an ars poetica in one act
By Callan Foster
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
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
It was mine until I cut it off—
—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.
Dying and reborn. Dying and reborn
The CHORUS begins fighting
for chairs. The member without
a chair is shunned by the rest.
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.
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.
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
ONE (1) AUDIENCE MEMBER
What the fuck are you saying?
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
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
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.