Gods of the Ring: Act 1, Scenes 5-7

Ali-jet-magazine-Buck-White.jpg

Scene 5: Broadway

George Abbott Theater / Muhammad Ali is playing the lead role in the musical, Buck White – he is stood before a crowd of black Americans

***

WE CAME IN CHAINS

We came in chains!
We came in misery!
Now all our suffering, pains are part of history.
We came in chains!
You must remember that!
For that, and that alone explains exactly where we are at.
We came in chains!
We came as living loot!
So you could boast! Slave gotten gains.
We’ve grown beneath your boot!
We came in chains!
And how our blood was spilled!
Together with our sweat, it stains this nation we have built.
We came in chains!
We didn’t volunteer; and yet today the fact remains.
We’re still held captive here.
We came in chains!
Now, I say cut us lose! Though, that may go against your grain.
Still, there is no excuse!
We came in chains!
Now, who down there is gonna bear the cost.
Till every one of us regains, the freedom, we have lost.
We came in chains!
And now, your choice must be… to either blow out all my brains!
Or else, you’ll set me free!

 

We came in chains
Four hundred years
No justice, no freedom, no equality
Ninety Seventy – still in chains
sociological chains
Economical chains
Chains
Look at thsese chains
Chains – chains – chains


alijd7f-2-web

Scene 6: The dressing room

Enter Ali / he takes off his wig & beard & begins remving his make up / Enter Rahman Ali

Rahman
As-salamu alaykum

Ali
As-salamu alaykoum

Rahman
Brother, that was brilliant – your Buck White
Is all black – a mighty fine performance

Ali
I have to admit I was fantastic,
Forget Belafonte, Porgy & Bess
I captur’d the stage with straight charisma
But what use nautical genius
When navigators act the neophyte
& crewmen do whate’er they wanna do
We set sail for Hudson’s sunrise harbour
But ended up in Anchorage at dark
Lingering in miserable perdition

Rahman
That sounds the harshling cry, Zev Bufman looks
Like shaking apples from a fruitful tree

Ali
Maybe, when they’re all ripe, but not tonight
Or any night with Buck White, that was bad

Rahman
Bad, yeah, Beautiful Alleluia Days
That is the music groove you galvanised
With this scintillating singing of yours
That fell like medicine into mine ear

Ali
I did sing fine, the story aint that bad
But there was something lacking in the soup
For those who sing of serious problems
Will cheapen them with cliches well-meaning
But enough pathos, how are ma & pa?

Rahman
Pa still drinking hard, ma still Christian
She misses sitting ringside at your fights

Ali
She can watch us squabble at Thanksgiving
Over Turkey best bits & apple yams

Enter Angelo Dundee

Dundee
Muhammad Ali, that was terrible
Cuirassiers on pantomime horses
Carry more honour & look more noble

Ali
I know, I sense fair time to give it up
This febrile public stance, & do God’s work
The shape of beauty moves off from my life
Leaving discomfort shifting foot to foot

Dundee
I wouldn’t be so hasty in retreat
I took a call this morning that should sway
Your soul from all its awkward inertia

Ali
What was it

Dundee
You’re going to Atlanta

Ali
Atlanta

Dundee
They’ve agreed to let you fight

Rahman
They gave him back his license?

Dundee
They sure have

Ali
& the Supreme Court

Dundee
While you’re appealing
Your born-in livelihood deem sacrosanct
& you may fight, my boy

angelo-dundee-the-corner-man

Angelo Dundee

Ali
Your boy is back!

Dundee
Fifty cities turn’d you down, Atlanta
Be the fifty-first

Ali
I love Atlanta

Rahman
What made them swerve towards the righteous path
My brother walks, alone, despite the bile
Especially in Georgia, whose only
Sports prestigious tourney be the Masters
That rolls on categorically for Whites
Ghouls of the rotten Confederate heart
Enclos’d in the pollution of the soul

Dundee
The guts of Leroy Johnson we should thank
He’s attorney, State Senator – & black!

Ali
I heard him on TeeVee, he speaketh well

Dundee
Morehouse College Alum, well anyway
He pull’d a few strings & twang’d a few bows
& BOOM! We’ll be trippin’ to Atlanta

Ali
Salt that proposal with magical thinking
Didn’t I tell you I loved Atlanta

Rahman
You did, brother, you did

Ali
& Georgia too!
I love Atlanta & Georgia I love
I am a tiger at an open cage
No longer feel the knee upon my neck
I might not have my title, but my right
To fight, first step upon that vital road
Which bridges each misprision, & vaults
Each dreadful river of racialism

Rahman
Praise be to Allah! Sing Alleluia!
& when the Supreme Justices admit
I love my god like he or she loves theirs
They’ll understand my conscience & my cause
For how can they true champions supress
They let me back on my terms, I denied
Nothing I believe in, I’m still the same
Everything… so boss, whomah gonna fight!

Dundee
The Great White Hope

Ali
Quarry

Dundee
Jerry Quarry

Ali
& then I’ll whup Joe Frazier

Dundee
Sure you will

Ali
He’ll drop like Jack Johnson dropp’d Jim Jeffries

Dundee
Cos you’re the greatest

Ali
I am the greatest!

Rahman
You are the greatest

Dundee
Yes, boy, you are still
That sleek & tawny beautiful gazelle
That dazzl’d broad Johansson with your jabs

Ali
Hey come on sucka, show me what you got
I sang to him that special second round

Rahman
You sure did make him angry, made him swing
That sledgehammer right – it miss’d by three feet

Ali
No boxer lives can touch my pretty face
Two left jabs, a rapid right cross, a hook
Was all it took to stun poor Ingemar

Dundee
Poor fool – now come on, lets get outta here

Ali
But what about the after show party

Dundee
You ain’t going, we’ve got running first thing
A nice ten miler made to remind ya
To rise up side-by-side Hercules
Is gonna take an ocean’s worth of sweat

Ali
Hah – let me catch you down in the foyer

Rahman
Alright brother

Dundee
Don’t forget your make up

Ali
{wiping off his make-up}
I ain’t no clown with make-up on my face
I am Muhammad Ali, Heavyweight
Champion of the world, despite the hate
I fight for my god, my people, my fame
Remember me forever as the flame
Burning as bright as starlight in the skies
Woven in sacred sable tapestries
In motion of no less celerity
Than that of thought!


Muhammad-Ali-and-Joe-Frazier-press-conference.jpg

SCENE 7: Madison Square Gardens

Ali & Frazier are sat at a table either side of Bob Arum / the room is filled with photographers & journalists including ABC’s Howard Cosell

Arum
Splendid afternoon to everybody
Welcome to these dangerous inductions
& thanks for all for coming here this day
But as we all admit this day rare pois’d
These are two undefeated champions
Hand-set to tip the balance either way
What storms-a-coming, happy are they both

Cosell
I’m sure they are, purse fretting free to burst
As if a bounty on a proditor
Set by the richest kings of Xanadu

Arum
That’s right, five million split evenly
Between our handsome, priceworth prize-fighters
The whole world wants to see them battle raged
& slam a wage against the winning odds
Every heart trembles, every wine flows
For what should be the Fight of the Century,
Better even that the famous long count
When the Manassa Mauler, Jack Dempsey,
Took on Gene Tunny, the fighting marine
More famous than when James J Corbett fought
John L Sullivan in twenty one rounds
This event is greater by multitudes
Than when Joe Louis batter’d Max Schmelling
& bloodied Hitler’s nose & attitude
This is the biggest we have ever seen
By ten hundred million people watch’d
Across the world – Poland, Arabia
The Odeon in Burn-e-ley, Hong Kong
You name the place, they’ll be watching the bout

Journalist One
What do the fighter’s think?

Journalist Two
What round Ali?

Ali
I aint gonna call the rounds, but I’ll still shine
A singular prediction’s lantern light
When he & I enfisted ye shall see
Ungarish, cut-ingraven amateur
Completely outbox’d, so easy to hit,
When the fans will throw dirt at the critics
& experts for misleading them so much

Frazier
You got time

Ali
What do you wanna say, Joe
How ya gonna riposte all that wisdom

Frazier
I say it nuttin but a bunch of noise
His brain is threading needles back thro time
But today is today, man, understand
You’re not fighting Oscar Bonavena
You’re not fighting Patterson or Liston
You’re fighting Joe Frazier

Ali
I know that man
Everybody know that, that’s not the point

Frazier
That is the point

Cosell
Joe, what’s your prediction

Frazier
The fight won’t go the distance

Ali
No it won’t

Frazier
I’ll stop him

Ali
Stop me

Frazier
You

Ali
How soon? What round?

Frazier
{angry & fluster’d}
One to ten, you’ll be outta there, I’ll stop…

Ali
He’s agitated! He’s agitated!
{laughter from the journalist}
He’s famous cos there were no good boxers
To fight him

Frazier
Get ready cos here I come

Ali
I’ll still my tongue, now, no more prefight talk
But I would like to offer one more wise
Even tho’ I twice beat Sonny Liston
The Boxing Commission ne’er was convinc’d
I was the right & proper champion

Frazier
But that’s all over, now you’re fighting me

 

 

 

Ali
I’m the true champ, your fights only draw
Four thousand people tops, there’s more folk come
To see me train than watch your actual
Y’aint no-one, they only wanna see me

Frazier
Who got top billing? Who got top billing?

Ali
{standing up shaking his fist}
Wait ’til I get you in the ring

Frazier
{pushing back Ali’s fist}
And what?

Ali
Get your hands off me! Get your hands off me!
The whole world recognizes me as champ

Frazier
You got one half & I got the other
It doesn’t really matter anymore
We’ll make a fight, revive & shape it whole

Ali
No man alive could ever beat myself
If Joe Frazier whups me I’ll be dropping
On hands & knees to crawl across the ring
I’ll crawl across the ring, look up & say
You are the champion

Frazier
{putting his hands on Ali’s shoulders}
I’ll tell you what

Ali
{shrugging off Frazier}
Get your hands off me
Then I’m gonna crawl
Back across the ring, then leave behind
The boxing world forever – hang on man –
Whatma saying – that aint gonna happen
I’m gonna whup you, I’m gonna whup you

Frazier
The thing is you aint gonna be able
To crawl anywhere, you’ll be laying down

Ali
Listen to me boy you will bleed, bleed bad

Frazier
We’re gonna try & see who is the best

Ali
I’m the best

Frazier
No, I’m the best

Ali
No I am
I’m the greatest – the world is gonna see
Two heavyweight champions, one phoney
One real – to distinguish will be easy

Joe
I’LL BE THERE

Ali
How ya gonna hit me, Joe
I’m too fast

Frazier
I’ll be smoking’ right on you

Ali
I’ll be picking, poking, pouring water
On your smoking

Frazier
I’ve had enough of this
I’m outta here
{to Ali}
I’ve no further with you

Exit Joe Frazier

Ali
Where ya going, Joe! Where ya going, Joe!
I got him running scared, he aint no champ
Not in the eyes of Black America
He fights for Uncle Tom, my opressors
After I lost my title to the draft
They gave it Frazier, the White Man’s negro
The pale-ass-kisser who stands up only
For purses in rings, forgets his people
Joe Frazier’s nail’d on to get telegrams
From folks in Alabama in Georgia
Saying, ‘Buddy, play the White Man tonight
& demolish that draft-dodging n!gger!
yeah, whup that uppity, loud n!gger, Clay,’
But ninety-nine percent of my people
Are with me in the ring, identify
My struggle as theirs’, its the same damn one
They fighting every day, when if I win
They win, if I lose they lose, but listen,
I aint gonna lose against Joe Frazier
He’s too ugly to be champ, he’s too dumb
He’s nuttin gut a griftin street slugger
He take five good punches just to give one

Arum
OK, that’s about enough for today,
& we’ll be seeing you all very soon

Journalist One
We’ll be there Bob

Journalist Two
Ali, what’s the status
Of your case

Arum
I’m sorry, that will be all

Exit Bob Arum & Muhammad Ali


THE CONCHORDIA FOLIO

“Its worth a pop, right, to try & knock that Shakespeare
Off his feffin’ perch!”

 

 

 

Interview: Damian Beeson Bullen

The world’s leading exponent of Dramatic Blank Verse

***

Articles:

Composing Conchordia, Provence

Composing Conchordia: Vaulting the Lockdown

Posted on July 16, 2020, in Gods of the Ring. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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