New Light on Riboflavin

 

A play by Kevin Killian

 

Jimmy Jay, security guard at the Berkeley Museum… David Kasprzak

May Trix, curator at the Berkeley Museum… Lindsey White

Marshall McLuhan, Canadian media theorist… David Brazil

Bob Bishop, reporter for the Berkeley Barb… Paul Ebenkamp

Kevin Killian, department secretary… Theo Konrad Auer

Lady Jay, the janitor’s wife… May Wilson

Anais Nin… Suzanne Stein

Dan Flavin, sculptor of light… Jordan Stein

Gordon Lightfoot, Canadian folksinger… Kevin Killian

 

Click here for a video of a performance at the Berkeley Art Museum on June 12, 2015.

 

[Lights fade up: a car has crashed into the Berkeley Museum and though no one is behind the wheel, the headlights are still shining.]

 

JIMMY JAY. Ms. Trix! Did you hear the crash?

 

MAY. Yes—I came running to see if—(pause)—well, never mind.

 

JIMMY JAY (as he spots the car). Whoa, dead ride!

 

MAY. Jimmy Jay, what has happened here? It’s Berkeley and it’s 1972 and we’re on the brink of real social revolution.

 

JIMMY JAY. Sorry, Dr. Trix, let me start at the beginning.

 

MAY. The eternal cycle of starting at the beginning.

 

JIMMY JAY. At approximately eighteen fifty-five, —

 

MAY. When? Tonight?

 

JIMMY JAY. Yes. Tonight a male suspect was seen crashing his car, a late model Chevy wagon, into the concrete wall of the two year old Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, interrupting the premiere of Maya Deren’s Medusa Haiku. The car door cracked open, reported Miss Deren, and the driver staggered away, possessed, she believes, by the divine gods of Haiti.

 

MAY. Colorful report!

 

JIMMY JAY. He hasn’t yet returned. Though he left behind—oh, never mind.

 

MAY. What?

 

JIMMY JAY. I don’t know what you want me to say. Dr. Trix!

 

MAY. Jimmy Jay, have you heard of riboflavin?

 

JIMMY JAY. Did somebody say I did?

 

MAY. Tell me, have you met our Matrix artist Dan Flavin?

 

JIMMY JAY. I am a janitor, Dr. Trix. I mean, literally, a janitor. And my wife—

 

MAY. Yes?

 

JIMMY JAY. —is a janitor’s wife.

 

MAY. Then answer me this, have you heard that scientists here on the Berkeley campus have invented a replacement for—

 

JIMMY JAY. For me? Like, a robot or something?

 

MAY. No!

 

JIMMY JAY. A robot janitor?

 

MAY. No! A replacement for the old electric light bulb of Thomas Edison?

 

JIMMY JAY. I’m here from Georgia, the land of rich peaches and much capitalist bullshit. There I was born without electric light. My mother had only the village nurse to guide baby Jimmy Jay into a cruel dark hot landscape.

 

MAY. I’m talking of course, about the modern fluorescent light.

 

JIMMY JAY. You got me there.

 

MAY. Wait, that man must be a scientist, look at his coat. He can explain it better than I can.

 

JIMMY JAY. Dr. Trix, you explain fine.

 

MAY. Fluorescent lights are the long tubes recently invented by NASA to provide illumination for the space program. Oh dear, you’re shivering, and it’s a warm June night.

 

JIMMY JAY (shivering). Tubes give me the creeps. Give me a flashlight any old day, with a Double A battery.

 

[Enter MARSHALL McLUHAN in a white lab coat something like a scientist’s.]

 

McLUHAN (whistling). Some smash, eh?

 

MAY. A terrible dust-up.

 

McLUHAN. Yes…. The collision is the collage.

 

MAY. You were at the Gordon Lightfoot meet and greet.

 

McLUHAN. I am a scientist, and my focus is on understanding media. But I’m something of a quick study, and I couldn’t resist the fun of a Gordon Lightfoot meet and greet.

 

JIMMY JAY. May Trix, this is Marshall McLuhan from University of Canada.

 

MAY. Oh, you’re Canadian, then you won’t know anything about NASA. Or vitamins.

 

McLUHAN. Try me.

 

MAY. Is there a NASA Canada?

 

McLUHAN. We are all one big nation today with our TV addiction and our long, cool, fluorescent tubes dusted with moon dust.

 

JIMMY JAY. When the rockets filled with Neil Armstrong landed, a terrible music hit the campus of Berkeley.

 

McLUHAN. Not music—not Gordon Lightfoot music—but what we in Toronto call “inhabitative noise.”

 

MAY. You seem very familiar, Marshall, with Gordon Lightfoot’s oeuvre.

 

McLUHAN. He’s been looking like a queen in a sailors dream, and he don’t often say what he really means.

 

MAY. He hasn’t been to the Berkeley Museum as often as he used to.

 

JIMMY JAY. Oh now I know who you’re talking about.

 

MAY. The gallery girls would tease me that I had a new boyfriend, folk singer Gordon Lightfoot.

 

McLUHAN. Have you asked yourself why Gordon has not been to see you in months?

 

MAY. If you could read my mind, Marshall McLuhan, what a tale my heart could tell.

 

JIMMY JAY. Aw, who needs him? May Trix here’s got a new show with an American artist we’re nuts about.

 

McLUHAN. Just like a paperback novel, the kind that the drug stores sell.

 

MAY. As one Berkeley professional to another, sir, will you help me?

 

McLUHAN. The vacillation is the visage.

 

MAY. Have you ever seen or touched a fluorescent light?

 

McLUHAN. I have, Miss Trix.

 

MAY. And?

 

McLUHAN. Like TV, they are the cooler emblem of a new cybernetic age. Our anecstors used heat, tamed dragons, roasted meats on spits, had sex. In the new age the temperature drops [voice drops] way down.

 

JIMMY JAY. Fluorescent lights are the devil’s dick, Miss Trix! Bulbs filled to bursting with a miasma, a thick crummy miasma, that can wilt a cabbage at thirty paces. Break a tube, you die screaming.

 

McLUHAN. That miasma could wilt a full size sequoia if one chose to harness fluorescence for evil, but luckily the miasma don’t know its own strength.

 

JIMMY JAY. Ms. Trix, Dr. McLuhan, what are you driving at?

 

MAY. I woke up this morning and said to myself, “May,” (for I am May Trix, founder of the Matrix program)… “May, it’s your day off but you better go down to the Museum and see what’s going on.”

 

JIMMY JAY. So you came in….

 

MAY. I came in and….

 

JIMMY JAY. Wait! Was the disoriented driver—are you trying to tell me—Maya con Dios, was the driver Dan Flavin? The man they call (pause) the sculptor of light?

 

MAY. Wait here please.

 

JIMMY JAY. Do I wait as witness or suspect?

 

McLUHAN. Wait nearby the car, sir.

 

JIMMY JAY. Inside the car is there miasma?

 

MAY. I would never ask you to endanger your health, Jimmy Jay.

 

McLUHAN. Just get over there.

 

JIMMY JAY. All right, I will stand near by the death car.

 

[He walks over to the car and puts a hand on the trunk, as though linked to the car.]

 

MAY. Heavens to Betsy—Dan Flavin and his quest for a new vitamin—has it led to this car crash?

 

McLUHAN. Wasn’t there an American cartoon where they say, “Which way did he go, boss? Which way did he go?”

 

MAY (to herself). Ironic how I, a respected West Coast curator, am reduced to acting like a private eye in a film noir movie, like Kiss Me Deadly, who gets burned in a three way strip.

 

[Enter BOB BISHOP from the Berkeley Barb.]

 

BOB. Dr Trix. A few questions from the press?

 

MAY. Why not?

 

BOB. I’m Bob Bishop from the Berkeley Barb.

 

MAY. The radical underground press.

 

McLUHAN. I will say goodbye—for now. I’m here on a Fulbright interpreting the ways our two countries differ. And I have a full load, as you say here.

 

MAY. The coursework alone must be an ample burden, Dr. McLuhan.

 

McLUHAN. In Toronto we say, “The coursework is the corsage.”

 

[Exit McLUHAN.]

 

MAY. Bob Bishop of the Berkeley Barb.

 

BOB. Dr. Trix, is your protégé, Dan Flavin of New York, smuggling the new fluoresecent lights into the museum under cover of darkness?

 

MAY. Dan Flavin is not my protégé. He belongs to the world, like all great artists of his stripe. I am but the humble curator, flicking a switch onto 1972.

 

BOB. Does the University receive funds from NASA?

 

MAY. Certainly not! I’m with the Matrix program and we’re doing a show with Dan Flavin. That’s all I know. I mean I know my Michael Fried and Clement Greenberg. And now that it’s 1972 my Linda Nochlin.

 

BOB. Does Marshall McLuhan work for NASA? The Canadian man.

 

MAY. Bob, you grew up in the shadow of the atom bomb, didn’t you?

 

BOB. Yes, from an early age I, a baby boomer, ducked and covered under the school desk or if I was at home, under the sturdy tool bench my dad had put up in his basement.

 

MAY. Did dad, or Mom, for we must not discount the power of the woman, ever tell you about vitamins? Or give you one or more to swallow?

 

BOB. Flintstones vitamins.

 

MAY. Here we are in the last rays of the sun, can you feel the heat dying on your face?

 

[BOB turns his face to the sun, rubs his forehead, his cheek.]

 

BOB. Yes—the dying, June sun.

 

MAY. Sunlght is a potent source of vitamin D.

 

BOB. In grade school they used some of the letters for the names of vitamins, there was vitamin C for orange juice, B for beans, A for apple…. There were so many letters left out, I felt quite sorry for them, I did.

 

MAY. Under the desk you felt sorry for them.

 

BOB. Kissing my ass goodbye I felt ever so sorry for F, G, H, I, J et cetera.

 

MAY. Dan Flavin is a talented sculptor using his art world push to provide a place here at UC Berkeley to help others invent a new, site specific vitamin – which we are calling Riboflavin.

 

BOB. Riboflavin? Isn’t that a thing already?

 

MAY. Is it? You know Dan was one of twin brothers, and the other one died.

 

BOB. I actually don’t know much about Dan Flavin.

 

[Enter ANAIS NIN.]

 

ANAIS NIN. Why not ask a woman?

 

BOB. Anais Nin!

 

ANAIS NIN. Yes, and this is the Chevy that Dan Flavin stole to make love to me in.

 

MAY. That’s a bare-faced lie!

 

ANAIS NIN. Is it, Dr. Trix? It was a love making site specific in its details. And what do you care, Dr. Trix? I, Anais, have loved many men, from Henry Miller to Gore Vidal, to Charles Mingus and Jackson Mac Low. Even my own father, if my legend is true. Yet no man has moved me such as the young Dan Flavin.

 

MAY. I see.

 

ANAIS NIN. Well, perhaps Gordon Lightfoot.

 

BOB. “If I could read your mind, girl, what a thought my mind could tell.”

 

MAY. Nothing annoys Gordon as much as a fan who cannot remember the lyrics

 

ANAIS NIN. Or makes them up.

 

MAY. His singing voice is a tenor perfectly suited for our cool, minimalist era.

 

ANAIS NIN. Yes, like a Canadian sunset. His actual Delta of Venus is small, quite small when compared to those of Mac Low or Flavin.

 

MAY. You will never be a Matrix artist! You are far too presumptuous.

 

BOB. Miss Nin, you have lived in California for nearly thirty years, what changes have you observed in your decades of sexual experience?

 

ANAIS. The long hair on the men. Like yours, Bob.

 

MAY. Dan’s twin brother was called Robert, but little Dan couldn’t pronounce it, and called him Ribo. So sad.

 

BOB. You act almost as if there was a tragedy in the Flavin family.

 

MAY. Young Ribo died of polio.

 

ANAIS. The chicken.

 

MAY. No, the disease, polio. Not pollo.

 

ANAIS. In Spain, when twins are separated, we call it the sundering of the two.

 

BOB. Impressive!

 

ANAIS. Old Spanish saying: “Take what you want, saith God—but pay for it.” God bought Dan Flavin a box of lights, the brand new miasma tubes in pastels and primary colors, and Flavin lit up the sky with them.

 

BOB. No wonder Dan Flavin feels such torment. Here he is, dean of American minimalism, yet his brother’s in Colma gathering dust.

 

ANAIS. I can still hear Ribo scream out, “Dan, Dan! Can’t you invent something? A vitamin or something?”

 

MAY. The terrible screams of a man drained of life.

 

ANAIS. “And name it after me,” cried the brother.

 

BOB. Didn’t you say something, earlier in this play, May, about how one always has to start at the beginning?

 

ANAIS. Very meta, May Trix!

 

MAY. Yes, I did. I remember now. “The eternal cycle of starting at the beginning.”

 

[Enter KEVIN KILLIAN, May Trix’ executive assistant.]

 

KEVIN KILLIAN. Dr. Trix, the press conference is beginning and nobody can find Dan Flavin.

 

BOB. Maybe he’s still installing.

 

MAY. He had nothing to do with this car crash, nothing, or my name isn’t Mabel Trix and this isn’t Kevin Killian, my personal assistant.

 

ANAIS. Who designed this building? [After a pause.] I slept with him! It’s coming back to me now. He was a brutalist, just like the heavy concrete that stopped this, how do you say, Flavin’s, how do you say, “hot rod.”

 

BOB. What strange green light hovers over this concrete creation?

 

KEVIN KILLIAN. Miss Nin?

 

ANAIS. Yes?

 

KEVIN KILLIAN. The building was designed in 1970 by a Mario Ciampi. A mere two years old, like my little boy at home.

 

ANAIS. Yes, Mario! I gave myself to him and he was like a boy at Christmas to whom Santa had delivered his first architecture set of glass, concrete and steel.

 

MAY. Let us disperse and leave this scene. Kevin, how do I look?

 

KEVIN KILLIAN. Lovely.

 

ANAIS. Frazzled.

 

BOB. Like you’re hiding something.

 

MAY TRIX. Has Gordon Lightfoot been located? He swore to me he would sing some of his folk hits.

 

ANAIS. Like “Early Morning Rain.”

 

BOB. “Carefree Highway.”

 

MAY. “For Loving Me.”

 

BOB. “If you could read my mind, girl,”

 

BOB and ANAIS. “What a tale my thoughts would tell.”

 

KEVIN KILLIAN. “Just like a paperback novel,”

 

KEVIN KILLIAN, BOB, ANAIS. “The kind the drugstores sell.”

 

MAY. “In a castle dark—“

 

KEVIN KILLIAN. Dr. Trix, reporters are waiting under the huge Hans Hofmann.

 

MAY (to KEVIN KILLIAN). I hate to leave you alone like this.

 

KEVIN KILLIAN. Go and do your duty as the first female curator at Berkeley.

 

MAY. Will Gordon Lightfoot be there?

 

BOB. Follow me. Maybe we’ll find Dan Flavin.

 

ANAIS. I for one would welcome that opportunity.

 

[Exit MAY TRIX, ANAIS NIN, and BOB.]

 

KEVIN KILLIAN. It’s growing dark. Soon the whole world will be glowing red with radiation. Or green, if Marshall McLuhan is correct [Sings.] When the world gets cold—I’ll be your cover. Let’s… just… hold… On to each other. When it all falls, when it all falls down, we’ll be two souls in a ghost town.

 

[Enter LADY JAY.]

 

LADY JAY. Jimmy Jay! Where you got yourself off to? I declare, Jimmy Jay, you are the hardest man to pin down.

 

KEVIN KILLIAN. Why hello!

 

LADY JAY. Hi, y’all. I’m Lady Jay and my husband is your janitor—you know him, little bruiser of a guy, Jimmy Jay?

 

KEVIN KILLIAN. Of course I do! He’s the heart and soul of the Berkeley Museum.

 

LADY JAY. But now he’s AWOL! He had a break at six and I was supposed to meet him in the janitor’s closet. I was right on time and where was he? Don’t know! It’s like he’s being held hostage.

 

JIMMY JAY. Help! Help me, Lady Jay! I’m like stuck to this old death car.

 

[But his cries go unheard.]

 

KEVIN KILLIAN. Sorry, I haven’t seen him! He likes the salad bar at the student center.

 

LADY JAY. I put up his lunch, every day, in a brown burlap sack, like they do where we come from. He don’t need no salad whatever it is.

 

KEVIN KILLIAN. Bar. Salad bar. Invented in Berkeley in 1964, the salad bar is the modern-day equivalent of the smorgasbord of the Scandinavian Viking people.

 

JIMMY JAY. I don’t like salad bar, that’s government lies about me! Kevin Killian is bullshit, man.

 

LADY JAY. Everything’s the modern-day version of something superior. What happened to love—the love of a good woman. Jimmy Jay! Come and git it!

 

KEVIN KILLIAN. Lady—is that your name? “Lady Jay”?

 

LADY JAY. Yes—like Lady Bird Johnson.

 

KEVIN KILLIAN. I’ve worked for Dr. Trix for two years now, ever since the opening of the museum and the very first Matrix artist was Ursula Schneider.

 

LADY JAY. How many you up to now?

 

KEVIN KILLIAN. Oh goodness, we’ve done so many. Dan Flavin is Matrix 6. Or seven.

 

LADY JAY. That is a lot, but when I see the green lights in the sky I get a little—apocalyptic, Mr. Killian. There’s a man in the forest over there by the way.

 

KEVIN KILLIAN. Oh my God that’s our Matrix artist, stumbling from the trees! Dan Flavin!

 

[Enter DAN FLAVIN, stumbling from the trees.]

 

FLAVIN. Where do I go from here?

 

JIMMY JAY. And don’t forget, there’s me over here!

 

LADY JAY (approaching FLAVIN). Poor boy, you have suffered a bump on your head? May I feel?

 

FLAVIN. If you must.

 

LADY JAY. My mom taught me phrenology, long ago, in the backwoods of Georgia. It is the art of picking up the vibes of a man from the bumps in his lap. I mean, on his head.

 

KEVIN KILLIAN. He looks so woebegone!

 

LADY JAY. And you, Dan Flavin, are complicated.

 

FLAVIN. One bump’s brand new, woman of the South.

 

LADY JAY. Very complicated he is.

 

FLAVIN. I’m not complicated, lady, I’m just an ordinary guy whose twin died of polio, and so I seek a way to bring him back to planet earth, with a new forthcoming site-specific vitamin named after him..

 

[Enter ANAIS.]

 

ANAIS NIN. I have known and loved many artists, minimalists all of them, where it counted, in their lack of true value.

 

FLAVIN. It is here at Berkeley that multiple vitamins were developed, and now I want them to make me a Flavin vitamin. [To LADY JAY and KEVIN KILLIAN.] Find them and bring them to me.

 

LADY JAY. Hey, I’m still looking for my husband, Jimmy Jay.

 

KEVIN KILLIAN. He’s probably at the Hotel Durrant. He likes to go there and eat from their salad bar.

 

JIMMY JAY. Lies! Untruths! Lies of Nixon dimension!

 

FLAVIN. My scientists?

 

LADY JAY. We’ll find ‘em, skinny.

 

[Exit LADY JAY and KEVIN KILLIAN.]

 

ANAIS. Is there not a “Riboflavin” already?

 

FLAVIN. People keep saying that, Anais Nin. But I don’t think so.

 

ANAIS. Henry Miller said, “Anais, the inventor.”

 

FLAVIN. My brother was called Ribo.

 

ANAIS (with a sharp intake of breath). Ribo Flavin? Polio?

 

FLAVIN. Did you know him?

 

ANAIS. He was my lover, like most American men born in the 30s.

 

FLAVIN. But Ribo had little or no experience with women, due to his illness.

 

JIMMY JAY. Maybe that’s what he told you! Men are just lying dogs!

 

ANAIS. He was in the Navy, and the Navy was in me, like molecules in your light saber, Dan Flavin. We used to see him nightly on the docks and wonder who would be the first to explore the crevices, the edges, the curls of his body.

 

FLAVIN. Some say that I am the greatest American artist, but in my heart, I know I am but a stand-in for my more talented twin.

 

ANAIS. Elvis says the same, Elvis Presley.

 

FLAVIN. Twins lie conjoined inside each other, like chrysanthemum stalks bundled for market.

 

ANAIS. Twins and triplets were my meat, when I walked Navy Pier. Your brother was strong man, Matrix artist. His little legs and arms were nothing, weak, flapping like flypaper, but perhaps in contrast, his qu’est-ce-que c’est, his Poteau was vast, like the north pole, Dan Flavin. With many penguins around it to give it noble strength and intensity, like a hundred stalks of mums bundled together for market.

 

FLAVIN. Well, I’ll be!

 

ANAIS. Flash that light in my eyes, make me feel even a thousandth part the dazzle I felt with your dead twin boy. If that is polio, every man in America needs it.

 

FLAVIN.   OK, you’re from France?

 

ANAIS. Born under the Seine.

 

FLAVIN. Do you know Niki de Saint-Phalle?

 

ANAIS. Tell me more about Ribo, the man who destroyed me.

 

FLAVIN. Top scientists from the Berkeley Biochemistry department, and the physics department, arrive at eight pm to combine their flasks of atomic miasma. From the four corners of the earth they come, with crystal tubes open at one end.

 

ANAIS. I see, for the ultimate cocktail.

 

FLAVIN. From the Nobel Prize of Sweden, I bring you Stephen Hawking, walking towards us before his diagnosis, bringing with him the beaker of DNA he invented.

 

[Enter JIMMY JAY.]

 

ANAIS NIN. That is Stephen Hawking?

 

FLAVIN. Wait—that’s the Matrix janitor!

 

JIMMY JAY. Trapped in a web of Berkeley lies, I saw me a vision. I say, a vision to rival that of Oppenheimer and Edward Teller, the Berkeley men who brought forth the atom bomb. I tell you this, I, Jimmy Jay of Georgia!

 

ANAIS. He’s a strong, handsome man but he’s been through [pause] très ordeal.

 

FLAVIN. Tonight is the night! [To JIMMY JAY.] Where’s that beaker of DNA?

 

JIMMY JAY. Here it is, like alphabet soup of the soul.

 

FLAVIN. Green rays of fluorescent light penetrate the concrete hulk of the museum.

 

JIMMY JAY. And I have seen—look, from the forest floor, the animals bringing gifts of acorns and squash—the healthy food from which riboflavin is derived.

 

ANAIS NIN. From cold Canada comes the media theorist Marshall McLuhan,

 

[Enter McLUHAN.]

 

Author of The medium is the Massage!

 

JIMMY JAY. He brings with him large cup of maple syrup and Canadian Club.

 

FLAVIN. Pour it into my beaker, McLuhan, hurry do, and don’t be stingy, baby.

 

McLUHAN. The tedium is the tiramisu.

 

FLAVIN. Step back, it’s about to blow!

 

McLUHAN. Rub it on the rear view mirror.

 

FLAVIN. Like this?

 

McLUHAN. We will consult the modern day gods of speed and resurrection.

 

JIMMY JAY. I have spent forty days and forty nights in that car, and have been vouchsafed a revelation.

 

McLUHAN. The mirror is the mirage.

 

FLAVIN. What was once hot is now cool.

 

McLUHAN. The garish is the garage.

 

[Enter LADY JAY.]

 

LADY JAY (to her husband). There you are, little rascal! Where have you been? [As he tries to explain.] Never mind, I know, you were at the salad bar, see I know your little temptations.

 

JIMMY JAY (slowly). Yes. I was at—the salad bar, Lady Jay.

 

LADY JAY. You don’t fool me with your disappearing act. Now hush up, this man is about to invent a new vitamin.

 

JIMMY JAY. I saw it in a vision, at the salad bar.

 

McLUHAN. The Manon is the mayonnaise.

 

JIMMY JAY. The Manon is the mayonnaise.

 

[Enter MAY TRIX.]

 

MAY. Dan Flavin, bad boy, you cracked up your car to give your curator a scare. Is that the riboflavin?

 

ANAIS NIN. It needed a woman’s touch. A woman with experience—and a woman with innocence. A curator’s naivete.

 

FLAVIN. Yes, it is ready.

 

MAY (looking around). But I am missing a man. The Apollo of our day, with the cool, mechanical voice of the 70s.

 

JIMMY JAY. I saw him at the salad bar. Look, here he comes now, in my vision.

 

[Enter BOB BISHOP of the BERKELEY BARB.]

 

BOB. Were you missing me, May Trix, or the Gordon Lightfoot of your imagination?

 

[Enter GORDON LIGHTFOOT.]

 

ANAIS. He is Gordon Lightfoot—the John the Baptist of Riboflavin.

 

McLUHAN. Sing, Canadian brother, sing.

 

MAY TRIX (to BOB). Don’t ask me who I miss! Just as my dreams of a woman-led Matrix come true. Gordon! I’m here.

 

BOB. “The eternal cycle of starting at the beginning.”

 

GORDON LIGHTFOOT. Hi everyone, I’m Gordon Lightfoot from Canada. “If you could read my mind, love, what a tale my thoughts would tell.
Just like a paperback novel, the kind the drugstores sell.
In a castle dark, or a fortress strong, with chains upon my feet, but for now, love, ket’s be real.
I never thought I would feel this way, but I’ve got to say that I just can’t take it.
I don’t know where we went wrong, but the feeling’s gone, and I just can’t get it back.

 

[Enter KEVIN KILLIAN.]

 

KEVIN KILLIAN. What about me? I had a vision of an active, committed poets’ theater that would change the world. And yet it still seems to be 1972!

 

DAN FLAVIN (taking center stage, spreading his arms wide, palms outstretched.) Ladies and gentlemen, behold, I give you riboflavin!

 

[END.]

 

N Ear Flowers Re Fre/nd: A Poets’ Play

DRAMATIS PERSONAE

Johan Gottschalk Wallerious: Swedish chemist, mineralogist
Someone said: singer, poet, desire, child, brute, amateur
Else: Else, historical, machinic
Coltrane: philosopher
I Am (in Brooklyn, (in Berlin: a body, a vector in space, a given place
Siri: Siri
Heriberto Yepez: Heriberto Yepez
Charlotte Wolff: scientist, radical sexologist, chirologist, philosopher, wearer of men’s clothes, psychologist of gesture, lesbian identified
Via Alev Ersan: via the writer Alev Ersan, on Facebook
Public Space: Public Space
Sheena Easton: Sheena Easton
It: It
June Jordan: June Jordan
Fassbinder: Fassbinder
Minor Appearances: Orgy, Aristotle

ACT I

Johan Gottschalk Wallerious:
Else requires someone else
Someone said, to become someone else
Requires someone else
Electrically, unmeasured
Other-ness, someone said
An Allotrope of Else
Someone said, A Loosening Ampersand
Throbbing with amperes
& a bromo blue
Citi sign, someone said
Electrically To Become Someone
Else requires some structured bonds
Someone said, more & more
In a less fixed phosphorous
Someone said, Ore.

Else:
Desiring machines
some other means.

Someone said:
Sheena Easton
for example. She
Sheena Easton
is a machine
Sheena Easton
desiring some
other means.
Bromo blue. 
Watermelon red.
Wallerious serious.
I love that color.

Else:
If it moves
it’s alive.
If it’s alive
this time
but not
moving it’s
mourning.
If it’s alive
this time
and refusing
to mourn
or move it’s
probably
this time
watching
Netflix &
performing
adorability.

Someone said:
Until branded
as vernacular
speech acts, the band
in me
in every conversation
in them, yeah yeah yeah
a long-fingered tool
for climbing is, until branded
Elsewhere, a hand since
from wing or paw
whose thumbing
is the first machine,
whose thumbing
is this asks the / the
second machine

Else:
repeat the sentence
increasingly brutal
movement to dethrall.
Else’s hard intel stare.
Core. Else’s black substrate.
Core. Else under a chair lost.
Manufactured in
other country it
no longer exists
save for the objects
made in said
other country.

Someone said:
Old English thūma; related to Old Saxon
thūma, Old High German thūmo,
Old Norse thumall, thumb of a glove
from Latin tumēre, to swell.

Orgy:
Into armpit
or palm.

Wallerious:
Yeah yeah yeah
As if homophony
Wasn’t the easiest
Hard drive. More
materially, Africa.
“The granary of Empire.”
1.08 billion palms
Holding high
Capacitance Coltan.
“The ore of Empire.”

Else:
Siri, where does Coltan come from?

Siri:
Let me check that…
This might answer
your question: Collective information
for US births. Rank: 65th. Fraction:
1 in 318 people. Number: 6318 people per year.

Else:
Siri, what is Coltan.

Siri:
Would you like me to search the web for “Cole train”?

Wallerious:

Coltan, short for
Columbite-tantalite
Known industrially
As tantalite.

Someone said:
You touch the glass with yr machine.
You touch the machine with yr machine.
Glass architecture in a glass palm.
The one surfacing there, touching there.
The one swiping there, pinching there.
You touch the glass with your ear.
You make a call, out from that flesh there.

Else:
Desiring machines
by other means. In other
country. Siri,
what is the space
behind the knee?

Siri:
What is Dancoe? Let me think…
Here’s what I found: Dana Holding Company (DAN)
Latest trades: DAN $20.95 NYE.

Wallerious:
The popliteal space?

Coltrane:
Namelessl
y informatio
n swells.

Sheena Easton:
Sheena Easton.

ACT II

SCREEN 1:

I Am (in Brooklyn:
I realize, and it is not without irony, that I tell stories. I tell a certain kind of story in response to which one reaction I have witnessed is repulsion a response perhaps to what is felt as my attack on the lush ground that ‘story’ is thought to occupy.

When I tell a story it is as though I am interrupting. The room. Something is always happening. For example a sudden repulsion that seems to augur logic. I trust the interruption. I want to tell you now, not later. It won’t matter anymore. It may never again matter. I…

I am (in Berlin:
Here is a story that comes after an attack. Or rather footage of an attack. What exactly is the story when there is an attack in a public space. What exactly is the story when women are not allowed in public space. Rather than footage what was in the machine was: a double story.

Let me explain.

There was the violence of the attack and violence of the machine recording the attack and the machines which transmitted the recording of the attack and the machines which downloaded the act with ease, with a swipe of a thumb, a gesture, automated. This was all after the fact. The story begins before this. What was in the machine was. The image bundles affect, which is duplicated, doubled, becomes story, gothic. I stood up in my apartment, gagged.

My story begins with a machine in a country nowhere near the country where the footage was taken. Let me explain. I am in a country which is a story that turns me inside out, violently, suddenly nowhere and nowhere nearly as the violence which a body holding a machine witnesses, nearly commits, let alone the body suffering the fact of attack. I broke into a sweat. No lush ground. No story. No nearly, nowhere. Refuse to let the image empty you. What was in the machine was. It’s telling.

Public Space:
A bromo
blue glow
brought
to you
by Citi.

Charlotte Wolf:
Gesture of a Holding Recording Device
Gesture of a Hollow Recording Device
Gesture of a Holding Recording Device Just Above One’s Head
Gesture of a Holding Recording Device In Front of Your Head
Gesture of a Hollow Head That is Nonetheless Extremely Heavy
Gesture of a Holding Recording Device At One’s Side, Inconspicuously
Gestures and Gesticulations of Fingers as Eyes
Gesture of a Holding Recording Device Beyond One’s Head While Running Forward
Gesture of a Hollow Recording

Coltrane:
Reconstructin
g tellin
g make
s a dislocatio
n machin
e.

I Am (in Brooklyn:
Telling:
Insides without outsides.
Rudely formed viscera, unsheathed.
Precious, monstrous, starkly lush.

Coltrane:
Deser
t and tundr
a guid
e
gilde
d ancien
t wor
d.

Heriberto Yepez and Else (together):
The text will become the history of the loss of our body.
The loss will become the history of the text of our body.

I Am (in Brooklyn:
Stories are locative adverbs.
I don’t desire a visit.

Else:
Media visits
What upon us.

Someone said:
She. She was a visitor. She
Was a visitor. She was a
visitor. She was a visitor.

Else:
Two tents.

I Am (in Brooklyn:
This is an attempt at never visiting.
Press: “travel”
Lift: “migrate”

Charlotte Wolf:
Gesture of Pressing Against Travel
Gesture of Trying To Stay Put
Gesture of Failing the Gestures

Public Space:
Where you stand.
She is not a visitor.
Where you stand still.
Where you are (not) visited.

Else:
M…mourning
strange vibrations
marking these
unremarkable
leftover signals

Someone singing:
Tell me why is it so.
Don’t wanna let you go.

Coltrane:
Okay. Hold o
n for jus
t a…!
This interrupte
d line wants t
o finish bu
t can’t. Th
e animal, ever
y time it trie
s to complet
e it, or disentangl
e itself eviscerate
s further int
o.

Public Space:
Already? At the start
a space between
one or more sentences
gathered, a violence
named
by space.

Sheena Easton:
Sheena Easton.

SCREEN 2:

Someone said:
IT makes more sense
IT holds as if it were a breath
IT the very moment
IT has nothing to project protect
IT becomes extreme weather

IT:
IT suggests terrible things happening
after near escape, off the page,
in this unfriendly helicopter sky.

Someone (singing):
Up up and away
my beautiful, my beautiful.
Up up and away
my beautiful, my beautiful.
Up up and away
and away, way up HIGH
my beautiful, my beautiful.

Heriberto Yepez:
We suspected
mimesis doubled
rendered violence
visibly redundant
& so we painted
cockpit windshields
on fallen drones.

Charlotte Wolf:
Gesture of Removing Drones from the Sphere of Metaphysics!
Gesture of Removing Drones from the Logic of Speculative Finance!

Siri:
We would like to use your location.

Else:
Your thumbs know where the keys are.
It doesn’t take long to adjust.

Someone said:
Even if we are somewhere else.

Else:
As in a place other than where we desire
the footage to record our movements here.

Public Space:
A statue of a protester.
An archived space. An image
full of gestures. A public space
generating images. A public
full of gestures. An image
full of images. A film
of a still image of a protester. A film
of a still image of a
protester in public space
breaking allotropically
into a run, a fist or feint or
immanently adjacent
to image or film, the edge
in an image or screen or page
or square, an opening there
that is NOT a tear, a duct
at the base of a pear.

Heriberto Yepez:
Neo-remembering. Never mind for now: a 4 cornered body crossed by a three pointed star
tries to exceed its surface into the atmosphere by excreting.
It wants. IT historicizes herself anticipating the tragedy of submission, our sticky times.

IT:
Reaching down while getting up
subject to being fucked
by that broken head (god)
Rough and crumble over figure
Off the page IT leaves
Violent diaphanous
Fatherless imprint

Else:
IT can’t, and turns back up and
back into itself.

Heriberto Yépez:
Under power
Under powered
Under powdered

Else:
“Good upload man”

SCREEN 3:

I Am (in Brooklyn:
Walking around
peacefully enough but
taken with a persistant
incurable want.
I am attempting to leave
the never born child
behind.

Coltrane:
No, don’t cry ou
t with it! Don’
t make the imp-
recise deman
d: IT to
o wants t
o exis
t.

[exits]

I Am (in Brooklyn:
I cut off the head your encephalitic
squirming for you!
[humming tune of “Like a Virgin,”
spasmodic gestures approximating
dancing, sings]
Like an earthworm
Touched for the…

Coltrane:
[re-enters]
Stop tryin
g. To exis
t. Ther
e is onl
y squir
m o
n
th
e wa
y
t
o l
o
v
e.

I Am (in Brooklyn:
Losing the want
Though it’s good to have somewhere clean to stay
Eat and Touch more than a square foot is better,
Especially nice for one to be
Map-able Find-able Bury-able

Public Space:
The houses poorly ventilated, overcrowded,
have no chimney. In Jalazone, a Palestinian refugee camp,
dampness is present in 72.5% of the houses,
50.5% have mold, 37% have leaks, and only 41.5% were
exposed to the sun. In Jalazone, 61% of the households
have 3-5 people to a room, while 16.5% of the households
have over 5 people to a room.

ACT III

SCREEN 1:

Via Alev Ersan:
“Dear friends, currently the mainstream global media is keeping an eye on Taksim, Istanbul. Thus, the police forces have backed off and they have remarkably scaled down the number of attacks against the protesters. However, in the meantime the police terror in Ankara as it is now is on a much larger scale compared to the very beginning of Istanbul attacks. Tear gas is relentlessly being thrown inside apartments, people are suppressed by plastic bullets, illegal custody, and physical assault. Things have escalated quickly and the scale of these attacks is rapidly increasing. We need to make benefit of social media once again to show the world what’s going on in Ankara right now. Here is a message from the people of Ankara: ‘We have supported the protesters of Istanbul from the beginning, and now it is your turn to support us and the rest of Turkey. This resistance is clearly not limited to Istanbul, it has taken over all of the country. The festive atmosphere in Istanbul is just a trick to fool global media and soothe off the masses. Nothing has been accomplished yet and things have just started actually.'”

Else:
Place. As smoke and mirror.

June Jordan:
[Watching television, or in a television frame]
We USAmericans, United Statesians, USonians: love our Arabs and Muslims in the form of democratic youth, so much we are willing to watch them be slaughtered, to watch our premieres meet in gilded frames.

Else:
Who controls the smoke controls the mirrors.
Who controls the mirrors is SMOKING.

Coltrane:
What. Yo
u want m
e to say som
e thing abou
t globalizatio
n. Maybe on
e would wan
t it, if on
e hadn’t gotte
n it. To be know
n. Worl
d Recognitio
n.

I Am (in Berlin:
It’s hot. I sign off all my emails with the phrase It’s hot here. The emails I receive from friends in Brooklyn end with same phrase. It’s hot here. The emails I receive from friends in Rio end with the same phrase. It’s hot here. The emails I receive from friends in Paris end with the same phrase. It’s hot here. The emails I receive from friends in Morocco end with the same phrase. It’s hot here. The emails I receive from friends in Sweden end with the same phrase. It’s hot here. It’s hot here and the windows are open. The windows of all the neighbors in the courtyard are open and we move around with few clothes, we move around slowly wearing few clothes. Nearly everyone sees everyone else in a Berlin hinterhof. Nearly everyone sees everyone else in apartment buildings that face other apartment buildings. There is rarely any sun in Berlin and rarely are curtains needed. The neighbor across from me moves slowly through the room. We have seen each other over the years numerous times through the curtainless windows. All the neighbors have seen each other numerous times. We move together slowly and we see each other.

Charlotte Wolf:
Gesture of Sight
Gesture of Sight Among Other Gestures
Gesture of a Body Next Door Felt in the Wood of the Floorboards
Gestures Conditioned by Distinctions Between Public and Private Space

I Am (in Berlin:
The other is there, right across the air, the hinterhof. The crows on rooftops throw their voices into it and revel in the echo—hopping sideways, gleefully! Nearly deranged! As all crows are, all over the world, perhaps because for them there is no—

Charlotte Wolff:
Gesture of Delirious Harley-Rider-ish Sound in Order to Break Free From.

I Am (in Brooklyn:
Hearing from the front and back. I look to the harbor and hear the ocean. I look to ocean and hear the helicopters. Rhomb lines for airplane. Just Above My Head. I smell jet fuel. Craving.

Charlotte Wolff:
Gestures of Crows for Whom All Space is Public Space.

Heriberto Yepez:
Crow Gestus: Gesture of making big USAmerican noise without sound.

Else:
Beep. Double
Beep. Beep double
Beep. Double

I Am (in Berlin):
It’s hot here. The windows are open. Waist high. Last night a voice in the courtyard cried out, a pleasure so complete the pitch of it was genderless and everyone, in all the windows, was turned on, although the lights stayed off. Squares of open air. An image open, emptied. Architecturally intimacy occurs. We have seen each other but not recognized each other. We have not recognized that we have seen each other but we know this recognition exists, unrecognized, when we meet each other in the treppenhaus, the stairways. Here there is also air between our bodies, but less.

Fassbinder:
Ja Ja Ja
in Agnst Essen
Seele Auf
I wanted most all of it shot in courtyards
and stairways
and doorways
leading to hallways—

Charlotte Wolf:
Architectures of Recognition Gestures
Gestures of Public Touching
Overcrowding Gestures
Orgy Gesture

June Jordan:
Western expansion camps. Refugee cramps.

I Am (in Brooklyn:
between a
door and a
front door

Fassbinder:
where Ali
and Emmi
meet in a doorway
vestibule
a transitional…

June Jordan:
But not provisional
structure the outside
Impositional architectures
Racing bodies
Merging bodies
Orgy bodies
The rooftops

Coltrane:
Architectura
l ai
r.

Else:
The internet?

Someone said:
Orgies, intafadas and riots!
They must take place
In physical space.

Orgy:
If a staircase, then
carefully.

Someone said:
Right. Carefully.
There is no
tyranny of
recognition, no
way to erase
the final
distance
between bodies.

Orgy:
Step by step.
Full of objects
Of outwardness.

Via Alev Ersan:
A space however
Small for politics.
A failed anagram.
An ark.

June Jordan:
Askar
Camp #1
Jenin

SCREEN 2:

Else:
When you look up ‘gestures of location’ on Google you are directed into an Apple development site on Gesture Recognizers. Gesture Recognizers interpret touches to determine whether they correspond to a specific gesture, such as a swipe, pinch, or rotation. If they recognize their assigned gesture, they send an action message to a target object.

I Am (in Brooklyn:
They look more forgotten each time I see them. There is a man I feel like I am friends with. He must be Jewish or Arab or Armenian does it matter which? Wait…we were at “A Gesture of Location” or Gestures of Location or. I don’t know his name but I have known him for all the years that I have lived in my neighborhood. Those years a teenager between us: 17 or 18…year old teenager trans person yesterday hacked to death. My unnamed friend in Brooklyn is a cortortionist. He can bend the back of his neck so that his head is at 90 degrees.

Wallerious:
Maybe that is not so hard.

I Am (in Brooklyn:
I watched him like this for 10 years. Because he sat on my stoop. I could tell he liked me, felt kinship with me. Maybe this means he is Jewish or just relieved to not be put out to the dogs. One day after ten years he looked at me and he was standing up straight. I smiled at him until he recognized me. Today I saw him on the train. We nodded to each other. When he got off the train he went back to being hunched over, in 90 degrees.

Else:
Gestures feel real
she read, but only
when her
hand opened,
when finger and
thumb separating
widened image
to text.

Coltrane:
A relatio
n that i
s neithe
r one no
r two.

Someone said:
Flow, from one to each’s other.
Shift, from thinking to knowing.

Sheena Easton:
Sheena Easton.

Aristotle:
Recognition is as augury for catastrophic
Wreckage.
A beautiful contraction, a perfect
Cleave.

Someone said:
Recognition denied or disabled.
Unclear weather. I recognize this.
Thunder precedes. Like this.
Flow. Shift. From cathexis to

Heriberto Yepez:
Uninstalling the blind
Stupid trilogy. Anti-
Oedipal yes, but
Let’s goes further,
Condemns the binary
And the 4 winds.

Else:
The last episode brought closure and still managed to stay open-ended.

June Jordan:
“Beach Camp”

SCREEN 3:

I Am (in Berlin:
Something someone said about a partial way of looking.
Lines, electrodes, an anti-reflective coating it alone.
Tap to zoom in on king.

I am (in Berlin) holding an object, an iPhone, the screen of which functions by sensing anything having a dielectric different from air. A kind of death, or experience of death, the sudden fact that difference is gone. I was in the air when my father died. I was high up, 30,000 feet, 35,000. I was in the air and my route in the air was figured by, ironically, “ground speed.” The screen on the back of the seat in front of me was roughly the size of the head resting against the seat. Flight status map. Africa a tan desert. Iceland, white. The Labrador Sea: a kind of rippled digital basin. Dimension on a low-res flat screen seems always like sand to be collapsing. “Local time at origin.” The places we travel to in order to leave them. A head winds. Distances: the minute you have a destination you arrive. I am (in Berlin) trying to locate where my body was when my father died, since where we were when a thing happened was the memory of the thing that happened. I arrived when I found out in New York, and got home, and turned on my iPhone with a swipe of my thumb, reading the email which was written by my mother from a coast across from the coast where I had arrived, which is not where my father died. That was my thought at that time in the narrative, where was I at that time in the narrative, now that I am (in Berlin) recalling this. Without location narrative posits it, sentence by sentence. Above somewhere named Gaspe. Somewhere above No. Only later on a phone with a circuit containing a mineral named by a Swedish chemist and mined in the Congo did a message arrive from another sentence, which was opened solely with the movement of a sentence, its intimate muscles, which are the only muscles in a sentence that move the sentence. Conflict minerals us. Somewhere above Dingwall. The sentence across a page vibrates. You could say a gesture also involves when it is finished dying. Else this high capacitance in a small volume, a river over time finds its way into a circuit small enough to allow live streaming. It won’t take long to adjust. Somewhere above Riviere-de-la-Chaloupe, Baie-du-Renard, Cap-aux-Meules. Airlines always use butt-ugly fonts. I remember that sentence, thinking that. This is a view from seat 42A, from a sentence folded in a seat among other sentences on an Irish airline with a Gaelic name somewhere above Dingwall, which is nowhere near Ireland.

Charlotte Wolff:
Gestarchitecture of Invisible Strings.
Gestarchitecture of Immigration.

I Am (in Berlin:
The flight attendants on either aisle end at take off, at the origin, synchronized. One hand positioned over a face and another behind the head. Jerk to release oxygen. During the prerecorded preflight safety instructions my lips moved with the recording. I am always from the start attendant. Invisibly the machine we become we are synced to. Always, from the start, he said again, narratively. Your thumb suddenly white, like Iceland. Else this high capacitance for an electrical charge, a circuit small enough to resist breathing. The body which is not a sentence in a ritual reduced to ashes, mailed to other bodies who stand there, holding them in a posture that, like any fixed position, grief included, interrupts gesture, freezes it, violently, he said again.

Charlotte Wolff:
Living Gesture of Poses Opposed to Any Fixed Posture.

I Am (in Berlin:
The email recorded the passing of a circuit small enough to prevent grieving.

June Jordan:
Rafah
Beit Jibrim

I Am (in Berlin:
The use of the word is proof that literal affirmation neutralizes dissent: economy class. The space between bodies, increasingly infinitesimal. Within inches of every sense an ad. If we are intensely mindful in such a space not to touch anyone, even at the elbows, it is because discomfort stemming from enforced proximity extinguishes any notion the larger sentence might be, with such touch, suddenly countered, changed.

Coltrane:
Distanc
e the minut
e you hav
e a destinatio
n you arriv
e

I Am (in Berlin:
Willingly move beyond this sentence in solidarity.

IT:
where
an ethics
appears. Avant
Vanguard. All
investments subject
also to read as if
risk, both to hold
what we know as fragile
and to have that,
brokered, ingestured
with windshield,
bad porn, visibility
broken global shatterproof
materials this
common form
to struggles, despite
borders, and the
archives border
beyond a sweetness
the sunlit fur
on the backs of
bees, hidden there
it will win us
over it will
soften us with us

Siri:
I am slurring in a soft warehouse.

Heriberto Yepez:
What is a repeat—a repetition that is not conservative, conservatizing, that bleeds new life—how to name it—close to that falling storm. Sheena Easton, save us.

Sheena Easton:
Sheena Easton.

June Jordan:
Balata
Shu’fat
Nusier

I Am (in Berlin:
Sentences willingly in solidarity move beyond this.

I Am (in Brooklyn:
(spasmodically dancing again)
But the Spring…is physical, it is
difficulty, not death. Broken
trees lost branches. Cold air at my bottom
while breasts hot, humid. Slow magnolias
Bright necessity alive—shortened, stumped.
Pushing force of
collective energy out
must make
side branches.