work sample for Primary Collaborator (2)

The Jaguar and The Muse
A libretto by Vikram Devasthali
based on “The God’s Script” by Jorge Luis Borges
and “The Consolation of Philosophy” by Boethius
_
From the darkened stage, an angry voice cries out…
Tzinacan:
 _

My name is Tzinacan.  My mystic knife

has probed the secret weakness of my foes.
With patient eyes, I watched them cling to life.
With patient eyes, I watched their eyelids close.
My pyramid the infidels have burned.
My body in this prison they have cast.
They tortured me to learn what I have learned,
but I will keep my secrets to the last.
This hemisphere of stone will be my home
until my spirit sighs and drifts away.
They feed me through the apex of the dome.
This flash of light alone divides my day.
The one true god has not abandoned me,
although his sacred altar is no more,
and through the prison’s darkness I can see
such things as I have never seen before.
Another captive lives inside this tomb:
with silent strides, the jaguar marks my doom.
_
A light appears at the top of the stage.  Bars separating two cells of a prison are dimly visible.  Tzinacan rushes to the bars to see the jaguar on the other side, but the light disappears too quickly.  After a moment of silent darkness, a disconcertingly pleasant female voice can be heard, singing wordlessly.  It begins softly, but grows in volume until Philosophy appears, lighting Tzinacan’s cell.  Looking at him strangely, she begins her lecture…
_
Philosophy:
Is this the man whose magic filled with awe
both king and peasant, farmer and courtier,
whose slightest word was taken to be law,
whose slightest glance could strike men dumb with fear?
Am I to comprehend that all his might,
which once could move a mountain from its place,
has vanished like a burglar in the night
and left this sunken frame, this fallen face?
Is every mighty captain, brave and strong,
a drunk and drowning sailor in disguise
whom Fortune teases with her soaring song,
a tapestry of pleasing little lies?
Is every beggar, lying in the dust,
an emperor whose tattered rags conceal
a man of fame, a future marble bust,
but for a revolution of the wheel?
The fatal vanity of man is this:
what he calls art is only artifice.
 _
Tzinacan:
What demon mocks my piteous decline
with idle commentary on my fate?
The dice were tossed.  The loser’s part is mine.
You waste your breath.  Your sermon comes too late.
It matters not which road has brought me here,
what never was, what might or might not be.
The gods enjoy a long and hearty laugh
when foolish men debate philosophy.
  _
Philosophy:
No man am I, though I have been a friend
to men in worse predicaments than yours.
I am a rock on which you can depend
in freedom, or confined by bolted doors.
My consolation isn’t free or cheap.
My solace has a strange and bitter taste;
but what I have to offer, you can keep
when all your cherished dreams are laid to waste.
 _
Tzinacan:
You sell me air, and call it solid ground.
  _
Philosophy:
  _
I sell you truth, but you don’t know the sound.
  _
Tzinacan:
I was a priest, the pride of Qahalom.
I served the gods in every word and deed.
It isn’t right that I should lose my home
to languish in a foreign land and bleed.
_
Philosophy:
And what of those poor souls who lived and died
in quarters much less comfortable than these?
When life was good, and God was on your side,
You never were concerned about their pleas.
_
Tzinacan:
My destiny is not the same as theirs.
My sorrow is of greater consequence.
I’ve seen the hidden thread in men’s affairs.
My persecution comes at their expense.
_
Philosophy:
All men with power feel the same as you,
and all the more so when their power wanes.
The world will not remember what you do.
Your greatness will dissolve with your remains.
_
Tzinacan:
Away with you, O clever, heartless muse!
_
Philosophy:
The wise accept what weaker minds refuse.
_
Tzinacan:
There is a greater wisdom that I seek,
that even you can’t claim to comprehend.
_
Philosophy:
You act defiant when you should be meek.
What is this greater wisdom you defend?
_
Tzinacan:
It dances at the edge of what is known.
It vibrates with the motions of the spheres.
_
Philosophy:
I smile to think a man of flesh and blood
imagines he sees more than what appears.
_
Tzinacan:
You won’t be smiling when I read that text,
the scripture that will decimate the proud.
_
Philosophy:
I’ll smile to see your arrogance perplexed,
another sullen tyrant in the crowd.
_
Tzinacan:
The sound of it will bring this prison down.
My enemies won’t live to see the dawn.
_
Philosophy:
If it be so, I’ll let you tear my gown.
What parchment is this message written on?
_
Tzinacan:
The pattern on the jaguar is the key.
_
Philosophy:
True madness doesn’t think itself to be.
_
Tzinacan:
Where falsehood reigns, the truth is reckoned mad.
_
Philosophy:
You’re trapped inside a prison you have wrought.
_
Tzinacan:
I’ll take it over yours, for good or bad.
_
Philosophy:
If reason is a jail, it’s all we’ve got.
_
Tzinacan:
You reason well, but reasons won’t suffice.
_
Philosophy:
What you call meager seems to me a feast.
_
Tzinacan:
I’d sooner starve than call my virtue vice.
_
Philosophy:
All this to read some markings on a beast?
_
Tzinacan:
My words will burn your certainty to ash.
_
Philosophy:
Your certainty, not mine, is now on trial.
_
Tzinacan:
I think it not so bold, what you think brash.
_
Philosophy:
Add one more addled prophet to the pile.
_
Tzinacan’s cell dims as Philosophy turns to leave.  The light from above appears again.  Tzinacan rushes to the bars once more…
_
Tzinacan:
I see it now!  It shines before me, clear!
_
Philosophy:
Get on with it.  I tire of your talk.
_
The light from above disappears.  Philosophy is about to exit Tzinacan’s cell and her light continues to dim…
_
Tzinacan:
Prepare yourself!  The end is drawing near!
_
Philosophy:
I’m sure I won’t recover from the shock.
_
Tzinacan and Philosophy turn to look at each other one last time…
_
Tzinacan and Philosophy:
These words will end what other words began,
as into dust returns what was a man.
_
Philosophy exits.  From the darkened stage, a calm voice sings…
_
Tzinacan:
Through countless days and nights, I yearned to know
the sentence my Creator meant for me,
the sentence that would vanquish every foe,
the sentence that would set this captive free.
Not even Alvarado and his men
could stand against me on that blessed day,
were I to speak the mystery again
and rescue black and white from evil grey.
But I shall never say those words aloud,
the jaguar’s secret only I can read.
The darkness of this jail shall be my shroud,
my silence and my solitude, my creed.
I am no more the mortal that I was.
His cares seem trivial, his sorrows odd.
It changes nothing, what an army does,
to one divinely sighted as a god.
It matters more what is, than what is said.
My name was Tzinacan.  That name is dead.
_
A female voice sings wordlessly.  Tzinacan’s cell slowly becomes visible as Philosophy approaches.  Her song fades as she realizes that Tzinacan is not there.  She looks around his cell in amazement.  The roar of a jaguar is heard.  Philosophy rushes to the bars to see what’s on the other side as the curtain closes.