Descent of the Goddess Inanna,
Trenton, NJ, 5:42 p.m.
a play by
Conrad Bishop & Elizabeth Fuller
Priestess — who also plays Frances, Inanna, Ereshkigal, Ninshubar
Priest — who also plays Frank, Enki, Gilgamesh, Dumuzi, Gatekeeper
More actors may be used as desired.
All intersecting: a room in a hospital’s mental ward, the landscape of ancient Mesopotamia, and the Underworld.
The original production used a combination of scrim curtains painted with symbols of Sumerian cuneiform, multiple stepladders that combined in many ways, and a simple table and chair for the hospital room. A moveable set of jagged black acrylic panels also defined the worlds.
The Priests, Frances, and Frank are conceived as bare-faced, while the other characters are masked. Multiple puppets were used in the original production, as indicated in the text.
A producer is free to pursue other concepts. However, the style indicated in the stage directions contributes to the sense of the multiple dimensions of myth: the presentation of a character at one time by a mask, at another time by a puppet; the concomitant changes of scale; the simultaneous experience of the ancient and the contemporary; and the intersection of worlds.
The original sound score by Elizabeth Fuller is available on CD.
© 1999 by Conrad Bishop & Elizabeth Fuller. All rights reserved.
For production information, contact WordWorkers, 800-357-6016 or E-mail.
Curtains marked with Sumerian cuneiform. Fragments of black acrylic. Cot. Chair. Table.
Percussion. Priests appear.
PRIESTS: Inanna    Awaken Inanna    Come
She claims a throne and a bed, wrought from the heart of the sacred tree
She seizes the gifts of wisdom from Enki the Lord of Wisdom
She lies with her lover Dumuzi, embraces her lover Dumuzi, rejoices, ah!
Inanna    Awaken Inanna    Come
She descends to the Great Below, the realm of Ereshkigal, to the dark
She passes the Seven Gates of the Great Below, she dies, she rots
She dies, she rises, she rises, she resurrects, she dawns. . .
Inanna    Come to us    Be born
Your people are dead
Your children of Sumer are dead
Those who loved you are shadows
They played the harp before you
They sang and danced before you
They carried the sword before you
They are waste
They adorned themselves before you
They sprinkled blood before you
They copulated before you
They are sand
Five thousand years
Now in the streets new children perish
Their dreams perish
The mothers who bore them perish
The fathers who seeded them perish
The seeds perish
Bring us your gifts
Your light    Your loins    Your hands
Priests disappear. New music.
Frances sits at the table, sorting photographs. Images are various sizes, all an extreme close-up of her face. Voice of a young woman, as if recording a tape.
VOICE: Mom, hi.
Hope you’re feeling good. I mean, I don’t even know what to say exactly, but you know what I mean.
I found some stuff I wanted to send you, some books, one of’em, it’s—I don’t know if you read this stuff, but—I just thought it was—It’s mythology, and—
(calling off) Don’t let the cat out, please! ... I’m sorry, my roommate just came in.
It’s Sumerian, which was like 5000 years ago, before the Bible, that stuff, and they’ve just recently translated it, and it’s kind of hard to—There’s Inanna and Ereshkigal, and Gilgamesh, and Dumuzi— I just wanted to tell you—
Oh, and dad called, asked how you were, so we talked, and—
But I was gonna say that— I had a dream and— There’s a journey, Inanna goes into the Underworld to visit her sister—
You know how much I love you, and I wish I could be there right now.
Nurse enters Frances’ room.
NURSE: It’s Frank. Morning. Pill time.
FRANCES: No pills.
NURSE: I know, Frances. But there’s nobody else to take’em. Nobody wants my pills.
FRANCES: I’m not here.
NURSE: I have the same problem.
FRANCES: What day is it?
NURSE: Tuesday. How are the pills working for you?
FRANCES: They make me buzz.
NURSE: I will write that down.
She reacts violently.
Well you know some days it’s no sweat with you and the pills, and some days it’s a lot of sweat, and it all ends up the same, so I wish we wouldn’t have sweat. All I can say is take’em and buzz.
She swallows the pills.
Good. Under the tongue?
She opens her mouth, shows.
Thank you, Frances.
She starts crying.
I’m sorry you feel bad. Could I get you something? Books maybe? See you later.
Buzzer. Black. Voices. Chair is on top of table. Frances is tearing eyes out of the photos. Nurse appears.
NURSE: And here he is now.
No response.
You know, I mentioned before, chairs are traditionally on the floor.
He puts chair down.
FRANCES: I can’t see very well. There’s something I need to focus.
NURSE: You didn’t say anything about—
FRANCES: I can’t fucking see!
More quietly:
You know what I’m saying, Frank? You’re intelligent, I appreciate your intelligence. I’m having difficulty focusing. I’m a photographer, professional photographer, weddings and things, it’s not art but it’s what people want— And you know this behavior is really pretty humiliating—
NURSE: What would happen if you stopped doing that?
FRANCES: I’d probably scream a lot.
NURSE: So, Frances, I was gonna say, yesterday you asked me to send a message to your sister. And so I informed Dr. Allison that you would like to send this message—
Then I checked your file, but there’s no record of your having a sister.
She produces a Bic lighter, lights it.
Omigod. Where’d you get that?
FRANCES: Found it.
Holds out his hand. She gives it to him.
NURSE: I am really going to catch hell.
FRANCES: I’m sorry.
Silence. In another voice:
I’m in every cell of your body and as distant as the stars, and as near as the roof of your mouth and as far away as the dirt of the grave, I’m so close to you, I touch you, and I’m so far away.
She covers herself with the blanket, crouches in the bed.
NURSE: Well I don’t like to leave you this way, but. . . Couple hours to dinner.
Buzzer. Black. Voices.
Frances sits reading. Nurse stands with covered plate on tray.
NURSE: Dinnertime. Books. Where’d you get the books?
FRANCES: My daughter sent it. It’s mythology. It’s a goddess who descends to the Underworld to meet her sister, who’s queen of the Underworld. It’s kind of childish.
NURSE: That sister business. I never had a sister. Good thing for her.
FRANCES: No food.
NURSE: “No food.” Well that’s not really an option. You gotta eat those Brussels sprouts cause otherwise they think you’re unhappy and it makes all those doctors sad.
FRANCES: You got a bump on your head.
NURSE: Very perceptive. Yes. That was 4-C. Geriatrics ward. Mrs. Bingham hit me with her walker.
Scuse me.
Goes out. Frances doesn’t notice he’s gone.
FRANCES: Did they tell you what I did? They must have. For a while they had me so doped up I mighta been you.
It was pretty unforgivable. You know I’m a photographer. I do weddings. I do it well, and I snap the bride and the groom in a very happy pose and then they try to hold that pose for the rest of their life.
So I was shooting this wedding, and I thought about my sister—
But I don’t have a sister— I was a twin. I had a sister who died in the womb. She was born dead. Course I didn’t worry about it then, I just thought “Where’s the nipple?” But my parents told me about it. And then I forgot.
Until— And I had a very good life until—No—
She covers her eyes with her hands. Sudden darkness, then Gatekeeper’s flashlight finds her face. In a spasm, she becomes Ereshkigal, then Inanna, alternately illumined by flashlight from one side, lighter held in her hand. The goddesses speak through her.
INANNA: Sister?
ERESHKIGAL: You left me.
INANNA: You left me.
ERESHKIGAL: I remember—
INANNA: A flapping of wings.
ERESHKIGAL: Then there were gates.
INANNA: Gates—
ERESHKIGAL: The gates stay shut. I sent up a tree—
INANNA: I remember a tree.
ERESHKIGAL: To dwell in both worlds. Its crown below was as broad as its crown above. Its heart was strong, and it sang.
INANNA: It sang.
ERESHKIGAL: You tore up the roots.
INANNA: Sister—
She collapses. Gatekeeper disappears. Frances is disoriented, pulls herself together.
FRANCES: What? Oh yeh. Wedding.
So I was shooting this wedding, and I couldn’t do it. I took pictures of silly things. Took pictures of feet. And then just close-ups. Close close close-ups, just eyes and nose and a great big mouth.
And so on Monday I did the contact sheets, and saw what I’d done. Which was unforgivable. Without an album, how would they know they were happy?
And my daughter was home for a visit, she was outside the darkroom, she said, “Mom, you ok?” And I heard her voice, and so frightened, and—
So I never came out. I simply had to go crazy. I tried the old razor blade bit.
Nurse returns.
NURSE: Did you say something?
NURSE: Well look, you know that was a very strange call? You’d asked me to give a message to your sister, but we had no records of your having a sister. And then the strange thing was that they just got a call at the desk, and the woman identified herself as your sister.
She cries out, collapses.
She rises, staring into a lighted Bic lighter.
Where the hell are you getting those?—
He takes it.
Ok, damn, Frances, we’re going to have to do a search. I’ll call my supervisor and we have to do a search. I’m sorry, damn it, Frances, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry!
He goes out.
FRANCES: Frank? It’s dark. Where is it going here? It’s night.
Light shift. Sharp change of worlds. Gatekeeper in shadow.
GATEKEEPER: It’s night. Now it’s day. Now it’s night. Now it’s day. I’m just saying that. How would I know?
ERESHKIGAL: Gatekeeper!
GATEKEEPER: Oh my Queen! Great Queen of the Underworld, Queen of Darkness, Queen of Night! Queen of the Dead and the Dying and the Diminished!
Lemme come in, I gotta come in! Ereshkigal!
Gatekeeper enters her presence.
ERESHKIGAL: Why have you left the gate?
GATEKEEPER: There’s just dead people there. They’re boring.
So there’s news when you want to hear. But she don’t. Nosiree. Just gotta do what you gotta do. So the news is—
She moves her hand, he falls as if struck. She continues with ritual.
ERESHKIGAL: When it divided, the light from the dark, the dragon brought me here.
In his teeth he clasped Ereshkigal, he brought me here.
To the land of Kur, the land of no return, he brought me here.
GATEKEEPER: There was a Gatekeeper then. Even then.
ERESHKIGAL: And I was Queen. In the dark I was queen.
Queen of the dead who come in rivers.
And I am rich with weavings.
GATEKEEPER: There was a Gatekeeper before there was a Queen.
ERESHKIGAL: Then my husband came.
To the land of Kur, the black-eyed Nergal came.
With his harsh black beard, his juice, his fire, his teeth.
He came into me.
GATEKEEPER: I was watching.
ERESHKIGAL: We lay, Nergal and Ereshkigal, for a first day and a second day.
We lay, Nergal and Ereshkigal, for a third day and a fourth day.
We lay, Nergal and Ereshkigal, for a fifth day and a sixth day
And I am rich with weavings.
GATEKEEPER: And so he’s dead. King of the Underworld, he’s dead. He was a god, but he’s dead. He ruled the dead, but he’s dead. Figure it out.
I’d say it’s a lack of vitamins. Time for dinner.
GATEKEEPER: The times they is out of joint. The news is, sweetie-pie, the Underworld is going to hell. No place to put more humanity, people sleep standing up.
You gotta get back your appetite. Who’s gonna eat the dead if you don’t? I let’em in, you digest’em. Just a few bites.
He draws tangled yarn from the dish.
Eat him first. He’s juicy.
ERESHKIGAL: I am not grieving my husband. I have made farewell to my husband. There will be other husbands. My husbands run in a river, all.
I grieve what I lost. I grieve my heart. I grieve my sister, my twin, who has kept my heart.
GATEKEEPER: Your sister. She’ll be here. Don’t ask me when. I’m not big on time.
ERESHKIGAL: I call her. I call her every day.
GATEKEEPER: You gotta dial the right number. She’s Queen of Heaven and Earth, she’s not some lady in a loony bin. You have no grasp of technology.
GATEKEEPER: She will come when she’s good and ready. Right now she’s a kid. You were twins, ok, but you got old fast, and she’s still a cutie. She’s still saying, “See the birdie.” Sister this, sister that, but it’s a long time, honey, till the family reunion.
She moves her hand, he recoils as if struck.
These are keys. They open gates. When I want to. You be nice to me.
ERESHKIGAL: She will come. She feels my reach. Come.
Ereshkigal begins to eat ravenously.
Black. Voices. Priests appear.
PRIESTS: In the days, the days of the beginning,
In the nights, the nights of the beginning,
In the first days and first nights of the dividing, the great dividing, splitting Earth from Sky and World from Underworld,
Then Inanna’s sister, Ereshkigal, was clasped in the Dragon’s teeth,
Clasped in the Dragon’s teeth to rule the dead—
They were divided.
Inanna, the jewel, the morning star, to rule the living,
Her sister to rule the dead.
Image of Ereshkigal giving birth to fiber that stretches upward to form a tree.
And her sister sent up a tree. Tall tree.
Its roots in the dark, its crown in the sun, a bridge, a hand from her realm reaching up to her sister Inanna, reaching up to the light.
Within the tree, the figure of Ereshkigal wakes, moves, reaches.
ERESHKIGAL: And the snake wove its coil in the roots.
The crow set her nest in the branches.
And the blood of desire filled its heart.
Inanna, as a puppet, appears.
INANNA: Light.
Storm to light.
Wind in the sun in the light.
Watery dance.
Seeds in the rippling dance.
Seed to tree.
Light in the wind in the tree.
She appraoches the tree.
The tree is mine.
It will be my shining throne.
It will be my fruitful bed.
She reaches to touch it.
ERESHKIGAL: Come to my darkness. Into the heart. Sister.
Inanna shrinks back.
INANNA: I weep. I, the maid Inanna, I weep.
I weep for the tree I would make my shining throne.
I weep for the tree I would make my fruitful bed.
I will speak to my brother Gilgamesh:
My brother, I blossom. I blossom to be the morning star.
I must have my shining throne. I must have my fruitful bed.
Gilgamesh bursts into view, with broad heroic gestures.
GILGAMESH: Yes I am your hero, I will kill the snake, scare off the carrion bird, and drive that bitch out of that tree and we will make furniture.
And he chops the head off the snake.
And he rips the wings off the crow.
And the demon scrams to the desert.
And the tree, he pulls up by the roots, cuts off the branches, tears out its heart.
He builds her a shining throne. He builds her a fruitful bed.
Presents her with tiny doll furniture: throne and bed.
INANNA: I have my throne. I have my bed.
I become the morning star.
She disappears.
GILGAMESH: Leftover wood. I could make me a drum. And a drumstick.
I’ll do it. I make me a drum. And a drumstick.
And I drum.
He produces a drum and drumstick. Drumming begins, growing into a slow crescendo of marching and battle. Behind him, the shadow of Ereshkigal.
Drum in the streets. Drum in the roads. Drum in the highways.
Call out the young men of the city.
Call them out to the streets. Call them into the roads. Call them onto the highways.
Drum them into armies. Drum them into legions. Drum them to the attack.
Charge! Over the top! Banzai!
He charges off.
ERESHKIGAL: You would forget me.
You root me out. You sever my fingers. You scar my womb.
You would forget your sister, your twin, and so may you hear the drums.
So may your children hear the drums.
So may your children march to the drums, kill to the drums, die to the drums and be shadow.
You will know me.
Again, the drums crescendo. Cries. Black. Frances screams.
FRANCES: No. Stop it! Stop it! Shut up! Shut up!
Nurse appears.
NURSE: Frances? What’s going on?
FRANCES: Drums! Make them stop!
NURSE: Frances, look at me. You have to quiet down or we’ll call the goon squad.
FRANCES: She’s taking my children.
NURSE: Where?
FRANCES: (after a beat) I’m acting crazy. I’ll stop.
NURSE: You have one daughter, right?
FRANCES: I know. I’ve been losing things.
NURSE: I want to know where you got the lighters.
FRANCES: I don’t know, Frank. I really don’t know. It was like a very bright star.
NURSE: Why don’t you go walk a little? Don’t stay cooped up.
He goes out. She curls up in blanket.
FRANCES: Sweet. Sweet to snuggle up. So warm, so soft, and bundled up tight. Feel your heart beat.
Entering another reality.
AS INANNA: Dark sister, come. We will go to ask Grandpa. Ask of the Lord of Wisdom.
To ask of the light and the dark and our heart, our common heart—
Bring gifts to our wise old Grandpa: blossoms and stars.
AS ERESHKIGAL: I have no stars. I have no key to the gates.
AS INANNA: I sail in my vessel to Wisdom.
She disappears. Enki is high above.
ENKI: Wisdom! Once we knew we had all the wisdom there was. Then the apple fell, and soon it was bombs.
Soon, armies were moving across the desert, killing pigs for practice before lining up the women. Soon, there were headlines.
The God of Wisdom. Could one be the God of Swine when all the swine are butchered? He could become the God of Sheep. And the God of Wisdom, when wisdom is shadow—might he not become the God of Forgetting, the God of Booze, the god of Lamentation? He might. Yes he might. But he won’t.
The God of Wisdom is water.
He crests, he floods, he trickles, he seeps.
He paddles, he splatters, he douches, he sogs, he slops.
He drenches, he sprays, he dissolves, dissolves, dissolves, dissolves, dissolves. . .
He inseminates.
Inanna appears.
INANNA: The Queen of Heaven and Earth sails to visit the Lord of Wisdom.
Inanna sails to visit her grandfather Enki.
The voyage is long, the voyage the reach of gods.
ENKI: My little girl sings—
INANNA: Bring you my blossoms, my stars—
ENKI: She comes in the harbor. She says farewell to her servant, she sets her servant Ninshubar to guard her vessel.
Welcome welcome welcome, my dear dear child.
INANNA: I bring you gifts. My sister could not come. She has no keys to the gates.
ENKI: We’ll have music.
He plays on his fingers as a harp.
Her eyes are warm pools. I could drink her eyes.
No no. No lechery today. It’s a working day.
INANNA: I’m thirsty. He has the power of the sea and the brook and the river and the torrent and he must have something wet.
ENKI: I offer her drink. Look how she drinks. She’ll be drunk.
INANNA: Good beer!
ENKI: I drink and drink, myself, drink of myself, the surge, the deluge, the tide, the torrent, the swell . . . the spurtle.
No effect. Has no effect. She smiles at me.
INANNA: He likes my smile.
ENKI: Shall I impregnate her now? I could reach in and draw forth a god. Who would that god be that I draw forth?
INANNA: That’s really good beer.
ENKI: Give her a gift, some trifle, and if she laughs, then I could wash into her womb on the surf of the laugh.
INANNA: Grandfather—
ENKI: I give her—
INANNA: I come ask a gift, I need—
The gifts are long silk ribbons drawn from his pockets.
ENKI: Words.
INANNA: Knowledge.
ENKI: Writing. Numbers. Signs.
INANNA: Worlds within worlds.
ENKI: I give her the reading of stars. I give her the keeping of time. I give her the flight of birds, the mystery.
I give her more beer.
INANNA: I swallow.
ENKI: I give her the brewing of beer, the knowledge of cattle and seasons, the planting of seed, the harvest of grain, the baking of bread, the abundance.
INANNA: I swallow.
ENKI: I give her knowing the tides, the sailing of ships, the wheel. I give her the piling of stone upon stone, the building of cities.
I give music, song, and the dancing, the crafting of image, the telling of stories, I give celebration.
INANNA: I swallow.
ENKI: I give the forming of tribes, I give her money, the art of lying.
I give the mining the ores. I give the smelting of iron. I give the smithing of weapons, the wielding of swords, machines of war, the raising of armies, the walls of cities, the breaching the walls, the burning of cities, enslavement—
I give her History. And another beer.
INANNA: I fill.
ENKI: She is so luscious. I could reach out now and. . .
He loses balance, befuddled.
I give her flirtation, the art of love, the art of the sacred whore, the blend of perfumes.
I give her the stroking the flesh, I give her the play of tongues, the pride of breasts, the kissing the phallus, caressing the vulva, I give her the coming together—
Oh my. . .
INANNA: I rejoice.
ENKI: And of course Right and Wrong. And justice, laws. I give her bookkeeping.
INANNA: I’m full.
ENKI: Kings . . . and making cheese. . . all the crap you have to go through . . .
I hope she likes it all. Tomorrow I can fuck her. Or did I? I forget.
Enki sags back.
PRIESTS: But the deep knowledge, the knowing of birth and death, and our heart, our common heart— These he forgot.
He forgot to give her the key. She forgot to ask it.
ENKI: Too much beer.
Inanna emerges. Enki sleeps.
INANNA: I dream that morning breaks. I dream my time is come. I rise, I scurry, I flee, I falter, I fall.
ENKI: Where’s all my stuff?!!!
INANNA: I dream that my warrior spirit, my Ninshubar carries me, pregnant with gifts, to the ship.
Ninshubar lifts her. Enki bangs thunder sheets, then desists at Ninshubar’s gesture. Voyage begins.
We sail at dawn. To my city I bring my gifts.
PRIESTS: In labor she offers the gifts.
Out of the Goddess’s belly flow the sacred gifts.
From Inanna’s sacred vulva her children receive her gifts.
INANNA: There are more.
There are more than I had from the Lord of Wisdom.
The gifts are counted and chronicled, and there are more.
PRIESTS: The gifts are more.
The gifts from the womb of Inanna are not to be numbered.
INANNA: They are more.
ENKI: They are yours then. Enjoy.
Music. To black. Sharp cry. Frances, looking at her hands. Voice of the daughter:
VOICE: Oh, and Mom, I was going to tell you— I had a date with this new guy, Alex? He’s so funny. We went out to a bar and just talked and talked and—
But you know the book I sent you, I don’t know what you thought about that but— I read some of it to Alex, the really sexy parts, where she’s with the shepherd, don’t ask me why— He thought it was . . . interesting—
Light. Frances picks up photographs, tapes them on the wall. Looks at a photo.
FRANCES: I looked into the bride’s eyes and I thought “Oh the miles, Oh the dishes, Oh the tumbles and moans.” A pair of eyes that seem to be longing, seem to be wondering “What’s next?” Those eyes. Stars in the dawn, all the blossom, star blossom, grit. The sharp grit of love.
And my own modest loves, eighteen years of matrimony, and subsequent adventures. And I would be embraced, I would be filled, I would hear my own moans, but I could not hear my heart.
Isn’t there a gate to abundance? Drink all there is, and the cup is full. Isn’t that what they say, somewhere? Somebody said that, I thought. Isn’t there a river of gifts and blossoms and kisses and fullness and flow that will never stop, that doesn’t demand the stoppage, that doesn’t dictate scarcity as the First Commandment? Isn’t there a way to fill what’s empty, and hug what’s lonely, and say bless you my brother, bless you my sister, be blest?
Once upon a time. . . Once upon a time I was female.
She removes her robe, sees herself in Inanna’s dress, dons Inanna’s mask.
INANNA: She whispers praise.
She praises her wondrous vulva.
The grain is ripening. The sun is warm
I am ripening. I am warm
DUMUZI: The sun is hot.
INANNA: The sun is hot. Sweat.
I like to feel sweat, the little rivers. . .
DUMUZI: Its eyes.
INANNA: And the wind is my lover, delicate female lover, like silk.
And there will be another. But where, who?
DUMUZI: Imagine.
INANNA: So smooth. His skin sweats honey. His eyes flash, dark eyes, his hair is long, his tongue is soft and his hands are restless.
DUMUZI: Late afternoon. Overcast. Smells like rain.
INANNA: I walk in the night, the night is warm, the night is alive, the night is warm.
DUMUZI: The night is hot. Stars are burning. I see my bride.
INANNA: How do you know your bride?
DUMUZI: She lies on her bridal sheet.
INANNA: I have no bridal sheet.
DUMUZI: There is flax. The flax in its fullness. I bring you the flax.
INANNA: You bring me the flax, but who will comb it?
DUMUZI: I bring it to you combed.
INANNA: You bring it to me combed, but who will spin it?
DUMUZI: I bring it to you spun.
INANNA: You bring it to me spun, but who will weave it?
DUMUZI: I bring it to you woven.
INANNA: You bring it to me woven, but who will hem it?
DUMUZI: I bring it to you hemmed.
INANNA: In my fullness, you bring me the flaxen sheet.
But who will lie with me on it? Who will lie with the queen?
DUMUZI: The shepherd.
INANNA: The shepherd?
DUMUZI: Dumuzi, the shepherd. He seeks his bride.
INANNA: I am no sheep.
His fingers are thick, and hairs on the back of his hands. He’s all wool, itchy, the itchiest looking man I’ve ever seen.
DUMUZI: He will pour out rich cream to your lips.
Flight. Then they come together.
INANNA: Unbearable.
DUMUZI: Bear me. You will bear me.
INANNA: If I choose.
DUMUZI: Choose.
INANNA: The night is hot and the flame is burning and I am waiting.
DUMUZI: And I am waiting.
INANNA: The time will come.
DUMUZI: The time will come, the time is ripe, the time is come.
INANNA: The time is ripe, the time is come, I swim.
DUMUZI: I swim in her sweat, I swim in her rivers, I swim to the core.
INANNA: Opening, opening deeper.
DUMUZI: Wet and warm.
INANNA: Will I say yes? Will I hear myself say yes?
DUMUZI: Laughter is yes.
INANNA: What makes me laugh? This is the shepherd. This is wet wool.
Her hand clasps his thigh.
DUMUZI: Your hands.
INANNA: My hands on your cheek. My hands on the back of your neck. My hands on your thigh.
My mouth on your mouth. I wrap you.
They make love.
BOTH: The fruit round in my hand and full of juice
We open now, we bite, we move to the tide
The pulsing the flame the candle the pulse the river the sweat.
We melt, we drink, we melt, we flow
Fullness to fullness
Whisper. . .
INANNA: I see in the flame in the flame I have two faces.
I have a face, and my lips are soft and taste you.
And I have another face and my lips are soft and taste you.
DUMUZI: Our eyes fill the sky.
Stillness. They take up puppet images of the characters and continue their lovemaking through the images.
BOTH: Open your house, my lady.
Robe your body in white.
Arrange your beads at your throat and sing.
INANNA: My fields lie wet and fallow, my king, my furrow is full of longing.
Who will plow my wet ground? Who will furrow my vulva?
DUMUZI: My cedar roots in your wetness, my queen, my cedar tree stands tall.
Hold my roots in your furrow. Smell the smell of cedar.
INANNA: I bathe for the shepherd Dumuzi.
I darken my eyes, I redden my mouth,
I sweeten my loins, I open my womb.
BOTH: He lies on the sacred bed.
He lies with the Queen on the sacred bed.
The bed wrought from the sacred tree bears the goddess’s tumult.
The shepherd Dumuzi fills the Queen of Heaven.
They taste the salt.
The masked Inanna rises over the images of the puppets embraced.
INANNA: I decree your fate, Dumuzi. You are chosen.
You will sit on the jeweled throne and shepherd the land.
You will spend long days in the sweetness of my loins.
In the taste of Inanna, may you spend long days. . .
Sounds of subway. She removes the mask, stands as Frances, bereft.
FRANCES: Nothing. . .
VOICE: I don’t want to make you feel— Things are going really great—and then I feel kinda guilty having a great time when you’re—not having a great time—
FRANCES: Not having a great time. She’s stone cold dead.
VOICE: I guess I always thought you were—even when you had problems with Dad, you were like pretty . . . together—
FRANCES: So together. I had my work, I had a love life, people who love me, a beautiful daughter, sunshine—
VOICE: But I don’t know— I mean I had no idea you were so unhappy—
FRANCES: Wrapped around the dead. You’re in blossom, you’re in bloom, and you’re wrapped around the dead.
No roots. The tree has no roots.
VOICE: But well, I mean, I don’t know if I should send you this or— I’m just babbling—
FRANCES: When did you know you had a dead twin? Never?
No, your parents didn’t tell you, but you do.
You have a dead twin.
You’re the greatest civilization, ever, on the face of the earth, we all know that, but you have a dead twin, and she’s calling.
For what you promised. Your heart.
Frances climbs the ladder.
You make the descent. Nobody does it for you. It’s not because you’re more screwed up than the norm. It’s because now you’re ready. Even if you’re not.
She begins to don Inanna’s regalia. Shadow of the Gatekeeper.
GATEKEEPER: From the Great Above she sets her eye to the Great Below.
INANNA: Now I adorn myself.
My seven blessings, my seven ornaments, my seven gifts,
I adorn myself by seven.
GATEKEEPER: The Queen of Heaven and Earth descends to the Great Below.
INANNA: My crown.
GATEKEEPER: In Erech she abandoned Eanna, descend.
INANNA: My necklace.
GATEKEEPER: In Adab she abandoned Esarra, descend.
INANNA: My belt.
GATEKEEPER: In Nippur she abandoned Giguna, descend.
INANNA: My cloak.
GATEKEEPER: And her temples and her headquarters and her offices and her command posts and her condominiums and her penthouses and her sanity—
INANNA: My scepter, my song, my visage, adorned.
To find my sister.
To find my sister whose face is dark.
The time is ripe. The time is come. I descend.
GATEKEEPER: 5:42. It gets dark early now.
Sound of subways. Inanna moves through a maze. Gatekeeper places stepladders in Inanna’s path.
Got some ID?
INANNA: I am Inanna. The morning star.
GATEKEEPER: If you are Inanna the morning star, Inanna of love, of heaven and earth, the fruit of the earth— Whatta you doing here? Nobody comes here if they can afford to die in Florida.
INANNA: To know my sister.
GATEKEEPER: What your sister says was Uuhhhhhhhhh!
All these keys. Never can find the right key. That’s why I’m the Gatekeeper.
Now enter the realm of abundance, realm of deep knowledge, realm of dream.
Abandon all hope, or if you packed a lunch.
Tight squeeze, right on through, and gate by gate unborn.
He removes her crown. She passes through the gate. Suddenly, her shoulders are stooped.
You’re shorter.
She holds out her hand for it.
Law Number One of the Underworld: What’s lost stays lost.
The laws of the Underworld are perfect. No question.
FRANCES: Frank! It’s dark!
He directs her into the maze.
VOICE: Downstairs to the Double A. Change at Third Avenue for the D, F and G. Stand clear of the closing doors!
Inanna comes to rest. Second gate.
GATEKEEPER: Next gate. Law Number Two: Do it right the first time, you still have to do it over.
What is the fare now, honey? What is the fare you pay me?
She passes through the gate. She becomes unbalanced, reaches out for the scepter. Refused.
Second stairway.
He directs her into the maze.
VOICE: Express is on Track Number Two. Track Number Two for the Express. Please stand clear of the doors!
Inanna halts. Third gate.
GATEKEEPER: Third gate. Nobody said this wasn’t going to be boring. I’ll hang onto the cloak for you. You cold? I give it back. I hang onto it, and I give it back.
She gives him cloak, passes through the gate. Her arms are paralyzed, her hands limp. He hands her the cloak. She tries to take it, fails.
Try to make an exception, never works. Law Number Three: Standard Policy.
We got standard policy. Standard policy is what keeps the dead dead. Look at any outfit that wants to keep the lid on the coffin, you’ll find a policy manual.
He directs her into the maze.
VOICE: Please stand clear of the doors! The doors are closing! Please stand clear of the closing doors!
Inanna comes to rest. Fourth gate. She bursts through the gate. Her necklace is missing.
GATEKEEPER: Necklace. Law Number Four: No stars.
No stars, that’s it, no stars.
FRANCES: I can’t fucking see!!!
GATEKEEPER: That’s normal.
She is blind. He directs her into the maze.
VOICE: Please stand clear of—! The doors are—! Please stand clear of the closing—! Please stand—! Please—! Please—! Please—! Please—! Please—!
She wanders aimlessly. Gatekeeper guides her to the fifth gate.
GATEKEEPER: Now we get down to the basics here. Nothing personal.
That cute little belt on your hips, sexy little gadget makes us all think about your sexy little gadget. And all that trouble and all that fun.
That’s gotta go, it does have to go, cause Law Number Five: One size fits all.
Is that ok now, honey? You gotta be neutered. We take out your female stuff?
INANNA: I am Inanna.
He rips away her belt. She curls in agony.
GATEKEEPER: The laws of the Underworld are perfect. They just are.
FRANCES: I’ve been losing things. . .
GATEKEEPER: So whatcha got left for the Gatekeeper now, whatcha got for the man?
He guides her to the sixth gate.
A song. Oh yeh, she’s adorned with a song. Cause without a song, you just twist into a pretzel.
Sing me your song. Your beautiful song. Put all your love and your starlight into that one little song.
She begins to hum, then to sing a melody. Suddenly he leaps, grabs the song, lets it go. Crow caw, fading.
Law Number Six: Divest.
Gatekeeper takes her wrist.
Now it gets a lot simpler now, where there’s not the goddess much now, but more like the flabby lady in a looney bin.
He leads her, staggering, before Ereshkigal.
Now this is the dark world, it’s all babble. Like at birth.
Voices, the dead have lost articulation, they mumble, sit in dark corners, with the radio loud, and the trash compactor.
Try to remember your name. “Mommy!” Was that my name? Uh. “Honey!” “Next?” That’s my name. “Next.”
You know once I saw all the names. I mean all the names. All. Don’t want to see that again.
Inanna faces Ereshkigal.
Now right stepping forward, and that’s the gate. The seventh gate, hon, is your sister. She’s standing there, she’s thinking Oh my.
She is naked. She climbs through the rungs of a stepladder tipped on its front, toward Ereshkigal.
And now, honey, now you have no power.
No bank account, no house, no dog, no cat, nor your music, nor the birds. You do not have your baby doll.
You have no hope of God, or Saviors, or Goddess, you have no eternal life, you have—
No bladder control.
You cannot feed yourself, or wipe yourself, you cannot laugh nor weep, and if you hear screaming you can’t tell if it’s you.
You remember nothing, you are not remembered, you are not loved, you are not mourned, there are no snapshots of you, nor anywhere your name.
That dear lady your mother does not recall your birth.
That’s about as low as it gets.
Inanna tries to speak.
FRANCES: De— Sis—Fi—
GATEKEEPER: She says, “Dear sister, I come to find you.”
FRANCES: Wa— Ho— Ar—
GATEKEEPER: “Want to hold you in my arms.”
Frances embraces Ereshkigal.
ERESHKIGAL: I have waited.
You bring me your heart.
I take it.
Ereshkigal plunges her hand into Frances, tears out her heart.
Cut her in pieces.
Hang her on hooks on the wall.
Let me smell her rot.
Gatekeeper rips the photo of her face. To black.
Nurse speaks to us:
NURSE: Resurrection is an appealing concept. Even if Lazarus woke with a hangover and a mouth full of worms, at least he woke.
But if it’s possible, then you want it to happen. Every day, like pigeons. Turn off the noise and go back to a world of magic and messiahs and free parking. If only.
Frances appears, in her bathrobe. He watches her as she approaches the puppet figure of Ninshubar.
So I do what I can to discourage miracles. In these halls there are no dragons slain, no epiphanies. Miracles are clinically suspect.
But I haven’t quite given up hope of witnessing resurrection. I’d like to believe it. I’d like it to happen. Before Friday.
He disappears.
FRANCES: No eyes. No face. No heart. Welcome to the club.
The goddess comes to pieces, she just comes to pieces.
And the story is, her servant Ninshubar, her warrior spirit—
Warrior spirit. Let it go. It’s a fairy tale. Dead is dead. Empty is empty. Gone is gone.
She takes Ninshubar in her arms, speaks quoting Ninshubar:
Oh gods of heaven and earth—
Let not the goddess be put to death in the Underworld let not the goddess Inanna be put to death in the Underworld
Remember remember remember the beauty remember remember do not let the wood be shattered do not let the jewels be lost do not let the silver be tarnished do not let the goddess Inanna be buried under the bark of the bark of the bark of the Underworld.
Collapses on the bench.
The gods say Forget it.
What would happen if you came to life, and climbed out into the sun, and you had to breathe again? It’s dark, now it’s light, now it’s dark, now it’s light, forever.
She wants so bad to stay dead.
And her warrior spirit, her Ninshubar . . . calls to the fucking gods!
She rises, moves in place: arduous uphill trek. Rapid recitative:
Oh gods of heaven and earth—
Let not the goddess be put to death in the Underworld let not the goddess Inanna be put to death in the Underworld
Remember remember remember the beauty remember remember do not let the wood be shattered do not let the jewels be lost do not let the silver be tarnished do not let the goddess Inanna be buried under the bark of the bark of the bark of the Underworld.
In her own voice:
Move. Keep moving. Uphill. Step. Another step.
ENKI: The gods say forget it, but the God of Wisdom hears.
He mimes actions, takes her hands, draws creatures’ faces on the palms. She echoes his words.
Dirt from my nails
Two creatures
No sex, lay off the sex
Give’em the bread of life, and the water
Ok, Creatures, here’s what you do.
Go to the sister, Ereshkigal
So sad she killed her twin
She says Oh my heart.
You say Oh your heart
She says Oh my head
You say Oh your head
She says Oh my belly
You say Oh your belly—
And so on
And Sister will be grateful
Grateful to be heard
She will be grateful
And offer you gifts
The laws of the Underworld are perfect, but water dissolves.
FRANCES: Resurrection? We do it with scribbles?
Gatekeeper in shadow. Frances speaks as Ereshkigal.
GATEKEEPER: Oh my Queen, why are you sniveling? Scream out that stuff, nobody answers. Bang your head on the wall, it brings down cities, but don’t mean shit.
GATEKEEPER: You killed her, yes yes, and that was good, because now she’s dead.
Frances’ hands are the Creatures. She speaks to her multiple selves.
AS CREATURES: Your sister—
AS CREATURES: Your heart—
AS CREATURES: Your hands—
AS CREATURES: Your belly—
AS CREATURES: Your blood—
They cry out.
AS ERESHKIGAL: Who are you? I will give you what you will.
AS CREATURES: We want the meat.
AS ERESHKIGAL: It is my sister’s.
FRANCES: That’s ok.
Her hands embrace her face.
GATEKEEPER: It is a miracle! They pour on her the water of life and they feed her the bread of life, and Inanna rises. She is whole! She is a sweetheart!
FRANCES: I’m here. . .
GATEKEEPER: And it won’t be long now, before she rises up from the Underworld and she is alive and she lives and breathes but Surprise!
FRANCES: I’m alive. . .
Nurse appears.
NURSE: Frances? Where are you going?
NURSE: Well that’s a good idea but we can’t do that right now.
FRANCES: I feel things.
NURSE: Well yes, we’re very glad about that. But we don’t go out. Nobody goes out.
NURSE: You want water we’ll get you water, but we don’t go out.
Law Number Seven. This is the real world.
Work it out, Frances. Real world.
To black. Buzzer. Cries.
Priests appear, bring puppet images forward. The last scene is played with very minimal movements of the puppet heads.
PRIESTS: Now we span millennia.
Inanna is trapped in the Great Below.
Who will free her?
There is lamentation.
There is no laughter, embrace, no sharing a bed,
No fragrance nor tears of joy nor beer,
No snuggling of butt to belly, no bubble and splash of a fish,
No lust of birds on the wing.
In the streets Inanna’s children perish. Their dreams perish. The mothers who bore them perish. Their fathers who seeded them perish.
Gardens are locked. Hunger decreed by law. Rats and the howling dogs.
Who will free Inanna?
FEMALE PRIEST: Geshtanna, sister of Dumuzi.
Geshtanna, twin of the shepherd king.
Geshtanna opens the gates.
GATEKEEPER: But I got the keys. She wants to go home? What world are you in? Don’t you know your own address?
You don’t descend down there and then come back from vacation. No. This is the stop where there is no subway back.
PRIESTS: Dumuzi rules. He rules Inanna’s city.
His sister Geshtanna enters her brother’s presence.
GESHTANNA: Dumuzi, my brother, my king—
Inanna is lost. Let your grief be a river. Join me in grief.
DUMUZI: I have appointments.
People are starving. Riots. Rape. Despair.
GESHTANNA: You remember the Flood?
DUMUZI: I remember the Flood.
GESHTANNA: You were seven. The first lamb you ever raised was drowned. We stopped, the family all, and held you as you cried.
DUMUZI: I was a child. The sheep do not care if the shepherd grieves. They want the fresh grass. The crops are failing. The rivers are drying. The air breathes poison.
Child rises up against father, and husband to wife, and brother to brother. We must make laws.
GESHTANNA: Because you forsake Inanna.
DUMUZI: Grief is indulgence. Grief in the heart is a sick rat. Rip it out.
We must live without Inanna.
PRIESTS: We must live without Inanna.
FEMALE PRIEST: Geshtanna cries out to Enki.
Hear me, Lord of Wisdom—
ENKI: Yes yes. And she will be freed only if someone takes her place in the Great Below.
Then the Annunaki—the furies, the judges, the seven ancient gods who rule deep in the bone—
They will seize the one who takes her place in the Underworld, that she may return.
That’s all I know. I am wise enough to know when my knowledge fails.
ANNUNAKI: Demons like brambles, demons like burrs, we cling.
We eat no food, we drink no water, we take the man from the woman, woman from man, the child from the breast.
Another must come to the dark, another must come to the Queen of the Great Below, another must come to the dark.
GESHTANNA: Fearful judges—
Let Inanna return to her children. Take me.
PRIESTS: But Inanna would not fix the eye of death on one who loves her.
ANNUNAKI: Who descends to the Great Below may not ascend.
If Inanna would rise from the Great Below she must choose another.
Another must come to the dark, another must come to the Queen of the Great Below, another must come to the dark.
PRIESTS: Your servant. Ninshubar. She is old now, feeble. She stays, you go free.
FEMALE PRIEST: But Inanna would not fix the eye of death on one who loves her.
PRIESTS: Your babies. Or your priest, your plumber, some bum on the street, some dopey old lady on feeding tubes—
They are expendable.
INANNA: No. They are my children, all.
BOTH: Dumuzi.
INANNA: Dumuzi?
DUMUZI: Dumuzi?
INANNA: I choose out of love and rage.
We are one flesh. The one I choose is branded in me forever, to see his face every day. I choose out of love.
I choose out of rage. He is blind with sunlight. His heart does not cry to me in the dark. He will smell the smell of it on me. He will taste the taste of it on me. He will taste me and shudder.
Take him. Take Dumuzi.
ANNUNAKI: Demons like brambles, demons like burrs, we cling.
No food, no water, man from woman, woman from man, the child.
Another must come to the dark, come to the Queen.
DUMUZI: I’m having dreams. Very bad dreams.
My sister knows dreams. Geshtanna, my sister, what are these dreams?
GESHTANNA: You dream your death.
Brother, flee. The demons are here.
DUMUZI: I become a snake. I slither in grass. I hide in ditches.
Sister, tell no one my place.
GESHTANNA: Brother, they seize me.
They brand my face. They burn my hands.
I do not tell.
DUMUZI: I become a gazelle. I leap the stream. I hide in brush.
Sister, tell no one.
GESHTANNA: Brother, they seize me.
They tear my breasts with nails. They pour hot pitch in my womb.
I do not tell.
DUMUZI: I become a sheep. I hide in the sheepfold.
GESHTANNA: Brother, they are here.
DUMUZI: I feel the fingers on me. Naked. Dark wind.
They cry out.
PRIESTS: Inanna returns to her city. She is free.
All is desolation.
From the Great Below, the cry of despair.
Ereshkigal cries.
The heart is not with Ereshkigal. The heart is not with Inanna.
Geshtanna speaks to the sacred sisters.
GESHTANNA: Let my brother be the bridge.
Let him live half the year in the arms of the dark, bring his seed to the dark. Let the dark be fertile.
Let him spend half the year in the arms of the light. Let him bring the smell of sister to sister. Their smells in the making of love, in the building of cities, in the tides of their children. Let sisters commingle his seed.
Let me then take my brother’s place in the Great Below, and then in the Great Above, and know these sisters too.
PRIESTS: The voice of the Annunaki—
ANNUNANKI: Forsake him. Let him rot. He has brought desolation with his pride.
Build your world, humans, without the shepherd.
Build a world for humans, not for sheep.
GESHTANNA: My brothers’ seed is rich.
Do not forsake the proud man. Temper his pride.
Do not forsake the strong man. Temper his strength.
Do not forsake the corrupted man. Cleanse him.
PRIESTS: The Annunaki are silent.
INANNA: Dark sister, hear me. Geshtanna is our link.
Each year, she will take Dumuzi’s seat in the Underworld, while he and I are fruitful.
Then the seasons turn, and my lover returns to your arms.
He is yours half the year, and then to me, and his flow makes us one.
Hands appear at the image of Inanna. One is the hand of Inanna. The other is the hand of Ereshkigal. They come together.
ERESHKIGAL: Weave my thread into you.
INANNA: Mine into you. Dark sister—
ERESHKIGAL: Bright sister—
INANNA: Come into my heart.
ERESHKIGAL: Come into my heart.
INANNA: And the knowledge, deep knowledge of birth and death, and our heart, our common heart—
ERESHKIGAL: Is born between us.
You are in me, and I in you. The gates are open.
Shadow of the Gatekeeper.
GATEKEEPER: So what about the lady in the bathrobe?
Frances comes forward, speaks to us.
FRANCES: I guess, well, I get better. I live my life. I get old. I die. What else is new?
Stuff tastes better. I’m not taking pills, nor eating Brussels sprouts. I’m hoping to photograph my daughter’s wedding if she ever gets married. I photographed her moving in with her boyfriend.
The gates are open more.
I believe that something is being born.
Taking shape, finding a face, I’m starting to feel almost pregnant again.
The figure of Inanna rises to great height, spreading her arms to us.
Come to us
Be born.