The Last Conversation

The Last Visit-image

A Short Play

Two Characters: A Man, A Woman

The action takes place on a simply furnished stage, two chairs, a table on which is a lamp, two glasses and a bottle of wine, a coat rack. There is a door, stage right.

The light comes up, an old man slowly enters from the door stage right, wearing a long coat which he just as slowly takes off and hangs on the coatrack, then sits down in a chair contemplating the room he has entered and his life in it. He looks for a moment puzzled and sad, but picks up a book, then changes his mind, pours some wine into a glass, changes his mind again, picks up the book and begins to read, but, as the lights dim, he starts to nod off.

A beat-there is a knock at the door, a pause, the lights come up, the door opens. A woman enters, who hesitates, as she looks at him,

Woman, ‘I was here earlier, you weren’t, so I left.’

Man, (seeming to wake slowly, then rising from his chair and indicating with his arm to the chair opposite him) ‘Please, sit with me. I was hoping to avoid you, but half expecting you, so, since you’re here, you might as well be comfortable.’

Woman,  ‘Always the gentleman. Thank you.’ (she hangs her coat on the rack, then sits) ‘But don’t you think you should avoid these vain hopes of yours?’

Man,  ‘What are we without hope?’ “Would you like some wine?”

Woman, “What are you with it? And Yes, why not.”

Man, (As he pours her a glass.) ‘Do you always ask a question to a question? Are you Irish or perhaps Jewish.’

Woman,  “(Accepting the glass) Very intelligent people have inquiring minds, but I can’t be categorised in those terms.’ 

Man, ‘Ah, so I’m not intelligent?’

Woman,  ‘Let’s say you prefer not to face certain facts.’

Man, ‘My problem is I know too many facts. I’ve had a lifetime of facts. What would you know? In fact I don’t even know why you’re here and not somewhere else, so what do you have to say to that fact?’

Woman, ‘You know perfectly why I’m here. And what’s more you like me being here.’

Man, ‘You occupy my thoughts too much. I wish you would just go away. All my life I avoided you, but then there you are, at my door, walking in, like we have a relationship or something, and what do I do but let you walk right in. Now it’s every day I start to doze and there you are. When will it end?’

Woman, ‘Soon. But you find me charming, attractive, with an intelligence needed to balance you’re, oh, what to say, your limited appreciation of things.’

Man, ‘You have a high opinion of your attractions. I’m only limited by my experience of life.

Woman,  ‘Like everyone, you are an accumulation of struggles, victories and disappointments experienced in a sea of boredom.

Man, “I’d like to think my life was more than just that. 

Woman, (laughing) ‘Everyone likes to think that. All right, But am I wrong? You decided to live this life when you could have ended it. Has it really been worth the price you paid to live it out?’

Man, ‘I wonder, sometimes.  But life is to live’.

Woman, ‘Yes, and so is what comes next. Are you ready for it?’

Man, “Ready as the next man,  I guess.  But I read a curious thing in the news today that yesterday, – that no one in the world died yesterday- an astonishing thing. What can account for that? There was a headline  “Death took a holiday” or something.   Has dying outlived its usefulness?’

Woman, ‘At least you have still a sense of humour. I can be distracted, or just maybe I just took a break, or fell in love.’

Man, (laughing) ‘So you have feelings?  Are lonely? How can that be? And, frankly, I never thought of Death as a woman.

Woman, ‘Women give birth so it would make sense that a woman also brings death. Anyway we are talking of your perception. But is it reality?  

Man, ‘I never thought of Death as person, as a persona of either sex. But your logic is sound. I’ll give you that; but death falling in love, taking a break? 

Woman, ‘Why not?  

Man, ‘So Wilde was right, we always kill the thing we love?”

Woman,  ‘Well, isn’t that the teaching of most religions, that God is love, God loves what it creates, and so created us, and then destroys the life it created? 

Man “Some say, love your fate, love your life.’ 

Woman, “Can you love yours?’

Man, “We have to, or end up drowning in self-pity and depression, believe me, I know. But I woke up. Better to enjoy the moment as they say.”

Woman, “I don’t think you would like living in the moment if you were being tortured on the rack, That’s always been a problem with that idea. But you are enjoying the moment with me?”

Man, “I admit it. And you with me?”

Woman,  ‘Of course, there can’t be death without life, can there? It’s just as important to me as to you. I’ve had many conversations like this, an infinite number it seems, but your conversation attracted me more than most. You touched me in some way, I tried not to let that happen, but yesterday I decided to change the routine and see what happens.”

Man, ‘So, you? Are? 

Woman, “You seem to be drifting from reality again. You’ve known it since I came here, why pretend any longer?’

Man, “I don’t take reality very well, But why then did you change your routine yesterday.

Woman, “I don’t know. Boredom perhaps”

Man, “You get bored?”

Woman, “Wouldn’t you, you have no idea what it’s like …  An eternity of the same thing. 

Man, “That’s what’s wrong with immortality. No relief from life.’

Woman, ‘For you, yes, but I’m in a different place. For me, my relief comes from occasionally stepping into life.”

Man, “Like now?

Woman, “Why not?

Man, ‘The question to a question again.

Woman, “All right, yes, this is one of those interludes for me, a temporary shedding of my immortality, of the eternity of my existence, of being everywhere, just to experience a moment of time with someone who appreciates the moment as only those who must die can. It’s not quite the same.’

Man, “So you’re slumming?”

Woman, “That’s a bit crude to say. Sharing is a better way of putting it.’

Man, “And how long can you stay in this state? With me?

Woman, “Not much longer. 

Man, “Then the dying will resume?”

Woman, “It has too, and it’s not just about you or other people, all dying is suspended for the present, no animal or bird, or bacterium, died yesterday or today, so far.  This will have consequences I’ll have to deal with later. “

Man, “Or God”

Woman,  “Forget those illusions. I am just a part of nature as you are as everything is, there are no gods, everything has a cause, nothing comes from nothing and those who are fooled by these illusions deny causality and claim things can be created out of nothing, like some magic trick. No, my task is just an outcome of they way things are and have always been.’

Man, ‘Then how are you able to suspend deaths for a time?”

Woman, “Death has its own rhythm, I just syncopated it a little, so we could talk, so I could experience something else for a change. But all good things come to an end, don’t you know?”

Man, ‘Including this conversation.”

Woman, ‘This conversation will seem to you to continue forever, like life itself. You will never know an end to it. You will always exist so long as you exist-and when you don’t, you won’t. Why do I have to tell you what is obvious to everyone?’

Man, ‘But you’re about the only friend I have left now. When I go will I still exist?

Woman, “If someone remembers you.  But does it really matter? “

Man, “To me it does.”

Woman, “Is there anyone to remember you-to make you immortal?”

Man, a beat, “it seems you will be the only one.”

Woman, “And how do you feel about that, that I am the only one to really understand you, to know you and so remember you.”

Man, “I don’t know what to think.  I just feel so suddenly tired. I think you’ll have to excuse me….

(there is long silence as the Man drinks some wine then looks down at the ground as if thinking deeply. As she watches him, he begins to drop his head in drowsiness. As he does she leans over and touches his arm and brushes her hand over his face)

Woman, “You have no need to think now, my friend.  My work begins again.  So sleep, just sleep. Sleep, sleep, the never ending sleep.” 

(With that, as the lights dim, she rises from her chair while watching his head fall to his chest, slowly puts on her coat, opens the door and leaves with one last look at the Man.  The door closes, the lights go almost black, then rise again, as the glass falls from his hand, his hand falls to the floor, his breathing stops-and he is no more.)

                                               The End

The Dying Of The Age

Their voices distant sing to tunes,

Of laughter, love, surprise,

While fireflies softly sink, and rise,

On light of tragic moons,

But, nearer still, the empty sounds,

Of thoughts I cannot, dare not think,

Torture me like shadow hounds,

And bring me to the brink,

For all’s not well, and while they sip,

From cups of hope, that ever-empty be,

Or drink honeyed words from every lip,

Well, when you’ve lived, you’ll see,

For now we’ve turned the final page,

And there can read what all can sense,

The Dying of the Age.

The Soldier Had A Puzzled Look

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The soldier had a puzzled look,

His gun had jammed, so read a book,

That told him all he thought he knew,

While bullets flew just past his head,

Of knights and kings, and all they slew,

And wondered then if it was true,

The things they said about the dead,

But then there came the feared command,

To make their prayers for one more stand,

For peace at last without regrets,

At which they cursed and cried,

Fumbling with their bayonets,

They owed the slain too many debts,

The sea of blood was wide.

They didn’t know the enemy, the reason they were there,

Some said this and some said that and some just didn’t care,

For living wasn’t easy but graves they gave you free,

So, ready for the killing, but trembling as he stood,

Wondered where the gods were, oh, why they didn’t see,

The shattered earth and corpses, from mountain to the sea,

And what in us is worth a damn, what could it bloody be?

The Hawk’s Reproach

(On encountering a Hawk with its prey)

The Red Hawk’s eyes shot into mine,

As if to touch my mind,

Warning, this death is my necessity,

Let me feast, if you be kind;

The winter’s cold, the hunger’s long,

Like you, I must survive.

You cringe at death, and me condemn,

For a squirrel slain, ah, once your friend.

Pass on from here and go your way, 

Death is Life, and Life is Death,

In all of Space and Time.

Go slaughter more your fellow men,

As you are wont to do,

For power, riches, lust and fame,

The many for the few,

But I must kill to live, to be,

So, continue on your wayward path,

But don’t you dare judge me.

   Reflections On A Telescope

(And Claims We Will See The Beginning Of The Universe)

They’re all agog and mighty pleased, the ignorant, and the press,

With that new device they’ve sent to Space to prove that God exists,

A telescope to capture light-that comes from nothingness-

A moment in eternity, the greatest of their myths,

For nothing comes from nothing, as dear Lucretius proved;

Matter is eternal and space is limitless, 

A simple fact these fools will learn, to bitter tears be moved,

When they see, with their own eyes, no hand of God at play,

Just countless stars and galaxies in myriad stately rows,

Extending back through endless Time, no matter what they say.

They hope to see explosions, and childish magic shows,

And, behind all that a wizard’s face, to them the great Unknown,

Like the one that lived in Oz, but had his cover blown;

Cosmology is by dogma ruled, despite the facts described

By other minds that told us truths the fearful try to hide,

-Einstein knew it long ago, so did Alfven, Ratcliffe, Arp –

But myths support the structure of their Doctor Pangloss world,

So, they’re all agog and mighty pleased, and with themselves impressed,

But I think they’ll find that, in the end, they’ll have caused a great unrest.

Journey’s End

The hills are ever silent now

Or so it seems to me,

Since you left, that destined day, 

To cross the restless sea,

Where eastern winds caressed your hair,

And northern stars fell fast away,

Where southern waters warmed the air,

And diamonds danced the water’s way,

So far away your journey’s end,

While mine’s a slow walk down the road,

Passing through illusion’s veil,

Along the verdant valley floor.

There Stood A Man

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Upon a rock upon a hill,

That looked on distant sea,

There stood a man in quiet pose, 

Who knew not how to be,

For nothing was as once it was; 

The future held no dream.

Dark winds blew from stranging lands, 

A final symphony,

Of strangled cries, and dismal moans, 

Of all humanity,

While, faint, a lonely songbird sang, 

Variations on the theme.

And with the wind came memories,

But faded, indistinct,

For existence was illusion veiled, 

The secret hid, where life had gone,

Why love had never come,

He fought the urge to scream,

Then slowly turned to search his way,

Back down the craggy slope,

With mouth turned grim, with knotted brow,

Coat heavy, and the cane,

Descending to a vast unknown,

And dark it all did seem.

The Supplicants

Long the line of supplicants

Before the tyrant king,

Begging for the favour

Of kissing hand and ring,

While round the throne

Attendants stand,

Silent, severe, serene,

Who truly rule the land

But speak only to them selves,

Gathering in secret,

To dangle puppets from their strings;

It’s all a vast confusion,

An illusory, shadowed world,

You and I forever lost, not knowing what to do,

What is right or what is wrong,

And right and wrong for who.

 

The Tolling Of The Bell

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Blades of grass caressed my shoes

As I walked slowly past,

Thinking of the shapes of clouds,

The shadows that they cast,

Of all the things that come to mind,

Yes, the kiss that was our last.

The sun was warm upon my face,

And on the silent stream

That waters flowered meadows,

As if a dreamy dream,

Of yester-land, of other times,

Or so it all did seem.

And with each step, with each new breath,

A memory blossomed in my mind,

And soon, there were so many,

Of every shape and kind,

That Time lost all its sense and shape

As if the world was going blind.

Then a songbird trilled its happy song,

That woke me from my spell,

And on I walked past hedge and field,

Towards the village, church and well,

Where I lay beneath an ancient tree,

For the tolling of the bell.