[a conceptual play in the form of a poem]

the situation

two friends have decided never
to speak to each other again

they feel that the affection
and respect they have for each other
is gradually dwindling away with each word
that passes between them

the situation is dramatic
a play for two actors
and two loudspeakers

the voices on loudspeakers
are the voices of the two actors

stage dark at first
gradual light reveals
the two friends seated
facing each other
one left one right of stage

loudspeaker over the head
of each friend

loudspeaker left tells why
friend left will not crack first

loudspeaker right tells why
he thinks
friend right will not crack

and so on

while loudspeakers speak
seated friends react
with bodily and facial gestures
to what loudspeaker
above each head says

voices on loudspeakers
get louder more argumentative
more aggressive angry enraged
as the play progresses

argument  turns to a debate
a trial a competition
voices encourage friends
to remain firm in their silence

loudspeaker left
tells that the reason
friend left will not crack
is because he is a poet
and poets know
silence and solitude

loudspeaker right retorts
that friend right is an actor
and actors know how not
to crack during a play

loudspeaker L
tells that friend L
will not crack first
because once upon a time
during the great war
he was tortured
he was tortured because
he knew something
something very secret
something unspeakable
the enemy tortured him
but he did not talk
he refused to talk

for weeks and for weeks
he remained silent in torture
and silence became for him
the reverse of torture
that is why friend R will not crack first

loudspeaker R
counters by saying
that anyone
in friend L's situation
would have found
the courage not
to crack it's natural
it's easy its normal
when one is being
tortured it's the rule

friend R found much more
courage for something
much more traumatic
and he was only seven then
the day his father beat him
with his belt
slashing at his body
with the leather of the belt
and even the belt buckle
and that day friend R swore
to himself in his pain
that he would not talk
to his father for a whole month
and for a whole month friend R
never spoke a word to his father
only a few can find
that  kind of courage
the happy few
and he was only seven then

and so on and so on

as the play progresses it becomes
gradually evident that the two silent
friends are growing more and more tense
nervous tortured in their bodies and minds

as the loudspeakers
continue to argue
the two friends
let out a scream
at the same time

say something please
say something
I can't take it anymore

say something please
say something
I can't take it any more

the screams get louder
as stage goes dark

no applause
no curtain call

Copyright © 1996 Raymond Federman