monologues for the dead
Edward Crosby Wells
© COPYRIGHT 2009, 2011 EDWARD CROSBY WELLS
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Full length, approx. 90 minutes, 33 characters, 14M/11F/8E, but with doubling Poet’s Wake can be performed with as few as 6 actors. We are at the wake of a Poet Laureate. Mourners come and go, delivering monologues. We learn, through the mourners, about the life of the poet and about the mourners themselves. Some define us by the people in our lives. The life of the celebrity after death is too often defined by those who are left behind. Some have axes to grind. Some speak out of ignorance. Although each may believe they are telling the truth, it is the teller’s truth; truth is subjective. The artist’s work is too often overshadowed by the tales and the writings of the survivors. In the end we must discover, uncover or simply choose and decide the truth ourselves—the truth of others and the truth of oneself is, perhaps, merely a matter of perception. Poet’s Wake might even show us a bit of truth about ourselves.
"A masterful work of dramatic literature." —R.L. Perkins, Quest
"I was stunned . . . captivating original script by Edward Crosby Wells."
—Michael Lazor, Naked E. Entertainment
"Edward Crosby Wells is an accomplished and original playwright whose varied works have gained growing esteem over the last few years. He shows remarkable and equal proficiency in comic, dramatic, and fantastic works. One never knows what to expect from each new play of his, except that they always show technical skill, poetic insight, and theatrical acumen." —Robert Patrick, Drama Desk and OBIE Award-winning Playwright and author of Broadway's Kennedy's Children
"[Wells'] works are expertly layered and the characters are well thought out, portraying real people. He is equally talented with both comedy and drama. His dramas are beautifully crafted and engrossing and his comedies are arguably the funniest you will ever see." —Frank Calo, SPOTLIGHT ON PRODUCTIONS, New York City
Internationally acclaimed playwright EDWARD CROSBY WELLS has had his plays produced from coast to coast in the U.S. and in Canada, Scotland, England, Ireland, Spain and Australia; including 3 Guys in Drag Selling Their Stuff which has had over two dozen productions worldwide, and counting. He is the winner of several international playwriting awards including the Spotlight On Best Play Award for Excellence in Off-Off Broadway Theatre for three consecutive years. His work is published by Greyridge Press, Cyberpress, StagePlays, Meriwether Publishing Ltd., Production Scripts, Smith & Kraus, Inc., and Samuel French, Inc. Edward is currently working on a novel and a new play.
The characters in order of appearance*
THE OTHER POET
THE BEST FRIEND
THE YOUNG FAN
THE REMORSEFUL CRITIC
THE WOMAN IN THE BLACK-RIMMED HAT
THE WOMAN WITH A PAST
THE OTHER WOMAN
THE WIDOW’S LOVER
THE NAVAJO GIFT-BEARER
THE VOLUNTARY MOURNER
THE MAN FROM THE BAR
THE FIRST WIFE
THE PETRIFIED FLORIST
THE EMPATHETIC MOURNER
THE CONSTANT INITIATE
THE INFREQUENT LOVER
THE INTENTIONAL WRITER
THE NOT SO VERY REVEREND
THE DISENCHANTED PRIOR NUN
THE POET’S ANGEL
*There are 33 characters. Any number of actors (doubling or not)
Somewhere a lone casket, open. The CHARACTERS come and go. Perhaps this is a darkly somber place, a smoky cabaret, a carnival midway, the raw stage of an empty theatre, or perhaps—
THE UNDERTAKER: The terrible pain of Being diminishes the dreadful anxiety of death. They come one after the other and they each are the thing they dreaded most. They are dead. All knew they would cease to be. But nobody believed it.
Take yourself, my friend. Did you envision yourself here? Did you envision yourself a corpse under the care of your kindly undertaker? Laid out for all to see how there are worse things than the miseries of life. All know they could be you. And will. One day. The corpse.
They take heart. Your friends. Your relatives. Your admirers. Your enemies. All who are gathered here in your name. They take heart and they depart feeling a little bit more of life. A bit of appreciation for it. And the pain of their Being is diminished. A corpse gives one pause to think. Doesn’t it?
THE WIDOW: You’re dead. Very. Very dead. D-E-A-D. Dead. And I'm not.
I never liked you very much. No. Not as much as you led yourself to believe. If you ever believed. Who am I kidding? You never believed. Never. All that arrogance and yet you never did. In yourself or in anyone else for that matter. Certainly not in me. Your wife for more years than I remember. Or care to remember. I knew you far better than you knew yourself and since I never liked myself very much. Thanks to you. I never could trust the things I knew. The things I believed. You always reminded me. Constantly reminded me to hate myself. I had to change you said. Repeatedly. I had to change. Change. From what? Into what? And why? To suit you? What about myself? You never let me show you who I was. Really was. Am. You never let me show you. Show me. You never let me see myself for myself. Look at you now. ‘Though that's not you now. Is it? You're gone and I guess most of me is in there with you. Wherever there is. All the years. Our years. My years. In this coffin. The two of us. Move over. But don't expect a single tear from me. All dry. Brittle. Used.
Jesus. Look at yourself. Why in hell did you have to die that way? Have you ever considered anyone other than yourself? Damn you.
Sometimes when you draw in one of those. Drew. Drew in one of those deep breaths in your sleep. I'm suddenly awakened from the sound of your not breathing. I strain to hear for signs of the living coming from your side of the bed. The other side of the bed. What was I expecting?
Did I ever mention love? No. Never did. It doesn't matter. It's over. No more words.
THE OTHER POET: What were we saying? You know. When we were. In the beginning. I was a poet too. Something more than just your cheerleader. You in the sun. Me in your shadow. Whatever did we find to talk about? When we had those preternatural dreams of immortality. Forgetting we were mortal just long enough to launch our little ship upon the sea of disbelief. Before some sorry bastard felt it necessary to remind us of our folly. Memento mori.
Before. Before then. Before our dreams became mediocrity. Well. Mine did. You fared pretty well. I slipped into a quiet resignation. An anesthetic for the body. The mind. The spirit. My soul. Lost. The long slow acceptance. The fear and the trembling that besets an age when one can no longer move forward with the grace of a questioning child. Nor backwards into the arms of an all-forgiving parent. That's a bitter realization you wouldn't know anything about. That's not fair. Of course you would. It was in your poetry. You knew how to make us want to listen. I never figured that out.
Where once days promised wisdom from their passing they now promise nothing. We're all at sea. Closer to some sort of perfection? Or farther away? Adrift? Too soon we begin to slow and grind to a halt on unseen shoals. At some point. Still in life. We stop. Grounded. Beached. The world stops and we take a chair and a blanket and a soft pillow and we sit. Patiently. Two old souls. Asses gone lazy. Mules refusing to budge. Watching. Waiting for the world to rouse itself from sleep. To commence spinning once again. For all the ships in all the waters to set forth upon the waves. Driven by lusty winds. Lusting for recognition. For immortality. Something beyond here and now. Dreams. Warmed in the sun. There is a point. A point in life. There is a point. God damn it! There is a point. When the sun above warms the body and the sun below warms the heart. The spirit. And when we come to that point we stop. Memento mori.
No. That was never you. That was me. Me. My poetry. Mine. All that time it was me. All in one inspired breath. Never you. I was a poet too. I have no idea who you were.
THE BEST FRIEND: It hurts something awful to see you this way. I have so few friends. Acquaintances for the most part. You were my only true friend. You were the best. My very best friend. Until we meet again I shall miss you terribly.
I heard something in your voice. When I got off the phone from talking with you last week I thought about how sad you sounded. In pain. Distant. How I wish I had some magic solution. Some magic incantation that would simplify and take away all life’s pains. Or maybe some kind of insight. Some wisdom. Some truth that once heard would ring bells. Open doors. Provide options. Give us choices. Free us. A truth that would brush away cobwebs from years of unknowing. A truth that would cause us to see clear to the heart of the matter. No matter what that matter might be. To see clearly the reality of the moment. At any given moment. And in that transcendental overview all the options and choices would avail themselves to the seer. To you. To me.
When we are in the dark and trying to make our way through a maze of life’s obstacles the only option we have is to feel our way towards freedom. Our ultimate destination. Listening to you on the phone last week I heard something in your voice. I heard you bumping into things and coming up against walls. I sensed feelings you did not understand. I felt your frustration. Your resignation. One wall too many. I heard it in your voice.
Listening to you I heard the voice of someone trapped. No clear vision to help you avoid the obstructions along your path. Your way. We come to relationships with baggage. You had yours. I had mine. That baggage is the past. The most difficult obstacle to overcome. But we overcame it. There were moments. There were so many moments in our friendship when we were free to have a loving relationship. Spontaneous communion. Interaction with another soul. A real friendship. I will miss that for the rest of my life.
You used a gun. You used a gun to clear the path you were following. And one of those obstacles along the path was you. You used a gun and it killed some-thing in me. The you in me. Why? My dear friend. I would rather you shot me instead.
So much sadness. So much pain. I heard it in your voice.
THE BORROWER: Sucks. Don’t it? Not bad. Really. You look good. A damn sight better than the last time I saw you. A damn sight. Is that make-up on your? You look good but. Shit! Did they have to use so? Don’t look like yourself. Not at all like. The way they filled in the bullet hole. Don’t get me wrong. You look good. Better than good. Too good maybe. All that make-up. Look at you. Unnatural.
So I borrowed a couple bucks from you. I told you I’d give you a little something when I. Didn’t I? I kept running into problems. You know. Maybe you don’t. The old curve ball. Unexpected. Maybe you don’t know what it’s like to walk in other people’s. Did you ever try? At least I tried for God’s sake. I could barely scrape enough together for. I tried. But no. It’s your way or the highway. All or nothing. That’s not my way. Never could figure you. I tried. Don’t forget that. Christ. You got one bad mean streak. Shit!
For a while I thought. The man. Mister Big. Was it worth it? Was it? Those who didn’t want to be with you wanted to be you. I wanted. I know. You can’t have both. But you were bigger than life. A force of nature big. What happened?
All that make-up. Jesus Christ! Did you ever wonder? I mean. If you had just? I meant to. I mean I really meant to. What the hell. I guess I’ll keep it. You’ve got no use for it now.
THE YOUNG FAN: You don’t know me but I know all your poems by heart. Every one. Maybe not every one but most. Some. Certainly some of your poems. Were you conscious of them? They seemed channeled. Certainly inspired. Were you in control when you were writing them? Were you? So many variables. Sometimes they take control of you. The muses. Don’t they? They must. Isn’t that genius?
All the unknowns. The sense of eternity balanced on a single moment in time. Now. Then. Forever. I know all your poems. To know one of your poems is to know all. Can you hear me? Right now? This moment? Will you? Please. Are you in there? In your poems? Or were they in you? I love the one about. You know the one. I thought it was about me.
THE REMORSEFUL CRITIC: I’m sorry. It was my first assignment. Critic at large. I wanted to make a name for myself. That required defaming yours. Or so I thought. I had no idea what you were saying. And I didn’t really care. It all sounded so strange and unimportant. Gibberish. How was I supposed to know? I didn’t know anything about
poetry. It was just a job. An assignment. Come hell or high water I was going to be clever. And I was. I loved that review. I looked so important. I cannot read it now. I wince. I am embarrassed. I’m sorry.
Sometimes we need others to show us the way. Others to tell us what to like and what not to like. That’s how it works. Isn’t it? Who in hell would like Cummings, Ferlinghetti, Eliot or Whitman if others hadn’t told us to. What is greatness anyway? Who decides? The critic with the loudest voice? The one with the most influence? The one working for the most prestigious publication? Who decides? I just don’t know. I’m sorry.
Who decides the literature? The plays? The poems that are taught in our schools? Who discourages young minds from deciding who’s who for themselves? Could it be that educators don’t teach how to think? But what to think? I’m sorry. Don’t blame me. I’m not responsible. You must understand that it wasn’t my fault. I’m the victim here. It’s the fault of the system. Hell. I don’t know what to think anymore. I’m sorry.
THE WOMAN IN THE BLACK-RIMMED HAT: They all came out for this one I see. What an array. The old enemies sniffing about like a pack of hyenas. How fortunate they only growl just loud enough to let you know where they are. They always show themselves at these affairs. One last deception for the melancholy living. Petty tyrants walking about with human excrement shoved deep into their collective nose. Or is it noses? Seeking information to decipher. To unravel the mysteries of your poetry. Especially those you wrote in Venice. “Demons gather round/ in basic mourning-black/ lean o’er my remains/ and by their silence betray themselves.” I’d call that prophetic. Wouldn’t you?
What an array. All the elements gathered in celebration of a life few knew. Fewer understood. How carefully they wear their masks. Chins buried. Seldom daring to make direct eye contact for fear of having to conjure insincere tears best shed for themselves. From the shame of betraying their foul and bilious souls. Hyenas. They eat the dead by beginning at the rectum.
Oh my god! Look at the time! Ciao my darling. Bravo you!
THE WOMAN WITH A PAST: “Much of what I wrote early in my career has proven to be the seeds and reminders of futures to come. I have been repeating myself since I can remember, and learning to say it in so very many ways until I too could hear it—and move on.” Those are your words. Not mine.
There comes a time. Deep inside the darkest heart. Beyond the word. Into the essence of meaning itself. Where words implode from the weight of. What? Gravity?
How quickly the senses embrace the next revelation. We’re like flies. You and I. Buzzing and flitting about. Waiting for the next sensation. The next time we touch. Yes. You touched. Deeply. Yes. Many times. Yes. You touched. Yes and no. You thrust yourself upon me. Deep into my trembling and anxious flesh. Wanting you. Fearing you. Not knowing what to expect. Afraid of losing myself. Losing you. You. Yes. You forced yourself into me and I couldn’t resist. I wanted and I didn’t want. Resigned. I allowed you to happen and you happened. When the mere idea of you had me beside myself. I allowed you to happen. What awareness is this? We’re like flies. You and I. Drawn to the sweet-scent of decay.
THE OTHER WOMAN: I can’t look. I really don’t want to. Just a body. Tell yourself it’s just a body. You there. Me here. I really don’t want to be here but. A body. Just a body. Oh God. Look at you.
I think music thinking of you. I wasn’t going to come today. Not here. Not to this place. Not now. I didn’t want to see you. Not with your wife here. Not with you. You know. Dead. I wanted to remember you in feelings. In light. In the quiet of my mind. Somehow differently. Somewhere differently. Not like this. A body. Just a body. Not you. Not the essence of you. How could I hope to? How could I be heard by? How could I? No.
Those days in New Mexico when we read D.H. Lawrence. Did you remember them from time to time? Those days? It was a secret ritual. Paying the desk clerk. Letting us into the backroom with the Lawrence paintings. Those the English hadn't shredded. Burned for their painted villainy. Pagans and demon-worshipers. Naturalists they were. Naked bodies dancing in a forest under a brilliant moon. Happy. Wide-eyed and happy. Weren’t we? Happy?
I heard new sounds that day. They came from you. We drove to that little shack of a guest house where Lawrence wrote. Where his ashes were captured in cement. One day those ashes will rise. Like the Phoenix. Just a body. Later. Another day. That same summer perhaps. We drove to Sitting Bull Falls. Parked at a roadside picnic area and watched life. You were reading The Plumed Serpent. Remember? You turned to me and said I need a sign. You wanted to know if Lawrence was inside. Had he gone into the heart of darkness? Then there were the screams of young boys coming from the fountain over there. Rattlesnake! They screamed. Rattlesnake! They ran away and returned with sticks and rocks. A rifle in the arms of some brat’s father. You ran and stood between the frightened child of a snake and the venomous mob. You begged the snake to slither away while you warned the gathering mob to retreat. You were beautiful that day.
Later. On our way back down from the falls. The rabbits. It took forever going down that mountain road. I suggested we stop and pitch our tent. You were afraid of wolves and so we continued applying the brakes as we sputtered and stopped our way downward. There were thousands of rabbits. Some stopped. Blinded and frozen in the beams of our light. In disbelief. In the middle of the road. In the middle of the night. In the middle of the world. Trembling.
THE CABBIE: So I’m sittin’ wid the wife readin’ da paper. And there’s your picture. Like a movie star. Like Stallone. De Niro. I says to da missus I know da guy. So I’m rackin’ the old noodle. Where ya know da dead guy from? Then it hits me. Pow! Like a steel-toed boot in da noggin. You was da fare that left the package of papers in my cab. Poems. A whole pile of poems. So I goes to the Algonquin where I picked ya up that morning. Da guy behind da desk sends me up and you’re standin’ there in your robe crying. I’d cry too. I’ve seen closets bigger than dat room. Hope ya didn’t pay through da nose. Ya looked like a crazy man. I thought you was gonna kiss me. But I ain’t into that. Nope. I ain’t into that and I ain’t into poems. You’d think I was bringin’ back your kidnapped baby. Or your long lost mother. But poems? Go figure. Three hundred and sixty-seven dollars. And fifty cents. For poems. Now I don’t know from poems but dat was one big tip. Every penny you could scrounge up. For poems. I’d of taken a thank you. Or just a couple of bucks. You know. For the missus. My niece. She writes poems. Maybe one day she’ll end up like you. Not dead. Famous I mean. And rich. Stayin’ at the Algonquin. A bigger room I hope. From poems. What a world. Only in America. I best be headin’ downtown. I wonder if anybody here needs a cab? From poems.
THE WIDOW’S LOVER: Your wife. She never liked you very much. Men are so easily deceived. You were. You didn’t know she was in love with me. Me. Another woman. She told me she thought you knew. Did you? Is that why you shot yourself? I’d like to think it was. What an insignificant little man you were. And a coward. Only cowards take their own lives. Did you think it would make you more precious? Did you think it would ensure your place in history? Did you know your poetry was sexist? That’s right. Sexist and demeaning. There’s no place in history for a sexist poet. You’ll go up in flames and as quick as that you’ll be forgotten. Who in Hell was he? She never liked you very much. Your wife.
You couldn’t pleasure her. Not as I could. Men are so insensitive to a woman’s needs. It’s all in the foreplay and it begins long before the bedroom. It begins with a gentle touch after dinner. A touch of her cheek. A gentle hand sliding down her throat. A caressing of her breasts. Pulling her into you. Lips pressed tightly upon lips. Tongues exploring. Tasting. And then the sitting on the sofa. Thigh against thigh. Touching. Caressing. Taking in the scent of her. Foreplay. Then and only then. The slow walk into the bedroom. The slow undressing. Till finally the bed where my tongue. My dearly departed. Slips into the place a man takes for granted. A husband thinks he owns. She never liked you very much. Your wife.
THE PUBLISHER: Goodbye old friend. I read some of your words yesterday. Last night. To get into the spirit of the occasion. I read some of you while on my way here from your memorial luncheon with the dreary likes of you-know-who. She’ll come to me. The one who never fails to think that it’s all about her. For God’s sake. You know the one. The one in the end who will forget about you. The poet.
I hear it will be cremation. Beware old friend. It’s against the natural order. Going up in flames. The safer route is to slowly drift away. Unnoticed. Into the organic order of Nature’s poetry.
I hear the grinding of the presses. I smell the ink. You wouldn’t let me edit a word of your primordial poetry. Every word had a price. But you paid. You paid dearly for the privilege. Did you know it was a privilege? You stopped a few moments in time. I’ll give you that. Your poetry seemed to ignite the best. The worst. Something else. You began to sound like your poetry. You became your poetry. You took extremes in such a way and bent them till they were conjoined. Neither could exist without the other. You and your poetry. What had first seemed linear and distant now spun and wove its mystery into sonnets and quatrains. All that distance in a flash. A heartbeat. What black art was that?
THE LAWYER: Hello my friend. Thought you’d like to know I’m finally retiring. It’s time. You look good. For a man who’s dead. When my time comes I hope I look half as good. Well. Maybe three quarters as good. You were a funny man. I don’t think most saw that side of you. You were so busy being the poet you rarely showed yourself as the man you were. They may not remember the man quite so well. Just the poet. My friend. Much of the man you were and the good you did remained unseen. To most. But I held your hand through so many tears. Didn’t I? It was a rough road sometimes. Wasn’t it?
The divorce of your first wife. I don’t mind telling you I thought that was a mistake. It was an easy settlement. Amicable. A rare divorce. She wanted to give you everything and you wanted to give her everything. I think it was a mistake. The divorce. Any regrets? She’s here. Standing by the guest book. Writing something. I wonder if she ever remarried. She was definitely my cup of tea. Maybe I’ll stroll on over after awhile. Give my condolences.
The student at NYU who accused you of rape. She said it was right after your lecture. That you had asked her to your room at the Algonquin where you raped her. I’ve no doubt it was a horrible seven months for you. Waiting for the trial. Being shunned. The vicious news accounts. You thought you’d never recover. I thought you were going to kill yourself. Brown and Regis cancelled your lectures. No bookings came in. When we finally did go to trial we showed her for the liar she was. She thought she could make an easy buck. Maybe make herself famous. From a poet? That’s a laugh. So much to mend after you’ve been wrongly accused. I never would have completely gotten over it. Forgiven her. Did you?
I see your son is out of prison. There was no way I could have won that case. Someone could have died in the fire. He seemed proud of setting it. He admitted it. Said he’d do it again. I never understood that boy. Good Catholic upbringing and all. I only took the case because he was your son. Not my cup of tea. Maybe now he’ll get his life together. He’s here too. Over there. Next to his mother and sister. Your poor daughter. Still in that home. I recall so much of your life as a man. I never read one of your poems. Not my cup of tea. I think I’ll go over and say hello to the family. Give my condolences.
THE NAVAJO GIFT-BEARER: Yá'át'ééh. Hello. Nineteen hundred and twenty-four. Taos. New Mexico. A letter from David Herbert Lawrence to my great grandmother. Handwritten. It belongs to you. To take on your voyage. To take with you as your spirit rises upon the fiery blaze. I have been holding it for you. For generations we have been holding it for you. If anybody should have it. It is you. Not some airless archive.
In this letter Mr. Lawrence thanked my great grandmother for the kindness she bestowed upon him while he was visiting her pueblo. I never knew what that kindness was. I don’t think anybody did. It was her secret. He thanked her for sharing and ended with “I will remember you with every gentle breeze and with every drop of rain.” I am told this letter was her most precious possession. And now it is yours. Here. Let it go up in flames with you.
Our spirits have touched many times. I saw you once at the university in Albuquerque. You were reading from Pueblo Poems. Naturally I had to be there. You autographed my copy.
Weightless sparks of light/ soaring dreams through silent air/ night flight and prayers.
It is my greatest treasure. Perhaps one I shall take with me when it is time for my voyage into the sky.
Silently he sleeps/ dreaming of the moon and stars/ awake she sees clouds.
You spoke in great length about Mr. Lawrence. You said you had just come from visiting the place where his ashes are imprisoned in a block of cement in Taos. And you told us a story about your adventure in Sitting Bull Falls. Thank you for coming to the land of enchantment. And thank you for Pueblo Poems.
There is no god he cries/ into his midlife morning/ then prays for an answer.
I need to fly back to New Mexico tonight. I will remember you with every gentle breeze and with every drop of rain. I wish you a safe journey. Héógoóne'. Goodbye.
THE SISTER: Earlier today I was trying to remember the last time I saw you. You came home after giving a reading at Vassar. I think. Maybe it was after that. So many flowers. There is nothing that smells more like death than flowers. Odd. Isn’t it? Something so beautiful. So filled with life. When I walked in and the scent caught me I became a child. I thought of mother. Lying there. White skin. Smooth. Cold. My lips on her cheek. Smelling like the flowers that surrounded her. I could not make out the scent of a single flower. Just the single scent of the combination. The odor of death. Sweet. Pungent. Like now. Once you’ve been there you never forget. Pass a florist shop and for a moment you’re back watching a loved one laid to rest. Voiceless. Never to be heard from again. You captured it all so well in The Age of Matricide collection.
That won’t be your fate. You’ve all those books of poetry. Speaking for you. Whispering your presence for years to come. I liked having you for a brother. You were kind and considerate. Not to everyone. That’s for sure. But you were always kind to me. Always. I shall miss you.
I shall miss you reading me Proust. Proust’s cookie. Remember? We laughed way into the night thinking of things to touch. To smell. To hear. To taste. Like Proust’s cookie. Remember? One bite and we were transported. Like Proust. Going on for a hundred pages triggered only by the taste of a cookie. When I walked in and smelled the flowers. I half expected to see mother lying here. Not you. Not my brother. I shall miss you reading me Proust. I shall miss you.
I think it was when you came upstate to do a reading at Vassar. When did I last see you? I can’t remember.
THE VOLUNTARY MOURNER: Asparagus. Broccoli. Mushrooms. A poet. A poet laureate. Laureate. Carrots. What’s a laureate? Must be something big. Salmon. Look at the people here. I go to two or three funerals a week. And a few wakes a month. Turkey. Smoked and not smoked. I like not-smoked better. Salad and all kinds of little sandwiches. So many choices. One could die of starvation just trying to make a choice. One can’t eat everything. Not at once. Some try. But it only leads to rejection by society and then to an early death. What’s that? You were in the paper. Open house. Light refreshments. Open bar. Hot stuff. Poet laureate. La-de-da. Roast beef. Deviled eggs with caviar. Posh. I wonder if there’s anybody famous here? Besides you. Check the guest book. Lots of old people. Lots of funerals and wakes. Beans. Green and Baked. Lettuce. Nice digs. Rolls. Cold cuts. Cake. Chocolate. Lemon. Hey. Nice chatting. Laureate. Catch you later. Chocolate cake.
THE AGENT: Oh, darling, look at yourself. I heard about it on my way to London. I read about it in The Times. Your death. So sad. I was devastated. Totally.
Venice has a chill to the air this time of the year. Any time of the year really. But it remains old world. Old world has its charm they say. I say it is a necessary remedy for what ails. One develops a sense for history. Becomes part of history. You already are. Aren’t you? But one can’t get good old fish and chips in Venice. Not for all the Euros on Earth. Venice. The whole damn place is sinking. Who cares? It’s charming! The canals with their arched bridges. Expensive rides in gondolas.
Urban life deafens us to repetitive sounds. The hustle and the bustle of commerce. Even to the sounds of ourselves. Nobody has time anymore. Few know to reach out and take it. Time. Boom. Boom. Boom. Next thing you know it’s the old ticker. Weak kidneys. Black lungs. Green liver. Or ka-bam! It’s a bus. Sometimes my dear friend it’s suicide. That’s a cruel way to go. Why? Why did you take that way out? How did the world fail you? You should have gone back to Venice. Darling.
THE MAN FROM THE BAR: Remember me? I was the man from the bar. In the shadows. A small table. Away from the glare. The afternoon. You walked in. Ordered a Margarita. Remember me? Hot day. Dark. Cool inside. I was also having a Margarita. They weren’t popular in those days. Not like now. That’s what brought you to my attention. Our shared taste. Well. More than that. I thought you were the most gorgeous man I’d ever seen. I sent you a drink. You came to my table. We talked. I desired. Oh God. I was shivering with desire. The constant erection. What would you be like in bed? Did you know I was that way? Did you feel just a small bit of my longing? We talked and talked. I heard your magic. Your words lifted me into worlds I never knew existed. Your words became me. About me. You took me to Heaven and sex became trivial that afternoon in the shadows. Remember me? The dark-eyed pagan. The savage in a godless world. Reckless. Beating his drum. Swimming against the current. That’s what you said. It was your way of saying you knew. Of saying it was all right. I told you how I preferred thinking myself a part of Nature’s design. A part of the weave. The fabric. The garment itself. Years later I would read my words in one of your poems. “The Man from the Bar.” I knew it was about me.
What was that funny business about trinities? Something about everything coming in threes. Not the seasons I said. Yes you said. Summer is life you said. Winter is death you said. And the space between the two makes three. The anticipation of life or the anticipation of death share the same space. We drank and laughed the afternoon into sunset. Talking of what? I will remember you. The joy. The laughter. The honeyed taste of Heaven. The poem you wrote for me. The stranger. Remember me. Please. Remember me. The man from the bar.
THE FIRST WIFE: Hello love. I’ve missed you. All these years. I’ve thought about you. Often. What actually happened? I thought you were. Well. You know. I never thought. I mean you were a poet. That didn’t seem manly. At the time. ‘Though you were great sex. The best. Uninhibited. Wild. God how I miss it. You. Your love. The feeling of being in love. Love stops time. Doesn’t it? Yes. We are suspended in it. By it. I wonder. Did you ever think of me? Through all these years? Ever?
I’m so sorry. I was young. Forgive me. I’ve gone through two more after you. Can you imagine that? Of course you can. You warned me. I just stayed too young. Too long.
The last one. I’m still with the last one. Nowhere to go. Where does an old woman go when there’s nowhere to go? Where? The truth is I love my husband. I don’t know why. He’s seldom there. I don’t want anything bad for him. I just want something good for me. He drinks his vodka and I watch him disappear with the unwinding of the day. There. In his chair watching the early news he begins to nod off and I am. Alone. That’s no way to be when you’re married. That’s no way to be. Week to week to week and life passes by like untouchable scenery outside a train’s window.
Why did you shoot yourself? Were you alone too? Did you cry yourself to sleep? Did you spend year after year waiting for something? Someone to love you. Someone in your life who remains in your life and doesn’t disappear during the early news. All that waiting. Too late now. The woman in the mirror can only wait for it all to be over. Was it like that for you? God! You were great sex. I’m so sorry. I was young. Forgive me. I don’t want to wait anymore. Alone. I’m so tired. I need.
I need to get my hands on a gun.
THE DAUGHTER: Daddy. I miss you. They told me you were dead. Yes. I know what dead means. There was a spider in the bathtub this morning. Yes. A very little spider. Yes. I took my medication. I haven’t gone crazy in a long time. Listen to me. Please. There was a spider in the bathtub. I saw it. I did. The nurse doesn’t always believe me but it was a spider all right. I watched it float down along its thread. Unseen. Not invisible. I knew it had to be there. Nothing is invisible. You taught me that. Yes. There are the things we see and the things we do not see. You know where it landed? It landed right on my sponge and then it ran right back up. Gathering the unseen with it. It kept an eye on me. Yes. It did. I could see its two little black eyes looking at me. Me. The crazy woman. That’s what they call me there. In the place. The home. Stinks of urine. Yes. It does.
Ever so carefully the spider lowered himself again and stood there on the sponge watching me. I washed myself very carefully with only my hands. Yes. I did. Slowly I stepped out of the tub and pulled the plug while keeping an eye on my friend. Yes. He was my friend and I didn’t want him to drown. Yes. I didn’t want my friend to go down the drain. And drown. Like me. Yes. So I kept an eye on my tiny friend and watched. Just watched. Yes. Just watched. Daddy.
I wonder if my friend felt as pleased as me? I wish I could have shared my joy with him. With you. Yes. It was joy. I know it was. Joy from knowing I was doing my best. You always told me to do my best. Yes. The best you said. You’ll know it when you do it. You said. The best is having the right response to the situation. You said. Yes. I had the right response. Didn’t I? Daddy. Didn’t I?
You know what? My friend trusted me and that scared me. I gave him good reason to trust me. Daddy. He really trusted me and it scared me. Yes. You know what else you used to say? You used to say with trust comes terrible responsibility. Yes. Yes you did. I’m afraid. Afraid. I miss you. Daddy. I know you're dead. Daddy. I know what dead is. Yes.
THE STUDENT: You ruined my life you smug son of a bitch. You laughed at me when I read my poem. Me. In front of everyone. I was an “A” student. Everyone knew I was the best. I had a future. But right there in the lecture hall you laughed at me. Humiliated me. Murdered me. Did you know it was me who arranged your visit? Not everyone wanted you. They said you were too traditional. A throwback. Ancient history. I had to deal with that crazy agent of yours. She didn’t make it easy but I wanted you. Poet Laureate. You laughed at me and said my poem lacked intent. Said it reminded you of Frankenstein. Too many parts exhumed from other poets. Exhumed. You ruined my life right there in front of everyone and I never wrote another poem since. Not one. Do you know what I do now? Huh? Do you care what I do now because of you? I teach middle school English. Reduced to middle school English. I wish it had been me. I wish it had been my finger on that trigger. Pulling it. Watching the bullet enter your head. Watching you die. I would have loved that. It would have given me pleasure. Maybe then I could have exhumed the life you took.
THE PETRIFIED FLORIST: Oh my! What horticultural nightmare have we here? I did my best to mix my magnificent flower arrangements in with this god-awful mish mash. Mercy. The taste of a Puerto Rican drag queen. Who in their right mind mixes tulips with snapdragons and baby’s breath? The nerve of some people. They look more like sympathy flowers from a Ukrainian wedding. And they call themselves florists. Florists my ass! Butchers and piñata makers! Oh my gay nerves. Lilies. Tulips. Gladiolus. And sun flowers. Is that mad queen demented or what? The lavender standing spray is nice. The bitch ripped me off. That standing lavender is one of my signature sympathy arrangements. Though it does work well at commitment ceremonies. Some florists have no shame. I know. They’ll rob you blind. Oh my god! Take a gander at that standing cross with red and white roses. How passé is that? Let me get out my tambourine and love beads. Compare it to my lily and eucalyptus standing spray. Now that pops. Be still my heart. Or my full flower wreath. How fabulous is that?
Hmmm. Alstroemerias. Delphiniums. Hydrangeas. Ferns. Daisies and bamboo penis-looking things. Leftovers from a Chinese lesbian orgy if you ask me. How about that bleeding open heart standing spray? Or that white rose topiary sympathy basket? Oh my gay nerves. Give this girl a break! Was somebody inspired by dog shit? It petrifies me to think how little talent there is in the flower biz. Well. Thank God there’s me. Oh look there. Carnations and pansies. Who’d have thunk it?
All these people in mourning. All these dying flowers. They look embalmed. And I don’t mean just the flowers. You’ve got some real tight ass friends sweetie. This party needs a little life! Potted plants would do the trick. Potted carnivorous plants. Mon Dieu! Carnivores would be just too perfect. An arrangement for every occasion. Pitcher plants with their pool of digestive juices mixed in with ferns and snapdragons. Baby showers. Or bachelor parties. Flypaper traps that force their prey to stick to them till they are slowly devoured. Oh my. Definitely a wedding arrangement. Bladder plants that suck their prey into a deadly vacuum. Sounds like my first lover. I think I should add a bit of plumage to that. Peacock feathers maybe. The Venus Flytrap. My favorite. It lies in wait till the victim brushes up against it. Then. Snap! Like a drag queen in heat it snatches its prey. Yup. The death pot. How divine is that? Top that you uninspired horticultural bitches. Happy trails. Darling.
THE EMPATHETIC MOURNER: You were supposed to read at The Poetry Center at the Y from your new collection. The Age of Matricide. It was your best. Painful. Honest. I came into the city just to see you. Hear you read. I took the train. All the way from Albany to uptown Manhattan. I’d planned it for months. You didn’t show. Your capriciousness preceded you. But still I was surprised. Disappointed. How could you do such a thing? Later I learned you had a temper tantrum at the Algonquin. With the desk clerk. And you couldn’t see yourself clear to attend. We waited. And waited. I was devastated. I cried all the way back to Albany.
Years later I read somewhere that you were bi-polar. The American Poetry Review or maybe it was The Yale Review. I can’t remember. But I read that you were bi-polar. Suddenly I understood your tantrum. The depressions. The undermining of the Self. The sudden outbursts. The violence. The quick withdrawal. The passionate hating. The passionate loving. The overwhelming tenderness. The vicious uncaring. The beautiful outpouring of the soul. The endless hours in bed. The reaching out to others. The withdrawal. The heart-stopping beauty of your poetry. Your art. And now that alone explains the suicide.
Look at you. Finally I see you in person. I shall take your image back to Albany. For all time. I would not have missed this for all the world. We’re so much alike. You and me. We are bound by our disease.
THE INFREQUENT LOVER: I don't know what to say. I thought I would be the first to go. You would come round every so often. Never often enough. Walk into my life as though you’d never been gone. Months. Sometimes years between visits. Walk into my room. Erect. Wordlessly. Enter me. Make love. And then we’d talk. And then we’d touch. Really touch. And the words would flow.
I know when words ring true. And I know when words come from the heart. And I know how it feels to be touched by another soul. You touched me. And I know how you felt. How it feels. Everything changes after the moment we take a good hard look at our lives. After we’ve seen it. Our lives. In the very next moment everything is changed. The light is a little brighter and the load is a little lighter. And once we've shared that moment a greater good begins to flow between souls no longer burdened with a sense of isolation. That is how you felt. My infrequent lover.
You touched me with your beauty and I became more beautiful. I became more Human from the bit of Humanity you left within.
I don’t know what to say. I thought I would be the first to go. I thought I would see you again.
THE CONSTANT INITIATE: What in hell is all this? The working toward? The dreaming of? The wishing for? The desires? The shaking of hands? The “how do you dos?” and the “I love yous?” You think of those. You think you’ve been a liar all your life. Whose thoughts are you thinking now? Liar. All your life. Sorry but I seem to be thinking of me. You’re dead and I’m here and as usual I’m thinking of me.
Whose words are these? That’s where it starts you know. When it starts. It starts with words drummed into our skulls until we learn to say “da-da” and “ma-ma.” Not long before we say “screw you!” and move out of the house and onto the streets. Where you found me and treated me to dinner. To some comfort. And a copy of your poems. Ways to Hear.
Tell me something I haven’t heard before. I bet you can’t. Let me tell you something. Did you know that bodies litter the streets where they rot and die because of words? Did you know that all the wars that ever were began with words? Did you know that all the pain in all the world began with words? They define us. Confine us. Kill us. Imagine a mute planet. A silent planet.
Who spoke the first words? The first expression? Why do we repeat them? Over and over. They aren’t our words or our thoughts. They’re hand-me-downs from generation to generation. Thief. You’re a thief just like me. So don’t lie there dead pretending you don’t understand. You feel its truth. We are connected. You and me. I can’t get you out of my brain. Your poetry taught me to think.
Oh well. It doesn’t really matter. Does it? Thinking is highly overrated.
THE INTENTIONAL WRITER: “At the moment I am trying to write something. Finish something. I can't seem to muster the passion and I'm not the biggest fan of my writing right now. Nor of myself. I'm filled with doubt and questions concerning a need for honesty. What seems honest one day seems pretense the next. It is a confusion of great distraction. I am between two worlds and without footing in either. Perhaps this is where it ends. Without Knowledge. Without Truth. Only the intentional decisions we make from word to word. From moment to moment.”
You wrote me those words on a postcard from Mexico shortly before. Before. Where’s the euphemism when you need one? Before. Demise? No. That’s not a very good euphemism. I might as well say before you blew your head off! As a fellow writer I understand how those doubts can lead to. Well. You know. Your transitioning. Your euphemism.
I want to believe. I want to believe there’s more. Something beyond here. Beyond now. If there isn’t something more then what’s the use? Why care? Why not join the rabble? Forget the concept of responsibility. Become the anti-existentialist. Live with reckless abandon without regard to consequences. Has spending the better part of a life to create literature been a fool’s occupation? Trying to create immortality. To leave a piece of the soul in one’s work. A piece that will come to life in another’s mind after you’re long gone. Just in case. Just in case there’s nothing beyond what we create here in life. Is that the closest one can get to immortality?
Perhaps we do move from moment to moment without knowledge. Only the illusion of knowledge. The acceptance of it. Without truth. Only the lies we convince ourselves to believe through the ignorance of faith. From moment to moment with only words to verify an existence. When the words stop does the intentional writer?
Have you gone to another plane? Have you transitioned? Or is it all just another euphemism for non-existence? For no longer being.
THE NOT SO VERY REVEREND: We were here in town for a meeting with the Cardinal when the news of your death reached us. Nothing left to say after you’ve been excommunicated. What did you think you were doing? You came to Rome and you attacked the Church. Deliberate and premeditated. Not only with your blasphemous poetry. But with the venom you spewed in the evil agenda of your lecture. Paganism. Hedonism. The philosophy of D. H. Lawrence. Henry David Thoreau. Vile humanism. It has no place in the Church. You have no place. You were warned. And suicide. We take pity on your soul. But we cannot save it.
God is not simply an animating spirit. Although He is within every human being He is not merely the sum total of every human being. Your ideas are the devil’s ideas. Your poetry may be popular in certain academic circles. But it is corrupting our youth. Damning them for all eternity. It is fitting that the death you chose was delivered by your own hands. Perhaps that one last act will put a damper on your influence.
Just one last look upon the evil that is you before returning to Rome. It is saddening to know your soul will suffer the pains of Hell for all eternity. To know there is no redemption. No absolution. No prayers that will save you. Was your poetry worth the price you paid? In Nomine Patris, et Filii, et Spiritus Sancti.
THE DISENCHANTED PRIOR NUN: I did it. You told me I would and I did. No longer a bride of Jesus. Not so much a divorce as it was an annulment. Well. After all those years of conditioning one never really walks away without some lingering residue. One can never really shake oneself free of it. But I did leave the convent. And the Church. You told me I would. You knew I was trapped in a lie. I became a nun because it was what everybody expected of me. My parents. Mother Rosa. All the nuns who taught at our school. So I began to expect it of myself. I didn't want to disappoint anybody. I needed their approval. I needed everybody’s approval. I never heard voices. Got the call or anything like that. It just seemed the next logical step. But I knew. I knew I was lying. From the day I entered the convent. I knew. And you knew. You knew back in high school when you begged me not to go. I didn’t listen. I’m sorry.
Those are the most dreaded lies of all. The lies we tell ourselves. And the guilt. All those years of guilt. For what? Approval? Someone to tell me I was. What? Who? Anyway. Here I am. You’d be proud of me. One more disenchanted Catholic.
THE SON: Hello Father. Mother made me come. It wasn’t my idea. I said I didn’t ever want to see you again. Not for as long as you lived. It worked out that way. Didn’t it? So here I am. I thought about this day. Often. I thought about how much I hated you. Often. But I don’t. Not anymore. I don’t hate you. I’m tired of all the hate. I was only hating myself. Any day now. I am older now than you were the last time I saw you. Any day now I will forgive myself. Any day.
God says very little nowadays. Not so judgmental. That’s for sure. God moves with the Self that moves through us all. I understand that now. I guess you would approve of that. My understanding. I’m sorry. I’m tired of all the hate. Sometimes when I think I am hearing God, I am hearing the best within me. Sometimes I think it is you. Mother made me come. It wasn’t my idea. But then you know that. After I left the seminary I lived with my sister for awhile. Before she had her breakdown. Before she. I haven’t seen her in many years. Until today. She didn’t recognize me. Mother said she’s doing better. That she’ll be home for a couple days. Any day now. She didn’t recognize me. I don’t suppose I would either. She seems to have gotten worse. Mother has her for a couple days. But you already know that. And then she’ll need to go back. She’ll die there. In that home.
I read some of your books. Your poems. I realized I never knew you. When I got out of prison I thought of coming to visit you. I did. I truly did. But I couldn’t. Do you know to this day I’m not allowed within five-hundred feet of an abortion clinic? Did you know that? Did mother tell you?
God says very little nowadays. Hell is the distance between father and son. I was in Hell. Were you?
THE POET’S ANGEL: You were eleven. The age of matricide. You said. Or so you thought. I tried to change your mind. To tell you it wasn’t your fault. But you would have none of it. You believed it was. Right up till the other day. When you pulled the trigger. You believed. Do you see the light?
Your mother. I know you wanted her out of your life. Those times you were rescued by a neighbor from having her hold your head along with her own in the oven with all the gas jets open. I was that neighbor. Or the time when she held you in a death grip in her arms while the two of you lay on the railroad tracks for the next oncoming train. You broke free and called upon a stranger’s kindness to help drag her from the tracks. I was that stranger. Do you see the light?
That day you sensed something different. The day of matricide. Everything went quiet and you felt the silence. Yes. This time it was different. This time the urgency of the drama was calmed by carefully calculated intent. You knew. You knew before she fully realized that this would be her time. I knew because I am your angel. This would be the time that she would succeed in causing her own death. This time you would not be going with her. This time you would not try to save her. Enough was enough. Matricide? Do you see the light?
Your mother’s bedroom was dark. She was under the cover of a pink chenille bedspread. The shades had been lowered to keep the bright Indian summer day from slipping into her room and reminding her that life was worth living. That death was worth re-thinking. That depression was transitory. Shafts of sunlight were abuzz with those fine bits of dust and creation that float in the light of the heated air. They bent over the dresser with the clear crystal perfume bottles setting on an oval mirrored tray. The shafts of sunlight spread over bookshelves that were crowded with books she always initialed in green ink and dated after reading. Sunlight bent into the corners of the pink painted walls and bounced from off Jesus crucified. You were eleven. The age of matricide. Do you see the light?
You crawled into bed next to her and went to sleep. When you awoke the shaft of light had moved several more inches away from Jesus crucified. You got out of bed and noticed that while you were sleeping she had written several pages and had placed them on the nightstand next to the then empty containers of sleeping pills. You didn’t need to read what she had written to know what she had done. You knew. You knew because you had been there many times before. But this time you would let her will be done. I watched as her will was done. Do you see the light?
THE PLAYWRIGHT: My play is almost complete. It’s about you. All about you. You invented and re-invented and became your own creation. Yet in the end you came full circle and you became who you always were. Whom you were meant to be. Whom it was who first entered this world. Nothing changes but points of view and the words we use to describe them. Perhaps I’ve taken some artistic liberties here and there. It never was intended to be the story of your life. It was the spirit of you I was trying to record. The soul of you I sought to capture. All else is history. All else dies with the man. My play is almost complete.
I followed your life very carefully. Sometimes not understanding you. Sometimes believing I did. Who am I kidding? Most times not understanding you. I don’t think you did either. Of course not. Who does? But with you it is in your poetry. Your spirit. Your soul. Your life. All that searching. Always the searching. Seeking to understand. So much more important than seeking to be understood. You could never be understood. Least of all to yourself. My play is almost complete.
Did you find any wisdom along the way? I think you did. Did you apply it? I don’t know. Did you? In writing your life as a play I found myself writing my own. I found myself looking for me while searching for you. When I started out on the road to chronicle the life and times of the poet I found the road leading right back to me. Back to something essential. Back to a shared sense of being. A commonality. A universality. My play is almost complete.
Your poetry goes on. That was your life’s struggle. Wasn’t it? To create something in life that would live beyond your life. Will my play live beyond my own? Is that the only immortality? The best one can hope? Oh well. A few more finishing touches and my play will be complete. I will be complete. And I will go on.
THE CORPSE: At last. Out of this coffin. Beyond the wall. The mortar and bricks of life. Unbound. At last. Where is it? I don’t see it. The life. The man. The poet. Who died here? Was it really suicide? Or was a murder committed? What have I done? We’re caretakers of sorts. Aren’t we? Our body. Our planet. Have I betrayed a sacred trust?
THE BEST FRIEND: So much sadness. So much pain. I heard it in your voice.
THE WIDOW: I never liked you very much. No. Not as much as you led yourself to believe. Who am I kidding? You never believed. Never.
THE CORPSE: I believed. But there’s really not much left to say when you’re dead. Is there? I’ve spent my life living in words. In poetry. I think I ceased to exist long before the main event. The bullet that ended my so-called life. Right into the skull. Right here. I didn’t feel a thing. Except remorse. And that came too late. The bullet had already begun its journey. Although one could argue that the bullet was triggered more than half a century ago.
THE STUDENT: I wish it had been my finger on that trigger. Pulling it. Watching the bullet enter your head. Watching you die. I would have loved that. It would have given me pleasure. Maybe then I could have exhumed the life you took.
THE FIRST WIFE: Week to week to week and life passes by like untouchable scenery outside a train’s window.
THE OTHER POET: We’re all at sea. Closer to some sort of perfection? Or farther away? Adrift? Too soon we begin to slow and grind to a halt on unseen shoals. At some point. Still in life. We stop.
THE CORPSE: Somewhere I stopped. I became a spectator. I wanted to know. I wanted to be in control. But I was afraid of the responsibility. I was afraid that I might have discovered that I was God. Oh God. I just wanted to touch the soul of another. I wanted to know. God. I wanted to know God.
THE WOMAN IN THE BLACK-RIMMED HAT: All the elements gathered in celebration to a life few knew. Fewer understood. How carefully they wear their masks.
THE WIDOW’S LOVER: You’ll go up in flames and as quick as that you’ll be forgotten. Who in Hell was he?
THE VOLUNTARY MOURNER: So many choices. One could die of starvation just trying to make a choice.
THE BORROWER: Those who didn’t want to be with you wanted to be you. But you were bigger than life. A force of nature big. What happened?
THE CORPSE: I was a spectator for the most part. Perhaps in youth there were a few moments when I actually did “live.” When I was unconsciously a part of the natural order. When I was not preoccupied with Self. Not myself. The Self. The realm of the poet. I could never get anyone to understand that. I really cared about the world outside myself. I cared! I cared about the people in the world outside myself. Stop telling me I didn’t! But I was a poet. I had to go within to find the Human thread that held us all together. The universal thread of Self. The collective spirit of Humanity. That Self that is all selves. Where we are One. And the One is God.
THE NOT SO VERY REVEREND: In Nomine Patris, et Filii, et Spiritus Sancti.
THE CONSTANT INITIATE: So don’t lie there dead pretending you don’t understand. You feel its truth. We are connected. You and me. I can’t get you out of my brain. Your poetry taught me to think.
THE PUBLISHER: The safer route is to slowly drift away. Unnoticed. Into the organic order of Nature’s poetry.
THE EMPATHETIC MOURNER: Look at you. Finally I see you in person. I shall take your image back to Albany. For all time. I would not have missed this for all the world. We're so much alike. You and me. We are bound by our disease.
THE AGENT: One develops a sense for history. Becomes part of history. You already are. Aren’t you?
THE CABBIE: From poems. What a world.
THE REMORSEFUL CRITIC: Sometimes we need others to show us the way. Others to tell us what to like and what not to like.
THE DAUGHTER: You used to say with trust comes terrible responsibility. Yes. Yes you did. I’m afraid. Afraid. I miss you. Daddy. I know you’re dead. Daddy. I know what dead is.
THE CORPSE: Don’t tell me I didn’t love or that I only loved myself. I loved! I loved deeply. I loved within myself. The best kind of self-love embraces all Humanity. Please. Tell me it’s not a delusion. Tell me I didn’t waste a life. Tell me I did something worthwhile. Something. Anything. Don’t let it be for naught.
Suicide? I didn’t take my life. I took the life of the poet. Not me. The poet had taken my life long ago. I didn’t enjoy life. How could I? I didn’t have a life to enjoy. I lived in words. Words. Just words. I was on paper. I was in books. I was on the tongues of others. It wasn’t my life I took. I murdered the thing that robbed me of life long before the bullet that ended the poet.
THE MAN FROM THE BAR: Your words lifted me into worlds I never knew existed. Your words became me. About me. You took me to Heaven and sex became trivial that afternoon in the shadows.
THE YOUNG FAN: Sometimes they take control of you. The muses. Don’t they? They must. Isn’t that genius?
THE PETRIFIED FLORIST: All these people in mourning. All these dying flowers.
THE WOMAN WITH A PAST: How quickly the senses embrace the next revelation. We’re like flies. You and I. Buzzing and flitting about. Waiting for the next sensation. The next time we touch.
THE OTHER WOMAN: I heard new sounds that day. They came from you. You were beautiful that day. In the middle of the road. In the middle of the night. In the middle of the world. Trembling.
THE INTENTIONAL WRITER: Perhaps this is where it ends. Without Knowledge. Without Truth. Only the intentional decisions we make from word to word. From moment to moment.
THE SISTER: I shall miss you reading me Proust.
THE LAWYER: I recall so much of your life as a man. I never read one of your poems. Not my cup of tea.
THE CORPSE: A man is more than what he does. He is also why he does what he does. I await a revelation. Wisdom comes through revelation. Revelation. I thought how exquisite it would be to live in a world of my own making. To be my own creation. To create hand in hand with God. To really have free will. Free choice. To exercise it. To build upon what God had already created. But then I did. Didn’t I?
I know now that I could have chosen to live a fuller life. I know now that I could have mustered the strength of my convictions. The advice I gave others. The songs I sang through my poetry. I know that I should have. Could. Had I another chance. Revelation. There’s small salvation there. Ironic. Isn’t it?
THE INFREQUENT LOVER: You touched me with your beauty and I became more beautiful.
THE SON: God says very little nowadays.
THE NAVAJO GIFT-BEARER: I will remember you with every gentle breeze and with every drop of rain. I wish you a safe journey. Héógoóne'.
THE PLAYWRIGHT: Nothing changes but points of view and the words we use to describe them.
THE POET’S ANGEL: It was written long ago. The light. Do you see the light?
THE CORPSE: There must be something better. But I don’t see it. Where is the light? God. I dedicate my poetry and my life to you.
THE UNDERTAKER: The terrible pain of Being diminishes the dreadful anxiety of death. All knew they would cease to be. But nobody believed it.
THE CORPSE: I don’t see the light. Oh God. Help me. I don’t see any light. Do you?
END OF PLAY