check out EM's official site: www.eileenmyles.com

new book:  Snowflake  &  d i a r y

 

HELL

 

Libretto: Eileen Myles

Score: Michael Webster

 

Scene 1

 

(This scene occurs in a wordless musical introduction.)

 

Hell takes place in an unnamed future, in a time frame right next to ours. A poet is sitting at a manual typewriter. She keeps ripping pages out and balling them up and throwing them into a waste basket. Itís late. Maybe two or three AM. She stands up, stretches, looks at her watch. Stoops down and pats a dog. Checks her pockets for money. Puts her jacket on, closes the door behind her, runs down the stairs. Walking up the street a man asks her for a match. She digs into her pocket for her lighter and his buddy slugs her on the back of the head with a beer bottle. She collapses on the sidewalk.

 

Scene 2

 

She wakes up on the floor of the stage close to the audience in a smokey, sputtering and sparkling worldó a giant planet is hovers overhead, above her and many seated people. Itís a globe, a huge disco ball, creakily turning-it also looks like an old battered baseball, with loose strings dangling.

 

Voices emanate dimly from the sphere. Itís a huge balloon covered in duct tape! The stage of this immense reality is like the smoky pit of hell itself. Thereís a hole in the center of the stage with smoke gushing out. Some people are sitting on chairs onstage, near the hole. Cardboard mock-ups of tall buildings are looming, but the wreckage of one building, a spindly thing, like a ghoulish poplar is the most striking detail of the setting-it stands, a lonely sentinel at the smoking mouth. One voice from the globe grows louder than the rest. A youngish business man comes briskly stepping out of the rubble:

 

Man:     (Yakking into his cell phone)

 

            Itís called Horns of Joy.

            Itís the first Goth poem

            The first Goth poem

            The first poem written

            In 1500 years

 

            Goth, Goth, Goth

            Horns and trees

 

            No we donít-

            No, no we donít

 

            Yes, heís got a wife

            He loves her

            He doesnít want to go

 

            Ireland, Scotland

 

            We can shoot it in New Zealand

 

ALL:    New Zealand!

            New Zealand!

 

Man:     Sheís a blonde

            The wife is a blonde

            This is so great

 

ALL:    This is so great

 

Man:     Well itís not written yet

            I said

 

            I said

            it would be

            the first Goth

 

            Itís not written yet

 

ALL:    In fifteen hundred years

            I said

 

Man:     The first Goth poem

            written

 

            fifteen hundred years

 

            I wrote it

            Godammit

            a sentence or two

 

            I will get someone

            Iíve got someone

            and weíll get her right on it

 

            Iíll give you one scene:

 

            So heó

(A cardboard guy drops down, in sort of Barbarian-Goth garb.)

 

            A Goth guy

            Hunky hunky hunky

            The girls like him

            The guys like him

 

            Heís hairy and horny and strong

 

            Yes I like him

 

ALL:    It wouldnít be strange

 

            Goth poem written

            In fifteen hundred years

 

Man:     It wouldnít be strange at all.

            I have a vision.

            A vision

            Yes thatís what I said.

 

            So listen.

            Blondie,

            she goes:

 

ALL:    Itís the first Goth poem in fifteen hundred years

 

Man:     She goes. . .

 

            We need a female voice

            for this line

            yeah, youíre fine

 

            (Pointing to a woman in the audience)

 

            yup, stand up

            thank you

            Honey

 

            (Into phone) The hunk is leaving.

            Heís got the armor on,

            his skins

 

            She hands him his lunch

 

            She goesÖ

 

(Hands the woman his cell, points to a piece of  paper.)

 

            Read that:

 

Woman: A woman is fleeter        

            than a cow

 

            take me with you!

 

ALL:    Laughter

 

Man:     (Into cell)

            You like it.

            Good

            you like it.

            you like it

            you like it

 

Poet:    

(Arising from her rumpled pallet on the stage. Wearing torn romantic flowing shirt. Stretches.)

 

            Hey where are we?

 

            (Walks closer to the action.)

 

            Youíre rehearsing?!

 

            Ow! And whatís that?

 

Man:     Donít worry.

            Itís just a bit of wax.

            How do you do? My name is Brine.

 

            And you areó?

 

Poet:     Uh, Raphael.

 

Man:     Well, Raphael,

            In Constant, which is where you are,

            wax which is what has struck you

            wax is great for most purposes

            but wax melts

            when someone gets excited

            or confused

            which is you, Raphael

            donít get me wrong

            we imported you for your

            range

            excitable and otherwise

            we havenít had a writer of any sort

            for about eight hundred

            years

ALL:    About seven or eight

            About seven or eight

            About seven or eight

            About eight hundred

 

Man:     Though you look kind of bad, whatever you are.

            I guess youíre a female

 

Poet:     Iím a poet

            and Iím in tatters

            Iím a wreck

            cause thatís how the world looks.

 

            Will you please help me out

            I mean I donít know what time weíre in

 

            I went out to get dog food

            Iím totally lost

 

            Itís dark for morning

            And itís too bright for night

 

            Time is how I know myself

 

            I work its silent tune

            But this is weird

            Itís like immutable

            And blurry

            A California time

 

            And Ow! 

            why do I keep getting hit by wax?

 

Man:     Nothing to worry about.

            The place is Constant.

            Thatís what itís called.

            Believe me, Iím trying

            to answer your

            questions.

            Constant.

            Thatís the time of day weíre in.

 

            We have a joke here:

 

Man:     Got the time.

 

ALL:    Yeah.

 

Man:     Constant time.

            Constant temperature.

            Itís always time

            to sell

 

 

(They are walking through a crowded market place. ALL are chattering constantly among themselves. Murmuring in a pulsating way back and forth, handing articles back and forth over counters.)

 

 

ALL:    And sell and sell and sell.

            Itís always time to sell.

            And sell

 

Man:     See everybodyís working here in Constant.

            Everyoneís got a job.

            And everyone wants a job.

            Plenty of wanting

            No waiting.

            Not even a bit of waiting here.

 

 

(Visual waiting wanting song. That means the ďsinging actionĒ in the market place continues, silently.)

 

 

Man:     And Iíve got a job for you.

            a commission

            I need your help on this script.

            Itís called Horns of Joy

 

 

(Barbarian guy drops down)

 

 

            Itís the first Goth poem in 1500 years

            And I think you can write it.

 

ALL:    And we think you can write it!

            And we think you can write it!

 

Man:     Are you ready to work?

 

Poet:     I still donít understand my place in this scene.

            You want me to write something.

            Maybe I should get a little familiar. . .

 

Man:     Donít get familiar, it wonít help

            I will give you the groundwork:

 

            We donít hope,

            we donít sleep

ALL:    We donít dream, we donít eat

            We donít fight, we donít groom,

            We donít grow, we donít lose

            We donít owe, we donít muse,

            We donít forget

            We donít sweat, we donít race,

            We donít fret, we donít pace

 

Poet:     Iím not listening.

            Sorry, but. . . .

 

            thereís some trees coming towards us.

            Can trees walk here?

 

Man:     Yeah, trees can always walk

            Thatís a very common situation

            Just sit down.

 

 

(She parks herself on a white glowing gumdrop about the size of a  stool. For the  duration of ďHellĒ thereís a random bombardment of wax, and  screaming bomb sounds and white.)

 

 

Poet:     What is this

 

Man:     What is what?

 

Poet:     This, This,

            That Iím sitting on?

 

Man:     I donít know.

            Theyíre sort of all over the place.

            Okay.

            We can start with trees

            Letís put them in

            the script.

            Trees always look

            good and surely

            in Goth time

            there were lots and lots

            of them.

            Theyíre wood.

            People love wood.

 

Poet:     No, Iím serious. Thereís a group of trees coming

            right towards us.

 

Man:     And Iím telling you

            donít even think about it.

            Itís Father Tree.

            People love him.

            Heís our leader.

            And he doesnít do a thing

            Heís the President of the World.

 

Poet:     Well, shouldnít we greet him, or something?

            Maybe he wants to meet me?

 

Man:     No, thatís whatís so great about

            him. He doesnít care.

            He has absolutely no curiosity.

 

            Heís famous for that.

            Someone I mean

            this might be a myth

            It seems extremely unlikely

            Someone it has been told

            suggested he make some changes

            in Constant.

            And of course thatís ridiculous

            because we donít make changes here

            and he said

            This is a very famous remark

            Why would I

            care what you think?

 

            Why would I

            care what you think?

 

            What makes you think

            I care at all!

 

ALL:    What makes you think

            I care at all!

 

Man:     People love that.

            Heís made out of wood

            He canít hear you

            He really canít see you

            And he looks great

            We love him because he

            looks real, he looks like

            a real leader

            He comes from generations

            of wooden leadership.

            His father was king before

            him. And his father

            before that.

            Thatís him standing right

            there. Maybe one of his

            useless little fraud

            daughters will be King after him.

Poet:     Women can be kings here?

 

Man:     Treeís a tree. Itís part of our

            freedom and our heritage.

            Any tree can become

            President of Constant

            Everyone is free here

            but only

            a tree can lead.

 

Poet:     But I thought you said they do nothing.

 

Man:     Nothing is what the trees

            have given us.

            Nothing canít burn.

            Weíre safe now.

 

ALL:    And nothing canít burn!

            Weíre safe now.

 

Man:     And nothing canít burn.

            Though lots of things were burning a long time

            ago.

            Thatís when the trees bought hellÖ

 

Poet:     Father Tree owns hell? Ouch!

 

Man     Well all the trees do.

            You kids get up there and explain.

 

 

(Dorothy and Thomas, a girl and boy in their best Sunday clothes come forward smiling.)

 

 

Kids:     Hell burned in eternity

            and on Earth there was time and women

            and

            men lived and died in a situation called

            Earth. And there were constant wars

            on Earth, so many wars.

            Wars that competed with the fires

            of Hell. Competition is good.

            It builds character.

            Some people win

            And some people lose.

            We call that story history.

            And in that time

            It was Hell on earth

 

ALL:    It was Hell on earth

 

Thomas: and naturally

            it was Hell on Hell.

 

Dorothy:           It was hell in hell.

            Hell was inside the earth.

 

Thomas: Oh yeah.

 

ALL:    It was hell in hell in hell in hell

 

Poet:     Where are we now?

            Ow!

 

Kids:     It came to pass

            that there were more fires on Earth

            than in Hell, and Hell

            took a nosedive. So the trees

            in their infinite wisdom

            determined

            that Hell

            could be

            replaced by an inexpensive wax model

            with video toasters. . .

 

Poet:     And what about the Earth?

 

Kids:     We think something happened.

 

Man:     Hold on, my browserís stuck.

 

            (Adjusting remote browser. Click.)

            So thatís kind of where we are.

 

            And here they come

            Hey Father Tree.

 

ALL Trees: Hello Hello Hello Hello

            Yeah weíre all feeling good.

            Weíre twenty-seven point

            thirty centimeters tall

            fourteen point

            forty-three centimeters wide

            gettin in shape and feelin

 

            sorta growiní, not too much  

            drawin some sap up into our bark

            Ruff-Ruff. Heh-Heh.

            My surgeon nipped a coupla branches off.

            Says Iím looking good

            (Big breath,)

            I say

            stand tall and de-liver.

            Be proud

            Everyone!

            buy some stuff

            keep it up.

            We like that,

            lookin normal

            the regular thing

            God made me

            Iím a gosh darn tree

            Like my teeth? pretty good, got em all,

            Dentist said, hey you got your Dadís teeth,

            Well hell whose teeth he got?

            Heh Heh Heh-you like me? sell sell sell!

            Iím not too smart cause Iím almost

            Dumb, Iím the tree of kingdom

            come. Oh come ye

            see me in the

            West, in the blazing eyes

            of the babe at your breast.

 

            Hold on baby to the Family Tree

            Weíre free of the prison

            of history

            So you gotta love me

            for my guts

            you gotta love

            me cause Iím nuts

            love me cause I own the world.

            The only backbone

            known is mine

 

            get behind me

            get behind me

 

            you gotta love my stupid

            trunk.

 

            How do you like me?

            How do you like me?

 

Poet:     That guyís an idiot!

 

 

(Father Tree and his cohorts pass by. . .)

 

 

Man:     It doesnít matter.

 

Poet:     What do you mean?

 

Man:     I mean youíre right

            He is an idiot.

            But the trees

            bought the world

            fair ín square

 

            I mean yes

            at the time some people

            were pretty sour grapes

            about it

            like the Gnome

 

Poet:     Whoís he?

 

Man:     If the Gnome mattered at all heíd be Father

            Treeís enemy.

 

            Here Iíll click on him

            (Drags down Gnome icon)

 

            He insisted it was a takeover

            He called it . . . a cootie tart?

 

ALL:    Har Har Har Har

            Cootie Tart, Cootie Tart

 

Man:     But it was just a sale. No big deal.

 

            Point is, weíre in a safe place.

            Constant is a very safe place

 

Poet:     Safe from what.

 

Man:     Exactly my point.

            Safe from what.

            Itís hard to say who matters less

 

            (Click. Click. Click.)

 

            Nope thatís still Father Tree.

            Father Tree stays on. Heís like the news.

            Now the Gnome.

            No one can hear him unless you click

            So maybe he does matter more

            Than Father Tree

            But nobody hears

            Him, so what.

            Here we go.

            Okay, introducing the Gnome. Here he comes.

            Sometimes

            itís

            slow. I think heís made out of

            numbers

            Heís a druid. Damn.

            Iím not thinking!

            We could use him.

            he would be great

            for Horns.

 

            Some Gandalf character

            guy, you know?!

 

Gnome:

(Seated at a table, facing an auditorium full of shoppers.)

 

            Uh-hum. Thank you all for coming. A quick note

            Before I begin my remarks

            Iím sitting

            at a table. It is made out

            Of trees. (Grim smile.)

 

 

(Hollow canned laughter)

 

 

            This is called

            ďCootie TartĒ

 

            In the eighties the U.S. fought

            A major war in central bought

            leaving some two hundred thousand torture

            Moo corpses, millions and

            orphans and refugees countries mum-

            bum Catholic Church bun

            committed the grievous sin spore

            preferential doption the poor

 

            even the timing of the bombing was Joeís

            and Boaz to making

            to launch a whore crime against Iraq

            Back Dad at that time I

            in fact call for a lawless world

            a shingle word in the main purl

 

            Poet: Is he trying to say something, it soundsó

 

            Man: I know. It sounds great. Itís

            exactly the sound we need. Itís ancient,

            that rhythm, I think itís Welsh or

            something

            you can feel a time of struggle:

 

            Angry suffering man with dirt under his nails

 

 

(Let the Gnome continue silently maybe with music overĖlike Michael Moore.)

 

 

Poet:     He doesnít look dirty.

 

(Audience starts flinging mud at him)

 

Man:     (leading him away laughs)

            Now he is!

            Heís very dirty.

 

            Címon,

            I want to show you a few more of my ideas.

            Nobody, nobody, nobody. . .

 

 

(Various faces going by)

 

 

            Hereís a guy. . .

           

            Heís just a symbol . . .

 

            Nah...

 

            Iím just noodling . . .

            Iím just thinking . . .

 

            Here click click click

 

            Iceland

 

            is my idea of successful culture

 

 

(White Icelandic band icon appears)

 

 

            In terms of uniting the ancient,

            the human,

            the popular and

            and and

            the capacity of humans to wait

            forever if need be

            the people of Iceland have been speaking

            and singing and telling stories

            in their very very very obscure language

            for thousands of years

            you never heard them complaining

            Icelandís like a gas-station

            full of white people

            in the

            Middle of the Irish Sea

            and now they are

            Iceland is a constant success story

            what everyone is singing

            and listening to

            (Points to the ball, turning with words)

 

            thatís not English. . .

            Listen. . .

            Hold on, Hold on . . .

 

 

(A pure white Knight with white hair appears Holding a guitar and another knight Joins him and another and another And some of them are girls. The song is sung in Icelandic with English subtitles appearing on an LED moving around the disco globe. )

Yes we were pissed

The Russians landed and the Americans landed

and the Nazis and the Vikings landed

and the Norwegians took over

even some Irish monks in a curragh

had a time with us

but we stood strong and now we are famous and

rich

Bjork is the worldís brightest star

Better than Beck

stronger than Madonna

Now without ever having to become dumb

Inside the well of our very great and ancient

language we laugh at the current situation

You think we are sad and melancholy

No

You think we are stable and irrelevant

No

You think it is always terribly dark where we are

No it is female, it is young, it is rich

 

It is old.

We are not frozen, we are not murmuring

Silence, we are guy geyser, we are volcanic

We are old like planet itself; and yes you are right

we are cold,

cold,

cold

 

 

(Screaming sound of a falling star.)

 

 

Poet:     What was that.

 

Man:     Nothing.

 

Poet:     And that.

 

Man:     Nothing.

 

Man:     We need to get to work.

 

Poet:     But what are these falling stars.

            and these white dots

            all over the place. Itís cold here.

            I only have a rumpled shirt on.

            I thought you said it was

            Constant.

 

Man:     Itís pretty constant. Hold on:

 

            (Hits cell phone. Speaks into it:).

 

Man:     Heat it up. Theyíre jamming the thermostat again.

           

            (To Poet) You like frogs.

Poet:     Sure I like frogs.

 

Man:     You like nature, right?

 

            Poets like nature.

            Itís the great source

            of poetic inspiration

Poet:     True. Of course

            there are

            many

            kinds of

            Nature. . .

 

Man:     Iíll put the frog on. Iíve got to fix

            I mean itís getting too cold.

            Sit here

 

 

(Screaming star. Man clicking.)

 

(Frog comes on, with lusty female voice)

 

 

Frog:     O frog as me singing

            I been roaming the earth for one million years

            Watch me display my

            Am-phabulous powers

            I hear my mateís grunt

 

 

(River of mechanical rivets)

 

 

            up to one mile away

            the circular night is flooded with us

            skipping around in our wet shirts

            peeling em off

            every couple of days

 

            (Click. Newscaster frog now.)

 

            Frogs are dying

            everywhere nowÖ..

 

(Click.) we were always undressing

            our skinís a perfect

            test. What poison the world

            has become

            the world flows in

            the world flows out

            weíre just con-skin-uous

            We got nowhere to go

 

            and neither do youó

 

 

(Man:  Click. Click. Re-wind. Whirrr.)

 

 

Man:     I was thinking we could return

            to about the point at which

            we met.

 

Poet:     Which was when?

 

Man:     We have place

            We donít have time,

            It was here.

            No it was about here.

 

Poet:     Was it here?

 

Man:     Yeah. . . excuse me. . .

 

            (into cell)

            . . . and it is warming up.

            Thanks for the heat.

 

            Letís bring

            out the Hunk

 

Poet:     Kay. Heís a working boy

 

Man:     Heís a soldier boy

 

Poet:     Lookís like heís fought a few battles

 

Man:     Hey buddy whatís your name.

 

Hunk:   Lewis

 

Man:     How do you do, Lewis.

 

Lewis:   (Smirking.) I do okay.

 

Man:     This is Raphael, she is a poet

            And sheís helping

            me with the

            script.

 

Hunk:   Sounds good.

 

Man:     And my name is Brine.

 

Hunk:   Hi, Brine.

 

Man:     (After slightly long silence.) Okay.

 

Hunk:   Can you cue me.

 

Poet:     ďLooks like heís fought a few battles.Ē

Hunk:   I have.

            I was with Caesar at Alesia

            I was with Frederick the Great at Leuthen

            I was on the boat with Ali Pasha at Lepanto

            I landed on the beach at Normandy

            I have died approximately 5,276 times

            fighting for Christianity

            Put a cross on my chest

            Pretty much invented the uniform

            with that small gesture

            always I fight for God

            except for when Iím a slave

            I was fighting for the Ottoman Empire

            I rode across the tundra with Genghis Khan

            I defended the pass at Thermopylae

            I remember the Bismarck

            I remember the Bismarck

            I fought for the reich

            Battle of New Orleans

            In 1814

            I capitulated in the Argonne Forest

            The Tet offensive

            Da Nang

            Little big Horn

 

Poet:     Which side?

 

Hunk:   Both

 

            (Returns to his speech)

 

            . . . the Confederacy

            I slaughtered a humongous number of Tutsis. . .

 

 

Poet:     Hold on, Hold on

            I get the idea

            Lewis is the sacrificial victim

            of war,

            the murderous sacrifice

            the not so innocent

            young man

 

            What about the wife?

 

Man:     Now you hold on. Heís got a moment coming:

 

Hunk:   Do you know the pale dawn?

            The morning of war

            The sky is chilly, empty

            The smell of the outdoor blankets

            Scratchin and shit

            a world of just other guys

            Clankin

            The mess people getting up

            Getting the coffee going

            The cracklin morning fires

 

            You get a sick feeling in your stomach

            a guy does

            Youíre going out to kill today

            Or someoneís gonna to kill me

            Again

 

Poet:     See I donít think this is

            a new story

            not exactly

 

Man:     Whatís a new story.

 

Poet:     Maybe this guy should go to college.

            I donít know.

            I mean, I doubt if heís rich.

 

Man:     Well . . .

            letís return to the scene with the blonde.

            That felt strong.

            We can work out the message

            Thing later.

 

Poet:     Okay.

 

Man:     Do you mind reading for the Blonde this time.

 

Poet:     (Huff.) Okay.

 

Man:     Iíll read it.

 

Poet:     No, itís okay.

            Iíll read it.

            Itís no big deal.

 

Man:     Put on the wig.

 

Poet:     (Puts it on.)

 

            A woman is fleeter than a cow

            Take me with you.

Hunk:   Okay.

 

Poet:     Okay? Like I can come.

 

Hunk:   Uh huh.

 

Blonde: Fantastic.

            But we need to bring some stuff.

 

Hunk:   A man needs some matches and a sword

 

Blonde: Maybe you should bring a book

 

Hunk:   A book

 

Blonde: Just something light:

            A historical novel or a book of poetry

 

Hunk:   Okay

 

Blonde: And maybe an extra blanket

 

Hunk:   Okay

 

Blonde: The green one

            I like the green one

            because itís big enough for both

            of us but you can wash it easily

            and it doesnít show dirt

 

Hunk:   Okay

 

Blonde: Our bills wonít get paid.

            Iíll ask them to

            take it

            out automatically

 

Hunk:   Good idea

 

Blonde: Iím not so sure Iím going to like

            the cooking

 

Hunk:   You wonít.

 

Blonde: Iíll pack something

            I have an idea.

 

Hunk:   Whatís that

 

Blonde: I think I should write something:

            a sidebar.

            You know a different

            position on war.

            Oh youíve seen this.

            Menís stuff often has like

            a female academic

            write some silly spin

            to leech the horror

            away

            I wouldnít do that

            But I wouldnít mind

            writing the different

            thing

            next to the thing.

 

Blonde: Iím going to bring my computer.

 

Hunk:   Mineís lighter

 

Blonde: Okay letís bring yours.

 

            Do you still like this hat?

 

Hunk:   Yeah, you look cute.

 

Poet:     (Takes off wig.)

 

            I donít like this story.

            (pause... To Man.)

 

            Did you really import me?

 

Man:     Sure, absolutely

            We were

            looking around

            for a writer

            and we saw that you had a lot

            of energy

            and anger.

 

Poet:     But you knew my work.

 

Man:     Nooo, but we liked the ďWe, the poetsĒ piece a lot

 

Poet:     You read ďWe, the poetsĒ

            How could that be possible

            Nobody read ďWe, the poetsĒ

            How couldó

 

Man:     I did a search of the NY Times

            It was already

            fairly late in

            ďthe situation.Ē

            and their email files

            were way

            juicier than

            the paper.

Poet:     Wow, so you read me in their email.

 

Man:     Yup.

 

Poet:     You read her too?

 

Man:     Who?

 

Poet:     Judith Shulevitz.

 

 

(Cardboard cut-out of Judith Shulevitz comes down)

 

 

Man:     I donít read the Times.

 

Poet     On November 24, 2002

            back page of the book review section

            Judith Shulevitz

            wrote a column

            called

            ďSing MuseÖor Maybe NotĒ

            in which she took the brilliant position

            that recordings of

            poets are better than live

            readings cause

            you can just

            turn them off.

            Which was an important

            point to make when weíre

            going

            to warópoets of course

            should shut up.

 

            Hey Judith!

            I mean what about theater,

            opera,

            performance art, live

            sports, sex, nature,

            travel . . .

 

            I mean why

            direct

            a 3000-word

            tut-tut at a vital and ultimately populist art

            form?

 

All:       I mean

            why direct

            a 3000-word

            tut-tut

            tut-tut

            tut-tut

 

Poet:     It occurs to me

            that Judith Shulevitzís discomfort

            at these ďspeech actsĒ

            must have to do

            with an unexamined

 

Man:     inability to experience

            anotherís experience

            of language without

            a score-card

 

Poet:     There is

            so much out there

 

            (Hops on a mound)

 

            To hear any speech live

            but particularly

            rhythmic speech

            is unstoppable

 

ALL:    Judith people just like it

 

Man:     So who is Judith?

 

Poet:     Judith Shulevitz, a poetry cop

 

Man:     Poetry had cops

 

Poet:     Well, the White House did

 

All:       Laura Bush

 

Poet:     Well the congress did

 

All:       Dick Armey

 

Poet:     Well the Guggenheim did

 

All:       Helen Vendler

 

Poet:     And of course the New York Times. . .

 

            They would like review any stupid bio of the

            president that

            hit the deck.

 

            And they reviewed lots of British poets

            ín dead poets

            and poets like Richard Howard

ALL:    Is Richard Howard dead?

 

Poet:     Nobody knows.

 

ALL:    Is Billy Collins dead?

 

Poet:     Who could tell?

 

ALL:    Is J.D. McClatchy dead?

 

Poet:     Does it matter?

            These guys were practically statues

            on the outside of the post office

            literary virtues

            institutionalized

            figurines

            suburbanites

            holding foxes

            men of power

            fun guys.

 

            And in Judith Shulevitz

            dead poetry

            and dead men

            found their champion

            she likes Orwell

            and Byron

            theyíre all fine

            she just loves

            the way you can turn dead poetry

            off

            click

            and write about it

            again and again

 

            naturally

            Judith prefers recorded poetry over live

 

Man:     Whatís live?

 

Poet:     Well itís like

            the person stands in their body

            breathing

            their heart beating

 

(Thunderous sound of heart beating)  

 

            at a podium

 

ALL:    Thatís a latin word.

            What does it mean, foot?

 

Poet:     No itís like a high table a poet stands at

            and other people sit around

            and listen

 

Man:     And people like it?

 

Poet:     They really do

            They like to sit communally

            And hear messages that

            Arenít tinkered

            With by the government

            Or intended to sell a product

 

            gauged to spin

            some denatured piece

            of information thatís already

            stripped of dangerous

            and alarming content

 

Brine:   Thatís bad?

 

Poet:     Well, sometimes people like

            existing

            without having to fill a need

            plug a hole

 

            Citizenship, Brine

 

            the right to hear stuff

            that maybe has small purposes

            or mixed purposes

 

            you donít even know

            what Iím talking about

            do you?

 

Man:     You could be totally hot.

            you could be so hot

            here in Constant

            In Constant

            people

            love Joan of Arc

            without having to burn

            alive.

            Sure you love

            Her, Raphael,

            but do you really

            have to feel

            what she felt?

            She probably felt her skin peeling off

            like a hot dog

            You want to be standing

            there in front of everyone

            in your skeleton?

Poet:     Ow! I would like to die collectively.

 

Man:     Point is you donít have

            To ever burn alive

            again

 

            You can write Horns of Joy

            You can be our poet laureate

 

            You seemed pivotal to us.

            you just seemed ripe.

            And I believed I could save you.

 

Poet:     Is that why you imported me?

 

Man:     I thought I like that spunk

            I like that heat.

            But you were going to vanish

 

Poet:     Just like the frog.

 

Brine:   Just like Iceland

            Just like the trees

            Just like everything,

 

 

BLACKOUT

 

 

Scene 3

 

(Two night watchmen come center stage and wave lights around. We canít see them. Just the lights. )

 

 

Watchman 1:     (sings)

            Whisky youíre my darling

            Youíre leading me astray

            Over hills and mountains

 

 

Watchman 2:     Joe is that you

 

Watchman 1:     Sure is

 

Watchman 2:     Nice night

 

Watchman 1:     Pretty nice night

 

Watchman 2:     Howís it going with you

 

ALL:    Good.

 

ALL:    Howís it going with you?

 

ALL:    Pretty good.

 

Watchman 1:     Hey!

 

ALL:    Yeah?

 

Watchman 1:     Turn your light on

 

ALL:    Okay

 

 

(Spotlight on Raphaelís sprawled body downstage right.)

 

 

Watchman 1:     Whoís that

            or whatís that?

 

ALL:    Har har

 

Watchman 1:     Yeah whatís that

 

ALL:    Bum

 

ALL:    Yeah bum

 

ALL:    Guess itís a bum

 

ALL:    Goodnight bum

 

ALL:    See you Joe

 

ALL:    HeyÖ!

 

ALL:    Yeah?

 

ALL:    Get ready for World War III!

 

ALL:    Ready as I can.

 

ALL:    OOOOOOOWWWWW!

 

(BLACKOUT)

 

Copyright © 2004 Eileen Myles

 

top

 

 

so much more at Eileen Myles' site:  www.eileenmyles.com