Maggie ~ Part One of Three

Russell Lee(Maggie enters the playing area slowly — someone peacefully yet intensely lost in thought. In her hand, she carries two dog leads. She reaches the centre of the stage, where almost as an afterthought, she remembers and searches off into the horizon. Maggie whistles expertly, and a moment of anxiety arises, which she suppresses immediately. It is now she notices the audience and smiles a shy look before speaking directly to them.)

Maggie: Mother once said that wonder should be like Christmas decorations or playing cards — it should come out only at appropriate times. In spite of this sentiment, which I never fully accepted, I have been wondering lately about humankind. We hear so many stories concerning noble, heroic folk but is that truly an accurate representation of our species? Are we always so honourable and fair?

(Maggie pauses to whistle into the distance once more.)

My thing is dogs. I have never mixed well with people so have remained apart mostly. ‘Stick with the dogs,’ I remind myself and the loyalty I expect will return in kind.

(Maggie looks down at her muddy boots and makes a small show of cleaning them off.)

I love taking my girls our for a run in the fields but it is spring. Forget renewal, and the majesty of rebirth — all the poetic nonsense. Spring means mud — more than you can bear. Always makes such a terrible mess in the house.

(Maggie stops fussing with her boots.)

As I watch my girls till the empty fields with their racing paws, they raise ghosts along with the occasional jackrabbit. Easter is coming and that will make me think of family. Even though it’s been years since the girls and I celebrated a meaningful holiday together, it still takes me back. We’re all scattered now, across the country so it’s not always convenient to get together. They have their own lives now and I was no different with my mother — worse perhaps but I was quite unprepared for marriage. I didn’t watch much television or see many movies, you see so I had what would be called a rather narrow view of the world. Things are different now, of course and I realize today that if my life had been like a television program, I would have been the one who cleared-up after the pigs and we called ourselves a family. I know animals — understand?

(Maggie call for her dogs again.)

If Mother were a dog it would have been a chow — she was fattish, fiercely loyal but easily confused by the expectations of responsibility for her position at the head of the pack. That was Mother in a nutshell — she didn’t have the guts to do it herself, but then attacked you for being uncertain. I had little support in my early life so I drew from animals, you see and what could be learned from their true natures. Cat or dog — what’s the difference? One is waiting, the other is not. With cats, it’s either love or hate; that endless game of approval and disapproval they’re so fond of. Cats take what they want and off they go. With dogs? Loyalty, all the way. I am loyal that way, like my dogs. This is the animal inheritance accepted at my wedding — dominion and the legacy of slavery that comes from following my husband’s impression of God’s word. My husband also gave me my first dog and I called her Sasha. What a beautiful Irish setter she was, and I fell in love with her instantly but honestly? The most surprising things was that I’d actually been given a gift. Looking back, I think my husband was the type of man who would give me things in his mind and I believe he was often very generous in his imagination but then he would take credit for it as if he’d actually given me the present he’d only thought about. It was a confusing marriage and I spent most of it not moving, waiting for his approval. Reflecting on it leaves me feeling rather baffled, though that is nothing new.

(Maggie calls to the dogs, promising treats if they return.)

More often now, my loneliness sends my mind drifting out upon the sea of time, where it flows into the undertow of the past, pulling me to places where I am dared to remember. My memories are mostly a collection of facts best justifying a lot of foolish mistakes and what is slowly surfacing from these reflections is how utterly blind I’ve been. How could I have passed a pathetic existence, ruined by violence, with worry as my only shield? Who can be blamed for that? I took few risks in life and received little in return. Wisdom doesn’t automatically accompany old age and like my mother, any attempt I made to build a family ended in a failure for reasons I couldn’t see at the time. I never knew to ask for help. When did I stop praying? When did I stop asking God to listen and prevail?

(Maggie paces slowly.)

It was after my first communion but before the rage. Rage — you can ask me anything about that. Gentle as a mother’s caress, then roaring up to burn away love and patience. Bet I know as much as anyone could about that. The Bible tells us that inside the four walls of a home, Christian values are best cultivated. Honesty, patience, love of neighbour but nothing sears a family together like rage. Only problem is — too much and eventually you stop fighting back. ‘Don’t be so unreasonable!’ he would yell at me. ‘It shows how stupid you are!’

(Maggie rubs her eyes, as if trying to dissolve something.)

Bad memories. Sometimes on will come along and rip the breath from my lungs.

(Maggie composes herself.)

When I first met my husband, I thought it was a case of animal attraction. The instinctive pull of two separate forces. I saw myself through his eyes and the walls fell. ‘Think of Frank Sinatra,’ he whispered to me at a church dance. ‘I’m just like him.’ If I’d been raised to have my wits about me, I would have realized he was more the last stop on the bus but we are so often at our most desperate when reaping overdue rewards. I was lonely even then and he sent some big plans in my direction — plans for a future I could have barely imagined. He was older and understood the ‘Bigger Picture,’ with an eye for the finer things in life. He seemed loaded with insights into how the world worked and he promised this would give us that extra edge for the finer things in life. He must have seen me as someone who was dying for structure — limp, passive and pretty, with years of slack to give and no aggressive ego to tame. To a certain type of man, a married woman is a hothouse bloom, delicate and in need of careful maintenance. The more precise the conditions of her care, the sweeter the scent of her bloom and no word wets a woman like ‘forever.’

(Maggie calls to the dogs, saying she is getting tired.)

My husband had options — lots of them and it used to make me nervous, all those other women buzzing around. In the end, he chose me and it was my youth — where space seemed open and fine and I revelled in the sense of escaping to something more than I could ever hope to find watching my own horrible family age. He kissed me that night at the dance. A hard, deep kiss that smeared my Woolworths five-and-dime lipstick. Actually, there was more that a kiss but I never speak about that. What did Mother say? ‘Some secrets live.’ I guess that’s the way it goes. As far as ‘sex,’ I’d been given the impression there was more behind it all but that wasn’t important anyway Mother assured me. ‘Love, honour and obey.’ That’s what counted and Leonard was right there to train me along the many steps of my domestication.

(Maggie laughs quietly to herself.)

That feeling doesn’t last long — the one of listening to the radio and thinking every love song is about you. Living it was supposed to be what we were doing — skilled living, where we understood the rules of the game and made them work for us. For that to have happened, Leonard had to remain the same as on the night we met, then grown and matured like a dance hall crooner — shy at first, respectful of the band that lead his pure, clear voice to greater effect but then growing in confidence, until he became a roustabout cowboy, flying over the notes of the music, leaving the band panting to catch-up! My own Frank Sinatra.

(Maggie chuckles to herself.)

If this were an ideal world, the music would never have stopped but early on in our marriage, I became this sputtering, fussing Edith Bunker kind of wife and I hated myself but didn’t know what else to do. You see, my husband could never have respect for anyone who respected him. That was his problem. He demanded loyalty as a condition of his affection but once he had it? He’d turn and that’s why I love my dogs.


{Photograph by Russell Lee}



Fresh Poetry ~ “Sons of Manifested Power”

Spin Art by KungfumanSpin. 
In this hour of quintessential thinking
the wheel of revolution spins; 
we fasten aboard tightly. 
Questions abound, 
finally come answers through
a visual language, 
a social language — this delight in belief substituted 
for silence. 
These types are everywhere but a minority.
Sequence versus an ardent will is the true 
nature of history
in anticipation of revealed chronology;
to then write
a catalogue of that virulent essence,
inviting submissions in cipher,
accepting only excerpts where
humanity shines through;
enjoying the pressure of
a golden flow which propels 
unseen influence:
the puzzles of antiquity.
This is the power they seek.
To understand celebrity one must consider unlimited 
It is a different landscape; a metaphor for renewal:
the sun is matter &
the sun is spirit,
an old fan
so to speak. 
The signals we pay attention to are
part of some illogical fallacy
the hungry curiosity of an onlooker,
the forth wall principle
people love that stuff;
turned to mind-numbing entertainment, deliberately seeking to discredit  —
the anticipation of a voyeur
lies behind much of what is 
considered magic.
The face of evil shifts:
it calculates salary, bonuses, prerequisites, above-market interest;
charities are frauds; 
wolves lie murdered, you might say replaced,
bullied from the temple
to paint
the theory that art is made 
viable once it has entered the marketplace,
geographically metaphysical
gold buys & the power of 
dollars blessing the arms,
the apocalyptic cycle,
all those swampy little tanks
memorizing a new philosophy after it appears 
they all survived; something
sacred to Hathor but retired from acting.
It is an enormous privilege  
aligning moral vision, 
a spirit of fear,
the dark aspect
known as foreshadowing.
Sci-fi skies mean more now than before.
Two spiritual elders,
just some dirty mystics from a secret society
walk into a bar:
a period of spiritual anarchy
Divided attitudes & implausible response—
we all answer to someone; a step-by-step formula,
the impossibility of remaining neutral 
to those in anguish of soul.
We are not the clothes we wear; we are not the television we watch. 
Nor the movies.
   * * * * * * * * * 
 Delmais AlainThere is tension in the air, but 
I shall fight this instinct to flee, if only 
to carve channels for
constant stimulation; 
the antidote to suppression, so effective for 
minimizing anxiety.
Leave them to poison & constant complaints; leave them
looking for a mantra, 
communing with Nature,
screaming abusive filth — paying the price of greed.
I read your mind: They say the ritual becomes too much so
talk about it then. Share your story with the essential nature for
self-discovery; present in Herculean challenges
with regards to the errors of collectivism; bash, mash, trash & thrash
the old razz: it could 
help someone else with 
the same trouble
put some of your meat on their bones.
Identify all belligerent forces.
the influence of unrecognized symbol,
permanent war, direct or proxy
never more potent than
when in a circle.
Catalogue all evil; struggle to identify forces which result in isolation; 
the infallibility of authority
identify it, 
suggest subtle remedy.
Pull out a camera, do anything
blame the victim’s
previous lack of compassion, 
the symbolism in music & films 
words & rhythm supported by the
echoes of an earlier age. You want to film this?
Mould a sort-of psychic filter 
from this vantage,
this hidden subplot, from the
more preventative: 
that’s the road back. 
Take it or leave it.
Be some rare breed
just trying to teach us a lesson; clarify the aspects of
sumptuous jewels,
thus the ability to continue 
size & involvement in essential enterprise;
varying adjustable agendas
work subliminally with an undeniable capability 
of feeding borrowed outrage directly 
the big pool of Unconscious clay. To tell you something for 
All that remains is the endless hum of the inevitable.
the power of cinema using wordless images, 
the neighbourhood of Immortals
fictional experience ground into the imagination;
a transposition of ego into honour
amazing nonsense for the mindless; irrelevant, balanced
emergence from the chaos;
a line swirling down the centre of yin & yang.
Money is transacted;
an empty coffee cup is tossed
into a trashcan.
Re-establish the integrity of this world:
science got the upper hand because 
magic does not always 
The law of eternal remedy
warped beyond recognition,
allegories bewilder & distract,
cause one to finger the beads,
to dress in a
crooked tyranny wig,
always cutting to some adventure
worldview established through 
task at hand;
identifying enemy forces as 
an elite mega-corporation
eroding the sense of good will 
sworn to avoid future conflict;
details from different cases weave 
in & out; inconsistencies are spotted 
poison leeched 
weeds yanked out 
more to the point:
Where have things gone so wrong?
{Spin Art by Kungfuman / Illustration by Delmais Alain}

Quotation from Joseph Campbell

Joan Halifax“The first step to the knowledge of the wonder and mystery of life is the recognition of the monstrous nature of the earthly human realm as well as its glory, the realization that this is just how it is and that it cannot and will not be changed. Those who think they know how the universe could be had they created it, without pain, without sorrow, without time, without death, are unfit for illumination.”
                                              ~ Joseph Campbell
{Photograph by Joan Halifax}