Affiliated Networks



Interview with Gail Godwin about Grief Cottage

Started by Rob Neufeld in AC-T Book Reviews Aug 3, 2017.

Ellington in Asheville--a survey

Started by Rob Neufeld in Local History Oct 6, 2017.

Dave Minneman, heroic portrait

Started by Rob Neufeld in Local History Aug 25, 2017.



Latest Activity

Sallie updated their profile
Dec 2, 2019
Susan True shared Rob Neufeld's discussion on Facebook
Sep 24, 2019
Susan True replied to Rob Neufeld's discussion Act 5, Scene 1: Irene's Twilight Zone
"Soulfully beautiful."
Sep 24, 2019
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

Act 5, Scene 1: Irene's Twilight Zone

Act 5, Scene 1: Irene’s Twilight Zone See whole poem, "The Main Show," and index of scenes.  (Spotlight opens on the lobby of the theater.  Characters who remain in the lobby enter the theater, which remains dark.  Joan the nurse tells the tour guide to also go in, and the narrator hangs back awhile.) Joan: Go ahead in. I’ll stay with my patient.Anyway, this is a family…See More
Sep 24, 2019
Phillip Elliott shared their photo on Facebook
Sep 5, 2019
Connie Regan-Blake posted events
Aug 28, 2019
Julia Nunnally Duncan posted an event

Julia Nunnally Duncan at Little Switzerland Books and Beans

August 30, 2019 from 3pm to 6pm
Julia Nunnally Duncan will be a featured author at Little Switzerland Books and Beans on Friday, August 30, from 3-5. A book signing will follow. Julia will read from her latest books A Neighborhood Changes, A Part of Me, and A Place That Was Home.See More
Aug 26, 2019
Phillip Elliott commented on Phillip Elliott's album

Guide to Antebellum Flat Rock

"The introduction of my new publication, Guide to Antebellum Flat Rock will be launched on Sept 14 2019 at 1:30 PM at the Henderson County Court House 500 Main Street. A talk and a brief slide show follows with refreshments afterward. …"
Aug 23, 2019
Phillip Elliott posted photos
Aug 23, 2019
Nancy Werking Poling posted an event

Nancy Werking Poling at Black Mountain Library

June 15, 2019 from 3pm to 4pm
Can women rescue the planet from ecological disaster?Nancy Werking Poling will launch her new novel, WHILE EARTH STILL SPEAKS, set in WNC. She'll tell the stories behind the story: How did Mary (more crone than virgin) get into the narrative? And Mary Surratt, a co-conspirator of John Wilkes Booth?See More
Jun 10, 2019
Caroline McIntyre posted events
Apr 29, 2019
Rob Neufeld updated their profile
Apr 13, 2019
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

Flat Rock history via a road

Travelling back in time on a Flat Rock roadby Rob Neufeld             If you walk the one mile length of North Highland Lake Road in Flat Rock, you step nearly 200 years into the past.            At the east end, the 21st century reigns.  Fronting six-lane Spartanburg Highway, a super-Ingles sits above a bog; and a CVS store faces an Octopus Garden smoke shop, a chiropractor, a cell phone provider, and a six-lane avenue to I-26 a mile away .            Neither Ingles nor CVS carries the big…See More
Apr 8, 2019

The Main Show

a story-poem stage presentation

(part of  Living Poem)

See video of Act 1, Scene 1: The Setting

See separate posting of Act 5, Scene 1

Synopsis of scenes


Prologue: The monster is coming, and how we might have hope.

Act 1, Scene 1: The Backdrop.  The 1950s were a turning point.

Act 1, Scene 2: Narrator’s Statement.  1950s boy introduces action.

Act 2, Scene 1: Magnetic Mountain.  Bruce the Brazen, an explorer/exploiter in East Africa, falls into a trap in the Hut of the Mysterious Voice.  Based on a 1930s serial.  

Act 2, Scene 2: Narrator’s Uneasiness.  How duplicity can exist in people such as Bruce.

Act 2, Scene 3: Havenglade. The contemporary setting, a gated community with an infirmary and a theater used as an event venue.  A godling visits, exhibiting his largesse and demon.

Act 2, Scene 4: Nyoka, the Jungle Girl.  Nyoka searches for her father, an archeologist who has gone missing in the Great Rift Valley.  Based on a 1950s serial.

Act 3, Scene 1: The Return of Bruce.  In the Havenglade infirmary, nurse Joan interrogates Bruce the Brazen, now 90 years old. 

Act 3, Scene 2: CSI Cytoplasm.  A research team investigates the murder of motor neurons in an ALS patient.  Job, an old man in a wheel chair, and his orderly Fred pull up to the crime scene tape and make comments. 

Act 3, Scene 3: Nyoka’s Journey.  An official questions Nyoka about her father and she revises her memories of her childhood. 

Act 3, Scene 4: Bruce Tells All.  Bruce confesses to genocide and having saved one girl, Naeku.

Act 3, Scene 5: Intermission, the Animal Cavalcade.  An entertainment, based on a sculptural piece, featuring six animals that illustrate the poem’s themes.

Act 4, Scene 1: Theater of History.  Another Havenglade visitor, Anti-God, gets directions to the theater where the “Irene Goodnight Film Festival” is playing.  They pass girls singing spooky jump rope rhymes on the way to seeing a newsreel about Joe McCarthy.

Act 4, Scene 2: Nyoka among the Kikuyu.  Nyoka finds her father among the rebels and meets Naeku, now an adult.  Nyoka experiences a chilling moment of failure. 

Act 4, Scene 3: The Irene Goodnight Film Fest.  The first film reveals Irene’s genesis as a mermaid, her trip to the city, and her entrapment.  A blues singer performs.  Federal agents capture a jester suspected to be a subversive. 

Act 4, Scene 4:  CSI Cytoplasm, the Romance.  The CSI team makes further discoveries.  The two assistants, Alex and Katy, sing a duet. 

Act 5, Scene 1: Irene's Twilight Zone.  The second film portrays Irene in 1962 with her family and her meeting with her son, the Narrator, in the intersection of time zones.  A plague spreads to Havenglade.





Don’t listen, children, and do not hear.

(A monster is coming and there’s no escape

Within this story, and no good way to tell it,


Except to gaze at the horror as at a flower,

A disaster streaming off extremes it breeds

Everywhere and in our minds, disabling our power.)


Distractions are good, puzzles that tease

And please and fill the main scene, which

Includes thinking about certain things.


What are sound reasons for optimism or

Romanticism, the will to believe that a quest

For virtue is not just its own reward, but more?


Why strive?  To feel more alive?

To answer another’s need and achieve rapport?

To align with forces important to support?


First off, let’s turn to the universe,

Coming at us as swirls within swirls, and invest

In the evidence of something larger than ourselves.


Although one’s life presents just one of countless views,

The complexity, integrity, and connectivity

Of any one experience is more than enough news


To fill time, as we see in the life-dream-envelope

Developing now at hand, a loop to the reel

Of fantasies that had captured last century’s youth.


Movies entered villages, screens, and experience.

American mythology reached its zenith.

Other influences curled around the era.


A nameless dread, banned from thoughts in bed,

Blew through the minds of the walking dead

As they sleep-walked through history.


The temperature-evaporation-salinity spiral

Measured in oceans on a government dial

Tended toward the vector of suicidal.


Let’s not talk about that, let’s talk about

“Havenglade” and the poem now coming out

With its ready-for-prime-time title.



Act 1, Scene 1: The Backdrop






The Yucca flats and the planet Mars coalesce

In the minds of those from the era of missiles.


In radioactive zones, anomalies multiply

Like planets where laws of reality don’t apply.


There was gel in the hair and an apple in the box,

While at the back door a night thought knocked.


All you need to do is look at the back door screen.

How can you not?  You do see what I mean?


If you look, it’s an entrance to a haunting plot,

A 20th century romance with greed and glut.


Ore had been the big score for power-mongers

Whose egos were huge and engines humongous.


It was easy to tell bad guys from good, except for

Spies and aliens who could be anywhere.


Even good-guy spies, John le Carre showed,

Had to be double agents to be any good.


It was a world of shadows from above and behind,

And from below the complacency of the mind.


Geniuses were curried as essential ingredients

In an existential fantasy of scientific dominance.


What print hangs on the wall?  Einstein?  Teller?

A Manifest Destiny wagon turned interstellar?


Narcotics, gadgets, incubus-homes,

Robotics, spaceships, tricked-out genomes,

A science gospel with a martial mission

All form the backdrop of this exposition.


What is the point of technological dominion?

To defeat nature and obliviously lock in oblivion?



Act 1, Scene 2:  Narrator’s Statement






I popped up as a boy genius in our 1950s house

And took the position of never taking the crown.


The crown, my parents believed, was a dirty affair,

The poison milk, the “gilt” of a millionaire.


There was no allowance for the space, though little,

Provided the camel through the eye of the needle.


In a twilight zone with a sci-fi penumbra,

The Unknown approached with an ID number.


Now, let’s fade into the illuminated sheen

Of the story filling up the wide screen,


A wet dream ‘50s kids thought dope:

Rocket wars in Cinemascope.


Goddard invented the liquid fuel rocket

And now any madman has a silo to dock it.


See the proof here as paranoia in the air

Is ignited by a strike from, it seems, nowhere.



Act 2, Scene 1: Magnetic Mountain



(Narrator comes on stage to narrate action represented in images, movies, dramatic enactments, or the imagination.  This is called the “retell mode.”)






A strange electric storm shocks a ship at sea.

Experts warn it augurs the end of humanity.


Flood tides and earthquakes mark the geographic

Center of the disturbance as central Africa.


“The resources of the nation are at your disposal,

Bruce,” men greet Bruce’s expedition proposal.


Deep in deepest Africa on a set built by crews

In Hollywood studios, natives ooh at news.


“Murderous giants are on the loose; and at the gate,

White men come,” led by Bruce the Brazen


Who raises his head, eyes all lit, as he learns

Of Magnetic Mountain, where occult fire burns.


Bruce knows from his mineralogy instructor

That he’s hit upon the equivalent of a gusher.


In the mountain’s core, an evil emperor’s set on

More and more power in the face of Armageddon.



(An impish performer enters stage left and recites the following with the feel of an antic jig.)






Here’s where the epic writer’s mind starts to spin

Into a jig grinning a Strangelove grin.


The emperor’s scientist when quizzed,

“Why didn’t you warn us about this?”

Says, “I guess it was the hypnotist.”


“Even when the dictator shook his fist,

Shouting, ‘Fire the cosmic condenser, I insist!’?”

The scientist pled, “I didn’t mean this.”


It’s like Dr. He, laboratory baby concoctor,

Who snipped and re-stitched genetic structure

And quipped, “This has nothing to do with horror.”


And now we return to the main show.

We’re all on dope, on a yoyo,

On a rolling slope, groping for hope.



(Performer exits stage left.)






Help!  The dictator uses magnetic waves

To turn thrashing natives into soldier-slaves.


How can someone with many ways to hurt you

Be defeated?  The secret answer is virtue,


Which blinds Bruce, who hears a damsel’s cries

And follows it to the Hut of the Mysterious Voice.


He and his pal fall through a trap to a fate

That ends with the spool, and so must wait


For a month, while in the Chasm of Doubt,

Bruce has exposed weaknesses to contemplate.



Act 2, Scene 2:  Narrator’s Uneasiness






I’ll tell you what I am feeling in all of this.

Bruce’s claims on virtuous truth stir uneasiness.


But, man! Winner-self-love feels good,

Whether you come from the mansion, mill, or hood

And super-power dreams are in your blood


And you share your dream with a new breed,

Needing only the flag of liberation to succeed

Once upon a winner’s time in Nod.


The problem is the angel of righteousness.

How does its goodness cause blight in us?

How does redemptive light un-enlighten us?


This is like Spencer’s The Faerie Queen,

In which the queen can be not-what-she-seems

And the hero walks a crazy rhyme scheme,


Which is like Bruce’s date with the oracle,

Except that his troubles are not metaphorical

And he has less hope of a miracle.


Designs with symbols and flashing colors,

Slow down, slow to a crawl like a tumbler

To reveal the next story number.


Oh, number what?  Another random inanity?

An analogy, you say, to humanity,

Clicked to the pitch of tick-tick insanity?



Act 2, Scene 3: Havenglade


Narrator (in retell mode):


In Havenglade, where the spotlight dwells,

Gods and changelings open themselves

To affairs of the heart.


One day, a godling arrives in the glen,

A soft-hearted naïf with an appetite

That sometimes rules in the end.


He brings mead and pours himself

A big cup, and you, half a demitasse.

He sluices his gulp.


Do not think this tale a comic strip

Of archetypes.  The icons are themed

With idiosyncrasies and multiple identities.


The godling, when an emblazoned babe,

Had once discovered that the suck

On his nectar feed was stuck.


This would not do.  The occult brew

Contained rising-from-ashes power

And he felt supernatural hunger.


It’s not fair to make a babe gargantuan,

No matter how soft the medium

Or clear the brassy tone.


The pap that lads lapped all over the map

Gave sweet dreams to baby’s nap

Like a sap sucker enraptured by sap.


Sprouts that survived history’s ash

Blossomed in America’s prosperous flush

And emitted a long held-back breath.


The potency of the dream scene, boosted

By fantasies on big screens, produced

Godlings, avatars of greatness.


(Stage lights off.  Curtains close.  A spotlight shines on group of figures.)


The birthplace of godlings suddenly goes dark.

Stage left, figures nurture a spark

In a pose like a commemorative landmark.


“Stagehand, please, will you now take the cue

To break the suspension that attaches to

The godling’s lair and usher in an oracle?”


Bertolt Brecht (crossing the stage):


“We who wished to prepare the ground

For friendliness, could not ourselves


Be friendly, but you who come after,

When man’s no longer a wolf to man,

Remember us with forbearance.”




Thus goes the love-song of parents

Whose lives have shed their naïve appearance

In exchange for making a difference.


But what if the sacrifice and suffering,

The nursed hurts and kindled faith,

Could not control the cycling dynamic?


(Curtains open.  The spotlight goes off.  Stage lights go on.)


Curtains re-open on the godling’s turf,

With the gargantuan taking things unto himself,

Unmoored from that forgettable time


When his contract had been up, and he’d cried,

“Do not reduce me to clay, Creator,”

And the Creator complied.


Freed from history, the heroic golem

Wandered city streets with a nowhere problem

Until entering a home where he played a godling.


You’d be right to think this the end of the story,

But there’s a plot twist just beyond its boundary.

I saw the golem leave the godling’s body


And the godling’s now in his natural element,

Generous, patient, relishing every moment.

Then light flickers, and up shows another revenant.



Act 2, Scene 4: Nyoka, the Jungle Girl


Narrator (in retell mode):


“We must go to the Lair of the Eagles,

Then the Tunnel of Bubbling Death,”

Nyoka says, interpreting pictographs.


Searching and subbing for her absentee

Father, she shoots guns and swings from trees

As her skirt flounces above her knees.


“The Tunnel of Bubbling Death?”

“Yes.  Passing through this tunnel,

We will reach the Valley of the Tauregs.”


Wait, are you saying Tuaregs?

The ancient nomads of North Sahara,

Today, stateless migrant workers

And exotics wandering in Bamako?


What we hear at this point is a keening.

Does this wailing warrant interceding?

Someone lifts a lid on a proceeding

And it’s like a trance.


“We are here, the will-not-be-forgotten,

Traversing dunes, guided by the stars,

Humming the tune of the clumping camel

And praising Allah.”


Meanwhile, the women, matriarchal,

Laugh and the blue-clad sisterhood

Follow their drums home to the desert

To deliver some news.


In the 1950s, when the overlords left,

They left behind a wickedness,

The division of slaves and a race of bosses,

Hatreds cloned and alliances cleft.


Onward!  Nyoka is reading the script.  Hidden away

In a cave (Where? Chad?), lay

The Golden Tablets of Hippocrates


And a cure for cancer!  I recall

Another medical takeover story, Apollo

Ripping from a woods-nymph his child,


Asclepius, future high priest of medicine.

It’s the dictator and the scientist again!

And the fatal obsession with beating death.


“We must get the tablets first,” says Vultura,

Queen of the tribespeople.  Untold treasure

Lies buried beneath Africa Obscura.


Like the fraying rope of a bridge tether,

Or a fire pit over which fights teeter,

Nyoka’s luck proves a bottom feeder.


“The Tunnel of Bubbling Death,

Well-named,” quoth Nyoka’s lieutenant

As she tumbles into a flaming froth.


Nyoka’s a good girl, Nancy Drew-curious,

Fay Wray re-wrapped as an Army nurse,

Dorothy of Oz with a Scout knife in her purse.


What would it be like if she occurred in

Scenes with Bruce the Brazen or the godling

Or with other morphs or forces in the unraveling?


Stay tuned, though this journey may go nowhere

Except into flames and a thermonuclear

Erasure, but that’s not the popular wager.



Act 3, Scene 1: The Return of Bruce


Narrator (in retell mode):


Behind a row of brownstones, lying low,

There’s an infirmary where wasted heroes go.

No one talks about this.


The inmates rarely have anything to say,

But when they do, it’s as if a break

In a seal reveals a world beneath a lake.


A disturbance in the ward where Bruce lies prone

Has people hurrying to hear his moan

Turn into something intelligible.


Off to the side, a nurse named Joan

Sifts through papers.  “Who’s this one?”

Her aide calls out, adjusting a microphone.


Joan questions Bruce in a mysterious voice,

Something about one of his exploits,

He thinks, and tries to find the edges of his cell.


No?  Well, is there anything he has to tell?

And then he hears the tolling of a bell

In a church in a town in the scrub of a foothill.


They’d smiled and called him the infidel,

Citing a term that they knew well,

Going back to Vasco da Gama.


“Mr. Brazen, is there something you remember,”

Joan asks, “about your time in Kenya,

And encounters with the Kikuyu or Akamba?”


“Lokop,” Bruce said.  “What, lock-up?”  “Loikop,

What the chief says when I drive my truck up.

To his village. He’s waving and shouting, “Njoo!”


“‘Come, come this way, quick!’ he says, leading

Me to a stick-and-mud hut, and to the pleading

Eyes of a girl who’s having trouble breathing.”


Joan dares not interrupt this recitation,

But notices she needs to get the patient

A cup for his unwelcome expectoration.



Act 3, Scene 2: CSI: Cytoplasm




I interrupt this program to report

That the agents assigned to halt the dying

Neurons in my gestalt are striking

Out, thus drawing attention again to cures.


As I lay me down to sleep,

I try imagining what’s happening

Deep down in my mystery disease,

And latch onto drifts of news

Of ALS riding the thought-stream.


Narrator (in retell mode):


Suddenly I’m on Neuron Street,

The “CSI: Cytoplasm” beat.

At the crime scene,

Up pops Mutant Gene

As the cops’ top guilty candidate.


Glossies spread.  There are stacks of

Shots of possible gene malefactors,

SOD1, TDP-43.

And FUS/TLS, three

Prime suspects on which to focus.


“Rob, have you a stake in this hustle,

Stalking the murderer of your muscle?”

“No, my jam’s not genetic

But may still be connected

With genes being complicit, not causal.”


The inspector has doubts about my angle

And my tendency to rephrase and wangle

Words into a pattern

Like a Japanese lantern

Or like a dung beetle’s tidy dung apple.


“This gene,” says the chief, “fabricates

The protein, super-oxide dismutase.”

“SOD! the enzyme

That prevents super-oxides

From shooting off ion-grenades.”


The inspector points to a pile-up

Of proteins at the gates where cells dial-up

Instructions for actions

To embolden nerve axons.

“See here in this protein?  There’s the foul-up.”


The observed malformation, D90A, is

The twist found in all kinds of cases

Of ALS, its fold

As genetically old

As the ascendance of Homo sapiens.


“900 generations ago, the chief said,

Is when D90A first appeared,”

Fred informs old Job

Whom he’d wheeled to the rope

At the crime scene and told what he’d heard.


“30,000 years ago,” Job recalls,

“That’s when humans wiped out Neanderthals.

The Biblical kill

Caused a mutant allele

To lurk in genetic materials.”


“It is also possible,” Fred opines,

“The gene rode the tail of a bloodline

As Neanderthals fled

And conquerors bred

With Neanderthal campsite lag-behinds.”


In the meantime, the crime scene’s boring.

You have to sit while workers keep poring

Over scans and data

And chemical quanta

And everything except what they’re ignoring.


“This investigation,” says the detective,

“Also points to O-2 negative.

Excuse me, you guys,

Must I sensationalize

Ion exchange to make it more electric?


“Why, this case is a clinical challenge

In which meaning hangs on a valence,

Electrons dangling,

Genetics jangling,

And transmitters angling off-balance.”



Act 3, Scene 3: Nyoka’s Journey




In the mirror I see that my face is scarred,

But in my mind and others’ eyes, it’s unmarred

By the bubbling death pit I’d endured.


My innocence is my shield, and feels as right

As when I swing from vines and take flight;

Or, recover from a breath-smothering fright.


Weir, her lieutenant:


Nyoka, are you all right?  It’s been several

Minutes since you’d fallen into the hole.




It felt like several weeks in that bubble,

Most of it in that minute when I’d fainted

Into timelessness and became acquainted

With the forces involved in how I’ve been fated.


(Mary, an assistant, enters.)



Nyoka, your father is in trouble!








They have him before a tribunal in a hut,

For a death he’d caused by having touched












                                              That’s such a farce.

But I don’t know.  In my time of unconsciousness,

I saw my father’s heart weighed on a balance dish

Against a feather.  I rushed to give my heart for his

And the ageless official told me with tenderness,

“Nyoka, I am sorry that you have to witness this.”

“But she does not,” a woman screamed, and soon

A blanket decorated with an eclipsed moon

Wrapped me up and sent me to a sunless room.




Nyoka, a government official is coming down the path.




Does he have a pointy face and a forked staff?


Mary (looking out):


No, a washed-up look.  Nyoka, you make me laugh.




Excuse me, Miss Nyoka, I’ve been assigned

To question you and determine your state of mind.

May I?




                      I don’t really have the time.




May I sit here?




                                  Sit here in this rocker.




Why did your father study archaeology, Nyoka?




I’d never before viewed my life as an onlooker,

But now I see my childhood as through a lens

And recall walks with my dad in woods and fens

When he enjoyed the world around his head.

One day I asked to take a friend, Debra Hyde,

A thin girl who looked at you from the side.

My father yelled at her stupidness, and she cried.

That, dear Inspector, was my first compromise.

It cleared the way for many others, for I’d lied

About the importance of science over human feeling

And made an altar for my father, the all-seeing,

Who worshiped me as his perfect seedling.




Why was it archaeology and not hot air balloons,

For instance?




                      His hot air balloon landed in a dune

And his digging was for something personal to prove.

Do you feel that, Weir, the ache for greatness?




I must admit, my family was quite conservative.

Only fancy folk can give their greatness license.




Speaking of licenses, Weir, go grab the car keys.

And Mary, pack my suit, cap, and stockings.

The pay-to-go mode goes with giving a good show.


(Old man Job appears in a spotlight with his aide Fred, stage left, as Nyoka’s scene fades.)




Fred, where have you taken me?




To the gravesite of the birthplace of humanity

Where archaeologists reconstruct the origin scene.

It’s a big draw for seekers of what life means,

The Edenic valley tucked in the glacial Pleistocene.




Cover me up, Fred.  I am shivering.



Act 3, Scene 4: Bruce Tells All





Here drink this, it’s good for allaying

Upsets.  Mr. Brazen, you were saying

About that girl who needed saving?




Ah, I took her to my car, her arms clenching

My back, her breath wheezing.  That's when we

Heard shots and smelled thatch burning.


For a few weeks I visited the hospital

Where Naeku, that child, lay throttled

By pneumonia, and I read her Maasai parables.


God says to Maasinta, the first Maasai,

“Maasinta, build an enclosure.” He asks why.

“Just do it, wait there, and show no surprise.”


Then down a giant thong numberless cattle came

Descending into Maasinta’s pen.  His friend,

Dorobo, panicked and severed the leathery lane.


What did God say?   God said, “Maasinta, you

I make Maasai, cattle-driver.  Donobro

And his kind I set aside for servitude.”


After this telling, Naeku’s face turned

Into the old man’s and she said his word,

Not Swahili “Njoo,” but “jaayá,” Maa for “Our land.”


The truth?  I’d killed him in front of his granddaughter.

Who hadn’t had pneumonia, but asthma.

I’d carried her out, then gave the word for slaughter.



Mr. Brazen, might we go further back

In your memories as we drift and tack

On our journey on the Good Ship Union Jack?


(Light flickers on stage.)




I lodged at the Norfolk Hotel in Nairobi,

Where white settlers gathered over coffee,

Having arrived by iron chariot to view the

Latent estates in the land below the Kikuyu.


The pastures all about were creatureless

For the Maasai cattle had died of rinderpest;

And the Maasai themselves lived on reservations.

Kenya was the chosen next British nation.


Carts churned in mud past raised-up huts.

A Norfolk bloke relayed the latest scuttlebutt.

The commissioner had said that “for plunder,

The Maasai and other tribes must go under.”


(Lights go out in the nursing home; and the stage is dark.)


I am the lie and the devastation,

The demonizer and avatar of civilization.

When I picture that girl’s ancestral face,

I disbelieve the superiority of my race.


Act 3, Scene 5: Intermission, The Animal Cavalcade


(A simulation of a carousel with six animal figures is brought on stage.)

The animals are together again for a show

To celebrate their friendship with someone you know.

Round and round on the carousel they go.


The orangutan is a supreme top-of-tree liver.

His swinging limbs bulge.  His walking ones quiver.

Up in the leaves, he spreads his nest, pillow and cover.


Look into his eyes and see his old soul loll

Within a long skull as he swallows a fruit ball.

He’s hill folk from long ago. Time slows.


A prehistoric squid appears in the deep sea.

The specimen of it at the Smithsonian in D.C.

Is a waterlogged carpet, devoid of mystery.


But look into the eye of the superior beast

As it sees and seizes a challenger or feast.

Tentacles lash, tear and explode living meat.


From your childhood bed, gentle stories spread

About Squid and Friends at a pool on a beachhead

And fugitive tubular aliens living below a workshed.


Tubes, tentacles, tendrils and dreamsicle junk

Fascinate, frighten, squish, flow and clunk

Until out spills a tough, tender elephant trunk.


Now see how the squid’s grasp-and-rasp function

Becomes in the elephant a mitten with suction

And an arching osculator and triumphal trumpet.


In the interval between approaching carousel clients,

Take a moment to consider how love and violence

Can share forms.  Then heed the unheard silence.


Silence comes hushed, brushed by owl wings

Riding the night sky of triangulated rustlings

To deliver deft talons to the backs of underlings.


It dawns on us that the animals’ commonality

Is that they each represent a godlike, epic quality.

As up swims the next old world singularity.


Swimming past dinosaurs to an algae mat

Flush with fish and birds, the snapper, enrapt

By the moment, enacts a turtle’s snap.


In turtle memory, a hundred eggs are laid.

Those orbs fated to escape jaws will graduate

To a scramble of prey.  Hey, here comes tardigrade.


The carousel has slowed to the pace of the breath

Of a turtle sunk in mud up above its carapace.  Next,

The tardigrade slows things to a long near-death.


Oh, to lay back in a crisis and go flat, requiring

Nothing.  Then a click and the ride keeps riding           

As the series cycles within its micro-environment.



Act 4, Scene 1:  Theater of History




Scenes seem like dreams on screens,

Fluid and feathering like flumes.

Dip your toe into the upcoming show

And transpose by osmosis into twilight zones.




That’s nice, but what I want to know

Is exactly how branching stories flow

And how that relates to any kind of show.


For instance, the rampant course of disease,

And the slow collapse of democracies,

And how hurts accrete into philosophies.




Fixations attach to granular seeds

Of experiences projected by emotional charge

Into memories that fill out and grow large

On the affinities on which they feed.




How does a seed become what you call a fixation?

I can only imagine the speed of such fleeting ephemera.




First you must realize how memory blinks like a camera,

Smoothed into a movie by mood and imagination. 




Is it random how certain seeds claim front stage?




You ask about the workings of fate, which are unknown.

Truth is its own proof, or my name is not Joan.

See fate at play in our film series about the space age.


(A group of girls are jumping rope stage left, and chant the following verses.)




Oppenheimer, Oppenheimer, they called him a whiner

When he opted out of the H-bomb clause. 

How many deaths would the H-bomb cause?

1, 2, 3, 4…


Fuchs, Fuchs, saddest of spooks,

Past Soviets secrets about AEC nukes.

How many years behind bars spent Fuchs?

1, 2, 3, 4…


Wheeling, Wheeling, what’s real is reeling.

McCarthy unseals a reptilian hate.

How many Commies in the Department of State?

1, 2, 3, 4…




Right this way! Welcome to “The Main Show.”

Some say it’s a little like boggle-a-go-go.




All is good, as long as it don’t call the po po.


(Sirens are heard in the distance.  Narrator turns his head and does a double-take.)




Did you see that figure pass under the lamp post,

Crossing the campus and vanishing into darkness?

It sickens my gut like an undead carcass. 




It’s like a virus that starts with an airborne histamine.

It’s interesting.




Here’s the theater.  What?

Who put up this cardboard cutout? 




It’s Joe McCarthy, the subject of a newsreel.

That’s surreal.




                        That a newsreel has reserved

The treatment that a feature film deserves?



(A boom, like a bomb or a heartbeat of a monster, is heard from off stage. This sound comes again and again throughout the act as if the monster is coming closer.)



I feel a sickness like an unseen shadow

Like a cry that matters once and dissipates,

Like a seed that lands early and manifests late.


(Newsreel is heard from offstage.)


Joe McCarthy, speaking to a group of women

In West Virginia, made the comment

That 205 Communists worked for the government.


When asked, “Can you name one suspect?”

Joe said, “Not yet,” opening a wide net

For threats condemned as Soviet.


Like a mushrooming cloud, American power

Towers, imposing dictatorships

On countries infected by elected Socialists.


(The jump-roping girls enter chanting a rhyme.)




Ring a’ Round the Ruskies,

A US pact with Nazis.

Ashes, Ashes, all fall down.




Why are you girls entering the theater?


First Girl:


Things couldn’t be weirder out there.


Second Girl:


Someone or something froze me like a nightmare.




Let’s go in and… What is to be seen?




“The Irene Goodnight Film Fest,” which

Reveals many sides of the determinism myth.


(On the way to the theater, the narrator stumbles and falls, and the others gather around him.  The muffled explosion/heartbeat sound is heard again and the scene ends.)


 Act 4, Scene 2: Nyoka among the Kikuyu


(Nyoka finds her father imprisoned in a native villager’s hut. The hut is represented by only two walls in back and stage right.)




Hello, Father.  What is the meaning of this lunacy? 




How did you manage to get through to me, Nyoka?




The villagers are curious about what my arrival betokens.




Do you recall, my dear darling,

When that man took you, a child, to his lodgings?

Even then, you felt your innocence was your guardian.


Soon someone rapped at the abductor’s door

And freed you, fleeing the ensuing furor.

You never learned the identity of your savior. 


I’m not surprised you came to rescue me

And defied death like a modern day Persephone

You need to know the pattern and pull of destiny.


I noticed as you grew up you were attracted

To alienated and unsettled characters

As if you sought to solve the riddle of malefactors.




My attraction to badness?  My rescue complex? 

With such talk, what do you hope to accomplish?

Dad, save your life instead of sitting on your coccyx.




I am focusing on you because I know you

And am taking this last desperate chance to show you

Why we’re here among the revolutionary Kikuyu.





I’ve come because you’re being held prisoner

For disturbing the bones of some Kikuyu ancestor

And causing their demise.  What else for?



Maybe, but I got the ok, not on paper in ink,

To excavate the skeleton that I think

Could be the solution to the missing link.




Father, really? You must be thrilled!

It’s enough of a reason to get yourself killed,

Having your life’s dream finally fulfilled.




My life fulfilled. Yes, with one distinction.

I discovered that humans, pushed to extinction

By worldwide drought, figured out an answer: fiction.


Fiction! The invention of language and art

How about that?  The answer to death at the start

Of humanity was fantasy, imagining a world apart.


(Old man Job and his orderly, wheeling him, arrive outside the hut and are able to eavesdrop.)




Fantasy allows us to drop in on the scene

Of anthropologists discussing the Holocene.

Job, with your perspective, what does it all mean?




Cover me up.  Again, I’ve got the chills.

Homo sapiens engendered Cain’s and Abel’s ills,

A rising elite putting down people of the hills.


(The two drum beats of the monster’s heart sound again.)


(Naeku, the daughter of the Kikuyu elder whom Bruce the brazen had killed, enters the hut and addresses Nyoka’s father.)




Who are these people dropping in on your cell? 


(Job and his orderly slink into the shadows.)




This is my daughter, Nyoka. 




                                                                Nyoka?  Well,

We’re the same person, if you don’t know how to spell. 




I feel I’ve lost a piece of myself, and you stole it.




The thing I switched is your skin from peach to chocolate.

What I stole is a truth, and I will unroll it. 




Nyoka, remember what I said about human flaws. 


(Naeku speaks to Nyoka.)




Your father is a spy for the enemy cause,

He helped kill us hill-folk in the genocidal wars.




Stop! I need quiet.  I don’t understand.




Our larger purpose is to reveal the history of man.




I think I know a little about the history of man:

The Mzungu who’s weapons I stole from prison camps;

And the men I brought supplies without permission-stamps

Who formed guerilla bands, retreating to the swamps.


The guns replaced machetes brandished by recruits,

Young men whom leaders targeted and I seduced.

The man above men was a man named Bruce.


Bruce the Brazen was what they called this man

Who killed my father and our whole Kenyan clan.

I’m somewhat acquainted with the history of man.




Bruce the Brazen killed your father? Why?




The first stroke of fate was the decision who must die.

Not I.  Instead, all of Kikuyu stigmatized by

The crimes of a few who saw their families enslaved,

Women raped, lands taken, and minds depraved,

So that the only escape from fate was rebellion or an early grave.


In wartime, women go where a man belongs.

I became a medic then a warrior, and sang the songs,

Praying to Ngai to make right from wrongs.

Balance is the principle we’ve applied

To meek and strong, need and greed, and opposing sides.

An eye for an eye, not an eye avenged with genocide.

This is why, for my father’s death, your father must die.




Nyoka, speak!  Tell her you’ll find the guy

Responsible for her father.


Naeku (addressing the father):


                                Say goodbye.




                                                                Help me Ny…


(Two men pull the father out of the hut, muzzling him and preventing him from saying anymore.)




 My thoughts go round and round and I know nothing,

A place in which to rest and go no were.

I know that behind the swirl of data is something.


The demon of ignorance has me in its lair.

I fight and find myself waving at air.

Either way I turn, obsession or truth, I despair.



 Act 4 Scene 3: Irene Goodnight Film Fest


(Scene opens in a lobby outside the door to the Theater of History. The narrator comes out of the theater to greet the Godling, who is late, has wet hair, and is dressed in funny pajamas. The narrator describes the first film that had shown.)




Sorry I’m late.  The bridge washed away.  I swam the

River of Death and am as you see, in pajamas

for theatrical dramas.


I’m starving.  Is there anything to eat?

You’re leaning oddly.  Here, take a seat

And, if you would, take a moment to speak

On what has transpired.  I’ll massage your feet.


How did it go in the opening show in the Hippodrome?




You should have seen it.  Merfolk frolicking in ocean foam

When an opening in time allowed spirits to roam.


A dreamer in a tower seemed a new world prince

But was an old world gnome.  The plot begins,

The downward spiral of dreamers in 50’s turbulence.


“I think I’m falling in love again,” the mermaid crooned

As changes in their freedom loomed,

Feet of clay and a handcuff wound.


Far from the waves, the mermaid planted a family

And the dreamer, as in a Chaplin comedy,

Broke from wage slavery and brokered poverty.


(Someone like Robert Johnson, blues singer, performs on stage.)


Blues singer:


I went down to the station, my suitcase in my hand.

I went down to the station, my suitcase in my hand.

Ahead lies the darkest tunnel; behind, a funnel of sand.


The midnight train is coming to take me from my home.

The midnight train is coming to take me far from home.

I breathe the gasp of its tension.

And I hear the engine moan.


The midnight train is leaving, like an arrow from a dot.

The midnight train is leaving, like the last hope that I’ve got.

The green light means I’m on it

And the red light means I’m not.


(Two federal agents enter to arrest a suspected subversive.)


First federal agent:


We have information that someone here is a terrorist.


Second federal agent:


It’s the jester, who’s disruptive tilt is perilous.


(The jester stands up and speaks.)




I’m just the guy this place has hired as its lyricist.


(The agents forcibly pull the jester from the theater.  Every couple of steps, he resists and recites a poem in the order presented here.)


Don’t you remember me?  I’m the jerk

Who cured the blues of the princes when meds didn’t work?

And my everything sticks curse went berserk.


I grabbed the golden goose and couldn’t get loose.

Then came my ex, who got stuck next.

A cook came with a flipper, a roofer with a ripper,

A doctor with lotions, and a joker with explosions,

And a priest with a sermon, and a leaner with a left turn.

They all came clattering, clopping, prancing

Past the princes, looking daft,

And she laughed and laughed and laughed and laughed.


(The agents grab the jester and he resists them.)


Hey diddle diddle, the cat and the fiddle,

The cow jumped over the moon. 

The little dog laughed

To see such a sport

And the dish ran away with the spoon.


(The agents begin to pull at the jester, and he makes them stop.)


Wait, that one’s not mine! Here is mine.


Hey car transmission, the Mercury mission,

The chariot lost most of its horses.

Traffic zoomed past.

The little kids laughed

As dad pulled his cheeks, crying “G-forces.”


(The jester runs to the back of the theater with time to deliver the following verse.)


Hey brothers, sisters, the edge of existence,

It features no rational design.

It ends, and then nada:

It goes on and on, yada yada:

Or surfs an unreachable line.


(The agents catch up with the jester, who runs to what he thinks is an escape place, and stops and recites another verse.)


Hey fiddle faddle, a chimp with a rattle.

The bulls run away from the tinder.

A little dog laughed

To see such a spoof.

And the moon jumped over a cinder.


(At the jester’s subversive comment about the Earth burning up, two other agents converge on him and take him away, as the scene ends.)

Act 4 Scene 4: CSI Cytoplasm, the Romance


(The CSI crew reassemble to further investigate the murder of neurons. Alex gestures toward Katy as he makes his alibi for their lateness.)




Sorry we’re late. Last night

We resolved a long-lasting fight.




That’s no excuse.

A killer’s on the loose

And the loose ends we tied aren’t tight.


Now let’s recap. Our suspects release

Agents that inhibit or increase

Cell death, but first

Must pass fitness tests

To be candidates for defense or disease.


We pursued the perp to the cell wall

Where guards perused cell protocol

About who goes within it

By terms algorithmic

And the perp posed no problems at all.



A new boss, an astrocyte, interfaces

With murderous morphs called capsaces.

But that’s not conclusive.

The creator’s elusive

And leaves an untraceable trace.


(Job and Fred have been backstage stage left, and the spotlight goes on them.)




Job asked God, “What’s it about,

The way things play the way they play out?




I know how it goes

God said, “No one knows

And the first step toward faith is to doubt.”


(The spotlight on Job and Fred goes off.)




The agents, it turns out, are fixers

Sent off with enzyme elixirs.

What starts off as medical

Becomes unstoppably hysterical

Like mass killings.  And I’ve got the pictures.




That’s it for today.  You two lovers

Can continue your research under covers.




Sex is a caressing

And love is the blessing.




Which one will do the undressing of us?


(The monster’s heartbeat is heard.  Alex and Katy sing duet.)


I’m as fertile as a fruit fly on a peach skin.

I’m as hoppy as a mayfly on the wing.

You might say I’m a teenage upstart,

Or you just might say it’s spring.


I’m as sturdy as a stallion on a fast trot.

I’m as bursting as an athlete just crowned king.

You might say I’m a one-time hot shot,

Or you just might say it’s spring.


I’m as yeasty as a biscuit on a stove top.

I’m as toasty as a mouse awakening.

You might say I’m nature’s trollop.

Or you just might say it’s spring.


I’m as in-sync as a bee aswim in pollen.

I’m as nimble as a spider on a string.

You might say I’m a sexaholic,

Or you just might say it’s spring.


You might say I’m a welcome tonic

To the slump that smothered spring.


(Scene ends.)

Act 5, Scene 1: Irene's Twilight Zone


(Spotlight opens on the lobby of the theater.  Characters who remain in the lobby enter the theater, which remains dark.  Joan the nurse tells the tour guide to also go in, and the narrator hangs back awhile.)




Go ahead in. I’ll stay with my patient.

Anyway, this is a family occasion.

The next Irene Goodnight film is about to start.

Standing by the door, I can hear the narration.




I’ll describe the opening shot to set up the next part.


A lightning strike hits a woman, lost at sea

In her thoughts in her bed as the reality

Of her life and its ripples impart

Their meanings to her bodily.


(The narrator enters the theater. The spotlight stays on the lobby while the audio of the movie is overheard, beginning with an overvoice, 1950s-style.)




This is the tale of a woman filling a small niche,

A heroine who is not famous, powerful, or rich,

But a housewife with a passionate heart

And the mind of an idealist.


(Joan and the audience overhear the dialogue of a family at the dinner table.)


(Father) “How are you?  I’m trying to read your mood.”

(Mother) “I’m just fine.  Do you all have enough food?

Hey, try not to talk while opening your maw.”

(Father) “Question: Why do bad things afflict people who are good?”


(Mother) “Because good means being poor.” (Father) “Now, how immense

Is the universe?  No rational explanation makes any sense.

It ends, then nothing, not even space.  Or

It’s infinite; or it extends infinitely from where it ends.”


(Mother) “I bought some Dixie cups with riddles.  Are they fun?”

(Child) “What lives in a web and wields eight guns?”

(Second Child) “What?” (First Child) “A shooting spider.”  (Second Child) “Funny.  Haw-haw.”

(Father) “Here’s a good riddle.   How much is one plus one?”


(Father) “1+1=11 if you move the actual symbols.

In binary code, it equals 10.  Add a bubble to a bubble,

And the sum is 1.  Then, 1+1= nil

If the combo explodes; and a lineage if the pair is a couple.”


(Mother) “Go watch The Twilight Zone.  I’ll clean.”




A housewife stays apart from the family scene

And looks back from much later when she’s ill,

Expanding her horizons and seeing what’s in between.


(The housewife hears words from The Twilight Zone intro.)


There is a fifth dimension, as vast as space

And as timeless as infinity.


(The housewife continues the intro with her own words.)


                                                The place

Is the sink where the woman rinses swill

Off plates, and sees her face through another’s gaze.


(What follows is a dialogue between the narrator and the woman in a fantasy realm represented by special lighting.)




Hi, Mom.




               What brings you to my little shrine?




Your fantasies just happen to align with mine

And our states of mind have found a time within time,

That is, your nuclear war anxiety and its result;

And my bucket-list wish to speak with you as an adult.




A fuck-it list.




               Yes, our fates have been an insult

To our capacity for feeling.  Some of the thrills

In the poem I'm writing are the tendrils

That reveal feeling people to be people of the hills.


After much research, I began perceiving

How the theme of overlords versus outcasts kept weaving

Through key stories and commanded my believing.

I started a new life in these mountains because of

The cause of independence and flight from the jaws of

Rapacious dogs.  The retreat was not always passive

As you know with the ghetto wars in Warsaw.

And I learned about the Kikuyu around Mount Kenya

And even Neanderthals fleeing humans above the savannah.


I know when underdogs manage to prevail, you wept;

And H-bombs had you shaking in bed while others slept.




I’ve been shaking lately.




                                    Yes, President Kennedy kept

A lid on the warheads.




                                    We didn’t know that yet.

But on TV throughout the day the news is

Russia has missiles in Cuba, and the U.S. has

Them pointed at Moscow; and people in crisis

Flee a nuclear holocaust that will destroy all

Life on Earth.  Who would not recoil

From this?  Yet our military leaders embroil

Us in a perfect storm of hard line bluster. 

I don’t understand.  Children will suffer.


(The narration of The Twilight Zone episode is heard from the living room.)




A little girl gets lost beyond a buffer

To the fourth dimension.  Her parents bring her home

But the window had been closing on the Twilight Zone.




I’m lost in a twilight zone. Children have been my touchstone.




Helping children flower is the power to which you’re called.

Your light under a basket has become a secret locked in a vault.




I fear children being hurt, and it being partly my fault.


(The monster’s heartbeat is heard.)




Our time is running out. Our window is closing.

(The monster’s heartbeat is heard again)




The monster is getting closer.  Listen closely.

I see the future: the unnerving insidiousness of MS.




I’ve been afraid to tell you about my date with ALS.




I’m so sorry.  Yet, our distress presents tests

To our dream selves to profess: Yes, yes, yes.


Yes to the swirling paths one’s life-graph takes.

Yes to diverting and reversing losing streaks.

Yes to loving others, though their turns are oblique.



What’s that all-seeing voice with which you speak?




It’s the wisdom that true singularity makes unique.

It’s the voice I’ll give you when you kiss my cheek.


(The narrator goes over to his mother and kisses her cheek.)


(An announcement over loudspeakers interrupts the action.)




Residents of Havenglade and fans of Irene,

For a period of a day each of you’ll be screened

For avian flu and put in individual quarantine.


(Stage lights begin to fade.)


(Old Man Job and Fred take a position stage left of the Narrator. An official separates Fred from Job.)




Heaven and Earth have now become a Hell.

Skies darken. Storms rage. Rivers swell.

It reminds me of when virtue sickened and cities fell.


(The narrator moves to the front of the stage in darkness.)




A pig on its side, diseased, squealing for mercy,

Its eyes closed, legs twitching involuntarily,

No thoughts except its seemingly unending agony.


(A light shines on the narrator and the spotlights on Job and Fred darken.  The following lines are spoken by a chorus of voices located in the dark.  Rather than breaking up the poem with separate lines for speakers, they will be indicated by parenthetical inclusions within the text.)


(Anti-God) As harmony is Heaven’s prize, song

Harmonizes with fear and rides along

To the end of the ride.  (Godling) As art is long

And life’s short, an artful twist

Artfully outwits death. (First girl) As the future exists

For future survivors, hope is tendered by sacrifices.


(Tour Guide) In the interior of fear, tumblers turn, walls fall.




Who’ll first answer the isolation ward call?


(The soldier moves towards the narrator.)




I’m so sad to have to leave you all.


(Lights go out.)


Bye, mom.




            Bye, son.  You’ll be fine in the unspoken unknown.


(Monster’s heartbeat is heard.)


Act 5, Scene 1 ends.




Rob Neufeld, 2019

Views: 460

Reply to This

© 2020   Created by Rob Neufeld.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service