The mad ones shinny down ropes from the roof,
scatter through aisles waking the audience.
Sade steps on stage to introduce the cast
milling back of and before him, curtains
wrapping women’s bodies to shield men’s eyes.
These are the throwaways decked out in rags.
Sade’s mother-in-law put him here. He debauched
her daughter and lured other women here,
holding out his arms to seize whomever.
He roams his cell in Charenton and shouts
at the man with keys passing by, and talks
with himself. The asylum inmates hear
him speak to them. He insists upon vice,
the authorities say, Why give him quarter?
Their vice he calls his voice. He is a saint
commissioned by the imagination
to do the devil’s work: Only he knows
Charlotte Corday. Jean Paul Marat. Bastille,
guillotine. Let the rabble have its way.
Sever the heads, throw the baskets away,
there’s blood enough to float a ship at sea
through the arteries, out the veins, and dock
in Pandemonium. He’s making art
in the wings, goading his players to reach
the heights he assigned to them from the start.
Priests buggering nuns and their acolytes.
A century ends, another begins.
Sade stays mad. Peter Weiss writes his play
and hires Sade to direct Corday's dagger
as it penetrates Marat in his tub.
Peter Weiss leaves Prague to die in Stockholm.
But first he keeps seeing, hearing the known
couple by instinct with what’s unknown. Mad
Artaud among the Tarahumaras
moved over the mountains crossing his mind;
Brecht survived alone the studied slaughter,
teeming inferno of dying Europe.
The twentieth century was enough,
but God damns us now with the twenty-first.
Determined innocence everywhere, fools
in their dotage fawning in blue-black gowns.
What can anyone know who knew nothing.
The torture chamber lies in the basement.
How do you think such souls came to be here.
Slavering freaks of nature no one fears.
Nor is there crime enough to go around.
Disbanded armies are hired to clear streets.
The few prosper most with the rest fearful.
Hear shrieks and screams come from the other side
of towns platted and built to hold such hell.
First to protest have been drawn and quartered.
Last to flee follow footprints through the blood.
(16 December 2011)
copyright 2011 by Floyce Alexander