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Martin Corless-Smith
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A Part Erasure of Between the Acts

I’m getting ready. I’m really getting ready
That a kite, the past (future-engine) should land on the present (future-past/genitals)

The trees drone in their ears
their birds (innumerable)
There to lose what binds us here
no field felt the sky it never fell

no garden alabaster nothing its pure blue
should she live at Kensington or Kew
but every year, when winter came
every summer for seven summers now
she did neither. If she wore pearls, pearls they were
a hundred miles from the sea. A fact that was
lobsters, fresh from lobster pots and salmon and the lobster
they heard dead men they saw a white lady walking under trees
the cook’s hands cut cut cut
the room a shell a vase stood in the house
holding distilled across the hall a door opened
the author’s last novel was completed just before her death
during the war the action takes place on a single day

Coming from the library the voices stopped in the hall
come earthward a century ago
pleasure’s what they want she said you often heard her call
out of the corner of his eye he raised his glass
he saw a flash of white
someone passing silently they
manoeuvred in their water world
made by the trembling grass made by the sky
the ghost of convention rose to the surface
the wall remained nothing but a wall
the tractor has to some extent superseded the plough
the horse had gone but the cow remained
Red Admirals feasting and floating
our part is to be the audience
books open no conclusion come to
and he sitting in the audience
she made another face and dropped the invisible pen
not here not now but somewhere
there was nothing for the audience to do
the flat fields glared the morning room
but we have other lives I think I hope
we live in others we live in things
old men striped trousers girls skin coloured lips
the audience was assembling
spreading across the lawn
and as they took their seats
the human figure seen
to great advantage against
a background of sky
then the play begins

I fear I am not in my perfect mind
the sins I’ve sinned before cockcrow
Did the plot matter?

She fell back lifeless. The gramophone blared
The idiot scampered in and out
the megaphone announced in plain English: An Interval

As usual her vision escaped her
undressing down in the hollow
where dishcloths in the shadow
made pools of yellow
choked with a toad in its throat
the snake was unable to swallow
the toad was unable to die
a blue-bottle settled
the play keeps running in my head
the path was narrow she was broad
swaying slightly as she walked
the little grapes above then were
wet between bird’s claws
Perhaps because we’ve never met before
and never shall again
the door trembled and stood half open
the audience was assembling
the actors were still dressing up among the bushes
d’you think people change?
clearing out a cupboard
I found my father’s old top hat
but ourselves do we change?

figures advanced from the bushes
hooped and draped
entered her dressing room
           (Enter carrying a parchment)
           (both speak together)
her mirror and lipstick attended her lips and nose
the gramophone which everybody knows to be perfectly true
while her courses ran and speckled eggs in the warm
hollow lay neighbours dig in cottage gardens and lean
over cottage gates
           (she hides behind a tree)
           (she reveals herself)
The voice stopped but the voice had seen
           (they sang)
whose mouths opened but no sound came out
the whole world was filled with dumb yearning
craves the indulgence of the audience
           (owing to lack of time a scene has to be omitted)
Thank heavens
How right. Actors show us too much
Yes they bore one stiff. Up and down the city road
           (he hobbles up and down)
The scene ended
Reason descended from her plinth
the words rose and pointed a finger
yet somehow they felt
how could one put it
a little not quite here or there
And so to end the play
Let holy virgins hymn perpetually
as if what I call myself was still
floating unattached and didn’t settle
over the tops of the bushes came voices
voices without bodies
the audience was on the move
they kept their distance from the dressing room
it all looks very black
ever since I was a child I’ve felt
then she began again
it’s a good day the day we are stripped naked
A lake it was a lake apparently
there was an interval
           (they were rolling up the lake)

Nothing happened
present time ourselves he read
they sat exposed they were neither one thing nor the other
they read it in the programme
o that our human pain could here have ending
real swallows the swallows or martins were they?
I am not in my perfect mind
And the audience saw themselves not whole
by any means but at any rate sitting still
the hands of the clock had stopped at the present moment
it was now ourselves
consider the sheep or faith in love
o we’re all the same. take myself now
and the desire for immolation
look at ourselves then at the wall
the first note meant a second the second a third
was that voice ourselves?
we are members one of another
we act different parts but are the same
I caught myself too reflected
as it happened in my own mirror
was that the end?

Nature takes part there was the idiot
we’re oracles a foretaste of our own religion
one feels such a fool perhaps one day
thinking differently we shall think the same
by means of which we reach the final
or ourselves the audience
all gone under the leaves
scared by shadows passing
the fish had withdrawn
the lillies were shutting
then something moved in the water
she had a glimpse of silver
the fish had come to the surface
it was unlikely that they would ever meet again
the play was over
swallows skimmed the grass
that had been the stage
the flesh poured over her
the hot nerve wired
what interrupted now she passed
then something rose to the surface
the curtain would rise
what would the first words be
I am the slave of my audience
there would be shelter voices oblivion
and two scarcely perceptible figures
she swallowed
did you feel she asked what he said
we act different parts but are the same
yes I answered no she added
both had changed
or that the author came out from the bushes
there were letters
the paper that obliterated the day before
then she found the page where she had stopped
the great square of the open window showed
shadows fell he rose
end of the chapter
left alone together
then the curtain rose. They spoke.

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