by Atar Hadari

Excerpt from The Johnson Play

Setting:       Bare stage

Time:           Night

Character:   Bluesman ROBERT JOHNSON, 50s, African-American

ROBERT JOHNSON speaks directly to the audience while off-stage, a white girl is giving birth to his first grandchild.


I remember—my first baby was born.

I wan’t there a while. Well—my baby was.
She was a brown-skinned woman
no lighter than a tobacco leaf
and I was no more’n nineteen,
soft in my hand. She was young, I was young,
baby inside her belly was way too young.

I went out—get some food and scut
some money up get meat for the bride
and her mother looked after her like your mother
looking after your girl now, an’ she was cryin’
just a little bit cause she was scared
an’ I was so proud. Went out and chopped
a bunch o’ trees for ten cents—
I couldn’t play then—no hands—
and I came back the baby was dead.

I walk through the door with meat
an’ there’s no sound.
I open the door, it whine, an’ there’s no sound
only her mother by the fire, sewing.

I say “Where the girl?” And she tell me she gone too.

Both o’ them in the other room.

Her face all wet in the firelight.

Not a sound. Hands movin’ on the string.

I went outside and hid the meat. Under the snow.
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