“Enveloping”


This past fall semester, I had to write a play for a Dramatic Literature course I took.  It was our final exam, so it was a huge grade.  The first few paragraphs sort of explain the premise of the play, this was required before actually beginning the writing process.  The professor wanted to make sure we knew what we were writing about, and that it was something we could accomplish with minimal difficulty…after all, it was an introductory course.

 

The play will take place at an Irish Pub in modern day New York City, and the characters will be Clytaemestra, Cassandra, Antigone, Lysistrata, and perhaps Everyman.  There may be some additions of characters with small parts or one line.  The idea is that the main characters are all friends, with the exception of Everyman-he’s more of an acquaintance.  Clytaemestra, Antigone and Lysistrata know each other from their college days, and Everyman is the bartender at the bar they frequent.  Cassandra was brought to the group by Antigone, after they met on the subway a few years ago and started chatting.  The play will take place BEFORE the stories that we’ve read in class take place, assuming they were to happen around the same time.  However, the elements of the makings of the stories can/will be brought about through either dialogue, Cassandra’s foresight, or hidden meaning/insinuations.  

 

Clytaemestra is suffering from loneliness due to the loss of her daughter, her husband off at war, and the disappearance of her son.  She is having a hard time dealing with it all and calls for a girls’ night at their favorite bar.  She seeks solace in her friends, even if they can sometimes drive her mad due to their bit of immaturity.  Lysistrata is also feeling lonely due to her husband being off at war, but she tends to put a more comical spin on the whole situation since she knows there’s nothing she can do about it.  She finds humor in her good friend Clytaemestra’s moaning and groaning about the absence of her husband and her jealousy of her sister Helena.  Antigone felt a likeness towards Cassandra, because most people either don’t listen to them or brush them off, so this made them kindred spirits.  Once Cassandra is introduced to the group, she immediately forms a bond with the other girls and earns their trust.      

 

For Antigone, I’m sort of changing her character up a bit.  The play we read in class will be used as a script for Antigone.  In my play, she is an actress at a local film making company and there has been talk throughout the company about her character being killed off.  The way the company hands out the script for each new scene only 12 hours before they are to begin shooting.  With all the talk about her character being killed off, she is in a panic when she is handed her new script.

 

                                                                                           “Enveloping”

At the table sits Cassandra, Clytaemestra, and Lysistrata.  Antigone walks in, holding a yellow manilla envelope, similar to the ones messengers or school teachers use.  She stops at the bar, orders her drink, and greets the bartender, Everyman.  She takes her drink, joins her friends, looking especially anxious.  When she sits, she gently tosses the envelope on the table in front of her.  Lysistrata, sitting across from Antigone, accidentally puts her beer glass down on the envelope.

 

Lysistrata ~ Oh dear, I’m sorry, Anti!  (She wipes the water ring off with her napkin.)

Antigone ~ Eh, don’t worry about it.  It’s my script and I’m terrified to open it.  I wish it would get destroyed.

Cassandra ~ (Recognizing Antigone’s feelings of panic and knowing full well what is in store for her friend.)  Oh Anti, I wish you could find the positive side of this.  If the talk is true, then maybe it means you’re not meant for this role or company for that matter.  Maybe you’re meant for another role.

Antigone ~ (Looking up from her glass.)  Oh yeah, like what?  The only thing I’ve wanted more is to find a good husband to raise a family with.

Lysistrata ~ What do you want a husband for?  Please, it’s much more of a headache to be married and sleep alone because he’s off to war somewhere, than it is to be single and live your life the way you want to.

Clytaemestra ~ Yeah, there’s no one to make a mess right after you clean, no one to tell you dinner tastes gross, and no one to leave you dirty clothes with muddy pants and skid marks in their underwear.

Antigone, Lysistrata, Cassandra ~ Eww gross!

Cassandra ~ Yeah, that’s definitely too much information.

Lysistrata ~ Geez, tell your man to use toilet paper.  Will ya?

Antigone ~ That doesn’t help me feel any better.

Lysistrata ~ Better yet, throw out all of his underwear!

Clytaemestra ~ So he can have skid marks on his pants?  No thanks.

They all laugh, except for Antigone, who is seen by Cassandra staring at the envelope.  Lysistrata puts her beer glass down on the envelope again, this time she doesn’t realize she’s done it.

Clytaemestra ~ Well, girls, you really do know how to lift my spirits.  How about we do a shot to loosen up?

Antigone ~ (Breaking from her daze.)  Great!  I’ll buy!

Lysistrata ~ How about some Petrone?  The way I’m feeling tonight, I don’t want to feel anything at all.

Clytaemestra ~ I agree, and the best part about it is you can all crash at my place since it’s right upstairs.

They all happily agree, and Antigone walks over to the bar where she is greeted by Everyman.  Meanwhile, the girls begin messing with the envelope.  Lysistrata decides to hide it from Antigone in her purse, but doesn’t do a very good job of it.

Everyman ~ Hey, Antigone, how’s it going?

Antigone ~ Have you ever been in a situation where you wanted to know something but didn’t have the guts to find out?  The thing that you don’t know, but want to know could change your life, and you’re just not sure if you are ready for your life to change.

Everyman ~ Yeah, that’s how I felt when I applied for the loan to buy this bar.  I was so full of doubt that I could do it, be successful, that it would thrive, I almost prayed the bank would deny the loan. (He chuckles as he thinks back.)

Antigone ~ Really?

Everyman~ Yeah, and when it was approved I almost died.  

Antigone ~ (Relating to the feelings, she looks at her friends a moment.)  Yeah, I know what you mean.  How did you work through it, though?  I mean, you’re obviously doing well, right?

Everyman ~ Yes, I am.  I just took a deep breath, and went with it.  I took each day as it came, and tried not to worry about the little things.  Once things started progressing, I hardly even had time to think about what was going on.  Before I knew it, I had been open for over a year, and things were going great.  Besides, can you imagine what would have happened if I hadn’t gone through with it?

Antigone ~ No, what?

Everyman ~ Well, for one thing, I wouldn’t have met you.  (They share an awkward look into each other’s eyes.)  I’ll tell you what, since you and the girls are regulars and you all seem to be having a rough day, your shots are on me.

Antigone ~ You don’t have to do…

Everyman ~ I insist.  (He pours the shots as Antigone walks away.  A moment later he arrives at the table with the shots.)

Lysistrata ~ Woo hoo!  Let’s get this done!

Everyman and Antigone share a look, then smile at each other, and Everyman passes them out to each girl.

Cassandra ~ (Noticing the look they shared.)  Ooh, looks like someone has a crush on Antigone.

Lysistrata ~ (Surprised she missed it)  Who does?

Clytaemestra ~ Yup, I saw it too.  (Smiling at Cassandra in agreement.)

Cassandra ~ It looks like Everyman has a crush on our Antigone.

Lysistrata ~ You little harlet, I knew you two would get together eventually.  I just didn’t realize it would be so soon.

Antigone ~ Lysie, you’re crazy.  There’s nothing going on between me and Everyman.

Cassandra ~ Maybe not now, but…

Antigone ~ No! (Realizing she does have feelings for Everyman, but doesn’t want to admit it.)  Now, can we just do our shots?  I’d like to forget about the…  Where’s the envelope?  (Lysistrata looks at Cassandra who is sitting next to Antigone.  Antigone notices the look on Lysistrata’s face and immediately knows what’s going on.)  Lysistrata, you give me that envelope right now or I’ll (she grabs Lysistrata’s shot) do your shot for you!

Lysistrata ~ You have to work in the morning, remember?  If you do two shots, you’ll never even be able to read your script!

Antigone ~ (Realizing how right she is, she begins to laugh.  Then she laughs even harder when she sees the envelope sticking out of Lysistrata’s purse – plain as day.)  You’re right, Lysie, now can you please put that on the table?

Lysistrata ~ (Putting the script on the table.)  It’s about time you laughed.  Geesh, I was beginning to think we were all going to be a bunch of depressed bitches tonight.

Clytaemestra ~ Lysie!  Must you use that kind of language?

Lysistrata ~ I’m sorry, Mother. (She looks down, mockingly in shame, as if to poke fun at Clytaemestra for acting too motherly.)

Clytaemestra ~ No, I’m sorry.  I just miss my children so much.  What will I do without my darling daughter, and wonderful son?  (Tears begin to fall) What if my husband doesn’t come home from the war?  (Wiping the tears from her cheeks.)

Lysistrata puts her arm around Clytaemestra and Antigone and Cassandra reach across the table to hold her hand.

Not being able to take the mushiness anymore, and for fear of crying herself, Lysistrata is the first to break off the comforting moment.

Lysistrata ~ (Picking up her shot and putting the bent envelope back on the table.)  A toast, to my best friends.  May our husbands return from war unharmed, and filled with love, may Clytaemestra’s son come home, may Antigone’s fate be something she never could have imagined, and may Cassandra find the man she is meant to be with.

They all clink their glasses, and suck down their shots.

Lysistrata ~ (Feeling a bit daring)  Hey, Anti, open the envelope.

Antigone ~ No, not yet.  I’m really not ready.  (She glances over to Everyman, who nods at her to open it.)

Cassandra ~ Come on, you’ve got to open it eventually.

Clytaemestra ~ She’s right, you can’t sit there and stare at it forever.

Lysistrata ~ (Begins chanting) Open it, open it, open it, (the other girls join in) open it, open it.

Antigone ~ Fine, I’ll open it.  (She nervously looks over at Everyman who is watching her with anticipation.  Then she picks up the envelope with shaking hands.  She unwinds the string, lifts the flap, and pulls out the script.  She scans the words, and flips the pages as she looks for the words.  Suddenly she stops.  She looks up at Everyman, then her friends.  Everyone is looking at her in anticipation…waiting for her to say something.

 

The End

Man in the Long Black Coat response…


In a previous post, I mentioned a Poetry class I took last semester and a paper we had to write about a poet and his/her poem.  Well, we also had to write our own poem in response to the poem we chose.  This is my response to Bob Dylan’s “Man in the Long Black Coat.”

 

Cricket are chirpin’, the water is high

I could leave now and not say goodbye

You say it’s warm, you say it’s hot

I can assure you it’s not

 

Bad enough to leave without

leaving a note just because he’s in a coat

I wouldn’t leave a note

I wouldn’t go with a man in a long black coat

 

I’ve been down and I’ve been out

I assure you, he doesn’t have the clout

To take me away from what I know

God is what makes my heart glow

 

God has a plan

and I proudly hold his hand

Bad things happen daily, this I know

I won’t be caught dead with the man in the long black coat

 

Those who choose not to live

will, in the end, have nothing to give

I’ve danced with the Devil

I’ve condoned evil

 

However, he didn’t win my heart

God is the only one who plays that part

Man in the Long Black Coat


Last semester, I took an Intro. to Poetry class, and we had to write a paper about the author of a poem.  The professor had a list of poems, and we were to choose one poem from the list.  I chose Bob Dylan’s “Man in the Long Black Coat,” because I wanted to learn more about Bob Dylan as a person.  This is what I wrote…

 

“Man in the Long Black Coat” by Bob Dylan

I chose the poem “Man in the Long Black Coat” by Bob Dylan because I have always been a fan of the music from the days when he was more popular, and I wanted to learn more about him as an artist. Although I never listened to more than one of his albums, I have always found him interesting and seen a sort of mysticism in his artistry. When you read this poem aloud to the class, I knew that I had to dig into it. I like his use of symbolism, and the way the story is told. When you initially read the poem, without giving it much thought, you read a short story about a girl who gives in to temptation. However, when you begin to look at it on a deeper level, you see that its about the incessant battle between good and evil, or God versus the Devil and humans are constantly battling themselves to decide which side to choose. This is intriguing, because so many people are afraid of reading or hearing about things that have any kind of religious or spiritual motif these days, yet Dylan presents this story in a way that doesn’t exude religion in an obvious way. This is what makes this poem more likable by those who may not believe, or might be at a crossroads in their lives.

Robert Zimmerman was born in Duluth, Minnesota, and began his musical career during his high school years at Hibbing High, in Hibbing, Minnesota. He formed several bands while in High School and performed for the first time publicly when he entered a school talent show with some classmates. Their performance was so loud, that the principle had to cut off the microphone. Perhaps that was the beginning of Dylan’s musical career, and a tell-tale sign that he was made for performing. Throughout the remaining years of the 50’s, Zimmerman performed with other artists doing various back-ups under the pseudonym, Elston Gunn. Zimmerman moved to Minneapolis to attend the University of Minneapolis in September of 1959. It was here that, while studying rock ’n’ roll, he discovered an affinity for folk music. While in college, Zimmerman performed at a coffee house just a few blocks away from the school. It was during that time that he began to introduce himself as we know him, Bob Dylan, after his poetic influence, Dylan Thomas. Thus inspiring his name change, and perhaps giving him the first step into the artist he is today. Although, he didn’t legally change his name until 1962, after he moved to New York City and performed folk music in Greenwich Village at various clubs.

His interest in folk music and continuous performances was a gateway to further spiritual exploration. Dylan was born Jewish, but converted to Christianity in the late 1970’s. This religious affirmation caused some conflict during performances when he’d preach or “evangelize” to the crowd or whoever he was on tour with. He produced two gospel albums just after his conversion to Christianity, neither of them being as successful as those produced previously. After his conversion and the two gospel albums, most of his music reflected some sort of religious motif or tone, and for a period of about twenty years, he seemed to go through a drought of success. Meaning, any albums that were produced weren’t doing as well as they had before he became “born again.” In 1989, Dylan produced the album “Oh Mercy,” which contains the song “Man in the Long Black Coat.” In his book “Chronicles: Volume 1,” he briefly mentions the album and the song, reaffirming it’s religious tones.

The first time I read the poem “Man in the Long Black Coat,” I got the immediate impression that this had something to do with good versus evil, or man versus temptation. The repetition of the of the phrase “man in the long black coat,” and its use in the title tells me that this image is significant in the meaning of this work. The overall context of the poem reminded me of Star Wars, when the inner conflict began with Anakin Skywalker trying to decipher if he should follow Chancellor Palpetine to the dark side. Anakin would be the girl in the poem, and Chancellor Palpetine would be the man in the long black coat.

There is a sequence of events, a definite beginning, middle, and end. The beginning alludes to a slight possibility that she will stay home, in a place that is familiar with those who know and care for her. The turn around is in the line “It ain’t easy to swallow, it sticks in the throat/ She gave her heart to the man in the long black coat.” This is where her decision is solidified, and it is made known to everyone around her that her mind is made up, and she is leaving her life as she knows it.

The setting and voice is an onlooker or acquaintance who sees a woman who, over time, gives in to temptation due to unfortunate circumstances. This, again, made me think of Anakin’s decision to become a Sith lord, or a kid with a troubled childhood who turns to drugs, or someone who turns their back on God. There are always loved ones surrounding the troubled person who can see the mistake that is about to be made, and no matter what they do, they can’t change the decision that has been made.

The only thing I felt needed clarification was the line “[t]here’s smoke on the water, it’s been there since June.” I immediately got the impression that Dylan was referring to the song by Deep Purple “Smoke on the Water,” so I did some digging. He did, in fact, reference the song, but it brings deeper meaning to this poem. The song is about a fire that destroyed a casino complex and the fire spread over Lake Geneva as the members of Deep Purple watched from their hotel room on the other side of the lake. The fire took place at a Frank Zappa & The Mothers of Invention concert the night before Deep Purple was set to record in a mobile recording studio rented from the Rolling Stones. The speaker of the poem is seeing someone’s life be destroyed right before his eyes, much like the members of Deep Purple watched the casino be destroyed by the fire. The fire was caused by a concertgoer who decided it would be a good idea to light a flare inside the casino. That was a bad decision that ended in disaster, like the girl in the poem who went with the man in the long black coat. The speaker of the poem sees disaster coming from her decision, and there’s nothing he can do about it.

There is a low and deep intonation, with a sort of good versus evil/right versus wrong/ God versus Devil nuance. Dylan used very easy language with a touch of “old school” lingo (“preacher was a’talkin’). There is the imagery of darkness in “the man in the long black coat,” eerie contentment in the environment “crickets are chirpin’,” and “soft cotton dress on the line hangin’ dry.” The line, “[s]omebody said from the Bible he’d quote,” gives a sense of a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

When I read the poem aloud, the darkness became more clear through the repetition of “the man in the long black coat.” This wouldn’t have had the same effect if Dylan had used different words. For instance, if he said, “the tall man in a long coat,” that would have given off a different view from the reader. It would have seemed more like the man was pressuring the girl into doing something, and that would have sent a completely different message throughout the story. The use of a stale type of environment also helps to create the imagery of danger or an eeriness to the poem. If there had been green grass and birds chirping, then that would have created the illusion of pleasantness, and brightness. The crickets show that it’s night time, which gives the vision of darkness which symbolizes the evil that happens under the cover of darkness.

Reading this poem again, gives me a different impression. If you’ve ever read “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” by William Shakespeare or “Miss Julie” by August Strindberg, then you’ll understand what I mean. The very first stanza gives the setting, it’s very hot, it’s night time, and it’s sort of a lazy night because the dress is still hanging on the line. The plays referenced take place on midsummer’s night, a time when strange things happened because the people were somewhat temporarily crazy due to the intense heat. Sometimes they did things they normally wouldn’t do, especially at night when they had the cover of darkness. This first stanza, perhaps, alludes to a similar situation between the girl and the man in the long black coat. He comes to her like a wolf in sheep’s clothing, talks nicely to her using quotes from the Bible, and the girl uncharacteristically goes along with what he’s saying, because she’s not in her right mind, perhaps due to the intense African heat. This is definitely not what I saw the first time I read this, but this new perspective definitely shows that a poem can have multiple meanings each time you read it.

From the reader response lens, the first stanza paints the scene like the beginning of a story. The crickets chirping gives the illusion of darkness and the single dress on the line in the breeze makes me feel like this is an eery and ominous scene. Couple the first stanza with the second one and it made me think the girl slipped out of town under the cover of darkness because she knew that she was doing something wrong. The first thing that came to my mind in the third stanza was the “Phantom of the Opera” and how the cast members would catch glimpses of the Phantom as he moved about the opera house. Christine called to the phantom, and asked what the phantom had planned for her, similar to the girl in the poem asking the man in the long black coat to dance. The man having a face like a mask further drew me to that illusion. The fourth stanza, “[s]omebody said, from the Bible he’d quote/[t]here was dust on the man in the long black coat” reminded me of the book of Romans when Jesus and Satan argue using quotes from the Bible. It’s like saying that if she tried to resist him, he’d use the Bible or other positive/ encouraging words to manipulate the woman. “There was dust on the man in the long black coat” insinuates that the man comes from the ground or our perception that Hell in beneath us and the man in the long black coat is from Hell—or is Satan.

The fifth stanza tells me that we are all sinners and even though we may have bad/evil thoughts, it is up to us to know what thoughts we should act on. We need to always be aware of what is a temptation of the devil and what is going to lead you down God’s path. It was, also, apparent to me that Dylan was a Christian due to the bible references and symbolism.

Coming from an observer or acquaintance of the girl, it’s hard to see this woman make this bad decision, knowing that there are better options for her. The line, “[I]t ain’t easy to swallow, it sticks in the throat,” makes it clear that this is from the perspective of someone who knows the girl, either because he is a friend or family member, or because he’s someone who has lived in the same town/neighborhood for a long time and has, perhaps, seen her grow up.

I firmly believe that everything happens for a reason, and the line “[t]here are no mistakes in life, some people say,” says just that. However, we never know what that reason is until all is said and done. At that point, retrospectively, we see why our life went the way it did. Like the saying, “hindsight is always 20/20,” we always see the error of our ways down the road, but not usually in the moment. “But people don’t live or die, people just float,” says that no matter how hard you try to make the right decision, there is a higher power that dictates how your life goes. Or, perhaps, that we are all just mindlessly wandering this earth without really thinking about how we live our lives.

“There’s smoke on the water, it’s been there since June,” gave me the feeling of something heavy lingering and the visual of a heavy fog over a wooded lake. The trees surrounding the lake have fallen down at the roots and not only do the words paint a dark scene, but the suggestion of the moon helps paint the picture of darkness with a glimpse of light. This also suggests that someone told the woman repeatedly not to go with the man, but she never listened. “She never said nothin’, there was nothin’ she wrote,” tells me that she’s rebellious, and the seemingly incessant nagging from a significant person in her life is exactly what caused her to give in to the temptation impulsively and go along with the man in the long black coat.

Reading this poem, and researching Bob Dylan has definitely taught me numerous things. I learned that not only was Dylan a singer/songwriter, but he was also an artist and writer. He was born Jewish and later converted to Christianity, resenting those who referred to him as “born again.” He has deep ancestry from the Russian Empire on his father’s side, and his mother’s parents were Lithuanian Jews who emigrated to the US in 1902. He is a free spirit, is deeply connected to spirituality, and he shows it freely in his lyrics. Dylan’s beliefs and connection to the universe heavily influence his lyrics, and his creativity allow him to tell stories that leave the reader looking deeper into him/herself.

I honestly can say that I don’t think I’ve learned anything specific about poetry that I didn’t already know. I’ve been writing poetry for about twenty years now, so I’m familiar with what goes into writing a poem. However, I see art differently than some people. I don’t like to pick apart other’s work, because I feel like I’m tearing apart their soul. I understand that comes with the path I’ve chosen academically, so I do what is asked of me, and I give it my all when doing so. However, when I read a poem, I always feel as though it is meant to be taken however the reader perceives it. Poetry is art, and all art is open to its own interpretation.