S. Brook Corfman
And Lydia, a closet drama

Lydia on a terrace, in a shawl, hugging herself, as if taking a break from a party or from many voices.

When she speaks, flowers bloom across the stage.

She speaks but is inaudible for the moment, although she has said something. Perhaps moonflowers as accompaniment.

Or maybe she is just inside from the terrace, looking out from the other side of a glass door, lit as a silhouette.

She speaks again, turning to a flower on the ground, or out the window.


LYDIA

I have three older sisters, triplets and named as such: from Rosaline I learned the tarot, from Emmaline to read the poets, from Josephine to make perfume. I taught myself to garden, had a green ear for what the plants spoke and a green throat with which to respond. A green wind in a green box.

There's no garden in the major arcana, and yet one appeared as my soul in the tarot spread this morning, as if French formality met bright color.

A pause.

How to understand the interruption of a pattern.

She holds the card in front of her.

And a tower in the distance, a tower that might be the image of the tower card if the tower card weren't almost winged, weren't far less rooted. In Rosaline's deck, the tower was split by lightning and a figure fell from the top with the debris.

Towers don't bode well for us—on islands, in gardens, on paper.

A tower that always comes down.

Once I was born in a wild garden, because as I arrived the tower collapsed.

Roses?

Our mothers were crushed and I took my first breath & cry among the vegetables.

Emmaline said that she saw wings like leaves on me, and there began to memorize the poets.

Lilies.

(Reacting to the flowers): I like lilies, even as they're supposedly for funerals. They're elegant. Like some kinds of death.

I went back to the island, so small that where the tower was, a lighthouse stands now and succeeds in warning boats away from the ground.

Open ocean to cross for farther still, to reach a pebbled beach once smooth.

The flowers had stopped speaking to me, and only sometimes listen.

The flowers close up and disappear.

I thought coming back to the first unfurling would realign the line from petal to ear and mouth to pistil.

It has not, and so I wait until a new branch begins.

Briefly, three silhouettes appear. Greenery covers Lydia.

I can feel them trying to find me, performing a natural response.

A quotation: "To be at a loss and to remain there."

This is about never being able to go back, even though you want to. About whether or not a beginning is past.

A quotation: "the time / cracks into furious flower."

A piano cadenza as she throws her tarot in the air and watches them scatter, perhaps not as elegantly as she had imagined they would.

She kneels to look.

I was in a spiral, starting not from the beginning but the most recent link. Each iteration ignoring the ones before.

She reads the tarot.

A bleakness. (Here Lydia repeats one card that was dealt that might be bleak, perhaps "the seven of swords.")

Bleak. Perhaps. Something lost, nothing gained.

If that is bleak, and not just how they are, without me, my sisters. Continuing on like we did before I left. Still cooking, still reading. Even though I was there gardening. There was for them before and after and somehow they seem the same, a middle that happened and ended.

A shift.

When I was born our mothers died and the tower fell.

The vines bud.

I wouldn't stop crying.

The greenery grew wild, it took over the stones and the broken land and crushed it, turned it into pebbles. How a tower once fallen roughens the sand.

With no trace left of the tower, I stopped crying.

We left the island and I learned to talk to the flowers. When I cried they overgrew and hurt themselves. I stopped crying. Then one time I cried and nothing happened. I spoke and they did not respond.

It wasn't that something happened, it was that something didn't.

I went home and then left again.

There were no people but there were so many voices.

I can hear them as they don't respond.

Lydia stands, as the vines shred and fall away.

I have left twice from two places and now will not return.

I will not cry again.

To wail and to receive no response, when once the sound of grief from a stone made mist, grief as the first emotion in the world—

I am not willing even to risk it.

She vanishes.

All the flowers bloom.

Three silhouettes flash—the sisters—and the sisters keen. All the flowers vanish.




Umbrella Alone, a closet drama

An umbrella balancing upside down and open. If it can spin slightly, then it spins slightly. A backdrop of changing weather, either of Spring or of space, or perhaps both.

Crescentia enters with the fanfare of a star stepping into the ocean. When she speaks she speaks in a somewhat melancholy, starstruck sound, as if to herself.


CRESCENTIA

I have traveled so far. I am not lonely.

In the space of travel one deceives oneself with small promises.

One tells oneself the story of one's life, so that the voice can be a second or an infinite being.

Once I was Crescentia, still I am, minor planet, summoned, speaking to whomever might help me find the ore that has traveled so far from me to this place.

This place that has labeled me as Crescentia, minor planet, number six hundred and sixty.

She produces a book, and opens it to the appropriate page.

"Planet 660. Any reference of this name to a person or occurrence is unknown. The naming might be influenced by the two letters of the provisional designation 1908 CC."

But Crescentia is an Old High German romance. Crescentia is pursued by her husband's brother. Crescentia is too trusting. Crescentia is accused. Crescentia is thrown into the water. A witch or blessed, she survives. Accused by a new spurned lover, Crescentia is thrown into the water. A witch or blessed, she survives. She heals with a touch. She retires.

A pause.

I tend to mix up those things that have the same name, assume they share more than a word.

I tend to touch things as if they will heal, and cry when they do not.

A minor planet is an object in space that is not a planet and yet not a comet. It orbits the Sun.

Over time I have felt a pull, at the metal of me, and a piece has crumbled, and the metal has responded to that call and flown through the absence which is not dark nor light but cold, the way metal stores a coldness like water.

This pull whittled me away to this form, strange, no longer dense and contained.

She looks at the umbrella.

I followed the pull to find the ore. Would that you would help me find it so I might be on my way again.

She picks up the umbrella.

I have been told it is bad luck. Even if I am always out of doors.

She puts it above her head, very formally.

A sound like the future. It rains but the sky stays bright. It might rain as if in space.

It is not lonely to be a planet, to feel an attractive force upon you so powerful that it moves you, physically, not just as a metaphor, a force you can't overcome or resist, that keeps you at a distance even so.

To fall in love with a star that appears every night in the sky but never comes closer.

This is the difference between certain pains, which is like the difference between grains of sand and the desert and the hourglass.

Crescentia and an actor offstage recite a love poem. They should begin each line together, so that the second poem, shorter and more mysterious, adds a sonic, nonsensical quality to the recitation.

Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz

I adore Lysi, but do not pretend
that Lysi will return my quality;
so if I judge possible her beauty
her decorum and my apprehension I offend.

Not to begin, only, is that that I begin:
so I know that deserving of such greatness
nothing merits enough, and it is simple
to act against the same that I understand.

As anything I conceive so sacred
her beauty, that does not want my boldness
the hope to give even slight entrance:

then giving as hers my happiness
to not carry it and see it misused
though I think I would regret to see hers mine.

[a mystery]

In a major key in the middle
there's either the turret
or the water jar filled
with suns, both feet

off the ground, tipped opening
spilling seeds, cholorphyll.
The common thing
is a flower. Now up close

and upended a tower
struck to show ragged
the edge between two

will always open
always be falling.

CRESCENTIA steps off her axis and begins to walk the stage in slow circles, as if looking for the ore. She sometimes stops but never bends down to look; she always keeps her head in line with her body and the umbrella above. She proceeds with sharp intakes of breath—

A pair of minor planets dancing—

As if imitation was love and not desire, as if love was fully embracing—

A pair in search of something to make one of them again whole, so that one can become—

I am CRESCENTIA—

who was provisionally designated 1908 CC and so became a name by moving from C to C to—

Mars and I collided, almost—

to almost collide with a planet is only to have almost found oneself in pieces, scattered across the surface one wants most to touch, finding new contact in thousands of new moments as every wind blows a grain of dust or when the surface shakes like a core is shifting—

I will not be deterred—

I will always be deferred—

It continues to rain. Crescentia begins to settle.

One piece of ore, so close to whole.

The ends of the umbrella light. Stars mix with the rain, or rain mixes with the stars.

Crescentia looks up. A tableau.

CRESCENTIA drifts away, as if in orbit to something else. Perhaps frozen in her tableau. Perhaps she begins to move, in a gauzy dress with a long train, that she unfurls as she walks away and then slowly pulls to her, offstage.

Curtain.

S. Brook Corfman is a poet who writes plays living in a turret in Pittsburgh. A Lambda Literary fellow who has also been published as Sam Corfman, work is (forthcoming) in Phantom, Prelude, OmniVerse, and 1913: a journal of forms, among others. Find him online at sbrookcorfman.com