(SCENE: THE COUPLE are in the bathroom,
off stage. The audience can’t see them, but
THE POET is cutting
THE LOVER’s hair.
Perhaps the sound of scissors or their occasional talk,
echoing in the tiled room, carries and is audible
to the first few rows. But the stage is lit and the birds
are building nests, coming in and out of open windows,
bringing material in from the street: the usual twigs,
but also plastic straws, frayed ribbon, a bit of bent wire.
The construction is complex and watching them
shape the gathered stuff is enough to watch.
Can you believe I ever fought the swell,
that there was once no room beyond the gate
and I would kneel to listen for the knell,
pouring within it, dropping with its weight?—
As if the heart, afraid of loss, could know
which risk is worth the pain, or what remorse
does to the mind, unloved… Carrion crow,
black vulture that you are, or were, of course
the meat is sweeter when alive, the center
of the wrought world goes dead, useless unused.
Don’t keep the secret. Don’t deny it—Enter
what you thought was closed. To you. Become amused
by the sorry soldiers who mistook your land
for theirs. And planted
, changed your plans.
(There is a flash of light and the birds flee
from their work. The front door of the apartment
THE COUPLE enters.
hair is dry.
(All around them the birds start settling down:
first one, then another landing at their feet,
setting a minor weight upon the ground,
as if the cure for chaos were release…
The tentative grace of any smaller thing,
in greater numbers, calm among so much,
causes the heft to lessen: one can bring
some mountain down with the rain; that tiny touch
surrounds the body, stirred by the loss of self,
and the sea deepens elsewhere. The birds adore
their wandering down, the cloud releasing itself
THE COUPLE tighten at the core,
amazed to witness what they can’t remember
blazing with them, locked within their chamber.
That’s it! The birds! They’ll stand for what we want;
they’re always dipping in and out of sight.
They’ll speak for us—if willing—when we can’t
speak honestly, the strangers looking on.
So only we will know when something’s wrong.
Sounds good to me.
(THE POET goes to kiss him, but refrains,
decides to illustrate their newfound code
by grasping wildly until his clutch contains
a small red wonder, adequate, it boldly
beating its wings.
THE POET calms it down
by whispering the reason for its capture,
touching it quite gently on the crown.
THE POET smiles.
THE LOVER too—but after
a second’s laughter, both recoil, their scene
disturbed. The curtain having parted, the birds
take flight: they scatter outward, up—fourteen
or so, their panic seeming posed, absurd.
THE POET, startled also, drops his hands,
but the bird, released, won’t leave. Instead, it lands.
(SCENE: When the lights rise,
THE COUPLE’s lips have met.
They sit in a dim space beyond the scrim, some music playing.
What good is love if revealing it is boring,
so that the tongue doesn’t know the taste of one,
or the friend grows afraid
(Their lips part and there is a cloud of smoke.
if men are warring?
(THE COUPLE bickers.
What good is the life once all the living’s done
and the fields are felled and the king’s asleep alone?
The courage it took to conquer has all but vanished
now that his queen has left him and her throne
is dry. Why all the dead in the field, the banished
men at the gate? What will he do with it?
(THE POET frowns, but takes a drag, then leans
THE LOVER a shotgun.
What good is love if mapping it is boring?
I’d rather train the troops and bless the ships
than sleep without a flag to raise, not caring.
(Their lips part and there is another cloud of smoke.
THE COUPLE coughs.
The fight is not a cure; the war’s a pity.
a love, the mapping of a city.
(THE COUPLE become lost in smoke.
(Around them: curtains, clothes: the cloth arranged
in rows—its ordered spectrum incomplete—
on racks of texture, fixtures now estranged
from use, hang there above the two, so neat
and orderly they now appear mere props
among the objects set in place. The shades
burn out, distorted in the light, a shock
of cotton flaring overhead. They fade:
the longer one sits looking up at them,
the more the eye goes numb to radiance.
THE COUPLE sits, their skin more tame
than the blazing room, content to take their chances—
or maybe they’re not ready yet to grant
what consequence holds steadily at hand.