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“DAUGHTER” -- The New Face of War
In Cassandra Medley’s play, Daughter, a Detroit mother, Alma, tries to reckon with injuries suffered by her daughter, Monique, while serving in the U.S. military in Iraq -- damage so severe that it has blown off her face. In this excerpted scene, Alma launches into an impromptu sermon in church.
CHURCH, The Present
(Sound of full gospel choir comes up strong singing end of "Amazing Grace – was blind..." Suddenly Alma, a choir member, holds up her hands and the music draws to a stop. Sound of MURMURING CROWD)
Church? Church. [pause] Excuse me Reverend... excuse me....But, I'm just feeling the spirit moving in me to testify to his Holy Name!
Want y'all to know how grateful Monique and I are for all your cards and calls and prayers Amen! want you to know that I'm still carrying on in faith .. that I still carry on without despair... that I'm strong, Church...with or without a face, the Lord's will be done
See, but, Church, I know nothing. I knew nothing. All I know is the last day, the last moment I ever saw my daughter's face. [pauses] Yes, yes, Reverend, you done tole me that God only "gives us what we can bear." [pause] And now, Monique gets to live out the rest of her days on this earth as a stitched up freak that turns people's heads.
(Alma pounds the tambourine and breaks into a new song, then stops)
What's the child's insides feeling like, Reverend?
Church, I still can't cry on the outside. Inside, I'm a river overflowing, but outside...and all I can do is call on Je-sus!! Je-sus!!
(Sound of stomping church and organ refrain)
A-men! After all, we can't have Sistah Alma broken and defeated... I'm supposed to be bowing my head, I'm supposed to be in supplication to the will of the Almighty.
I'm supposed to keep you, and you, and you comfortable, and easy and help keep you firm in the faith of the everlasting! I'm supposed to keep you feeling safe, and easy and to make sure you admire my strength in spite of my grief...
So that all y'all can feel sad for me and Moni "safely," see. So y’all can grieve for us and stay comfortable, AND CAN talk about me and Moni with pity and admiration for our strength and faith. W'all got the admiration of all Southwest Detroit. But no bitterness -- that might make you grow weary or bored with us, Right?
(pointing to a member of the audience)
What's that you say? never mind the "Sermon," this IS the sermon, No I will not sit down!!
Why couldn't I know what was coming? why couldn't I know to help her escape, why couldn't I protect her?!
DON'T TELL ME 'BOUT NO "INSURGENTS," DON'T TELL ME 'BOUT NO... GOD-LESS A-RABS... 'cause I know mothers now, Church. I feel those other mothers, church. I'm --I'm
(Two choir members try to drag ALMA away)
STAY BACK!! My daughter, my child has given her face!! My child, is the first black woman in America to have given her whole face for democracy, people!!
(Choir members stand back, then attempt to take Alma away again.)
-- so don't be putting ya hands on me!!! Did I love her? Momma told me, "don't be always picking up the baby when she cries, that'll spoil her, slap her hands to teach her right, when she's big enough, use a switch, use a belt with buckle so she can "feel" it! "I'll beat you black and blue and into next week, you keep messing with me!"
That's how I was raised, Church! That's how I raised her!
DON'T COME UP TO ME, REVEREND!! Only the mothers with faceless children can touch me. Only mothers over there with faceless, blown up, shot up, beat up children, mothers with "insurgent" children, mothers bloody with they son's blood, with they daughters raped to death, other mothers over here with they children coming back broken, maimed, with they violated minds...ONLY MOTHERS OF WAR CORPSES EVERYWHERE CAN PUT THEY HANDS ON ME.
I cannot know her grief, Church -- not really. She's the one living on the inside, what's it look like from the inside?!! She was over there -- I only know what I started to read -- started to study -- started to realize -- I don't know the heat -- don't know the smells -- don't know the real live stench of rotting bodies -- don't know the sight of broken infants buried in rubble -- the sight of faceless people wrapped in black robes smattered into teeny tiny fragments just cause they all look the same to "us."
Brother Dyson! Don't let your son go over there! Stop him! Don't listen to what they promise you!!! Brother and Sister Taylor, tell your child to go AWOL with your blessings! Don't let 'em go over there!!!
(responding to a comment in audience)
"Easy for me to say?!" NO, IT'S NOT EASY FOR ME TO SAY, MY DAUGHTER'S FACE IS THE DOWN PAYMENT!!
(The gospel choir starts up with a full, rousing song, drowning Alma out.)
Cassandra Medley’s Noon Day Sun, was produced by Diverse City Theater Company in New York in August. She wrote one of several sketches in the Off-Broadway musical, A … My Name is Alice, winner of the Outer Critics Drama Award, and Ma Rose, originally produced by The Women’s Project in New York, has been produced throughout the U.S. Relativity, produced in LA, New York, Pittsburgh, New Orleans, San Francisco and St. Louis, won the 2006 Audelco ‘August Wilson Playwriting Award.’ She teaches playwriting at Sarah Lawrence College.
Also See: The Poet’s Eye with works by Kirsten Rian and Juditha Dowd, and selected by Poetry Co-Editor Judith Arcana in this edition of On The Issues Magazine.