From an (understandably) unpublished play written in 2001. This speech in Act One Scene I has some nifty passages spoken by Naked Woman, the lead character in a surreal drama written in somewhat Shakespearean style. The play ends up in a trial presided over by Judge Bottombulger with Mozart and Van Gogh as witnesses for the defense. Naked Woman’s partner is called Misfit.
[ Misfit grabs jacket and exits. After he leaves, Naked Woman muses, still naked on pedestal facing the audience.]
Here I am
On top of the world
Beloved of he whom I most adore
A gentle soul who,
Though lost inside like each of us who finds ourselves in
Oceanic vastness, with its
Random, powerful seethings,
And he a pilot often too incompetent, or so it seems, to
Guide himself steady into safe harbour of dependability;
Yet he inspires deep love in me for him
For him as him and no one other.
And yet, I often wonder whether
He loves me, as me, as simply me,
Not queen, not deity, not forever-young pinup,
Not saint, – and no great sinner either, it’s true –
Or even sacred temple of being – or whatever such –
Such notions which take wing and soar high above our
Kitchen Sink day-to-day goodness, our oatmeal goodness,
Our world where ordinary traffic with trucks, and taxis
Vans, pollution, merchants, bills, crooks and all the rest of it –
Is all the time passing by,
the flickering cinema of our little victories and defeats.
And also I myself, right now so young and lovely
– yes, I can confess to that –
But even now, as the sun of youth shines bright
On my no less dazzling and radiant loveliness
So also its journey across the landscape of my outer features
Casts lengthening shadows, which
Projecting out the revealed profiles of increasingly minute and yet more obvious mounds and folds of worry and circumspection
Thus naturally reveal the living landscape and history of my
Defeats, failures, sorrow
All telling their tales in my unfolding form,
Which becomes increasingly a form of many folds
And bulges, and over them all an ever finer network of
Interlinking wrinkles, a living raku coated in cracks all over the surface of my inner character as well as outer beauty
In ways unwelcome wherein well-worn trails of hope and fear
Are etched as livid, visible wrinkles that, in the
Timeless language of Mother Nature
Tell their own too literal a tale,
Chiselling first letters, then longer words, sentences, paragraphs
– no, entire biographies – into this my living skin,
This outer billboard of my inner womanhood
My femininity, softness, and fecundity,
Thereby adding chapters to my living tale,
One wrinkling, parchment page at a time, as
Time, with his twin consorts of
Age and Rapidly Approaching Death,
Manifests minutely in the very
Cells and hormonal synergies of my being.
So how can I meld my character to my current beauty
Saying: “I am beautiful” or “I am a woman?”
Because it all so soon passes and will be no more!
For such is progress, in reality.
The child grows forward each day, waxing stronger
But we adults go forward in time becoming weaker.
And as we add to our experience and wisdom
So does our skin reflect this greater accumulation
In the form of such unwelcome, though inevitable hieroglyphs
Which no amount of cream can smooth away
And no amount of other tricks eliminate or, truth be told,
Even do a halfway decent job at hiding.
Like all such simple truths, this one as true as it is simple;
And thus my beauty, like all seeming fancies,
No more than that, a passing phase
A day, a month, a season, a fantastic summer holiday
That climaxes and wanes, along with the myriad, mellowing falls of autumn, followed in the end by the inevitable
Chill winter of stiff-fingered, frozen-boned death.
So the simple truth is that this splendid, life-giving and
Literally life-inspiring warm force of the
Very brightness which now dazzles you,
This my tender beauty and grace,
this same light now illumining and delighting us all will,
like any flaming candle at any summer banquet,
soon burn down until at last, flickering,
finally disappear forever until
Only dark night remains.
Thus my current youth and beauty
are simply virgin parchment on which Old Man Time is
even now scratching out his wrinkled, tortuous tales.
And all the more glaring they shall be
Because they have been carved on one like me.
And knowing this, in heart as well as head,
And knowing this, even as I am worshipped
As archetype, if you will, on this my pedestal,
I find myself in truth not full equipped
To serve as goddess to a blundering mortal
Rather as partner, groping in darkness for the same portal
Leading to peace and plain fresh air
Where we can lay down our burdens, relax our cares
And worries and simply be that font of all true contentment,
Namely he with she, and she with he,
As ordinary folks,
Who are born, live for a while, do their best,
Share a laugh or two, and then,
More wrinkled on the outside
But hopefully smoothed on the inside
By their many rough and ready lifetime passages
They retire and fade away
And then like stars at dawn,
Are no more visible on this plane.
Thus my beauty, which now shines upon you bright as any sun
Is also shone upon in turn,
and as this sun of passing time burns its wrinkles into me
It tells the tale of passing youth and glory
Until the passage of time, and care, and natural changes that have nothing to do necessarily with stress worry, or wickedness
– though they too can find themselves writ large
Even billboarded on face and other parts –
Until that passage is literally written into me in the form of wrinkles
So that my skin,
Now a soft treasure-trove of succulent feasts for touching, and tasting and smelling, for dancing with and caressing and so on,
This self-same multi-purpose canvas of celebration and so on
Becomes an increasingly more self-contained,
Specialist, dry form
Of wrinkled and wrinkling prose
For all to read in passing
On my no longer fascinating visage and womanly presence.
So look at me now,
Good ladies, and good gentlemen.
Look in wonder.
For you see a miracle of living life, and breath, and body
A natural marvel of this wonderful world of ours
Grown from we know not really what combination
Of science and art and karma and intention
Whether genetic or psychic, biological or essentially purely spiritual.
We know not.
But we see, we hear, we feel, we touch, we taste
And I am here for all of that,
I and my many sisters, we are here right now.
But just as I can turn here for your pleasure [ turns ]
And show little apparent momentary change,
So is the seeming solidity of my being
Constantly turning and evolving and meanwhile in fact
Passing and dissolving bit by bit;
And soon I will be young no more
And will have faded along with so many others,
Including all of us who are here right now together
In this place and time.
As such, I am a living dream.
Only as such am I a living woman.
As such I am real, and also
As such I am living fantasy.
Am I real and solid
Or truly no more real than imagination
Emotion, mental and psychophysical
Flashes in the dark
Of moments of joy and sadness?
Is this all I am,
A fleeting moment?
Is my beauty me, or am I simply beautiful?
And so again: am I fantasy or reality?
This is not for any man or woman to say,
Only that I must learn to be both,
And if I pick sides, I will not be true to myself,
Or others. This is our living riddle,
No more or less profound and fathomless
Then the process by which
My wrinkles are being drawn on me
Even as I stand here speaking, and you sit there gawking!!
In such spirit of suspended imagination
That lingers vividly between asleep and awake
Between so-called imagination or fantasy
And so-called reality or physical solidity,
Even so I beg you to remain for the duration
Or at least, if that is asking too much,
For the duration of this play,
This whimsical, fanciful fiction,
Yet played before you by people
As alive as any others, or any who have ever been
And witnessed by the same, yourselves.
Please, let us all relax into the simple and simplistic sanity
Of enjoying that, for now at least, we are all just living dreams.
We are in a place and time, peopled by all of us real folk,
And yet, without either date or place, or any real people,
As such transcending all local limitations.
With this in mind, and some of the other more daily stuff out of mind
In short, let’s see how life goes on;
for it always does, and thus:
[Curtain. End of Scene I ]