soft, she seems to sing
in her sleep
a chubby child's
so much electricity over me
do adults, destined to defeat,
lose forever what all children give freely
take our hand
“BACK BY SUNRISE” is an animated fantasy feature screenplay by Justin Sloan. The script was winner of the December 2011 ScriptVamp screenplay contest, the July 2012 The-Greenlight contest, and placed well in the Page and Austin.
LOGLINE: On the night she learns of her deployed father's death, a young girl finds a magical necklace he left behind that turns her into a bird at night. But when an evil raven steals the necklace and traps her as a bird, she must fight to get it back and just hope that she can be reunited with her family.
[End of Excerpt]
I itch to know what makes the soul
join so little as the flesh,
wiring itself to raw nerves,
pounded by the heart
and groans of the groin.
If only I could dissect myself,
my atoms, quarks, and strings,
down to the God particle,
maybe I’d know why
the universe flies apart,
know what galactic arms
are strong enough to hold
even pieces of nothing together.
Maybe the spirit needs to hide
behind something that matters.
Maybe the body needs
its spirit’s lightning.
Perhaps the soul does not exist.
Perhaps matter does not matter.
Iowa, little centered sun, run ruddy in the heat: shout, you bastard,
I’m listening to you. What would you have, eh? Tell me, you polite son of a bitch. Gild that fucking lilly and sing it out for the king, the king of the left wing and right, the lord our mammony lemony god in the New York London Shanghai sky, wring it out in the river, old woman, below the human sacrifice, wring it out till its clean.
Iowa, Awake! Out of your farmhouse and your comfortable Des Moines duplex! I have got a hot dog for you! I have got a State Fair that is right up your sensible God-fearing alley! A Fair to Fold This Wake of Our Dream, to admit defeat, to rebuild, to scrap it and start again, Iowa, you desperate and loyal little clan, you wild free state, you ornery palooka, you ransacked mine, full forward in your last and unknown symphony of love, because when the soil is gone you’re gone baby and we’re gone with it, you blood-soaked Mesopotamia. Shout and be rude, for once! Stir the coffee shop to grief and war!
I will have at your edges. I will disrupt the symphonies. Tear down
the state houses and bring it into the canton, baby, into the field,
The Children of the Corn have gone, it’s safe for new government work so let’s get started and be as parliamentary as you want, one body, one legislator, and all those in favor?
In favor, Iowa. Iowa you favored modest son. Think of that, already: both favored and modest and therefore hated twice. Be arrogant, at least. Tell us our sins, so that you will not forget. Judge us, damn you. Judge us so that you will not fall.
Because I have a dream, Iowa. I have a dream, you goddamned two
river dream of life and love in North America. I have a dream that maybe you ain’t gonna like but you’re gonna need and you’d better listen to it real close.
This is coming to you from Los Angeles, Old Catholic country, old
Langsam in the wilderness, here in the tectonic zone to you in all
that loam, in all those quiet steady dreams that unfurl and unfurl in
your hundred counties like this our bloody flag that we’re gonna burn together.
Is it on the paper or in the man? Is it in your soul or up in the
sky? Did I put it on a map, or did you? Which way towards justice, Midwestern Man? Chicago? It ain’t Des Moines, not yet. Is all you can give us corn and couches and gentle admonishments? Leave it all behind, Iowa, you face of the man in the map.
So be our face, goddamn you Iowa, goddamn you to whatever hell you believe in and beyond because you’d better be our face, while we’ve still got one.
You ain’t had no religious war. You ain’t had no battlefields. You
ain’t had no Holocaust, not really, you had the glaciers come and go
and maize came in, the maize of the land and the maze of the human heart, and that’s what you really know, isn’t it Iowa, corn and hearts, the heart of corn, this four chambered mystery. We got the nicotine out and the transfats and whatever else we’re working on, but your clean handshakes and verbal agreements aren’t enough, it could still be the Age of Enlightenment, Iowa, if only you want it to be: so astonish France again, not with a guillotine but with a document. Write it in pen. Salt it down.
apocalyptic dreams comfort us
show an end to credit card debt, to war,
the confusion with our day-to-day ordinary lives
too wearily responsible to suicide
we ask God to end it for us.
the gleam in a Bible salesman's eye
offers a glimpse of a Heaven waiting
just past the mushroom clouds
blooming on the horizon.
"Rebuilding," Matt said. The book of matches in his hand felt oddly heavy. "I don't get it."
Craig swept a hand through his bangs, grinning. He held a similar matchbook, taken from the hotel where he worked weekends. "See, man, Principal Savoy has been lecturing us about community service, right?"
"Yeah. He won't shut up about it."
"This is community service. Well, it's actually good for the environment, which is maybe better than community service."
They stood near a grove of prairie grass, about half a mile south of the school. It hadn't been that hard to slip away; currently, they were supposed to be in P.E., but Coach Easter wouldn't care that they were gone. Craig was a decent track sprinter, and Matt was close enough of a friend for Craig's immunity to cover him as well.
It was a nice day out, windy, but the students were inside lifting weights. Craig's plan had played out well, especially since he'd only sprung it on Matt that morning before classes, while Matt was copying Craig's algebra homework. "It'll be fun and productive. Who's gonna complain about that? Teenagers taking initiative. Isn't that what every assembly we've ever had has been about?"
The stand of prairie grass wasn't large, maybe thirty feet by twenty. Despite state regulations, empty beer cans and cigarette butts littered the area around it. Beyond the grass was the start of the forest, stretching westward for a couple of miles. Matt often tried to picture what this area looked like from an airplane: fields upon fields, and then suddenly this dark green spot, then more fields. The thought both bored and comforted him.
"Look at it like this," Craig said. "Do you remember that trip to Douglas-Heart Nature Center we took in seventh grade?"
"Kinda. I remember Holly Sanchez wore a red skirt."
"Well, yeah, there was that, too. But the tour guide told us how, every so often, they do a controlled burn of the prairie grass. It's protected, see, but if they don't burn it regularly, it won't grow right."
"I don't know."
"Remember that video we watched last week about deforestation? They use controlled burning to help new rainforests grow down in South America. That's what made me remember the thing about the prairie grass."
Matt had slept through the video. But then, that was probably why he was getting a D. Well, that and his general lack of interest in anything academic, or his inability to focus on it for any length of time. There was always so much else to think about: hunting, drinking, baseball games on warm afternoons, the random chaos perpetrated by high school boys. Biology didn't even come close to being as interesting as all of that.
But Craig was interested in that stuff. He was interested in everything. So Matt just shrugged and said, "Yeah, okay, I guess I remember that."
"What we're doing here is rebuilding. We're helping this bit of prairie grass regenerate itself."
"You mean it'll grow back stronger?"
Craig slapped Matt's shoulder. "That's exactly what I mean. Now, don't you think Mr. Savoy would approve?"
"Well...yeah, I reckon." Matt looked back towards the school. "But what about the wind? Aren't we pretty close to town to start fires?"
Craig licked his finger and held it up. "Nah. Matt, man, the wind ain't that bad. And besides, say it does start to get out of control. Don't you think someone will notice and stop it?"
"We'll get in trouble."
"The matchbooks will burn up in the blaze. Trust me, it hasn't rained in, like, three weeks. That fire will burn hot. No fingerprints, no DNA, nothing that even the best CSI guys will ever be able to trace back to us."
Matt wasn't sure. The wind was pretty strong. And fire didn't need much to spread; Matt had once lit a bonfire using the wrong sort of wood, and his father had whupped him pretty good because the fire came close to catching the house. All fire needs is air and something to burn, goddammit, his father had said, and even though Matt had only been ten at the time, he hadn't forgotten that particular lesson.
But Matt's father wasn't very smart. Hadn't even finished high school. Neither had his mother. Craig wouldn't only finish, he'd be near the top of the class. He was, arguably, the smartest non-teacher that Matt knew. So if he said something was true, it was general policy for Matt to shut up and listen.
He nodded. "Okay," he said. "Just as long as you're sure we won't get in trouble and no one will get hurt."
"Scout's honor," Craig said, though he'd never been in the Scouts.
Craig struck the first match. A gust of wind blew it out. He laughed and said, "We gotta be quick about this, I guess. Try lighting the book itself on fire."
Matt tried. It helped. He and Craig tossed their flaming matchbooks into the prairie grass, and in a few seconds two small fires had started. The boys watched the flames grow brighter and spread, and when Craig said, "We're rebuilding nature, man, this is like playing God," Matt had no choice but to agree.
the clock told puppets to rush,
fed the sins in their competitive fever,
to breed that same old gimmick--
pangs of t-rex and cat--
only more morbid, faster,
horoscopes of sacrifice
on altars built deeper
for hungrier and more erectile
blithe on a cornice,
lorded over the savage pace.
downwind, herds of briefcases
butted in throes of fracas
it was a headstrong underbelly,
where kindness couldn’t sting,
had no syringe or pill,
never trumped the peril
of losing one’s cute, prostituted
The ocean’s tide
Comes and goes, and
Barbed steps in the sand
Show barren toes;
Toward the dark sea
They mutely point:
To a dark scene that
Will sadly disappoint,
Someone is leaving
This earth in a silent repose,
A life too fragile to be
Will soon dispose, and
In a minute, will forlornly
Return to the briny sea.