(Excerpts From a Spoken Word Jazz Play In the Voice of Ruth, First Daughter of the
Prince of Darkness Who’s Otherwise Known as Satan)
ONE: Our Father Who Art In Heaven
I do not believe in god.
Belief is a word stricken from the family tongue.
We do not believe in anything,
My father commandeers
from the head of the table, his snout pressing out odious,
black vapor. I want more than anything
to challenge him; I want to shout
to believe in disbelief is believing!
but voicing the obvious is useless.
I know what kind of belief he’s referring
and I could froth and spit,
convulse or spin my head around like a top
all for naught. For my father, god doesn’t exist,
“belief” is a perverse word,
and any mention of either results in typhoons,
earthquakes or chronic stomach indigestion.
He is an intellectual virtuosity, but a sore loser.
He is selective about his truths, and he is recklessly proud,
he is the devil after all.
TWO: Ox-blood Martinis
I was a divine accident,
product of a few-too-many ox-blood martinis.
Father sabotaged his plans for a boy
by getting dreadfully ripped.
Only male spawn makes a proper demon, he spit.
His litany of excuses:
an exhausting day appointing tyrannical
third-world leaders; evangelist
ministers to lead astray; bad monkey brains
for dinner, and yes, he was drunk.
So they got me, a girl. Mother was over the moon
of course, but Father took months, years
overcoming his regret. Being Satan naturally
makes him the worst of misogynists.
To his mind a girl-child is tantamount to impotence.
He wanted to name me Bathsheba.
But Mother insisted no could spell it,
that such a name would only stigmatize
me. I was nearly branded Marquis
after the Marquis, you know de Sade? Who’s
been Father’s bowling partner for years,
my godfather to boot. But Mother put her foot down,
a French name’s too pretentious. Why Ruth then?
I can’t imagine. But Ruth is became. Perhaps
because there was no looking back. Not ever.
THREE: Hollywood Exploitation
The year Roman Polanski made a movie
based on our lives was the year my mother
started seeing her analyst
five times a week. She carried her outrage around
like a travel pack of Kleenex in her purse—
conveniently located and oft retrieved.
Mia Farrow looks nothing like me. Mother liked
to believe she resembled a better-looking Jacqueline Kennedy,
in fact in her more despairing moments
she lamented her misfortune in not being the First Lady herself:
I could have had him. My cotillion was just as lavish.
And she can’t decorate worth shit,
she wouldn’t know a damask from a toile if they bit her on her bony ass.
Mother also ranted about Hollywood being corrupted
by crews of male, chauvinistic, capitalistic pigs.
Can you believe the temerity of them of them
to reinvent you as a boy? A boy? Is it so unimaginable Satan’s
spawn is a girl? They’re all swine I tell you, legions
of demon swine looking for warm bodies to occupy.
Neither of us dared to speak the truth:
Father was Hollywood’s mogul.
FOUR: Broken Homes
Mother’s been seeing a Jungian analyst on Park Avenue.
Last week, breading bat wings for dinner,
she announced to Father that Dr. Beetle suggested they divorce.
She said she couldn’t take it anymore, that he was never home,
and when he was all he did was watch television.
She complained she was sick of his tantrums,
she thought he was more interested in corrupting
the universe than spending quality time with his family.
And the last thing—he was a lousy lay. That did it.
Father stormed from the apartment vowing
never to return, while Mother took a bottle
of Vodka to bed and stayed up all night weeping
and phoning her old Vassar dorm sisters.
Oh Buffy, whoever would want me now?
If I left him what suitor in his right mind
would ever come near me? I’m not exactly
a debutante anymore.
She persisted through the night,
calling everyone in her alumni book, cataloguing
every argument, every betrayal.
That’s what I said, Binky. An orangutan.
How could I invent something that profane,
that lascivious? That bitch shed orange hair
all over my duvet, I wasn’t imagining it.
I’ll tell you Kitty, if I had to do it over again
I would have married Skip Westhoff. I don’t imagine
it would have occurred to him to barbeque poor uncle Tank.
I mean what kind of barbarian assumes a family picnic
means to eat actual members of the family?
His saying that I am as sexy as the Goddess
of Fertility is NOT a compliment,
and I don’t care how many times he fucked her!
I don’t care if leather is the appropriate token
for a three-year anniversary, and NO it wasn’t
a romantic gesture. The bastard exhumed
my grandmother and made her into a riding crop.
That’s what I said, Bunny, his death is an absolute
impossibility, so forget your gardener’s cousin Vito,
no hit man in the world could take him out. What
part of immortal don’t you understand?
Hello . . . may I speak to Senator Westhoff?
By dawn, bottle empty, exhausted and spent,
Mother passed out while the light
of day crept behind the drapes. Soon after
Father returned. He always did.
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