Start Talking: a scrap of it

I've been looking for a new play and started a couple that didn't work. So I invited the characters to sit down and talk. This is the beginning of what happened next.

A Play in One Act

Mary F. C. Pratt


PLAYWRIGHT  Older woman.
JOAN      Older woman, a folklorist
PATRICIA   Joan’s daughter, a businesswoman in a “little suit.”
ALEX     Joan’s grandchild, Patricia’s child, a teenager. Garbed rebelliously.
GRANDMOTHER   Older Woman, an artist.
RED  Grandmother’s grandchild, ten or twelve years old, wearing a red hoodie.
LAURA     Annie’s daughter, a circus performer, in her late twenties, arty and self-centered.
ANNIE      Laura’s Mother, middle-aged. Vague and worried.
PAT    Annie’s boss, an Older Woman who owns a greenhouse. Outspoken, tough. Work clothes.
STAGEHAND  Unspeaking.

Bare stage, a table, six chairs. Folding chairs available backstage.

At Rise:  Playwright is sitting at the table working at a computer. Joan, Patricia and Alex, and Grandmother and Red enter in their family groups, silently. After some jockeying around, the grandmothers sit together, the grandchildren sit together. There is space around Patricia.

(Looking around the table.)
Okay. Everybody’s here. Good. So start talking.

So what do you want us to talk about? What do you want to know? I’ve got work to do. I don’t have all day.

Talk about whatever. Who are you? You say you’ve got work to do? So tell me about it. I don’t have all day, either. I want to kick-start at least one of these plays. So talk.

(All start babbling at once.)

Wait, wait. Everybody stop. This is ridiculous. Somebody needs to organize it. 

Fine, fine. Go for it.

All right. We’ll go around the table and introduce ourselves. Say your name and something about what you think you’re supposed to be doing, at least so far. 

(A snort, a guffaw—some kind of dismissive noise.)

So I’ll start. I’m Patricia. You can probably tell by my clothes that I am a successful business woman.

What business are you in?

I have absolutely no idea. Now do you want me to talk or not?

Yes, yes, yes.

Then if you’ll be quiet, I’ll get on with it. May I?

Yeah. Go ahead.

All right then. As I said, I’m Patricia. Joan is my mother and Alex is my child. I think my mother is getting dotty and should be in some kind of assisted living. So far, I live offstage, on the telephone. I haven’t even had any lines yet.

And you’re already a character with distinctive clothes. That’s impressive.

Huh. It is, actually.

If you’ve finished interrupting? All right. I am suspicious that Alex is in cahoots with Joan. Perhaps they even laugh at me behind my back. Next?

I bet they do.

What? They do what?

Laugh at you. Behind your back. I know I do.

What are you talking about? You don’t even know me. You’re not in my play.

Thank God. But in my play my grandchild and I laugh at his/her/their mother, who is my daughter, all the time.

What’s up with that, Playwright? Do you laugh at your daughter?

I don’t have a daughter. But this isn’t about me. Talk.

We are talking. Next? You. . .(Points at Red.)

That would be me. I’m Red. You can tell, maybe by the shirt. Anyhow, I’m a kid and I live in a play that’s supposed to be, like, a rewrite of Red Riding Hood, or something. Maybe I’m trying to rescue Grandmother from the sun? Not like she’s sunbathing, I mean, but maybe she got eaten by the sun? Or maybe some wolf eats the sun? Grandmother talked about that a little bit. Or something. It’s all pretty, like, vague or something. I knock on the door a lot.

Right. (To Playwright.) And that vagueness is getting tiresome, if you want to know the truth, which, as an artist I assume you do?

I certainly aspire to the truth, yes. And it is getting tiresome for me, too, which is why you’re all here. So keep going.

Well then. I am Grandmother. And as she/he/they said, I think it’s a Red Riding Hood riff, but I don’t think it’s very successful so far, though I do like being an artist instead of a pathetic old bedridden lady, and I like throwing out the natural foods crap my daughter makes Red bring to me, and I like feeding her/him/them coffee and chocolate bars instead. I do hope you can make something out of that bit, at least.

You do that, too? Throw out the stuff your daughter sends you?

Mother, it isn’t your turn yet.

Oh for goodness’ sake, Patricia. I’m next at the table. 

Yes, Patricia. For goodness’ sake. (Turns to Joan.) And I’ve done my bit, so go ahead. 

(To Grandmother.) Thank you. When this is over, we need to talk. (To all.) In the meantime, I’m in an embryonic play with my grandchild Alex, and with, or possibly despite, my daughter Patricia, who, until now, has, mercifully, been offstage and silent. (Examines Patricia.) So that’s what you look like. Nice suit. 

No need for personal comments, Mother.

I beg to differ. Playwright, personal comments allowed?

Oh, please!



Open Studio Poem #17






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.


I’m reduced to looking up old prompts and combining them. This is the result of two: “make up the world,” and “new proverb.”



In this world, nine stitches

hold Time together.

You’ll  need waxed thread,

a curved bookbinder’s needle.

When you have finished

sewing up Time’s spine,

all the eggs in your basket

will hatch at once. One swallow

will settle on your hand

to twitter up the summer

and two will call from a bush,

then lead you on.

Follow them to a meadow

where a red morning sky

is opening the roses. 

All the horses you have wished for

will thunder from the mountains. 

Choose one and look in its mouth,

but don’t believe a word.



“. . around the edges of oddness”

        ~A Bluebird Fairy by Emily Anderson


You won’t find it 

in halls of ivy, or

in the chambers of kings.

It isn’t between the covers 

of carefully curated 

volumes available only

to members with reservations.

Never in anything 


by color or size.

Never in anything glossed

or listed or rewarded. 

    But look!

It’s teetering on a tooth

from a reconstructed

conodont. Spinning

on the rim of a sixpence

balanced on a pole

balanced on the rubber

nose of a clown

riding a unicycle on 

a tightrope stretched

between a stormcloud

and the beak of a raven.

It’s lurking in the garden dirt

under the left thumbnail

of the weaver’s second

daughter. If you want it,

you might start there.


Garden Party

in honor of ol’ Walt Kelly

We are dancing on a dingbat 

in the fury of a gale

while a wiley alligator 

winds a kitestring on his tail,

and we do not have to worry 

if the fury can’t abate,

for the foolish old bassoon man 

has a catfish on his plate

and the streamlined fancy foremast 

casts a shadow on our fate.


O, the moral of the story 

is the wellspring of the fool,

and the quarrel of the sorry 

is the spinning of the spool.


When the roses grow forgotten 

in the gardens of the moon

and the chickens all fly skyward 

on the string of the balloon, 

when the demons do their darndest 

to knock acorns from the tree

and the long-awaited pirate ship 

comes sailing from the sea,

then we’ll know it’s time to cut the cake 

and have a cup of tea.   


O, the moral of the story 

is the wellspring of the fool,

and the quarrel of the sorry 

is the spinning of the spool.


I wrote this ages ago, in imitation of the great Walt Kelly’s “Pogo” poetry.




Written over a period of several months. Try it sometime. . . 



Hopalong Cassidy

rode into London, his

horse was worn out from the

long ocean dip.


Hop said “The horse is so


next time I’ll make it an

aeroplane trip.”




Thomas Sterns Eliot

wrote lots of poetry,

most of it excellent;

much of it sold.


Thomas, however, was


pants were too long, so he

wore the things rolled.




Theodore Roosevelt

went out a-trampling in-

to the deep forest in

search of big game.


There by a brook sat a


long thought extinct, and

as huge as its name.




Little Red Riding Hood

minded her mother and

went to her Grandma’s a-

long the right trail.


Wolf never met her, so


old Jakob Grimm had to

make up the tale.




Susan B. Anthony,

activist feminist,

thought if she worked hard she’d

get things to change.


Who could have guessed that such


patterns of thinking would

still seem so strange?




Frederick Wertheimer,

great Common Causer, be-

lieves the campaign style is

wicked and wrong.


Most politicians, so


happy to sell out their

souls for a song.




Little Lord Fauntleroy

dressed in his Sunday best

called on Rebecca of

Sunnybrook Farm.


He never liked her, so


twisted her elbow which

caused her great harm.




Jolly St. Nicholas,

frequently flying, one

eve in December a-

bandoned his flight:


“I’m sick of being so


Christmas be damned, and to

all a Good Night.”




Princess Elizabeth

learned about protocol,

minded her manners and

kept her nails clean.


Good that she did, given


when she was grown, they sang

God save the Queen.




Jacqueline Kennedy,

so very stylish–de-

signers kept busy cre-

ating her shifts.


When she was widowed, she


didn’t beware of a

Greek bearing gifts.




President Kennedy

lived in the White House and

said “For your country ask

what you can do.”


I think up dactyls and


save them in notebooks.  So–

how about you?





~after a discussion with fellow poets about the uses of euphemism 

If shit’s not a poetic word,

then how about excrete?

How else can one describe what’s left

of things we creatures eat?


For water one must often “make”

urine ‘s not elegeeic;

and piss though not poetic,  

is onomatopeeic.


I’m sorting through my old poems and posting a few that I still like. Including this naughty one, written maybe nine years ago.

March Prompt #7: The Chair that was First Owned by my Great-Great Uncle Asa


March Prompt #7

He wasn’t actually my uncle. He was my cousin’s uncle, on the other side of her family, you see, but we called him uncle because of that chair. It was passed on to my cousin’s Great Aunt Martha (not my great-aunt, just hers) who was his second daughter-in-law, and she passed it on to her son Freddy, who of course was my cousin’s actual uncle. He was the youngest in that family. Johnny, the middle one, married a Brady girl, and we have, at least my husband has, connections to the Bradys since his sister-in-law’s first husband was a Brady, and her oldest daughter. She didn’t marry his brother till he died. My husband’s. brother. Anyway, Freddy—my cousin’s real Uncle Freddy but we all called him that, used to come to Thanksgiving at my Aunt Bet’s. She was my cousin’s mother, Dad’s sister. So he was my uncle’s brother by marriage. He was the oldest.  Never married. No one ever said why, but we have our suspicions. And one Thanksgiving, when he sat down at the table on that rickety old chair—you know how everybody has to haul out all the chairs at Thanksgiving if there’s a big crowd and there was always a big crowd at Aunt Bet’s since she and Dad were two of seven and Uncle John—not the John who married the Brady girl—that was Freddy’s brother—my uncle who was Aunt Bet’s husband had the same name—  was one of four and by then they all had kids, except Uncle Freddy, and she always took in strays besides. People, I mean, but she did take in some cats, too, but mostly they stayed up in the barn except that orange one that everybody called Blink because it was missing an eye. But he sat on that old chair and even though he was pretty skinny it broke under him. Bumped his head on the edge of the table on his way down. We all laughed, and so did he, but he was never the same after. Neither was the chair, so Uncle John threw the chair in the fire and Uncle Freddy had to sit on a stack of apple crates they hauled in from the shed.