far can she take it, her body, her looks, how
steep will the dare be? I watch the nymphet, idling
behind her mother in the supermarket line,
and wonder, do an appraisal, just as she must
be doing a self-appraisal of her own. My mind
moves out, runs into the brain of Yeats, hovering
somewhere in distant space. The sage answer
he gives is simple: it depends, in any context
or situation to befall her, whether she means
it or not; whether she is in earnest. What beauty
buys is nothing if not hitched to a set heart and
brain. She looks to me, here, as though she
means it, alright; tying her shirt in a knot to reveal
her midriff, caressing herself restlessly
her hands. What’s at stake is not merely her
body & face but her life; what it means, where it
may go. I have to look away, but when I look back
she’s gone. She’s left an imprint on my imagination
about youth, possibility, eternity (even),
worlds while they are in the process of opening
up, which the soul can see “forever” in. May
outside, first heat, & the revelation of what ricochets,
here, into the ethereal. She is, I’m sure, in
the car by now, weighed down by groceries, mind
already past her solitary passion. My own solitary
passion, as I walk down Butler Pike, is merely
to register having seen something someone else
saw (Yeats), the heaven and the hell of it, & in earnest, myself.
Thanks again to Vlad Pogorelov and the rest of the Monday Journal crew, for all the hard work they've put into Monday Journal #2. In the interest of literary completism, here is Monday Journal #1 (2019) on Amazon.
The second full issue of Rocklin, California's Monday Journal, edited by Vlad Pogorelov (among others) and featuring two poems from Something Solid (Trooper, Undulant), is now available in print on Amazon. Many thanks to Vlad and the rest. Cover image presented here: Pretending to Dance Ballet, by Ed Bowers.
The Touched (A Very Black Comedy): Adam Fieled: Outlaw Playwrights: 2-6-97
dilapidated old room— the Munsters meets the Bates motel— downstage left,
window. Maybe an old chaise lounge and some flower-print chairs would be
appropriate. Enter Helen Harold, a voluptuous young blonde— but dressed like
Trent Reznor’s wet dream: Goth city. With her is Timothy Whitehead, a very
square GQ looking yuppie in a Gap suit.)
Look at this musty old place; I haven't been up here for months, not since
Maggie's funeral. I made it beautiful for that; I dusted the floor and polished
the tables. Everything looked new. Now here I am, the sole heir of a ghost
palace! (walks stage left, gestures) Look out this window, Timothy; do you see
that tree? My grandfather used to hide there when he was a kid. Eventually, he
snuck girls up there too. He's another dead one.
T: Hmph! You know, talking about dead people, this place is so
eerie, it's like "Twin Peaks." I feel...presences here...like we're
H: (Helen laughs nervously and pulls Timothy towards her) Don't
say that, Timothy, you're frightening me! I've felt the same thing— this room has a power of its own, Timothy, this room
is...(she pauses to lean in close to his face)...inhabited!
T: (breaking away from her) I wonder if we're disturbing the
H: (Helen moves rapidly to the windowsill) Well, maybe we are, but
we have every right to; this isn't their room anymore; they're long dead!
T: (moving to console her) I see this is freakin' you out; shall
we go back downstairs?
H: (as if shaking off spooks) No!...No, I'm going to stay here.
(grabbing his hand) Will you stay with me, Timothy?
T: (takes on suave LOVERMAN tone) Hey, sure, baby, it's all right,
I'll stay with you. I don't know what we're going to...(closes in on her, heavy
sleaze) do here, though.
H: (breaking away nervously from his grip) We're going to wait.
There's something else you should know about this room— Maggie died here, my grandfather did too. He used to bring
his mistress up here, and my grandmother caught them, and...
T: (obviously spooked and getting impatient now) What, Helen,
what? You drag me up here to tell me about your family of fucking freaks? What
the hell do you want from m...
H: (screaming, hysterical): SHE KILLED HIM! MY GRANDMOTHER KILLED
T: Oh, that's great, Helen, fantastic! What the hell do you want
me to do about it?
H: (runs and grabs him) Listen to me, Timothy, just listen! You
can't leave me alone in this room! There's a curse on me and you've got to help
T: Man, this is just too fuckin' weird. I'm leaving!
H: (suddenly calm) You can't.
T: What do you mean, I can't? (Timothy tries opening the door— it stays resolutely shut— he
begins to panic)
H: (suddenly very much the chastising, superior bitch) Stop
struggling, Timothy. Come here, sit down, and I'll tell you what's happening.
(Timothy gives up and follows her order) You think you chose to come here
today. You wanted to fuck me and you know I sleep around. But you didn't choose
to come here today, Timothy— I put a spell on you.
T:(tries to scream,
chokes on his breath, gasps)
H:Stop fighting it.
Stop. (he does) Good. Now listen, Timothy— I chose you because you’re touched.
You have the magic in you and you don’t even know it. There’s a curse on me and
only you can break it. Until you do, you’re under my control (pats him on the head)—
T:(barely spits it
out, with vengeance) F…f…fine!
H:Good. Now, swear
on your mother’s eyes that you’re not going to leave me here.
struggling to form the words) I…won’t…bbbring…my….mother…into…this…she’s a
H:(strokes his leg
like she would a cat) Oh but you will, Timothy— swear on your mother’s eyes
that you’re not going to leave me.
H:(sitting in his
lap) Good! (kisses him on the cheek) Remember, darling, that was a binding oath
you just took— if you break it, the only way to pay is with blood!
ability to speak) Are you finally going to tell me what this shit means now?
H:My mother hates
me. She’s jealous as hell— all witches are. She’s also wiser and more powerful
than I am— celibate witches gain strength! She’s cursed me. She’s got me
trapped here. Sometimes she won’t let me eat, sometimes she won’t let me sleep,
and she keeps threatening to kill me. And you can kill her. You’re touched. All
you have to do is keep saying Hail Marys until she drops! Only…Timothy…(runs
her hand through his hair) you must not let go of my hand. Do you understand
that? You must not let go of my hand. Promise me you won’t.
T:Helen, I promise
you, I won’t let go of your hand. But can we get this thing over with now?
(very little boyish) I’ve got a bad headache and my tummy hurts!
radiantly) Yes, Timothy, let’s go…up we go…there’s a good boy…
(they exit arm-in-arm, Timothy limping— end scene)
(Lights up on a tiny, sparsely furnished bedroom. On a rocking
chair, facing the audience and knitting violently is Victoria Harold, Helen’s
mother. She has a furrowed brow and stern look about her— very Madame DeFarge.)
V:The child thinks I
don’t know what she’s up to: the ignorance! Does she think my power that
shriveled? Touched he may be, but he’ll not leave this house alive! I’ll send
that Hail Mary through him with a force Mary herself’ll feel! She thinks she’s
going to leave me to die alone; the selfishness! Why should she be allowed to
leave, when no one else has! That little damned whore! I own her, body and
soul, and she don’t even know it! I am the goddess of this house, and no one’s
taking that away from me— the goddess!
(Helen and Timothy enter, hands clasped tightly. They approach
in her chair slightly to face them) You’re not leaving this house, Helen,
you’re not! You’re stupid to think you can! No Hail Mary will save you!
puts a firm arm around Timothy’s waist) Concentrate, Timothy, pray; and don’t
let go! Mother, I’ve been taken advantage of enough; you’ve abused me since I
was born, used your power against me, and I won’t take it anymore!
V:(begins to knit
again) You can’t contradict a curse. What I say, goes! There’s no way around
it; you’re not getting out of this house! Let her go, Timothy; what do you care
about her? Why should you be dragged into her mess? She doesn’t care about you,
she’s just using you; she’ll destroy you, if that’s what it takes!
Timothy, don’t listen to her…(Timothy begins to chant, with his eyes shut,
“Hail Mary full of grace, Hail…”)….AAAHHH! Tighter, hold my hand tighter; it’s
burning up; it’s on fire; tighter! CONCENTRATE!
V:Let go, boy! Let
go, and end your pain! Why should you suffer for her? You’re doing this for
nothing! You’re suffering in vain!
H:(Helen appears to
fading fast under her mother’s gaze. Timothy is still muttering, catatonic)
It’s not in vain! OOOOOOOOWWW! Don’t let go! I love you for this, Timothy,
we’ll get married, have children, I swear just please HOLD ON…
V:Lies, lies! She’s
playing with your mind, boy; she’s a witch! She wants your blood, and she won’t
stop until you’re dead…(Victoria begins sputtering and drops her knitting)
H:You’re doing it,
Timothy; we’re winning! I can feel it! Concentrate, hold TIGHTER, concentrate,
don’t let got—don’t let go!
V:You’re going to
kill me; have mercy! Timothy! Do you want this guilt on your hands? How will
you live with yourself? Let go of her hand; and give back the only thing this
old maid still owns!
H:You don’t own me,
you hag! Don’t let go, Timothy!
worse) You’re going to kill me; my heart can’t take the strain! Have mercy,
have mercy! I’ll let you leave, Helen, I promise; have MERCY!
placed on hip) Why should I? Tighter, Timothy, harder— “Hail Mary, full of
Grace”— SAY IT!
profusely, Timothy stumbles) H-H-Hail Mary, full of Grace, Hail Mary, full of…
V:You’re choking me.
I can’t breathe…Mercy! Mercy! Mercy!
H:Harder! Don’t let
(she appears to die)
H:Keep on going!
T:(snapping out of his
trance) Helen, she’s dead! We killed her!
H:(letting go of his
hand, Helen opens a window and fans herself daintily) We did what we needed to
do. The stubborn old bitch only lived to torture me anyway.
T:I thought she was
faking it; did you know it was for real?
H:Of course I knew
it was for real! You’re touched, for God’s sake! You could kill a battalion!
T:She’s a human
being, for fuck’s sake. How could you take advantage of my power?
H:(comes down from
windowsill and faces him) What were my options, Timothy? Let you run away, and
lose my one chance to escape this hell?
T:You didn’t have to
kill her! She was begging for your mercy!
H:I had to kill her.
(she sidles up to him) That’s what witches do, remember?
T:You evil bitch!
(throws her aside) You manipulated me! Hail Mary, full of Grace, Hail Mary,
Timothy, you’re hurting me…you’re making me sick! Mercy! Have mercy on me; I
shouldn’t have killed her, it was a mistake; have mercy!
T:Fine, bitch; I’m
not gonna take part in a second homicide! But I’m leaving, and I’m warning you—
if I ever see you again, I’m going to fucking KILL you!
H:You’re weak; I
need a strong man!
T:You need some
serious therapy, is what you need, BITCH! I’m leaving, and if the cops come, I
was never here in the first place— got that?
H:FUCK OFF, you
(Timothy exits, slamming the door behind him)
H:(slumps into a
chair) Where the fuck am I gonna go? I didn’t have anyone but this old dead
witch. (she rises nervously) What am I gonna do with a witches’ corpse anyway?
Throw it on the fire, or in the woods, or…
(Victoria’s eyes open suddenly, and she rises. Helen freezes)
me. You were deceived by a ruse. You don’t have a witches’ suspicious heart;
you have the heart of a woman! A plain old ordinary CUNT! You can’t speak—
don’t even try. You’re going to serve me until the day you die— silently, like
a dog! And, Helen…(Victoria claps her hands, and Timothy re-enters)…say hello
to your new father-in-law!
(Victoria and Timothy passionately embrace, while Helen falls to
her knees and slumps to the floor.)
embrace briefly, looks at audience) Now THAT’S witchcraft!
Meta-criticism, as an enterprise, is not that big in the United States poetry world. Most poets seem to think that criticism of one's work should be done by someone else. Yet, as of the mid Teens, I had some things to say about what I'd published up to that point, some demarcative lines to set in place, that no one could articulate but me. As an American avant-gardist, coming up and establishing myself through the avant-garde scene, I semi-camouflaged the biggest home truth defining me, for myself, as a literary artist; that my most profound source of aesthetic inspiration had always been and would always be the English Romantics and Milton. Everything I wrote and published bears the insignia of long, patient study of Keats, Wordsworth, and Milton especially, as the avatars of choice for me. So, for precisely one year, mid-2014 to mid-2015, I took some time to compose and publish a body of meta-critical work, positing myself the way I would like to be posited, configuring myself the way I'd like to be configured.
Any reader may choose to judge if this impulse is a presumptuous one or not. Meta-criticism is, most definitely, and among other things, a "for better or for worse" enterprise. Writers are as prone to illusions and delusions as much as anyone else. The 2014-2015 body of writing I self-pubbed, with the title Exile and Exegesis. Coming back to the meta-criticism after many years absence, I've judged that some of it bears the hallmarks of literary substantiality. Thus, I have begun re-shaping and re-forming the essays, with the idea of re-pubbing Exile and Exegesis in a more mature, more comprehensive form (the original ed. is mostly offline now). Two of the flagship pieces to emerge are Reap Together and Notes: Elegy 420/St. Agnes Eve. Those inclined to deprecate meta-criticism will have to forgive me; but it helps to understand that centralized grounding in Keats, Wordsworth, and Milton in the United States is very rare for a poet. If I want to make clear that this, these poets, are where my textual grounding is, and not be misunderstood, it is incumbent on me to make myself clear, to those who might care.