The International Literary Quarterly


November 2007

Click to enlarge picture Click to enlarge picture. The Architect's Play by Carol Novack


The otiose man is in one of his moods. This morning he awakened with another red mole on his nose. He says the moles are taking over his nose and blames it on poisonous lunar fumes. The mole on the moon on the moon, the jester sings out of tune. That is not funny! says the man.

He wants a spire on his tower, an acute scimitar of a spire to spear passing swans. He wants swans for his little Dovey. See how she preens herself in the hot-tub, grows bored with the man's ears and mouth, what he cannot hear and what he speaks yet cannot utter.

She tries to pry open the shutters, mutters, flutters, sprays French violets onto their featherbed. See how she feigns sleep on the sofa when he pulls at her slippers. See how she keeps her legs crossed so he cannot enter her. The man blames the poor in the projects next door. Her ankles are blue with bruises.

The naturally dark and winsome architect with cleft chin longs for little blond Dovey with her dewy amber eyes, dancing pheromones, and filigreed fingers crowded with precious stones. She often reads Rilke aloud. Stones don't talk, she confides to the architect, on a spree of impulse.

The spire shall be taller than the Bishop's, the husband demands. Spare no expense, he commands. Cook will roast swans till tender with honey and mint and all will be well. His wife's tiny belly will swell with little otiose men and the tower will chime their favorite song.

The architect will spare no sense. He will create a ladder to curve like a swan's neck bending into the sea. There will be a yellow gondola at the bottom of the ladder, a gondola to bear them to Tuvalu.


What is their favorite song? The architect wonders as he adds nutmeg to his lentil soup. His daughter's gosling is honking in the outhouse. The child is playing Brahms on her viola. What is their favorite song? Strains of The Flying Dutchman throb through his veins, in vain. How can he possibly find a voice of his own? He will propose love to Dovey on his knees, just as his mother proposed his conception to the architect's father. He will find his own song and sing it, by Jove.

The architect plays with a cow bone moist with soup. He thrusts his tongue in the bone's hole to draw the white marrow out of its home. He sucks, wondering what will be their favorite song, the duet of the architect and his bird when she is his. Something that sounds like daffodils, or a song to bring out the color of her eyes? See the
pyramids along the Nile?


The jester is hiding in the clothes closet of the architect's daughter. Listening to the yearnings of the sensuous viola, he almost forgets his mission. Espionage is not his favorite pastime by a long shot – more tasteful by far to twirl about on one's fingers and amuse, then lie in a flowerbed gazing at galaxies. His goose will be cooked if he doesn't return with evidence that the otiose man is right. The man must be right.

Viola stops moaning and the child leaves the room. Our jester wishes he were anywhere and anyone else and had the courage to do and be other than.

As the architect and his daughter relish soup with horseradish, the jester sneaks into the drafting room. If you were there, you might wonder why the bells in his hat don't alarm. One could explain that when he's dejected, the bells are dull. On the other hand, did anyone say he wears a hat?

There are two models on the table: one of a scimitar atop a tower; the other, the scimitar's mirror image as a ladder curving down to the sea. One is a war, the other a poem. The jester enters the poem and escapes. He thinks at last longing here I go to Tuvalu, into her arms I shall row.

When the architect returns to his table, he will note the disappearance of the yellow boat. He will scratch his head and wonder if he'd moved the gondola, with thought or without, maybe into a cove to protect it from winds. That would've been sensible, but never mind. He will create another gondola. Easy come, easy go.


The otiose man Herbert is in a rage. He has awakened with another red mole on his nose and no jester to proffer evidence of treachery. He throws a tantrum at the cat.

Little Dovey is preparing Tuvaluan toast with pureed dates and aged chevre from Corfu. The scents vibrate attractively in Herbert's invaded nose. He does not want to think of treachery when the early sun through the shutters alights on her hair; vaguely wonders why his instinct is sharpening the blood-drenched razor he holds in his hand.


You have read Shakespeare and Sophocles (et al.) and imagine that Herbert will kill the architect or at least Dovey; or Dovey will kill Herbert in self-defense. In truth, you would prefer the architect to rescue Dovey in time, in good and right time, your local time zone time, not a thraneen of second too soon or too late. Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty walk in your sleep. So you envision the architect and his Dovey entering the poem and sailing away.

You have always conjured yourself as either the architect or Dovey, rescued by the architect.

To be expected the knots are fast and the delicate gondola whirls madly in the robust winds of the Pacific. Dovey clings to the side of the boat, the heroic little boat, without the architect. In a moment of unaware self-insight, he chose war and money, pleading fatherhood.

The next moments are enigmatic to the populace. No one claims to have noticed the passing of these moments during birthday dinners, wine tastings, stock market undulations, abrupt and slow deaths, and always romantic catastrophes. Rumor claims that Rigoletto appeared to take the lady from the ocean just as her being was expiring.

On Funafuti, the capitol isle of the isles of Tuvalu, the jester and his lady have made their home a happy ending without aspirations.




As usual, grandmother complains of sheep. You know how she gets. Too much Verdi.