Maxwell Bodenheim

1892 - 1954 / Mississippi / United States

Emotional Monologue

A man is sitting within the enigmatic turmoil of a railroad station. His face is narrow and young, and his nose, lips, and eyes carved to a Semitic sharpness, have been sundered by a bloodless catastrophe. A traveling-bag stands at his feet. Around him people are clutching farewells and shouting greetings. Within him a monologue addresses an empty theatre.

I am strangling emotions
And casting them into the seats
Of an empty theatre.
When my lifeless audience is complete,
The ghosts of former emotions
Will entertain their dead masters.
After each short act
A humorous ghost will fly through the audience,
Striking the limp hands into applause,
And between the acts
Sepulchral indifference will mingle
With the dust upon the backs of seats.
Upon the stage a melodrama
And a travesty will romp
Against a back-drop of fugitive resignation.
Climax and anti-climax
Will jilt each other and drift
Into a cheated insincerity.
Sometimes the lights will retire
While a shriek and laugh
Make a martyr of the darkness.
When the lights reappear
An actor-ghost will assure the audience
That nothing has happened save
The efforts of a fellow ghost
To capture life again.
In his role of usher
Another ghost will arrange
The lifeless limbs of the audience
Into postures of relief.
Sometimes a comedy will trip
The feet of an assassin,
Declaring that if ghosts were forced
To undergo a second death
Their thinness might become unbearable.
At other times indignant tragedy
Will banish an intruding farce,
Claiming that life should not retain
The luxury of another laugh.
The first act of the play will show
The owner of the theatre
Conversing with the ghost of a woman.
As unresponsive as stone
Solidly repelling a spectral world,
His words will keenly betray
The bloodless control of his features.
He will say: 'With slightly lowered shoulders,
Because of a knife sticking in my back,
I shall trifle with crowded highways,
Buying decorations
For an interrupted bridal-party.
This process will be unimportant
To the workshop of my mind
Where love and death are only
Colourless problems upon a chart.'
The ghost of the woman will say:
'Your mind is but the rebellious servant
Of sensitive emotions
And brings them clearer dominance.'
And what shall I mournfully answer?
I am strangling emotions
And casting them into the seats
Of an empty theatre.
140 Total read