EX CATHEDRA:

an ars poetica in one act

By Callan Foster

Cast:

The Author..................................... A writer.

Chorus............................................. A rotating cast of seven people pulled off the street at random.

One (1) Audience Member............. A Leaf Or A Stem Maybe.

Chair................................................ The Author, but more metal.

Lights up: THE AUTHOR

stands center stage, hands

stuffed in jean pockets like

pigs-in-a-blanket. In the

distance, a tambourine rattles.

The audience is a sea of kelp,

shifting in and out of focus. TV

static emanates from behind

them.

THE AUTHOR

All writing is mourning: a sloughing of the self, writing is dandruff on pages. Sunburnt skin, pink and

peeling, catering to the superimposed life of every embroidered eye that glances at the ripped pages.The alphabet discarded (rum-soaked and careless) collecting like dust on a mantel.

The CHORUS comes in from

stage left and begins to play

musical chairs around THE

AUTHOR. No one can hear

any music.

CHORUS

It was mine until I cut it off—

THE AUTHOR

—these stories like rotting limbs festering in the hallway. Purple. Pink. Blue. Bruise-hued, and melting. The Chickpea does not know that we call it “Garbanzo” behind closed doors, nor is it privy to the silent rub rub rub of our fingers against their yellow bodies (so fast that the skin pops off like a cork at a wedding). The freckle of Lazarus that dots my lower lip is the only thing keeping me safe.

CHORUS

Dying and reborn. Dying and reborn

The CHORUS begins fighting

for chairs. The member without

a chair is shunned by the rest.

THE AUTHOR

Like a salamander caught between two logs will tear his tail like Velcro from a shoe, I steadily suck the nectar from zinnias. Weep into closed fists. Clean my roommate’s dishes, maggoting in the sink basin. What is the point of this documentation? What is the point of this documentation? The dot of the punctuation is bigger than that question, that question which falls into my lap, scratches at my thighs, and begs for a sip of water. Begs for recognition. Begs for paper bags filled to the brim with brightly colored Easter eggs— and still I refuse.

CHORUS

Is naming an act of becoming? Is naming a dissolution?

Six ribbons fall from the ceiling

and hang there, coiling like

snakes. Each CHORUS

member grabs one and begins to

walk around THE AUTHOR.

THE AUTHOR

Giving the word “chair” to the Chair will never create it in full, no matter how much fine cedar rings

my voice, my pen. Is everything just a desk chair waiting to be written into existence? Desperate as

Adam: clay, silt, mud, dirt, begging for the holy breath of The Author?

THE AUTHOR closes her eyes.

A lemon materializes in her

open palm. She tears off the peel,

macerating the yellow fruit

with her incisors. The

CHORUS is still walking

around her, chirping like

wooden birds. THE AUTHOR

slips of her shoes. They

disappear. 

ONE (1) AUDIENCE MEMBER

What the fuck are you saying?

THE AUTHOR

I’m saying that without a name I would be a monsoon, heavy and thick, rung out like a sponge over

kelp beds below me. I’m saying I would be a field, cracking and spotted with brown-footed mice. I’m

saying I would be as big as the equator and almost as thin. I’m saying I would be a beetle: iridescent,

prodding, yellow-winged, and baited—I’m saying I would be a chair tucked neatly into my bed (your

desk) waiting to be used.

The poem ends and THE AUTHOR steps forward.

Sitting at the edge of the stage,

she crosses her legs, one over the

other. She lifts her arms into

angles at her sides. The kelp

begins to whistle. The CHORUS

folds themselves around THE

AUTHOR like petals of a tulip

bud. Spinning counter

clockwise, the CHORUS pulls

off her clothes, ripping into the

fabric.

The whistle stops and each

member of the CHORUS peels

away from THE AUTHOR,

until THE AUTHOR is the

only thing left on the stage. Her

arms have become mangled and

metal. Her mouth, gaping

plastic. The bolts in her chest

blink twice. 

CHAIR

MY BODY IS THE PLASTIC WRAPPED WOOD, MY ARMS THE MOLDED METAL THAT

HUG ME INTO SHAPE. HEAT CANNOT HURT ME. WINDS CANNOT SWEEP ME.

WATER CAN ONLY TRY TO CORRODE MY BELLY INTO RUST. THE AUTHOR IS NO

LONGER: DISSOLVED LIKE SALT IN SWEET OIL. NOW SIT.

©2020 by Variant Literature Inc.