The Player Must Go On.
First Player speaks:
This time you were my son. On platforms in alleys, taverns, churches, on the steps of the Steppes, we've played this one. The smallness of me always underlining the growing tree of you... I will not let them see this time, how far you might rise above me. Your grandfather once had a part, but I lived through it, will win this one over you. In my play, my mind sunsparks on a river of words, my emotions pop off like the cork of your bottled life. The wine of you already vinegared by the air I breathe, goes down into the waters, diluted. And I, not you, am the sunrise again. But why is it you will end the play and I'll be written out early, to die? I had seen you in the mirror's eye and even then tried to blink you, drink you away. But she asked and I let her bear you, our life ending with you. You were always there, outside me, now, a son. A gypsy once said I would end, ashes divided so that I could not come again. So I have learned the spiritist's part, planned the role I'll play: I'll return as a lover come late to you and your family frosted life, raise those forgotten waters of desire, to flood any farm, fence, fire-hearth you've laid, keep you on the mark I've made, small. I will not surrender to you, ever, at all.The son's reply: You were in my hands
You were in my hands. Softer than sand, with only those bone bits saying this was not ordinary garbage we'd burned; you were in my hands. You asked to be buried at sea and I threw you up into the salt-air, in two places, far apart, so you would not do a Venus-in-the-clamshell, reforming as sea foam coming back as some god's terrible Botticelli seed. Sweat from a palm ported heatscape, I could never scrape you from my skin, I grew, others said like a mast on one of those tall ships, but I felt only a porthole, for others to see you, see you looking at me with those eyes, speaking to me with that mouth, that mind that ate mine. I am, I shouted on too many stages, and never saw or heard anything come back to me, though others said roses from the women were as piled high as summer gardens, the hands reaching for mine like rampant tigerlily beds. And now, that I have a little island that is me and mine, stormed, yes, sometimes, but sunned others. Now, why has she come late in my life, come with your eyes? Why, when I look at her, do I see you measuring me? And then you're gone, and it's only she saying, "Even if you go, I will not surrender you, ever, at all?
The new player speaks:
Playing fawn-eyed-fern to his oak by day, then pawing away at his roots by night, gnawing to the heartwood, with action, ever so slow, feeling every cell of him sweat, until girdled all around, I topple him with my script: My return to the life-stage in not the father's part, but the woman's. I find her childhood is no better than a man's, so more with fire in her heart, our heart, my heart, now, against his kind and all they took from me, I enter his scene. But something else must have come in when he divided me, something from that sea. And it swelled within me. 'So, this is a woman's lust,' I thought, 'much like a man's,' I thought. But why when he speaks to me of his life, do I remember holding the boy in my hands? I never carried him inside, but I feel as if he came from me --Feel waves roll from me as if I am bathing him as a child, soothing him with the balm of honey and orange trees, a balm that comes from me. With breasts that ache for him and legs that part to receive him again, I am forgetting why I tried to stunt this tree, forgetting me. Why, if he wants, am I surrendering to the thought of setting him free? Now, he is startled in his sleep, and his arm is around me, "I dreamed of my father," he says, When I turn to hold him, I find I am only she. And I say, "Tell me."
MaryAnn Bennett Rosberg