(The street.)
NARRATOR:  From the third or fourth story
     of the apartment blocks, the city
     glows in the afternoon heat.
     The light is sweet, not fragmented
     and variegated as down in the street.
     And sound rises up into lyric,
     and counter beat sets up harmony,
     the wave motion sweeps
     out toward the hills, resonating
     like the skin of the eardrum.
     Down here, the city
     is just flesh. A body.
     I celebrate mine,
     others replace theirs.
     Angel is an angel is an angel.
     Her offspring is hungry.
     Her milk never came.
     I am lactating
     in sympathy
     and the baby
     will have mine.
(NARRATOR exits. COPS enter and seize CLIENT as he enters. COPS pull a mailbag over CLIENT and COP 1 lifts him onto shoulder in 'fireman's lift'.)
COP 1:  How many crimes
     will she get away with now?

COP 2:  Let's send a baby photo
     to the paper. The child of angel.
     An archangel.

COP 1:  You've got to have
     a sense of humour
     in this job.
     Did you notice the light
     when we went up to search that place
     last night? The city lights.
     As if night was alive,
     without pollution.

COP 2:  All light is pollution.

COP 1:  I was brought up C of E.
     I don't need to pretend
     this kid's not mine.

COP 2:  And I a Baptist.
     I positively
     deny it.

(COP 1 puts down CLIENT.)
COP 1:  But we got into this
     feeling we could make a difference.

COP 2:  I used an enlargement method
     from the back of a magazine
     and it left me an object
     of ridicule in the change rooms.

COP 1:  I change on my own,
     avoid the change rooms.

COP 2:  I've always wanted a child.
     Maybe this one will do.

COP 1:  Ditto. But the brass
     might suspect
     conspiracy. Say
     it's one of theirs.

COP 2:  Well, if it's got
     teeth and gold fillings
     we'll know for sure.

(COP 1 picks up CLIENT and exits.)
     Jesus, without Jack and Angel
     we're out of a job.
(COP 2 exits. NARRATOR and JACK enter.)
NARRATOR:  Something has happened to you, Jack.
     You're well dressed, man — caring
     for the girls has come a cropper.
     Your dark side is showing.

JACK:  It was always showing, O my purveyor
     of eye candy and abjection,
     just because I keep my fluids
     locked in their tubes
     and chambers, people don't
     see it. I've got an idea, no more
     of this sentimental shit.
     This baby of Angel's
     is my ticket out of here.
     I've met this man
     high up in the law, shall we say,
     who'll pay anything — he can work
     it; there'll be no legal comeback.
     His wife's barren. She
     draws babies on her stomach.
     She puts plastic toys
     into her cavity.
     Angel is blasted.
     She can't look after a child.
     She sold it to me
     before it popped
     into her belly.

(JACK starts, as ANGEL appears, as if from above, in a blue light, like an apparition of the Virgin.)
ANGEL:  The precipice, the waterfall,
     faultlines and cracks in the surface,
     broken fences, electric gates
     swinging open onto cars,
     traffic lights flicker,
     headlights fray, blurred
     on the edges the grass
     struggles to hold back the concrete.
(The blue light flickers into a scratchy video image of ANGEL across the backdrop.)
     I made television last night,
     couldn't recognise myself,
     even determined not to recognise
     myself. They condemn me as failed
     woman and mother and citizen
     outright. No place on the census
     for such flotsam and jetsam,
     that sea of light flooding
     out like filth from blocked drains.

NARRATOR (pleading):  What do you see?

ANGEL:  Reporters and policeman and doctors
     and nurses and health inspectors.
     Councillors with hell problems
     behind closed doors. I see in
     and look on past. I see the blood
     on my hands, pollution
     where I walk. A red bird
     sits where my heart is: my heart
     is reliable because the red bird
     always sits there, bobbing slightly.

JACK:  Rehabilitation. Parole.

(JACK exits.)
ANGEL:  They think I planned the birth
     to keep them out of my heart-space.
     Like they said with Lindy —
     taking what little
     she had left —
     drew their mother's milk
     and spat it back at her.
     The film that rolls on like an oracle
     I keep to myself. They fear
     my prophecies.

NARRATOR:  Where will you go?

ANGEL:  A flight into Egypt,
     a midnight flit.
     Help me.

(MAGISTRATE enters with 'baby' and places it in ANGEL'S arms. NARRATOR moves toward ANGEL — the three forming a group together, with ANGEL in the centre.)
ANGEL:  It's the light in the hair
     the camera remarked on.
     My hair, the hair
     I could almost believe was mine
     if I let go, drifted
     down the street
     before breaking out
     into the black light.
(ANGEL, MAGISTRATE, and NARRATOR exit. PROSTITUTES enter and form  line. JACK enters and 'picks' them up as he crosses. PROSTITUTES follow JACK off stage. CLIENT enters, sees everyone has gone. He takes up starting position under Belltower. Lights fade on him.)


Smith Street | Mudlark No. 19
Contents | Act 1, Scene One