We’ve come a long way
war, disease, death, despair and hunger
some want it, all over again
Lights come on. Two characters appear examining something between them. They stand one meter apart from each other, staring carefully at what seems to be a patch of invisible air between them.
Albert: It’s a poem alright.
Ruben: Never doubted it for a moment.
Albert (pensive): Is it one of the modern ones? (stating the word ‘modern’ slowly, too self-consciously, as it were a complicated word like Otolaryngology.)
Ruben (unsure, quickly scanning the poem up and down again): I would say so.
Albert: It has a certain sadness to it, wouldn’t you say?
Ruben: I’m afraid so.
Albert: You don’t like emotional pieces?
Ruben: Normally yes, but this one is a bit disturbing.
Albert: Is it because it makes fun of the human condition?
Ruben: I don’t like the second part, the bit about how ‘bodies betray the raw aura and war sinks the glass of meaning crushed’.
Albert: I don’t understand how you dislike that; I thought it was a profound image.
Ruben: My father died in the war.
Albert: Oh, sorry to hear that.
Ruben: Not your fault, he was one reckless fighter.
Albert: Did he die early in the war?
Ruben: They never told us, until the war was over; and he was brought to us in a can.
Albert: Just like that.
Ruben: What is this poem doing here?
Albert: Must have been left here by someone.
Ruben: A poet?
Ruben: Should we leave it standing here or maybe cover it with a blanket.
Albert: Can it bear any weight, what if the stanzas collapse to the pavement?
Ruben: Don’t you think the poet secured it in some way, (pointing quickly to several points within the poem) by arranging the consonants like this and so many vowels like ripening figs hanging from a strong tree?
Albert: How would I know? Let’s just drop the idea.
Ruben: Should we move it in any case, leave it under the awning of that shop over there? (pointing to what seems a distant shop)
Albert: What if the poet comes looking for her poem here and can’t find it.
Ruben: Her poem?
Albert: A wild guess.
Ruben: Ok, let’s leave it here.
Ruben: Should I read it again?
Albert: Yeah, but this time we each read it silently. I can’t follow the flow of the poem when you read it.
(they both screen left to right with their eyes, slowly lowering their sight until it reaches the sidewalk, half way down Albert chuckles, Ruben sighs).
Albert: I think this is one damn fine poem.
Ruben: It… is.
Albert: You still find it too, what do they call it… pathetic?
Ruben: The bit about how ‘the clouds floated like cloves of garlic in the blue almost green sky of her childhood’. (he pauses as if reminiscing) Reminds me of lying in the fields of my home country, back in Romania.
Albert: Yes, the imagery is striking. I was impressed on this second reading by how she portrays thought as a natural element of the earth, with fissures and cracks, slowly eroding under the weight of time.
Ruben: That was too artificial for me, I was more impressed by how she began to study the hands of her grandmother and close to twilight the wrinkles became words, almost speeches about a time long ago when every minute was warm and slow like a curl of smoke rising effortlessly from the hearth.
Albert: Indeed, a touching metaphor.
Ruben: Look, it’s turning yellow!
(both gaze with eyes wide open)
Albert: Gosh, you’re right!
Ruben: Why yellow?
Albert: Maybe it’s supposed to turn yellow. Like a leaf that’s had too much sun.
Ruben: What are you implying?
Albert: We’ve been staring at it too long.
Ruben: Ok. Let’s turn our backs to it and wait a while.
Albert: My very thought.
(They turn and wait 20 seconds with their backs to the poem – )
Ruben: Is it enough?
Albert: No, let’s give it another minute.
(30 seconds pass as they attempt to hum or scratch their beards.)
Albert: I’m afraid it’s too soon.
(30 seconds more, Albert scratches the back of his neck and Ruben shamelessly his inner thigh just beside his crotch).
Albert: OK, let’s have a look.
Albert: Look, it’s almost blue now!!
Ruben: Holy molly!
Albert: And the words have changed too!
(Ruben agape in utter disbelief.)
Ruben: Are you serious?!
Albert: Yes, read this part- (pointing to the middle section of the poem) – it wasn’t there before.
Ruben: The part about the storm?
Albert: Yes! It now says the sky could hold a storm in its mouth like a dose of mouthwash.
Ruben: Oh my legs (genuinely trembling)- it’s true!
Albert: It was something about the sun before.
Ruben: Yes, I remember. About how ‘the sun has deleted the world with its light and the air is blind with currents of glow’.
Albert: It has turned comical!
Ruben: Sadly so! I preferred its previous sorrowful mood.
Albert: I thought you weren’t so fond of it because of… ehem (clears throat) what happened to your father.
Ruben: I’m not sure what I think nowadays. But I prefer it as it was before.
Albert: Should we read it out loud, maybe it has changed in other areas as well.
Ruben: Great idea.
(Ruben and Albert are about to begin reading the poem when an old lady enters the scene)
Old Lady: Gentlemen, can you tell me the name of this street?
Ruben: We’re not from this part of town. Where are you heading to?
Old Lady: The marketplace, they said to keep going this way until I reach Dolores street.
Albert: I know it, just walk down this way for another 3 blocks until you hit Agonia street, there turn right and you’ll see Dolores street. The marketplace will be at the end of Dolores street.
Old Lady: Thank you kind sir, have a nice day! (walks away)
Ruben: So, you are familiar with this area?
Albert: Not at all, I was just getting rid of that nutcase.
Albert: She’s probably another lunatic mumbling words without any precise meaning.
Ruben: But she was only looking for the marketplace! Maybe she needs eggs and tomatoes for breakfast tomorrow!
Albert: Don’t be so naive Ruben, crazy people don’t have motives. They just act, without rhyme or reason.
Ruben: But how can you know she’s craz…
(Albert interrupts him violently with a wave of his hand)
Albert: The poem has changed again!
(Ruben scanning quickly up and down the poem).
Ruben: Where exactly?
Albert: The final part.
Ruben: Oh yes and what an ending!
(reading the last part out loud together:)
for all the things
that can be grasped,
I leave behind
words so transparent
they can reflect
the luminosity of the void
anywhere in the world.
Albert: But who could have… rewritten it?
Ruben: An ever bigger enigma.
(Actors remain silent. Traffic noise is heard in the background, honking, changing of gears, a bus door opening and then closing.)
Ruben: Albert, why didn’t you bring your sister today? I thought we had an arrangement?
(Albert staring into the void either mimicking despair or genuinely troubled)
Albert: I guess, Ruben, that I have no sister.
Ruben: I thought you were too young to have a sister.
Albert: There’s a bench over there.
Ruben: My legs are killing me.
Albert: I have an apple in my pocket we could share.
Ruben: Sweet or sour?
Albert: I’m not sure, I didn’t put it there. Let’s sit and find out.
They walk slowly, awkwardly toward the bench. The shadow of a bird crosses the pavement in front of them. They sit and stare into the audience. Albert puts his hand in his pocket and takes out the inner lining of his pocket. There was no apple there after all.
– THE END –
© Pablo Saborío
Until we are no more
no more than souls
will we walk out of this room