Savannah’s bedroom, in a McMansion of a Detroit suburb
When the U.S. government is bailing out the auto industry
ANNE SEXTON, the Pulitzer Prize-winning poet who committed suicide
ANNE speaks to Savannah, a young emotionally imbalanced poet.
Don’t say things you don’t mean like, “I can’t come with you.” Besides I need the company. We need the company. I mean the poets of course. All the ones you conjure in your silly little mind: Berryman, Crane, Jarrell…Plath of course: “Help me I’m trapped in a bell jar and I can’t get out!” I mean honestly!
But you and I know that the poet you see in your head is not the poet as lived. Just as I am not really—but this is the debate you have with yourself isn’t it? How real am I? What am I? I’ll tell you this much: wherever I am, I’m as desperate for relief as I was among the living. And that is something I never considered. That the afterlife is…I’ll try to explain.
Here, where I live, it’s just…it’s a tiny elevator. Barely room enough to fit one small person. But if I hunch my shoulders and tilt my head, I can squeeze myself inside. And when the elevator starts to rise, the seam between the doors disappears. So up and up I go like I’m in the tallest building ever built. And I notice there are no buttons to press. No floors to get out on. Just me, alone, inside the elevator, scrunched up between two hot metal panes of steel, so tight that I can’t even scratch my ass if want to. Can’t smoke a cigarette. Can’t breathe without deliberation. If only there were more room I’d lift my arms and pound on the steel. But my arms are glued to my sides so all I can do is…is tap my fingers… And so I tap. And then voices draw near. Voices on the other side of the panes. Voices that are close enough to hear me if I scream. And so I scream: “HELLO! HELP! HELP ME! CAN ANYONE HEAR ME?!” And they do! The people on the other side do hear me because when I scream they stop talking. They listen, but they don’t respond. They don’t say: “Tell us where you are and we’ll come find you!” They stay quiet and let me…pass… And so up I go again to I don’t know where. Silence. Except the heaving sound of my lungs, and my heart pumping so hard the veins in my neck want to burst. And droplets of sweat trickling down my back. The trickle I can never wipe or scratch. Soon the distant voices return: “HELP! HELP!” I scream again. Tap tap go my fingers. But, as before, the voices fade. Again nothing, nothing but the feeling of up up up…
And after awhile the lifting, the voices, the tapping, the itching, the forced breathing, the pounding in my chest…is all so unrelenting that I realize, in one surging heart-stopping moment…that the elevator…hasn’t been moving at all.
You won’t let me live eternity alone will you? Me? Your idol of words?
copyright © 2010 Jon Spano. All rights reserved. ___________________________________________
Jon Spano is a former dancer and graduate of NYU. His ten-minute play Labor Day Weekend will be published by Smith & Kraus late in 2010. Just Him will premiere in early 2011 as part of Emerging Artist Theatre’s short-play festival. Family Comes First and National Treasure were also produced by Emerging Artists. Eighth Wonder appeared at recent Samuel French and Turnip Theatre festivals. Upcoming projects include Joey Variations, Ghost of the City, Rule for Everything, and The Poetry of Cars.