The scene opens with SHITE seated near front of stage. Along the rear partition sit the musicians, two or four in number. By them a painted live oak tree. Traveler enters.
It could be a dream. “The speed of lightning,” that's how it goes. The steelhead batter themselves apart, trying to get up the creek to their spawning ground. Batter themselves apart on the rocks. A coyote sometimes comes off the ridge, into the creek, and picks one up in its jaws. Caught by a pair of jaws! Or battering itself on the stones!
You mean me? Why are the blue jays so quiet? They hop along the branches, tilt their heads and just study me. I heard that a gate keeps you off Partington Ridge these days. I came the back way, out of Tassajara. I came over the hills. Then I followed the Big Sur a short ways down, turned south at Pfeifer's, and climbed to the ridgeline. I could see the Little Sur when the fog parted. This trail brought me behind the ridge, into the chaparral. There's turkey buzzards overhead. I thought to camp at El Mocho.
An old man died on this day. His face was a mask. He was a fine linguist and knew the Esselen tongue. Will you build him a cairn?
His face a mask? Build a cairn?
I met a girl on the path. She told me she would go blind one day. She needs to get a book made into Braille before she loses her eyes. I said go up to Monterey and see a doctor. Do you know who she is?
He could speak the tongue of the Cataloñas. He homesteaded a ranch near here. It hung on the cliff. You could watch the
sea and the gulls so far down they looked like pigeons. His face was a mask. (Looking up as though he has just now heard the traveler) No, I do not know her.
At first you cannot distinguish
between an ordinary mask and a great one.
But the longer you look at a good mask,
the more charged with life it appears.
A common actor cannot
use a truly good mask.
Turning the head is very difficult.
The actor must be one piece with the mask.
On a great actor a great mask
An unborn child where the lamp flickers—
if the play is a ceremonial
the dead “boy”
O to bring tranquility to the
“girl on the road”
Turning back to the traveler—
Will you build him a cairn? He was a fine linguist. He lived with the Indians and learnt how they spoke. He would take notes with a pencil. I do not know if he worked with Braille.
Torn clouds cover the moon.
All is obscured by
blankets of sea-cloud
At Point Sur is a light for lost ships.
On the ground I see trillium, and a wild ginger.
(Aside) His daughter cannot sleep. Perhaps the girl on the road.
(To the old man, as though prompting him)
When the rain comes you can smell the bay laurel. It stings your nostrils. Has it been raining all week here?
He encased himself—
a self in isolation—
the moon is wild as I've seen it.
There was a stinging fragrance.
The refineries & artichoke fields—this coastline has the curve of a sickle.
Workers in the fields ill with pesticides,
a wild moon.
Steelhead go stabbing their way inland,
Jeffers could write of them. He could really write of them.
There are creeks the color of midnight.
They batter themselves
Creeks the color of midnight.
If they ask about the boy's voice, say
“It is just like a dropping of rain
through the redwood boughs.”
They may know the parts, instinctively or by memory. No one has ever written them down. The old man knew the speech of the Yurok, the Karok, the Achomawi, the Miwok. There are drawings of naked figures for old men, women, girls, boys, and for ghosts. They show the proper relation of the limbs to the body. There are similar drawings of the same figures clothed. He even invented his own notation for music. We do not show it to our children. We fear their speech will become too mechanical.
The boy in the passenger's seat
rain and then headlights, both the color of midnight
a yellow beam went through the redwoods, their trunks running with rain
paraphernalia he encased himself in.
(Aside) He has lost somebody.
(To the old man) You wish me to build a cairn? Who is it for? This place is named for a vaquero. His friends called him El Mocho. It means “lopped off” in Spanish. He showed de Angulo the way down from Carmel before the road was built. He lost his thumb when the reata wrapped him up on his saddle horn. (Looking around) Not many travelers come through. His camp must have been somewhere around.
moon over in which “encased himself”
steelhead stab inland
clouds cover the moon
Afraid she'll go blind, eh?
Blind. It's the Bhagavad-gita she wants done. Into Braille. Who is the cairn for?
Four musicians sit at the back of the stage, wearing black. They seem part of the scenery, like the pine and madroño trees. They've been there for so many centuries that—
“No one quite knows what they mean
nor how they got there.”
Cats. We are called cats. With a wooden flute, or a clarinet made from the leg-bone of a heron. With a small drum. When we play, it is “just like the dropping of rain through the redwoods.”
Three twisting bay trees along the bridge
they are quite fixed in appearance
“stinging fragrance” “cloud moon”
the tires can't hold the mud the mud keeps slipping down
the tires go into the ravine the automobile's
square chassis is helpless…
…into the gulch
at Torres Cañon.
A trail goes up there now, but not in those days.
There was a proper relation of limbs to body.
Was it instinct? or memory?
In the hills it is deer, in the creek steelhead,
stabbing their way inland.
All of us blind with instinct.
We went over the side. He never had a chance. The car slid through the trees. Its tires couldn't catch hold. With the rain every crease in the ground was a rivulet. We settled at the bottom of the canyado. I am encased in paraphernalia. Tattered clouds cover the moon. There is oil on the slopes, the smell of oil and scraped bay laurel. My face has something sticky across it. I cannot see. There is only the sound of the runoff, down the ravine.
And the boy?
Under me. I was pinned by the chassis. He lay under me. My pelvis was ruined. My ribcage.
[ page 2 of 4 ]