Drunken Jungle was performed at Eye Gallery on Valencia Street on June 10th, 1984. I'd rehearsed the play with two actors (I was The Man) for a couple weeks, but both of them bailed out at the last minute, literally they just didn't show up that night. So I had to get some volunteers from the audience to wing it with me. I think Steve Perkins was one of those volunteers, & maybe Amy Elliott was the other? In 1988, John Rieger secured a production grant from New American Radio & produced Drunken Jungle as a radio play, starring Leo Downy (Man), Abigail Van Alyn (Woman) & Julian Lopez-Morillas (Doctor). I guess it aired nationally for awhile. The script was published in July 1990 in Prism International, a publication of the University of British Columbia, Vancouver. An audiocassette compilation accompanied this print journal & featured an excerpt from the New American Radio piece.THE DRUNKEN JUNGLE
the doctorthe manthe woman
the river discovers itself through the trees like a predator. we are glued to its back and ride along with it, listening to the beast sing, it is perhaps a fault of mine that I am here and you are there, that we are alone when we could be together, but here, in the sweat and oil of van noort’s boat, beneath the flat yellow sky, it seems that things could not be otherwise. for- give me or forgive the world.
van noort’s little steamboat. such a toy anywhere else, here, such a density to it. the sound it makes. after four days I can remember no other sound. a million strange birds sail overhead silently. the jungle is a picture without words. the indians, the plague. ideas. you, darling. you. you.so van noort has brought a doctor.so van noort has brought a doctor.from the cities to the land, a european. weak-kneed and syphilitic.young, handsome and european. another moist drop of civilization. what a sponge this jungle is. well, he may cure them of the plague.cure them of the plague. just what we need. weak-kneed and syphilitic indians.sometimes I think of them as children. innocent and playful. but sometimes their dark faces, dark eyes.I wonder if this doctor is a christian. now they fear the jungle. he would make them fear God. better for them if they feared man.I must remain inside the house. to prevent my skin from drying out.I am satisfied that they fear me.I am becoming afraid of the smallest things. a soft sound my husband makes in his sleep. deep in his throat. the sound van noort’s boat makes when I can no longer hear it. the shadow of trees on the living room floor.will the doctor drink whiskey, I wonder, will he seduce my wife. will he dry up with fever and blow away towards the mountains.I am afraid of the absence of so many things.
- - -
jungle grows thick beneath the wooden floor. vines gripping supporting timbers. such a drooping weight above the tin roof. my body is host to a thousand spores. soon my skin will bloom into scales of white fungus. a thin white fur of spider’s web. my neck begins to harden into a brown bark. my eyelashes have become ferns and I am forced to push them aside in order to see the jungle and the indian village around me.I must stay inside. my skin drowns in a pungent liquid which congeals from the sullen air around me. my breath weakens under such an effort.doctors are a habit that cities have.I dream of cooler air. and cities of beaten silver high in the mountains.the indians will no longer work. claiming exhaustion and illness.the indians sneak into our house at night. stealing our rice and our coffee. I believe they do this.the indians conspire to steal my house. the doctor conspires with my wife. I have begun to carry a rifle at all times.I am afraid of dying in my sleep. in the darkness. I burn candles in my room to keep the darkness away.
- - -
there is such a heat here. like the first time I made love to you. in the pantry of my father’s house in london. in my best woolen suit. under the weight of your satins and crinolines. this place is as hot as your petticoats, as dark as that panty. the only other europeans here. across the river from the village. a man and a woman in a large wooden house. filled with antique furniture. the man is mad. I pity the woman. my work with the indians has only barely begun. conditions here are very bad. I have only a little penicillin left. for the fevers and sores. captain van noort is bringing more. if he manages to steam his way up the river before the floods start. these letters will have to wait. and leave with the captain.thunder is the house we live in. lightning is the way we feel about it. I watch my rifle like a pet.you’ve never understood rain.the doctor thinks I’m already dead. refuses to visit. I chart my own blood pressure. insert my own catheter. the temperature is rising.a diagnosis is a perishable grocery. sometimes I wish the doctor was right.I sleep on the living room couch. a fifth of cuban whiskey a day. I have lived a tree-lined life.sweeping is one activity. you won’t eat what I cook. you know how fond I am of poisons.my wife is a sharpened pencil. I forgave her a long time ago.there is a fine white dust on the dark floors. there are poisons which can be absorbed through the soles of the feet.substance is bliss. I have emptied my head till it sounds with the flat tone of a tin bell.I used to wash the blood from your sheets. now I simply hand them from the porch rail. a signal to travellers. stay away.we eat separate food in separate rooms. we sleep in separate rooms. we never speak. this is love.yesterday I killed the last pig. a young skinny one. just for the thrill of it.only music makes me happy now. I dance for hours at night, without lights.we have no phonograph here. we are running low on groceries.I pretend I’m dancing with the doctor.when I want to make love with someone, I send for the doctor, complaining of fever. I lie in the bed I used to share with my husband and arouse myself. when the doctor comes, I think, I will pull him into bed with me. the doctor never arrives. he reads the bloody sheets and runs back to town. gripping himself.the doctor has taken to hiding in the bushes. where he can see into the house. I know he wants to fuck my wife. I stagger out onto the porch. whiskey bottle in one hand and penis in the other. I KNOW YOU WANT TO FUCK MY WIFE, I yell. I shake my penis at him and laugh. I LOVE MY WIFE. YOU SEE: SHE IRONS THESE SHEETS BEFORE SHE HANGS THEM OUT.the drapes in my bedroom hang perfectly straight. one inch above the dusty floor. I have many photographs in unique frames of ivory and brass. I have bamboo flutes from indonesia, lacquerware from china, jade from thailand. I have colonial american antiques. I tell myself: this is enough. this is enough.I have always understood rain.
- - -
my sweetest love,
they truly are mad, those two. their servants left them long ago. they tell tales of hideous warfare between the man and the woman. the servants could not sleep at night because of the noise. I myself have seen evidence of these things. from the bushes outside their house. at night when the heat and mosquitoes keep me from sleep. I will not visit them anymore. though they feign illness and continually ask for my aid. the woman lies in bed constantly. she is an hysteric. it is no wonder, living with him. we all just sit here in the village listening to their savage songs. there is no morphine left. no penicillin. only a few are strong enough to fish and gather food.
though they are basically a healthy people. and this may save them. if we can get the penicillin in time. the river will begin to rise soon and still no sign of van noort, my one real fear is that their hypochondria will spread to the indians. one plague is enough.
until I breath the clear air from your skin I am yours.I am capable of so much. my hands are small keys to the fetters of a gigantic dungeon. I am a wizard and whiskey is a savage elixir. I no longer drink the stuff. instead it rises out of my gorge. pure and clear like the most beautiful amber. it flows from my mouth back into the bottles from whence it came. and I cork it and place it upon my shelf. I have distilled it and purified it. it has passed through feverish heat. the furnace I am. I have taken its secret from it and it wells up from my throat in gratitude. I have over a hundred full bottles on the shells now. with still a huge mound of empty ones on the ground next to the house. I will fill them all before I die. I will bequeath them to humanity to spread comfort over all the world. I will be loved by mankind for my generosity.the doctor came to me last night in his passionate need. he tore at my flesh with his teeth. burned me up with his tongue. small teeth. like a boy or a european. but a tongue like one of those immense black snakes that droop from trees. swallowing young pigs at a gulp. I strangled him and tore out his entrails. I gorged myself on him and raided him from the dead. I have feasted on his marrow and so he belongs to me. he cannot speak but with the words I give him. I force him to say my name over and over and over. this is a power I have over him and he will come to me again tonight to drink my blood.I am a giant. I have smashed my rifle like a matchstick and this makes me laugh. I am so tall I can see out over the jungle to the cities on the edge. I only fit inside this house because I am a wizard and I have that kind of magic. I see van noort the dutchman down the river. his engine broken and useless. I could light the fire inside its furnace if I desired, and this makes me laugh. my lips spew golden elixir hilariously onto the trees. every green leaf shines. amber liquid blends with mud and the river swells like the veins swell in my arms. I vomit profusely into another clear glass bottle.my husband smashes the furniture in his part of the house. vomits blood constantly. this morning he caught me sneaking into the kitchen. his hands circled my wrists like manacles. it is only because I have sharp teeth that I escaped. I will leave here with the doctor. on captain van noort’s boat. we will sail to europe where we will have a large home with many closets and a kitchen with a huge pantry full of groceries. I will wear satin and lace and we will make love everywhere.
- - -
my only darling,
the river rises perceptibly every succeeding day. despite my distrust of the lack of regard for missionaries, I have taught the indians how to pray. we pray for van noort and his safe and imminent arrival. the tribe’s dead will soon outnumber its living, at this rate. if only we had penicillin. if only we were somehow out of this fetid jungle. perhaps in the mountains. at the top of cool tall mountains. if only. but the mountains are an arduous journey. none of us have the strength to leave this place. I think of your white breasts constantly. the large house caught on fire last night. we saw the flames through the dense trees. a sudden rain eventually put out the blaze. I hope they are both dead.I have killed the doctor. he came to me urgently. forcefully. he put his mouth on me. and it burned like fire. so much pain that I couldn’t stand it and had to strangle him. I had to drain his blood and drink it so the secret would stay hidden within me. if van noort found out he would leave me. leave me here forever.I am a mountain. I am the tallest mountain and all the mountains. I am growing larger each second and my vision is swallowing everything.my lover, van noort, came to me last night. such a cool touch. his body was almost solid against my skin. so I know he is near. I could feel the river in the way his body moved me. maybe tomorrow he will finally arrive. I will dress at dawn tomorrow in my white dress and float down the river to meet him.
- - -
barely the strength to write. but writing makes me think of you and this gives me strength. we are together in the mountains. there is a breeze. the indians have taught us how to prayI send fire down my slopes. I am avalanches of stone and rain. ice and fire. I am not afraid. I am pure amber mountain and the clouds are barely visible below me.a great shadow has swallowed the sun. the swollen river brushes the lower leaves of the tallest trees. the water is quickly cooling around my body while I swim towards van noort’s boat. when I reach him I will never leave his arms. I swim towards him with joy in me.