Requiem for the Dead [sample]
by Charles L. Mee
The high, thin music of a Vietnamese violin,
the piercing music played on only one or two strings.
Out of the darkness we see
a young man walking slowly downstage.
Gradually, we make out the ruined shell of an ancient building.
A torn and burnt-out metal Coke sign on a pole.
An immense shard of rusted steel
embedded in the dirt as though it had fallen from the sky
On the back wall,
a line of 6 bird cages horizontally across the wall
with live crows in them
An old man, extremely frail, lying in the dirt,
or lying on an iron bedstead, painted white,
his head resting on a balled up piece of clothing,
his eyes wide open.
The young man, Lars, approaches the bed, speaking:
It was he
who devised weights, numbers and measures;
who taught the Argives
how to know the heavenly signs.
He discovered how to measure terms and periods of the stars,
trustworthy signs for those who watched while others slept,
and for the shepherds of ships at sea
found out the turnings of the Bear
and the chilly setting of the Dogstar
he who revealed things that earlier were hidden.
[he stands next to the bed]
Let any man procure as much pleasure as he can
as he lives his daily life;
the morrow comes ever blind.
[he puts a damp cloth to the old man's forehead]
No one loves life so much as he who is growing old.
There is no pain like long life.
[A boy stands nearby holding a glass of ice chips.]
The best thing is a life free from sickness,
the power each day
to take hold of what one desires.
[Lars's wife, Mathilde, appears now near the bed,
or steps into the pool of light near the bed.]
A man is nothing but breath and shadow.
[The boy gives the old man some ice chips
as Lars continues to speak.]
The time of life is short,
and once a mortal is hidden beneath the earth
he lies there for all time.
A cup without a bottom is not put on the table.
No man was ever born
but he must suffer.
He buries his children and gets others in their place;
then dies himself.
And yet men bear it hard,
that only give dust to dust!
Life is a harvest that man must reap like ears of corn;
one grows, another falls.
Why should we moan at this,
the path of Nature that we must tread?
Time makes all things dark
and brings them to oblivion.
[the old man puts his head back,
closes his eyes,
First you will see a crop in flower,
then a round mulberry
that has turned red;
of Egyptian blackness
[The sweet violin music of Biber.
Suddenly, blue, blue skies are projected on the entire back wall
and on the side walls of the stage.
A young girl, age 10, runs out at full speed
and throws herself into the arms of Mathilde,
who holds her off the ground
and dances with her in her arms