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The Drifter

 

Write a play.
Act One.
Early afternoon. Overcast.
A briny little town far from the sea.
Make the mother forbid her daughter to sleep with flowers in her room at night.
Then have the mother put washing powder in a layer cake thinking it was sugar.

Exit MOTHER.
A block of winter sun.
Enter DAUGHTER.
She has a bee in her bonnet but it’s late in the game.
For her, there are only sandwich crusts and broken meringue shells left.

Act Two.
Enter FARMER on a combine harvester.
He keeps his hand on the lever, his eyes on the cutting blade.
He is using the only agricultural machine that cuts, threshes and cleans a grain crop in one operation.
He is harvesting the season’s yield.
Exit FARMER.

Act Three.
Enter DAUGHTER.
Unblemished skin, symmetry, clear eyes.
She has a hang-up about dirty windows.
She is doing her chores with verve but she calls it anguish because she likes to ruin things.

Act Four.
Autumn evening. Silence.
FARMER drives slowly until he reaches the old granary bins where the oats are stored.
Somewhat less encrusted, the DAUGHTER is scrubbing the floor day after day, her hands red and cracked from the chlorinated water.
It takes great staying power to live a whole life with a lid on top, she says.
FARMER parks his vehicle and listens to the sound of cornstalks growing in the night.

CURTAIN.

Connect these dots.
The first frosts of fall, the smell of crushed grass, dark hemlocks, foxes threatening the chickens, contracted strength, the shade markings of leaves upon your arm, believing your naysayers, Extreme Unction, a heavy cloth full of silver, a Catherine wheel, finding potatoes in cold soil, leaving in the sunless hours under red cedars to reach dirt roads and orchards, taking little advice from anyone, the blue dark air smelling of wet clay and spruce, let the mother at home sewing and canning, let the farmer off the combine harvester to herd cattle and mend fences, have the daughter’s face next to the kerosene lamp seen through the kitchen window, forget all you know about playwriting, have all the characters move endlessly from one room to another, the hardwood floor creaking under their feet and then think of the house you grew up in, look close to the door for the marble bowl littered with mail and keys, remember it always and then go.

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Fani Papageorgiou‘s poetry has appeared in The New Republic, Denver Quarterly, and 6×6, among other publications. Her first book of poems, My Love Affair with Gertrude Stein, is forthcoming in 2012.