David James, “The Playwright’s Nightmare”

He couldn’t get the play
out of his brain.
Each character walked slowly along his nerve endings,
stopping to greet each other, say
“Hello” or “Good morning,”

“Doesn’t it look like rain?”
He tried to write
them away, but the characters refused
to leave. He felt drained
and lost, took to drinking the people

out of his life.
But they came back as soon
as he sobered up, louder and more real
than before. They’d argue, yell, fight,
leave the lights on, blazing behind his eyes

like so many full moons.
After six weeks, he gave
up and accepted the man and woman,
the druggist, a drunk, the ruined
teacher whose face looked like wet cardboard.

Some say it saved
him from jumping off a cliff,
or putting a bullet hole through his temple.
Now when he shaves
in the morning, the man and woman wake,

rise out of bed, kiss, lift
the curtains; the druggist walks
down Main, nudging the drunk under the statue.
The teacher drifts
back twenty years in her mind,

losing weight and gray hair, as she talks
to her new class.
The play is in his skin, body, gliding
through his bloodstream like a hawk
on a thermal,

searching for mice in the high grass.

 

Bio:  David James’ second book, She Dances Like Mussolini, won the 2010 Next Generation Indie book award for poetry.  Twenty of his one-act plays have been produced from New York to California.  He teaches at Oakland Community College and is quite happy there.