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PAJ: A Journal of Performance and Art 23.1 (2001) 127-136

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Dusk: a performance text

Lenora Champagne


Summer light spills over the scene.
(The light is always summer here.)
There is plenty on the table, a schnauzer on the side.
This is the happy life     of more than enough.
High color
Red shadow
Green-eyed cat
white plate.

A child reaches out to lemons piled on a plate. She chooses one on the bottom. A riot of yellow spills across the table and tumbles to the floor. She tries to bite through the bitter skin.

(est)      French for is
from ĂȘtre      (to be)
a sliver of lemon peel
grated lemon or orange rind
the zest of a lemon
as in, a zest for life
a kind of energy and active joy, a thrill, a tangy, alert aliveness, a wide awakeness, a see what's there and thrill in it. A yes.

A woman sits down to breakfast with her family. "The coffee is too hot," she says. As he lifts the cup to his lips, she says it again. He takes a sip. His face twitches.

"The coffee is too hot," she says. "Your chocolate is too hot, also. We'll let the cups sit and cool."
The child reaches out and puts her hand over the cups.
"It's steamy," she says.
She's right. The steam is rising.

The child climbs onto her father's lap. She bounces on his leg, as he raises and lowers his ankle.
"Faster," she says.
"Just like her mother," he says.

"The coffee is too hot," she says. She is dissatisfied, impatient at this delay in her gratification.
"Put milk in it," he says.
"There's no milk," she says.

"The coffee is too hot," she says, glad for something to measure the chill in the room by. Steam rises between them.

That was the morning, then. Everyone went off, the husband to work, the child to nursery school. Now she is making labels in big block letters. IN THE BEGINNING WAS THE [End Page 127] WORD. The child will learn there is a name for everything. Of course, she first must learn the letters. She already knows the letter "A," the letter "L," the letter "R." And sometimes "S," for snake.

So the woman writes the words, but she gets carried away.
I sit in a CHAIR.
This is what she writes. But what she thinks is,
A solid object receives my solid self. Supports it.
Then she notices what is in the CHAIR.
She writes, HAIR.
Once thick and dark, growing thin, wiry, gray. Curls where it was straight before.
From here to AIR.
I breathe in and out and it expands and contracts me. It is the one thing my life is full of.

Then she notices what she is writing on, and makes a label for it.
TABLE A solid surface to set things on. A plate, some paper, a baby.
ABLE I am. She is. We are. Gratefully so.
BLE      Wheat, in French. For the table.
LE      The first two letters of my name.

Everything is breaking down, breaking apart.

She presses down on the table. This pressure helps her stand up. She stands by planning to sit, as a friend taught her to do. It improves one's alignment.

She wipes the glass top of the table with a damp sponge.
GLASS Clear, brittle, resistant. Breakable.
LASS      What she was. What the child will soon be.
ASS      What she feels like sometimes, but usually manages to shake off.

She looks down and sees herself reflected in the
SURFACE on the face of
FACE      the front we put on things.

Her own face, her very self, is being altered by gravity. Everything is being pulled toward the earth. Her mouth turns down, her breasts sag, her mind hovers close to the ground. No more flights of fancy, throes of passion, rare the gusts of whimsy. She is solidly planted in her life. Growing, not up to the light, but sideways, like a creeper.

She runs water for the plants. She...


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