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excerpt from Night




I am black


now the day is over

night is drawing night

shadows of the evening

steal across the

sky (a low hum)


(a sudden harsh light on 1’s face)

inside the copper boiler

men like this

live to be 50


when I hear                                    the child screaming on the floor


would like to                                    take her in my arms

lullaby and good night


will learn to

never wanted                                    children (1)


your hand over the door            ‘his great hands’ print/on our

knob                                                evening door knobs (2)

how you were left                        with your unknown father

left                                                to go to sea, ‘jumped ship to seek

                                                your mother (3)

came back to an empty



of course I never                        talk about it (Iwo is speaking)

they don’t know anything

about it                                    what it is to be black

I’m white

mulatto                                    her sister’s son

eyes blue

eyes looking out of the body


S M E L L I N G   T H E   W I N D  (4)


I would like to                                    know more multiracial families

                                                because there is a lot of suffering

down to the end of                        ‘Lady of the night star-breathed

                                                blooms along the sea road…’



the sent of

breast bone flying                        ‘calls down a flute/catved from the

                                                leg bone of a gull.’ (5)


how I stirred you

I was the wind in your                        ‘And I knew when I entered her I

Forest                                                was/high wind in her forests

                                                hollow’ (6)


T            S            O            L

(words spoken backward as if lost in the wind)


if you hear me

it is not my voice

out of the dark

I am speaking to you                        Lorde Interview


in the forgetfulness of



wind blowing over it


A            B            S            E            N            C            E

            (word spoken in a great sigh)


you can’t hear me                        Lorde interview

it must the words


lost who my soul seeks            ‘I sought him whom my soul

                                                loveth:…but I found him not (7)

in the cleft of the rocks            ‘O my dove that art in the cleft of

                                                the rocks’ (8)

I went to the door                        ‘it is the voice of my beloved that

                                                knocketh’ (9)


oh there was trembling            ‘I believe in you my son/and I

                                                tremble/but the whole earth is

                                                trembling’ (10)

the river trembled


oh do not                                    words in a spiritual about

on that awful day                        the day of the Crucifixion


felt in his

must have always thought


not an animal                                    ‘The second thought streaming from

                                                the death ship…the…belief that

                                                somewhere between men and cattle,

                                                God created…Negro…And that…

                                                Darker thought…suppose, after all,

                                                The World is right…’ (11)


                                                the sun and damp with

                                                the rich, black swamp-land;’ (12)


blood on the                                    ‘This woman is Black/so her blood

                                                is shed into silence’…‘red drops

                                                upon asphalt’ (13)


whither you be

how you be

I be going


remember/trying to                        trying to prove, by writing, they

prove/must always be                        were men, women


aren’t I a woman?                        ‘Dat man ober dar say dat women

                                                needs to be helped into

                                                carriages…Nobody eber help me

                                                into carriages…and aren’t I a

                                                woman?’ (14)


(two men, one proposing a deal, the other considering it in subway)



hnnh ha hanh


hmmnh mmnh


Cold too even in                        to spend time outside looking at

summer                                    stars

in the grass                                    there might be a snake

at the edge of                                    the wood someone might be lurking

where are you stepping

what can you see


the stars are all different            in the Southern Hemisphere

what would it be                        like


cooks maids                                    in Brazil

--from the recently published collection of plays, Night (Red Dust '07)


Joanna Gunderson

Joanna Gunderson is a novelist and a playwright.


The Brooklyn Rail

APR 2007

All Issues