From EF

 I’m in Milwaukee. It’s zero degrees, and the wind can freeze your face off in nothing flat. I took off for a few days to be with a dear friend who just lost her mate to a cerebral aneurysm. Shopping, cooking, drinking wine together — the small things that help tether past to future when the threads of the present are torn.

We lived in Milwaukee from ’68 to ’74, our son was born here, and our first independent theatre ensemble was created there in 1969. My friend joined us in 1970 and was one of the significant anchors who kept Theatre X alive until 2004. Thirty-five years of stunning originality.

On Sunday I saw a rehearsal of Agnes of God, scheduled to open at the end of this week with my friend in the role of the Mother Superior. Such strength, such love, such passion in this performance, the head of the convent fighting like a tigress to defend the young novice accused of infanticide. At home the dining table is covered with the paperwork that death engenders, and the big-hearted bulldog gives all the comfort he can. As do I.

Mother Miriam is a damnably difficult role, and having seen my friend in rehearsal I cannot imagine anyone else as that character. The same was true in April of 1968 when she played the title role in Hecuba on the stage of the University of South Carolina; Conrad wrote the adaptation from Euripides’ tragedy and directed, I created the musical score and played Polyxena. Young as she was, this actress captured the essential primal ferocity at the heart of the play, and nobody I have ever known since could match it.

We are an odd tribe, those of us on the stubborn outlying edges of theatre, and we do our best to stick together.

From CB


A leafy sea dragon meanders through salty buff kelp
its gossamer scallops rippling in currents that
gentle it through thickets imaging its frondescence.
quoth the swaddled apes.

A baby shark wriggles passage among the mantas
their wings caressing water like lovers’ touch or
like aliens gingerly fingering newfound mucus.
quoth the gandering apes

The sea jellies belly-dance, long strands yearning
meandering the way twilight fog infiltrates the hills
gelatinous feathers dangling up from their cores.
quoth the tizzied apes.

A toddler presses its palm to the portal
but the glass will hold firm and
the monsters have been named.

Fish of yellow tail, fish of blue radium
a slate-gray oval suspended flat, mindless
a red flash of minnows, squirt of transluscence
bloom of pulsing bells
I too consider options for lunch.

As the rarest white alligator blinks awake
heaving up to colossal waddle
I flee from otherness.

From the Fool

I thought it would be a lot nicer to be somebody else, and then I wouldn’t have all the problems I’ve got, like my sister calling me up every Sunday saying she’s going to commit suicide and asking do I care?

But then I tried to figure out who would that be. Who I’d be if I wasn’t me? That’s not so easy.

You can’t just say, well, somebody rich. Or an only child. Or an esteemed writer of obscure poems with a funky old farmhouse in Maine. You’ve gotta be a specific one of those things.

And as soon as you get specific, then stuff follows from that. Hemorrhoids or tax bills or all the stuff novelists come up with to drag their novels out longer. You can wind up dead drunk before you bat an eye.

And if I was somebody else, would whoever that was remember to feed my cat? If I don’t feed Gertie she craps in the bathtub. Which is thoughtful in a way, not hard to clean up, but it affects our relationship.

A lot of people die and the eulogies are great. It makes you want to be them. But then you’d be exactly the person you wanted to be, but dead. When they were that person, they weren’t dead. So you’ve bought a pig in a poke.

I guess that’s why most people stay who they are. Which has its drawbacks too, like if you’re a Fool.


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© Bishop & Fuller 2016

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