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Wednesday, February 10, 2010


by Rochelle Owens

Hearing that an actor
dying after falling
despairing over his balancing act
falling off a metal stool
changing a light bulb
shattering his glass skull

Applauding the audience viciously and hypocritically
casts lots for his robe
a drunken slumming suburban crowd
women and men garbed
in opulent fur coats sable mink chinchilla
trafficked leopard

From out of the digital age come the entertainers two by two
also three by three they come
also four by four they come
comedians riffing on politics
jeering at the religious
monotheist pantheist and atheist idealists
ogling small boys with blissful faces
gyrating in spandex and leather
little girls smiling and pivoting
pivoting on crocodile stiletto heels
male and female wrestlers
preening laughing and cracking whips

From out of the digital age come the politicians celebrities profiteers
also the moral and depraved
they come also

And in the actor’s dying brain––
Behold!---a triptych a single image
a fetal skull sprouting tooth-buds
a pelvis riddled with arthritis
light shining through the porous bones

An old man with a pink face his sequin dress glinting
under a fat lustrous brown mink
bidding on an illuminated manuscript
and a python wallet
the dead actor’s delusions
etched into the skin
his obsolete convictions stitched
into the seams
obscure details of dying a poetics of Space and Body

You feel your skull and spine shrinking inside the skin
your wrathful hands
tearing up prehistoric forests
you hear volcanic gases

The dead actor’s windpipe filling with vibrating words
his neck twisting to the side
and bleeding into his brain a thousand images
fish insects mammals
turtles crustaceans
a dense montage of broken stage props
bleeding into his brain

Rochelle Owens is the author of eighteen books of poetry and plays, the most recent of which are Plays by Rochelle Owens (Broadway Play Publishing, 2000) and Luca, Discourse on Life and Death (Junction Press, 2001). A pioneer in the experimental off-Broadway theatre movement and an internationally known innovative poet, she has received Village Voice Obie awards and honors from the New York Drama Critics Circle. Her plays have been presented worldwide and in festivals in Edinburgh, Avignon, Paris, and Berlin. Her play Futz, which is considered a classic of the American avant-garde theatre, was produced by Ellen Stewart at LaMama, directed by Tom O’Horgan and performed by the LaMama Troupe in 1967, and was made into a film in 1969. A French language production of Three Front was produced by France-Culture and broadcast on Radio France. She has been a participant in the Festival Franco-Anglais de Poésie, and has translated Liliane Atlan’s novel Les passants, The Passersby (Henry Holt, 1989). She has held fellowships from the NEA, Guggenheim, Rockefeller, and numerous other foundations. She has taught at the University of California, San Diego and the University of Oklahoma and held residencies at Brown and Southwestern Louisiana State.