5 January, 2019
JOHN BERRYMAN (JB): Professor, Pulitzer Prize winning poet, alcoholic
MR. BONES: Dream Songs protagonist Henry’s alter ego; a minstrel
BERRYMAN SENIOR (JB’s father)
RODERICK MARSH: A counselor to alcoholics; former student of JB
The detox ward of a hospital in Minneapolis, circa. 1970
Bare stage, except for a stool
JB, wearing a hospital gown, enters; he is trying to keep his balance.
After a moment, the NURSE enters and gently takes JB by the arm and walks him back toward the wings. He complies at first, then pulls away and turns to the audience
Henry Pussycat, the anti-hero of my Dream Songs, knows, like me, what it’s like to suffer the DTs—but Henry is traumatized by them utterly, whereas I—whereas I—whereas—whereas—
(He opens his arms beseechingly to the audience.)
–whereas I remain . . . intact.
(The NURSE retreats to the wings, but doesn’t exit.)
Our current therapist here in detox is a walking cliché: he starts us off with breathing exercises:
Okay everybody, relaxxx…. Just relaxxx….That’s it! Now breathe in….That’s it! And breathe ouut…That’s it! And breathe in again….That’s it!” (It’s enough to make you want to stop breathing.) “Very, very good! And now let us recite the first three steps from AA’s Twelve Steps to permanent sobriety. Are you ready? All righty! The First Step! “We admit—”
C’mon, c’mon. ‘We admit—?”
VOICES (Off Stage)
“We admit that we are powerless—
–“that we are powerless over alcohol, and that—”
Yes, yes, keep going!
“—and that our lives have become—”
Yes? Yes? Become what??
Ah, yes, we must learn to manage our lives. And to do that?
Step Two! Let me hear Step Two!
“We must come to believe—”
Yes? Believe what?
“. . . that a Power greater than ourselves can restore us to—”
“Yes?? Restore us? I’m all ears! Restore us to what??”
Sanity!! Is there anything more overrated in the history of Western civilization? Well, I say to hell with sanity. Let us instead pray for passion. Passion and the divine madness of poets! Repatriate the poets from their two-millennia-long exile, Socrates be damned . . .
Now then, ladies and gentlemen, it is time for me to introduce you to two new philosophes: Henry Pussycat and his alter ego, alias inner court-jester, alias first-rate pesterer, Mr. Bones!
Are you finished, sir?
Finished? Alas. I am washed up. No–dried up.
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