Don’t Torture Her Betts, I Want to Take My Spiritual Poverty into Account Before We Do Anything Unreasonable: Theater from Corina Copp

[First in a handful of carefully selected suggestions from Hailey Higdon, is poet and playwright Corina Copp. Corina is the editor of The Poetry Project Newsletter--the new issue of which features translations of Ilse Aichinger as well as poetry by Nathaniel Otting. More of her recent work is out by Antennae. What follows is an excerpt from her play, DON'T MAKE WAVES.]

A scene from DON’T MAKE WAVES


The three women stand outside of the car. They look down at the life-threatening whirpool. Better holds Ryan by the ear. They hear a noise in the woods off right.


What was that


They know we’re here


Who do you work for


Myself, witch

Parakeet slaps Ryan hard across her cheek.


Date of birth


June 11, 1981




Of course, look at her eyes, they’re different colors


Are you or are you not a journalist?




Masseuse what is that

RYAN (nervous)

There was once a Roman captain who said

with the benefit of the wind

they would come. And I was the wind

and so they did come…

As did bunches, hahahaa, enthusiasm

for the delights of theatrical couture. And it helped me,

y’know to pay my bills, and in her therapeutic

community my mother was proud enough.

She only knew so much, I left late, had to rush off

timeagain. They were calling me, all different names, one had a

poodle and a bicycle act


In Boston?


Sheraton, snowflake sweater

Better lets go of Ryan’s ear.




I’m gonna tip-toe around the whirlpool

and avoid mines.

I think we’re being watched. I want to make sure.

And that hat you’re wearing looks ridiculous on you, I don’t know why you wear it.

I’m sweating. My head is going to explode.

No no it’s ok. I’m just going around

the corner. Don’t torture her Betts, I want to take my spiritual

poverty into account before we do anything

unreasonable plus she reminds me of a bedfellow

named Nancy, who incorporated before us, and had those

principles remember she wanted to start a salvation army and

used to stay up late counting, counting on her fingers and toes

all the beds she had ever slept in, skullduggery, but left

her mother out of it wished she hadn’t had a mother

The only way to be true to your country

To sacrifice your family

She is enraged and up close to Ryan, backing her up to the edge of the whirlpool. Ryan is not wearing a hat.


Be careful

Soldiers with bayonets and gas masks begin to appear in the background.


The Swedish mother puts feelings into everything

The German mother stands determined in

The kitchen door, she knows what clothes

to wear and what clothes for her children. Now

the newspapers think they are our mothers because they

believe completely in our depravation. They say western men are doomed western men

have always been doomed, they don’t let their wives

work naked in the flowerbed they are doomed.

Then pain and joy have no social relevance but these

papers will ascribe bank robberies and kidnappings and wrongdoing

before they know who is rightdoing, right.

What effect do you think that has on a little kid locked into fucking upward

mobility but truly without recourse from his

poor tree in shambles on the sidewalk, that’s where he

will always live. Kid doesn’t know liberty has a pedigree,

a noble

aspect? He’ll still try to get out of his hole and will take

whatever Bip down the road with the same color hair

with him…and they’ll fight in the circus or become painters

fight that way doesn’t matter how’s the little

lady bootstraps etc., they read Dostoevsky

They want to describe the world in hysterical fits

to be in the world

What’s unworthy of literature now?

Nothin it’s for all classes!

No classes!

Newspapers used to co-govern with their obstinance

and tabloidal homeland protection, now newspapers will happily compose an opposition of interests for an intellectual

plane of terrorism

is just a documentary movie, it’s not for reshaping

Or am I, mistaken. Am I…grabbing at loose blissful freedom

and licking its anus instead of caressing its fur

It’s my anus too

These ideas of reckoning that are around…!?

My ideas before I, it’s just that I,

the nature of the opposite sex, and green glass bottles of wine, and tea, and song

and bells, you know, these

are gifts and friendships, they don’t determine

class or ascent. They are steely, recognizable ships.

Given a beautiful day where you’re forgotten they will simply

sail away

to dance and motivate like Rita Hayworth

in front of the king

to get his head they want his head. But what am I,

circumscribed and barely holding on…to what…

these travel restrictions are getting tighter…we want

non-hierarchical, we want to brace up, we want

riveting machines instead of passive machines.

Or what if we want to stop wanting, what if

Fuck it you amorous child you don’t know valedictory

work you know erotic massage fuck you.

Parakeet walks off. They are surrounded but don’t yet realize.

PARAKEET (offstage)



BETTER (to Ryan)

This is mostly 70s drivel,

decline of civilization stuff

moral disorientation. I mean I

believe in it

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