"The Kentucky Cycle"
written by Robert Schenkkan
(Star, a Cherokee maiden (survivor of the Pox), was kidnapped and raped and forced to be the wife of Michael Rowen (Irish immigrant/murderer). Here she is hallucinating while having his child.)
Star: This child will kill me! Like the leaves in the time of changing colours, I am torn and scattered. Where are you, Grandmother?! You have turned your back on your people and we are no more. Cloudy Boy and even your Dog have abandoned us. The Four Witnesses hide their eyes and are mute. The Four Winds are still. All is death. It is the time of the Fall Bread Dance, and we gather to give thanks, Grandmother, for your bounty. The Great Game is close this year, but we women win and the men must gather wood for the twelve days of feasting and dancing! Aaiiiiiiieeeee! Laughing Eagle smiles at me, and my sisters whisper that his Mother will soon be talking to mine and bringing the gift of skins. Father frowns, but secretly I think he is pleased. Brother is chosen as one of the Twelve who will provide for the feast, and my heart swells so with pride it will burst! At dawn on the third morning, we gather to greet them at the Council House. See how he steps forward with the Grandfather of Deer - horns like the branches of an oak tree! That night, my brother grows ill. Hot, like fire, his skin burns to the touch. No amount of water can touch his thirst. He drinks streams and lakes. The Shaman dances, but he, too, is ill. We burn now, all of us. Two days later, the blisters appear, stinging like red ants, like bees. I claw at my skin, my nail black with my own blood. The first to die are dressed and painted by their friends, as the great Grandmother taught us. Each is given proper burial in the earth, but as more and more are dying, there is no one with the strength to carry his brother to the burial ground. My father dresses in his finest skins and feathers. He paints his face and sings his death song. He takes his shield and his lance and dares the Red Death to fight him in the Council House. The Red Death smiles at him and he dies. Everywhere is death. And I am the Noon-Day Sun who dreamed once, that she was a woman named Morning Star. Where are my sisters?! Who will build my birthing hut? Where is my mother? Who will guide me through my time? Where are, Grandmother? Why have you turned your face from your people?! THIS CHILD WILL KILL ME!
How I hated you, little one. When my blood stopped and my belly grew, how i hated you! You were a part of him, my enemy, only now he was inside me. No longer could I shut him out, for there you were, always! How I hated you! But when I felt you move, child, when you whispered to me that you were mine - ahhhhh, how then I laughed at my fears! MINE! You are my blood, and my flesh! We are one breath and one heartbeat and one thought, and that is DEATH TO HIM! Hurry, child - how I long to hold you! Hurry, child - my breasts ache for your touch. Hurry, child, and grow strong. Michael Rowen, you have a son. He is born with teeth.
Jed: I sneak out of church and into an apple orchard where the trees are so full of crows the branches crack under their weight. The fruit rots on the ground. The trees are all beaks and eyes and appetite. There's a cold church picnic laid out on tables underneath the trees, and I sit down and a ragged woman puts a plate of food in front of me. She goes and kneels next to her sister. I'm hungry and I eat. I eat alone 'cept for this one man who sits across from me, his hat pulled low so I can't see his face. I can see his hands though, and his nails are torn and bleeding. When I finish my plate the woman brings me another one. And when I finish that, another one. I eat till I'm full to burstin', but I'm afraid to stop. Afriad what might happen to me if I stop eatin'. I make myself sick, and when I look up again the man removes his hat and I know him now - he's Quantrill. William Clarke Quantrill. "Have some more Jed" Quantrill says and he laughs. And then the women begin to speak.
(Mary Anne Rowe: she is a hardened woman who remembers her past with mixed feelings)
Mary Anne: Spring usta explode in these mountains like a two-pound charge of black powder hand-tamped down a rathole. After months of grey skies and that damp mountain cold that bores into your bones like termites in a truckload of wood, its your dogwood trees that finally announce what everthin's been watin' for.
First thing some morning, you might see a single blossom hangin' there, light pink, the colour of a lover's promise... If lies had a colour. And then later that afternoon, damned if that bud ain't been joined by a hunnert of his brothers and sisters all sittin' 'round, chattin' each other up, Sunday-go-to-meetin' style. 'Course, dogwood's just the beginnin'.
The spark what lights the fuse for spring, that's the azaleas. When they get to goin'm, you'd swear somebody'd scattered a whole handful of lit matches across those hills. Bible story is how old man Moses talked to a burnin' bush. But for my money, he was just conversin' with a scarlet azalea in full bloom. Story just got a little expanded in the retellin'... the way stories do.
Fella once told me a story, said these ain't no real mountains here at all - that iff you stood high enough, you could see it was all just one big mound that had been crisscrossed and cut up into so many hills and valleys by the spring run-off, that it just looked like mountains. Leastways, that was his story.
Only, I don't put no truck in stories no more.
Mary Anne: I told my pa what JT said... and Pa said it was a lie. That JT was lyin'. That he'd beat JT in the deal and that JT was just tryin' to get out of it now, tryin' to get his money back. I asked Pa about Quantrill and Kansas and he said I'd just have to make my own mind up about that. That I could believe him, believe my own daddy, or I could believe this stranger. And if I chose JT - well, here was the contract and I could tear that up too.
I didn't tear it up. I didn't want to believe JT, and so I chose not to. Like he said, I guess, people believe what they want to believe. And he was right, of course. Probably the only time JT wells told the truth and he wasn't believed. And people say God don't got a sense of humour.
They came a couple of years later, just like he said they would, and they cut down all of the trees, includin' my oak. I was right about it holdin' up the sky 'cause when they chopped it down, everythin' fell in: moon and stars n' all. Springs different now. Without the trees you get no colour: no green explosion. And you got nothin' to hold the land down neither. What you get is just a whole lotta rain, movin' a whole lotta mud. I try to tell my boy, Joshua what it was like, so he'll know, so it won't be forgotten but he just looks at me and laughs. "Mama's tellin' stories again," he says.
Maybe I am.
Mary Anne: We lost the land when I was twenty and moved into a coal company camp, where Tommy found work in the mines. I stood on my porch that first day and I looked down at my new home: dust and noise and flame. Like some old preacher's vision of hell.
Durin' the day I swept and mopped the coal dust out of the house but ever night, while I slept, it crept back in with the shadows, like my daddy's bad dreams, and ever mornin' I started all over again. And always there was that smell: like you took a corn-shuck mattress, soacked it in piss, covered it with garbage and coal and set it on fire.
We had five kids, five sons, and ever rainy season for four years the fever came and took one of my boys. He's the last, my Joshua. I sit with him now as he burns and he sweats and I hold his hand and do what every grievin' mother has done since the begginin' of time: I lie.
(Her husband Tommy, has sold out the union organizer (who were trying to get a union started in the mining camp they lived in) and now the organizer is dead.)
MaryAnne: I 'member when you was courtin' me, how mean my folks was to you and how you just stood there and took it 'cause you loved me, and even my daddy had to admit, "That Tommy Jackson, he ain't no quitter." And I though, no, he aint. When they tore my stars down, I'da give up right then but you woulnd't let me. I didn't love you, but I thought, "They can tear these mountains apart, but Tommy Jackson won't quit on me."
I know you loved our boys, and I loved you for that. I put up with the drinkin' and you hittin' me 'cause I didn't think I deserved any better. You wasn't never kind, Tommy, and you weren't never wise, but I never thought you was a quitter.
And then you quit on me.
My name is Rowen. Mary Anne Rowen. I got one son, Joshua Rowen, and this man is a stranger to me.
Kudos and much thanks go to Becca for this monologue, it is very much appreciated.
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