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THE DEMOTION OF PLUTO

POEMS AND PLAYS

DEBORAH MEADOWS

BLAZEVOX[BOOKS]
Buffalo, New York

The Demotion of Pluto: Poems and Plays
by Deborah Meadows
Copyright © 2016
Published by BlazeVOX [books]
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced without
the publisher’s written permission, except for brief quotations in
reviews.
Printed in the United States of America
Interior design and typesetting by Geoffrey Gatza
Cover art: Steve Roden, aggregate (threshold), 2010
Acrylic and oil on linen, 72" x 72"
Gallery Inventory #ROD401
Courtesy of the artist and Susanne Vielmetter Los Angeles Projects
Photo credit: Robert Wedemeyer
First Edition
ISBN: 978-1-60964-262-4
Library of Congress Control Number: 2016947180
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The Demotion of Pluto:
After Sophocles’ Philoctetes

Characters:
Philoctetes
Neoptolemus
Odysseus
Ghost of Fox
Anonymous Endangered Fisher
Cosmonaut, Sergei Krikalev
HAM operator, Margaret Laquinto
Lorine Niedecker and Louis Zukofsky
Buck Euro
Dark Imagebase
Leo and Hercules (two chimpanzees)
Scene: Varied boulder wall, anthropocenic menace,
islands.

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[Enter Ghost of Fox.]
Ghost of Fox: (addresses audience):
I am back from the dead.
Yes, the dead. I was lying there stinking
to high heaven, some red innards
showing from my stomach, fox tail
drenched with stream water having lost
all its power and prestige. But you may ask
—why return? Interesting moment to find
someone like you who can make use
of what I know. You seem interested in a person
who is missing, so many gave up hope after the last
signs
turned up nothing. You are interested in
nothingness,
or maybe you are interested in nothingness
becoming somethingness as a suspension
of material in an unnamed liquid coursing
through its veins, ventral cavities, cerebral
hemispheres, you know,
that guy with the long coat and odd hat.
The one on your posters and web sites:
Mr. Mystery
the vanishing act of upland losses
who defeats night vision and heat sensors.
He used to feed me even though I didn’t
need him for food. It was all his idea,
and now he doesn’t know what happened
to me. He’d be shocked that I’m talking to you,
but I’ll never tell you where he lives.
There’s nothing you can threaten me with
I haven’t experienced.

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I’m fearless.
I’ve already thought it over and know
my silence is more useful.
[Exit Ghost of Fox.]
*
[Philoctetes reads the following from off-stage.]
Philoctetes:
1. unclear: does “no” to austerity
mean leaving for Good?
2. can’t live in clay vessels,
won’t
3. it crumbles; a tooth is pulled
4. Dog philosophy or
Ethiopian Aesop?
5. mortal coil, that other
Claymation
6. grace, that other state
of management
7. a Sunday kind of love
[Enter Odysseus and Neoptolemus.]
Odysseus: He was left behind when he knew he was
essential to the entire effort. And, right when he
didn’t bother to know, his work was at his best—
utterly present without reflection.

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Neoptolemus: The accidental breach of what,
Odysseus? Recognition of how a precious site could
be insulted? How a security system would cause that
sort of wound?
Odysseus: He knew all the operations that would
make the group succeed, Neoptolemus. But here he
is: sullen, passed over, isolated.
Neoptolemus: Terms to be re-integrated into society:
do they exist? What crimes seem so extensive, how
can anyone be reconciled to the call to return? It
would have to be embodied in a person. Someone,
like a younger version, still undamaged, the set of
references and outlooks, a young man who might
share a common enemy.
Odysseus: Maybe his father’s life hit the rough winds
in a way that is sympathetic. What is it to be left
behind?
Neoptolemus: The old traits that let Philoctetes live
are those they return to claim as if theirs. Claim as a
ligament to an entity that extends across time and
space, governable by tradition, an economy of
expenditures of youth, blood, versions of geographic
skill.
*
[Enter Philoctetes, the person the two were discussing
comes out and speaks the following.]
Philoctetes: My old and new ways of thought. How I
think now: end here, another morning, my skill at it, I
can eat, I look back and simmer;

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My old thoughts I say to myself: with a deft
combination—here: one of the oldest with two
youngest in the group, a way can be made that would
make even more of what we are.
New thoughts: the same guys made those unfair
decisions, left me behind, I wake up and think this
over without exhausting it for two hours before I
return to sleep.
Old thoughts: thinking over how well that daring
combination succeeded, it’s time to bring in another
design, we can absorb more territory by striking out
to learn another language, so to speak.
New thoughts: I will live here on Lemnos Island
stubbornly un-vindicated until I die. Was that the
sound of voices over there? Who are these guys?
Intruders? Identify yourself!
Old thoughts: Ra Ra Ra Roooo…. Everyone will hear
praise and experience pleasure after all our efforts—
all will be divided among all. We can return to where
we began.
New thoughts: We have a common enemy who
confuses justice and cunning. I am flawed. I refuse to
return to where we arrived.
[Exit Philoctetes, Odysseus, and Neoptolemus.]
*
[Enter Buck Euro and Dark Imagebase.]

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Buck Euro: Another person will come and say the
right thing.
Dark Imagebase: What do right things sound like?
Buck Euro: He might be full of business sense—he’s
doing things in his interest and what do you know,
he’s here.
Dark Imagebase: Here? And is the idea that he’ll pass
himself off as someone who can take him with him—
back to where he departed from?
Buck Euro: Well, sure. He won’t let on that they need
him.
Dark Imagebase: He’ll seem indifferent?
Buck Euro: More, business-like. He might reveal that
I am Buck Euro and you are Dark Imagebase.
Dark Imagebase: How will they get him to cooperate
after that unjustifiable treatment?
Buck Euro: It will appear they are returning him
to where he departed from which is his desire.
Dark Imagebase: But they’ll really take him back to
where he arrived?
Buck Euro: If the trick works. Because after all, he
could save lives.
Dark Imagebase: So it’s ethical trickery.
Buck Euro: Let’s call it an undisclosed call to
honorable service.

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Dark Imagebase: But he still needs medical attention.
Buck Euro: He’ll get the attentions of an expert
physician if he goes along with this.
Dark Imagebase: He’s stubborn—stubborn in the
way an accomplished man is, the way he’s been left
behind.
Buck Euro: Are we moving forward, or does it seem
his story of being in a sort of suspended animation
has us frozen in suspended animation.
Dark Imagebase: No, I don’t think so. My clock says
time has passed, and I’d say it was a fruitful passing of
time.
Buck Euro: Fruitful? Where do you get this lingo?
Dark Imagebase: Notice: we are moving while
describing someone who is stuck.
Buck Euro: A living tomb? The comforts of
convention?
Dark Imagebase: The trick fails …
Buck Euro: If exposed as an insult to one’s narrative
sensibilities, to one’s familiar accents.
Buck Euro: (to Audience) Allow me to introduce you to
poets Lorine Niedecker and Louis Zukofsky …
[Exit Buck Euro and Dark Imagebase.]
*

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[Enter Lorine Niedecker and Louis Zukofsky.]
Lorine Niedecker: I read it, or it was read to me.
Everyone had that book. There was amplitude.
Louis Zukofsky: The WPA-funded Wisconsin Studies
were a source, the silt for thought about birds,
receding water after floods here on Blackhawk Island.
Lorine Niedecker: In New York, the A-frame saw
horse could be a genesis figure. The idea of snakepleasure and pregnancy.
Louis Zukofsky: Was it a boast? The Book of Genesis?
Lorine Niedecker: What seemed private became an
act of defiance as soon as the sweaty sheets are
thrown.
Louis Zukofsky: But the first answer to loneliness?
How did that surveilling, grouchy figure in charge of
petty and large denouncements get thought up?
Lorine Niedecker: As you walk up the driveway, you
see he has thrown your clothes out in the yard and
broken your dinner plate on the curb, and you are
booted out from the garden …
Louis Zukofsky: Or you have to leave New York for
rural Wisconsin. A weird family—too depressed—or
they make you leave college to take care of mother.
Left behind on Blackhawk Island. Left to live as an
excellent poet writing in obscurity.
Lorine Niedecker: We two write letters for forty years.
Almost every day.

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Louis Zukofsky: Was it Rothko’s floating rectangle of
color? That one in paired contrast to the background.
Does it stand in for human perception drawn down to
its most basic: figure and ground?
Lorine Niedecker: With the figure removed, there is
nothing.
Louis Zukofsky: Nothingness.
Lorine Niedecker: Loss. It depicts loss. We experience
expulsion from red, or from deep mauve, from inside
secret places. Forbidden or perhaps unknowable.
Louis Zukofsky: But no one would be here without
defiance. Even accidental defiance. Or the promise.
Lorine Niedecker: Let’s trade for something you do
not have, or maybe didn’t even imagine you might
desire.
Louis Zukofsky: Presented as an array of items at a
merchant’s bazaar of lurid possibility.
Lorine Niedecker: Presented as intimate beauty, the
way we see each other, and inside each other. But
language as texture makes a new object, not yet in
this world.
Louis Zukofsky: New.
[Change to speaking in third person.]
Lorine Niedecker: I talked him into it. He wrote back.
To me here, on Blackhawk Island.

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*
Lorine Niedecker: I talked him into it. He wrote back.
Louis Zukofsky: There was a second woman.
Lorine Niedecker: Why are you narrating this?
Wouldn’t it become more accurate for me to say to
you: “You married. Your prodigy son grew to be a
violinist?”
Louis Zukofsky: I meant in the book. I’m trying to
remember her characteristics, but artists represented
her as wingéd and standing rigid in carvings that
come down from antiquity. Frightening.
Lorine Niedecker: I sent Audubon’s folio of birds to
the violinist son.
Louis Zukofsky: Was it wanted, that gift? Accurate,
detailed, a reference that somehow would always
stick out, not fit in, make its presence known in a tiny
New York apartment?
Lorine Niedecker: It seems a contradiction for
someone whose identity as a writer was so little
known, who would sit “for two months on six lines of
poetry.”
Louis Zukofsky: My old friend and I went to visit. It
was after her abortion and return to Wisconsin. To
Blackhawk Island.
Lorine Niedecker: As WPA writers, I wrote with Aldo
Leopold. The project aimed to map and catalog all
creation and history of Wisconsin.

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Louis Zukofsky: I employed iterations and collage in
my poetry, Bottom: On Shakespeare. I wrote against her,
not with her.
Lorine Niedecker: Such writing as his wouldn’t be
contained.
Louis Zukofsky: There was no brother for the
violinist. He went to Carnegie Hall. No brother that
farms, that is situated to compete with one who herds,
who has a nomadic life.
Lorine Niedecker: I wrote about social justice: how
some had “pull,” “you know, favor,” “suction.”
“Wintergreen Ridge” spliced light and dark notes of
my surround.
Louis Zukofsky: I would take an old story and
perform it as music, variations. I could be that sort of
bird whose song derives from quotation of its
surround. So you can tell where it’s been.
*
[Lorine Niedecker and Louis Zukofsky speak in first person
“I”.]
Lorine Niedecker: I didn’t see far enough ahead.
Louis Zukofsky: I asked you, compelled you to
destroy all my letters.
Lorine Niedecker: Of things we don’t want people to
see: literary opinions that are sharp, honest,
destructive. Early drafts.
Louis Zukofsky: Literary sex gossip.

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Lorine Niedecker: A younger man began to drive me
to my hospital job on the cleaning staff. He had been
employed there and saw I could use the dough. Every
day, Monday through Friday. My eyes became too
weak—I couldn’t drive anymore, so this helped.
Louis Zukofsky: The form. The series of discrete parts
without a narrative arc in my long work. If I were a
historian, the segments would not enclose, wouldn’t
disallow choral structure.
Lorine Niedecker: Could it conceal the precious boy?
Louis Zukofsky: The selflessness it takes to find a
substitute, a proxy.
Lorine Niedecker: When the dogs are on the scent.
The pathogens ripen, proliferate.
Louis Zukofsky: By then it was scrubbed down, still
they came across.
Lorine Niedecker: It was a flood. Like all floods, a
marvel and a horror. A gash in consciousness—
revisited like a national catastrophe.
Louis Zukofsky: And then it was over. The depth of
silence.
Lorine Niedecker: The hospital. Cleaning. I stopped
work there.
[Exit Lorine Niedecker and Louis Zukofsky.]
*

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[Enter Anonymous Endangered Fisher and Cosmonaut,
Sergei Krikalev.]
Anonymous Endangered Fisher: Whatever I don’t
know about endangered species legislation won’t
hurt me. Nocturnal, reclusive, tough enough to catch
and kill a meal on the fly—I’ve made it. What I don’t
know about night vision rifle-scopes; however, could
harm me.
They fear me: an Anonymous Endangered Fisher.
They fear my status as “protected.” Maybe they fear
their own shadow. Am I their shadow? Fur-bearing
index to that initial machine of variation that can
propel complexity in life forms? Or reduce to
entropic simplicity, a two-note song? Rock slide
rubble, extinguished furnace in that distant star that
must mean something, something to someone as a
nameable presence or, like me, anonymous. At night,
I climb down a tree facing the ground of our apparent
existence, and those long days—hidden by bright
light.
Cosmonaut, Sergei Krikalev: For the longest time it
seemed the struggle was expanded to map out the
world, to archive records, to build compendia of
words, findings, known and tested results. Was it
endangered by a return to the itinerant move through
oral culture when we walked a route by water holes
located in song lyric, a lyric so large the oldest person
chants the entire history?
I flew by, but it was easy to see it was never a war
between the two: both lived side-by-side … a space
opened, phylum as master. By the fall of the Soviet
Union, I waited for their attention. I was left behind
on the Mir Space Station, suddenly country less.

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*
[Enter HAM operator, Margaret.]
Anonymous Endangered Fisher: (points to Cosmonaut,
Sergei Krikalev) Our Cosmonaut was told to “stay put”
on the Mir Space Station as the former Soviet Union
crumbled, December 26, 1991. Left behind, the time
added ten long months until his return. Amateur
HAM operator Margaret Laquinto in Australia (points
to HAM operator) and Cosmonaut, Sergei Krikalev
were in daily contact for almost a year. He said upon
landing in a post-Soviet land, “the change is not so
drastic.” [Exits.]
HAM operator, Margaret: This call—how is it related
to truth? I’ll use a packet radio. I can set up a bulletin
board for you and your colleagues with uncensored
news from the west, and items about your country’s
political turmoil.
Cosmonaut, Sergei Krikalev: I will read. I am grateful
for the link. So far we have spoken every day.
HAM operator, Margaret: Correct. I will continue
contact if you have no objections.
Cosmonaut, Sergei Krikalev: No objections. I receive
your call and know I have a friend. After training in
the Soviet states, it surprises me to have to come this
far to learn about the world. What is your area of
Australia like?
HAM operator, Margaret: You would find it bright,
the light, and plants that almost seem animal given
their luridly colorful parts. Somehow an earth-going

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extension of our otherworldly coral reefs. Gum nuts.
A contrast to your boreal forest.
Cosmonaut, Sergei Krikalev: I remember in my
childhood the Northern Lights. The stories around
those. Please, no more news of cows and farms in
Australia. Wait, maybe our time to sign off.
HAM operator, Margaret: Until tomorrow then.
HAM operator, Margaret: (speaks as if alone) This
man. What an oddity though utterly ordinary. The
human alone, left behind.
[Exit HAM operator, Margaret.]
Cosmonaut, Sergei Krikalev:
We belong here.
Do we belong here?
Is here the one we have instead of there?
When I was back there, I was really
something. I know this from how
they responded to me.
But now I’m here. We’re here.
There is no part of human biology
that can go on without artificial
support.
This capsule can recycle water
but little else. It produces
nothing of sustenance. I can see.
What I see, cameras can when
in position. I can sense the surround
in a way cameras cannot.
There are re-supplies, or
maybe they will no longer bother.
What use is meaning?
What is communication with another?

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