The Dream of Blake’s Amnon

The unicorn’s sepulcher is empty. The tomb remains, yes; in its ivory marble is carved her image, smiling mid-flight among the stars. But within are no fallen wings, the image holds no vigil. She has left death for greener pastures, not yet weary of life.

On the wall opposite the unicorn’s image is a plaque, an epitaph in vain. Those words are William Blake’s “Amnon,” and they read:

Regret may we have in our lives,
simple errors rooted in the mind;
No love lives within the archives
and no favors are returned in kind.
But true life means we may carry on!

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At Night

living in space
without time,
without rhyme,
living to trace

mingling paths
of spent days
and broken ways,
stuttering drafts,

a scalding tear
I thought would —
worse, could —
soon disappear.

living in space,
away from
the kind, awe-some
lover’s face.

the cold void
keeps me warm–
the shining swarm
of distant discoid

stars keeps me
awake. It’s
better like this.
I should not be free

to fall asleep.

 

Chinese Letter Machine

Stage lights fade in.

At center stage is a player in an apron, calmly listening to headphones, sitting behind a desk on which a large book rests. Hung on the wall behind them is a large screen, now blank.

Stage right: a nondescript wall with an inert light near the ceiling and a slot & basket at chest level.

Stage left: another wall with another slot, a closed filing cabinet toward the rear, and a bin just beside.

Thirteen seconds pass.

The light comes on. A paper falls through the slot into the basket.

The player notes the light and casually rises, moving stage right to the basket. They reflect on the paper. The pictogram “li” appears on the screen.

The player moves back to the desk and opens the book, leafing through several pages until they find the right page. The player then moves stage left to the filing cabinet, opens a shelf, rifles through, picks out a paper, puts it through the slot, drops the first paper in the bin and sits back down.

Fourteen seconds pass before the light flashes on again. The pictogram “xing (hsing)” appears on screen. The player repeats the process.

Nine seconds pass. The light flashes on. The pictogram “jin (chin)” appears. They repeat the process.

Eight seconds pass. The light flashes on. They move to the basket. The pictogram “ϕ” appears.

The player is immediately, visibly confused. They remove their headphones and flip the paper in a panic. They look up, stare blankly into the audience and shoot to the book. They tear through the pages cover to cover and come up exasperated.

The light pulses.

The player stares at the light for a moment, then moves with trepidation to the filing cabinet. They peer into every shelf, searching through each individual paper.

They emerge with nothing.

The player sighs deeply, closes their eyes and plucks a paper at random. They throw it into the slot.

A beat. The player cautiously opens their eyes, wincing. Three seconds pass.

Sirens. The stage drowns in red light. The screen breaks into static. The player cowers, expecting something to drop from above.

The player rushes back to the book and frantically rifles through its pages. This only ends when they accidentally knock the book to the floor in their panic.

The player darts back and forth across the room. The sirens escalate.

After this panic the player sprints over to the cabinet. They rip papers from the drawers and stuff them by the bunch into the slot.

The onslaught continues.

The player is paralyzed and hyperventilating. They scan the room for any solution.

They land on the book.

The player runs over, grabs the book, dashes back to the slot and shoves the book awkwardly through.

The stage goes dark and deadly silent. It remains like this for ten seconds.

The stage lights flicker back on. The player has not moved. They cautiously scan the stage for errors or damage.

As it becomes apparent that nothing is wrong the player relaxes. They shuffle back to the desk and quickly sit. They tap out a nervous rhythm with their fingers. Fourteen seconds pass.

The light flashes on. The player falls out of their chair. A paper falls through the slot into the basket. The player’s head rises just above the desk, looks to the space where the book was, back to the slot.

Fade to black.

Door

(in the style of ACT WITHOUT WORDS)

 

A small stage. In the middle-far center stands a plain door, a few feet of wall on either side.

Enter RUNNER, casually, from stage left. They move past the installation without interest.

As the Runner passes the stage right wall the door clicks open. The Runner turns back, taking a few steps before stopping entirely. They regard the door curiously.

Now the Runner approaches, hand outstretched. They are just at the point of pushing the door open—

The door clicks shut. The Runner tries the knob and finds it locked.

The Runner stands at the door, slowly regarding the top and bottom of the frame. After a little of this the Runner detaches from the installation and resumes their path.

As they pass the stage right wall the door opens. Now alert, the Runner whirls around, pauses, and takes cautious, cat-like steps back to the door, which closes once again. The Runner tries the knob — locked.

The Runner reflects, then knocks. No answer. They alternate working the knob and knocking, all to no avail. They trail off to stage left, keeping tight focus on the door.

As they pass the stage left wall the door opens. The Runner darts back and reaches for the door just as it shuts.

The exasperated Runner pivots back around, rolls their eyes, raises their fists in indignation—

They bolt to the door and furiously jerk at the knob. They plant their foot in the door and tug harder now. The door does not budge.

The Runner falls back exhausted, panting. They glare at the door, then, still panting, glance behind them, into the audience. To the door, audience, door, audience, door, audience.

The Runner collects themselves, dusts off their jacket, turns to the audience and, standing stock straight, marches off the stage.

As they leave the door opens. Its clicking jolts the Runner, but they continue undeterred. They exit. Twelve seconds pass.

The Runner sprints at and hits the now-closed door with a SMACK, falling to the ground. Heavy breathing.

Wincing, the Runner gets to their feet and regards the left and right walls. They rub their chin and approach the stage left wall.

The Runner scans the wall, then softly taps one of the low bricks with their foot. It falls back behind the wall. The Runner stands stunned, then drops to their hands & knees. As they hit the floor the brick is replaced.

The Runner tries to push the brick back in, unsuccessfully. They rise and kick at the brick again, again unsuccessfully.

The door opens. The Runner eagerly reaches for the knob. The door closes. The Runner pulls back. The door opens. The Runner reaches. The door closes. The Runner pulls back. The door opens. The Runner reaches. The door closes. The Runner pulls back. The door opens. The Runner reaches. The door closes. The Runner pulls back. The door opens. The Runner reaches. The door closes. The Runner pulls back. The door opens. The Runner reaches. The door closes. The Runner pulls back. The door remains closed. The Runner reaches. The door remains closed. The Runner pulls back, realizes the bit, steps away, collapses to the floor.

The door remains closed.

The Runner blindly rotates toward the audience, pleading with defeated eyes to darkness. This occurs for seven seconds.

The door opens.

The Runner whips back, still seated, and tenses up at the sight of the open door. Eleven seconds pass.

Fade to black.

 

Penn

A forest, dawn.

The dog, christened Penn at her birth, approaches the expansive tree inviting her into the clearing. This is new for her. Lately her gait has been pained, her sprints less and less frequent as her muscles licked with electric shocks. Moments ago, even — Penn remains confused as to where that time went — she lay immobile on her bed, surrounded by her family, and they were smiling through, through— Penn doesn’t have the language.

But now. Now Penn is limber, more fluid than she ever was. Her brown fur moves freely in the crisp morning wind, feels alive under the newborn sun. Still she creeps cautiously through the wood. She must suppress her lupine instinct to simply bolt into the green, surrender to her animal esprit pour la vie for the first time in years — now she must remain vigilant.

As Penn draws closer to the tree this becomes less and less necessary. She recognizes this forest in every nature trail she ever visited, every suburban backyard playdate, every vast Elysian field she coursed through in dreams; each smell is not an individual tulip or public bush but the commixing of each ecstasy Penn has ever taken in, from the first confusions of all creation to the faint surprises of old age. This tree, this clearing, this forest — it is all at once the old and the new, the familiar and the extraordinary.

Piece by piece Penn releases her fear.  With an excited trot she comes finally to the tree radiating with life and the eternal. She still lacks the language, but if Penn had it she may call herself something not exactly happy (for what is the opposite to a dog?) but beyond it, where everything is still and beautiful and open.

Penn smells the tree — how new it is, just like her — curls about it once, and slips into the deepest sleep she has ever known.