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Mezzo-soprano Hope Fairchild Thacker approached me in 2006 about writing a piece or set of pieces for mezzo-soprano and flute. Her sister, Heather Fairchild Simmons, is an accomplished flautist, and the two always wanted a piece they could perform together.
After ruminating on what I wanted to do with the music, I approached writer R.L. Futrell about writing the text for me. He recruited his colleague, P. Kevin Heath, to work with him on the project, and together they came up with the intriguing and clever concept of examining snapshots in the "real" life of superheroine Hawkgirl.
The character they developed fit the instrumentation and my ideas for music perfectly. (After all, if one were to assign an instrument to represent Hawkgirl, would it not be a flute?) The length of the texts also worked well, and from them I wrote a song set called "The Lost Book of Hawkgirl".
They’re out all night, one party then the next. She’s never danced this much before. Not like this – as if it were the end of something. Then they drive on out of town in his yellow Barracuda, up the Blue Ridge Parkway, wherethey pull off at an overlook to watch the sun come up – hard light on he horizon like men on horseback. They race back down the mountain with the top down. The cool dawn air in their lungs. The radio off. Not talking. The western slope a long, slow curve of darkness.
They are pushing sixty, seventy.
In the valley they slow to a halt on a low stone bridge, the river below as dull and flat as hammered tin.
And then it happens, another dawn. Another sun come up, a new beginning. Young light mousing its way through green trees, through a heavy mist from the river.
At least that's something, he says. Twice in a day.
Trouble to come, I'm sure, she says. Like a bird in the house. Bad omen. Later, in her mother's kitchen, she is still wearing the dress she made herself. The house quiet with a strange anticipation, waiting for a curse. They eat an entire strawberry-rhubarb pie without speaking. They eat and eat and eat – gorge themselves until there’s nothing left but crumbs, until their lips are puckered from the sour rhubarb and glistening with sugar.
She is running in the gravel on the shoulder of the road. He’s looking down at her from the bus. She wears a hooded grey sweatshirt, army boots, a backpack she’s filled with rocks.
In college she works a summer job removing insulation from old, leafy buildings around campus. She gets used to the heights and the heat – comes to like the good, strong smell the leather gloves leave on her hands.
She is a deer among bears. She knows what she knows about working with men.
Sometimes asbestos dust drifts into her thermos cup when she reads Dante during lunch break. On the surface of her coffee, the dust motes glitter like distant metal planets.
Bottoms up, kid, the men say when they catch her staring too thoughtfully at her drink or her book.
Here’s to the bull that roams in the woods, you know? Hair on your chest. Go on. Break’s almost up. Close your eyes and down the hatch. It ain’t like nothing’s gonna kill you or something.
Superman on his knees, hands above his head gripping a chrome lat pull bar, pushing air out, drawing air in. Wonder Woman on the red vinyl bench press, knees drawn to her chest, painting her toe-nails a shiny blue while Atom sits at the foot of the bench, towel around his neck. Hawkwoman is alone in the corner, climbing ever higher on the Justice League’s old Stairmaster.
True or False, Superman says. “Stairway to Heaven” as the greatest song ever in the flute rock genre?Silence. He does one last, slow rep. Stands. Rolls his shoulders.
Anybody? True? False? Flute rock? The answer is true. Super true.
Atom stares at Wonder Woman’s nails.
It’salways true, Kent.Always true, he says.
Check me if you don’t believe it then. Wonder Woman? Please?
She caps her polish, sighs, sticks a finger in the air.
Ding, she says. Superonk think he's right again.
Knows he’s right, he says. I meant with the lasso, Di. You knew that. C’mon. Simple request.
False, Hawkwoman thinks to herself. False by a mile. “Spill the Wine.” Eric Burdon and War.
She is flashing back to a summer day in 1973. Alone with The Whip in the basement of his parent’s house. Bottles on the window ledge. Empty Blatz boxes in the corner. Playboy centerfold over his father’s workbench. Remembers leaning against the couch to read the liner notes. Remembers Whip stringing tennis racquets. The record player loud. The jazzy little Latin groove the flute lays down. Como azul cosa de locos, pero asi es, bueno.
They say that’s Hendrix’s girlfriend doing back-up, Whip yells as he shuttles a cross string from one end of the racquet to the other.
[So how speaks this bloody dishrag? And what does the chicken fat in the drain portend? Or the coffee grounds wrapped in newspaper? The cherry pits drying on the windowsill? He would leave you all his walks, his private arbours, his new-planted orchards. Plainly read: this poor Brutus has had wrong from a counterfeit Portia. And your next big scene? If you had harbored tears until this unkind cut, prepare to lose an ocean now.]
They’re sitting at the picnic table in the front yard, playing dominoes, pretending to be old men – unbuttoned linen shirts and crazy hats. One Cuba Libre right after the other, digging in the bone yard of nostalgia.
She knows they can hear her through the open window pecking away at her mother’s ancient typewriter. Knows they’re imagining her up there in her thin tee-shirt and flower-print cotton panties.
Superman wins and stands up on the table, throws down his old straw hat, and dances ajig.
He’s doing the Jerk, He’s doing the Fly...Papa’s got a brand new bag.
And they know he’s dancing his way right into that poetry of hers – fresh ink on the new paper Hawkman bought her for her birthday.
Later she brings them plump ripe grapes in a wicker basket and tells them all to get inside. Storms on the horizon. They shrug and keep on drinking. Pull their dark socks up around their calves. Slam those bones down hard. Storms ain’t nothing they ain’t seen before.
all materials copyright 2004-2010 seth colaner, all rights reserved