Sunday, March 6, 2011

American Tragedy


American Tragedy

Act I

Who wrote these lines?
Not Shakespeare, maybe Chekhov,
possibly Gogol. Masks talk:
boys from the fields are told off to war; 
she watches as they come back 
empty or filling a box,
as men  are shot through the head
to take them out of the game. Sees
the blame never come home,
the deck of life stacked
against those who are numbers not
court cards, those who want
life to be more than a broken stage
where darkness casts the parts.

Act II.

A tree painted on canvas
broken lights, a roof
the color of blood in water,
every detritus disguised to
mimic and twist what’s left of the real,
glamored in a flickering blue that hurts her eyes
where shadows  pose and spew words,
grasp but can’t hold, talk but can’t tell,
sell themselves as they buy,
dancing for an illusion to wear, 
a new drug to drink, an idea to disguise
the truth of the blade that probes and removes.
Who wrote these lines? Not Shakespeare.
possibly Miller, maybe Ionesco.

Act III

The last act reprises the first. War
gets another encore, blood falls to the bottom,
a cadaveric lividity reflected as her ruddy cheeks
in a mirror that conceals never reveals.
Darkness is black light, gold is god, difference is crime, 
evil is duty, and all the targets are merged. Masks speak:
O yes be afraid, the enemy is on the coasts, 
taking the capitol, next door. The stage 
is rotten; how long before
people fall through the floorboards
screaming, pulled from the daze of their lives
into the jerking convulsions of 
the sweet poison they swallowed?

Who wrote these lines? Not Shakespeare.
surely not Euripides, possibly Orwell.


March 2011



Posted for One Shoot Sunday at the inimitable One Stop Poetry
Image: The Show Must Go On, by Jacob F Lucas



26 comments:

  1. HOL-EE COW!!!!! Fantastic writing! And what a message! This is intricate, deep, profound, makes a huge statement and is a wonderment to read. You write so brilliantly!!!!!!!!! I so love the last line.

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  2. It may sound odd to say that such dark and difficult words are beautiful, but they are. The darkness only reflects what they confront, and in that shed light. Compliments!

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  3. I may be off the mark with this, but I think the key to your poem is in the playwrites' names. In the first stanza, they are all foreign (speaking as an American), and two of them are Russian, more or less. (Gogol!) The bleak and violent tone of the stanza fits this classic Russian-ness.

    Then in the second stanza, one American, Miller, creeps in as a "possible." The tone is no more cheering than the first, but it is all more under-the-skin.

    Then comes the third stanza and the combination of the first two afflictions, if you will. Once again there is war, but it isn't war that does them in, it is their own rot and innattention. You close saying it's not the Englishman, not the Greek, but possibly the dystopian American visionary Orwell.

    All of it, the names and the scenes, suggest great civilizations which rise and then fall. Timberrrrr, baby. Glorious, bitter writing.

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  4. oh wow. that last part gave you away...you were at my okc show, right?

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  5. Who wrote these lines? Hedgewitch wrote these lines! ...having been influenced by certain social commentators and/tragedians more so than others. As for YOUR lines, kept reminding me of Prufrock "prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet" Act Two mentions disguises twice, in between the "masked bookends" of Acts I and III. Great work!

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  6. love that you include ionesco and orwell in this...the absurd theater and drama writers..always lots of background in your poems joy

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  7. Or if going by title alone...Theodore Dreiser

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  8. @dustus--yeah, probably should have titled it "another" American tragedy. Thanks for seeing so clearly.

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  9. Wow, what a great take on this prompt Joy...loved it all and especially the repetition of the question...that is the question so often asked..when sitting and discussing such tragedies...love all of it..Bravo!!

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  10. once again i find myself bowing...marvelous bit of social commentary weaved in there...and you even included a soap opera reference...clap, clap...

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  11. Love the references in this piece, Joy Ann.
    "1984" came to mind, while reading this.
    Nice work.

    Pamela

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  12. Friggin' Blogger, tossing my comment -

    Once again; You sing this like Gower in Shakespeare, the sad wiser voice who reads this in reverse, already knowing where these things are headed. It's the worst form of tragedy, not having a god or nobility, since so much of it's a dumb show. The speaker sees that the masks are making a dumb show:

    every detritus disguised to
    mimic and twist what’s left of the real,
    glamored in a flickering blue that hurts her eyes
    where shadows pose and spew words,
    grasp but can’t hold, talk but can’t tell,
    sell themselves as they buy,
    dancing for an illusion to wear,
    a new drug to drink, an idea to disguise ...

    Tragedy roots in religion, in the goat-song of Dionysos: we are to watch with heightening horror and pathos the mounting body count but we're numb to it, desensitized and largely illiterate of the divinity that's at play beneath the history. I think the end is dark-Jacobean: an increasing pile of bodies, without even a witness to tell the tale. Howlingly fine -- Brendan

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  13. The real v the ideal ala Joyce, Portrait of the Artist. The real hurts and what you see here and within pierces me. 100 percent fabulous, pulling out a number of the finely-honed arrows in your quiver, HW. I must reprise your last stanza-- something anyone in this country would love to have written:

    "The last act reprises the first. War
    gets another encore, blood falls to the bottom,
    a cadaveric lividity reflected as her ruddy cheeks
    in a mirror that conceals never reveals.
    Darkness is black light, gold is god,difference is crime,
    evil is duty, and all the targets are merged. Masks speak:
    O yes be afraid, the enemy is on the coasts,
    taking the capitol, next door. The stage
    is rotten; how long before
    people fall through the floorboards
    screaming, pulled from the daze of their lives
    into the jerking convulsions of
    the sweet poison they swallowed?"

    A hundred yesses....xxxj

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  14. Wow-able work. Stunning in its sensory-intense rush.

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  15. Joy,

    Here let me say -- if I haven't already said -- that I love your reach into 'classic' places.

    When was the last time anyone mentioned Gogol, Euripides, Ionesco?

    You go for the jugular seriously -- I like the depth!

    Trulyfool

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  16. Mine to yours - the ridiculous to the sublime, the absurd to the tragic, the recent to the historic, the silly to the serious, the brainless to the genius. All theater, all poetry, all life, all the time. You know you're brilliant - so why do I always wind up saying so! Gay

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  17. this is the most unsuspecting write for the prompt

    a captivating read

    Peace, hp

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  18. Such delicious witchery! Not Shakespeare? Yet all the world’s a stage more than ever. I am reminded of the Pogo comic strip’s 1970 Earth Day poster, where Pogo, standing under the spreading tree, its’ apples dripping from poison ivy clusters, says, “We have met the enemy and he is us”. We still don’t believe it though, even when the roof is caving in from the weight of the newspeak snow.

    Euripides was not admired for pulling his Deus ex machina tricks for a happy ending. No hope for us then, you think? Hmm--- might as well fill our pockets with stones and wade in then? Nah --- not yet. The puzzles are still fun.

    Goodnight

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  19. Many thanks, all.
    @FB Thanks for the masterly comment. As always, you translate all the bumps of the Braille and read it out loud in your dark glasses.

    @Gay Yours was just exceptional this week, so briliant back at ya.

    @Trulyfool Maybe if we could do a word scramble say a page apiece, of all those authors, we'd have a real description of what its like here in 21st Century U.S.A. Scary.

    @Brendan--I don't know why Blogger is being so contrary and heartless--I've turned off word verification experimentally, maybe that will help. And yes, its enough of a tragedy just to have no god but gold, no divinity but self, and a body count that rivals the GDP.

    @Ann I'm laughin at the Pogo ref. There's always hope, though, but instead of a god in the machine, sometimes it has to come out of anger and loss; regardless, I would never put any stones in my pocket except as emergency ammunition. I'm not lettin the bastards get me down this late in the game.

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  20. You make me want to see this play, hedgewitch, but then its reality is happening in the real world and how sad is that...

    Powerful writing.

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  21. A story in three acts, and you told it exceptionally well. For some reason, when I saw that photo, I thought of Ionesco, too.

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  22. What a piece! Thank you thank you thank you! I truly am enjoying your creative ability today...wonderful!

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  23. A brilliant trilogy, the American tragedy yet unwritten which you've captured in a way I suppose Euripides would have wanted to, or Ionesco, or Shakespeare even! with what other words, how should I string them to say more than what the incisive equallly brilliant minds to yours have said here? Such a humbling honor to be among you...

    I'd like to quote what I hope to hear on stage on a dim-lit stage left or however you'll rewrite these lines someday:

    ...how long before
    people fall through the floorboards
    screaming, pulled from the daze of their lives
    into the jerking convulsions of
    the sweet poison they swallowed?

    '...sweet poison, indeed'! Thank you, thank you!

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  24. Damn. Now that's playing up on the theatrical theme to dramatic effect...life may be a show, but you've put the show to us as tragedy, and a hard-hitting one at that. The use of the writers' names, for me, makes the image all the more potently struck - not Shakespeare, no, but to offer us those Russian writers makes it all the more gritty in my mind...for they, as few others, have that capability to seize upon the truly harsh, the raw and potent sadness...not Shakespeare, no, but perhaps that great and staggering intellect we know as Orwell, he who gazed into dystopia, and turned to write of it for us all.

    Outstanding piece this week, my friend! I am only sorry I didn't read it yesterday - might have stirred me out of the sickness that had gripped me.

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'Poetry is an echo asking a shadow to dance' ~Carl Sandburg