Reading Tony Kushner

A Bright Room Called Day



(Context: Berlin, 1932)

[AGNES and BAZ. Night. BAZ is kneeling on the floor, praying.]

I see no reason to be ashamed. In the face of genuine hopelessness one has no choice but to gracefully surrender reason to the angelic hosts of the irrational. They alone bring solace and comfort, for which we say, in times of distress, “Hosannah and who needs science?”

But then you’re saying it’s all right to admit defeat.

Well, when one is defeated…

But see, that’s just the problem. How do we know? What if we lie down and give up just at the moment when…

When what?

When the whole terrible thing could somehow have been reversed.

Do you really think it can? The farmers say, “If we could grow wheat in the winter then we wouldn’t be so hungry.” But does that mean anything to the groundlock and the frost? No. So the farmers wait till spring. What we need is a Meteorology of Human History. Then maybe we could weather the changes in the political climate with as much composure as we weather changes in the weather. Seasons of History. Does it matter if we know why it rains? It just rains. We get wet. Or not. Life is miserable. Or not. The sun shines, or it doesn’t shine. You can explain these things, scientifically, meteorologically, and we can applaud the elegance of your explanation, but it won’t stop the weather, or that telling feeling of being overwhelmed. Because on this planet, one is overwhelmed.

Gotchling would call that defeatist crap.

Gotchling. Gotchling is out at this very moment nailing posters to telephone poles. But you and I…

I remember once I was out all day in the rain, and the sky was dark from morning on, but just before night the rain stopped, and between the black sky and the ground there was a small open space, a thin band of day that stretched across the rim of the world. And as I watched, night came and the ground and sky closed shut. I’m overwhelmed. I feel no connection, no kinship with most of the people I see. I watch them in the underground come and go and I think, “Are you a murderer? Are you?” And there are so many people.

Yesterday I was on my way to buy oranges. I eat them constantly in the winter, even though they cost so much, because they prevent colds. On my way to the grocer’s I passed a crowd in front of an office building; I asked what was going on and they showed me that a man had jumped from the highest floor and was dead. They had covered the man with tarpaper but his feet were sticking out at angles that told you something was very wrong. There was a pink pool of red blood mixed with white snow. I left.

At the grocer’s I felt guilty and embarrassed buying these fat oranges for myself only minutes after this man had died. I knew why he had jumped. I thought of him opening the window, high up, and the cold air…

On my way home I re-imagined the whole thing, because I felt a little sick at heart. The dead man was sitting up in the snow, and now the tarpaper covered his feet. As I passed by I gave him one of my oranges. He took it. He stared at the orange, as though holding it could give him back some of the warmth he’d lost. All day, when I closed my eyes, I could see him that way. Sitting in the snow, holding the orange, and comforted. Still bloody, still dead, but… comforted.

I’m not very scientific. I really believed once that oranges prevented colds because they store up hot sunlight in the tropical places they grow and the heat gets released when you eat one.

I consider that a perfectly scientific explanation, and probably correct. These are cold days, not to be believed.

[End of Scene.]


from Tony Kushner’s A Bright Room Called Day (Theatre Communications Group, 1987)


About mckenzielynntozan

McKenzie Lynn Tozan lives and writes in South Bend, Indiana, where she works as the Departmental Secretary of English and World Language Studies at Indiana University South Bend, and remains closely affiliated with 42 Miles Press, New Issues Poetry and Prose, and Wolfson Press. She previously received her MFA in Poetry from Western Michigan University, where she worked as the Layout and Design Editor for New Issues Poetry and Prose and as an Assistant Editor of Poetry for Third Coast. Her poems have appeared in Encore Magazine, Sleet Magazine, Rogue Agent, Thank You for Swallowing, Whale Road Review, The James Franco Review, The Birds We Piled Loosely, and Analecta; and her book reviews have appeared on her website and on The Rumpus. She lives with her husband, their daughter, and three cats. For more, visit View all posts by mckenzielynntozan

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