch awash
These blank solemnities and joyless vigours
Strut their little glittering while before me,
Prating: I am life! I am alive! Alive,--
Has not a salamander's tail, disjoined
From the sleek head, and fidgeting in the hard palm
Like threads of fire, as much claim upon
The grounds of self-animation as these
Who clamor ecstacies? The quiet nun
Or quaker staring walls down in her church
Commands vibrant meditations in a breath
Unbreathed; voiceless, and without even
So much as an eyelid's unconscious stir
That might annoy a flea, the devotee
Whirls the cosmos round her like a cloak
Invisible, and the kneeling stars in choir
Warm her hush contemplation, those white maids
Stirred to comfort an unmoving central calm.
And so, to cut short the dogs' whining yip
And defoliate the grievy wreath of death
Before its planted, blackly ribboned,
Above my Nancy's unuttering grave
And avoid the choked yodeling condolences
(Almost worse than the shrived chastisement
Of my sense!) and dolorous crowds of mourners
Stamping passports out of my private grief
For a photo-op of mourning stardom,
I'll pack myself into a holy cloister,
Eschew the tasteless ornaments of this world,
Revile in silence the thousand hands
Excited to touch, or anxious to please,
Holding nothing but their wanting of me,
Discard the thin sensuality of flesh
Poor in variety, lost in having,
And in saving spent, whereby we each
Mock ourselves in choosing one above another,
Exiled from all this aping mockery
And saved in being lost, found in being saved,
I'll quit this exchange of jibes, this commerce,
This weary commerce of weak weary souls,
Primping worn attitudes in new attire
And withdraw as the widowed spider
To her pall, mourning-gorged, defeat inflicted,
Damaged in spirit and in sense maligned,
Grim in prayer to the godless absolutes,
Nature's cheating majesty that cannot cease with us
And that way pay love. Drive on, drive on.

[They stop a moment later. ROCKETS REDGLARE gets in the taxi.]

SID
Yeh holdin’?

[“Bodies,” continues, repeats on the chorus: “bodies… bodies….”]
Top^

SCENE


[Three Cops pulling OD'd Sid from his squalid squat]

1ST COP
Here's one who's dead; and he shall not come again.

2ND COP
What use has life for the dead interred?
What function, purpose or fair proportion
Not disfigured by the rashness of their laying-in?

1ST COP
There's no flaw in nature great enough
To let imperfect man twice suspire within.

2ND COP
The bloods that did afflict him while he lived,
Beating like a sea within him, now curdle
In calm sourness by the broken body.

1ST COP
Passion's a curse.
The more passionate a man, the more cursed.

2ND COP
If we could only take dear note of how
These fluid essences betray our ends
We should not let their reigning tides
Overwhelm us whiles we live.

1ST COP
Temperate should be our conduct on this globe
Assessing every substance to its portion
Dull and wisely as a baker; no rush
Or pell-mell hurricanes of the brain
To shake and spice the doughty dough we knead.

2ND COP
Man may live by bread alone; I've seen it.
The whey-face never stricken, never overjoyed,
All novelty of expressive form forced
To obey the median.

3RD COP
No no no,
You deal rough justice to so abuse the dead.
Out of their icy Elysium they shed cold looks
Down on past faults, faded deficits,
And all that troubled their brief lives on earth.

[SID's version of "(I Did it) My Way" plays us to oblivion.]
Top^

SCENE


[Johnny Rotten, 1996, deciding to go on Reunion tour.]

ROTTEN
Sid's dead. What's it to me,
Twenty years on, far from those black barbs
That pulled his blackened heart apart.
Twenty years on, now look at me: a beer-bellied,
One-man extravaganza in my mansion by the sea.
The prick, the needle, of my amphetamined
And recorded voice has been homoginized for the mass;
Living Billie Joe, rinky-dink Rancid, and dead,
Disbanded Nirvana, the name Cobain
As common on the tongue as Coca-Cola,
Reduce perforce my infinite freedoms
To a moron's capering elegy in damp Seattle---
Everything I did undone to one scrunge of grunge....
I still won't be sold. Or told what to say!
What I've said, I've said. And what done, done.
They've murdered what was simple and living once,
       the whores,
Spray-painting their corporate logo door to door,
Hissing out their little As in purchased reds
And circling it with an easy, sleepy, unthinking O.
Oh, Sid's skinney skull must be puking in the grave!
One more mess you've left, ay, Sid?
All these minor worms from the record company
Keep wanting me and the oi boys to get back together,
Grandads of punk and all that crap;
I'm way too intelligent for that....
Once, slipped in the rubber vestments holyman
       McLaren prepared,
I was the Jah Rastifari, my slicked head in heaven
While sweet Sid and I matched wrists against cigarettes
In our burnt-out London bedsit, the window a faint frame
Of Athens trashed. The sun's an atombomb
Against my teenage-angst zapped blue brain.
I was that which danced above the dust,
All water and suavity, now crushed
By history's bronzed boot: here. Twenty years on,
What a bitter P. I. L. I've had to eat,
And swill it down with my cheap, American beer.
Nothing good can last. Every sweet memory frazzles,
Each blurry detail fading from reality-hard
To some dream-softness; the dream soaking the sheets
      like drool.
God knows, if he dared exist, I'm nobody's fool.
But maybe, maybe I could take it all apart again,
Destroy the whole rock n' roll world to its glittery,
Hackneyed core again; eviscerate its essence
Of copycat do-nothingness, slam the sham, again;
Zero it all back down filthy zilch, again.
We're still valid, those three piggyback hacks, and me.
Maybe. Maybe.... Oh Hell.......  why NOT???

[Tag lyric from B-Side of “Revolution in Classroom” plays, ending abruptly with an echo on the words, “In the beautiful world, you have to respond….”]
Top^

SCENE

[Johnny Rotten in Jamaica. 1977. “Sid’s dead” speech. This is an alternate ending to the play, and may be used instead of the 1996 ending above, or in conjunction with it. If used with it, the 1977 speech should be used first, and redundant lines duplicated in the 1996 speech sould be eliminated from the 1996 speech.]

ROTTEN
Sid's dead. What's it to me, ensconced by malice
Safe in Jamaica, far from those black barbs
That pulled his blackened heart apart. Apart
I'll stay for this eccentric while and follow
The quirk of my inner query
Until I learn in cold painful detail
The lesson and resolution of his death.
Once, slipped in the rubber vestments holyman McLaren prepared,
I was the Jah Rastifari, my slicked head in heaven
While sweet Sid and I matched wrists against cigarettes
In our burnt-out London bedsit, the window a faint frame
Of Athens trashed. The sun's an atombomb
Against my teenage-angst zapped blue brain.
I was that which danced above the dust,
All water and suavity, now crushed
By history's bronzed boot here: wingless, weird,
Stuck in the fat maggoty swamp at Bataan.
     [watching a large chameleon sliding on its rock]
I am like him whose mincing tongue
Scents the unsaying air, a jaded dragon
Unfurling in the sun, hissing its dissatisfaction
To warm palms in slow sounds---
Such a green ruin of sleep as myself
Is incapable to act.
   [pause]
Is this excellence extempore a receding grace
Made supremely visible by withdrawl alone?





EXTRANEOUS BITS

MCLAREN
I'll have all a chaos. All chaos
Unleashed in a stabbing minute unrehearsed....
With this intent, I shall in America with my protégé club prevail!
For years, Teddy Boys squeezed into my ripe Sex shop
Pear-pale, peach-sweet, thin and slinky in their kinked clothes
And now my charmed boys in their ragtag come marching out!
They dress in the fagged-out rags of my harassing dreams,
Hold a face I've pancaked against the furnace of light,
Wink at my blinkered insistence, chime to my timing
And let their voices uncork the change something in ME demanded.
A decade of manipulation's not enough.
To FEEL free is the only free there is, a sweet
Release from the clapped weight of intent
From which clapping hands raise and praise the supplicant.
John may be a bit of a sticker, the prick.
Sid will give and give, docile as a housewife.
Why look you, once his mind's made over, his body
Follows adoringly, even to the precipice.
So all-of-a-kind is his nature that intent
And action have no more division between them
Than wind and wave. What one directs, the other
Slavishly obeys; its a virtue that may serve
My turning of it.
These youths I shall to my alarming purpose bend,
Give voice to the vortex I feelingly live within.

[McLaren closes suitcase and wheels out of the room.]
["Anarchy in the UK," plays as we go to America.]
Top^

Of flares, of flowers

 [Poetry], Of flares, of flowers  Comments Off on Of flares, of flowers
Jun 222020
 

Loving one face, and the soul that animates it
142 erotic sonnets

RIVER READ TALKING INTRO FOR “OF FLARES, OF FLOWERS”

As talking apes, we handle the matter of urgent mating in a way quite different from our hairier cousins. For us musing humans, loving someone seems to be equal parts artifice and fascination. We love someone, first, not for who they are, but for whom we make them out to be through the mists of dim recognition–across the roomful of phony fog and the pulsing rainbows of the disco ball. This fascination, combined with the artifice of who they present themselves to be, is just the initial sauce of the gourmand’s smorgasbord of attraction and affection we term “love.”

And where the imagination latches its mollusk, it secretes its magic–transforming the rottenest rowboat into Cleopatra’s bejeweled barge.

The courtship between two adult humans contains, on average, one million words–roughly 100,000 more words than Shakespeare’s complete plays. This is the titanic effort that the imagination brings to bed with us. And from this art, we weave the dreams of our sexual lives, our tenderest expressions of affection. And, indeed, we weave our own families.

How we imagine love is important. To be raw, to be vulnerable, to weave our dreams of love in utter nakedness, is important. It’s what we talking apes do. We do it incessantly and, in all the animal kingdom, we do it with an artifice and fascination compounded mainly of words.

This human intrusion of the heart and cock into one’s interpersonal affairs can be awkward, embarrassing, and nearly impossible to winningly negotiate.

   
GGB
July, 2012

THE FALL

Ah, the small
Cavity
That takes my all....
No gravity
Could keep me down--
When I smell
Your downy mound....
I fell, I fall!



TWO, WE TWO

It's just a little while
We've been two, we two.
Too long myself a solitary,
Self-possessed as a dromedary--
And landscape as bleak.
Too, too long my lonely hills
Slanted-- all drift, sift and seethe.
No wet roll or rill, no river
Rushed oceanward open-armed,
Dissolving all the river's crazy
Hermit-cackle to one tongue's
More marmoreal, vast
Unknowing murmur.


Blips

I am desperate to love you, to know you,
Like a bride who burns off her wedding dress,
Like lips waiting, misshapen, to kiss.

Kisses fell out of us like water falls,
Bursting to earth and deafening the onlookers!
When we kissed, we could hear the sea crashing around us.

But where are they now, those slippery kisses?
What's left of their vast wetness?
No child has grown between us.

Even a puddle leaves its residue of mud,
Some softening of the way
Despite whatever volume of traffic.

Stirring the syrup of your sweet sweet life,
Letting the licks insist their way into me, inside me,
Surely my lips remain sticky? 
 
How many feet have been here before us?  Every foot.
Every pace of the path is hard with old passages, old passions.
Every route is known;  no star blinks undiscovered--

Except by us, two blips on the periphery,
Elliptical with longing, our lips chapped by the long wintering over,
Too stiff and dry to even whistle!

Our veined and florid maps are still tucked in our backpacks.
Our tents are not yet ready to unroll with sleep.
My eyes keep blinking, keep looking, no matter how dark the way.

There's still so much to see, I think,
When your hand brushes mine under the pine trees,
And the sound of our walking fades into the background,

And I close my eyes to breathe.
If love is, then love is what happens
When you forget where you're going. 


SONNETS

 
Assist me, some extempore god of rhyme; for I am sure I shall turn sonneteer. ~~ Shakespeare

All my life my heart has yearned for a thing I cannot name. ~~ Andre Breton

Desire too cosmic and too close to name
A vibrant nothing and a tortured shame.
My all, my fall--which in one syllable I'll tell
If you beside me, dear, will ride
     the black thunders to Hell.


Sonnet 1

My eyes are weary of looking for lovers
In every face, every cinch of the hips,
All the coffee, the talk, that passes my lips;
Tired of my solitude under cold covers.

A day is a long time, an hour, even a minute
Without you, stranger who will melt my heart,
Who will hear the doves beating in my chest
And fold herself into my arms like a shirt.

Arctic winds cross my forehead,
My hands chill and splayed as a penguin's orange feet
As I wait on this ice floe for the one I must meet,
One who will ignite my nights with lavender heat.
Who are you, hands held before you toward my hands' use....
A sleepwalker?  A zombie?  A mistress, a muse?

Sonnet 2

This is the first morning of the first day.
Even the grass looks like its being born,
Its green is so tender, matching your eyes,
As we learn to walk together down the unworn path.

Birds hesitate, amazed by the songs in their throats,
The wild corollas of sound at their command--
Even the mocking bird, even the warbler, hesitate,
Testing bright notes in the new sky and new land.

The trees look as young as fresh pea-tendrils.
Today, water is closest to happy tears.
Smiles cover our faces like big chrome grills--
The first hour of the first day of the first year!

I look over at you in your coat and your broach,
Ask your name, and, slowly, approach.

Sonnet 3

My backpack is weighted with lilies and candles.
I cross argent mountains and oceans to reach you.
I throw a tasseled rug before you
And stare into wide eyes no longer dull,
Passing the carafe until dawn fills us
With rock-candy colors, and our smiles are tired
From talking too animatedly wired
While night cloaks his blue frills around us.

How long have I walked to find your country?
How long had I slept till I dreamed of you?
How long has my desire kept me swimming?

Toward you, toward you, my dear, I am swimming!
My breath breaks the surface seeking shores of you!
Coming home to your eyes, I sing "‘Tis of thee!"

Sonnet 4

I know you minimally only,
The way a head knows hair: an invisible halo,-- 
The way a sleepwalker knows life: fully lonely
As a blind hand walking across a mirror.
I know you only as a keel knows water:
I divide and unite your surfaces endlessly and seamlessly, 
Never knowing the wet of your green interiors.

But I know you will know me completely.
You will know me without any deceit,
For deceit's too weak to withstand your winds--
The hurricanes that live in your laughter 
Announcing: "It is she!"  And I'll stand
Open to you totally, a book without a binding,
And our eyes will share tears simple as water.


Sonnet 5

Let us play a game then, you and I.
Let the table be raised beneath the sky,
Let the drums be drummed, and on it lie.

Smoky women bear their burning tapers nigh,
Dwarves with gongs come clanging, by-and-by.
Everyone take your seats, let the last one in,
The ceremony of sex is about to begin.

My hand finds you, your hand unknots my tie,
Lips as lithe as fishes sip, and we let slip
Our final disguise.  Now at last in naked night
We plunge the utter dark with light caresses.

Touching the matter to the heart, they bless us.
For you and I are nothing when this is,
When we are one thing, one mass of blessings.


Sonnet 6

Magnolia petals on a tank... fall lightly...
As they fall... on everything, being
The pink delirious things they are.

Philosophers in their overcoats construe
More meaning than meaning thinks its due,
Being the grey barristers of the real
They be.  But you, sweating in your spring attire,
Visit devastation on the sweet magnolia tree,
Declawing its blossoms... and trimming the wings
Of birds as they return to their warm abode.

For you the poet unfolds his ode.
For you the tank stutters in its tracks.
For you the petals in my stark heart
Fall in flattering loveliness... for a start.

Sonnet 7

It's enough.  To play with scarves in summer air
Is enough. The weaving and the waving
Of their colors in the fresh summer air
Is enough.  There is no more to be waved 
Or to be woven than what has already occurred.
No past is prologue when the moment's all.
Look how brightly the colors wave and curve!
The summer air is here, and that is all.

The summer air is heavy in the mind,
The mind is old and full of dusty thoughts:
How this becomes that, how the child crawls into the man;
Colors wave and curve, and I calculate their sine.
--Ai! You cover me with a hundred scarves uncaught,
And the summer air is bright with omen. 

Sonnet 8

What is time, and how is it our own?
I will not recognize the clock hours maybe,
So bee-like diligent to my task I am,
Or, grown slowly thoughtful looking out to sea,
Time slips by lightly that would govern me.
My time feels most my own when you and I
Together spend the gold moments given:
Pointing at Venus in her drape of sky,
Or doubling-up downright--with laughter shaken.
Or when moony looks imbue you, dear,
(If I'm not mistaken) the way a clear
Pond becomes clouded with the thought of rain
Or a mother disappears into her child's pain.
We keep time most when we give all our own.

Sonnet 9

The fierce being you would have spring from you
Will yet spring.  The life your life trembles to beget
Is waiting in your snowy body curled.

She shall from your eyes drink the honied fire,
And her breath your breath will yet sustain,
Inspiring in her unborn eyes a thousand worlds.

The new-made woman who will step like brightness
Too bright to look at--dances in your likeness
When before the mirror you test your tresses.

This phantom of your future self shall come yet:
And every diamond be her birthright,
And every river flutter like her caress.

Oh little mother frowning brownly so,
Let one small smile be born upon you now.


Sonnet 10

If Cezanne painted you, what village would you be?
What pair of Monet's haystacks, soft,
And glistening in sunlit serenity?
To me, too close, you are a crosshatch, crossed
With empty diamonds and abrasive lines,
A certain blotchey rosacea of the soul
Yanking your kite-string down from the divine;
From the eternal you wither into the small.

Here is where we meet, knees beneath the table,
The traffic staticy, the world unstable
That goes zagging through the fog beyond us.

In our discussion's no accordance--
We're as different as figs, as cracks
In the Old Masters, two needles in the haystack.


Sonnet 11

The blossoms that stood out on the branch
Now blow along pavement wet with runoff;
Fall gave way to winter, and winter now to March
When early flowers crowd and then fall off.
It is almost too much of the coming thing,
This blizzard of blossoms after blizzard in earnest
Before the azalea really get going--
Such hazardous blooming should be in jest.
Almost too much... with the excited whites
Boating toward oblivion in the gutter
Where the storm drain lurks, all appetite,
And the dark beyond the grate is utter.
There's much to consider while we sit as one,
Touched blonde by the sun,--but no longer young.


Sonnet 12

Calm as ponds let yourself be today.
Leadeth thyself to lie down, shut off the TV,
Hear the million bees murmur rumor of plenty
While kids race at recess in unharried play.
Peace, peace be on your sensitive eyes,
Your fingers steady as new radial tires;
Put up your feet, you're off the highwire,
Each exhale sails another balloon to the sky....
May contentment come and tuck you in,
Pull the clean sheet right up to your chin,
Sing lullabies and lieder until you believe
No one you know will ever again grieve.
Today take this prayer, and light a tea candle:
Whatever comes your way you can handle.


Sonnet 13

Dancing makes a motion of its own.
My ears are dense with music of the known;
What notes the moment's inner ear can sow!
How like a planet a swaying body goes:
Orbiting we dance, and in such dancing flow.
Is there a blessing in these moves that move us so?

My mother used all her days to make amends,
Yet all her days were not enough to spend.
What moves in us moves without an end,
A dance between the register-marks of stars
Whose spheres revolve high music to the ears.
--We keep turning to become just what we are.

Is there a blessing in these moves that move us so?
Dancing makes a motion of its own.


Sonnet 14

I would have you grow invisible,
Shrink down and disappear like blotted tears,
Like wine consumed in hungry drops, or winter
Snow become fantastical in melting March,
Leaving the green hillside patched with wet.

Do not change your petals for a branch
Curved low with many weighted fruits;
Burn, flash to ashes, and let those ashes blow
Till no grey shred of your greatness waits
Behind, till all colors that compose you are undone.

Become some transparent, wingy thing
They tell about in churches when they sing.
Take all you are with you when you go.
Still, I cannot unknow you.  This I know.


Sonnet 15

Return to me naked, I would have you so
Always and everywhere, like the nude prow
Of a wooden ship, announcing where she goes
With splashes white as catastrophe, and as loud.

Why have you left me for laundry and chores,
Your sails lifted, your hand saluting for shade?
Why have you left me?  For now you are gone:
The bed unmade, and my heart unmade.

Wherever you go primly sailing now
Through cute boutiques or old bodegas
I will wait, for I know that night must follow
And your bare moon burst before my window-glass.

For this new Life where we squall unadorned,
Return to me naked as you were naked born.


Sonnet 16

You have such a subtle, neutral scent,
Like a show-pony before she's ridden hard,
Before good use turns her breathing scant
And she makes a wanton break-out toward the stars
That leaves the sturdy fencepost rent.

Cleanly we begin, easy in our reins and chaps,
Taking the wide acreage at a simple cant
Until the rocking saddle slaps.

Then I cleave to you and cleave in twain
The sweaty mystery of your sex;
Molten mists of joy and pain inextricably mix.

Raucous across the finish line,
We pant and pause and smell as one
To what rank stench our hard riding's come.


Sonnet 17

Love me fiercely, though nipples bleed
And lips need stitches where your lips have passed;
Love me fiery until love's pyre is dead,
The bonfire soaked, the man-in-the moon undressed.
The heat that creeps through lovers' veins
Ignites silently in eyes and furtive looks
Until a shared surrender in the brain
Incinerates discretion, undoes every hook.
Do not wait for the duration of a zipper
But love me instantly, as steam loves the cold air,
Hot as torches in huge candelabra.
Burn me until for burning there is no cure,
For no love comes when lust's coal-red is gone:
No mother-love, no nurse's hand, no one.


Sonnet 18

You open for me, a luminous anemone;
You bloom in intense interior colors
And wildly give out strong scents of the sea.
Are you plant or animal in your passive pleasure?
I peel you blandly at my manly leisure,
Exploring your deep promise of treasure:
The shine in your eyes is silver with glee.

Holding our breaths, we bodysurf white combers,
Looking left and right in the tumbling lea
Until the grating sand our grace encumbers
And we land half-dressed on the bedded beach.
You hand me a towel, if one is in reach,
And out-of-breath smile and shyly stretch:
This is the treasure toward which we lumber.


Sonnet 19

Each night my mantra sounds your name
Which in going round undoes itself in sound
Until all syllables go circling the same.

Night-owls hoo you, dark winds whistle you, clouds
Spell out what letters tout you, only you,
Until all alphabets jumble just the same
In going round, beading prayers of your name.
Crickets crick you, and lapping water begs
The shore until all oceans go echoing your name....
Faces whirl and blur, merging as they do,
Until all faces are your face, identical as eggs.

This mirror-maze of gladness has no end:
Beauty is not beauty that shares not your name.
All surfaces reflect you, only you.


Sonnet 20

Eros' rose shed red shreds of petals
On your bed, your eyelids, and your long lips--
Pressing silence to the secrets that we keep,
Just we two, alone as Adam at the Fall.

Twins in sin, how redly aches our double-loving
(Spiking with sin-cinnamon our apple pie)
As mouth-to-groin and groin-to-mouth we lie,
Lengthwise mirrors of all our loving's trouble.

Each slap and grapple leaves temptation's trace
Trailing red rose petals of fingerprints
Across the landscape of your ass and face.

And, like a gardener in his pints,
I pull the thorns aside for only this:
To find two lips, your rose, upraised to kiss.


Sonnet 21

When the tongue darts tart to the aspic place
Ranging round the brown aromaed hole
Seeking solace between fundament and face,
By licks outlining the awkward tale of souls,
I know myself a slave of lust, and lave
The merry mistress of my cock with praise
No higher than my lust himself does rise
To be a sunk spelunker in your caves.
Round and round we go, and soul to soul
We play bandit and the badman night and day
Stealing happiness from the world's decay
Whose carnival commands us stand in sadder roles.
Through the work week, daybreak to dusk,
I dream of our theater, the husk of your musk.


Sonnet 22

The soft musk of your pale downy neck,
Apple-dappled depth of orchard's wealth,
Wreathes through our low-hung boughs of breath
As we share warm whispers and shining cheeks.
The bed about us is tumbled as the Andes,
White-peaked bedlam of a stormy ocean
Frozen when exhaustion paused our oars again
And breath returned to calm our pantings.

Soft the musk of your downy neck, my peach.
Soft the teased traceries of tongue and tongue
Vying redly with teeth and lips and gums
To bite the splendid fruit our loves unleash.
The endless hours move in one slow sigh--
Opening on a downy dawn as warm as thighs.


Sonnet 23

Love--Love thundering, love underlined
Declares itself no louder than your whisper
Whispered in a moment unrefined
Until my beaten heart is a burning blister--
Along with other parts best left undefined.

The small things you say to me at midnight
When the drapes are drawn and shutters tight
(And day a rumor of remembered sight)--
Those things you say become my private light
And blaze behind my eyes in sheer delight.

Although small and quiet as two bugs
Sitting aslant a ruby leaf in spring,
Our love's not less that chummily hugs
And waits till dark to say the wildest things.


Sonnet 24

I'd trade prayerbeads for millstones
If stone could grant what lips have wished
And manifest for my solitude
All the weight of kissing I have missed,
Blessing my bed with your beatitude.

All the burdens of the awkward ox
I'd shoulder as my own if only
Hours, not days, remained till I unroll your socks
Next to mine, white stripes on the lonely
Divan pushed back and piled with busted boxes.

Here I wait in a penitent's house,
Whose heart's all roses and runaway kites,
Whose curse is time--who has kissed eternity
And tossed her socks next to mine.


Sonnet 25

Why is love my measure and my means?
My talk, my trouble, my idle thought obscene,
My crisis, my crux, my cri de coeur supreme?

Of all the arrows fitted for my ample quiver,
Or wrinkled routes eked out by many rivers,
Why is my sea love, love my apple ever?

Flowers come as varied as their seeds began;
Varied fall the fruits, and many the works of man;
Endless are our melodies, destinies, and dreams.

But my drum, though struck by a thousand hands,
Bangs one love, my harp--though by an angel band
Commanded--pleads love alone through every golden strand.

For you are my love, my sun and my seed.
Toward you I grow, who answers my every need.


Sonnet 26

Who were you before we entered the trees
Of our being together?  What creatures walked
Under the umbrella of your shadow?
Who has been made cool in your shade?
And why, besides death, would they leave?
You with your brow of hard bread, threshed wheat,
Your breasts full of the scents of strawberries and dough,
Your thighs some mysterious spring has darkened?
Did you exile those others who walked with you?
Did you send them naked down the hillside at midnight,
No lantern in their hands, the path thorny and burnt?

How glad I am they are gone, or, better, dead! Oh!
No one should touch you save one most supplicant.
Only one being born should enter your cunt.


Sonnet 27

Out of the bitter snow, I came rattling in.
Out of melting March, muddy and wet,
Shaking like a harassed dog, I came in.
I came in when summer was not summer yet
And the soft air gave me leave to wander
All night long and stare into the starry sky,
At one with the celestial order.
And when the nights were hot and the grass was dry
And all the world slept out-of-doors
To hear the night things stirring, I came in.
Out of all nights, and out of every weather,
Harassed, tempted, or implored, I came in.
And now that autumn's nip is here again
(And you still beside me) I'll stay in, stay in.


Sonnet 28

Go until the earth lies between us, pregnant,
The curved horizon blue as a whale's back
And every constellation different.

Go until your memory is black
With absences where I had been the stars
That shooed your ship home from her wanderings.

Go until the sound of talk is strange, far
From your childhood chants and gabblings;
Where ABCs are cuneiform on the blocks.

Go until time itself has come unsprung
And the hands go whirl-a-gig on the clock.
Go, go, and retreat not back one rung.

For there's nowhere where you are that I am not,
Seeing what you see--and what touches you, I touch.


Sonnet 29

The soft fall of flares, of flowers, once the orgasm's
Over... the body's empty tube through which no music
Is moving--a sumptuous trumpet dumped in the museum
As if no hand no mouth had ever crossed it.
Who could imagine it rampaging erect,
This piece of rusty history, tucked
Where the bodies of dead moths collect,
Churning to silvery dust as I walk?

Too long have you been unbedded by me
Whose arms once held you like a river
And covered you buoyantly with balsam and kisses
Falling in flakes from heaven forever
To dissolve in yourself, in your sea,
Your wet spring tenderness unending and green.


Sonnet 30

For you, I would be little as the rain, and fall on you
From everywhere, on your eyes and in your hair
Until you turned your mouth up to the blue
To drink me in in the drenching air.
For you, I would be as patient as the earth
And follow your steps everywhere to feel you go and come,
Dancing on my skin until the red dust covers us both.
I would feel you plant grass in me with your strong thumb.
For you, I would be as ecstatic as the sun,
Radiant everywhere, and happy everywhere too,
Like the abrupt smiles of very old women
Who know the sun wants to own them, but keep the night alone.
But, oh, for you, I would be the nighttime too!
And all the stars, and wrap you up in sleep in my glittering poncho.

Sonnet 31

Love has nourished us like a beet root, red,
Or a sweet potato pulling candy from the dirt.
From one look at you, I know that all I ever said
Has taken root, my tendrils alleviating the hurt
Others placed inside you the way a bullet 
Lodges in a tree but does not kill the tree--
A tree whose slow rivers of sap, sweet
Maple syrup, flow from too deep a mystery
To ever stop until they end in blossoms.
And those blossoms are your two eyes
The color of new leaves, of wings fallen from locusts
Who no longer want to take to the sky
To sing, but have come down with us among the roots
Giving us their dark hymns and dreams of truth.


Sonnet 32

What is this enigma that has ruined my sleep?
This thought that repeats like an epileptic stutter,
Lightning always striking the same place, two times, twenty?

Sometimes the sway of a dress will make me weep,
The cough of a shoe on the sidewalk,--
If it is your shoe, your feet that do the walking.

A hundred times I have been in love, and never
Have I lost even one minute's sleep,
No matter how beautiful the woman, no matter how deep 

The loves that swam up from my heart to attend her
Like aquarium fish when dinner is sprinkled,
Their small mouths all Os, hungry and unfed.

What is this enigma that has ruined my sleep?
Sometimes the sway of a dress will make me weep. 


Sonnet 33

How one goes on wrestling with destiny!
Trying so hard to throw away one beautiful thing
That has fluttered to your feet like litter, a free gift.

Here I am, hunched over the trash can, wrestling,
Uncomfortable, angry even, with what has come to me freely:
Priceless platinum the world has thrown after me,
Chasing me down with free armfuls of ecstasy
While I try so hard to throw away one beautiful thing--
Miserably, miserably with my angel wrestling.

Life is not a medicine to swallow, it is a feast!
Just open yourself to being blessed, you will see!
The trash will throw itself away, only you will be left
Standing, shining like an angel's wings,
You, who tried so hard to throw away one beautiful thing.


Sonnet 34

My heart clicks on and off, a sacred searchlight
Sweeping the skies for your spark and your light
Until our X-ed rays meet in a singular spot
The way stars press their faces against the glass,
Mocking the world with their peculiar taunts:
Here we are above you, pure and pristine!
You below can never wear our radiant gowns,
Trapped in your tragic habit of being human.

If only you and I were perfect, untouchable, one!
The rest of the world would be nothings and no ones
--Only we two in the immensity of space,
Locked alone in our looking face-to-face--
Not even minding the other stars' conversation 
Arranged in their envious constellations.


Sonnet 35

Whose face this is I think I know--
Though time has hurried with his plow
(Leaving alive the eyes);  the face is strafed,
Scored with ruts and roofed by snow.

Had some magic mirror come and chafed
My younger self with this injured image of her face,
I could not have shuddered with more surprise
At my darling's disordered fate.

Nothing so wild in wild surmise
Would I have conjured for my eyes
Who now at breakfast contemplates the wreck
Time has drifted to my side.

Still, her eyes, measuring my old self as we sit,
Demark no damage to my aspect.


Sonnet 36

Every day the poet sat down and thought.
That was his first mistake.  Each day he spent
Knotting and unknotting until it caught
Itself, half a line.  Each month his rent
And bills piled up higher than his epic
On the cetaceous era undersea--
No vorpal sword on that went snicker-snak.

The protozoa had proto-souls, you see.
He had convinced himself, now all he lacked
(In time's green-golden ache and sway)
Was a readership that had his back,
The discerning few he would show the way.

A note was found among his apartment stacks
In neat pink script: "Going, not coming back."


Sonnet 37

Adam and Eve, by their garden wall surrounded,
Met with the snake innocently enough,
Heard his insurance pitch, had a laugh,
And went back to touring their miraculous grounds.

Unexpectedly, the snake came back again,
Here and there in the shrubs with a hiss,
Insinuating that, inferring this,
Until the nightmares and migraines began.

Then he disappeared, gone in a smoky wisp,
And Adam and Eve relaxed, had a snack,
Ignored the prickling mounting up their backs
Implying there was something important they'd missed.

Almost, they made it.  But their brains, too big
Not to wonder, pulled them under.


Sonnet 38

I kiss your statue, fervid while you vacillate.
Your lips are perfect, poised; mine insistent,
Never satisfied, lonelier with each deep pressing,--
Imagining the dark with you undressing,
Dropping your bra on the carpet, panties flung
Higher than the highest note a soprano sings.

But you, being a statue, remain composed.
Hands, once warm as bread, lie gracefully reposed.
Take my spark, my soul, my all!  But do not stay so cold.
I keep kissing your coldness, growing old.

I hope I am not too rude to one not quite alive,
One toward whose loveliness my whole life has fallen,
Leaving my own dead pedestal behind, praying my passion
Is love enough to bring you back to life.


Sonnet 39

How can tonight come without you here?
Where will I go to bury my sorrow
When I am alone and the single stars come clear
From behind their invisible cloud as out of a barrow?
Without your face close, your hair, your breathing,
How can I endure the darkness yet to come?
One night alone feels like a civilization ending,
The pottery shattered, upended the throne.
When my hands reach out for the small
Thumbhold on your hip, no bigger than a rose
Petal that in our house's garden has fallen,
What will my hands hang onto instead, what emptiness?
Must I walk alone through the long midnight in sorrow,
Without even the company of my shadow?


Sonnet 40

The wind insisted nothing, came to my face
With the frittery gentleness of nothing.
I had not noticed were I running a race
Or had head bent down, pensive, on some one thing.
But I was doing nothing, and so found grace
Given by the wind out of nothing.

The wind was slightly misty, as I recall,
With filaments of seaweed threading the bare
Blowsy breath that passed down the empty hall
And touched my cheekbone hanging there
Blank as a bank of paper, or a roll
Of scripture with no writing anywhere.

And then in the nothing air there hung, as I recall,
Your perfume, too;  and from that nothing, all.


Sonnet 41

When I create my love for you in my heart,
Secretly, it's a black alchemy, a recipe
Without directions, accomplished all out
Of order.  Eat of it anyway!  Eat every pie.
There is a deliciousness in this mystery
We consume, one that has us lick our fingers
And wipe round our lips with our tongues.

Discard every question but how to linger
In the slow soft light that gently comes
After our tumultuous lovemaking.
All the candles of heaven, falling stars and comets,
Have been hushed in our mutual taking.
Now is the time of quiet, and the time 
Our murmurs slur most toward the sublime.


Sonnet 42

How should I write a poem of love?
I, who am selfish, small, and alone?
"First, stuff your craw with caviar and doves,
The best of the best, stolen gold and emperors' bones."

I listened to the voice and ran everywhere
Stuffing myself with rarities and riches.
Surely if one is stuffed with beauty up to here
One's speech will be all eloquence and wishes.

But, no.  I did not know it then
But what I needed most was nothingness--
That empty feeling, that utter lack
That would let me be filled with you again and again,
Like a vessel whose emptiness keeps holding more kisses,
And hears in your voice every morning the morning lark.


Sonnet 43

All day long I have followed this sad dog.
My love for you, mangy and clumsy, wanders
Down windy alleys, snooping through gutters.
And now it's 4 A.M., and where is the dog?

One day I had gotten mad and kicked it out.
Out of my house, and out of my heart, perhaps.--
My great love for you must wander in the street!
What I'd fed so tenderly must survive on scraps.

Soon enough, I missed its nails on the floor;
Its needy whomp into the bed when thunder uttered;
Even love's wet dingy smell when the rain would pour
I missed, and missed utterly.

Come, help me tonight, whistle out loud;
My love is bound to find me, now I'm no longer proud.


Sonnet 44

I can't have you every day, can I?
My stomach will get swollen, sour, and tight,
As if candy-gorged on Halloween night.

I can't have you every day, can I?
You would blow through your lips "Oh, alright."
But, in your heart, you'd be bored and uptight.

I can't have you every day, can I?
Beating a drum too often can blister a thumb.
How much more gently, then, when loving someone?

I can't have you every day, can I?
You can't be hungry every single day, can you?
I want you so bad, but you must tell me what to do.

"When you doubt that I would be with you,
Look into my eyes, and see: All I see is you."


Sonnet 45

So much time has gone by, sliding and washing
Away, the little waves piling into the larger....
Before you, my life had fallen asleep.
Now I am awake, a little of me is waking,
Like bubbles inching to the top of the lager.
Who knew how years go by, that one could sleep so deeply?

Together in bed, we yawn and slap our eyes;
Dawn opens the curtain with a sunny spear.
I feel as if, when we walk, my head scrapes the sky.
Our feet are leaping like deer!

Together our nights are pink and warm,
The stars are the tips of a baby's fingers.
We hold hands and walk across the night lawn;
Somehow the moon looks down at us, laughs. Awake, we linger.


Sonnet 46

Lovers always meet each other twice.
First, in animal excitement, pupils wide,
Stamping and pawing and rubbing their sides,
They leap into each other's mouths; it's nice.

Later, if they continue consuming each other,
A day comes when their hands are on the same handle
And they turn the wheel together, humbly,
And their eyes, once wild and hungry, grow tender.

It is this tenderness that holds the baby
In the womb;  the womb that's made of tender netting.
It is this tenderness that weaves the nest,
That tells us "yes" instead of "maybe,"
That gives tonight's moon the light it's shedding.
It is in this tenderness you and I may rest.


Sonnet 47

You are sleeping, a hill where night-snow falls.
No longer do you laugh and become a cloud,
Cotton pinched between the nurse's able fingers, helping all,
Letting the blood of others enter you, clotting
Their wounds or applying alcohol before the needle.
Now you are purely sleeping, your breath apples,
Your great shaggy hair-river up in a mop.
Tell me, am I remembered in your dreams?
There where you fly above the world without a cape?
Am I a one-eyed giant crunching bones?
How I would like to crouch down and enter your dream-tunnels
And patter in the water after you, running.


Sonnet 48

A little pale shy wetness, a little slit
Is all it is;  not even a flower is so shy--
Not edelweiss on its rocky sit,
Nor bold button pom, nor lazy calla-lily.
Yet through this keyhole (and with this minor key)
A prism of delight may print its rainbow
On all the sky, and all of space, and me.
How fretfully you guard what nowhere shows
But is secret with the secretness of souls--
Invisible until given in gift outright
And then a purple palimpsest, a slippery miracle,
Perpetual desire emblazoning darky night.
All of this you gave, and are giving yet
To one who never can, nor shall, forget.


Sonnet 49

If you must go today, shed your skin
Like a snake, folded over in silken pleats.
I want to roll always in your musky and fragrant muslins.
I want to cover my pillows with you, and stitch moccasins--
My face on your rosy breast, my feet in your feet.
Your skin pours over me, cream from the pitcher 
Dousing me head to foot till I'm swimming
In white memories of touching you, deeper
And deeper. You, not God, are my soul's keeper.
With your beauty, your nearness, your softness, I am brimming.
I smell that one spot behind your ear, you know,
Every time I close my eyes to pray.
Every time I close my eyes--as now--
You are there, luminous in naked ecstasy.


Sonnet 50

Say it once and best, unlike the lark
Who goes on going on repeating,
Refreshing voice beyond the boundaries of the park
Far into horizon's pale receding.
Say it once and let that once stand fast,
Unlike the sea seducing the long seashore
With repetitions of a caress that does not last
But, mutable and moving, touches less and more.
Say it once, once only, unlike the sun
Whose heartbeat breaks each day from night's breast
Burning as if no other billion days or beats had come,
Warmly consoling all beneath, man and worm and beast.
Say it once, then let all saying rest.
Say "I love you,"-- not first, not last, but best.


Sonnet 51

Grief is not part of us, part of this loving.
Grief no longer eats our bodies, cracking bones
And finding in our marrow we are lonely.
That grief is gone which had kept us alone.
The griefs that blasted us have blown through
Leaving the house refreshed, the shutters tested,
The waste of tears pooled coolly in the foyer.

New light in the garden exalts wet roses' colors.

Now we discover each other with dry eyes
Looking clearly at each other's shoulders,
The tilt of hips, cuffed hair, crooked smiles,
All of us that shows us solider.
You look at me as I at you must look:
Evenly level, starting to open the book.


Sonnet 52

Venus is bending now above the bow
Of earth, her body shedding Venus-light
Into spirits which had been ember-low,
The burned-out mascara of the night.
Venus goes stalking among the other stars
Winking in their little admiration
That so great a lady would come so far
To let them be gems that hem her graces.
Venus lets me follow too, as, slowly,
We walk beyond the dusk together
Into whatever the evening is evolving--
The sunset wind that kicked is now a nothing-feather.
When Venus descends to us, rayed so ably,
Cupid's bivouacked in the bushes, surely.


Sonnet 53

In your mouth there glows a holy rose;
Two sun-red roses are your fiery eyes.
When your palms turn up, they hold roses
Warm and red, blushing and alive
As your two cheeks, where two more roses open,
Or the rose-loveliness pinning back your hair
So that roses orbit you like cherry moons.
And when you weep, the roses all despair.

So like roses are your noble knees, when up
From scrubbing you run to greet me
And kiss with your rose-mouth--an open cup
Full of rose-blood, which rosy perfumes wreathe.
And when your rose brow shadows a look that knows,
My soul is lost in folds of rose.


Sonnet 54

You come to me encased in a shell of light,
Light dripping from your wet fingertips
Until swept sparks gather on the mat like sweat,
A slow swirl of flame rising to our hips--
And we in the center of this focused rose
Touch like torches our incandescent arms
And fall into the whirl of liquid pulses
Beating to our hearts' bruised alarms.

Here in the center of light is love
And silence.  Only your face floats above
The burning candle end;  only your eyes and mine,
Dear, in all the ardent fire remain.
Only here, in the light's heart of is,
The earth releases her captives, and we rise.


Sonnet 55

Your feet are wounded doves walking home,
Your hair a current of motionless water;
Melancholy your eyes, dark daughter,
And your high forehead is a sandstone dome
Irritable winds etch and erode.

This is your catalog, but not your ark.
What you are continues, unwinding like a road
Blessing dusts are paving for your good;
What you are reaches out beyond the wind,
Beyond strange stars, far past the last spark.

The familiar grip of your loving hands
I love, and because your hands know well
My intimate recesses intricate as bells,
I love and follow you beyond the wind.


Sonnet 56

You come carrying gifts no other knows
But me, who loves you the way a seafish
Loves the sea--until my body lives in you entirely,
Transparently--waving in your waves, like so.
The gift of your body is the first gift,
Round and good, a spicy hand-pinched empanada
Floured and left to sizzle until ripe--la!

--No, not your body, just your ears are first.
You listen like a mouse, full of tiny attentiveness,
Hearing in my most minor word the major chord;
This is a gift--I throw off my melancholy shroud 
Under your lemony canopy of giving.
You stand at the prow, your heart straight out like a flag,
Flying forward to new continents from my crags.


Sonnet 57

Your heart's composed of grey mourning doves
Cooing in circles under the dogwood tree.
Come, my nunnish sis.  Come, break open to love,
Alight upon the budded branch you cannot yet see.
Let light interpenetrate you like honied waters
Or as when lime and garden dirt are mixed;
Let corn stand golden in the blackest rut;
Let seed and need be one;  let the roaring sun be fixed.
If there's something in the roadway, pick it up.
Let your pockets hang fat as a puppy belly;
Love itself, and love alone, fills fullness up.
--Is that a dime glinting in the gully?
In my heart, too, a bird is circling, dear,
Its wings fanned wide for loving--or despair.


Sonnet 58

Black butterflies crowd the white church with shadows.
Secretly now I speak, who had been plain before
Fear and pain had come and nailed my door.

I am lost in a world of truculent shadows.
I only approach what's real in whispers,
I am mute before the others.

All that was solid is now thrown shadows.
The black butterflies land on my heart and fold their wings,
My tongue forgets to sing.

Love has webbed my ardent hands with shadows.
My hands, once full of eloquent caresses,
Are folded now in wings of blackness.

Do not follow me into this twilight,
Love, for after such a dusk must come the night.


Sonnet 59

Someone has written your body on the grass
In long erotic brushstrokes loaded with dew.
You shine on green blades that shimmer as we pass
Sighing thigh and eyelash as only you could do.
The trees' great roots tangle enticingly
Romancing the dark fructification of earth
As I romance you in the grass blades,
Erect in the dirt as iron filings pulled toward magnetic North.
 
How I want to roll in you, breathe in you,
Bury myself in you,--pull the lawn up like a coverlet
And sleep in the deep mystery I see is you
Always and everywhere, even in death's regret:
When you are gone, let my bones on your bones
Lie lingeringly--against death's cold alone.


Sonnet 60

When love spills white on her cloudy breast,
And stormy brows blow clear of steamy Os,
And aching Ahs breeze to their windy rest, 
I, new-calm, quiet to calm's no-moan.

The placid window opens to a sky
Where I float alone, unclouded now,
And listen to my lying mistress, fly-
Ing in her far Afghanistan, unfollow-
Ed by harrying lust, the insistent prick-
Ling that turns moist "Maybe" to "Hurry, yes!" 
O how we seeded love's tempest to light-
Ning desire!--which lies beside, a deflated gust.

So we lie apart who had shared one heart
And, pant for pant, had each played the stormfront's part.


Sonnet 61

After the white heat has left the pen,
The tower come to grief, and all our loving
Ceased, there will be time for turtle-doving
And all the public petting couples plan.
After the bed has ceased creak-quaking,
And reddened knees and slipping toes uncurl,
There will be time to be just boy and girl
Laughing at our nasty pelvic snaking.
After the sweet tipping, love and shove
Of two bodies burning to be one,
The shouting out to God and His holy son,
There will be time to count all the stars above.
But now I say, looking over at you again,
Let stars remain unnumbered till time's end.


Sonnet 62

A lamp burns in the corner of my room,
Evilly-eyed.  Somehow, today, my happiness
Is playing hide-and-seek with me gloomily.
Newspapers pile up.  The room's a mess.
Only over the bed is there a memory
Of wings, scarlet happiness, ecstasies
We shared on the fitted sheets of ivory.
Those afternoons come to me now.  Too clear.
My head rattles like a tin can full of pebbles:
The pebbles are hard eyes of yesterdays I've seen,
From the mildly annoying to the incredible.
Remembering you, our joy, makes me sadder than I've been
In a long time, a long row of odd days,
Ragtag and worsted-ended, without your golden rays.


Sonnet 63

We drive on beautiful white roads until
The lake is a single blue eyelid;
Strange fish leap, straining their scarlet gills,
Keeping their watch on humankind.
We are so young, we people of the earth,
The other creatures don't understand us
With our prayers and wars--but they and we both
Mount the lovers' excited crucifix.

The turtle, the bluejay, and even the jellyfish
Sting and huddle--and skim through the mighty sky--
When we lie down together as I wish.
And you, too, craven and wanting and sly,
Cozying over with your pearl skin and fur dish,
The hollow in your side where we meet and say goodbye.


Sonnet 64

Though stuffed with joy, I'm starved for joy;
For you I have devoured every jot,
Jammy and seedy as raspberries.
My ecstatic skin incinerates acres, the starving fire
Of joys consumed by their own desire!
For you I am made hungry as the sea,
Drinking every river to the lees.
To my gullet goes all treasure, all junk!
Greedily I gorge on diamonds and rust,
Old anchors, the amber delicacy of sunsets.
All goes down to my soul with a clank.
For you, I eat empires and dandelions equally--
For you, I have made myself open and empty,
Starved to taste, with my being, all of your being.


Sonnet 65

In you I discover the sea, am lost in waters,
Smelling the bitter brine that floods from my cock,
The sharp salt exfoliates of our Maker
That shiver hoarsely in the sweat of our fuck.
With you, I grab at the reeling gunwales
And almost fall overboard each day;
Every night, biting smiles from the dark, we assail
Each other with our shark-bodies--saw and sway!

Below you, I am drowning.  My hands go wide 
As I look up, loving the sky's last uncertain bright
As the green water's weight breaks me inside.
There's only you at the surface, only you in the light.
Let me live this adventure, dear woman,
In your body, by your side, as a man.


Sonnet 66

Your eyes are two moondrops, two bowls
With silvery goldfish going lazily inside;
Your white hips are built like a waterslide,
And I go down with no owlish thought of rescue at all....
Let me dive in your wetness and paddle refreshed!
Whatever apples the sea offers
Your breasts give me also in our affair;
Our affair of noon shadows and shaded flesh.
Lie with me on the salt beach of our bodies,
Stretch out into the sand of many hands
And dunes of restless thighs, neither land
Nor sea really, as we are neither soul nor body only.
Whatever we are, we are in this air
Together;  this liquid land and hard sea, together.


Sonnet 67

Our wings are straight out, our wingtips just
Touch as we move motionless over the whole
Earth as we glide without diving over the whole
Map of creation, silent and colored-in, just us.

What do we see from the great height of our love?
Millions crawling over the earth and over each other, larvae
Feasting on their mother's corpse in a red furrow.
There's more to this earth than our hovering.

I'd rather fly beside you, lashing our hook-beaks,
And starve on the air currents like a dying leaf
Than dive for the fattest lamb, the most ripe beef
If we must walk among those whose lives are crooked.
Can't these fools see that love is a straight line?
Love stretches straight from your taut heart to mine.


Sonnet 68

In you I taste my death, your mouth the open
Corners of my grave, damp clay ochre and dun;
Your arms like gravediggers hold me round
And lower me helpless to the sucking ground.
Here, in your mouth, live the roots of many things,
Many ripening vines;  incantations and songs;
Buried in you are deep emeralds, mines of nickel and lead,
Rivers of ore coursing among the buried.
So much comes so deeply from touching you,
Breathing you in;  even in this final suffocation, you
Remain dark and compelling--of you I can see no end,
Although the earth you are composed of has an end.
You are measureless, endless and supreme--
A depth beneath which no man may dream.


Sonnet 69

When you kiss me my face changes, like a face stamped on a lollipop when it’s licked. Gradually the face smears to a flatness and disappears, and the tongue gradually becomes the color of the face that is no longer there. So you are slowly becoming the color of my soul, and I am forgetting my face lick by lick. Lick by lick, I begin to resemble the smooth personless joy of a red balloon–until (perhaps deliberately, in a fit of hungry ecstasy) you bite through me to the white sweet stick at my core. And no one knows me any more than the washed-up skeleton of a dead whale, picked clean by diving gulls and rolling back-and-forth in the acid waves.

Sonnet 70

Are we sowing daughters when we seesaw?
Is any throng of sons arising from our private aching,
The back-and-forth of our terrifying loving
That silences to shame the puma and the daw?
Is it enough to just be here and be just us?
Doesn't "fairest nature desire fair increase,"
Isn't your body a longboat full of empty seats
Where antsy children clamor, like on the bus?
Isn't there something in the flower of ourselves
That desires to be plucked like the heavy magnolia,
Plucked and held up, despite the streaks of purple melancholia?
Is it enough for love to just ask these questions?
Our fears exchange a look of blackest ice;
A shiver comes, and then a kiss;  it will suffice.


Sonnet 71

You have filled me the way a jug of wine is filled;
Drop by drop your tears have shed: pale joy, dark grief
Replacing fear and solidude and sorrow with belief
--Almost I could not believe, almost my wound of doubting killed
The new true universe we two have willed.

Out of my sadness, shedding the black crown
In the alabaster dust at your feet, on my knees
I have made this pilgrimage through many trees--
Out of the night dances on the wintry lawn,
Out of the first spring day arrived in streaks of dawn.

And now I am here, and you are here,
And we drink from the heavy clay jug we've been filling.
Night and day we drink to the dregs, and there, my silly,
We are empty and happy as a ring tossed in the air.


Sonnet 72

How often have I turned the pages of your book,
Reading your braille nipples, commas round your mouth--
Your eyebrows the astonished parenthesis of a look
Damp delight engenders for us both.
I read in the firelight stirred by your fingertips:
How you yearn to be warm bread and warm earth
Rising and restless, the air whipping!

There are so many marvelous stories to touch
As I run my tongue across your fragrant words,
Swashbuckling over the mossy moat of ooh and aah
To reach the climax: castle, cave, treasure or fabulous bird.
And there in the dogeared dark of bed and book,
The phoenix erupts like a hydrant!  Ah, fabulous bird!
And your eyebrows almost contain your fireworks look.


Sonnet 73

Let us hunt among smallnesses for love:
The tapering end, held tight, of the elephant's tail,
Or how a condor's aiming wing ends in a single quill--
They way your nose reaches me before your lips from above.
These little things, littler and littler,
The kindness one might extend to a mouse;
It is in these small wonders that we build our house,
You and I, meeting alone, thumb and thimble.

Notice the tininess of quiet:
The ballerina leaping in the barn by herself
--So small a gesture--or the inchling elf
Who goes on tiptoe to view love's riot.

Prayerfully, we fold ourselves into bed,
Close our eyes, and dream the littlest dream in one head.


Sonnet 74

Mysteriously each day flares and disappears,
Stars are thrown over us in a glimmering net
And we swim in our dreams through an unforgettable wet
Until dawn ignites its sheet of crimson paper.
Everything goes up in the fire, daily;  vagueness
Has my kisses mingle with others' kisses;
In a week, my face is merging with the visage
Of a half-dozen half-remembered masterpieces....

When oblivion unplugs the phone, and the line goes dead
Your friends discuss the stranger whom they loved;
Who you were has come and gone like a matchstick's red;
Those who swore you oaths forget your voice.
Since you and I must succumb to such severe severing,
Let's play today as if today we were forevering. 


Sonnet 75

Come to me, come to me, wild rose who grows
Apart--I climb the thorny mountain,
And I tread the thorny path to know
The thorny secret of your thorny heart.
Bitter the wind and long, long the way
To come to the dancing brook, your fountain;
The thorny rock I climb both night and day.

And there at your root I slept, a day and night,
And dreamed a pilgrim dream that has not
Gone away: O little mountain rose, who bent
And said the words my heart still hears: Come to me--
Come to me, walker and stranger, come drink
Beside my rocks and my roots, come drink
My dreams and kiss the bitter thorn of me.


Sonnet 76

A thorny ladder wraps the mountain
As I stride to attend your musky rose;
I come for your body's garden, mossy and open:
Of your musky skin, I breath the rose.
I climb the ladder as I climb you, daily
Heaving my weight up toward your unconquerable eyes,--
My heavy regrets, my dank past, my disguises.
Hurrying, I plunge into the thorns.  Ai!

Suddenly, the angry angel's red-hot rapier is everywhere,
Hissing into my neck, my lungs, my sides, 
Lancing the blue coil of my intestines.
Will loving you and climbing you leave me dying?

From the highest rock you bend, dusky rose;
I attend your soft musk's music, and I arise.


Sonnet 77

Death, I don't get it--Death seems like a fake
When (right next to you) my eyes snap awake
Like blinds rolled up in the alert light of dawn.

Everyone's always mooning over some grave,
Some president or lover or bloke awfully brave
--At best I manage to stifle my yawns.

Microbes and cancers and blanks on the map
Steal time from their eyes they'll never get back.
Why don't they get wise and do what I do?

Building big monuments is hard on the back,
And who cares what's there in the blanks on the maps?
So why don't the world shut up and just love you?

They'd see crystal-clear how Death was a fake
When (right next to you) their eyes snapped awake.


Sonnet 78

We're here to celebrate a life of dust.
We're born passing away, as we must.
Dying we crawl to our parents' knees,
Choking clutch our holy rosaries.
Crippled we round the bases at stickball,
Hamstrung pitch pennies against the back wall.
We count our raises on fingers of bone;
The dying crowd cheers, but we're still alone.

Nothing and no one can stop the sands shift-
Ing down the hourglass and over the cliff;
We're dead at our prayers, and dead at our song;
Dead in the mirror; dead all the day long.
When across the bed your kiss comes like a knife,
I open my mouth, I surrender my life.


Sonnet 79

Bury me standing and pennyeyed,
A pagan and a fighter I have died,
Nor expect to be alive again--
So loving you must have an end.

Although intimations came and went
Of a meaning more eternal when we kissed,
I kept to my convictions and now am spent.--
Light a penny-candle if I'm missed.

Don't imagine that from heaven I would frown
If you still cavort and canter like a lass;
Something there is that loves a clown,
And I loved you when I saw you last.

So leave a stone and raise a glass to me,
Who when he kissed you, kissed you;  as it was meant to be.


Sonnet 80

I am cut, and in my heart is planted
A grafting of your luxurious bough--
Some gesture you made, some grace half-granted
Rinsing kitchen mangoes beneath the faucet.

Your eyes were black and hungry, your mouth too,
As you shook out of your pants--
Round the rickety chairs we wheeled, rich and slow,
A sweet molasses movement in our dance.

The mango juice oiled your open breasts
Olive-toned and slanted, and the green smell of tea
Rose wreathed from your hair--I lost my breath
And rode your slipping hips for certainty.

And now from the grafted tree that grows,
I shake a thousand hours of our mangoes.

Sonnet 81

We've been kissing till our lips are chapped 
And happy, our eyes hypnotized from a gazing-fest
That out-stared the sap in their sockets.
Too long we've lain with sex on the brain
And the groin--oh, the groans!--we must stop it.
We need to rest, shut up, get dressed,
And see if the blue world still rolls outdoors.

Sore as a sigh, we depart on our lark,
Creaking weak keisters to the car:
The movies, the mall, or Seaside Park?
We drive until five on our dutiful tryst
And ask: Did a longer day ever exist?

We laugh as we dash madly back to bed
Where we align half-divine and (half the time) head-to-head.


Sonnet 82

Voyeurs at the wall of Abelard
And his heaving Heloise heard love made,
Forged from iron fires groaning hard
Where bellows hiss and the hot poker's laid.

Cleopatra paddling on her barge
Proffered pink enticements to Antony
While excited slaves looked on with eyes quite large
And the sinuous Nile slinked into the sea.

When Salome threw her seventh veil away
And shone before Herod as God intended,
Unashamed as sunshine at midday,
Even John the Baptist lost his head.

So ardent are our toe-to-toe romances,
Prudence peeps between her fingers at us!


Sonnet 83

I would break over your body like a wave
Every night, over and over, over your back,
Your hair, dissolving into the shadows I crave
That inhabit the nape of your neck.
I would bear you distances to hidden sands
Like pirate booty, alone beneath the palm trees;
I would not share you, even with the moonlight, on our island!
To me you have come, to me remain.  To me.
I open your heavy chest and count the treasures there:
Zion and Taj Mahal in a single body!
Your lips are memorable as a cut lemon;
Your tongue persuades me to love's duty....
Tonight I break upon you a million ways
And break and break until my breaking stays.


Sonnet 84

I tie you to the chair and feel the rough
Of wood and soft of skin compete and play
For where my wet attention goes and stays,
Although the sport's sniggered at as uncouth.

Still, there is a time to bring the rope and bind
The love-object to her astute pedestal
And grant her darkest wish therewithal:
To feel assured that mating's sting is blind.

I with she and she with he and they with them
Play a roundel merry Mozart could commend,
So difficult's't to parse the beginning from the end
Until the music stops and draws the curtain.

I would tie you to me more gently, though:
Be thou the butterfly on which my breezes blow.


Sonnet 85

Dear, I am jealous of you, the way a pearl
Is jealous of the moon.--Vanity, my girl,
Has brought me singing here beside you
Although I am small as a child's first "O."
Teach me your light, how you throw yourself
Over every roof and field, and all the items on the shelf,
Detailing the dust on the clock... even its hands you enhance--
Infinite and infinitesimal at once!

I stay stung inside myself like an eyeball,
Greedy to see, yet selfishly pearled as a shut shell.
How can I break open like a moon-gleam,
Traveling the nothing, and giving even dogs dreams?
Teach me your light;  its depth, its height--
I would crest with the sea-wave, and give lovers light.


Sonnet 86

Desire rifles me, disorders my innards,
Chars my hugging arms to black, helpless studs,
Untongues the eloquence of my familiar patter
And leaves my heaving soul standing mute.
I'd shredded myself to spastic tatters
Disobeying love's laws and rescinding old statutes,
Frisking suspects for tinder to ignite with desire--
Desire the fever that burned down my house.

I was wrecked with wanting until you came, 
Plain as a square of sunlight on the oaken floor....
Then I saw: how overwrought and strange my pain!
How simple to acquit desire's rave and roar;
Desire is nothing when love is--which, fussless,
Overpours the brim desire desires.


Sonnet 87

Life, I hold you up and look through you,
A clear pane of ice skimmed from a puddle
Held only a desperate moment in the muddle
Until fingers go numb and you slip through....
Only a moment, and what I saw
Was the color and contour of conchs,
The sweet center of a woman's haunch
Open and thirsty--for a man's peck, a lover's paw.

Life, if you have a meaning, what else
Is it?  Today a man and a woman are meeting,
Words pass between them, a sleet of bees,
Until night finds them naked as a racing pulse.
Life, share with me all of your secret whispers.
Wife, kiss me with your fresh lips like cinders.


Sonnet 88

I try to go to sleep, but can only think.
Strange shades of death assault me,
Drown me in their inks, squids of the sea
Constricting the peaceful measure of my soul.
A tomtom is rapping in my awake ears
From inside the cork corridors of my skull;
Whatever's left of me is not my will,
Just this red repeat of sound that sears.
I watch the animated faces go by
In a silent film, every mouth sealed with cellophane;
Are they laughing haphazardly or crying out in pain?
I watch the animated faces go by.
The moon rolls into my room, a bloodshot eye.
We stare the night out.  We do not blink.


Sonnet 89

Being here, meeting you, my life, well, my life
Is feeling complete.  I almost don't want
To jinx it by saying so much about my life.
Almost, too, I don't want what I want.
How can his be?  We are two humans,
Alike as mirrors facing each other,
Same sets of hands, toes, same talk, same tongues, lungs
The same, and yet.... I feel your alien center out there.

Your pride and determination to teach well,
How love has sucked you up like a vacuum
And now you are afraid.  All this I feel,
And myself going around humming Te Deum.
Being here, meeting you, my life, well, my life
Feels complete. And yet, almost, I don't want my life.

Sonnet 90

Life, they say, occurs in the caesuras,
The pauses when passion's breath is breaking
Or the mired eye at dawn is mildly peering,
And lovers lie replaying their old overtures.
Life is what's happening when it's not,
When nothing much is foremost in our thoughts,
A finger caught in some stray weft of webbing
While over Miami the blue moon is ebbing.
Life, elusive fish, is not captured when it's caught;
It's not the adding and subtracting of pensive thought
Or any other species of abstract thinking.
Life is just the waits between the blinking.
So long as I lollygag (between the birth pang
And oblivion) with you--I'm content to hang.


Sonnet 91

I am blind, blinded, a lost mole escaped out
Of his long house, for now my home is in your self;
In you, my soul falls up out of itself
The way a lotus floats over its roots.
In you, I am so close to being air, to flying!
You pull my umbilical cord through my mouth,
And in my center forms a silver pool of truth;
Almost, in you, my me, my I, is dying.
We are together as the cords of a twisted rope.
Together, we turn back from frogs into tadpoles;
Soon we'll be egg-sacks, then a single egg, pale.
We kiss with our mouths open as if saying "Hope."
You, who have my sight, my life, my sighing,
Come be blind with me beyond our dying.


Sonnet 92

Your hands prepare a night for us together--
Candles and glasses, the eats chopped and prepped;
How carefully, how thoroughly, I am in your debt!
The bed turned down, the rum-topaz light soft as feathers.
A hundred times I have walked around you, sighing,
While you hung up the moon and arranged the plates,
Preparing even the corners of our life until very late.
And all I can think to do is undress you, and kiss your feet, crying.
My gratitude fills me, like wetness in cactus--
Don't let my sharp whiskers deceive you!
Inside I am sweet and full of grateful dews.
That you should live our life so intently.... Without practice
You throw love everywhere like streamers from a spotlight,
And happiness explodes in me like a burst piñata.


Sonnet 93

When you abide beside me I am calm,
All my tempests by temperance overtaken.
Life's hazards hurry in, but not their harm;
Although my leaves do rattle, no root is shaken.
When my hot forehead meets with your tender palm
My fever breaks, my delirium mistaken.
I do not know what others do, madam,
But with the seal of your solace I am so blazoned
I feel myself a lion who was a lamb,
Yet mellow in my marrow as a Shaker.
I hope to be no more than what I am:
Gratefully alive, and grateful for thy Maker--
For nothing could surpass, in the world to come,
Than this I have, when I by thee awaken.


Sonnet 94

When I am feeling troubled and at a loss
For no other reason than I'd forgot
My own reasons for getting too hot,
She comes to me with a cool compress
(And rustles near me in her silken dress)
And manages without managing at all
To manage away my worry with her skill
And save me from my own self-caused duress.

And for this aid I have no help to give,
None at all, but school my truant gratitude
To look on her with love,--me, whose natively rude,
And petty too, and, so, condemned to live....
Then she comes again with her talk, her touch,
Her tender balm, making smooth the rough.  


Sonnet 95

She is a compass needle going round,
And seems in all her spin and waver
More like something lost than something found.

Still, how the blue point endeavors!
And will not be put off her trying harder
(No matter that she'll earn no extra chevrons).

What lodestone rubbed to make her so endure?
Something there is perhaps in her being pinned
To house and job and child and filling the larder.

For round she goes, feeding us and filling bins
With fine fidelity for one so scattered,
So torn between her going out and coming in.

Still, she knows her North despite all hazard
--As if loving us were all that really mattered.


Sonnet 96

You held my hand and held me back to make
Me stay, who would have walked on without a thought
To reach the ready bench past the woodland brake
And there sit content, and have no further thought.

You held me back, and pointed without a word--
There, between the slant and screen of trunks, 
A fox returned to her nesting brood, 
Her mouth blooded, and in that mouth a skunk.
Such dedication had the young ones yip
And tear at the striped carcass, black and white,
Love had brought dragging for their sup--
And kept the mother-skunk from her kits.

You held my hand, and may you always
Be so wise of eye and wise to nature's ways.


Sonnet 97

Have you ever wanted to fly?
There was a frog who wanted to fly
And got his chance.  First, he was lonely,
And cried at the pond's edge in his great loneliness.
His voice was like a drum.  Other frogs
Covered their ears.  Dragonflies flew off in fog
To avoid the cacophony. What was the frog lonely for?

I'll tell you.  He was lonely for the sky
--Just that.  That's where his froggish dreaming was tacked.
Low, low in his frog-throat, who knows why,
The great loneliness gathered, like the great
Tension of a bowstring pulled back.
And out of that came the frog's dark cry
Like a lover's lament.  He was in love--just that.


Sonnet 98

Love comes sneaky like the coyote,
Stealing hearts left trashed and discarded;
Love cannot enter a gate when guarded
For love is soft and secret as midnight smoke,
Easily spooked by a too-attentive hoot
Or too-oft remembrance of an antique hurt.

But let down pride and let down vigilance
And love like moss on every root will grow;
Love will come slinking by for kitchen scraps
With eyes as big as moons in a puddle's overflow--
Love will live on iffy maybes and a half-perhaps.
Once love's pennant's pitched upon the parapet,
She waves her colors gaily, victorious in surfeit.


Sonnet 99

Because my dreams know you, I do not,
Because I do not know my dreams.  Sad eyes
Come glancing, and then suddenly hide themselves
In the blackness of wells, in a pine board's knot.
In my dreams there are rumors of your beauty,
And I follow the noble words like stepping stones
Over the abyss, my old bachelor home--
Sweep me: winds, words!  I weave songs of fealty.
I curl around what you might be, white lady,
Like a dog around a stove, the tongue around "love."
How everything below curves toward what's above!
Every plant and every eye is trained on the butane sky.
And so, white lady, whenever you want
You may appear here, as my dreams you already haunt.


Sonnet 100

Break like an oak, or keep faith forever--
Die in the harness, your heart a furnace of effort:
The oath of a bull is not the oath of a feather.

Love with your will and not your body only,
The way virgins married Vesuvius alive
And died in a silence terribly lonely.

Condors mate with their wild kind on the crags
As sky and rock mate in ravening winter,
Their high crying caught in the wind's brag.

Come take me, maiden, with your Amazon mind!
Come kiss lips till lips blaze and splinter!
Come ravish the man who climbs to marry your kind!

The oath of a bull is not the oath of a feather:
Break like an oak, or keep faith forever.


Sonnet 101

Shameless is my mistress wetly caught,
Wily in her seeking freedom thence--
Demure when spanked as though she would be taught,
Yet still runs wild at her third offense.
Who could teach much to such wantonness,
Frenzied to be free, when freed all frenzy still?
Unbidden, she'll curl upon a lap to rest--
All things her way always is her only will.
She charms at first with an off-hand gesture,
Comes for pets, is damned attentive;
Your good opinion seems her only pleasure….
Next day proves her unretentive.
How can one instruct such a flitting wisp?
No way but enjoy each shimmer as she shifts.


Sonnet 102

For three dates you remained a mermaid to me,
Swimming away and flashing your tail.
I didn't even know if you had two legs, and the sea
Kept foaming right up to your navel.

When would I feel your slick body climb into bed,
Your clothes lumped in a disordered heap,
Your half half-sinking, taking ballast aboard,
And you naked as a newly-sheared sheep?

Something was fishy, my little mermaid;
Was our romancing faux or spurious?
The course you set was cunningly laid,
And my suspicion kept me curious.

But then you swam up, and sailed home to my bed,
And wrapped your legs around my head.


Sonnet 103

My love is not a river, but it is
In the river, flowing among the yeasty curls,
Wetting itself in the wavery spray and the spritz
Playfully as an otter with two balls.
My love is not grand like a church bell
Forged lovingly from parishioners' pennies,
Calling in the blackclad faithful to solemnly kneel;
(But my love does have a tongue for you, Jenny.)
My love is not as vast as the Great Plains'
Majesties--fertile and broad and deep;
But my love does peep like a prairie dog, is game
To pop up and play hide-and-seek.
My love is a funny sort of thing, and a small:
A paper plane thrown in a cathedral.


Sonnet 104

Other constellations have all flashed to ash--
Old photo-bulbs, popped and nude,
Heaven's eons reduced to interludes
Since your starry being has come to pass.
I doodle the lines of your constellation, dotting spots
That limn your chin or trace your waist
With my hands and mouth, pausing at each place
To braise my pallor on your burning body's hot.
My ardent lips come back bruised and burnt
As burls, and tears shine hard where lust had lurked--
Surprising eyes, and leaving me unsure how this works.
Loving is not loving that will not learn to hurt.
Now I lay me down on the grassy floor
And memorize stars that are all yours.


Sonnet 105

File me down to an unbearable essence,
Pinch me tight like ground spices, and haul
My granular essence up to your curious nose.
Inhale my sharpness;  love is at the core.
It has taken me a long time to arrive,
A long time I paddled in love's tanning vat
Disputing causes, examining the sieve,
Adding up my love-lists like an accountant.
But now I am soaked, dunked, drenched, a whore
Wholly open and wholly possessed;
I love all of you, your least eyelash adore;
I love you stripped, or bathing, or dressed.
Love is at my center, love up to the teeth;
Now love me too--quick--or love must come to grief.


Sonnet 106

Your love's locked up in her intricate castle.
High, high the parapet!  In the moat, a crocodile.
I slip into the black water anyway, the way
The moon slips into your mouth when you raise it, singing.
My desire for you has made me brave--
Not brave to conquer, nor to save,
But brave to kiss you and to be kissed
Regardless of what the interference is.

Bold lions lean yellow in your feline eyes,
Crouched to kill with womanly surmise;
In your mouth, ten thousand snakes lie limply curled--
Ready to haunt and hiss at a word.
All this I dare who never dared before:
I throw down my heart before your farthest shore.


Sonnet 107

In the mist, in the rain,
Comes illimitable pain;
Here your face remains a memory
Of insuperable agony....

We who had been lovers, closer
Than diodes anodyne and chosen
Now separate like trees in fog,
Dull white columns half-sogged

Until I and all I feel
Is insubstantial, ephemeral....
I myself a ghost
Invisible in mist, lost

Without you as my anchor, dear,
My source, my succor.


Sonnet 108

Play the sistrum softly, softly. 
Her image glides all ghostly
When the refrigerator hums
And dead of night is come.

I am haunted by her now
Who knows the strength and hour
Of her presence, of her power--
Oh ghost at once sweet and sour!

Illusory, frightful,
Hysterical, delightful,
The woman in the mirror
Haunts and appears.

On my shoulder like a parrot
She hops, my ghoul, my Pierrot!


Sonnet 109

As hypnotic as a living fan of coral,
As delicate in their blue aurorals
The veins on your legs wave their traceries,
Sturdy pillars of impious ecstasy.
You climb aboard me, and I sink beneath
Breathless as a turtle swimming in a reef;
Chains of bubbles from my hooked lips
Enclose my moans of sinful happiness, 
Audible only when they pop open.

So I sigh with the sea....  Do I sigh in vain,
Evoking only my lady's harsh laugh?

O My lady of marble with marbled thighs,
Punch me, crush me with desire til I sigh
Your praises upward in a silent prayer of pain!


Sonnet 110

Love, so great an emblem, a divinest thing
Like Himalayas beyond Himalayas' aspiring:
So tall, so fierce--an Amazon from the moon
Loitering on the porch between us now it's June.
Love, once remote beyond ebony pearls of Cathay,
Strolls by with baskets of daily laundry;
Love sits knit in the pearl of "purl one, purl two"
As we lounge of an evening with pay-per-view.
Love, when I was ignorant and young,
Lay locked in a castle beyond my tongue
Which knew not the secret keys of a kiss:
Holding hands in the rain, the nearness of bliss.
So long have I stood imagining wings
Who, knowing you, flies over everything.


Sonnet 111

I thought I knew just what to do with you:
Keep you in a box on my Friday night shelf,
Feed you snickers and movies and romantic fluff
About stars in your eyes and kisses like wine
And other such fabulous stuff.

But, oh, how mistaken!  My heart was taken
When your body spooned glued to mine.
My will swam away under a tidal wave
To tropic, Tahitian moons. I thought I knew
You, I thought I knew me. But, today,
I am a man lost at sea, the sea gorgeous,
A man on an island washing away under his feet....
And I need you, in your wooden canoe, to come
And take me to wherever you came from.


Sonnet 112

Grey's anatomy and all that crap:
Bodies blueprinted and expertly dissected,
Drawn and quartered from arse to cap
As that curious scalpel the eye directed.
No diagram can master what you are:
Lusty stardust fallen to our sphere.

Here, you present yourself humanly:
Swearing at the buckles on your mackintosh,
Spilling the last soggy bag of groceries,
Stamping your rain boots free of fresh slush.
That's the you who you are--whose eyes see deep,
Whose breath is half roses when you're half asleep,
Whose kiss is integral, and whose calm arms are just
The skinsoft thing that wakes the whole of my lust.


Sonnet 113

Miscreant Time has spelt his troubles plain
On papery forehead and chill cheeks eaten
By the wind.  Lacing my sneakers at dawn,
I ran, once, and raced the wind unbeaten.
While still a boy by the barefoot pond,
I saw my face resolve past hanging fronds
Unlined by any lesson of the Lord's;
All was still penny-a-wish and open hope.

Now past my zenith, on the far shore lodged,
Where snows heap up and the hillside steepens,
I reach weakly across the wrinkled gorge
To one who keeps my heart within her steeple.
Will you take this hand and creak on crutches?--
There's a place past the peak where the church is.


Sonnet 114

Love cannot choose, but knows it is chosen
To undertake all that love can endeavor:
Hurl rocks from the heights, or love you forever,
Whichever is hardest, more burning, more frozen.
One big love is better than any half dozen;
One Mississippi masters ten cataracts--
Those, my lover, are simply the facts.
Love cannot choose, but knows it is chosen.
A hunchback haranguing the town with his bell,
A lady pirouetting herself off a cliff,
Hamlet pondering Ophelia's sweet "If...."
That man with the Nose who knows words all too well;
They all knew nothing, but one thing knew then--
Love cannot choose, but knew love chose them.


Sonnet 115

Although my joy with pain is blistered
And I choke on every luau larded at my feet:
Purple whortle-berries, vintage of San Griet,
Still I eat, still drink to life and leisure.
Each hike I take toward some higher good,
Each leap I make, induces some new seizure;
Each trial into undiscovered pleasure
Leaves a trail of bodies through the wood....
Still I trod, having found no higher God
Than duty to what beauty here appears--
Leaves that come and go throughout the year,
Milkweed seeds drifting slowly from their pods.
Whatever cost our private Christmases incur, 
I'll pay the pain, so long as you and I continue us.


Sonnet 116

Death will take you, and I will bless you: "Go."
Not like demented Edgar shall I wander and weep,
Clasping for golden sandgrains on the margin of the deep
Where every wave is saying, sweep, sweep, sweep.
No, no.  Not in tragic sadness all alone
Will I face the inevitable lightning:
Your face yellow, or wan, dead and frightening 
Down in the dark new box black with lacquering.

Instead, I'll stand happy and mad as the rain,
Watching the deep drops, like sucked gumdrops, fall
On the gathered mourners, and wetly roll
Prescient and perfect and round as crystal balls.
My time continuing, your time remains,
For I will praise you, darling, till you are come again.


Sonnet 117

If I were without whoever you are
Would I feel the loss, and miss it?
The spoon licked clean, the talk at the bar,
The bree and crackers, the hand at whist?
If I were without whoever you are
Would your memory enlarge to a shade?
Would you haunt me at midnight with a twanged guitar,
Misplace my keys, ruin parades?
Would I bury my head in your pillow,
Sniff the drawer where your sweaters were left?
At movies, would I weep like a willow?
Would I feel like a victim of theft?
Who would it be who was driving my car
If I were without whoever you are?


Sonnet 119

Tell me, does love have sorrow for its marrow?
Is a dandelion lovely only
Because its baldness leaves us lonely?

When the player prates "Tomorrow, tomorrow..."
Or the expired milk curls its lip,
Their change of state makes us moue and weep.

Is it the same with love and her tears--
Wiping our noses or blinking them back
Stops our hearts as if under attack.

O, look in the mirror with that look of fear:
The horseman is coming to trample our dears.
The x-ray, once backlit, the cancer is clear.

The test returned positive from the hospital staff,
Our hearts are in our throats, and we cannot gasp.


Sonnet 119

Death holds lovers who forget each other,
Who pretend the soft pulsings in a wrist
Everlastingly unroll.--Death's cold furs
Wrap up those proud hearts' hot velvets
In a chill no quilt can conquer.

It is no idle boast of coffins
To say they box us best that box us last.--
In satin trim and eternal dim
We kiss goodbye our past.
No lovers' squalls within such walls remain.

So hold me now, and thou to thou,
We'll build a house of love and pillows
Plumped with such subtle human powers
Death's retreat will last our lifetimes' hours.


Sonnet 120

Sitting there so saucily thoughtful,
Your firm legs a-dangle, uncrossed,
Your eyes milky and mildly unfocused
As your lips taste tart thoughts that are lustful:
What pictures are you painting in your mind?
Do azure sands unfurl below tan skies?
Do proud men crouch between your thighs
Flashing dark looks beneath hair wildly curled?

You sit on your tall fantasist's throne
Cruel and adored, the barstool worn flat
From daily use (chopping carrots and all that),
A woman who shy-slyly transforms her home
Into Pan's Cavern, where white firelight dances,
Anonymous hands strip us, and we grow frantic.


Sonnet 121

I'm not quite sure I quite know quite how
Or quite why you love me even now.
After so many leerings and pairings,
So many hesitations and darings,
Assignations, arrangements and trysts, 
Allurements, procurements and back alley kisses,
Still you return, still make me feel missed.

At each meeting the mystery deepens,
Yet no abyss intervenes with its weeping,
No catastrophe clatters, no shinbone shatters,
In fact, almost nothing at all's the matter!
Only you and I standing in the clear air,
No moon romancing the contented pair
Waiting for nothing else to appear.


Sonnet 122

What can summer add to what our winter
Love has found?  The heat and desperate damp of days
Leaning from the sill with a sangria pitcher,
Moonlight looming through a greasy lens,
The stacked smoke of apartment grills
Confusing fuzzy flavors and leaving palettes burnt,
The noise of neighbor kids grinding by on big wheels
Floating through summer screens green with bugs and lint.

Oh summer is one-thousand annoyances
Compressed into ninety sweaty nights
While Bennies scoop up spots on all the beaches....

Love me to the depth, love me to the height
Of all the loving any human heart has vowed.
Only, do not wait for summer;  love me now.


Sonnet 123

I like to watch you try the new words on your tongue,
Mouthing "missus" and the house address
Strange as Demosthenes with his pebble-tongue.

All of this had come of your trying "Yes"
Once before the parson's congregation:
A new household, and a man, and all this strangeness.

New wife, is all your world a wedding?
Is stepping past a traffic light like passing arches garlanded?
Is love brand new, or just the Sears bedding?

Your married life, you say, began in childhood
Dressing dolls;  in middleschool there came petting;
Then all the mercenary ads in "Modern Bride"....

Knock the domestic idols from the shelf!
Step in, my merry love, and be yourself.


Sonnet 124

The world is packed tight with Kreons and Medeas,
The Antigones go wobbly, the Electras are mad;
Tragedy springs bubbling from each tongue-tip, you'll see,
The good are driven into the arms of the bad.
Helter-skelter harpies darken the trees;
It's chaos at home and confusion abroad--
The sad children are all abandoning God,
They sing no more carols and never say "Please."
When the good life has gone from golden to black,
When virtue is threatened and evil triumphant,
When all the old dears are under attack,
What kind of love can two lovers want?
We lock eyes and lock horns and threaten a fight
But coo soft as doves when we spend the night.


Sonnet 125

I burn through muses like Estes rockets--
Skirts and faces whirl in a grand fandango,
The shipboard romances tucked in a pocket
Real and unreal as a fabulous go-go.
"Love" crumbles at my lips, a communion wafer
Eaten when blood and wine are not enough,
Nor I transformed by what I have quaffed.

Love's no drug to make us feel safer;
It's a razor on which we willingly tango
To a personal oblivion we have crafted
Cunningly, from basement to rafters.
And in this morose house, my soul
Winds the empty stairs and surveys the windows
Hoping I do not know what I know.


Sonnet 126

Would you buy me a backyard full of dreams?
I see the fence, pale, a little rattled.
I see the tiger-lilies growing boldly along the seam.
I see the mole's house, by his round door the dottle.
There's room enough for vegetables, some bamboo,
A clothesline dancing from the house to the tree,
Maybe a swing below a low branch, too.
I see us there, happy, and the huge moon makes three.

So many dreams vibrate above this square of ground;
So many terrible, lovely things live in our bodies.
When will this dreaming and wanting have an end?
After long enough, even pure dreams seem shoddy.
Would you buy me a backyard full of dreams?
Stand beside me, just here.  Do not dream.


Sonnet 127

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.


Sonnet 128

Where do the birds go when it rains? 
Their wings like little snippers are still,
Black wings, yellow wings, grey wings, again
And again they flash... and, like knives, are still.
Again and again the pain of tears is falling;
All over the world and my block it is raining,
On the little birds especially--in their walls
Of bushes, their deep green bushes, they're wailing.

A bird wails with silence, for a bird
Is born to be always singing;  it is not born
To be silent in the rain, in a bush, like a word
Unspoken.  So much silence!  My heart is torn
With words I have not spoken, cannot speak
When you look at me like rain beginning to break.


Sonnet 129

I do not love you the way fire loves wood
Although my heat's as great, my hunger greater;
I do not love you as saints crave the good
Although my devotion's deeper than saint's prayer.
Not by any measure of heart, hope, or greed
Does my loving come round to loving you;
Not by comparison's calipers does my love exceed
What others' love may be for those they do.
No;  it is by excess of gentleness 
And superlatives of softest care,
By exquisite forethought for your happiness
That my love arrives when you are least aware
And prepares the wide ground with downy flakes
For your descent from clouds into the love I make.


Sonnet 130

At sunset, how it all runs away from one,
Day slips by day slippery till days are done;
Whatever we were is not what we become.

"Old age should rage," but we are infant beings
And do not know our ends and meanings--
Carved from scrap, and, erected, leaning.

What comes to us and comes of us is scattered;
We moon by mirrors as if mirrors mattered
--But the self is fugitive, identity shattered.

We are a rift in the jazzman's riff,
A glass-bottomed boat lazily adrift
Sighing into slender reeds that whistle rough.

And so, our only music's not our own
But time's, whose ticking hands leave none alone.


Sonnet 131

Love is a corpse, nothing but a corpse
Of joy, of memory, until the next minute
Lips incinerate, fire goes up in the copse,
Fire-fingers through the furze spread enchantment,
And the body, momentarily present,
Manifests for its own self-destruction:--
When what is you has escaped its vent
And enters me, hissing whispers of perfection.

So long and lovingly do we circle 
In this clasp, scientists at our instruments
Hooked to reality's terrifying lure,
The self at the telescope knows not where it went.
The fishing line cuts until soul's bones show
That cadaverous look, that ecstatic glow.


Sonnet 132

That night you sang to me shines in me now,
Long streamers of notes poured from a bucket;
I am wrapped in your song, the long hair shadowy,
Completely contained in your voice as in a locket.

Move your voice over the fluid night,
Lift hosannas from your throat like fireflies,
Sparks flung arrowlike from the flames' light
When green wood goes yearning to the campfire.

Now your voice is dark, black pools in a cave,
Liquid with the deep auguries of earth,
Baptismal of beginnings, the underground nave
Where songs spring among the first things of life.

You carry me around your neck, your voice full;
I flow with you into everything beautiful.


Sonnet 133

Shivery as a delicate dart from a blowgun
You entered my blood, and my blood responded.
Shivering, I leave behind my lonely skin
And dance entranced where I had only wandered.
Now my heart's set loose among the stars....

I visit the constellations, my neighbors;
The Plieades are in my arms, not strangers;
Andromeda's my roommate, borrowing my car
To drive the dark wilderness behind your eyes.
And there I am, too, licking, flickering.

O, such wildernesses!  Beyond known skies
I gather the fiery flowers continually,
Fattening my basket, fat to overflowing
With just you, all the you I am knowing.


Sonnet 134

Everywhere people are looking to the heavens
For perfection, for completion, for
A patch to cover the holes in themselves.

Even the man, the woman at an auction,
Bidding low and hoping for a bargain,
Are looking for a cheap perfection.

The ears of the fox twitch again and again,
Alertly aware of the wind's siftings,
Nose lifted to sniff a vulnerable perfection.

Even the vole, even the sandflea sings
This song of seeking that will not hush.
This song is revolving through everything

Slowly and grandly as gravity's deep crush....
Somewhere, with great perfection, you holster your toothbrush.


Sonnet 135

I pull you open and divide the loaves
Of your lovely body over and over--
You are shared and consumed, our molten moves
The everlasting communion of all lovers.
Your shoulders rise whitely as round hills,
Your buttocks tell of eternal life,
How all the long loving that we spill 
Goes on flowing for centuries, life
After life.  On your bedstand a handful
Of earrings, a litter of glittering
Such as might flutter from a beautiful
Night--a splash of discarded things, of rings--
Meaningless with no central singleness to adorn,
The pin in the pinwheel where our motion is born.


Sonnet 136

Love comes apart, like shards, in the hand,
Defies the twine of the newspaper bundle;
Decrepit as autumn, love creeps toward the cold
Dissolution entombed in earth's snowy mantle.
When the body departs, love departs;
Love does not endure among the bones.

Love is the flesh's unconquerable throne,
An elegance of kisses, a masterpiece of hearts.
Two hands, when they cross, build cathedrals;
Two hearts, when they meet, come to summer
In an instant, like ringing a bell.
Love, in this life, is all life's shimmer.

So take this hand.  Today, take this hand
And kneel with me, and knead our daily bread.
 
 

Sonnet 137

If I am living, I must be loving.
As air enters the lungs, as words exit the mouth,
My diamond toward your diamond is craving--
Twin lights entwined as self within self,
Shine within shine, our beauties exchanging.

How lightly we touch the deep-hidden beacon
That flares unwearied, unwary of loss,
A lighthouse that gives all to all who may come:
Illumination's essence, simple, unglossed--
A lamp where we read our hearts' simple tome:
Loving is living with the extravagance of grass.

Extravagant we shimmer as dew shines in the grass!
As dew lives a moment (and that moment must pass)
Our loving is dew, and must vanish at last.


Sonnet 138

Crying out in my wounds, I do not find you.
Crying out in midnight misery, you are gone.
Crying out from inside the mountain, I hear no reply.
Crying out from under seas of tears, I drown.
Is there nothing to find in this thin agony?
Has pain no standing with love's ecstasies?
Sweet, sweet the shame of wanting you only.
Sweeter than honeysuckle is being unworthy,
Being a bark-wasp on the great tree of your beauty,
Being the dust blown about by your eagle's wings.
I crawl before the thrown light of your glance,
I shrivel like burning tissue to nothing.
Crying out of my emptiness, I empty myself--
Breathing in at last the nectar of yourself.


Sonnet 139

An infinity of needles stick in my thumb
Whenever I try to write this love,
This cargo of roses, this boxcar of honeycombs,
All the things unearthed by your eyes from above.

When you and I talk, it is two rivers meeting,
The white ropes of foam go on riding
Together among many rocks, our silver notes greeting
The silver sky--and our laughter keeps striding.

When you and I sleep, our dreams exchange clothes
And we stand up in each others' shadow-world
Like puppets unfolded from a magic chest of souls--
Our faces gigantic in rouge and wood.

Only in dreams, where our strings tangle,
Can I write like a river alive with sun-spangles.


Sonnet 140

Let love's little sunbeam into your heart;
Do not fear love's indelible dart
Whose impact, whose crater, can blow hearts apart.

Let love's little sunbeam into your heart;
Let blossom love's seed in your most indwelling part
Whose wild vines kudzu the field where they start.

Let love's little sunbeam into your heart;
Don't yelp when love's hammer and tongs make you smart,
Reconcile pain and love and all that.

Let love's little sunbeam into your heart;
Through stained-glass parables and great works of art
Love comes crashing until bright glitter results.

Let love's little sunbeam into your heart
And we'll endure every turn, till love flips our cart.


Sonnet 141

Put your hand in the thorny conflagration,
Jump in with your whole body and soul!
Leave not one shred of indecision
Unburnt in the bonfire love engulfs.
Our love is both the light and the heat.
Strangers warm their naked feet, their faces
Blazed bald from the glare of two undefeated hearts.
Dark is driven out;  all the spotlit night-opossums 
Snooze confused;  bats hang dazed in their belfries,
Waiting for stars to pinhole evening's curtain.
None of them know a star has fallen by the highway
Singing and whistling unbearable matins.
Jump in with your whole life--right now!
To your great soul this fire is a small flower.


Sonnet 142

In the tripping tick of time it's taken
This fist of flowers, these cut daisies
To wither brown in their cobalt vases,
I've tapped out my hymns of being shaken.

You found me wild among old shadows
And with careful eye overlooked my petals:
Trimmed, arranged, and displayed me gently 
In vibrant vases of your own.

Now my carnations red and jonquils yellow
Branch and bunch as you would have me
(Who from moody singleness hath saved me).

But will you still love a wild thing so mellowed?
Do not discard me when I am brown and drear--
Let me be wild again, tucked behind your ear.


CODA: The Night Janitor

Each eve, whatever came for me to push
(Mash notes, tissues, cups) I was content to crush--
Not caring its meaning or intent.
I thought all that nosed me thus irrelevant.

I had a schedule and sought to keep it
Tight.  When dust purled about me, I'd sweep it
Out of sight.  Litter of the day in piles
Fed the starry furnace basement-style.

My fire did not care my fire's source
So long as burning never lost its force;
My face sweat as I handed in the trash,
Reddening when words their hidden cache

Of light revealed.  So I spent my nights.


Ode to an Earlobe

O to the ear, entering in in lullaby lilt
Goes O against the sweet strength of eardrum
And hums O down the lovely length of the ear tube.
O starts the sound with my mouth on your earlobe
And O goes the round of your mouth with a moan
And O go our days, each round into the next
O of the time that O is dwindling!

O is the end of the flute that is sighing
And O is the lambent moon that is prying
O upon our loving by waves that are trying
To reach O your toes in sand-spray waving
O with the ecstasy of our slow loving
To moons of our eyes O-open and crying
While lying down together and sighing--
O you say, O God, am I dying?


Leda After Lunch

The park had invited us, we did not wait
But walked out, out beyond the sound of gates,
Our hands unhinged and dropping to our waists.

I held my lover down and gave her gall.
She turned her angry face to the half-fallen wall.
"Life is good," I crowed, rowing her home.

For a minute in her midst, I was not alone.
Haunches on heels, I left her quiet after that--
Watching her breathe, retrieving my hat

Rolled past my grasp in the flattened grass.
"Life is good," she sighed, she swore,
And slit her eyes and said no more.


The Unnameable

This is the color that crawls along chasms,
That spurns the moon and mocks good luck
In laughing spasms.

This is the color that counts down to null,  
Reverses years, and peels the skin
From the skull.

This is the color of grimace and grime,
Of "murder most foul" 
And troubled times.

This is the color that steals pens' souls,
Lays waste the vastest fields
And heighs the Devil home.

This is the color bells hide in their bellies,
That creeps in cracks and smells
Of napalm jelly.

This is the color that empties every eye,
That pitches tents in tumors
And blots out the sky.

Fossils

 [Poetry], Fossils  Comments Off on Fossils
May 012020
 

INTRODUCTION

 

 

The Burning Rock

The river mingles its stubborn lament with the sea.

~~Pablo Neruda

I tend to acquire insights about what I’m writing as I write.

A nation becomes itself as its history unfolds, displaying more and more squares of its map of meaning.

Poetry and prose wash up against each other. As do history and imagination.

Sea and continent work together even while at odds to shape the world’s totality.

The pilgrim’s foot defines the path to God, and begins by leaving home.

Just so, poetry walks its path through prose.

Our general sense of things comes to us somehow in the great grab-bag of prose accounts and facts:

The dirty litter of newspapers, the broken ballyhoo of blogs, cocksure conversations at the bar sitting elbow to bended elbow with uncrowned laureates.

But our sense of what these things mean to us comes from selection and arrangement of the mosaic facts.

Inspiration and insight arrive together to complete the picture jumbled in the puzzle box.

It is when we kneel alone with our ignorance that the church’s spire rises to its height.

And that’s the poetry of it.

Irreducible and unique, yet blatantly commonplace as love:

The unpainted masterpiece brimming in the palette’s rainbow….

As fire lies unstruck in the flint, so poetry lies asleep in prose.

And when that fire is awakened, the rock burns.

 

Gregg Glory

a windy March day, 2020

 

 

Fossils

(Discovery of the Burgess Shale)
trilobyte-Kanagaw

On the broken mountaintop a moment’s, ahh, sun has granted softness.

The family unpacks on broadcloth a questionable picnic.

Aren’t they funny with their red noses and long scarves, bearing the inhospitable airs?

I turn my back, a weary Walcott, and pull off hat and gloves to push snow from a black and newly baptized trilobite.

Here’s the old green seafloor carbonized and pushed into the skyline like a torch!

Several trilobites, all strangely legged, gleam in the sweat of the peak; odd fauna surround them, unseen in eons, flat as chalkboard diagrams.

Here’s a family of fossils that needs looking into, and no mistake.

I look over the long shady shale slope of Burgess Pass, and I see a wave of rock cutting the scene in two: it’s slow canted arch a humpback breaching.


 

 

Bald Eagle

eagle_cubist

Calm the golden eye that kindles the recalcitrant sun.

Sam stands on a strong passage of branch at the Chesapeake Bay bird preserve, his claw a hanging gauntlet….

A million years and more he roved the northern continent.

A million years before totem and Indian hat carved the hooked beak and wide eye, or handed his feathers around as rare honors, sewn in band and cap.

On my donated dollar, his arrows, shield and olives give flat testament to his potency.

His scream is like an emergency brake failing downhill, wheel within wheel.

A child pushes a button to play a brief documentary.

The kiosk startles into tinny life: can a strapped camera capture what this eagle stares and sees?

To Sam, the scaled hide of a fish is so different from the lake wave breaking….

“I break these eyelet glitters to eat and conquer!

The fish flies dancing in my cage of talons, rippling mightily!

I start to rip the red seam of life upon the hooded rock!

When I myself am ripped into the sky, from the root of nest and mate removed, the wind will remember the soft crown of my feathers.”


 

 

Flint, Jasper, Chalcedony, Chert

(Discovery of the Clovis Spearheads)
clovis_sketch2

Along my brown thigh the new stone lingam lances.

Flakes, torn tears of rock, drop steadily beside my feet, a gilt litter.

Knock knock, knock knock.

Pecking with the hard beak of the precussor, my Clovis point begins to show its bow, the arrow of a Valentine heart.

In skinned skiffs they made their way here, tracing the frost rim of the ice age Pacific, paddles bladed as my tapped jasper leaf. Single file as beads on a shell necklace, perhaps….

Limitless strokes dividing the cold water, as this spearhead will divide lives.

Sunset floods the valley town, showing the bold desert mesa’s flossy erosion.

We read at night about the boy scout who found the first pile of knives beside a Mammoth graveyard—here in New Mexico, not far from our school camp—almost a century ago.

I see his eyes glinting, the careful lantern flame held close to the cliff face.

I feel his breath in my ear, the knock of his teeth as he smiles.


 

 

The Mississippian Birdman

birdman_sketch

Etowah copper, flash and response in a drowsy sun.

I wear my hammered plate and tug on my falcon beak.

I wear winged divinity at my brow, penny-bright and priceless; a little birdman, parrot-man, falcon.

Earrings blazon and drip from my lobes, live fires swinging snakelike.

My feathers, stitched and laced, are the birdman’s busy wings grown fourfold shiny as the locust’s.

Proud my clipped step, clawing the owned earth.

Heaven makes me, heaven takes me.

Here I parade for the mausoleum’s jubilee, bucking and crying with a wet mace in one hand and a fresh death’s-head in the other.

Here the fathers are buried with all their cries.

I cry out: fathers!

Cry out with me, shaking rattle and clapstick.

Do you feel the god beginning to awaken?

Step behind me, if you are mine, mound-builders, maize-masters!

Carry your master to the house of his fathers, cocooned in noon robes.

Go down, dead king, if you would return with the spring corn. Down, down.

Let nine bones mellow and flesh tallow.

Let rain overrun each sightless socket.

Regal spirit, follow me! Follow me and twice-born be!

Hear the mound breathe; beat your coppery wings, dead king, beat the cymbals crashing, feather on feather.

Feel the moulting clouds, all coppery now, low, and heavy with new birth.

Jump up into those clouds:

You are god with me now.


 

 

COMES COLUMBUS

columbus 6

 

 

Comes Columbus

Celestial choir! enthron’d in realms of light,

Columbia’s scenes of glorious toils I write.

The four corners of this portrait show stars and elbows and a trackless blank above.

An etching of an etching, it poses the captain restless and pointing: sheer stars to steer a ship by, the fate wheel of a brass nocturlabe in his fist.

The etching’s small fine lines throw a Hercules fur over his left shoulder, engrave finger-thick erosion runnels in cheek and forehead.

His full beard and hair, famously blonde, turned fright-wig white at thirty, pleading before queen after queen for cash.

His eyes, confused by distance and desire, couldn’t quite make out a new continent at first—reaching after rubies through a grid of lattitudes.

All his life he reared before the sail like a seahorse, a salt tang in his nostrils.

His scheme was to outflank the Ottomans, snip the Silk Road with scissoring ships, and rake rich spices home for Spain.

On Hispaniola, Columbus found the people credulous and easily led to God; the Taino he deemed fit for slavery, and whipped them for their benefit.

When dicey centuries rolled to ’76, Phyllis Wheatley in her parlor saw the radiant real:

“Gen’l Washington, I write today to say, I’ve met our foundling nation’s goddess; her name’s Columbia!

Hard years and hard luck broke Chris’ sailor’s body down. And King Ferdinand stiffed him in the end.

His unsettled tomb toured the Caribbean, cradling uneasily to rest in Havana until the Spanish-American War, which sent him back to Seville at last.


 

 

St. Anthony Painted on Buffalo Hide

Last night buffalo steak and boiled beans in blood gravy.

The Mojave braves, lean as cacti, barter sheafs of buffalo rawhide balanced on their heads, fat satchels of pemmican.

“These we found easily,” they tell brother Oñate. “They knelt to our arrows as if to river water.”

They gathered round the holy writ like naughty boys, pointing and laughing at “chicken scratches” we tell them are words of God.

I unpack scraped, cured rawhide (how it shone blank beside the candelabra!) ready for pigment and picture to praise the Lord.

All night I kneel before the ornate retablo altar, knead soul and heart in meditative prayer.

The mission tower stands silent as a spent candle.

There are no candles now but the hollow moon through the door….

How shall I bring these hard desert men to Christ?

My eyes pause at the open bible’s vellum pages, veneration on veneration, until leaning shadows resemble St. Anthony reading beside me, words on his tongue and words in the air.

Is it himself or myself who is saying:

Pure from the book sprang Jesus like a bird.

At dawn I arrange my workspace, shuffle the ready hides, bring brush and bone point to bear.

Soon enough, St. Anthony and baby match my vision, stained and dried.

Umbrella clouds above his tonsured head repeat the saint’s naked arch of skull.

The uncrying baby is a scumble of pale highlights, a rayed halo of clay yellows targeting his little beauties.

It was desert for Jesus as it is desert for us, surrounding and simplifying.

And pictured there, too, on the flayed skin, is the book, the center of all.

The book I shall teach them to read.


 

 

Pocahontas’ Portrait in the
Baziliogia, a Booke of Kings

Princess Pocahontas stands transformed and poised in this good brown book of monarchs.

Her capitol dome hat of stiff black felt seems tall as a cathedral cross.

Her only feathers are a three-plume ostrich fan bound in a brass handle, held ready like a scourge.

Her husband, Mr. Rolfe, has baptized and married her and brought her to London’s court in a coat of shiny finery.

The book shows her level gaze and long nose, staring away the centuries; her page, cresting a smooth hill of pages, has been turned open by a gloved docent’s hand. It presents her as the British empire’s wife, an attractive travel ad for voyagers and investors.

Golden tobacco promised gold in earnest, if wild colonial natives took to God.

Did she roll big cigars and smoke among her pals back home in old Virginny?

Is this lordly woman the same who laid her bare head, ear to ear, to save a battered Captain Smith?

The kidnapped princess who married her captor and stopped a war?

Compassion and curiosity have carried her effortless across the Atlantic’s intervening sea.

When King James kisses her hand, she curtsies like a queen and carries on.


 

 

From the Mother Rock

Plymouth Rock lies cemented that had been split.

It’s traveling half had neighbored a Liberty Pole when the Boston massacre occurred.

Here a buckled shoe lightly alighted and leapt onward to fallow cornrow fields, where man and maid bent steadily as sandpipers to pocket the providential grain, singing perhaps “He chastens and He hastens” as the burlap fattened.

Like a moonrock, it seems less impressive than pressed upon.

Bland and dated, Corinthian shadows cross its bulk, while busy visitors stare down a moment and are gone.

None now linger, as none then lingered.

When Thomas Faunce at 94 pointed out the place his father had pointed out, did he think:

It’s the aftermath of having been that makes a remnant regal.

Dozens of bits of this great grey brain sit in municipal veneration, deeding ideas of freedom to mayor and citizen.

Should we pulverize the mother rock and spritz from sea to sea her sacred dust to seed our children’s children’s thirst for liberty?

One cold Monday ago—on the anniversary of the Mayflower Compact—a weird smear of red graffiti disfigured the stone in a maelstrom of blood.

Today, the humming powerwasher’s work is nearly done, its beige high-pressure hose laid down and leaking lavishly….

Plymouth Rock lies renewed to a sea-bright sheen, as if ten dozen tongues had taken some dim midnight communion here.

I smell the restless sea, hear the Boston schoolboys’ quick cavalcade of feet arrive, and think:

Perhaps the old rock’s provocations are potent yet.


 

 

Slave Shackles

shakles_sketch2

At first glance, I would have thought these a section of wrought iron garden edging, ornamental protection for potatoes and yams.

Heavily and brutally made, and now discarded as too primitive.

Reaching out to read the card beneath the case, I see that they are “slave shackles, circa 1650.”

Were they found in a plantation swamp, locked around an escaped skeleton’s wrists?

Bending down to read the fine print, the context of fact and history, the DNA of deeds, I see that these are leg shackles of the Middle Passage.

Suddenly, I’m lying down in a wooden boat, rocked and dark.

My ankle, raw as if incessantly pecked, is locked, not to my other ankle, but to the dead leg
of a stranger.

His agony has come and gone, although we sang him what choral palliative we could.

When our midday deck hour comes to eat and breathe salt air, I must carry him up, his cold arm across my shoulders.

After the scandalous whack of a hammer, I see him thrown over the rail into the sea.

In a moment, he is lost to the waters’ churn, a lash of whites; I turn my back and begin to chew….

Stepping away from the dusty museam display, my mouth retains a taste of starchy roots.


 

 

Americae Nova Tabula

(Blaeu’s 1648 map)

All this had been blankness.

The parchment had been, so carefully, scraped and left empty.

Every sign of animal and first use had been negatively removed with the hypnotic movement of hands holding edged tools.

Onto this structured blank, halo-like inks outline the known continents.

Green, red, a kind of soft gold.

Into these halos, like a loss of innocence, sink the wrinkled parachutes of nations, roiled black at their edges as if burnt.

America, says one, with the Great Lakes drawn and named.

They are no bigger than a string of beads, a string of lights laid toward the still blank interior.

America, says another, with Brasilia sticking out its cauliflower ear.

The oceans are Mar del Zur and del Nort, gridded with curving squares.

Fanciful ships, dark as curls of wet wood, fly flags of many nations, carousing head-to-head with sea monsters.

Minutely calligraphied names of places fringe the coasts like hairs on a balding head:

Jamestown, Bolivia, several Rios, Chesapeake.

And strange places, too, unknown today. Norem Bega and El Dorado are two.

There are no whales in these scrolled and denoted oceans, although they must have been met with, their pulsars of plumes greeting the intrepid sails.

The hunt was not yet on for them: forehead and fluke, the secret node of ambergris lumped in the sperm whale’s brain like Aladdin’s lamp.

Around the outer edges of the map are many windows.

Each one contains a married pair of tribesmen in their native garb.

The king and queen of Florida are here, and are so designated.

Two nude Peruvians, with their small child between, gaze outward in quiet ease.

Although, none of the trio are smiling.


 

 

Washington’s Coat

geo.wash_sketch2

There’s much to-do with uniforms:

Dressing for dinner, and dancing while the band waltzes.

Gives the men a little tidy dignity when setting them before the cannon-mouth, clothes-pins set before a hurricane.

Dark blue and buff, Washington’s uniform wears a long double row of coinlike yellow-copper buttons down the front; more coins circle each heavy cuff, dual rings of fire.

It has a spilt tail, squared and nothing like the devil.

If a lizard stood in this coat, with a tri-cornered hat, it could cross the Delaware in easeful dignity, rowed over unquestioningly by a boatful of happy continentals.

But make no mistake, it was no easy day to stand in this uniform:

Face-first toward the fire of vigilant enemies, your deep blue back crowded by resentful subordinates.

The wool collar is a tall rise-and-fall design, elegant as a waving hand.

A white smoke-explosion of ruff crowds the throat.

All-in-all, I feel afraid of the fearsome hours this coat has seen.

Watching an elegant Major Andre hung, dropping the sword.


 

 

A Crab-Tree Walking Stick

“Let the sword of the hero and the staff of the philosopher go together.”
(of Franklin’s cane donated with Washington’s sword)
cane_sketch

A revolution in the air swirls a discarded broadside.

The war is over; the air whips itself delicately, without tirades.

A heavy man passing by is tapping the ground with a lightning rod, searching for stray voltage.

No, it is a walking stick, and the man is Dr. Benjamin Franklin, the American. He seems trussed in his suit like a turkey, gabbling and bouyant.

He holds his walking stick up to the streetlight, and twirls it slowly, amusingly. What is it? His eye makes its examination: no crown tips the cane.

Instead, it is topped with a miniature gilded version of Franklin’s fur cap. The famous raccoon cap, all the way from New Jersey!

I can see how it was:

He has departed an intimate party with the dowager Duchess of Deux-Points, and she has given him this fine cane.

Three of them laughing after the war, kissing Parisian champagne.

And she says, holding the cane out in her white arms:

“For the lightning-rod maker, black lightning to walk by.”


 

 

A Row of Conestoga Wagons

conestoga_sketch

The Conestoga wagon is sea blue with red wheels, and is a convertible.

It followed the Iroquois trail from Philly to Augusta, roaring where moccasins had crept.

Chaps with Irish brougues and clattering German accents rolled through the Shenandoah to Carolina beaches.

Wild pine trees and new emptiness welcomed them.

A child would have to be lifted up, hoisted, into the dark belly of the wagon, like the sacks of coal or pig iron that would make the return journey to mill and forge, hunching forgotten among roped bundles.

Families that moved on the southern route disembarked to run callused thumbs along the shadowy veins in tobacco leaves.

Or they’d start a plot of cotton, puffs of follicled mist encased in husks that cut.

The wagons look, with their tilting brims, like a row of old maids nodding off, crosstitch hoops sliding to the porch floor.

The huge rear wheel I stand beside arcs above my head, almost higher than my arm can reach.

It is the fierce aftertrace of a red sparkler lit and whipped at midnight….

The hub, deep with grease, puts out an impossible circle of crimson fingers.

Each finger is arthritic, stiff, yet eager to grip the earth.

The highway we took here filled the same wheels’ gouges with asphalt.


 

 

Eli Whitney, Lost at Court

eli_sketch2

Eli is lost at court among a forest of marble pillars.

And lost among great, shelving foam-blades—

Papers filed in suit and counter-suit, an endless watery clash of claims and adjudications.

Eli arrives with his patent, pristine in his briefcase.

His face is still an egg of hope; this judge, this time.

Under his sweaty arm is clamped a working model of his fabulous cotton gin.

It is squarish, made of stained brown wood, with a metal works of many rows of little teeth:

Baby vampire teeth, or the interior cob-end of corn kernels dried hard and pulled out.

There’s a neat mail-slot crowning two rows of the toothed wheels where raw, seedy cotton is fed in.

The idiot-proof turn of a crank draws in the mottled mass and threshes it.

As it disappears, you see the last hairs of a mad professor as he is being stream-rolled….

And out falls the cotton, pure as a cloud!

The little old man, all heavenly now, is ready for the spinning jenny.

Industrial and full of torque, the jenny will twist, tug, insist.

The surprisingly tough hairs get pulled into harp strings.


 

 

John Deere’s Steel Plow

deere_plow_sketch

John Deere walks the magnificent, empty, saffron fields.

He wants to see the earth thinking, furrows of thought teasing a faithful forehead into that hill there, frown lines of contemplation there along either side of the dry path, the compressed lips of the roadway.

Seeing the mud earth turned in the Midwest is like peering beneath a turtle’s shell.

Wooden, and even iron, plows break in this soil: hapless Vikings before an Irish tower.

John screws a steel sawblade to his plow’s moldboard, or remembers how a steel needle ruckles the soft leather, or had a dream of surfing these fields on steel feet.

He tries his luck, calling hup-hup to the cold horse.

The spoon-curved edge sails through the pie-crust—

A wave, thousands of years old, and heavy with the weight of unadulterated evening curls up from the plowblade….

To a giant it would be like black walnut shavings from a whittle knife.

Scroll upon scroll of earth flows, and John Deere walks behind.

He brings the scrolls of night up into the sunlight, kneels gently beside the good wound.

He thumbs plump crop seeds into night’s open book before moving on.

He whispers an encouragement, rises, whacks dirt from his knees.


 

 

Imaginary Value

With mahogany leaves hinged by brass, Jefferson’s portable desk opens green surfaces in butterfly fashion.

To one side, a drawer for inks and instruments.

Blotches remain in the pockets, indissoluble.

The top wing, lifted, drops peglike feet into cleanly chiseled grooves.

It is here, under the lifted wing, that the airstream catches, and words take flight.

Here the pinched quill returns to plumage, and Rodin’s thinking man leans transmogrified into history.

The desk is small, meant to sit on the lap—like a grandchild, or, more ardently, a lover.

Jefferson chuckled to imagine that his desk could one day be carried through the streets, a sainted relic of the Declaration of Independence, ‘selling America to Americans.’

The green unfolded felt gives a sense of reassurance, of open fields and playtime.

Anything could happen on this strip of earth!

“When in the course of human events….”


 

 

Santa Anna, Santa Ana

The Santa Ana winds wear a blue coat with red piping, the sleeves flying!

The headless collar is red as a red coal blown by a bellows.

The red piping defines the coat the way electric coils define a stove.

The coat’s skirt is unusually full, as if it is dancing; a runner’s legs could turn full circles underneath it. It hides General Anna’s prosthetic leg comfortably when he sits astride his horse.

Hot winds hit the neighborhood and toss trash cans recklessly, cymbals in a whirlwind.

The general’s cool eye begins its fierce descent to the Alamo from hundreds of miles away.

Texans are refusing to pay taxes to Mexico City. They obey no one, as this wind obeys nothing.

Leatherbacked, they hunch in the soon-to-be ruins of Alamo Mission.

Davy Crockett’s raccoon-tail is blown straight back, the whites of his eyes dry pebbles.

He thinks about Santa Anna’s prosthetic leg, how one night Texans will steal it and ride away.

General Anna’s coat has gold leaves clutching his throat with their delicate fernprint of authority.

Car doors attack exiting commuters when Santa Ana blows his horn, the whole street whistling.

All the valley vegetation dries stiff, as if surprised and pressed flat in family bibles.

In this wind, no bird does more than hang on tight. The bushes rock all night.

This wind blew Thoreau into a Massachusetts jail cell.

Across his lap, flapping pages of Civil Disobedience.


 

 

Sunstones, Moonstones, and Starstones

“A woman clothed with sun, the moon under her feet, upon her head a crown of twelve stars.” Rev. 12:1
sunstone-glass

This sunstone, two tons large and dislodged from a pillar-top of the tornadoed Morman temple at Nauvoo, smiles past martyrdom and mayhem.

The big stone has condensed and fallen from the old dreams of Joe Smith.

It stands abandoned in the grass like a table to play cards upon, square and accessible, the festive picnic having moved elsewhere.

Its cheeks glow roughly golden, stone rays from its head a frightwig of light.

The brow is broad, blank and fresh as a pie crust.

Open eyes the size of plums address the earthbound sinner, encouraging ascension.

A chiselled weave of waves accepts the sun-face up to its cheeks.

Behind this blithe face, a white temple rose unmolested, Joe pointing the cornerstone home.

Marriages looked out from the apex, hands and hearts crossed in the sealing room.

Baptisms occurred at the basement font upheld by a dozen carved oxen, kneeling and mild.

Touching the long block gives the walker’s palm a warm place to rest:

The view rolls off a green bluff and out across the endless Mississippi….

Many weeks walking brought the Mormons here from Ohio, following Joseph, listening carefully for new inspiration while getting run out of town, wrapping their bibles in their night clothes; walking barefoot through many fields, moonlight under their feet, the stars climbing away as if from the tipping wing of a plane—

My fingertips notice two little angel hands above the plump sun.

The tiny fists hold out a pair of lilylike trumpets, simple as noodles, announcing salvation.


 

 

Dead Reckoning with Lewis and Clark

On the all-purpose compass all points point northwest.

Like all explorers, the compass is drawn to a place it has never seen, the hill over the horizon:

El Dorado, Shang Ri La.

The needlelike compasspoint holds fourth like a bird dog’s nose, its tail end quivering sympathetically.

The flat riverboat’s crowded with instruments, science-eyes peeled and packed like eggs in a carton.

Hydrometers and brass scales, plotters, planispheres and a theodolite.

But always at my waist, my compass.

However turned, the compass always seems to know where its going.

Its silver furnishings gather the sky and clouds, pool them in small corners.

The improvisational zigzag of our going on is oddly matched by its precisely demarcated face:

Quadrant and degree of our ignorance.

No where’s the wrong way, really, so long as we denote the newness.

The river is leaping up as if to eat us, white teeth hidden in white foam.

All the emptiness on the map is filling up with living things!

We leave chief Twisted Hair smoking his pipe on the riverbank and prepare to portage our boat over the continental divide.

A clear night under stars; the camp is quietly tired.

Our catalog is full of unknown fowl, leaves of undiscovered greenery, the austere looks of landmark rocks and their latitudes.

I unfold my legs before the tent and look carefully into my notebook while falling asleep to the night river’s placid sounds:

Start afresh with whoever you are today. Stay astray.


 

 

John Bull and the Golden Spike

John_Bull_sketch

“All aboard the John Bull, from South Amboy to Camden, all aboard!”

John Bull, that’s a nickname for England, where the train was designed and bolted.

And where it bolted from, of course, to settle at our museum, dustless and admired.

This wood-clad steam engine of 1831 is made of pounded black iron.

Note the clang bell atop and front candle lantern, still a-glimmer, like you seen in Westerns.

Look around folks. Look at this place, strange as a spaceship!

Used to come here by myself, like being in church, the great arches, and all these wrecks of time, small and little before some great thing, like when the shark hunters first see Jaws rise from the waters.

I was shy was a wildflower when I was a kid, now I talk all day for a living.

Always loved old John Bull here, such an odd one, the back end like a cooking pot, and all these rivets warting the surface, but inside its pure fire.

Grandpa let me know that one of my forebears assembled this beast, like Dr. Frankenstein with a wrench as long as your arm, crawling all over him inside and out.

That’s when I determined to work right here in the museum, whatever it took.

I brushed up on my elecution:

Must’ve watched The Music Man about a million times, singing as I walked to school—that scene on the train:

Why they say, when the man dances, the piper pays him, yess sir, yesss sir.

Anyways, the first tracks were split and laid right here in NJ, creosote piano keys strewn over marsh and meadow.

Some lamely askew, some torqued almost too tight for passage….

Had to have front-end guide wheels riveted on just to keep the engine earthbound, flanged and pierced together by a fixed axle to rotate in unison.

A sound like a coffee-grinder preceding the tuck-ah-tuck-ah-dah of fisting pistions—

Sometimes I think how such extra wheels might grip me to my track.

Now lean back, no, way back:

You see the black stack, a crown-cut open top, crimped like Jughead’s hat?

Loads of white smoke boils out, like a barn on fire, when John Bull’s stoked and rolling.

Startled birds sprang away for miles hearing such clank and caterwaul.

Stray dogs ran like barefoot boys to catch the eager wheels, their wild eyes spinning.

—It was all the filthy lucre that Mr. Stevens made that induced the others.

Money, money, money had them squint and scramble, spreading lines of track like crowsfeet.

Minnesota wheat traveling East; timber, ore, cattle, you name it.

By God, what haulage! Cash for the hogshead, cask and demijohn.

Cash for the crackers, and the pickles, and the flypaper.

No canal mule could match such burning speed.

Eventually, the war between the states (that’s what the South called the Civil War) induced Congress to scheme the Trans-Pacific rail into existence, a belt of rail steel from shining to shining….

A bribe to keep California in the Union, that some nowadays want pushed out.

Might just earthquake off along the San Andreas fault anywise for all such dithering.

But how that Golden Spike must’ve shone in Utah sunshine!

At Promontory Summit (a reduplicative name don’t you think?) all those mute coolies standing by—pardon me, that’s what they called them then.

A million silent men hearing trussed-up industrialists give ten-cent stem-winders. In oratory-English, no less. Ha!

But when the suits were done talking, in went the glittering spike, blow by blow, like a golden tooth in a million-mile smile.

Must’ve let out one helluva golden bell-tone, too, while being beaten down.

Hitherto unknown, y’know?


 

 

Colt’s Repeating Pistol

The exhibition piece shows a tranquil tableaux:

A father and his sons target shooting; he corrects their aim with badger-patience. “Squeeze, don’t pull,” he says.

They like to watch the apples explode.

“Not today, Satan!” they shout.

The hexagonal barrel’s rifled, twirled like a candy cane inside.

Handle’s just chunked wood, even on this velvet-held piece so liberally engraved.

The hammer, fully pulled, stows back into the handle like a secret.

The pistol is a form of fist.

It carries the energy of the fist forward in space, and eliminates the fist’s target.

Anger is foreshortened to triumph; defense translated to salvation.

The human body is not able to process such disjunction.

It staggers; it bails; it destroys memory and attention in an attempt to rediscover balance.

I look back at the display, the long pistol vivid in its velvets.

Overhead, clouds scud. The hill’s an etched line.

Only the bullets are all the same, the same repeating fist.

Same blunt nose, same horrible velocity.

The genius of Samuel Colt was in the manufacture, the elimination of piece-work.

He used swappable interchangeable parts; eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth.

Now everything’s like that, a million hands turn one wheel.

I like to think that interchangeable parts do not reduce us to interchangeable people.

That an indignant rebelliousness grips us, wakes us with its bleak scream.

We had this game Operation when I was a kid, using tweezers to pick the clown-patient apart.

Sometimes you’d lose a shinbone, a funny bone.

A wishbone was useful, snapped short.

Once we used a dead fly for the heart.


 

 

In the Middle of Everything

(the discovery of gold at Sutter’s Mill)

It could be from the moon, this strange, flippant flake. A flake no bigger than a dead wasp’s wing, a gold front tooth. Some broken golden feather of the moon has fallen all the way to the tailrace at Sutter’s Mill.

Like the miracle of the dividing loaves, this gold flake called forth unshakeable belief in 1849.

Fluttered luckily from the great wings of the summer moon, harvest moon, the August moon, it lay in the muddy runoff, a shard of reflected light come back to us, warm and human.

Once weighed and assayed, it became a human flashlight shining the way for millions to come to California.

Chinese, Australian, free blacks, and gluts of proffered Europeans from Back East all followed the yellow dot of light to Monterey, west of all the hills, pinnacles and divides of the Rockies, the striped pajama valley of the Grand Canyon….

California, the great fruit-laden Eden, the blue echo of Mexico resounding in papaya, mango, avocado.

Like falling out of bed into paradise is how old folks described it, and meant it too.

Someplace where it’s always noon and summer, and never a rush.

With a pan and steady stream, any hands could sift free such flittery spillages of lost moonbeams!

The famous flake itself looks like a cornflake, a stray bran flake tossed from the box and painted; edges raggedy, little points and descents, flattish, neither round nor not round.

Found like God in the middle of everything, and seemingly by accident.

A quick-eyed magpie picks it up, leaves it glittering in its nest, a mirror for blank eggs; fallen from the nest and into the grass, a kitten pins it playfully; lionlike she leaps and waits, mistaking its shimmery littleness for a bug.

Once, not too long ago, behind this abandoned mill house on the dusty hill, something new flew up out of the earth, leaving behind it a golden feather floating rapidly down a dark stream.


 

 

Martha, the Last Passenger Pigeon

“Away! away! Bess; I long to pepper them.” ~~Fenimore Cooper, The Pioneers
martha - Ballpoint

Passenger pigeons once showed the beautiful unity of the new world, inking warm noon skies with masses and masses of darkness.

North to south and back in infinite loop, an endless migration.

The hardcore bolus of moving birds, quick as gazelles in their flying, was shadow involving shadow, shade beneath shade, an evening ocean’s variation held above one’s head by a wilderness of wings….

Pigeons do not coo like doves, nor cluck like chickens.

They descend to chew milky grubs or the laden ears of wheat, pressed to earth in golden circles by the limitless weight of landing and lifting.

All landscapes are a vista of living things, but such aliveness often slides by unnoticed. When the passenger pigeon flock loomed overhead, its aliveness was undeniable, thunderous, dark.

A hassling gale shuddering through many unslung sails—

And from all those millions, billions, a single female left caged in the 1914 Cincinnati zoo.

And when she died, she was resurrected: stuffed and groomed.

Her red eye stares out like a target, scanning skies emptied of her kin.

Martha’s spotted, lovely brown-grey cape flows from a rounded head and dead-round eye.

Hers are the softy dots of the common ground pigeon, a leopard splash of blots loosely flung.

Her beak seems no more than two whittled chopsticks, no longer snapping and clipping.

Martha flies commercial now, accompanied by a museum butler, a stasis of loneliness touring the states on her petrified perch.

In aisle eight, I look down at my backlit Kindle and continue Fenimore Cooper’s “Pioneers.”

Shadowy bodies cover Lake Erie like a lid, the sun itself reduced to a yellow marble beneath innumerable wings.

“Away! away! Bess; I long to pepper them.”


 

 

Lockstep Lockstitch

(I.M. Singer’s sewing machine)

The stitches are so close together!

They lie together like sleeping eyelids; quiet mouths of oysters shut against a grainy tide.

The sewing machines rattle all together in the vast warehouse, the window-light diffuse
and sealike.

How many hands had grown crabbed and scarred sealing the cut halves of garments together, each half no more than a paper doll, hiding our nakedness?

And now this machine spits stitch-stick-stitch so perfectly, so effortlessly!

The bobbin thread and head thread twine their DNA, arrow and hook guiding them.

Rescued from the Triangle factory fire, hundreds of similar machines were left piled in Greene Street like dinosaur skulls, bull skulls, as an ambrosia of smoke went heavenward.

Looking around the factory, one waits to hear the hiss and cease of steam brakes.

But there’s no train here, nothing so rapid or strange; no open door orange with fire, no cloistered steam urging motion.

Just these ladies, hunched like suburban cyclists, pumping the foot peddles, looking attentive and tranquil, palming shaped waves of cloth, wave after wave through a narrow place where the silver chicken foot hangs immobile, calling forth a charybdis of stitches, one by one helping the line of sleeping eyelids to appear….

The whole room thrums like a kind of choral dormitory, Jesus’ mansion of many rooms.


 

 

Albert Beirstadt’s Among the Sierra Nevada

First it was a dream. A misty mountain peak like a downsweep of eagle’s wings.

Not like those Chinese mountains painted wave over wave, humped and hollowed limestone hallows.

These are mountains made to endure revered, fracturing the air.

And not all in one day did we make it here, dragging easel and inks and paint-prep packed in Philadelphia.

A dusty ride west longer than death, through white alkali deserts, a hardpan crucible of heats.

And then, all at once, opening beyond the horses’ heads: a level lake, diamond-alive.

Back East the viewers lean away from the stage curtain as the golden cord is pulled, an umbilical to the wilderness West.

They see at a gasp what I’d ridden hard to observe, labored long to swat into spectacle.

What’s the sweptback business of these pines, says one, darkling in the margins?

How attentively stall the buck and doe at the water’s open edge!

Just seeing the big cliff, I can hear the waterfall, a limitless water-pump let run all evening….

And suddenly, I feel their shoulders beside mine in the cool air of the lake.

Gilded vests, Norfolk jackets and pagoda sleeves, mix amid the extravagant grass everywhere green as a pool table.

Quiet does and bucks, they watch cliffs sink to the water, reflect as deep as they climb high.

And those skies over all—over plains and grass and trees and even the sharp wig-white mountains—how they curl and preside, like a Momma’s love perhaps.

The sky opens, ever-present, where pinked clouds part their fogbound camera shutter, widening in pupil-like reveal.

That sky, not as blue as rumored, but mottled a subtle blue-white, an abeyance of dark more than a presence of light, drawing the eye into a theater-like lens of attention.

A milky amalgam lumped on a paint blade, and then drawn clean, quick against the palette—


 

 

King Kamehameha III’s Feather Cape

Cape - Stone Art

Pencil-grey smoke slides from a trail of green cloaks thrown over the ocean, each a blot or close curl of a comma. Each one an island.

Over the many islands, tossed discarded into immense waters, many birds are flying, ocean bound, or hunkered to landmasses, island-hopping.

King of these islands, Kamehameha III, walked forth in a robe of bird feathers, full of flightless equanimity, each feather shining tied to the under-net of his cape.

Many birds donating to become an ornament that had been flighty, alive.

Feather on feather as if grown from the egg, this cape extends its pattern into open space.

The pattern is a series of swept curves, a litter of grass leaves, corn husks: red, black, yellowish-white as teeth, blown onto the big semi-circle smile of the cape, itself a sort of grounded wing.

Catch an ‘i’iwi by the toe,

pluck two feathers and let him go.

Weave each ‘o’o feather tight,

and your ‘ahu’ula cape shines bright.

Made sacred by intent and labor, this exquisite cape drapes easily over the shoulders, enlivening the wearer with visions of flight.

The birds now are silent, some of them extinct, beings beyond bodies, sans skeletons, unless the cape moves. And then you are the skeleton, and wings are everywhere, rustling winds….

So many birds netted! Same nets used to fish, same hands to pluck and release.

The constellations changed over their heads as they flew away, as new men came ashore, pointing high and renaming the stars in this world where mountains burned.

The whole chain of islands is a whipcord of fire, fire seething in the leveled cups of volcanoes.

Kamehameha, his arms folded, beneath the closed loop of the rope clasp, became a cone in this cape, a great auk puffed and resting.

His eyes look out, birdlike, horizon-zoned, aware of infinities and his small place within them, his royal glance touching each island in turn, feathers fallen in ocean amber:

Maui, Oahu, Kauai, Lanai, Niihau, Kahoolawe, Molokai, Hawaii.


 

 

“What Hath God Wrought?”

Alive is too strong a word.

But, the telegraph’s arched brass back is suddenly not dead.

The telegraph clacks like a thrush cracking a snail; a staticy squall of clacks, soon over.

The boy in a visor takes down many letters rapidly, and they resolve themselves into words.

The slant of sunlight, a bent fin of high yellow, is the same as it was.

The device screwed to the table returns to its intent inertness, a bee asleep in its honeycomb.

The quiet grows rich, the beak of the telegraph is still, the bee’s sting invisible.

Oysters the world over still lave hidden pearls with iridescent layers.

But soon, too soon, the whole world will fit on the head of this pin.


 

 

Electric Speech

(Alexander Graham Bell’s box telephone)
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He also made a phonograph: reedy, ghost-grey whispers in our ears, hovering weirdly near.

The principle’s the same, eardrum and requiem. All shaped air.

The box telephone has a heavy U magnet that abuts the membrane screwed at compass-points to the wood frame.

Wires trail out the back like discarded puppet strings, two lashed strands of copper.

It doesn’t seem like much, and you can hear the interior magnet ticking when you talk.

You talk into a short black cup like a blind confessional, or Greek prayer-hole going down to the dead.

The cup fills up with your words.

Lips pour words out like a dolphin-face fountain, and the telegraph line drinks them up.

Electric speech, Bell called it.

Alexander was also fond of saying how we often look “so long and so regretfully upon the closed door.”

There’s an ear for every secret, is another saying.

Young Bell’s mother grew deaf as he grew.

Her ears are everywhere.


 

 

American Buffalo

buffalo-sketch

It’s their nostrils up close you notice right away: steaming in cool morning, misty and noisy.

Large animals put such a volume of air through their lungs!

In and out go the bellows, keeping the fiery fits of life lit up.

In much-changing light, excited hooves and horns ring against the metal fence.

The buffalo leap nimbly in their pen.

The dancers’ hooves gouge beaten ground into a sort of mud fingerpainting.

Each split hoof stamps a pair of angel wings until the ground is crowded with wings.

If they were deer, it would be nothing special, a dance in the grass.

But the buffalo, with their great shaggy heads bearded as wise men, and satan-horned, gambol toward the high aluminium fence intent as apparitions, hairy ghosts stamping and huffing in the oncoming light.

Seeing them in a row of six, gamely nimble, limber, effortless, they seem more like a chorusline wearing beards and Russian hats than anything else I could name.

Together they dance, huge faces hanging close together, clipped hooves polished as tap shoes.

Their glassy brown eyes as they dance seem rare and wild, drunk as maenads chasing the scent of a sinner’s blood:

Strange glad eyes, large and moist as espresso cups overrunning with luminous oil—

It’s not a look of sympathy any more than a cat’s or snake’s is.

It’s alien, and you are alone when you gaze into the face of this beast.

They stare into years before mankind arrived, before the riotous rush to the cliff.

They stand, uneasy at dawn, locked up, looking back on eons of easy grazing….


 

 

Sitting Bull’s Ledger Book

On rainy days, Sitting Bull drew in his sketch book.

It was an unused ledger book for facts and figures, additions and debits and getting to zero.

But Sitting Bull drew in it.

It had green covers, green as an accountant’s eyeshade.

Retired to the cavalry outpost at Fort Randall, Sitting Bull kept crayons and pencils with his green ledger book.

Mostly he drew old battles he’d been in, personal victories over other indians, other tribes made quiescent under his feathered spear.

Here’s Sitting Bull riding his red pony that’s been painted to resemble a crow, the eternal victor of every battlefield, with a yellow beak drawn along the horse’s muzzle, and wild claws at every hoof.

His spear is simplified to a single line with a bulb of blade touching the enemy’s shoulder as if he were being knighted.

Sitting Bull has an ornate eagle headdress on, the feathers pulling back a long ways past his shoulders tight as violin strings.

His hands and feet are black buffalo hooves, for the buffalo spirit is in his sweat-work, their thunder in his coming down upon Assiniboine, whose arrow is not yet cocked and who leans backward into white space as if clumsily akilter.

Both of their faces are placeholders, eyed blanks.

They are neither ecstatic nor decimated.

In some of these, Sitting Bull has drawn himself wearing a long sash that’s tied to the dirt, staked to stay in place until the battle’s won.

The rain outside continually descends, dropping zeroes and ones.


 

 

Remember the Maine! Or, Clean Bright Work

bugle - fire

Bugles carry on over the spillway hill, bent by winds.

Navy buglers practicing: Attention, Bear A Hand, Admiral’s Barge, Belay.

But that night in Havana, all those nights ago, no Abandon Ship was blown.

Only the rending sound of metal, unimaginable.

After a century or so, they dredged up this green bugle, bulged as a squash, corrosion-pocked.

When the mind goes to sea, it follows a bugle’s call, the quick sound lancing far from shore.

Was this the bugle Teddy Roosevelt followed up San Juan Hill?

Wet notes risen from water that called those men to battle?

This bugle, once lost at sea, has been dredged back to us, one of Neptune’s wormy seashells, full of storms and covered with spaghetti curls of rust.

Beaten down by the hooves of the ocean, chewed flat by the sea’s jaw….

If living lungs and a pair of tomato cheeks moved breath through this bugle today, what old note would sound?

Would sighs of the dead be audible, sodden voices drowned?

Could such a mangled bugle blare, it might repeat: Captain’s Gig, or Carry On.

Getting there from Hatteras, the milky sailors were young and talkative, busy, buffing every blazon of brass when the bugle called: Clean Bright Work.

But those sailors died in their dreams, sleeping, when the ammunition magazine erupted beneath them, ripping the ship.

The place where they laid down a final time, bellies content with navy beans and canned pork, is under the level bay now, the intact flag rescued the next day from a still-risen mast.

A room of men swinging in womblike ambience, abeyance, hammocked and trussed, the Cuban waters sushing, pushing….


 

 

New Year’s Eve on Christie Street

(Edison’s electric light bulb)

The nippled bulb sits in its rippled socket. A circuit is complete, a pattern set.

From then until today, only variation and experiment; a truce has been called with novelty.

Carbonized bamboo, later tungsten, heats up its isolated void, throwing incandescent glories.

Meanwhile, in 1879 New Jersey, night has fallen over a long snake of street, heavily lipped—a jar of utter darkness lidded and inverted.

Each electric bulb, vacuum sucked and sealed, is held poised in a moonlike globe, lined up jars of not-dark, fireworks pulled to the ground, lashed by wires and tamed, awaiting only the itch of an electric match.

All afternoon and twilight the trains caterpillared from Atlantic City, tilted full of walking questionmarks…and then the switch flips.

And faces, hovering above shawl or overcoat in one cloak of ink, disembarked by hurried trainloads into the anonymous dark, look up all at once, each face individual and astonished.

Hundreds of Adams and Eves holding hands in a new world.

New Year’s Eve on Christie Street is a solid block of light, an illuminated cube.

And with the New Year lights, morning birds began to sing at midnight.

From here on in, nights go by alike as daytime.

From here on in, midnight glares and gleams, eager with gleanings.

Artificial light electric on the night page.


 

 

Statue of Liberty. Interior, Daytime

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Inside the spaceship, a million rivets are visible.

People wearing green foam liberty tiaras from the souvenir shop shoulder past, hurrying to the heights, but I am enamored of this interior view.

The iron framework is everywhere, an inescapable skeleton evident as a spiderweb as you make your way to the central pole that gleams like a rocket on its dawn launchpad.

Here it is: an incredible stair, bending its helix upward to a skyline-defying tiara.

Here am I: treading the ascending DNA stairs with ringing steps.

I walk the kite’s tail, hear the harbour winds against her skirts.

Madam’s copper skirt is wind-bitten, bringing salt scents to her interior, tatting the rivets as the silver stairway sways.

Far above, the lined brains of hair make a dome over us, greeny tilled fields full of sweet roots.

Among the roots, many visitors.

The green dress hangs like leaves from the central iron tree, Eiffels’ strutted steps.

Imagine the resounding ringing as they clobbered her together!

The work complex as a cathedral, ladders and wrenches the length of your arm.

Many workers hunched like swinging cuckoo figurines among the gonging carillion tones.

At each juncture of copper and iron, the ingress of seawind generates electric sparks, only stopped by doped asbestos; each cloth wrapped and placed as if against a fevered brow.

Outside, the face hangs heavy: pharonic, platonic.

I look out from the brow of her corona, a band of portholes beneath the wicked spikes, darting rays of electric thought….

An electric lightbulb in her upraised hand was the first plan, a lighthouse Edison-bright and limitless.

I think that she should be on the head side of the penny.


 

 

The Story of the Room

Well, you know, I just painted on. I went onwithout design or sketchit grew as I painted. And toward the end I reached such a point of perfectionputting in every touch with such freedomthat when I came round to the corner where I started, why, I had to paint part of it over again, as the difference would have been too marked. And the harmony in blue and gold developing, you know,
I forgot everything in my joy in it.

~~James McNeill Whistler

Brought stick by stick to America, there’s more to Whistler’s Peacock Room than I could tattle in the time I have. Just look:

Dash-dot-dash of light—two golden peacocks on a field of blue—improbable combatants—

One low, his gorgeous tail downswept, calligraphy beak attacking the other’s vulnerable feet, gilded lightning-strikes trined to ground.

The other, dancing fantastically on higher ground, the great peacock tail fully open, lordly, unsustainable as a cloudscape.

Their battle, it appears, is eternal.

Two equally compelling patterns of gold on a blue field racing to dynamic equilibrium….

Every inch of their viciousness made vigorous by the effete penlike strikes of the artist’s brush:

The artist is the third peacock, invisible and effervescent.

We stand in a room of his design, and witness a battle of his conceiving, deceitful and delightful as water-dazzle.

All around us rises a frame of bamboo shelves, sleeves of glitter unrolling on every side, and on every shelf a blue and white plumped pot.

And the notable pots have scenes and designs of their own:

Little towns besotted with sideways trees, or souls pushing themselves down some Chinese Styx.

And then, dead center among the sky-dots the pots imply, there stands, lounges, appears, the Princess from the Land of Porcelain, in her hand a fallen flower—

Dark hair upswept, her eyes are open and waiting.

Her bodice is snug above a red belt, a sash, the only other primary color in the room.

Her off-shoulder robe, more than floor-length, is being shrugged on or slid down, a waterfall itself of gold.

If one finds a spur of museum rail on which to lean, the princess seems to be watching the eternal contest of the cocks—

Is she lost amid the blues, or distracted by the molten lambency of their golden tones, perfect feathers the artist has let rip beneath the endless arch of all those dead eyes in the paired, raised and vanquished tails surrounding watching….


 

 

Tin Lizzie

Wheels and ruts have been rolling on for a long time.

The road curves and hugs the hill’s hardness, a lasso lain against a bull’s dewlap neck.

The Model T roadster turns through parting hemlock and is gone, part of history’s landscape.

If a turtle had wheels, it might look so.

Wrenched together on a player piano’s rolling assembly line, each finished and buffed Model T was driven straight to the sales lot, its pistons tocketing musically.

And there they waited quietly, platoons of turtles sunning themselves.

When we drive, what’s hidden in the trunk rides with us: a beach chair from last summer, a gallon of anti-freeze, books we had meant to read, lives we had meant to live or leave behind.

When it rains, we feel safe, cozied by the upholstery, by the rain’s bumbling drumming.

Shaped vaguely, also, like a homberg bonnet, bourgeois, middlebrow and pedestrian (except for the wheels, which resemble circular insect spectacles underneath the homberg), every family could leave their factories for a drive in the country.

Every Sunday families rolled like circus seals into a car and rolled down the windows and rolled away.

There’s a lot of them still out there, the old Model T Fords.

Their dusty interiors are rotted out, or immaculately kept up with new foam rather than horsehair—the hair of its enemies subdued and stuffed into the seats.

The black ones remind me, too, of mother bears.

But ferociously fast, rolling up out of the river to kill you for the last salmon.


 

 

Helen Keller’s Pocketwatch

keller-watch 22

Time touches my face with spiderwebs.

I run through the clock’s circle, and dance with its hands.

I am the fly that plays in the strings of time.

In my pocket, I carry its small wheel.

The arrow, ornate tattoo, goes round the cardinal stubs of the dial, handles of the captan’s helm.

I go over its swayback swirls with my thumb, its shy guiding steadiness pointing.

I feel the secondhand heart of the clock, the whisper of ticks at each fingertip.

My pocket holds this little god, and I hold hands with god:

The color of 7 a.m. is coolness, the wide window awake to birds.

The mood of noon is cutlery clanking, the tickling feel of glassware.

The breath of 3 p.m. is heated, hot heaviness of naptime in my ear.

When nighttime comes ladling its 8 p.m., and 11 p.m. grows pillows for dreams—

I swim where invisible things are real, my arms feathering into wings.

We’re all at ease in the everything breeze, afloat in adoring waters.

I go up slant shores on hands and knees, and curl at the foot of a wrinkly tree.

I go down softly among spiderwebs, my heartbeat the only ticking.


 

 

Bakelite beside the Delaware

bakelite-bracelets

The river snaked and zazzled through scrimshaw trees on our drive up to “New Hippie.”

Its suave glimmer rides beside us, slithering hither and thither.

Our eyes glide slyly away from each other, hidden and lit with an obscure hope we refuse to name.

Walking through the decorous town, we breathe air like us:

Invisible and crisp, autumn colorful, autumn wonderful.

Tired after a while of watching one particularly bright offshoot of water grow dim-dark as it disappeared beneath a local mill wheel, we turn into the thrift store “Love Saves the Day” at the end of the street.

Old clothes, old games, old things. And bakelite. Many items made of bakelite.

They stamped out infinite numbers of eagle’s wings, as needed, or poker chips, kitchenware, jewelry, pipe stems, children’s toys, firearms, or chess sets:

This one from the 1930s has men of mottled green and smoky orange arrayed on its checkerboard.

I pick up a green art deco knight wearing a slick racer’s helmet.

Rubbed closely, he gives off a soft smell of formaldehyde, some constituent hint of bakelite.

On the counter top sits a small black-and-white photo of the first Bakelite machine, the boiler of primordial soups, birth-Valhalla of all these things….

It looks like the ugliest ornament on the Christmas tree, Darth Vader’s Easter egg.

Leo Baekeland, the “Dutch Vulcan,” hobbled about his lab chained to this forge to make beautiful, useful things for his demanding mistress.

Or so I imagine, running my fingers through a twirl of earrings.

Thumb-big bolts sit allied to the egg’s waistline, a ring of iron welts or welded warts, brothers to those on either side of Frankenstein’s neck.

There’s an iron wheel at the top of the egg that steers its fetid chemistry, full of phenol and formaldehyde, willful as the wheel that drove Nemo’s Nautilus to its leagues-deep doom.

It’s an object of fairy tales, this black ovoid with its pressure gauge, its steel door that shuts the buck-toothed children in.

Out of this soft-boiled dinosaur egg fallen from its Eden nest, out of this pot the witch used on Hansel and Gretel, out of the hellish guts flowed a noble black poo: endlessly malleable bakelite, the stuff of dreams!

For instance: bracelets, all colors, clacking like pelican bills when Carmen Miranda danced.

Necklaces and gewgaws, and every kind of black power knob or electric socket.

Electric plugs and telephones were made of this stuff for years, utility hiding its inherent glamour.

Rainbow bakelite awoke in us moderns the royal lust for bright things, bright things.

We became indians willing to sell Manhattan for $24 worth of sea shells, every woman a Cleopatra, every man a Darius.

A bakelite radio, brilliant as a marble bathtub, plays seductive jazz from the far side of a flapper mannequin, carefree in her beads.

The antique mannequin has bakelite bracelets riding up one arm until the arm is a ringed snake vomiting forth a white hand-mouth.

“Oh, I want those, all of them!” And her eyes are delighted.


 

 

NOT FAR AFTER THAT

 

 

The Wing-Walker

Some force, animal-born, is slippery, edgy,

Impatient, greedy… for new heavens

~~Robt. Bly, Meditations on the Insatiable Soul
st-louis

Slapping the side of the The Spirit of St. Louis, notice how it looks a bit like a sharpened pencil with wings and a tail attached.

Lindbergh wrote his name in the skies with this plane, with bold loops and cursive surprises.

When an arm emerges from a cloud and taps your shoulder, you go

He periscope-peeped over the tonnage bulk of mounted engine as if flying a submarine, turning the craft sidewise to orient on homefields and runways.

Stepping along the diving board wings of WWI surplus biplanes at 23, “Lucky Lindy” never looked down. He was a wing-walker, a showman, a parachutist detached as a breeze. True story.

By 25, he’d become pure spirit given horsepower and wings, carrying this heavy thing into heaven….

Out in the middle of the Atlantic ocean, the bolted floorboards reverberate continuously as if, somewhere nearby, people are dancing. A family shindig, a square dance or barn party.

The Spirit of St. Louis owns the afternoon, its swift pointer’s nose pushing forward among doilies of clouds.

And all along underneath, the ocean is rolling. It isn’t hurrying to get to Paris to be part of a champagne celebration, blind in the flash of cameras. The sea is already everywhere, grey in the twilight, its surface a heaving pattern of ever-changing hills. Beneath those hills many eyes watch a loud light cross overhead in the dry sky, a wayward star moving East.

Soon enough, night rises from the darkening swells. Soon enough, it is so late it is early. His thoughts go out ahead of the plane into the nebulous moistness above the chill Atlantic, feeling fragile and weightless as milkweed seeds….

When the black ice comes on with a ripping creep, he dips The Spirit deep until dead wheels taste a serrated hightop of waves, and skeins of ice chunk off into salt water.

Around midnight, the touchdown. An end to dark heights and sleeplessness, the soundless roar of the engine still eerily omnipresent.

Parisians tore fuselage and pilot to ticker-tape with bacchanalian abandon in a French farmer’s field.

Paraded and feted, “Lucky Lindy” walked the wings of his nation, defying earth’s fallen curve—

He flew up there, fearless, a babe in a bassinet, a hundred miles an hour with the windows open.


 

 

Her Mink Coat

So, she became a kind of angel of my redemption through her art…. Marian Anderson, on that particular day, opened the doors of my prison, and I walked out a free man.

~~Ossie Davis

Her mink coat runs up and hangs from her shoulders, a friend leaning close.

Exiled from Constitution Hall, Eleanor Roosevelt resigned from the D.A.R. to stand by her side, a silent friend.

And seventy-five thousand others around the reflecting pool, seeing themselves there.

When Marian sings, her voice is a flight of arrows over the long crowd.

She stands on the highest step, the mic sparkling like a jeweled hairpin.

Her hands shape the notes, brown doves helping new doves to fly.

What was the song? Oh, it was opera. Ecstatic, untrifling.

Every story was in the melodious, broken story of her singing.

And other songs, too, “Tis of Thee,” and “Gospel Train:”

Here comes that gospel train. Get on board,

Get on board, there’s room for many a more—

Over her shoulders sat the giant white shadow of Lincoln, seated and solemn where all others stood milling, his beard of milky bees from some still-promised land.

And the piano right behind her, beautiful inkblot, running its palindrome of sounds, mixing the differing keys in large harmony.


 

 

A Fireside Chat

fireside 5

In the White House, the instrument, a broadcast mic, sits like a trophy, banded above by a label of commercial ownership, CBS, NBC, perched at an angle on a solid brass stand heavy enough to break a toe.

The dingus itself is unimpressive—an improbable hockey puck with a lion’s tail trailing to the floor. But this is the miracle device, the microphone that will send one voice to twenty million ears, and more.

Radio gathered us together back then, brought us within the circle of invisible voices heralding prayer or pastime.

We move an empty chair over by the fire, and a friend sits in it, ready for his little visit.

He tells us his concerns and plans, and we listen as if they were our own concerns and plans.

His voice carries us into matters we had thought extraneous to us, but which, as we listen, as we curl into the story, slowly become our own.

It is your problem no less than it is mine. Together we cannot fail.

He emits a jokey moral, slightly acerbic point, and we decide to take it the right way, as it was meant, his voice is so silken-solemn and relaxed:

“The man who strikes first admits that his own ideas have given out.”

Eventually, he gets around to history, to the endless perspective of time, and where we might stand in such a landscape, and from where we sit, listening, we seem a part of his vista.

…the way of thought of a nation whose origins go back to Jamestown and Plymouth Rock.

At some point, his storytelling transforms into a passionate plea. He may need our help, and we listen with a new cautiousness, and with renewed concern, to his advocating and insisting voice as he eventually gets to the evil incident that’s really bugging him.

On this tenth day of June, nineteen hundred and forty, the hand that held the dagger has struck it into the back of its neighbor.

We’ll have to stand with him, or abandon our friendship. There’s no middle ground this time, however endless and friendly he seemed at our first invitation—when the chair was cold and we let his voice begin without expectation….

I call for effort, courage, sacrifice, devotion. Granting the love of freedom, all of these are possible.

A quiet manifests after he finishes, and we rise from our seats, glancing around uncertainly.

We look outside where the variable firelight bleeds through a tall window.

There’s a wing of wind going by, disturbing our home, and we notice our own figures stretching before us, the silent fire at our backs.

Our bodies wavering on the ground in inconstant light remind us of the strange shapes a flag makes when shadowed on the lawn.


 

 

This Land

So much of singing is praising, and preparation for praise.

God made some notes look like little birds on a wire with a single wing.

I wasn’t prepared to cry so much at the sound of voices together.

When the choir of my childhood put on their blue robes and looked up, it was like hearing the rims of fifty wet glasses rung with fifty fingers.

Our singing teacher had a John Denver blond bowl-cut and loved how we could manage “This Land Is Your Land” on the first go.

Now, I look down at the delicate paper, brown as a moth wing.

The letters are cursive, strong as an oar in the water.

Woody Guthrie had licked and affixed ringsavers around each punched hole in the ruled paper.

The fog was lifting, a voice came chanting

A museum is a place for dead things still living, I guess.

It is a kind of book you can walk around in, poking your nose at the out-of-print exhibits.

Next to the paper is the shellac master record, a thin 78 with a hand-written label.

Its grooves shine blackly in the low light.

At the push of a steel display button you can hear his voice through the grate, flat and nasally.

Some of the old words are just wrong, crossed wires that zapped the bird wingless.

How could I hear him now if there were no private property, private effort?

Who would’ve run the recording studio, pressed the records?

I listen to the redwoods’ rustle, the gulf stream hustling past. I walk that endless skyway.

Children are lifting their faces everywhere, still living I guess.


 

 

About the Author

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