12 November 2008

scene eleven

[the first half of] Scene Eleven of J.B. by Archibald MacLeish (the '50s rendition of the Book of Job)


A light comes from the canvas door. It increases as though day were beginning somewhere. Nickles is gone.

J.B.: Who is it?

He crosses toward the door walking with his old ease. Stops.

Is someone there?

There is no answer. He goes on. Reaches the door


The light increases. She is sitting on the sill, a broken twig in her hand.

Sarah: Look, Job: the forsythia,
The first few leaves . . .

not leaves though . . .

petals . .

J.B.: roughly Get up!

Sarah: Where shall I go?

J.B.: Where you went!

She does not answer.

More gently. Where?

Sarah: Among the ashes.
All there is now of the town is ashes.
Mountains of ashes. Shattered glass.
Glittering cliffs of glass all shattered
Steeper than a cat could climb
If there were cats still . . .
And the pigeons --
They wheel and settle and whirl off
Wheeling and almost settling . . .
And the silence --
There is no sound there now -- no wind
Nothing that could sound the wind--
Could make it sing--no door-- no door-
way . . .

Only this.

She looks at the twig in her hands.

Among the ashes!
I found it growing in the ashes,
Gold as thought it did not know . . .

Her voice rises hysterically.

I broke the branch to strip the leaves off--
Petals again! . . .

She cradles it in her arms.

But they so cling to it!

J.B.: Curse God and die, you said to me.

Sarah: Yes.

She looks up at him for the first time, then down again.

You wanted justice, didn't you?
There isn't any. There's the world . . .

She begins to rock on the doorsill, the little branch in her arms.

Cry for justice and the stars
Will stare until your eyes sting. Weep,
Enormous winds will trash the water.
Cry in sleep for your lost children,
Snow will fall . . .
snow will fall . . .

J.B.: Why did you leave me alone?

Sarah: I loved you.
I couldn't help you any more.
You wanted justice and there was none --
Only love.

J.B.: He does not love. He

Sarah: But we do. That's the wonder.

. . .


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