They noticed him from a distance,
and before he came up to them, they plotted to kill him.
They said to one another: “Here comes that master dreamer!
Come on, let us kill him and throw him into one of the cisterns here;
we could say that a wild beast devoured him.
We shall then see what comes of his dreams.”
Today is the final installment of the “abu ghraib arias” from Sand Opera. I’m so happy that I can leave the prison behind, tuck it back into the book and into some corner of my brain. I’m grateful that I can do that, and not wake up to it, the way the men remaining in Guantanamo still do, the way prisoners all over the world wake up to it, as if waking up at the bottom of a well.
It created an air of unease in the room that suited abu ghraib arias’s subject matter. The piece gives voice to both victims and perpetrators, daring us to search for sympathy for the torturers as well as the tortured. We hear Lane McCotter, Javal Davis, and Lynddie England in their own words, and reading them is as difficult as reading the depictions of violence and torture. Of all the urges one feels reading abu ghraib arias, the urge to applaud is distant. A triumphant ovation and bow from the performers would be a strangely celebratory way to end a reading of such difficult content. The audience did end up clapping, of course. But first: we stared at them and breathed. The room filled with tension. We were there not only to give voice, but to give breath.