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Twelve-Minute Prometheus (after Aiskhylos)Anne Carson
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Vol. 30 No. 20 · 23 October 2008
Poem

Twelve-Minute Prometheus (after Aiskhylos)

Anne Carson

855 words

Cast:
Prometheus, god of Foresight
Govt (formerly Zeus), mute part
Flare and Stench, two henchman of Govt
Ocean, god of oceans
Io, woman turned into a cow by jealous wife of Govt
Hermes, messenger of Govt
Chorus, 50 daughters of Ocean

PROMETHEUS: How it begins. A rock wall. Enter Flare and Stench sent by Govt to
writhe me (Flare does the work). Sounds of sawing, hammering,
harvesting, slaughtering, scrubbing. See my pelt sewn to the wall see
me still in it.

FLARE: Poor little forcemeat.

STENCH: Lurch in there. Use your microphone. He’s the enemy.

FLARE: Not my enemy.

STENCH: So close your eyes.

FLARE: Are you radioactive, pal?

PROM: Stench laughs from side to side in freezing wind, no cabs.
Exit Flare and Stench.
I’m too alone, the sun is hot, it’s not a good position to be in.
[pause]
Air! Wind! World! Collate my bones!
I am what most people talk about, a power spot.
I stole fire, I knew what I was doing. That was last week.
I’m bored again.
Enter Chorus.
Hah, I smell you! Talk!

CHORUS: How strangely beautiful your driveway in the dawn.
But why blue and why you?

PROM: Govt wanted to enforce an analogy
between improvisation and catastrophe.

CH: We shudder as a free skin.

PROM: Bit your whip did I.

CH: Tell us about the boy and the night and the tree at your window.

PROM: No it was later I lost my breath. To humans!

CH: Oh yes Louis Armstrong.

PROM: Him too.

CH: What now?

PROM: I stroll not. Neither do I sail.

CH: Till when?

PROM: About ten thousand years.

CH: And then?

PROM: Here comes Ocean!

Enter Ocean.

OCEAN: Here I am Ocean
Co-precise with your pain.

PROM: Only simple words, as Beckett says, give trouble.

OCEAN: I have an ‘in’ with Govt you know.

PROM: Just go home.

OCEAN: Who prefers by the way to be called The Head of Days.

PROM: I don’t care if you call him Laurie Anderson just leave it alone.

OCEAN: Dare to dream.

PROM: Zip and go.
Exit Ocean.

CH: Here’s an Ode.
O tears! We shed our tears for you!

PROM: Thanks.

CH: All shed their tears for you!

PROM: Thanks. Nice ode.

CH: So what exactly did you do? Your crime this time.

PROM: I took one look at wretched human beings
living without chairs or reason, my heart broke.
What is it to be locked in a bleeding kind? I said to them.
They couldn’t even answer.
Plus, I like inventing stuff. Alphabets. Simple stops.

CH: Speaking of which, how about
a way out.

PROM: Oh I have to bruise a while yet.

CH: Why?

PROM: Here’s Io!

IO: Enter Io in cow clothes.
Am I a cow or a clever dessert?

PROM: No, you’re Io and I can soothe you with words.

IO: Sweet.

PROM: But your pain will go on.

IO: How long?

PROM: Until the 13th generation.

IO: Shit. I didn’t even bonk the guy.

PROM: Bonk Govt?

IO: I called a cab, left before ten.

PROM: His wife thought otherwise.
That’s enough detail.
The point is, for this audience, you’ll eventually
bear a son whose son’s son’s son’s son’s son’s son’s son’s
son will release me from this rock. Okay cupcake,
off you go. Ticktock.

IO: Exit Io.

CH: Act Five.
A woman like that shouldn’t wave her ass
at the top brass.

PROM: He won’t be top much longer.
Our dear Govt’s 15 minutes of tyranny
are just about up.

CH: You silly pup.

PROM: Yes foresight is silly but that’s who I am.
Look it’s all written here on the palm of my hand.

CH: Foresight? You?
Why didn’t you use some?

PROM: Lots of little reasons.
A painter will tell you, it’s hard to learn
to paint an open door.

CH: Say more.

PROM: Someone running, someone running.
Oh good it’s Hermes! Darling!
Enter Hermes all a-tremble.

HERMES Govt wants to know what you know.
Show us your palms.

PROM: I never noticed before you have a dimple.

HERMES Talk or you’ll suffer.

PROM: [laughs]

HERMES Talk or you’ll pay.

PROM: Thing is, I’ve watched you gods day after day
dipping your toothbrushes in the abyss
where you also piss.
I don’t need you. I don’t like you. Go away.

HERMES Put on your goggles then.
He’s going to blast you flat.

PROM: I might enjoy that.

HERMES But if you could start over –

PROM: I’d do it all again.

HERMES Well, hit the road, girls.

PROM: Exit Hermes.

CH: The road? Is he serious? What kind of friend –

PROM: Dolls, this is the end.
Tsunamis of fire engulf the stage, that’s it for us.
Most of the audience’s already off to the bus.
Of course this is a trilogy but as
plays II and III
are lost, looks like the rest of your
evening is free.
[Exeunt omnes in flames.]

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