The Wall of Language

In response to

A COUPLE OF POOR, POLISH-SPEAKING ROMANIANS by Dorota Masłowska

translated from the Polish by Benjamin Paloff

Characters:

Blythe and Sy: A couple of idiots

The ghost of La Virgen de Guadalupe


Los Angeles. Winter. It’s 80 degrees out, who are we kidding. A gas station. Mariachi music.

BLYTHE: Hey! Hey! Are you our Driver?

SY: Fucking Lyft.

BLYTHE: Hay lady!

SY: Dude.

LA VIRGEN DE GUADALUPE: Fue hace unos años.

Muchos años?

No sé.

No puedo estar seguro. No mas. Jamas. Pyjamas.[1]

BLYTHE: Hi we need to get to Echo Park.

SY: Echo Park.

BLYTHE: Hables English?

LA VIRGEN DE GUADALUPE: I’ll put it in my GPS. One sec. How’s your morning going?

SY: I don’t even know. Morning? It was morning, I suppose. Out on the Pacific. The big blue. The water isn’t really blue, you know. The Greeks didn’t even have a word for blue. Most ancient people didn’t. I know. I read an article. Recent concept, blue. Like, there’s this one tribe, they have like five words for different shades of green, but none for blue. And you show them some green squares and some blue squares and they can’t tell the difference, you know, but if you show them a fucking dark green square and man they’re all over it like white on rice. They probably don’t have oceans, though. It’s more grey, in the morning that is. On Pacific Coast Highway? You know? PCH? We had chorizo, I think. Yeah! And eggs. After Moonrise Shakers. From one of those little dive-y places. You know the type. I mean you’re His-panic. You know.

BLYTHE: Dude, wait up, have you seen my baby?

SY: Your baby?

BLYTHE: Yeah don’t fuck with me. My baby girl. You know.

SY: I hear. I dunno if I know, bro. You brought a baby out to the Moonrise Shakers last night?

BLYTHE: No, my baby girl. Cariño.

SY: (aside) Shouldn’t that be cariña?

BLYTHE: (aside) Nah dude. It’s a masculine noun. ‘o’ ending for male and female. (back in the scene) God. Where is she? I was cradling her last night. I was feeling her warm breath on my face in the mist, in the sea salt spray. They say there are women who live in the mist, in Ireland, at least, they say that. I don’t know in California. Probably they all burn up once the sun comes up. Baby girl, baby girl, melted away like so much ice cream. You ever wonder if ice cream truck drivers go crazy, listening to that same song day in and day out, if they ever go fucking bananas and just kill someone and stash their body in the freezer?

SY: Wait, is your baby like a baby or like a chick, you know?

BLYTHE: Like my sky and earth and sun. Not sun. Daughter. Ellen Degeneres. If she grows up to be a lesbian I think I’ll be okay with that.

LA VIRGEN DE GUADALUPE: (unheard) In like a tolerant way or a ‘fuck yeah!’ way?

SY: Wait, wait, go back, did you have her at Moonrise?

LA VIRGEN DE GUADALUPE: What color were her eyes?

BLYTHE: Green? Blue?

SY: Was she there with you at Moonrise?

BLYTHE: No? I think…nah man. If I had her I would have used her. OH! THERE she is! (Pulls out a gun.)

LA VIRGEN DE GUADALUPE: Pues, fue hace mucho tiempo.

No recuerdo tanto ahora.

Recuerdo que viniéron,

Que nos quitaron nuestro tierra,

Nuestro cielo,

Que despues, lo unico

Que podiamos hacer –

Era reir por falta de lagrimas.[2]

BLYTHE: Oh, we pretend to be frat boys but we’re secretly Mexicans.

SY: Or, wait, was it the other way around? Are these boat shoes or galoshes?

BLYTHE: He is the housewife. He does the cooking and cleaning.

SY: Oh I’m the housewife? Well, you’re the ranchero. That’s right. All he does all day is drink and sing ballads.

BLYTHE: That’s bullshit.

SY: It’s true.

BLYTHE: I’ve had enough of your blue and your green and your bullshit!

SY: There’s a wall between language and meaning. I’ll –

BLYTHE shoots SY. It’s gory. BLYTHE takes out an ear of native corn and begins to plant kernels in the corpse. He sneaks something from a hip flask while he plants, and mutters an old ballad.

LA VIRGEN DE GUADALUPE: Wait, you’re not Latino. Are you allowed to make metaphors with corn?

BLYTHE: I’m not sure what I am anymore. I lie there like a burnt-out whore in a burnt-out house. My body’s the house, understand? My mind is the whore? Maybe. Metaphor’s foggy. Too many amphetamines. Was it today? Yesterday? And when I say burnt out, I mean scrubbed out, scraped out. Barren soil, see. No one’s gonna mash bananas for the baby now. Just corn. Just plain corn and corn meal and masa and tortillas with salt. Y mi madre. Mi madre con los ojos revolucionarios, mi madre viene como un viento, un milagro, my madre viene y los lobos sueltan.[3]

LA VIRGEN DE GUADALUPE: Well, if you don’t mind, I’m going to put some music on. Some really hardcore EDM, I think. Like, untz – untz – untz. Something you could rage your face off too, all molly’d up, at your frat.

BLYTHE: I don’t know anything about rage. Could you teach me?

LA VIRGEN DE GUADALUPE: Of course I could. I’m the Mother of God.

BLYTHE: La sagrada virgen?

LA VIRGEN DE GUADALUPE: Si, mijo. Y aqui estoy al fin del mundo, por los ultimos dias[4], on fucking PCH.

BLYTHE begins to have contortions. Labor pains.

LA VIRGEN DE GUADALUPE: It’s all immaculate conception, from here on out. Do you want to go left on Sunset? Do you have a preferred route?

BLYTHE: It hurts…oh God, it hurts.

I wonder if I left the iron on?

LA VIRGEN DE GUADALUPE: You should have thought of that sooner. Ai, mijo. If we were at my place, mi sanctuario, te haceré un té con limon y menta. Menta for the pain. Limon ‘cause you’re an asshole.

BLYTHE: Ahhh!

As BLYTHE’s contractions come closer together, the corn he planted in SY starts to sprout, little tendrils rising up. 

LA VIRGEN DE GUADALUPE: I suppose I’d best get you to a hospital, in that case. Classic. Always la madre rushing in to save the day. You’re welcome! By the way. And you think you’re so punk. Not even punk anymore. That was too rebellious, too hippy, too anarchist. You think you’re so frat. So-future-investment-banker with coke already dusting his dollar bills. With your Sparies. Always carving out plates, spoons, hangers, ah, como se digan, some musical instruments.

SY: (sprouted, corn-filled) Out on the banks there wasn’t even much room for crops. We built terraces in the mountains to the North and curated las selvas like a garden, cured the trees like the meat we spat over fires in pots con sal y chiles. My Dad’s Irish my Mom’s Italian. I’m an asshole. But I grew up out here in the asshole of California so I guess that makes me Mexican, right, two hundred years ago, out before the Gold Rush and the Chinese and gay bars and Madame Toussads. And maybe I’m not an original, no, no maybe, I’m not an original, not even a carbon copy, but I was weaned on the desert and if my Mom didn’t know enough to bury the umbilical cord out back to tie me to the land it’s not her fault, okay, it’s not her damn fault, she’s just Italian, okay, my Mom is, she’s Italian, my, my okay, my just, my damn, fault, fault, fault, sprouted, husk me, huck me, Huckleberry Finn, American classics and the land still belongs, it still belongs to the Spanish to the Indians to the corn, to me, or, no, I to it, eye to it, intuit. Inuit? No. No, probably not that.

BLYTHE: Ahhhhh!

LA VIRGEN DE GUADALUPE: Can you translate?

SY: Sure.

BLYTHE: Ahhhh!

SY: His baby is a gun. It’s painful.

LA VIRGEN DE GUADALUPE: I can imagine.

SY: Second amendment.

LA VIRGEN DE GUADALUPE: What?

SY: Why he didn’t get an abortion. We talked about it.

LA VIRGEN DE GUADALUPE: Is it yours?

SY: The baby. The world. What isn’t?

Blackout. Gunshot. Baby crying.

 

[1] It was many years ago. Many years? I’m not sure. I can’t be sure anymore.

[2] Well, it was a long time ago. I don’t remember as much now. I remember that they came, that they took our land, our sky, and that after, the only thing we could do was laugh – for lack of tears.

[3] And my mother. My mother with the revolutionary’s eyes, my mother comes like a wind, like a miracle, my mother comes and the wolves are released/fall apart.

[4] And here I am at the end of the world, in the final days,

 


Brian is currently working on a book of essays for Harper Collins on site-specific and performance poetry’s intersections with marginalized spaces. He published his first book of poetry, I Sold These Poems, Now I Want Them Back, in 2016 with Yak Press. He has been the Writer in Residence for the Mall of America, Amtrak Trains, and Dollar Shave Club, and also creates typewriter poetry installations and shows for large clients from Google to the Emmys. As a teaching artist, Brian guest lectures at UCLA and teaches K-12 students throughout LA County in partnership with Get Lit and 24th Street Theatre. Brian holds an MA from the University of St Andrews, Scotland, with a thesis on community voicing projects.

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