BellaOnline Literary Review
Upset Parrot by Maurice Schulman



Mallory Alexa Leonard


Sarah, a 21-year-old college student studying poetry

Allie, a 21-year-old college student studying art

[LIGHTS RISE on Sarah and Allie in the living room of their apartment. Throughout the play, a projector projects various words from a poem that Sarah is writing, and each word, when displayed, should appear in the correct place as it will when the poem is shown in completion. At the beginning, the screen is dark. SARAH sits at a table covered in papers, her leg fidgeting and tapping a pen incessantly. ALLIE wears an art shirt with the sleeves rolled up and a pencil behind her ear, and she stands on the opposite side of the room at her easel, with her blank canvas and meticulously arranged art supplies, including brushes and a paint tray. ALLIE tries to concentrate and is annoyed by SARAH’s tapping. Exhales loudly. SARAH receives the message and stops, though. ALLIE pops knuckles and other joints. SARAH glares at her. Tension should have the audience cringing in the seats and should last an uncomfortable length of time. Finally, SARAH slams down her pen on the table in frustration.]

SARAH: I see you judging me.

[No response]

[ALLIE makes a few beginning sketch marks on her canvas with her pencil.]

SARAH: I see your devout, Catholic eyes.

[Crosses herself]

SARAH: “Forgive me Father, for I have not sinned and have nothing to say in confession.”


ALLIE: Did you expect me to congratulate you?

SARAH: I love him.

[“Hunger” appears on the screen.]

ALLIE: You think you love him.

SARAH: He’s my soul-mate.

ALLIE: No, he’s your professor. And you’re sleeping with him.

[Screen goes dark.]

SARAH: Why is that so wrong to you?

ALLIE: Oh, I don’t know! How about because it’s a total abuse of his authority as a teacher?

[“Lures” appears.]

SARAH: No, it’s not. I want this.

ALLIE: Sarah, you’re putting yourself in the position to be devastated.

SARAH: I don’t know why I told you. Just leave me alone.

[Screen goes dark.]

[Long pause. ALLIE struggles over decision.]

ALLIE: No, I’m not going to leave you alone. We are going to talk about this.

[“fight” appears.]

SARAH: How do I talk to you when I can tell you’re condemning me?

ALLIE: I’m not condemning you. I just know there is no way for this to end well for you.

SARAH: Who told you that? The pope or Paul?

ALLIE: This is me talking.

SARAH: Oh please.

ALLIE: What?

SARAH: Nothing. Nothing at all, St. Allie.

[Screen goes dark.]

ALLIE: I don’t know why you think my faith has anything to do with this.

SARAH [melodramatically]: Because I’m a sinner!

[Falls to her knees in false prayer]

SARAH: I have fallen into the pit of temptation. Absolve me!

[Pause. ALLIE turns away.]

ALLIE: You’re pathetic.

SARAH: Why? Because I don’t need your brain-washed religiosity?

ALLIE [Sarcastic, still not looking at SARAH]: Yeah. That’s it.

[Both return to their work. SARAH taps her pen feverishly.]

ALLIE: Stop it!

[“raging” appears.]

SARAH: What?

ALLIE: That incessant tapping. Just quit it.

[Screen goes dark.]

[SARAH looks at her pen and points it at ALLIE.]

SARAH: Am I invading your silence, Allie? Getting under your skin?

ALLIE: I’m not the one who knows all about skin.

[“lusting” appears.]

[SARAH rubs her thumbs against her fingers while bringing her hands to her face then pushes them toward ALLIE.]

SARAH: No, you just worship a god who condemns my skin.

ALLIE: And you worship a god who pleasures your skin while he’s on top of it.

[Screen goes dark.]


SARAH: Ouch. Hardball, then.

[They break away again.]

SARAH: Ya know? I don’t know why you are so judgmental of me. Just because I find God in my art and you--

ALLIE: --And so do I!--

SARAH: --But your entire faith is governed by rituals. “Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee.” Empty words.

[This insult finally strikes a chord in ALLIE. She walks up to SARAH’s work and says her next line very low, as if from deep inside herself.]

SARAH: You wanna find empty words? Take a look at the poetry you’ve written lately.

[“pulsating” appears.]

[Long pause]

SARAH [Sarcastic]: Man, Allie. I don’t know why we don’t talk more. This is so much fun.

ALLIE: I mean it.

SARAH: He’s helping me to become a better poet.

[Screen goes dark.]

ALLIE: No, he’s not. You don’t even write like yourself anymore.

[“Rhythms” appears.]

SARAH: I’ve never connected with someone like this. Our minds are like one body undulating in a wave of rhythms that creates a poem more encompassing than the universe.--

ALLIE: --Ugh.--

SARAH: And we’re both swimming in a sea of poetry and words.

[Screen goes dark.]

ALLIE: Words aren’t enough to truly connect two people.

SARAH: Words are everything! [Pause] Words create reality.

[“voice” appears.]

ALLIE: And what about words that aren’t said?

SARAH: They don’t exist.

ALLIE: No, I think they do. And I have a feeling those words are more true than the ones that you’ve said to each other.

SARAH: We say everything that needs to be said.

[Screen goes dark.]

ALLIE: And bury what you don’t want to admit. Like how you’ve changed into a completely different person!

SARAH: I’m growing, and my branches stretch to the stars to grasp tiny slivers of heaven.

[“Blind” appears.]

ALLIE: Oh, will you listen to what you’re saying? I don’t know what’s happened to you, but I haven’t heard Sarah speak once this entire time--

SARAH: --And you would know because--

ALLIE: --Because I know you! You’re my best friend, and I love you.

SARAH: He loves me.

[Screen goes dark.]

ALLIE: Has he told you that?

SARAH: A hundred thousand times.

[“Lying” appears.]


ALLIE: What does he say to you about tomorrow?

SARAH [poetic recitation]: Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow…

ALLIE: The future, Sarah. Has he promised you a future?

SARAH [poetic recitation]: Time present and time past / Are both perhaps present in time future / And time future contained in time past.

ALLIE: Sarah, stop it! Those aren’t your words.

SARAH: But they are mine.

ALLIE: Sarah, that’s T.S. Eliot.

SARAH: My native tongue.

[Screen goes dark.]

[ALLIE turns away and moves back to her easel.]

ALLIE: You’re avoiding me.

SARAH: Because you’re trying to confine me.

[“cage” appears.]

ALLIE: I’m trying to talk to you.

SARAH: You want to put me on your canvas, trap my portrait inside that little, rectangular prison!--

ALLIE: --Sarah!--

SARAH: --But before you can even do that, you’ll have to draw me.

[Walks to ALLIE]

SARAH: I know you, Allie. You can’t just pick up your brush and start. You’ll have to sketch me out first.

[ALLIE turns and tries to walk away, but SARAH grabs her arm and makes her face her.]

SARAH: Last time I checked, you can’t paint with a pencil. Maybe you should try to just paint for once without sketching out every detail before you start.

[ALLIE shakes free, obviously bothered, but trying to act as though she is unaffected by SARAH’s words.]

[Screen goes dark.]

ALLIE: Excuse me for having a little bit of foresight.

SARAH: Art is in the moment. It’s fluid, it’s malleable, it’s…sensual.

[“tide” appears.]

[ALLIE points to her canvas.]

ALLIE: But the artist controls everything that goes onto the canvas.

SARAH: You can’t control me.

ALLIE: I’m not trying to control you.

[Screen goes dark.]

SARAH: Yeah right.

ALLIE: You think I don’t understand the desire to be uninhibited?

SARAH: Certainly never acted like it.


[“throbs” appears.]

ALLIE: Sometimes… I look at my canvas and wish that the borders would just… dissolve.

SARAH: Then why don’t you make them?

ALLIE: It can’t be done.

SARAH: You haven’t even tried.

[Screen goes dark.]

[Goes to ALLIE’s canvas, dips her hand in the paint and smears it chaotically.]

ALLIE: And what did that achieve, exactly?

SARAH: No, that’s not it. You see, this isn’t even your canvas.

[Gets more paint on her hands and grabs ALLIE’s forearms]

SARAH: This is.

[Paints her arms, her nose, her shirt, her forehead]

[Pause. ALLIE stares at SARAH for a moment, then walks to retrieve a towel from her art space. She slowly wipes the paint from her face, leaving smudges. Her next line is spoken very quietly.]

ALLIE: This is just a mess, Sarah.


SARAH: It’s only a mess if you clean it up.

[ALLIE throws her towel to the ground sadly.]

ALLIE: The borders aren’t going to go away.

[SARAH thinks on the words and starts breathing heavily. She grows frantic.]

[“Eyes” appears.]

SARAH: No. No! You can’t just apply your rules of painting to my poetry. Poetry is not painting!

ALLIE: But they’re both art.

SARAH: They’re not the same.

[Screen goes dark.]

ALLIE: Don’t talk to me like I don’t know anything about poetry. Poetry is supposed to have rhyme and meter and lines--

SARAH: Mine doesn’t.

ALLIE: Everything has lines.

[ALLIE stands before her canvas and paints various lines with a brush.]

ALLIE: Here’s the line of your face.

[Paints a curved line.]

ALLIE: The lines of a bed-frame.

[Paints a large square.]

ALLIE: The line connecting you and me.

[Paints a horizontal line.]

ALLIE: And here’s the line that’s cutting between us right now.

[Paints a vertical line through center]


ALLIE: I hate this line.


SARAH: The last line.

[“Permeating” appears.]

ALLIE: What?

[SARAH walks to her table.]

SARAH: I hate the last line. The last line of my poem. This poem I have been writing for three months and still have no idea how it ends!

[Screen goes dark.]

[SARAH sifts through her pages and selects one, reads from it.]

SARAH: Permeating wetness
Lures this form into
Aesthetic asphyxiation
Heart throbs against
The cage lusting
After oxygen that lives
In the water but enters
Not the lungs it
Must not must and
Yet I do not drown…

I do not drown…

ALLIE: What are you trying to say?

SARAH: It’s an expression of desire like an undercurrent. On top of the water, you can’t see it. But underneath, it pulls with all the force of the river.

ALLIE: But you don’t know where the current is taking you.

SARAH: Exactly.


ALLIE: [Slowly] Sarah, have you ever considered that it’s taken you so long to write this poem because the poem is wrong?


SARAH [Still angry]: What do you mean?

ALLIE: Maybe it isn’t supposed to written like you want it to be.


[“asphyxiation” appears.]

SARAH: No, that’s not right. I’m the poet. I control what goes onto the canvas, remember?

ALLIE: So now poetry is painting?


ALLIE: Sarah, just listen to yourself.

SARAH: Stop saying that! I can hear what I’m saying perfectly well.

[Screen goes dark.]

ALLIE: No. I mean, Listen. To. Your. Self.

[Points to her heart]

[Pause. SARAH fights to answer back but can’t. She shakes her head, makes fists with her hands.]

[“oxygen” appears.]

[After a moment, she releases her hands, bringing them together as if in real prayer, and brings them to her lips.]

[“lungs” appears.]

[She inhales deeply, surrendering, and exhales.]

[Screen goes dark.]

[ALLIE tries to go to her friend, to comfort her, but SARAH pushes past her, forcing her way to her table of scattered drafts.]

[“inside” appears.]

[SARAH gathers her papers in her arms and hugs them to her body. She moves to center stage, climbs onto bench, and faces audience. Speaks next line with eyes closed.]

SARAH [Very slowly]: I am a deep longing unfulfilled. A poem incomplete.

[Screen goes dark.]

[Drops her papers. Her poem is projected onto her body and the screen behind her as she opens her eyes, so that she is covered, completely enveloped by her art. The two stanzas of the poem should appear in two columns, side by side.]


Lying on a bed of stones
Eyes absorb stillness only
Blind to raging hunger
The inside feels pulsating
Rhythms flowing never
Ceasing never slowing
And hunger speaks
A voice that rolls
Over and over a body
Forward does not fight
The tide and I am in
Permeating wetness
Lures this form into
Aesthetic asphyxiation
Heart throbs against
The cage lusting
After oxygen that lives
In the water but enters
Not the lungs it
Must not must and
Yet I do not drown.
I can step out of the flow.

SARAH [Incredibly emotional]: Inside me there’s a burn, a burn that has festered until it had to spread. Then it began to ravage me.

[Begins to cry]

SARAH: It ate me until there was nothing left but my soul. And my soul needs a body.

[ALLIE approaches SARAH and pulls her down from the bench.]

ALLIE: I need my friend back.

SARAH: I don’t want to have to fight for the words.

ALLIE: I’m staying with you.

[Pause. SARAH looks at her.]

SARAH: I need you to.

[LIGHTS FADE DOWN leaving only the light of the screen, which displays the last line of Sarah’s poem. “I can step out of the flow.”]

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