EDGAR AND CHARLES

A play in one act by Béa Aaronson

 

 

IN A TRAIN COMPARTMENT,

DURING THE NIGHT,

IN THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE,

TWO GENTLEMEN DRESSED IN 19TH CENTURY CLOTHES,

FACING ONE ANOTHER….

CHARLES BAUDELAIRE, A FRENCH POET,

AND EDGAR ALLAN POE, AN AMERICAN POET,

 

BOTH CURSED,

BOTH MISUNDERSTOOD,

BOTH REJECTED BY THE BOURGEOIS SOCIETY OF THEIR RESPECTIVE COUNTRIES.

BAUDELAIRE TRANSLATED POE’S WORKS AND MADE HIM FAMOUS IN FRANCE. HE HAD FOUND A SOUL MATE…

 

 

FIRST SCENE

 

Baudelaire

It’s a long journey…

 

Poe

Silence

 

Baudelaire

A very long journey…

 

Poe

Silence

Baudelaire

Do you know where you’re going?

pause

Do you want to know where you’re going?

 

Poe

Silence

He takes a sip from his silver liquor bottle

 

Baudelaire

Ah…you too…

I have my own. He takes a sip from his liquor.

Death is my mate.

I drown myself in her voluptuous poisons…

I smoke her too. He takes an opium pipe from his pocket and inhales a few puffs.

Poe

Who are you?

 

Baudelaire

I am you alter ego, dear lost soul. I am your raven…

 

Poe

Still thinking about the destination of the journey

Anywhere…anywhere out of this world!

This is where I want to go.

 

Baudelaire

Yes…anywhere…

I too long for a place where I could be myself…

Time, nothingness, pain, sickness, wounds,

I know them all,

they gnaw at me like whores sucking my blood on a mattress of needles…

Yes…..anywhere out of this world…

Poe

“Whether tempter sent, or whether tempest tossed thee here ashore,

Desolate yet undaunted, on this desert land enchanted”

 

“Through which came flowing, flowing, flowing

And sparkling evermore

A troop of echoes”

 

 

Baudelaire

We are the troopers…dear friend

Another illusion…

 

We walk in a forest of symbols…

Perfumes, sounds, colors echo one another

Dear Synesthesia…A balm on my hurting heart…

A few caresses…here…there…

Life…just an echo…

Baudelaire is itching everywhere…

He scratches his hands, his face, his body…

“I scratch my wound in front of a mirror…”

Will you be my mirror?

But…

I am the mirror…

I do not want to heal, I explode like a cancer….

carrying within myself “the bloody apparel of destruction”

I accept hell to escape from the irremediable despair of my life

 

 

Poe

My life is already hell.

Ghastly horror of this mundane, insipid, arrogant, superficial world in which I am forced to err like a derisory weakling… I thirst for the void…

For the final flight

A raven would save me…

“I dwelt along in a world of moan

And my soul was a stagnant tide”

 

Baudelaire

No… Not stagnant…

You move, you live in your words…

They live in you.

No. Not stagnant.

Your dreams save you as mine save me.

We are the sea, the waves, the sky, the stars.

We are like these harbors, which promise a journey, aways, always away, away from here,

away from now, away from the tormenting ugliness of this world which slurps the misery of others like one swallows a cordial.

 

 

Poe

I love you Charles.

 

Baudelaire

I love you Edgar.

 

 

Poe

My fears are your fears.

 

 

Baudelaire

I know. But these fears make us who we are. They urge us to write the truth, in its plural essence…

And give the hypocrites what they deserve…

Our contempt.

Plutocrats with a shallow veneer of culture, badly digested at that!

 

I hate the bourgeois, their cloned esthetics,

sprayed with the cosmetics of conspicuous consumption… Nothing ever changes. They force upon us their despicable greed and ostentatious tasteless fat selves.

Progress! They say…

“We shall die from too much progress…”

 

Poe

I curse the bourgeois…

Their earnest self-righteousness…

Their belching songs of material well-being.

They despise me…I despise them.

They tried to kill me.

But I will kill myself first…

And my words will kill them.

I write to forget… And to remember.

I write to give my life an illusion of mercy…

 

Isn’t it strange, the both of us, here, in this train, in the middle of the night… In the middle of nowhere, longing for an anywhere… Inventing an end to our stories…

 

 

Baudelaire

There is no end, Edgar… No end…

It always goes on… There is no beginning either… (how easy that was…!)

A star of black light… I am sucked in…

An extraordinary experience…

 

Like your stories….

 

 

Poe

It is woman, a cunt of black light, which engulfs me… Obsesses me…

“Woman… a fountain… a shrine….”

 

Baudelaire

…An altar on which I am dismembered…

“Oh, dear God, give me the strength to look at myself without disgust…”

Satan! Throw me a few bones to dance and I’ll write you a poem.

 
 
Poe

I’ll write you stories to shake your blood…

Looking at himself and touching his body

I hurt everywhere. My head is beating like a storm…

 

Baudelaire

I bleed like a fountain of red, each pore of my skin… An inkwell…

I will die in my own blood,

I will drown in my words…

Do you want to die with me?

In order to live forever…

I made you famous once, in my country, which is not yours, I took your words and made them mine … You shone…

Your genius at long last recognized…

Do you want to die with me tonight?

 

 

Poe

Isn’t it what we are doing now?

Dying….. (Ah Nietzsche! You pulled my strings!)

The clock is a vampire…

Dying for what we believe in…

Our fight against injustice, against lies and abuses, our fight for love, our longing to be loved…

Our fight against the sterile minds of bankers,

against flower arrangements and potted souls…

There is no justice for the poor… For the poets…

No justice in the books, in the courts of law,

there is no justice…

It will always be the gallows for us…

Difference disturbs…

There is no justice… But ours!

Baudelaire

Poetic justice….?

 

 

 

 

 

SECOND SCENE

 

Still in the train compartment, dark all around, two lights shine on Baudelaire and Poe. They look at one another in silence.  A music of scratched steel and sonorous metals (which I have recorded) provides a background of infernal emotional content.

 

Poe

“Mimes in the form of God on high

Mutter and mumble low”

“That motley drama- Oh be sure

It shall not be forgot”

 

“And over each quivering form

The curtain, a funeral pall,

Comes down with the rush of a storm”

 

 

Baudelaire

Your haunted palaces speak to me.

They show me the treacherous night of remembrance

Oh, how I love you and your dark beauty

 

Poe

Your exquisite nature so undecided

“thinking what this ominous bird of yore

What this grim, ungainly, gaunt, ghastly and ominous bird of yore”

 

 
Baudelaire

Croaking “Nevermore”

Your ghoul-haunted visions

Shut up in your sepulchers…

 

Will we flicker to heaven?

 

 

Poe

Only our eyes

I confess I dream of an un-extinguishable sun

 

Baudelaire

Is it hope…?

There is no hope. Not for us.

Only mirrors, shadows and disillusions.

I shall sanctify your fire so sweetly scintillating.

And what will you say, poor solitary soul,

What will you say to my heart?

Once, only once, we shall drink the nectar of this full-orbed moon

And then expire, multiplied in our words

 

 

Poe

“Those crystalline celestial spheres…”

 

Baudelaire

Where heaven and hell make love

Divided against one another

Divided against ourselves

 

My dear soul

We multiply…

 

Poe

Like an electric fire in the glare of night…

 

Baudelaire

We multiply to conquer all fears…

Poe

Annabel…!

 

Baudelaire

Jeanne…!

 

Poe

Mother!

 

Baudelaire

Maman!

I was just a festering fetus to you…

You never believed in me…

Yet, how I loved to touch your dresses, to burry my head in the scented lace of your days…you never understood me…

 

 

Silence, the metallic grinding music becomes louder

 

 

 

Poe

Yes Charles, I want to die…

Now… With you… Through you…

This is the journey…

 

 

Baudelaire

A very long journey…

In this train to nowhere which is everywhere

We shall find peace, freedom….

At long last

No more pain

No more sores to pierce, no more wounds to scratch

 

The music becomes almost unbearable, loud, strident and sharp.

 

Poe and Baudelaire shout to one another

 

 

 

Poe

This is no farting storm!

 

 

Baudelaire

This is deliverance!

A new world is being born…

God is a great Farter!

 

Poe

Deadly journey….

 

 
Baudelaire

Life….!

 

 

 

THE END