Starlight & Her Weary Knight: A Play in Three Parts

Act One:

Amidst the early morning hum
of rattling newspapers and whispering voices
a spent man enters scene downstage
and begins to weave his way through
the crowded coffee house.

A woman sits upstage
at a table made for two.
She’s the type of person
who orders her coffee under an alias.
Not due to any sort of identity crisis,
but because she thinks it’s pretty
when the barista randomly blurts
Cloud Flower or Cosmic River.

Our Moonbeam notices this leading man
struggling to find an empty seat,
and so she nudges the vacant chair
at her half-empty table.

“Do you mind if we share?”
he says to her, as if it were his idea.

She Starlight smiles.
For a moment,
the floor beneath him gives way,
like a falling dream or thrill ride.
She pushes the chair out,
inviting him into her circle.

He hasn’t so much as fallen into his seat
before she says, with elbows propped on table,
“You have to see this,
it’ll make you laugh like you didn’t know you needed.”

That’s how it starts,
their 21st century time together.
In a crowded coffee house
with a few minutes of bored fate.
And though she has seen
these moving pixels
a thousand times before,
her laughter still erupts,
oozing over the room,
like hot, molten glee.

His eyes affixed not on the phone,
but on her red stringed wrist
and the hand covering her mouth,
as if she could somehow
stymie the escaping magic.

To his ears, her laughter: a serenade.
A song he’s never heard.
One he desperately wants
to know the words to.

And to this day
when he asks her to sing,
what he means to say is
laugh with me.

Act Two:

A portable Crosley sits atop
a weather washed dresser
in an oil lamp lit room and
our leading man is dropping
the needle on a record.

She’s lying behind him,
blooming like a flower,
on a bed made for two.

A warm August night crawls
through a bedside window.
The odd breeze outside
kisses the lace of her curtains
before running back into the dark,
taking with it the tried and true
sounds of Otis Blue.

He turns about face and watches
her petals as they begin to fall,
one by one, to the floor below.

She takes him into her hand
and pulls him close.
The dog day heat of her love
sifting through the bird cage bars
of his single-cell sociology.

His brown-eyed imperfections
stare, threadbare, into the
cobalt blue of her essence.
What he finds piercing back
is less like honesty and more like
some fundamental truth
he missed along the way.

Act Three:

Ghostly echoes pitter-pat
down the hall of a home made for three,
and linger there like phantom memories
in all their arrogant splendor.

Our lady of the house,
in his over-sized Cure shirt,
chases them away
with broom handle –
trash tray urgency.
She’s spring cleaning
the sixteen hundred square feet
of immeasurable distance
that’s befallen her heart
and her husband.

She glances at him,
while he sits unsuspecting,
at the living room window
and wonders when it was
that their eyes last met.
And don’t even begin to ask her
when it was that he
last made her sing.

The days slowly unfurl
for her shipwrecked captain.
There’s not much left
of the man she used to know.
Resentment could easily
replace the love in her eyes,
but when she looks at him,
she knows it wasn’t long ago
when her Moonbeam faded,
leaving a life full of
unanswerable riddles
that only time could solve.

She, too, swam the shores
of crisis infused mid-life insanity,
but somehow managed
to climb her way up the cliffs of oblivion.
Standing there now, atop her past,
she’s lighthouse calling,
she’s Starlight guiding him home.

Epilogue:

An elderly couple lay center stage,
in a hospital bed made for one.
It’s that part of morning
where life is only starting to rise,
and deathly shadows still
yearn for demise.

They lay there entangled
like young lovers in afterglow,
amidst the incessant drone
of medical machinery
and time-bomb ticking.

Somewhere in the twilight,
his eyes find the cobalt of hers,
and they see within,
the ghosts of past played roles.
Friends turned lovers turned
Mother and Father turned
Saviors in discord.
Starlight and her Weary Knight

She lifts her frail hand,
shackle weighted
by cold plastic tubing,
and brushes the white
of what little hair he has left.

A darkness creeps beneath them
with an insatiable appetite,
gnashing its tick-tock teeth,
countdown commencing.

Her thumb catches a solitary tear
tracing its way down his worn leather face.
“Don’t cry,” she Supernova smiles
“just sing to me.”
He laughs…
… like he didn’t know he needed, and says
“Hey,” still chuckling,
“that’s my line!”

He half expects to hear
echoing back to him,
the very same laughter
that got him into this mess.

But she’s gone.

He knows this by the final tick
of his metronome heart,
and the grief bomb
that just blew a crater
in his chest.

The old man stares
into the abysmal oblivion
that has now enveloped them,
and charts a course
into uncharted waters,
like an explorer of old.

The rising sun from the living world outside
intrudes through an uninviting window,
blanketing the room with its security,
like soft, warm comfort.

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Dear Clare,

Do you remember that coffee house out on Cleveland Heights? Birchtree, I think it was. They served the Wet Chihuahua to us every Friday night at closing. Well, it shut down a few years back. The building still stands. An art café is scheduled to move in, I think. Soon the piano and kazoos will be replaced by paints and brushes.

I ran into the owner of Birchtree a few months back. He was managing a new restaurant off Harden Blvd. He remembered you. Said he never thanked you for turning him on to that Social Distortion record. He said it ended up shaping a year of his life. I told him you were special that way.

Do you remember Hollis Gardens? The concrete barriers still stand like grenadier guards. Remember those days? Our backs wet from the condensation on the cool grass. We lay there watching the stars and listening to the trains pull through the station. I’m not sure if you feel the same, but I’m glad we misplaced so many hours in such a beautiful way.

Our shared memories stand like skyscrapers in this city. Their antennas outstretched, grasping for Orion, and Cassiopeia. Your DNA is spliced with that of our city streets and hot spots. We’re reciting poetry in Munn Park. I watched us just last week. You’re still spilling coffee on me outside of Mitchell’s, and I’m giving pocket change to those who ask kindly. Last Thursday we had dinner at Fat Jack’s and watched Legends of Rodeo play Evolution Records.

I’m working downtown now. All of our memories within walking distance of one another. Inside of a lunch hour I can visit Palace Pizza and the ghost of you and me. This city is as much a part of me now as you are. Lakeland is home.

In closing, I’m sorry for the trip down memory lane. It happens every time I visit you out on Oak Hill. I guess I am writing tonight to let you know that I have finally learned what you were trying to teach me all those years ago. I see now, how Love beckons with a holler and dismisses with a whimper. I realize it is both the parachute in a falling dream and the faulty airbag in a fatal crash. Love knows no limitations. You can never bridle, lead, or command it. All you can do is smile and let it be.

Always,
B.

Death is a Dirty Houseguest

dansemacabre2

Death mocks my living
by wearing the neglected faces
of all the people
I could never save.
Her many voices
whet with despondency,
have taken up residency in my home.

We share breakfast every morning
while divvying the Times.
She loves lightly toasted Italian Five Grain
with the morning obits.
“Drink your OJ,” she says,
as her forked tongue licks the jelly knife,
“you need your vitamin C.”

Death is a dirty houseguest.
He disrobes in the foyer
upon returning home from work.
A trail of crematory ash follows
as he slinks down the hall.
His bloody scythe, repulsive and mean,
Pollocks the walls of our not-so-humble abode.
I’ve tried to have him evicted,
but Death claims Squatters’ Rights.

She keeps strange company, too.
Just the other day,
Death had Time over for tea,
whereupon they discussed
the morality of Brer Rabbit,
and whether or not
a tar baby would work
on the absent hearted.
And just last month,
she employed ex-pantheon members
in an elaborate pyramid scheme,
designed to trick elderly retirees
into investing in cloud front property.
Death diversifies.

Sometimes, late at night,
after I’ve drowned my sorrows,
Death delivers a cold cloth rag,
and seltzer tablets.
“Still your heart,” he whispers,
“I’m breathless without you.”
His bedside manners
are quite delectable.

We’re familiar strangers,
this Grim Tennant and I.
Spectators to our very own
dance macabre.
We writhe and shake
through empty corridors
where he tickles my fancy
with the beckon of slender finger.
Who am I to deny
Death’s carnal calamity?
I’m his favorite toy.
He spins my crank,
dances to the anxious tune,
but never, does he ever,
pop my jack out of the box.
Death is the ultimate tease.