“The Irretrievable”
by Dana Morrigan

At the far end of the room
is a wall with two dartboards.

If you’re equipped with a prong,
you throw your darts
at the left bullseye;
if you have a socket,
you aim for the right.

You get points for good aim.
You lose points if you don’t
make an effort to hit the board.

We don’t know
what the points are for,
but we’re afraid
to be caught wanting.

if you arrive with something
that’s not quite a socket or a prong,
an expert examines you and tells you
which target to aim for.

If you have a socket
but hit the left bullseye,
or have a prong but hit the right,
it’s an affront to the players
at the top of the leaderboards.

They prompt us to respond
with catcalls and violence.
Indeed we can do so
with no risk to our standing.

There are other
disruptive elements as well.
People who don’t follow
the leaderboards,
who don’t care
about accruing points.

Those who aim
for an invisible point
between the two targets,
or some random spot
on the wall, or ceiling, or floor,
that pleases only them.

Those who want to throw
two darts at once,
or don’t care to throw
their darts at all.

Some are eventually
coaxed—or pressured—
back into the game.
They play dutifully
but without passion.

Others remain outside,
irretrievable.

When they step up to the line
and squeeze a dart
between their fingers,
they call into question
the entire dart-throwing enterprise.

It’s as if they’re making fun of us
for playing to win.

(2010)

Afterthought: this is the last piece I wrote in a voice that is not my own.

In my creative work before coming out as transgender, I was a chameleon. I could mimic voices, or invent voices and write consistently in them, but I didn’t have a voice that was recognizably mine. I needed to come out to myself and begin transitioning before could find my own voice.

I’ve read The Irretrievable at a few performances, but I find it hard to read aloud because it is not written in my voice, so I have decided to retire it from performance and let it stand on its own. I don’t expect to write any more works where I use a persona. Now that I can speak as myself, I am done with other voices.

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