Black Feather Rising (2008) 90'


Inspired by the collection of folkloric tales 'Healers on the Mountain' by Teresa Pijoan


[Along a high rocky edge a young woman searches in distress for a way down.  Her hair is roughly lopped, her clothing ripped, her hands arms face feet torn and bleeding.  A pouch hangs by a thong about her neck.]

No way down.
From this high rock, 
no path.
All my journey:
here it ends.

[She sinks aside, dispirited.]

Each step of the way the earth has fought me.
Turn back! the forest said.
Its branches sprang in my face:
Turn back, turn back!
Its thickets ripped my hands and arms:
Back to your people and your village,
to your child . . . 
Its thorns clawed at my hair:
How can you leave your husband and your child . . .  
A woman does not do this.

I hagged my hair off to tear free of the thorns.
I do this.
I, West-Wind-Rising, I do this.
I go to find a man I do not know.  
All of him I know 
is his song the night wind brings me . . . 
But what way forward to him now? . . . 

[She searches;  in vain . . .    Apart on the space, an obscure form like a mound of rags.  From it, a man’s voice begins to sing: ]

Lady, hear me . . .   
Wherever you are, 
hear me where I lie sleeping . . .   

All next day long, my journey said Go back!
High desert of rock . . . 
upward . . .  
Go back!  Go back!
Scorch of the Sun,
the searing wind:
Go back to your husband and your baby!
The sharp rock tore at my feet:
Back to your baby . . .   Back to your baby . . . 
I fought the wind and the Sun and the knives of rock.
I come to find a man I do not know.
All I have of him
is in this pouch I carry:
a string of shells 
one day a raven brought me . . . 
a raven brought me . . .  
as I looked out from my husband’s door 
across the world in yearning.
A string of shells 
from around the neck of a man I do not know.  
Only the once I ever saw him.  
Across that wedding dance he looked at me.
Our eyes met.
He smiled. 
I knew.  

[In the mound of rags a restlessness, a struggling;  again the man’s voice sings:]

Lady hear me.  
Only the once I ever saw you.
Across that wedding dance you looked at me.
You smiled.  
I knew.  

[Libretto Copyright © David Rudkin, 2007. Used by permission.]