Zygmunt Frankel


From "Oedipus"

I was sitting there one evening with my feet on the desk, sipping coffee and smoking a cigarette, when I suddenly realised that it's been months and months since anyone last wrote a play about Oedipus, so I got down to it. It has a chorus which goes onstage and recites relevant poems from time to time. The play is about one hour long and uses the original version; nobody wears a suit and a tie, and the killing is done with swords, not automatic pistols. The idea was to have the characters meet after the story and dwell on some of its less developed aspects: incest, sexual politics, Sphinx's wings, fate, the prophet's profession, and so on.

(I also have another play,"The Mother of Little Red Riding Hood", for grown-ups, about the mother's trial for criminal negligence, because in fact, of course, the little girl and her grandmother never came out alive of the wolf's stomach, and you shouldn't send little girls into a forest full of wild animals. But there are no poems in it.)
(Both plays can be found in this site)


In Paradise
children who have died young
have no father and no mother;
perhaps, here and there,
an old grandparent they haven't met before,
and it's not the same.

In Paradise
children who have died young
sit sad and quiet,
waiting for mother.


There is a shadow of wings
on Mount Cithaeron;
it glides over our fields
and flocks
and over our Thebes the Seven-Gated
and now it circles our cemetery.

Is it an eagle
or a falcon?
No, more like a vulture,
but not that either.
A strange shape
gliding lower;
a bird's wings, yes;
but could it be a lion's body?
a dragon's tail?
And the head;
the head of a woman.

Sphinx, Sphinx,
with the black shadow of your wings like death,
where from, and where to?
Perhaps just passing by
and only circling and dropping lower
to get your bearings?
No; the shadow of the wings is growing larger,
and now it's landing.


Forbidden love is a dark moth in a moonless night,
and clean love, a butterfly in broad sunlight.

Stolen love is a black bat flitting in and out of a cave,
and clean love, a bird soaring in a blue sky.

Forbidden love is an owl swooping down in the night,
and clean love a golden eagle at noon, preening its feathers.

Stolen love is a nightingale, singing.


We are the plagues, the famines, and the wars;
When the crops grow too tall
or men too fat
We soon take care of that
We soon take care of that.

And when they've buried their dead
And sowed their fields with new grain
They hope it was the last time;
They hope it won't happen again.

We are the plagues, the famines, and the wars;
Merely asleep, in some dark cave,
like rats and wolves and bats;
And when men grow too sure of themselves
and plan too far ahead,
it wakes us up, and we crawl out,
and strike them dead.

We are the plagues, the famines, and the wars;
Not always here, but never far away;
And men can knock on wood for all they're worth,
consult their horoscopes, avoid black cats, and pray;
The rustle of their crops will wake us up,
and things will take their course;
because we always come back like the night:
the plagues, the famines, and the wars.

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1997 Zygmunt Frankel - All Rights Reserved.
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