Playaday: Colors

#17—color poem

CHARACTERS

RED

ORANGE

YELLOW
GREEN

BLUE 

PURPLE

Each wears a costume in its color.

WHITE LIGHT Wears a voluminous translucent white robe, big enough to hold the others.

SETTING: Inside a rainbow. (What the heck? The purpose of writing these little bits is to open up the imagination.)

GREEN

It’s mostly mine, you know. All of that. Grass, trees. Mostly mine.

BLUE

You’re kidding, right? It’s mine all the way. All that water and those clouds.

GREEN

Clouds are white.

YELLOW


No they aren’t. They’re yellow a lot of the time, and blue. 

ORANGE

And orange. At sunset anyhow, and some sunrises.

RED

Yeah, but. You guys might be common, but it’s being uncommon that’s cool. I mean, how often do I appear? Cardinals, a few red flowers, some of the stuff the people make. Special. I’m not common, I’m special. The one per cent.

PURPLE

However. I am, and have always been, royal. The majesty of my mountains, yes? The expense of the dye stuffs to color the garments of kinds and queens. Everybody knows that my title is “Royal.”

GREEN

Well, I don’t care what you say. It’s mostly mine. Besides, if any of you gets mixed up with white, you turn into an icky pastel. Pink, peach. . . . 

YELLOW

Ahem.

GREEN

Okay, okay. Generalization. But Purple is lavender, which is hardly royal.

PURPLE

Of course it isn’t. But it isn’t me.

RED

Any more than pink is me. I’m RED, right? Fire engines and sports cars and mittens and.  .

GREEN

And fires, right?

RED

Hey, that’s mosly orange and yellow.

ORANGE


And fires are not our fault. Come on.

BLUE

(Sings) “I’d rather be blue/ Thinking of you,/ I’d rather be blue/ Than be happy/ As somebody/ Else.”

WHITE LIGHT

(Enters with a flourish.)

Okay, everybody in! Come on, come on! Rain’s over, party’s over. In you go, in you go.

(The colors quickly scurry under White’s robes, which are closed. The curtain falls as White stands there, motionless, the others visible through the cloth.)

Playaday: About Coffee

#61—Write about coffee

CHARACTERS

A playwright 

SETTING

A study. The playwright sits at the desk, drinking coffee. There is an electric drip-pot in easy reach.

PLAYWRIGHT

(Staring at screen.)

Okay. A play about coffee. Sounds stupid to me, but at least it will pay. Who’d have thought that a coffee roaster would pay me to write a whole play about coffee? Huh. Featuring him. And his wife and his brother-in-law and his obnoxious teen-aged daughter. Well, okay. I can do this. Ten thousand bucks is ten thousand bucks, even though it feels like selling out. Let’s see now

(Types while talking.)

Characters:

A Coffee Roaster. Forty-ish, tall, handsome. Jeans and a buffalo-check shirt.

Wife.  Slim, blonde ponytail. Fleece and spandex and expensive running shoes.

Brother-in-law:   (Sits back and stares at the screen.)

Okay. That’s all type cast, right? They’re just playing themselves here. And if I were to do the slacker brother-in-law, he’d be an asshole, because he is. Okay. Redo. Let’s see.  

(Types again.) 

Characters:

An asshole. No. Come on. Think ten thousand bucks.  Characters. Miranda: Teenager. Blue mohawk, tattoos, torn jeans. Coffee addict. Paula: her mother. Plump, tired, mom jeans and sweatshirt with sequins. Jeff: her father. A coffee roaster. Shabby, unshaven but not in a cool way. Brad: her uncle—mother’s brother. A Guy in a Suit who wants to take over the coffee business.

(Sits back.) Nope. That would work, wouldn’t it? As a play? But not as a ten thousand dollar production about the company. Okay. Third time’s the charm.

(Types.)

Characters:

A King. Forty-ish, tall, handsome. Fairy-tale style robes and crown. A Queen:  Fairy tale style. A Princess: Dressed like a princess but with bare feet. A Knight: Heavy armor, with a mask. 

(Sits back.)

Ha! That way I get to see him clunking around. Good. And, let’s see. The barefoot princess will discover coffee bushes and the King will wonder what to do with them and the Queen will figure out how to roast the beans and the Knight will clank around. Or maybe he could be a jester instead? Okay. Work, work. Ten thousand dollars, here we come.

(Starts typing.)

Playaday: Forget Matilda

#100—Forget Matilda

CHARACTERS

RYAN—middle-aged male, conventional clothing, red sneakers
SYLVIA—old female, conventional clothing, red sneakers

Setting: A bare stage, two chairs.

(Ryan enters, sits, looks at the audience in despair.)

RYAN
It’s over. Three months of my life, in vain. I tried and tried and it didn’t work and she left. I don’t know what to do. I simply don’t know what to do. How can I go on?

(Sylvia enters, stands looking at him for a minute, pulls up the other chair and sits down, facing him.)

RYAN

Who are you?

SYLVIA
I’m Sylvia. Who are you, oh miserable man?

RYAN
Why should I tell you?

SYLVIA
Because I saw you sitting here and I’m going to help you. 

RYAN

Why should you help me?

SYLVIA
Because it’s what I do. I’m a general helper. I wander around looking for people to help and I help them.

RYAN
I don’t know you at all. I’ve never seen you before. Why should I tell you my troubles?

SYLVIA
Because you don’t know me and you’ve never seen me before, that’s why. Nothing like a stranger. I have no stake in what happens to you because I’m not your family and I’m not your friend, and I didn’t cause your troubles. Right? So tell me.

RYAN

Okay. I guess that makes some kind of sense.

SYLVIA
Of course it does. Tell me.

RYAN

It’s Matilda. 

SYLVIA
And she is?

RYAN

My girlfriend. My ex-girlfriend. I thought she was the one, you know? Everything was going so well. And then she, welll, she just up and told me that she was moving to California, of all places, because she got a good job offer there. So I said I’d find a job there, too, and go with her, and she said not to bother. And she just got up and walked away. That was it. What can I do?

SYLVIA
Seems pretty clear to me.

RYAN

What?

SYLVIA
Well, she spared you all kinds of agony. She made it really, really clear that whatever you had going with her is over. 

RYAN

So what do I do?

SYLVIA
Forget her.

RYAN

Forget her? That’s your advice?

SYLVIA
Yup. Forget Matilda and get on with your life. ‘Bye now. No need to thank me.

(Exits.)

RYAN

Forget her? I guess that never occured to me. Well, okay. I guess I can do that. Forget Matilda. Good. 

(He closes his eyes for a minute, breathes deeply.)

There. That’s done.

(Stands, shakes himself, and exits.)

Playaday: What you’ve forgotten

CHARACTERS

Linda—a retired nurse

Nancy—a disaffected priest

Vicky—a retired lawyer

Sharon—a massage therapist

Sally—a matriarch

Setting:  A coffee shop. They are all seated around the table.

VICKY

I hate it that I can’t remember things. Yesterday it was my glasses. I took them off when I came home from running errands because they were fogged up from the mask and the cold, and I put them somewhere. And when I sat down to read the paper, I realized I didn’t have them on my face. So I looked on the table in the front all. Not there. KItchen counter. Not there. Then I asked Sharon if she’d seen them.

SHARON

I asked her if she left them in the car. Well, no.

VICKY

I went out to check. Retraced my steps. And realized I had checked email on my computer and I always take my glasses off to look at the screen. But they weren’t on my desk. Then Binky came in and walked across the keyboard. Damned cat is determined to leave his mark on everything I do.

SHARON

Hey! He’s old. He just wants attention.

LINDA

Sorta like me.

NANCY

Ha! Like all of us.

SALLY

It’s been a long time since I”ve walked across a keyboard. Maybe I should try that.

NANCY

So you obviously found them, since they’re on your face now.

VICKY

Yeah. Turns out Binky had somehow knocked them on the floor, and I couldn’t see them on the carpet. Geez. I’m getting pathetic.

SALLY

Bob and I got an idea awhile ago. We could get a big, big basket and put everything in it. That way we could always find things. Keys, glasses, mail, coffee cups, water bottles, gloves, hats, library books. . .

NANCY

I love it. But how big would the basket have to be?

LINDA

Mine would have to be the size of my house. And I live alone.

NANCY

Huh. I might try that, actually. A basket by the door. 

SHARON

Let us know if it works. Vicky can’t find her calendar now that it’s not on her phone.

VICKY

But that’s probably okay. it’s not like I do anything but have coffee with you people.

SHARON

Speaking of which—gotta go. Same time next week?

NANCY

Yup. See you then.

Playaday: How People Drive

#8—How people drive

CHARACTERS

DEER

RABBIT

SQUIRREL

SETTING:  A forest clearing, late afternoon.

DEER

They drive at twilight. That’s really so stupid. They can’t see anything then. They don’t know where the trails are, and they get in the way. We’re going about our business, right? Moving from the woods to the pasture or back again? And we go in a narrow line on the trails so as not to disturb everything the way they do. When we bump into them, it hurts us and sometimes we even die. I hate it. And even though sometimes they die too, or their cars get smashed up, they don’t seem to learn.

RABBIT

Yeah, well. I know what you mean. Same here, trying to cross those hard paths they make in the half-dark. And when we run from them the way we’ve learned, the way that so often works when coyotes or foxes chase us, they catch us anyway. They squash us and leave us for the crows and vultures. And they think “only a rabbit.” Doesn’t seem to bother them at all.

SQUIRREL

Hey, hey. We have to be out in the daytime. Even worse, even worse. Acorns, right? Seeds. Gotta get ‘em while it’s light. Dodge and spin. Decide quick. Back and forth. Tuck in the tail. Get between those wheel things. Fast as you can. Bad animals, them. Only squirrels. Yeah. Only squirrels.

DEER

Gotta get going. I’m meeting the kids up on the ridge. Wish me luck.

RABBIT

Yeah, me too. Wish me luck.

SQUIRREL

Good luck, guys. Heading for the nest. Maybe I’ll see you tomorrow.

DEER

Who knows?

RABBIT

Yeah, whoever knows?

Playaday: Affecting Adult

13—Adult who affected you strongly as a child

CHARACTERS

MARY—an overly imaginative second grader

MARY’S MOM

MRS. ROGERS—a colorless, depressed second grade teacher who hates teaching

MARY’S DAD

SCENE ONE

The family kitchen. Mary is talking with her mother.

MARY
And we’re going to do a play! A Christmas play.

MOM

Tell me about it.

MARY

There will be Mary and Joseph and Wise Men and Shepherds. And guess what?

MOM

What?

MARY
I get to be the Angel Gabriel!

MOM
Oh my. And what will you do?

MARY
I’ll tell Mary about Baby Jesus and then I’ll tell the Shepherds. And guess what?

MOM

What?

MARY
I have a beautiful costume.

MOM

You do? What does it look like?

MARY

It’s a long white dress with sparkles in it. And I have silver wings. Great big silver wings. And a halo. That’s golden.

MOM
That sounds very fancy. When is the play?

MARY
Right before Christmas.

MOM
I’m looking forward to it.

MARY
Oh. No. You can’t come.

MOM

Why not?

MARY

You just can’t. Mothers can’t come. It’s only for the school.

MOM

That doesn’t make any sense.

MARY
But you can’t! It’s only for the school!

MOM

I’m going to talk with Mrs. Rogers and find out,

MARY

No! No! You can’t! You can’t come! Don’t talk to Mrs. Rogers! You just can’t come!

SCENE TWO

A Classroom, after school. Mrs. Rogers is sitting at her desk, correcting papers. Mom enters.

MRS. ROGERS

(Looking up.)  Hello. Who are you?

MOM

I’m Mary’s mother.

MRS. ROGERS

Oh. Well, what do you want? Mary’s doing very well in school.

MOM

I know she is. But she tells me that she is in a Christmas play, and that parents can’t come to it.

MRS. ROGERS

Where in the world did she get that idea? There is no Christmas play.

MOM

Oh. I see. Well, thank you. 

SCENE THREE

The kitchen. Mary’s Mom and Dad are seated at the table.

MOM

We have to move. She can’t go to that school. There’s nothing for her there. She spends all her time making up stories.

DAD

Is that a bad thing? I used to make up stories in my head all the time. She has a good imagination,

MOM
I know, I know. Making up stories isn’t bad. Using her imagination isn’t bad. But if she’s doing that in school, it means she isn’t learning anything there. We have to move. At least out of the town school district.

DAD

All right. We can start looking for a house in city. It’s about time we stopped renting anyway.

MOM

Good. I’ll get the paper and see if there’s anything for sale now.

I don’t know about the conversation in Scene Three, but the rest is true, and we did move so I got to go to a better school. But now I credit Mrs. Rogers for sparking my interest in making up plays! 

Playaday: View from the Top

#83—View from the Top

CHARACTERS

Two people sitting on a park bench:

ONE and

TWO

ONE

So. I’m supposed to write an article about “The view from the top,” and I don’t have the faintest idea how to begin. The top of what? A tree? What’s the highest thing you’ve ever been on? 

TWO

Easy. An airplane?

ONE

Nah. Airplanes don’t count. That’s a view from above, not the top. 

TWO

Okay. Definitely not a tree. I’ve never been in the top of a tree, and I don’t ever want to be, either. A mountain, I guess. Maybe a sky scraper?

ONE

Oh yeah, a skyscraper. I hadn’t thought of that. I once had a piece of German chocolate cake in that restaurant on the top of the old World Trade Center. And then I went out and looked at the view, and got really nauseous. I don’t think I barfed, but I might have.

TWO

Wow. The World Trade Center. I never made it to that one. Why did you get nauseous?

ONE

I don’t know. Vertigo, maybe. Maybe because it was windy and they say those tall buildings sway? Maybe it was just the cake. It was a huge piece and really rich. But this isn’t getting me anywhere. 

TWO

Sure it is. You saw a view up there.

ONE

Yeah, I must have. But I don’t remember it. Have you ever been in a tall building?

TWO

Yeah. Empire State when I was a kid, but I don’t remember that. But I do remember the Palace of Culture and Science in Warsaw.

ONE

Never heard of it. What were you doing there?

TWO

Visiting my aunt. 

ONE

I didn’t know you had an aunt in Warsaw.

TWO

Yeah. Well, neither did I till a few years ago. Anyhow, that’s a long story. The point is, the Palace is this gigantic building that the Soviets built back in the 50’s. It’s really tall, I think one of the tallest buildings in Europe. And like I say, gigantic. Anyhow, My aunt took me there, and we went to the top. 

ONE

Good view?

TWO

Well, that was the funny thing. I only know things like “please” and “thank you” and “good morning” in Polish. My aunt speaks English, but, you know, with a heavy accent. And she gets stuff wrong. So she said, “Good view but not today because of frog,” And of course she meant fog. When I told her, she laughed, and then she said that instead of saying “please,” I’d been saying “little pig.”

ONE

That’s a good story, but it doesn’t help much.

TWO

Well, maybe the point could be that there isn’t a view. No matter how high you get. There just isn’t one. Because you’ve had too much cake, or because of the frog.

ONE

Yeah, I suppose. I guess I just have to keep thinking.

Playaday: The gods at home

#40–A poem in the voice of a god or goddess

CHARACTERS

HESTIA—goddess of the hearth

ATHENA—goddess of war, among other things

LOKI—the Trickster

SETTING

The Media Room on Olympus, comfortably furnished. Coffee table with bags of junk food. A TV that’s on, no sound.

At Rise:

Hestia sprawled on the sofa, eating something crunchy out of a bag. Athena in a chair, watching the screen, intently. 

ATHENA

Look at that. Will you just look at it? It’s my thing, and even I’m appalled. Oh, for the days of single combat!

HESTIA
Ah, who gives a shit? I gave up on that lot a long time ago. We were here before they were, we’ll be here after they’re gone. Why bother yourself with them?

ATHENA

I think you’re wrong. I think that when they’re gone, we will be, too. I mean, think about it. Since that Greek lot faded away, we’ve been pretty much confined here. Nobody calls us, nobody burns cattle for us, nobody challenges us. Nobody down there believes in us. We’re just, just, characters in stories. That’s the only thing that keeps us going. So when they’re gone, the stories will be gone, too. We’re just doomed.

HESTIA
Maybe you are, but who every told a story about me? I’m fire, right? Have you ever seen a statue of me?

ATHENA

Um. I guess not. But there’ve got to be some. I mean, those Greeks made statues of everything.

HESTIA

Well, yeah. A few. But nothing like the ones of you, and Hera and Aphrodite. Everybody knows what Aphrodite looks like.

ATHENA

Or what they think she looked like. Or used to look like. I mean, now, she’s just another old woman trying to keep her girlish figure.

HESTIA

Anyhow, my point is. I’m the personification of fire, so even without them, I’ll be here. Maybe even more so, depending

ATHENA

But isn’t it about the hearth? I mean, there won’t be any actual hearths when they’re gone. 

HESTIA
Who knows? I’m not losing any sleep over it. Want some chips?

ATHENA

No thanks.

HESTIA
Party mix? Demeter made some fresh. It’s pretty good.

ATHENA

Oh, maybe. She does make good party mix. Lots of garlic.

(She gets some food and sits comfortably.)

(Loki enters.)

HESTIA
Son of a gun. Loki. What are you doing on this mountain? I thought you were still bound. Has your Ragnarok happened already?

LOKI

Nope. It turns out it might not. Who knows? Wotan and that lot are all sitting around trying to figure out if they need to arm up. Nobody’s been paying much attention to me lately and my chains kinda wore out, so I left. And I heard that there were good snacks here. Might was well hang out with you all, if you don’t mind. 

HESTIA
Sure. Help yourself.

ATHENA
Make yourself at home.

LOKI

(Grabbing a handful of food and sitting.)

Thanks.

Playaday: Ripping Paper

What a terrible prompt.

#107—Ripping Paper

CHARACTERS
Writer at a Typewriter
Artist with a sketch pad
Toddler 
Dog


SETTING
The humans are seated around a table, on which is a stack of paper. The dog is under the table.


WRITER
I like to rip paper. Whenever I write something that’s terrible, I enjoy tearing it up into thin strips, and then crumpling the strips into a ball which I then toss on the floor.
(Removes a piece of paper from the typewriter, tears it, crumples it, and throws it on the floor.)


ARTIST
I like to rip paper. Every day I draw a little sketch, just for practice, and then I tear it in half and wad it up and throw it over my shoulder.
(Does that.)


TODDLER
I like to rip paper. 
(Grabs a fistful of paper from the table and starts tearing it and throwing the pieces around.) 

DOG
Woof.
(Picks up papers on the floor and tears them into tiny pieces. )

Playaday: Savoring Senses

#115—What can I love and savor through my senses?


CHARACTERS

HUMAN
HAWK 
BEAR
BAT
MOLE

Setting: The edge of a forest. A semi-circle with Human in the center

HUMAN
All right, you guys. I’ve brought you here because I want to know what your worlds are like. So tell me.

HAWK
Oh, I can see. I can see miles and miles. My world is clear and far and full. And silent, but for the wind.

BEAR
And my world is dark and snuffly, full of musk and meat, grubs, berries, apples, acorns, the edible treasures you throw into cans and hang in feeders. And you, always you, and your dogs, all around.

BAT
Nothing but sound. Sharp and hard. Buzzings and screamings and the dullnesses of clotheslines and grass. The hollowness of openings in boxes and towers and holes in walls.

MOLE
Thick, wet, dry, crumbly, slick, live and soft, dark and hard. Edible, poison. Spring, sharp. Air near the tops.

ALL BUT HUMAN
And you, Human? Tell us your world.

HUMAN
Not as clear or far, but enough for me. Flowers an dfood, just enough. Wind and music and th evoices of my friends. Not every rustle and click and snap. The smooth sheets and stones, the rough of pavement and sand. And, too, the sweet of peach and bitter of coffee. The salt of cheese, the comfort of bread. The taste of coming snow. The sense of who I am.

Also written among the thrum and bustle of our son’s family. I did not write one on the 14th, in the car on the way home.


Playaday: Eglise de Stains, Utrillo

#56—Animate a favorite painting with words.

I love this painting. I’ve had a print of it since high school and it now hangs in the kitchen. I wrote this sitting on the couch in our son’s house on the 12th, surrounded by the clamor of grandchildren.

CHARACTERS

Jean

Marie

SETTING

 Rue Jean Durand, Paris, looking toward Eglise de Stains as painted by Utrillo.

JEAN

The street is strangely empty today. Where is everyone?

MARIE
Perhaps they’re in church?

JEAN

Why would they be there? It is not Sunday. It is not a holy day.

MARIE
True. Perhaps a funeral?

JEAN

We’d know about a death, surely.

MARIE
Oh I don’t know. We don’t know everyone in the neighborhood now. Why lives in the house with the green shutters?

JEAN

Somebody new, I think. I don’t remember.

MARIE

Well then. Perhaps there was a death in the house.

JEAN
I don’t think the neighbors are all in church, Marie. No one rang the bell. And there is not a cat, hnot a pigeon, not a dog in sight. No one opening a window. No one calling hello. It is silent as well as empty Strange.

MARIE
Wait, Jean! I have a thought. Remember Maurice?

JEAN
The painter.

MARIE

Yes. He stood yesterday, right where we stand, with his easel and palette and brush, looking the way we are looking now, down the street, toward the church, all down the street to where it bends away.

JEAN

Yes, yes, what of it?

MARIE
Let us walk down the street, this silent street, to the house at the very end, the one with the red roof.

JEAN

Why?

MARIE

Let us just do it, Jean. Step. One foot out. Step.

JEAN
Marie! I cannot lift my feet. They are stuck in this, this. . . 

MARIE
Paint, Jean. This grey paint. The street is painted now. It is empty of everything but paint.

Playaday: Schubert of the Pampas

#60—“The Schubert of the Pampas” describes composer Carlos Guastavino. Describe yourself as “The…. of the . . . “

(I’m going to be offline over the weekend, but I’ll still try to write my playlets, which I shall post on Monday. This one wrote itself. The characters inhabit a Play for Voices that I wrote which will be a podcast sometime in February.)

CHARACTERS

VICKY—a retired lawyer—queen of the courtroom

SHARON—a massage therapist—supreme organizer

NANCY—a former priest—queen of the sacristy

LINDA—a retired nurse

SALLY—a matriarch—NOT an angel

They are old women who have been friends for years.

Setting:  A coffee shop, the middle of a conversation.

VICKY

No, I didn’t always want to be a lawyer. When I was a kid, I wanted to be Queen.

LINDA

What? Queen? Vicky! Where did you get that idea?

VICKY

The coronation movie. I saw it when I was, what? Three? Did you see it? Elizabeth, like a fairy tale princess with that gown and cape and crown and the scepter and the orb and the sword. . .

LINDA

(Ironic.)

Well, I must say it affected your taste in clothes. Those little suits of yours.

NANCY

You do wear nice jewelry.

VICKY

That’s due to Sharon. If you like nice jewelry, have a spouse with good taste, I always say.

SHARON

That’s my girl. Queen of the Courtroom.

NANCY

Well, what about you, Sharon? Was massage therapy even a thing when we were kids?

SHARON

I vaguely remember a large Swedish masseuse  in some movie or other. But no. I wanted to be a secretary.

NANCY

That was basically the choice, wasn’t it? Teacher, nurse, secretary, housewife.

SALLY

And I picked housewife. And I don’t regret it at all.

SHARON

Why should you, Sally? You’ve raised a batch of great kids. And grandkids, too. Without being the “angel in the home,” too.

SALLY

Right. Anyone who calls me an “angel” would be in serious trouble. But back to you, Sharon. A secretary. Why?

SHARON

I like order. I like office supplies. Folders and stickers and file boxes and rolodexes and pens and pencils and. . .

VICKY

Oh no! You got her going! Everything in our house is labeled and filed! Sharon, Supreme Organizer!

SHARON

(Primly.)

However. You can find things in our house, can’t you? And it really helps me with the business.

VICKY

All true, all true. Nancy. Were you one of those girls who dreamed of being a priest or an astronaut or something girls couldn’t be?

NANCY

As a matter of fact, I was. I wanted to be a priest. But when the dust had settled, when I began to realize that dealing with a parish and trying to talk about a god I only half believed in, I saw that it was at least partly about the stuff. 

LINDA

The stuff?

NANCY

Yeah. The music and the stained glass and the incense. And—the clothes. You know? The robes. They were pretty nice.

VICKY

I get it, Nance. If I was Queen of the Courtroom, you were. . . 

NANCY

Queen of the Sacristy.

LINDA

What’s a sacristy?

NANCY

The dressing room. Backstage. Yeah. That works. But not queen, when I think about it. More like, oh, I don’t know, clown. 

SALLY

Clown?

NANCY

That’s not right either. Impressionist, maybe. But that doesn’t matter any more. What about you, Linda?

LINDA

Nurse. Nurse LInda all the way. The Florence Nightingale of Milwaukee. I still miss it.

VICKY

Craziness. I can not imagine wanting to take care of sick people.

SHARON

But you used to take care of deranged people, love. Some of those clients of yours. . . 

VICKY

Different, different. They didn’t barf and need bedpans.

SHARON

I hate to break this up, but I have a client in half an hour so I’ve got to run. See you all next week?

(Stands.)

SALLY

God willing and the creek don’t rise. Yeah, I’d better get going, too.

(They all stand, and exit, talking quietly, as the curtain falls.)

Playaday: Cover an Indiscretion

#32—Cover up an indiscretion

CHARACTERS

Person One—co-host of the dinner party

Person Two—co-host of the dinner party.

Persons Three through Six

Setting: A dinner party.

For the first ten minutes, the people make polite dinner party conversation, ad lib.

Suddenly, there is a raspberry noise and all is briefly silent. Person One wrinkles their nose and looks pointedly at Person Two.

PERSON TWO

It was the dog.

PERSON ONE

We don’t have a dog.

Curtain.

Playaday: A Birthday Poem

#47—Birthday poem for someone whose birthday is that day

Characters:

Bev, whose birthday it is

Everett, a poet

They are drinking coffee in a cafe.

BEV

Okay, Ev. It’s my birthday. I have graced this earth for seventy years and I want a poem.

EV

I’ve tried. I’ve really tried, but I just can’t find the words.

BEV

Come on, you’ve had a whole year to work on it.

EV

Well come on yourself. Occasional poems are not my forte.

BEV

What do you consider your forte? Those obscure things you get published in the little weird magazines that nobody reads but other obscure poets?

EV

Well, yes. I guess so.

BEV

What’s the point in being a poet if you can’t write a little birthday poem for your old friend, huh? What’s the point?

EV

Okay, okay. Here. (Takes a notebook and pen out of his pocket.) Give me a minute. Drink your coffee or something.

(He writes in silence while she drinks her coffee and looks around.)

BEV

Done yet?

EV

No! Just shut up and let me work!

BEV

Okay, okay. You don’t have to be hostile about it.

EV

Urf.

(More silence.)

EV

Okay. Here it is. Ready?

BEV

I’ve been ready since early this morning. Go for it.

EV

(Stands.)

For Beverly.

Seventy years you’ve graced the Earth.

I’m glad your mother gave you birth.

I hope you’re here for many more,

but who knows what life has in store?

Happy Birthday then, dear Bev,

from your buddy, the poet Ev.

(Sits.)

BEV

(Stands and applauds, sits again.)

There. That wasn’t so bad, was it? What would I do without you?

EV

Bah.

CURTAIN

Playaday: A Fork that Changed my Life

Prompt #21 A fork that changed your life

What kind of weird poems did we write with these prompts? Good grief.

CHARACTERS

MARLENE

GEORGE

Setting: Lunch at a Senior Center. Marlene and George are seated next to one another, eating. George drops his fork which lands under Marlene’s chair, and she picks it up.

GEORGE

Thank you. 

MARLENE

You’re welcome. I haven’t seen you here before. Are you new in town?

GEORGE

Not new in town so much as new to the Center. My wife passed away last year, and my daughter made me come here today because she says I’m eating funny. I tried for awhile, you know, but I got tired of cooking for one. 

MARLENE
I know what you mean. My son got me coming here, too. Mine was popcorn and cocoa for dinner. What was yours?

GEORGE

Cheerios.

MARLENE

Yeah, you can’t get very far on popcorn and cheerios. I resented it for awhile, but my son was right. The food’s not too bad here, and I like that they give you a sandwich for supper, too.

GEORGE

Do they really?

MARLENE
They do. They’ll come by with a box when they bring the desert. Pretty good deal. Not as good as my cooking used to be, but—I don’t have to cook it.

GEORGE

It’s better than my cooking, but I guess it doesn’t take much.

MARLENE
So what do you do to pass the time?

GEORGE

Photography. I used to be a pro, so I’ve got some good equipment. I still try to take a photo or two every day.

MARLENE
What kind of photos? People? Buildings?

GEORGE

Macro. Little stuff. Leaves and frost crystals and things like that. Insects. 

MARLENE
So there’s always something, right? Wherever you look?

GEORGE

There is. Right here, for instance. I could take a photo of this lettuce, up close. It has fascinating texture. All those little ribs and the variations in color. I should have brought my camera. Maybe

MARLENE
You’ll have to do that next time. You could do a whole series “Senior Lunch.” Maybe they’d even hang it up here. They do hang paintings. I bet they would.

GEORGE

Interesting thought. I’ll bring the camera. What about you? I mean, how do you pass the time?

MARLENE
The time. Sometimes it seems there’s so much of it to pass.

GEORGE

And despite that, it goes by so quickly.

MARLENE
I heard someone say that when you’re old, the years go quickly and the days go slowly.

GEORGE

I think that’s true.

MARLENE
But I pass the time in front of my computer screen. I’m a writer. 

GEORGE

Novels? Poems?

MARLENE
Plays. In fact, I’ve got one coming out next week. 

GEORGE

Where?

MARLENE
Right across the street here. The Community Players. It’s not Broadway, but they’re pretty good and it’s fun. You should come. I’ll get you a ticket if you like.

GEORGE

Thanks. That would be great. Maybe we could catch some dinner first. Real dinner, in a restaurant.

MARLENE
Now that would be a change. I hate eating alone, in a restaurant.

GEORGE 

So do I. What’s the play called?

MARLENE

You’re not going to believe this.

GEORGE

Try me.

MARLENE
It’s called “A Fork that Changed My Life.”

(They both laugh.)

Playaday: Most Feared

Prompt #74—what do you most fear?

CHARACTERS

DOG

MOUSE

DEER

OWL

Setting—the edge of a forest.

MOUSE

(Enters, creeping, searching the ground and looking up.)

Food. Something here. Seeds. Over there. Gotta find. Dry grass. Little holes. Winter coming. Need snow. Cover, cover, cover. Owls. Foxes. Hungry. Melting. Freezing. Sky. Oh, sky. Nothing. Shelter, need shelter. But food. Seeds. Over here. Owls at night. Hawks. Foxes. Need food. Winter coming.

(Exits, scurrying.)

DEER

(Enters wary, sniffing, listening.)

Not time yet, but they’re coming. Every tree on the edge of every clearing, every clump of grass and brush can hold a death. Listen, listen, move with care. Alert, stay alert. Not time yet, but soon. The leaves have fallen, my breath blows a mist. It will be soon.

DOG

(Enters, looking around.)

Where are they? Where did they go? I went too far, maybe. There was a rabbit and a squirrel and some deer and something I don’t know, and I followed and I followed and they were still behind me and now I don’t know. I could hear them calling but now I can’t hear them and maybe they’re lost. I don’t want to lose them. What would they do, lost in the woods. How would they find their way home. The wind is wrong. I can’t hear them, I can’t smell them. What shall I do? Go this way? Turn back? I don’t know, I don’t know. Where are they? Where are they?

(Exits.)

OWL

(Enters silently, calmly. Stands still and looks around for a long time, then moves on.)

06. Playaday: Theoretical Dog

Prompt #49    In flat country, “if your dog runs away, you can watch him for 3 days.” What’s the Vt equivalent?

CHARACTERS

FLATLANDER

VERMONTER

SETTING

A bar.

FLATLANDER

Where I come from, if your dog runs away, you can watch him for three days. What’s your claim to fame?

VERMONTER
Why would your dog run away?

FLATLANDER

I don’t know. Maybe he’s chasing something.

VERMONTER

If my dog ran away, I’d just call her, and she’d come. ‘Course if she was after a squirrel, it might take her awhile. But sooner or later, she’d get stopped by a river or something.

FLATLANDER

But the point is, what would be your equivalent, here in these hills? What can you boast about to a flatlander like me?

VERMONTER

Well, first off, I wouldn’t call you a flatlander. Pretty sure that’s what you folks call yourselves when you move up here.

FLATLANDER

What do you call us?

VERMONTER

Perhaps you don’t want to know. (Thoughtful silence.) But generally, we call you people from away. That’s all. 

FLATLANDER

You don’t like us, do you?

VERMONTER

Well, I don’t know. It all depends. We don’t like some of ourselves either.

FLATLANDER

That’s reassuring. But back to the original question.

VERMONT

All right then. Let’s see here. But first off, if your dog ran away, why would you watch him for three days? Why wouldn’t you just get in your truck and go get him? 

FLATLANDER

My dog wouldn’t run away. I don’t even have a dog. This is theoretical. I’m just curious about what’s the equivalent in the mountains.

VERMONT

There isn’t one, I guess. We keep our dogs pretty close to home.

05. Playaday: All Weathers

# 116   Loving the Weather as it is

CHARACTERS:

HUMMINGBIRD—Vivace, staccato.

BEAR—Largo, legato.

CROW—Rubato.

SETTING

 A Hillside, late summer.

HUMMINGBIRD

Good summer. Good nectar. Flowers. Feeders. Going. Going. Gone. Winter. Going. North wind. Going. Today. Going.

CROW

Hey, take it easy, little brother, take it easy. If you didn’t move so quick you’d be able to stay. Winter’s good here. Plenty of road kill, compost. Take it easy.

HUMMINGBIRD
Don’t. Don’t eat. Can’t. Meat. No. Nectar. No flowers. Feeders. Freeze. Going. Going.

BEAR

Well I don’t know about summer nectar or flowers or winter roadkillbut I know that tomorrow I’m going to the berry bushes around the old orchard in the abandoned pasture where the people put beehives so the bees could make some wildflower honey and I’ll eat and eat and eat and eat and the next day if the going’s good I’ll do that again and I’ll do it every day until the berries are gone and the apples are gone and it’s too cold for my nose and I’ll curl in my den and sleep and sleep and sleep and sleep.

HUMMINGBIRD

How can. You stay. I hate. Cold. Winter. Hate winter. Going. Going. Going. Good bye. Good bye. Good bye.

(Exits.)

BEAR

Don’t hate winter because I know how to do it all fat and warm and sleepy in my den dreaming deep about the spring coming the spring and coming out with my new cubs yes in the spring coming I’ll have some because they’re ready to grow now and sleepy feeding my little cubs in the den until spring so I don’t mind winter don’t mind spring.

CROW

Ah, but big sister, you don’t know the goodness of it, the light on the snow, the blue sky. You don’t know the glory of the storms. You’ve never huddled in a hemlock listening to the wind, or gathered with your gang to chase the owls—what a hoot on a winter afternoon! 

BEAR

(Stands and stretches.)

Going to the orchard now to the berry patch to see if the hives are still there with the honey and the grubs and the apples ripe and the berries ripe on the bushes all around and I’ll see you tomorrow Crow if you’re in the neighborhood and if you’re not I’ll see you around.

(Exits.)

CROW

Ah, a beautiful morning. And all weathers are alike to me. All weathers are fine with me.

(Exits.)

04. Playaday: Obliteration

#59   If you could obliterate something, what would it be?

Setting: A panel discussion program.

Characters:

The Moderator

The Reverend

The Doctor

The Teacher

The Scientist

MODERATOR
Welcome to “Expert Opinion.” Today’s experts are a Reverend, a Doctor, a Teacher and a Scientist. And today’s question:  If you could obliterate something, what would it be? Who wants to answer first?

REVEREND

That’s easy. I’d eliminate evil. It’s said that love of money is the root of all evil, but I’d go right for evil.

DOCTOR

Sickness, for sure.

TEACHER

Ignorance.

SCIENTIST

I’ll pass for now.

MODERATOR
Evil, sickness, ignorance, and a pass. All right then. Now if you’re joining us for the first time, you know that each panelist is allowed to ask a question of another panelist. They may ask only one question, and any or all questions may be asked of each panelist. So question away. Yes, Teacher?

DOCTOR

I’d like to ask the Reverend who decides what is evil?

REVEREND

The holy scriptures are very clear about what is evil. I know that there are misinterpretations of scripture going on all the time, but those of us who study it carefully are more than qualified to determine what is evil and what is good.

MODERATOR

Thank you. Next?

REVEREND

Well, I’d like the Doctor to tell me who decides what sickness is.

DOCTOR

The basic diseases, of course: cancers, heart disease, diabetes. And infections of all kinds. And mental illnesses, and disabilities.

SCIENTIST

We’ve been down that road before. Besides, artists. . . 

MODERATOR
No comments, please until the next round. Next question.

SCIENTIST

Ignorance, Teacher. Why ignorance?

TEACHER

Well, you’re a scientist, so you should know. Ignorance is the root of all evil, in my experience. It’s where prejudice and resistance to progress come from. And I have a question for the Reverend. Would you alone decide what is evil?

REVEREND

Oh no. I’m certain that if I were allowed to obliterate evil, the Lord Himself would decide.

MODERATOR

Now for the comment round. Each panelist may make one comment, either directed at another panelist, or in support of their own viewpoint. Who would like to begin?

DOCTOR

A minute ago, the Scientist implied that the elimination of disease would lead to eugenics and the demise of the arts. A small price to pay, I think, for the well-being of the whole population.

REVEREND

I partially agree with the Doctor, though I certainly believe that illness is given to man as a test, as a punishment, or as a vehicle to reveal the glory of God.

TEACHER

And the Reverend’s comment confirms my opinion exactly. Appalling ignorance that leads to witch hunts and wars and all manner of suffering.

SCIENTIST

However. There is ignorance of that kind, and there is another kind of ignorance as well. The kind of ignorance that causes people to say “I wonder why. . .” All great discoveries arise because of that kind of ignorance, the kind of ignorance that may be overcome with curiosity and experiement. We are here today, sitting in comfortable chairs, using microphones, wearing useful clothing, because of that kind of ignorance. And so I will answer today’s question by saying that if I could obliterate something, it would not be ignorance, but certainty. Certainty is the problem with the Reverend’s response, and the problem with the Doctor’s. Certainty is the root of all evil. I am certain that. . . 

MODERATOR

Thank you all. I see our time is up. Join me again next week for “Expert Opinion.”

03. Playaday: Snufkin

Prompt # 111:  SNUFKIN

CHARACTERS

Snufkin:  a free-spirited character in the Moomintroll world

Interviewer

SETTING

Two chairs in a TV talk show set

At Rise:

The Interviewer is seated and the other chair is empty.

INTERVIEWER
Good evening. Tonight our special guest is Snufkin, known to Moomintroll fans as the enigmatic, free-spirited wanderer.  Snufkin spends summers with the Moomins, and when they get ready to hibernate, he goes south. What does he do in the winter, and where does he go? These are questions that—perhaps—we’ll hear the answers to. Please welcome our guest, Snufkin.

(Snufkin enters. Interviewer rises, they shake hands, sit.)

INTERVIEWER

Welcome, Snufkin. I must say it’s a delight to meet you in person. I’ve read so much about you.

SNUFKIN

I imagine.

INTERVIEWER
Well, the question tonight on everyone’s mind is: Where do you go in the winter, when the Moomins are hibernating?

SNUFKIN

Here and there. 

INTERVIEWER

We all know that the coast of Finland is cold in the winter, which is why the Moomins hibernate. I assume that, not being a Moomin, you prefer a warmer climate in winter?

SNUFKIN

Yes.

INTERVIEWER

I can see that you’re not eager to reveal your secret. I expect you’d be overwhelmed with your fans if they knew where you were.

SNUFKIN

Maybe. Maybe not. It depends.

INTERVIEWER
On what?

SNUFKIN

On the fan. On where I decide to be.

INTERVIEWER
I see. Well, can you tell us what you do?

SNUFKIN

Maybe.

INTERVIEWER
Do you live in your tent? Do you fish? Do you play your mouth organ?

SNUFKIN

Yes.

INTERVIEWER

I understand that you compose new tunes on your mouth organ. Do you compose while you are in the south?

SNUFKIN

It depends.

INTERVIEWER

On what?

SNUFKIN

On the tune.

INTERVIEWER
Do you have your mouth organ with you?

SNUFKIN

Yes.

INTERVIEWER

Could you delight our audience with a tune?

SNUFKIN

Maybe. It depends.

INTERVIEWER

(Exasperated.)

On what?

SNUFKIN

Do they know how to listen?

INTERVIEWER

(To audience.)

Do you know how to listen?

AUDIENCE

Yes.

SNUFKIN

All right then.

(Takes mouth organ from his pocket and plays a tune. As he plays, the interviewer stands and begins to dance, eventually dancing down into the audience. They form a chain and dance out of the theater. Snufkin keeps playing until they are all gone, then puts his mouth organ in his pocket and exits.)

02. Playaday: An Ultimatum

Number Six:  An Ultimatum

Characters:

Carol, a Good Witch

Betsy, a Bad Witch

Hansel and Gretel, non-speaking

Setting:  The inside of a small cottage. The witches sit at a table, drinking tea.

CAROL

All I’m saying, Betsy, is that you’d best be careful. One thing leads to another, if you don’t watch out.

BETSY

But frightening children is so much fun, Carol. You know that.

CAROL

There’s a big difference between lurking in the forest and cackling at the kids and luring them into a cottage and threatening to eat them, is all I’m saying.

BETSY

Oh come on. I’d never eat them. Children are so.  .  stringy. If I were to eat anybody, it would be an alderman.

CAROL

What do you mean, if  you were to eat anybody? Have you seriously considered it?

BETSY

Well yes. Haven’t you? It’s part of the lore, after all. Baba Yaga and so forth.

CAROL

I think you’ll find, my dear, that the Baba Yaga did not eat people. It was rumored that she did. It was part of the reputation that she maintained. But she was a good witch. She helped people.

BETSY

Helped people. Bah. What kind of witching is that?

CAROL

The right kind. Scare the bejeezus out of them and help them. That’s what we do.

BETSY

I don’t know about that.

CAROL

I’m worried about you, Betsy. I truly am. That gingerbread cottage is one thing, but the cage outside, and the big oven. . .

BETSY

All right, Carol. I’ll level with you. I’m tired of being a good witch. I’m tired of playing a role. I want to know what it’s like to be bad. My whole life I’ve been a goody two-shoes. Haven’t you ever wanterd to be bad? Really bad?

CAROL

No. No I haven’t. Scary, sure. That’s fun. But bad? Hurting people? No.

BETSY

So you are a goody two-shoes.

CAROL

Of course not. But I would never act on my worst imaginings.

BETSY

Have you ever imagined eating children?

CAROL

No. I have not. 

BETSY

What are your worst imaginings then?

CAROL

Using the full force of my wrath on people who hurt children. 

BETSY

But you wouldn’t eat them?

CAROL

No. And I’m not going to tell you what I’ve imagined doing to them. But Betsy—if you go through with this plan of yours and actually hurt some children, you will find out.

BETSY

I will, eh? And what will you do to me? If you’re a sissy “good witch” you don’t know what wrath is like.

CAROL

Oh, that’s what you think. Beware, Betsy, beware. It’s been building up inside me for a hundred years, this wrath, this raging at all the injustice on the earth and in the world. If it is unleashed it won’t be pretty. And believe me, it will be unleashed on you, if need be.

BETSY

Well, I don’t believe it. My power against yours? No contest. I’m off.

(Stands.)

I have to finish the gingerbread house. I won’t invite you to the feast.

CAROL

(Stands.)

One more chance, Betsy. If you don’t stop it, now, you will be consumed by the very fire you prepare.

(Betsy exits, cackling.)

CAROL

(Calling.)

Gretel, Hansel.

(The children enter.)

Go to the cottage. Remember all that I have taught you. Go with my protection. All will be well.

(The children bow, and exit.)

(Carol picks up her broomstick and follows.)

 

01. Playaday–The Ten Rules of Poetry

Since I’m mostly writing plays these days, I’m giving myself the assignment of writing a short one every day during November, using one of my old poetry prompts, chosen at random. This is the first one. We’ll see how it goes. Sorry about the format, but I’m too lazy to do all the indentations and stuff.

Prompt 36:  The Ten Rules of Poetry

Characters:

The Poet:  Any gender, thin, chain-smoking, dressed in black

The Cat:  Plump tiger with a slow voice

Setting: Small room, a desk covered in papers center. Crumpled papers all over the floor. An overstuffed chair, right, where the cat sprawls throughout.

Time: The present. Late afternoon.

At Rise:  The poet is seated at the desk, writing furiously by hand while the cat sits, watching its face. The poet crumples the paper and throws it on the floor.

POET

Damn, damn, damn and blast. There’s nothing here. Nothing at all. Nothing in my head, nothing in the world, nothing anywhere. I’m finished. I’m empty. I can’t write another damned thing. I’ve had it with poetry. I’m going to go get a real job as a, a, a counter person in a fast-food place. Or a shelf-stocker. Or something real. Anything but this.

CAT

(Yawns.)

Huh. That might be a good idea. It’s the third rule of poetry, you know.

POET

What? You’re a cat! You can talk?

CAT

Sure. 

POET
Why have you never spoken before?

CAT

Nothing to say.

POET

And now you have something?

CAT

Yeah. 

POET

Why now?

CAT

Mostly because I’m tired of navigating over all those bits of paper you heave all over the place. And you keep forgetting to fill my water bowl

POET
Oh. Sorry.

CAT

And, I know the rules of poetry, and it’s clear that you don’t.

POET

Well, what are they?

CAT

Come here and I’ll tell you. You can’t hear me if you’re sitting at that desk.

POET

Well, okay.

(Stands and goes to chair, looks down at Cat.)

CAT

Sit!

POET

But you’re in the chair.

CAT

Then hold me on your lap. Duh.

(Poet sits and arranges Cat on lap.)

POET

There. Happy?

CAT

Yes. Much better. You may stroke me while I talk.

POET

Whatever. 

CAT

Hisss.

POET

Okay, okay.

(Starts stroking Cat.)

Tell me the rules.

CAT

Don’t be in such a hurry.

POET

What?

CAT

That’s the first rule.

POET

What is?

CAT

Don’t be in such a hurry. I mean, what’s the rush? If the words are there, they’re there. If they aren’t, well. You can’t make them come by scurrying around. It’s like watching for a mouse, right? You got to wait.

POET
Okay. So what’s the second one?

CAT

Find your feet.

POET
My feet?

CAT

Yeah. Where are they? 

POET

Well, on the ends of my legs, as usual.

CAT

Right. But where are they really? On the floor or just hanging there? In socks and shoes? Where are they?

POET

Huh.

(Shifts and puts feet solidly on the floor.)

There.

CAT

Better.

POET

And what’s three?

CAT

I already told you. 

POET

I forgot.

CAT

Of course you did. 

POET

Sorry.

CAT

It’s okay. You didn’t know where your feet were.

POET
So what is it?

CAT

Hey, remember number one!

POET

Oh yeah. Well, in your good time.

(Short pause.)

CAT

Rule number three:  Do something real.

POET

Writing is real, isn’t it?

CAT

Well, it can be. But you gotta have stuff to write about. Just the stuff in your tortured head isn’t enough. Much to your surprise, it’s pretty boring to everybody but you.

POET

Oh.

CAT

Yeah. 

POET
So, what should I do?

CAT

Oh, anything. Go for a walk. Bake some muffins. Water the plants. Feed the cat, empty the litter box. . . 

POET
Oh. Sorry about that, too. (Shifts in the chair.) Shall I. . .?

CAT

Nah, it can wait for a few minutes. Remember rule number one.

POET
And what’s four?

CAT

Drink enough water. You don’t, you know. Coffee doesn’t count. Wine counts against you. Water. Good stuff, water. Cool and clear and pretty amazing, when you think about it.

POET

And I bet your bowl is empty.

CAT

Not entirely. But. . .

POET
Rule number one.

CAT

You got it. 

POET

Okay. Water.

CAT

You ready for five?

POET

Sure.

CAT

Okay. Stand up and stretch. Like this.

(Jumps off lap and stretches)

Now you.

POET

(Stands and stretches.)

CAT

Good. Now you can sit again.

(Poet sits, Cat sits on lap.)

Now do that every twenty minutes or so.

POET
Okay.

CAT

Stroke.

POET

Okay.

(Resumes stroking.)

CAT

Now this is a hard one. Maybe the hardest.

POET

I’m ready.

CAT

Quit caring.

POET

What??

CAT

Keep stroking.

POET
Sorry.  But life is all about caring. Caring about what happens, about how people feel, about the Earth and the state of the world, and . 

CAT

Yeah, yeah. All that stuff that you can’t fix. You brood and brood and it’s wrecking your brain. 

POET
But I can’t. . 

CAT

Okay. Modification. Care about what you can fix. Feed the cat, for instance. Call your mother.

POET
Oh shit.

CAT

Well, that’s something you can do, right? You can’t fix the oil companies. You can’t fix the economy. And thinking about all that makes you crazy and if you’re crazy you’re hard and mean and besides you can’t write. So call your mother.

POET
But. . 

CAT

I told you this is probably the hardest. So if you can’t, don’t sweat it. Stroke, please.

POET
Okay. Sorry.

CAT

Now an easier one. 

POET
Good.

CAT

Learn to stare.

POET
What?

CAT

You know that old poem: “What is this life if full of care/We have no time to stand and stare?”

POET
Never heard of it.

CAT

Of course not. It’s an old-fashioned rhyming one. But it’s true. 

POET
Stare?

CAT

Yeah. Have you ever watched me do it?

POET
You hardly ever do anything but eat and sleep.

CAT

Hissss.

POET

Sorry.

CAT

That’s the next one.

POET

What?

CAT

We’ll get to that. Now it’s rule seven. When I’m awake, I stare. A lot. Like this.

(Stares at audience for a long minute, while Poet adjusts position in order to see.)

There. Your turn.

POET
What, now?

CAT

No time like the present.

POET
Okay. Here goes.

(Stares at audience.)

CAT

Good, good. Told you it was easier. Now for rule eight. Ready?

POET
Ready.

CAT

If you’re bored, go to sleep.

POET

Sleep?

CAT

Yup. When you’re bored you try to get busy. You fiddle around and find dumb stuff to do. Play with your phone or something. Go to sleep instead. 

POET
Sometimes I go for a walk.

CAT

That’s good, that’s good. At least as good as sleeping. But you get the point, I think.

POET

I guess so.

CAT

Good. Now for nine, which is related.

POET
Okay.

CAT

Read less, sing more.

POET

Sing more?

CAT

Yeah. It makes good vibrations. Like this.

(Purring hum.)

Put your hand on my back. Feel that?

POET
Yeah.

CAT

Now you do it.

POET hums, breaks into a little song.

Wow. That does feel good.

CAT

Of course. And Rule Ten is absolutely related. 

POET
And it is?

CAT

Don’t forget to breathe.

POET

Ah!

CAT

You do, you know..

POET

I know.

CAT

So. What next?

POET

Well, I think I’ll get up and stretch and get a drink and fill your water bowl and clean your litter box and go for a walk. And later on, we’ll see.

CAT

That’s a start. Do you have any of those good cat treats?

POET
No. But I’ll get some.

CAT

Good. Meow.

REPORT: SEPTEMBER 29

Report: September 29

 

It was the Feast of St. Michael which means

that twelve years ago, my mother died.

The ivory billed woodpecker is extinct again

and the long dream of progress is over.

 

 

A friend called while I was making salad

to report a monarch 

on a goldenrod stalk.

What did I think she should do? 

 

 

We talked, and pondered

what we know. Orange,

thus inedible. Late emergent

or tired migrant does it matter?

 

 

She left it under a hosta 

with a nectar bouquet.

In the morning, it was gone,

we told ourselves, on its way

 

Demeter in distress

DEMETER

(Stands. To audience.)

She’s right. I don’t know what to do because nothing I do matters. I thought it was us, all these centuries. I thought Zeus made the storms and Apollo drove the sun. I thought the corn grew because of me, those yellow waves in the sunlight. The harvest was mine, and the storerooms full of grain. I thought my daughter made the spring come, and then when she left, I thought I made the autumn—my grief colored the leaves and made them fall, my tears watered the ground. And now—the times are wrong and I see. It happens anyway. It happened anyway, and always did. And we immortals, what are we? Stories. We’re only stories, half-recalled. And we will fade. We are fading, and we will fade. . . we’re only stories. . . 

(Turns her back, muttering, as lights go out.)

I seem to be writing more plays than poems these days. Here’s a bit of one I’m working on about an elderly Demeter and a middle-aged Persephone.

ON MY HONOR

ON MY HONOR

I will try.

 

Stand on the moon

and show me a country.

 

Falling rain is real.

Down by the rivers

 

it is killing people.

Fire is real.

 

Show me a country.

Death is real.

 

All over the landscapes 

no borders

 

and the loneliness is real.

Duty has an unpleasant sound,

 

not something I would choose.

And God? 

 

Stand on the moon.

Words again: a Story

tunnel

make 

gasp

pound

wave

turkey

blow

haze

 

A STORY

Our grandchildren found a baby bird 

in the driveway. 

What is it?

Where is its Mommy? 

 

In this hazy time 

when every little sorrow strikes a blow,

when the news pummels and pounds,

what is Daddy to do with this scrap of life

gasping in his hand?

 

The mouth of the dark tunnel

has narrowed again.

So many mommies, daddies,

so many lost, so much is lost,

and what sense can we make?

I used to tell myself I was a poet.

 

It’s a little turkey. 

Let’s put it in the long grass by the brook

where sometimes we see them pass. 

We’ll put some corn around for them to find.

Now wave bye-bye.

One way or another, this will resolve.

 

We saw them the next day

he told me. A parade.

Two hens with six poults

and a tom and a hen with one poult

scurrying between them.

The kids agreed that it all worked out fine.

 

We can tell ourselves stories, can’t we?

They all lived happily. . . 

Can’t we tell ourselves stories like that? 

Words again: Oh, art!

arch

sinew

fiddle

shadow

tremble

dance

one

art

peach

vain

indoors

hurry

Oh, art! 

Art is one—Oh yes. 

We do not dream in vain.

 

Do not hurry. There is no need.

Tune your fiddle to the canvas, 

 

chisel a marble dance.

Dress your singers in peaches,

 

and tremble in the shadow of a word.

The arch is wide; the road is wide.

 

Out doors is all, there is no in.

We who make art bind bone to bone 

 

by sinew after sinew.

We do not dream in vain.

Words again: Identity

—rye

—eclipse

—identity

—fumble

—gravel 

—sunlight

—cake

—please

—eddies

—release

IDENTITY

A child crouches

in a sunlit field.

A fighter pilot’s wife can’t sleep. 

A new mother cannot walk.

 

I am a whirlpool—

an eddy of identity

where a complexity

of currents meet. 

 

I am a layer-cake of scars:

Wry neck and fumbly fingers.

Knees marked with gravel.

Nose repelled by the scent of booze.

 

Nevertheless. 

As the pummeled moon

still glows in our shadow,

I am eclipsed but whole.

 

I am pleasing to topsoil and stones,

to bears and birds and trees.

I have been released 

by every disappointed god.

NEW i.d.

NEW  i.d.

First day on the job alone,

he had to keep calling the sergeant. 

Good-humored, she was,

joking about new machinery 

that made the work harder. 

Typical military we all agreed. 

 

I voted for Bernie.

I’m all about peace, 

and eliminating fossil fuels

and reducing my carbon footprint.

I drive a Prius, for Christ’s sake.

The new fighters they’ve got—

 

we couldn’t believe 

they’d be louder than the F-4s

but they are. We can hear them

all the way from the Adirondacks.

And they’re expensive, useless.

Can’t dogfight, so what’s the point?

 

Three took off. We waited

for the fourth, like clockwork.

Shit, they are noisy suckers. 

But fuck it. I’m a

fighter pilot’s wife.

My man used to fly machines

 

like those. I’ve stood on the flightline,

watched him take off,

seen him loop and hammerhead,

do the Memorial Day flyby.

I gave birth on the eve

of drill weekend, kept house

 

that winter he trained in Witchita

when he was DCM, that ice-storm winter 

our son was in second grade

and we had a funky woodstove.

I watched my pregnant friend

watching the Missing Man

 

formation over her husband’s

grave. What can I say?

What can I say?

I make no apologies

for my life. Love is a funny thing.

So now this new improved i.d.

 

is good another three years. 

We stopped on the way out the gate

to look at the old F-4 

on static display.

Not Miss Piggy, my husband said.

It’s got Rich’s name on the door. 

Some dialogue from a play-in-progress

Some Dialogue from a play-in-progress

BARRIE

Well, I have no idea how my way of being will help because you and I are as different as a pea in a pod and a rhinoceros, but okay. Here goes— I don’t work. I’ve never worked, and I never will work. The day I start to work will be the day they put me in a home. There is absolutely no separation between, among, within, whatever the word is, the art I make and everything else I do. Getting up in the morning is art. Taking a shit is art. Reading while I eat breakfast. Arguing with Jim about whose turn it is to buy groceries. Making dinner with the kids. Walking the dog. Teaching. All of it. It’s all art. It’s all making something out of something, or out of nothing, but usually it’s something. Remaking, unmaking, starting over, turning around. Everything is raw material and everything is already finished before I begin.

MARGARET

Well, okay. I guess that works for sculpture and conceptual stuff, but not for poetry.

BARRIE

Why not? 

MARGARET

It’s words. They have to be right. 

BARRIE

Oh, well. I get that. Finished stuff, sure, like if you want it in a magazine or something. That’s gotta take a little tweaking. But the first burst of a poem, and the second and maybe the third? The energy of it? The way it flits around and settles? Is that work?

Perspective

PERSPECTIVE

Oak and Ash and Birch breathe their gold.

It sifts through their twigs and branches 

over our cars and lawn furniture.

Oaks and ashes and birches think

life is worth continuing. They want

to make acorns and winged seeds

and tiny cones. They want to make

food for turkeys and squirrels and jays.

If they told you the Council of Trees

had decided to fill this year with abundance,

if they told you they had decided

this was a good year to cover the wounded

Earth with their love, to spread their gold;

if they told you that you, too, could participate,

wouldn’t you say Yes? And here you are!

Every sneeze, every dribble, every gasp,

they tell you, is a price you can pay.

WHAT WE’VE LOST

Before I begin my celebration of Poetry Month, which this year will involve going on strike for better working conditions, here’s a poem.

WHAT WE’VE LOST

I was shopping this morning, double-masked

because my second shot is days away.

Young women working the check-out counters

were waiting for customers and laughing,

laughing loud at some private check-out joke.

And I found my anger surge up at them:

young women, masked, trapped behind plastic shields.

Being human, sharing humor. And anger

at myself for fearing the sound of delight.

What have we lost? What have I lost?

I hope someday no one will understand 

double masks, plastic shields, second shots.

BEGINNING

BEGINNING

 

The book cover shines gold 

in the lamplight.

 

Small birds irrupted from the north

cluster around the feeders.

 

I’m an old woman now

and none the wiser, but

 

at least I can define

emotion with precision. 

 

The landscape of exploration

looms underground. 

 

Forty years but surely not wasted.

Are we between wars

 

or is there simply one war.

Was there ever only one?

OPEN STUDIO POEM #18

OPEN STUDIO POEM #18

 

 

aplomb

solid

chrysanthemum

collage

secluded

 

Under snow, under solid ground,

earth knits a fabric of mycelium,

bulb, the roots of chrysanthemum

and rose.  The February landscape

shapes a shifting collage

of branch and cloud,

a splash of of jay-blue.

We stay secluded, painting

our lives with aplomb.

OPEN STUDIO POEM #17

 

Open Studio Poem #17

disco

lickety-split

splendid

magenta

 

Fairies shelter behind the disco ball

hung in the portal to the kingdom of odd. 

After sunset, they emerge lickety-split,

and all night they dance through the city, 

their magenta wings flashing splendid

in the lights of streets, and traffic, and stars.

 

 

The other occupants of the Open Studio are out to get me, as you can see. But I know where that disco ball hangs, and I know the fairies, too.

Open Studio Poem #16

 

OPEN STUDIO POEM #16

makeup

cattywumpus

kerfuffle

erase

 

I’m going back to makeup.

Not the kerfuffle of my youth,

with eyeliner cattywumpus

to each brow,

not a sad attempt to erase

my decades on the road.

Just a streak of red on the lip,

a little taupe along the lid.

 

Since July, I’ve been attending an online Open Studio with four artists, who are now my friends. Most weeks, they give me words to use as prompts so I can practice my art while they do theirs. This week, I think they were out to get me.

OPEN STUDIO POEM #15

OPEN STUDIO POEM #15

leaves

haven

susurration

possibility

 

When the days lengthen,

the cold strengthens

but the light too grows strong—

apricity on a frozen day.

 

Last fall the young oak kept

its leaves. It stood, susurrating

in the shadow of its mother,

collected light feeding the roots.

 

We live these days

in a haven of possibility.

THE HAWK

THE HAWK

Every day I walk with the yellow dog who understands human language but can not yet speak. Every day, or nearly every day, we saw the hawk in the dead elm trees between the hay fields or on the power line. In early spring, two hawks circled the fields. In late summer, one young hawk called hunger from the elms while one adult watched from the wire. The dog was disturbed by the hawk’s wheeling or calling, and she raised the orange ridge on her back and growled and barked. And in November, when the hay in the fields was cut short and the living oaks and the dead elms stood as outlines against the sky, on a November morning when the yellow dog and I walked down the road with the mountains on the east and the hills on the west, I found the hawk on the ground, beneath the wire, not far from the elms. The hawk’s red tail was spread, the dark and speckled wings were folded, claws curled, the sharp eyes flat, the neck broken. What shall we do? I cried, and the yellow dog answered. —Carry the hawk to the row of elms and lay it down there. And weep awhile, and I will weep with you. But only for awhile, for you shall see.— So I lifted the hawk and carried it close to my heart and I walked with the dog to where the grasses and goldenrod stalks grew tall under the trees. And there I placed the hawk. And the dog said —Good—. And for awhile we wept. And that night, the hawk came to me while I slept. Her red tail was spread acorss the Earth and her wings opened east and west as far as I could see. Her great head touched the sun. And she spoke. —You see, she said, who I am. Now you see. Your eyes open to my flight, your ears open to my cry, your heart open to my life.— And with a shout the hawk rose up, then up, beyond the sun. And when I woke, the yellow dog was curled beside me and looked at me through her brown eyes, and said —Yes. That’s how it is.—

MATTER: A Pantoum

MATTER: A Pantoum

What gods do is make and let the pieces fall.

Billions of clocks on billions of beaches

turning as our hands move however they

move or our four legs or six or eight.

 

Billions of eyes in billions of deserts

move through their times or none and 

we move our two legs or four or six or eight and

our hearts and chloroplasts, mycelium,

 

our many eyes or none.

Our structures crystalize, the plates

and hearts and chloroplasts and mycelium

subduct and bump as we rise and fall.

 

The structure of our crystals, how the plates 

and all we do is an echo of clapping hands as we

subduct and bump and rise and fall.

With voices, silences, wavings of branches

 

we echo with our hands 

and twigs and whatever anemones use

for voices: silences? wavings of branches?

We’re all made of one matter.

 

Twigs and anemones

turn while our hands move however they

move because we’re all the matter

and making matter and falling is what we do.

OPEN STUDIO POEM #13: FOR THE LAST DAY OF 2020

OPEN STUDIO POEM #13

bobble

bauble

clarity

celebration

POEM FOR THE LAST DAY OF 2020

With smiles and nods, thumbs up

and applauses, with bright baubles 

 

of technologies—our new necessities—

we’ve bobbled through this hardest time. 

 

We have more courage than we knew,

our loves are stronger than we thought.

 

Now, let us begin a celebration, now, 

as we tiptoe toward the clarity of light 

 

at the far side of this dark passageway.

We are beginning to know 

 

how tender we are; beginning

to know how gentle we can be.

With thanks to Wanda, Kathy H, David and Kathy C for their words.

MAGI GOING HOME

MAGI, GOING HOME
 

 

 Go home another way, 
 it told us in a dream. 
 Another way?
 

 What would an angel 
 know about ways? 
 We had to sell the camels 
 

 and the slaves. Another way 
 meant bad roads, no roads. 
 We were not accustomed 
 

 to walk, but walk we did 
 till we bought a donkey. 
 It was old and lame.
 

 We rode in turns. We were not 
 accustomed to taking turns, 
 nor to buying food ourselves. 
 

 Now and then we begged,
 and more than once 
 we slept in stables, in the straw—
 

 the only lodgings we could find 
 after we were robbed of everything. 
 But that’s another tale. 
 

LETTERS NOT SENT: Two

To His Holiness the Dalai Lama:

I’m re-re-re-re-reading Little Women, of all things, and find it a great deal more moralizing than I did when I was young.   And women’s laughter–the Heretics group I’m in  (all of us over fifty) laugh a great deal when we’re together–not necessarily even about anything.  We were getting to be a bunch of boring old people sitting around telling the same stories all the time.

To St. Francis:

Well, as you said, I’m about to ramble.  I planted Swiss chard this morning, and gladiolas, and cherry tomatoes in pots.  And the Apocalypse didn’t come yesterday–were you surprised?  I hope that you are all better after your “very, very, VERY rare” experience.  The chorus I sing in is preparing the “Laudamus Te” and the “Magnificat” from the Solemn Vespers for our spring concert, and I got to thinking that maybe the whole suffering bleeding mess of the world has been worth it for that music.  It’s political, but we came at it obliquely, through Vikings and El Salvador and the Crusades and the Trojan War, for example.

To Christopher Robin and Pooh

I think it was Martin Smith who said/wrote that women’s soul work is different from men’s.  “Holy detachment.”   I want to come visit you soon.  Maybe I shall.  I miss you.  What would it be like to be in that café and see people Raptured away? And speaking of books, I now have The Penguin Rhyming Dictionary.  I have been wanting one for awhile.