WHAT DO YOU OFFER?

MY FRIENDSHIP WITH SARAH KANE:

COMPLETE PLAYS

by Meghan Lamb

I've been waiting for a guide to come and take me by the hand. 

Could these sensations make me feel the pleasures of a normal man? 

These sensations barely interest me for another day. 

I've got the spirit, lose the feeling, take the shock away... 

 

I've got the spirit, but lose the feeling, 

I've got the spirit, but lose the feeling, 

Feeling, feeling, feeling, feeling, feeling, feeling, feeling... 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m struggling to find an occasion for writing about you. 

I’m struggling to find an occasion for writing to you. 

I’m struggling to find an occasion for writing for you. 

(I cannot write for you. I cannot write for you.) 

 

I’m struggling to find a name for this occasion. 

I’m struggling to find a name for what you are, to me. 

 

I think, what are you, to me, but the answers do not satisfy. 

You’re everything. 

A confidant. 

A mouthpiece for my longing. 

An invisible confessional. 

A need, a need (what kind of need?) 

A shape to give my sadness. 

A complicitous friend. 

More to the point: you are the kind of friend that someone like me 

needs, someone who struggles to confess, confide, and not for any lack of feeling, 

but for fearing—knowing—that to speak—as one would, to a friend— 

would be to re-invite the worst betrayal.

But you have friends.

(A long silence.)

You have a lot of friends.

What do you offer your friends to make them so supportive?

(A long silence.)

What do you offer your friends to make them so supportive?

(A long silence.)

What do you offer?

(Silence.)

What did you offer, Sarah? 

Everything. 

Everything you had, despite the risk—the fear— 

the knowledge—of betrayal— 

for you knew that

every act is a symbol

the weight of which crushes me

and you knew, even then,

in the midst of your writing

THIS WILL KILL ME

AND CRUSH ME AND SEND ME TO HELL  

Every word is a symbol, an ache of an act that disposes its subject

the weight of words, crushing you weighing you

down with their wrongness

their falseness

or rarely—and maybe most awfully—rightness

the weight of them, crushing your fragments of life

in the shape of my friend

in the shape of your words

 

now my words

as I’m doing now

knowing my words

are an act of adoring violence.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m now remembering an evening many years ago

Bloomington, Indiana, at a karaoke night.

Some kid gets up onto the platform in the middle of the room.

The intro bars of New Order’s “Blue Monday” flash up on the screen.

 

He shuffles back and forth around across the stage.

The first lines of the song go by.

He doesn’t look up and he doesn’t sing.

 

He mumbles something at the floor.

He grabs the mic.

He grips it tight between his fists and he begins to scream.

 

He shouts through the entire song.

He doesn’t sing the lyrics.

He just wails, over and over,

 

IAN CURTIS! IAN CURTIS!

 

The lyrics of the song, meanwhile, speek out to its absence:

 

I thought I was mistaken

I thought I heard your words

 

I thought then—and I think now

that he is my model for the way I want to write

this piece, specifically.

 

When you’ve laid your hands upon me and told me who you are

 

I hope you’ll tell me, Sarah

now, how do I feel?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I feel I cannot help but read my life into your writing. 

I know little of your life, and what I do know mirrors mine. 

You were raised—as I was—in an affluent suburban neighborhood.

(Brick stores and flower boxes, neighbors peering between curtains.)

You were raised—as I was—with a top-notch education.

(Making honor roll, despite your small rebellions, porn mags sandwiched into books.)

You were raised—as I was—by committed Christians.

(Someone always watching, peaking through your thoughts, observing your transgressions.)

    

You tried to carve your own space into the religion of your parents

through their

spirit-filled, born-again lunacy.

You held out longer than I did, into adulthood. 

You tried to carve a space within a form you knew would not receive you, 

and, in trying, you began to carve into yourself.

 

What am I like?

the child of negation

 

forged through your destruction…

 

out of one torture chamber into another…

 

When I re-read your plays, I feel that fear, again, that love, 

that need to understand your origins, to reconcile yourself with them. 

 

When I re-read your plays, I feel anew, renewed, 

that sense of cosmic loneliness, that strange, almost sublime 

terror of culpability. 

 

Depression is anger. It’s what you did, who was there and who you’re blaming.

And who are you blaming?

Myself.

 

Your life was filled with love. 

Your love for Beckett, Barker, Bond.

Your love for gallows humor, football, music, and live shows especially. 

You loved Jesus and Mary Chain, the Pixies, Joy Division, 

loved the sense of being in a big, dark room with other people.

    

You wanted very much to write your life into your failed language

(just as I did, just as I am trying to).

I wanted to write plays. I learned I needed to write fictions.

You wanted to write poems. You learned you needed to write plays.

 

You learned that theater was your form because it 

 

has no memory. 

 

You, too, had something living in you that you needed to forget.

You turned to theater, hoping someone 

 

in a darkened room somewhere 

 

would show you

 

    an image that burn[ed] itself 

 

into your mind. 

 

I wonder now, at 30, what to say for your lifetime of 28 years.

A life of 28 years seems like barely any time at all.

At 30, in some ways, I feel I’ve just started.

Still awaiting publication of my first book. 

    

By 28, you’d written five plays and a screenplay: 

Blasted, Phaedra’s Love, Cleansed, Skin, Crave, and 4:48 Psychosis. 

In the obituary Mark Ravenhill wrote for you, 

he talked about a conversation you had with him over a few beers. 

You said

 

Most good playwrights write seven good plays 

and then something happens 

and then after that

everything they write is crap

    

You sat together, making lists of writers and their plays 

that all confirmed your theory: 

Seven seemed to be the golden number.

You then said

 

I’m not far off now from my allotted seven.

Mark protested. Little did he know how right you were.

    

And now, I hold the Methuan edition of Sarah Kane: Complete Plays

268 pages of all you were and will be.

The Complete Plays: the ring of it, the grim finality

the understanding this was your entire life

and it is now complete.

 

28 years is barely any time, but for you, that was life,

and it feels strange, of course, to write toward this life I did not live,

that I have never known, but nevertheless felt I knew,

and nevertheless filled with so much real love.

 

This love that fills the void of what I do not know and cannot know

and do not ultimately even want to know…

 

Some will call this self-indulgence

(they are lucky not to know its truth)

Some will know the simple fact of pain

 

I didn’t know you, Sarah, and I cannot know you.

Even so, I feel that I feel what you wanted me to feel:

The sensation that I’m standing in some darkened room, somewhere,

feeling vibrations of you, speaking

from the other side, unseen.







 

…you can’t expect me to have no reaction…

…it’s not that…

…your language…

…just have to accept this is the way you are…

…it’s not the way I want to be…

…I want…

…this stupid casing of my thoughts…

…no…

…I can’t ask for that…

…not fair to ask what I can’t give…

…I know you think…

…yes, yes, please tell me what l’m thinking, once again…

…I’m sorry…

…no, you’re not…

…I’m so sorry…

…then maybe you should…

…just go…

…no…

…stop asking that…

…it isn’t that…

…it’s how you say it…

…so sick of these talks…

…so sick of conversations orbiting around my weakness…

…please…

…I just want to be better…

…please…

…I want to…

…think…

…the problem, from the start…

…I feel…

…are you still awake…

…do you love me…

…I love you…

…I love you…

…the problem…

…no…

…I’m sorry…

…it’s just…

…no, it’s not…

…I know…

…I don’t…

…I’m sorry…

…are you still awake…

 

 

 

 

My phone alarm goes off. 

I’ve set it to 4:48, hoping this will confer upon me 

some of Sarah Kane’s lucidity. 

 

At 4.48

when desperation visits

I shall hang myself

to the sound of my lover’s breathing

 

I blink against the pain behind my eyes.

4:48.

4 + 4: 8.

Two halves. 

A whole.

Verisimilitude.

My head aches.

 

At 4.48

the happy hour

when clarity visits

 

Whether you’ve been up all night

or whether you’re waking early

4:48 signifies 

an ultimate exhaustion

dry throat

warm cold bones

 

the sense of floating 

light

drifting

 

I shall hang myself

 

already hanging

in some sense

this feels logical

 

warm darkness 

which soaks my eyes

I know no sin

 

 

I blink against the pain behind my eyes.

My head aches.

Reset the alarm.

Return to my most cherished dreams

wherein the world is washed out

raining in foggy scenes of ghosts

who look like no one

performing some pale simulation of my life. 

 

At 4.48

when desperation visits

I shall hang myself

to the sound of my lover’s breathing

 

The phone alarm goes off, again.

I squint.

I hold it in my hand.

I plead with it.

10 minutes.

15.

10. 

15.

    

Another moment to live

hovering inside this washed out world

thinking washed out thoughts,

I think.

I’m pleading.

Bargaining with time.

 

A clear voice overtakes this bargaining.

No.

(That is what it always says.)

 

I shift around my husband

who’s still sleeping.

 

He is breathing softly, deeply

his tall body curled up

curved into itself

a sleeping shell

beneath the sheets.


 

I am jealous of my sleeping lover and covet his induced

unconsciousness.


 

I think of all these moments in our still yet unlived life.

How much time left?

To live?

To sleep?

To work?

To wait?

To be awake?

 

Waking up early

writing to the sound

of him still sleeping, breathing.

 

Bargaining.

For what?

 

More time.

For what?


To write.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Most good playwrights write seven good plays

and then something happens

and then after that

everything they write is crap

 

This horrible anxiety that pulls

in both directions:

 

I must write my body

of good work

the reason I am here.

 

Then, on the other end,

awareness of that body’s liminality.

Seven good works.

No room for failure in your

Complete Plays.

    

 

I’m not far off now from my allotted seven.

 

Pleading.

Begging for a kind of strange permission

only you can give

yourself.

 

I recognize that kind of pleading.

There is no doubt in my mind

that you were asking for permission from yourself

in speaking to your friend.

    

But what I do not know

(and cannot know)

is, were you pleading for the right

to end your life

or for the right

to end your writing?

 

It seems absurd to contemplate this,

now that you are dead,

now that you are complete

with your six works in this anthology,

but my mind drifts around the question of

the this—What did you mean?—when you said

 

DON’T LET THIS KILL ME

THIS WILL KILL ME AND CRUSH ME AND

SEND ME TO HELL







 

    

What am I writing?

Here.

This.

Now.

 

Why am I writing?

Here.

This.

Now.

 

It isn’t good enough.

It’s never good enough.

 

I need…

I need…

I need…

 

What?

 

I don’t know.

More time.

 

For what?

 

To write a better self.

 

For what?

 

To write something worthwhile.

 

How?

 

By filling something in.

Filling this absence I have outlined.

 

To become—in words—the person I am seeking.

To become—in words—this person whom I cannot seem to speak to.

To become—in words—this essence that I can’t seem to describe.



 

Close my eyes and think about her.

She’s—

She’s—

She’s—

She’s—

She’s—

She’s—

 

Waking up early

writing to the sound

of him still sleeping, breathing.

Writing my desire for this

for this she

 

I realize

there is a terribly fine

line between

I shall wake to write

and

I shall hang myself.








 

Does this sound crazy?

Maybe.

But there’s something to be said for desperate bargaining

the pull of some induced unconsciousness

or wakefulness.

 

The pull that lead Sarah to write 4.48 Psychosis

also lead her readers to write

a redemption in her suicide.

        

The Methuan Sarah Kane: Complete Plays

does not arrange her catalogue

into its chronological order.

It does not end with 4.48 Psychosis,

Sarah’s final play

in which the lead character

commits suicide.

 

It does not end with this final scene,

this final act of violence

that so closely mirrors

Sarah’s own suicide.

 

Take an overdose, slash my wrists, then hang myself.

All those things together?

It couldn’t possibly be misconstrued as a cry for help.


 

Instead, it ends with the screenplay

for Sarah’s short film, Skin

which would’ve fallen

somewhere between Phaedra’s Love and Cleansed.

 

Skin tells the story of a skinhead, Billy, who confronts his

history of violence through the body of Marcia,

a black woman who fucks him

cuts him, holds him captive

scrapes his skin with bleach

beats him, demanding, asking

    

What’s it like? What’s it like? What’s it like?

    

Eventually, Marcia understandably grows weary

of interrogating someone

who can’t answer for his actions.

She decides he needs to leave.

He pleads to stay.

When he returns home, he takes pills and

records a new message

on his answering machine.

Hello. I’m dead. Don’t bother

to leave a message.

 

This message is intercepted by his neighbor, Neville

who sees Billy wavering, then falling down before the window.

Neville climbs the stairs and drags

Billy up to the toilet where he vomits.

Neville pats his back.

 

That’s it, son, better out than in…


Up til this end piece, the Complete Plays

moves forward through time.

Skin is the one exception

to its linear formation.

 

One can rationalize, Skin is written in a separate form

and therefore separated from the other plays,

but I believe there’s more to it than that.

A kind of meaning-seeking desperation

driving its arrangement.

 

A kind of pleading with her legacy, with time.

Rewriting history.

Rewriting her.

A different kind of violence.

 

A violence that comes from love

that comes from longing

from the ironic desire

to preserve the shape of Sarah’s life.

 

The desire to construct some sort of alternate timeline

a plot line based around the thesis of

redemptive love.

 

The desire to stretch out a line

a curtain of redemptive thought.

To override the culmination of

4.48 Psychosis.

    

The desire to imagine

some reality wherein

Sarah was taken by some gentle hand

and patted on the back.

 

The desire to conceive

some alternate reality

some kinder world

wherein Sarah Kane

is still alive.

 

    





 

For Sarah, though, to live,    

to be alive within the world

where she lived felt like a declaration

of complicity with violence,

 

I gassed the Jews,

I killed the Kurds,

I bombed the Arabs,

I fucked small children

while they begged for mercy,

the killing fields are mine,

 

she proclaims, awfully,

and,

equally awfully,

everyone left the party because of me…

 

A hotel room in Leeds.

A bombed out ghetto.

College.

Sanatorium.

The killing fields.

The party.

All the same terrified landscape.

    









 

…I feel that fear…

…that love…

…to understand…

…to reconcile…

…anew…

…renewed…

…that sense of cosmic loneliness…

…terror of culpability…

 

Depression is anger. It’s what you did, who was there and who you’re blaming.

And who are you blaming?

Myself.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is the point where I should offer you another scene

a visual environment

to help keep you invested in the narrative.

 

How’s this:

I’m 17.

Thin.

Moody.

Smart, but dumb.

“Artistic”.

Short hair.

Recently cut.

Drives my mother fucking crazy.

 

Red corduroy skirt.

Black button shirt.

Tall, black boots—lace-ups—scuffed all over

propped up on some dark blue institutional chair,

sitting in another blue chair

rocking against on the nubs beneath its legs

teetering back and forth, back and forth, back and forth.

    

I’m reading Sarah Kane: Complete Plays

for the first time

before class,

then, during class

sandwiched between the covers of my bio textbook

then, my math book

then, my health book

then, over the long, white table

and the plain bagel—uneaten

cream cheese pack—unopened.

    

My friend asks what I’m reading

and I show her.

She flips through it.

Nice.

 

I squint.

Nice.

Cool.

I return to Sarah Kane.

 

What do you offer your friends to make them so supportive?

(A long silence.)

What do you offer?

(Silence.)

What do you offer?

(Silence.)

    




 

Here’s another:

I’m 17.

Thin.

Thinner.

Short hair

Shorter.

In a thick gray sweater

I’ve been wearing for

3 days straight.

 

Same jeans too.

Same bra.

Same underwear.

 

Teal institutional socks

with small rubber nubs

along the bottoms of the feet.

 

I kneed my fingers through my hair

which smells like Neutrogena

“clarifying” soap,

the mild kind that comes in

pale blue bottles.

They gave me this to wash with

after they took my shampoo

at the front desk

because it contained alcohol.

    

A nurse hands me loose sheets of paper

and a pencil with a duly softened tip

so I can write,

as I have told her I would like to.

 

This could be therapeutic, she says.

Maybe, I oblige.

She smiles supportively.

I try to smile back in the same way.

 

She looks unsatisfied.

I cannot offer

what I want to offer.

 

Smiling still, she asks,

when you grow up,

will you become a writer?

 

    







 

…can’t give you what you want…

…I want you…

…can’t be everything…

…don’t need to be…

…I need…

…that kind of thinking doesn’t help…

…I feel…

…so impossible…

…responsible for…

…everything…

…irresponsible…

…just drifting, pacing…

…everything feels impossible…

…I need too much…

…I think too much…

…I want to be…

…everything…

 

I’ve never in my life had a problem giving another person what they want.

But no one’s ever been able to do that for me.

No one touches me., no one gets near me.

But now you’ve touched me somewhere so fucking deep I can’t believe

and I can’t be that for you.

Because I can’t find you

I’ve never actually seen any of Sarah’s plays performed.

As of this moment, writing this, I’ve only seen them in my mind

in my imagination of that darkened room

and my imagination of her impossible-seeming language.

 

Her plays are filled with moments of impossible activity,

actions that one must struggle to envision as performable.

A flower sprouting from the floor.

A limb cut off.

A tongue cut out.

Rats, vultures

squeaking, teaming, rushing, and devouring them.

 

A woman and a man,

speaking in overlapping,

synchronized tones

performing as one body,

a strange amalgam of both parts.

 

In every play, so many moments of abstracted pain

described in bare, stripped language

flattened time

which finds its meaning in its rhythms

the experience it cultivates within its reader

moving with this violent pulse

before the scene has even been imagined.

 

    

    …strangling himself with his bare hands.

Darkness.

Light.

 

…shitting.

And then trying to clean it up with newspaper.

Darkness.

Light.

 

…laughing hysterically.

Darkness.

Light.

 

…having a nightmare.

Darkness.

Light.

 

…crying, huge bloody tears.

…hugging the Soldier’s [dead] body for comfort.

Darkness.

Light.


 

She leaves us with so many questions:

How long does each scene last?

How long does the darkness last?

To say nothing of, what does this look like?

And yet, we know so much, implicitly, through simple repetition.

One can’t help imagining these scenes in cold, swift beats.

    

Then, there are moments where the language overtakes the scene.

The question then becomes, not merely

How do I perform this act?

but, How do these words even translate into action?

Who is saying/doing this?

What are they—what are you—doing

with these words?


 

flash  flicker  slash  burn  wring  press  dab  slash

flash  flicker  punch  burn  float  flicker  dab  flicker  

punch    flicker  flash  burn  dab  press  wring  press

punch  flicker  float  burn  flash  flicker  burn

 

it will never pass

 

dab  flicker punch  slash  wring  slash  punch  slash

float  flicker  flash  punch  wring  press  flash  press

dab  flicker  wring  burn  flicker  dab  flash  dab  float

burn  press  burn  flicker  burn flash

 

Nothing’s forever

 

(but Nothing)

 

slash  wring  punch  burn  flicker  dab  float  dab

flicker  burn  punch  burn  flash  dab  press  dab  

wring  flicker  float  slash  burn  slash  punch  slash

press  slash  float  slash  flicker  burn  dab

 

Victim. Perpetrator. Bystander.

 

    

The speaker—and, for that matter, the audience—

are never neatly traceable in 4.48 Psychosis.

At turns, the narration addresses an other—the doctor—

in a conversation that the play repeats and references.

More often, though, the narration speaks to a slipperier you,

which could be thought of as the doctor,

a more generalized “friend”,

or lover

or a stranger

foggy figure of a she

the narrator calls out to

vaguely

desperately

without answer

(Silence.)

What does she look like?

And how will I know her when I see her?

She’ll die, she’ll die, she’ll only fucking die.

 

The speaker, too

becomes an amalgam

of I, of you, of she

of confession, direct address

and shadowy soliloquies

of lists, of aphorisms

unattributable quotes

a dark collaging of her thought process

and mine

and ours.

 

To my mind, Sarah situates us—and herself—as

 

Victim. Perpetrator. Bystander.

 

And everyone involved is guilty.

    


 

And to read 4.48 Psychosis is to be involved.

Sarah demands complicity

with her thoughts

and her suicide.










If only, if only

we could reach you somehow, inside that darkened room.

 

But you anticipate this need,

anticipate this longing.

 

That is why you left us with this play

that forces us to re-experience

what you had not—yet, then—experienced

 

but knew,

nevertheless.

 

At least, you knew all that you needed

to bring us up to that precipice,

with you

that question you were asking,

 

    What’s it like…

the moment of completion

of your death

the moment you built to

and wrote toward

throughout your catalogue of plays.

 

If only, if only

an idiotic thought

a useless need

a need to peer beneath a moment

that we know we cannot see

 

a need you nevertheless recognized

and spoke to, in your kindness

in that final moment

that apex between your life and death.

    

As Hippolytus cries out

at the very end of Phaedra’s Love:

If there could have been more moments

like this.

(dies)






 

I’m 17.

Filled with desire

to become an actress

to become the disembodied voice

of my becoming.

 

Do you think it’s possible for a person to be born

in the wrong body?

 

You know, I really feel like I’m being manipulated.

 

I join school plays,

community productions,

drama club,

speech team.

My “speech” is a soliloquy that I’ve assembled

shortened from collaged lines of

4.48 Psychosis.

Is this too creepy?

I ask the speech team leader.

(I can tell he thinks I’m creepy.)

 

It isn’t creepy, he says, unconvincingly,

because you’re just performing

something written by somebody else.

But she was creepy, Sarah Kane, he contextualizes,

because this was not a play for her,

because she went through with these actions.

 

I am incensed, of course.

The nerve.

That anyone would dare to write off

Sarah Kane, my Sarah Kane

in such a way.

 

I practice my lines from 4.48 Psychosis.

I perform this monologue

believing I am speaking

in the voice of Sarah,

wanting to be her,

to find her, in her words

to be her words

to show the world

she was anything but creepy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m 28.

Long hair.

Thin.

Not as thin.

Wearing a black dress and a sweater.

Thick tights, scarf, and snow boots.

It is snowing.

I drive through the snow and park at the hotel

where I am meeting him

the man I do not know—yet, then—

will be my future husband.

 

I watch him walking toward me.

I watch him through the rearview mirror

as he moves closer, closer

from across the parking lot.

 

It is a rare feeling to watch a person in your rearview

as they’re walking closer, toward you

and not away.

 

Tall, gray clothes

and a sort of foggy gray aspect.

It’s something in his walk.

Firm and upright

but not overly confident.

 

He sits next to me in the car.

He smiles without smiling.

What does he say then?

I don’t remember what he says.

 

We drive out to the Thai restaurant

where we said we’d eat.

The snow falls harder, harder.

I keep looking in the mirror

at him.

 

At the restaurant

the waitress mentions

her hometown in Thailand.

He has been to Thailand, to the town where she is from.

 

They discuss Thailand.

They discuss home

and a strange ache

starts to fill the room,

as though Thailand

is just a short drive’s distance

from the restaurant.

    

The waitress says, we’re closed

except for takeout, now.

A blizzard’s coming.

So, we get two tofu curries

and we drive to my apartment.

 

We talk for 5 hours.

He smiles and I fiddle with my hair.

We talk about our histories,

the countries he has traveled to

the places where I want to go

the things we want to do

or something

mostly sharing in the atmosphere

of one anothers' longing.

 

I don’t remember what we say

but I remember feeling an immediate

desire to keep him there, with me.

 

I go to use the bathroom.

Grin into the mirror.

Then frown.

Then grin.

Then frown.

Then grin.

Then frown.

Then grin.

Then frown.

Then grin.

 

We show each other photos, music videos, etc.

Clips of Beyonce intermingled with

Foucault and Chomsky.

    

I put the curries in the oven to reheat them.

I get so distracted, talking

that I burn my wrist taking them out.

    

We sit close, next to one another

and I watch his hands

and wait for some shift

some signal

some movement

I can do something with

something

wanting contact

waiting, waiting

til I can’t keep on waiting

and explode

in my own way: quietly and weirdly.

 

The explosion sounds like,

so, um, (cough) what would you like to happen now?

 

He gives me a gray look.

I think he probably returns the question.

 

I do not remember, now.

I think, oh god. I fucked up.

Well, more to the point, I think

oh god, he thinks I’m creepy.

    

So, I drive back to his hotel.

It’s midnight and the road

is violently white

snow streaks, blurring up

across the windshield.

 

I’m getting nervous,

but he’s being very kind

making me laugh

genuinely.

My fear fades.

And then, I miss the exit.

 

I loop back around,

which involves driving on

some snow-thick country road.

To make a long, unfascinating story short

I miss the exit, not once, but two more times after that.

My throat is cold and heavy

with the knowledge that he knows

I’m crazy.

    

He’s worried about me.

Oh god.

No, worried about making me drive

through the blizzard.

He would like me to stay with him in his room.


I follow—throat cold, heart hot—

through the snow drifts

taking in his tall form

and its firm, gray movements

into the hotel.

    

He offers me a shirt to sleep in.

I think, hahaha, okay, I guess I’ll take that as a sign

he doesn’t want to see me naked.

 

I change into a shirt for Peeble’s Donut Farm.

I get into the bed

under the covers

on the side opposite him.

 

I lie in the dark

thinking, so, um, (cough) what would you like to happen now?

so, um, (cough)

so, um, (cough)

so, um, (cough)

so, um, (cough)

    

I look up at the vague dark stubble

of the hotel ceiling

going over all the stupid things

that I have said.

 

I think about how I am 28

and soon I will be 30

and I haven’t been to Thailand

and I haven’t been in love

but now my throat is cold

my heart is hot

and I want so badly to touch him

but I think he’s sleeping

and I think that I might die.

 

I lie and stare and think and lie and stare

and think and lie and stare and die

and die and die and die and die

little by little until I hear

a soft rustling

I feel

a soft touch

and realize

it is his hand

within

my hand.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The inner violence of love

falling in love

fighting to stay in love

is something Sarah understood so well.

 

In her play, Cleansed,

a group of young addicts (of one kind or another)

lives together in a former university

turned hospital

turned concentration camp

lead by a figure known as “Tinker”

who orchestrates institutional activities

    

which include

various sadistic games

punitive beatings

 

cutting off

of limbs

of tongues

of feet

of genitals

 

And yet,

this is by far Sarah’s most optimistic play

for, as she explains,

all this suffering comes from a place

of need, of deep desire.


 

    They’re all just in love…

They are all emanating this great love and need

and going after what they need,

and the obstacles in their way are all extremely unpleasant

but that’s not what the play is about.

What drives people is need,

not the obstacle.

 

After the premiere of Cleansed,

Mark Ravenhill congratulated her.

Brilliant, Sarah, he said.

Very Puccini.

 

Sarah returned his compliment with

a bright flash of smile

and concurred, responding,

 

Yeah, well, I’m in love.    


 

    




 

Every compliment takes a piece of my soul

 

You later said.

 

They will love me for that which destroys me.

 

You are my doctor, my savior…omnipotent judge…

 

Cut out my tongue

tear out my hair

cut off my limbs

but leave me my love

 

I would rather have lost my legs

pulled out my teeth

gouged out my eyes

than lost my love





 

This is the moment where I need

to demonstrate my fear,

for you,

perform the tearing of my hair

the pulling of my teeth.

 

I sit here, twisting strands

grinding my jaw

biting my lip

peeling the hangnail

til it bleeds

minuscule bits of blood

small casualties.

 

Too small.

Not enough.

So, I need to peel back

the surface of my mind

the wound

the pool

where the channels of

my effort

bleed

 

small fat no good no stupid girl no

sister lover no one wants to be

your friend I do I do not want I want I

need too much I have not

earned a math problem I

cannot solve a word

I don’t remember what

I need to say cannot cannot

I’m trying to be nice no one

means anything false

compliment a guilty

look a bad remark spilled

root beer on the new white

cardigan a slap a smack

hand held up to the cheek

swift spit stain plate

thrown at the wall an egg

the glass half full half empty

shattered bits of broken

window summer job old

car save up to fix the damage

damage reparation conversation

accusation hand on neck hand

in the door I saw you saw you

you she he they it you you you

hand in door hand on

the neck fist teeth hair nails into

skin scream scream at nothing

small fat thin no good no

good no average looking why

you why you why nobody

wants to be your friend

a date a hospital a visit death

a college education hospital

a funeral a puddle in the street

a brown walled restaurant

a cigarette a death a deadline an exit

dead dead again somewhere

here there now somehow

somewhere nowhere somewhere

stupid self pitiful desolation

circle of light spinning spinning

meanwhile a dim sun blue gray sheet

shadows passing cars rain snow fall

foggy window unreliable why why

so lazy fat no good no good I’m sorry

sorry sorry no good now no good no good

hand in the door fist teeth hand on

the mouth no screaming no screaming no screaming

hand on mouth no no no screaming screaming screaming

screaming screaming screaming screaming screaming screaming

screaming screaming screaming screaming screaming screaming screaming out in fear

of nothing

 

Snow fall

so quiet

sound of footsteps

easing into the

accumulation

moving forward

unbelieving

side by side

 

the pain

of recognition

so, um

so, um

so, um

 

hope

however pitiful

my need

that something

good will come

of all of this

 

my need

my need

to be of use

to be of use

to you, to you, to you

to please

please, please

leave me my love

leave me my love

    

    

    





 

Less than four months from the release of Cleansed

you premiered your play, Crave,

about which you said,

 

Some people seem to find release…

though you were dubious about their recognition

their release, your own release, deciding it was

 

only the release of death.





 

I’m 30.

For no reason at all, I am drunk.

Trying to summon everyone

at this party of writers

to start dancing.

 

I want to move.

I want to feel

hot

cold

wet

I want to feel

stop talking

and thinking

about what I’m writing.

 

I pour another drink.

Yes, this will help.

The bottle feels heavy.

 

Someone watches as I put it down

carefully, slowly

so as not the rattle anyone’s suspicion.

Table shifts.

Hands, shivering.

The person squints at me

and I look down.

    

I am not good enough,

I think, in conversation

with another writer who is asking me about my process.

 

I am 30 years old and I’ve never been to Thailand

and I do not have a process

and I want to stop

I just want to

stop

talking.

 

The evening goes by, and they dance.

The drinks are poured.

 

The evening goes by, and they stop.

The empty cups are piled, swept away.

    

I do not want to stop.

I do not want to start to write.

 

I do not want to start

or stop.

 

How do I start?

How do I stop?

 

                            How do I stop?

                            How do I stop?

                            How do I stop?

                            How do I stop?        A tab of pain

                            How do I stop?        Stabbing my lungs

                            How do I stop?        A tab of death

                            How do I stop?        Squeezing my heart

 

My heart is pounding

and I’m terrified

for no reason at all.

 

I walk out to the back porch

where the sky feels thick

with darkened green

and everyone is smoking, breathing

tendrils of the night

and all its sickness

and I wish to be a part of it somehow.

 

I do not smoke, though.

I have quit,

because it bothers you.

 

Instead, I ask everyone about

the moments they’ve encountered death.

Come face to face, I think I say,

with some great darkness.

 

At that point,

everyone begins to realize

it’s 2 o’ clock

and everyone begins

to file out the door.

 

I call you to come pick me up.

Your voice sounds so unreal

so faraway, through the phone

I feel I will never make it home.

 

You’re still there?

Yes, I am still there.

I think.

I do not know.

Somehow.

You come to there.

You pick me up.

You drive me home.








 

Crave is my husband’s favorite of your plays,

his introduction to your work.

He filmed a local production when he lived in Seattle.

 

The second night we spent together

we discussed the play

the feeling of

lines bleeding

and accumulating

between speakers

 

My fingers inside her, my tongue in her mouth.

I wish to live with myself.

No witness.

And if this makes no sense you understand perfectly.

 

the sensation of assembling

a narrative of fragments

not of simply watching something

that already felt

complete.

 

I said something about how

I had never seen her plays performed

how in some ways,

I thought this enhanced my experience,

made me feel like I was,

in some strange way,

the speaker of her words,

an embodiment of these words

that, in my mind

remained bodiless.

 

You can’t experience her plays without

seeing and hearing them, he said.

 

I realized then,

I was terrified to see your work performed,

as this would shatter my ridiculous belief

in myself as your words’ embodiment

interpreter, intuiter

someone with unique access to

the workings of your inner voice.








 

    

When Crave premiered

just four months after Cleansed

Mark Ravenhill told Sarah Kane

it was the bleakest play

he’d ever seen.

 

He asked what brought about

this change in her perspective.

 

Sarah shrugged and she confirmed the obvious,

 

Yeah, well, I fell out of love.





 

    

 

You’ve seen the worst of me.

Yes.

I know nothing of you.

No.

But I like you.

I like you.

(Silence.)

You’re my last hope.

(A long silence.)

…But you have friends.

(A long silence.)

You have a lot of friends.

What do you offer your friends to make them so supportive?

(A long silence.)

…I feel your pain but I cannot hold

your life in my hands.

(Silence.)

…I need my friends to be really together…

…I need my friends to be sane.

(Silence.)

 

And while I was believing that you were different

and that you maybe even felt distress that sometimes flicked

across your face and threatened to erupt,

you were covering your arse too…

 

To my mind, that’s betrayal.

And my mind is the subject of these bewildered fragments.







Waking up early

writing to the sound

of him still sleeping, breathing.

 

What am I writing?

Why am I writing?

Where are you

in here

now?

 

How can I write you?

No.

I cannot write for you.

 

It isn’t good enough.

It’s never

never

never

good enough.






 

The terror that I am not good enough

for you.

    

The terror that I am not sane enough

to write.

 

The terror that I am not sane enough

to build my words

into some shape

that can communicate

my longing

to connect.

 

For me, that terror is the force

of your 4.48 Psychosis

    

the terror of being misappropriated

and misunderstood

 

the terror that no matter what you write

you will be twisted into some strange

form you do not even recognize.


I know it well,

that feeling of inertia

imminent destruction

the exhaustion with words

failures upon failures upon failures.

 

The impossible.

 

The voice that says,

here, take these fragments

take my life

and turn me into what you will

an artifact

a suicide.






 

    Take an overdose, slash my wrists, then hang myself.

All those things together?

It couldn’t possibly be misconstrued as a cry for help.


 

an artifact

a suicide

an act

a text

a body

    

cut

limbs

    

gashed

teeth

 

gouged

eyes

 

torn

hair

 

shattered

scattered

waiting to be found

 

completed

and complete

an act completed

 

now, complete

complete, forever

now

 

in all your lovely fragments.




 

My own attempt

to be complete

 

my own attempt

at suicide

 

my own attempt was

obviously

unsuccessful.

 

    






 

I’m near the end.

I feel, now, that I have failed

to assemble what I wanted

from these fragments you have left.

 

Perhaps, as my husband suggested,

your words cannot be assembled

through one body

through one person

through one single person

mind or body.

 

Perhaps, as in the words of Crave,

your voice must be absorbed

into multiple bodies

multiple connective points.

 

The many voices of an outpouring,

a cry of longing,

built up,

bled out,

seeped between,

into,

converged in one.

 

I think of that pivotal monologue in Crave,

the passage that incidentally became my husband’s wedding vows:


 

And I want to play hide-and-seek and give you my clothes and tell you I like your shoes and sit on the steps while you take a bath and massage your neck and kiss your feet and hold your hand and go for a meal and not mind when you eat my food and meet you at Rudy's and talk about the day and type up your letters and carry your boxes and laugh at your paranoia and give you tapes you don't listen to and watch great films and watch terrible films and complain about the radio and take pictures of you when you're sleeping and get up to fetch you coffee and bagels and Danish and go to Florent and drink coffee at midnight and have you steal my cigarettes and never be able to find a match and tell you about the tv programme I saw the night before and take you to the eye hospital and not laugh at your jokes and want you in the morning but let you sleep for a while and kiss your back and stroke your skin and tell you how much I love your hair your eyes your lips your neck your breasts your arse your


and sit on the steps smoking till your neighbour comes home and sit on the steps smoking till you come home and worry when you're late and be amazed when you're early and give you sunflowers and go to your party and dance till I'm black and be sorry when I'm wrong and happy when you forgive me and look at your photos and wish I'd known you forever and hear your voice in my ear and feel your skin on my skin and get scared when you're angry and your eye has gone red and the other eye blue and your hair to the left and your face oriental and tell you you're gorgeous and hug you when you're anxious and hold you when you hurt and want you when I smell you and offend you when I touch you and whimper when I'm next to you and whimper when I'm not and dribble on your breast and smother you in the night and get cold when you take the blanket and hot when you don't and melt when you smile and dissolve when you laugh and not understand why you think I'm rejecting you when I'm not rejecting you and wonder how you could think I'd ever reject you and wonder who you are but accept you anyway and tell you about the tree angel enchanted forest boy who flew across the ocean because he loved you and write poems for you and wonder why you don't believe me and have a feeling so deep I can't find words for it and want to buy you a kitten I'd get jealous of because it would get more attention than me and keep you in bed when you have to go and cry like a baby when you finally do and get rid of the roaches and buy you presents you don't want and take them away again and ask you to marry me and you say no again but keep on asking because though you think I don't mean it I do always have from the first time I asked you and wander the city thinking it's empty without you and want what you want and think I'm losing myself but know I'm safe with you and tell you the worst of me and try to give you the best of me because you don't deserve any less and answer your questions when I'd rather not and tell you the truth when I really don't want to and try to be honest because I know you prefer it and think it's all over but hang on in for just ten more minutes before you throw me out of your life and forget who I am and try to get closer to you because it's beautiful learning to know you and well worth the effort and speak German to you badly and Hebrew to you worse and make love with you at three in the morning and somehow somehow somehow communicate some of the overwhelming undying overpowering unconditional all-encompassing heart-enriching mind-expanding on-going never-ending love I have for you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Trapped in a cage and surrendered too soon.

Me in my own world, the one that you knew.

For way too long.

 

We were strangers for way too long.

We were strangers.

We were strangers for way too long.

For way too long.

 

 

 

Sources Cited


 

1

“I've been waiting for a guide” (Joy Division)

 

2

“But you have friends…” (Kane, 205)

“every act is a symbol…” (Kane, 226)

“THIS WILL KILL ME AND CRUSH ME…” (Kane, 226)

 

3

“I thought I was mistaken…” (New Order)

 

4

“What am I like?…” (Kane, 239)

“Depression is anger…” (Kane, 212)

“has no memory…” (Guardian)

 

5

“Most good playwrights…” (Ravenhill)

“Some will call this self-indulgence…” (Kane, 208)

 

7

“At 4.48 when desperation visits…” (Kane, 207)

“At 4.48 the happy hour…” (Kane, 228)

 

8

“I am jealous of my sleeping lover…” (Kane, 208)

 

11

“Close my eyes and think about her…” (Kane, 42)

“Take an overdose…” (Kane, 210)

 

12

“What’s it like…” (Kane, 261)

“Hello. I’m dead…” (Kane, 266)

“That’s it, son…” (Kane, 268)

 

13

“I gassed the Jews…” (Kane, 227)

 

16

“I’ve never in my life…” (Kane, 215)

 

17

“…strangling himself with his bare hands…” (Kane, 59-60)

 

18

“flash  flicker  slash  burn…” (Kane, 231)

 

19

“What does she look like…” (Kane, 215)

 

20

“If there could have been more moments…” (Kane, 103)

“Do you think it’s possible…” (Kane, 215)


 

25

“They’re all just in love…” (Saunders, 91)

 

26

“Yeah, well, I’m in love…” (Ravenhill)

“Every compliment takes a piece of my soul…” (Kane, 213)

“You are my doctor, my savior…” (Kane, 233)

“Cut out my tongue…” (Kane, 230)

 

28

“Some people seem to find release…” (Hoge)

 

31

“My fingers inside her…”  (Kane, 159)

 

32

“Yeah, well, I fell out of love…” (Ravenhill)

“You’ve seen the worst of me…” (Kane, 236-237)

“And while I was believing that you were different…” (Kane, 210)

 

34

“Take an overdose…” (Kane, 210)

 

35-36

“And I want to play hide-and-seek…” (Kane, 169)

 

37

“Trapped in a cage and surrendered too soon…” (Joy Division)


 

 

Bibliography


 

Curtis, Ian. (1979) “Disorder” and “I Remember Nothing” [recorded by Joy Division].  On Unknown Pleasures [album].

    Stockport, England: Strawberry Studios.

 

Gillian, Gilbert… (1983) “Blue Monday” [recorded by New Order]. Single. Factory.

 

Guardian. (1995, August 13).

 

Hoge, W. (1999, February 25). Sarah Kane, 28, Bleak, Explosive Playwright. Retrieved from

    http://www.nytimes.com/1999/02/25/theater/sarah-kane-28-bleak-explosive-playwright.html

 

Kane, S. (2001). Sarah Kane, Complete Plays. London: Methuan.

 

Ravenhill, M. (1999, February 22). Obituary: Sarah Kane. Retrieved from

    http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/obituary-sarah-kane-1072624.html

 

Saunders, G. (2002). 'Love me or kill me' Sarah Kane and the theatre of extremes. Manchester:             Manchester University Press.

Meghan Lamb Meghan Lamb lives with her partner in St. Louis, where she teaches at Washington University. She is the author of Silk Flowers (Birds of Lace) and Sacramento (Solar Luxuriance). Her work can also be found in Necessary Fiction, Spork, wigleaf, The Collagist, DIAGRAM, and other places.

 

 

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