Artist bio

Martha Patterson writes plays, fiction, poetry, and essays. She used to be an actress. Her work has been published in more than 20 anthologies and journals (Applause Books, Smith & Kraus, Pioneer Drama Service, Silver Birch Press, the Sheepshead Review, Syndrome Magazine, and others), and her plays have been produced in 21 states and eight countries. She has two degrees in Theatre, from Mount Holyoke College and Emerson College. She lives in Boston, Massachusetts, the USA, and loves being surrounded by her books, radio, and laptop. n/a





Artist Statement

I used to be an actress so employed my vocal and performance skills for this video. It fits into my canon of work by virtue of the writing; I often write strong roles for women. I recorded it at home.

How it fits into contest

It deals with a troubled spirit, awareness of nature, and the acceptance of one's fate in death.


Just myself (Martha Patterson). I wrote the script and recorded the video myself.

How to Purchase this Artwork

Books: (prices are listed on the site).

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Transcript / Lyrics

SYNOPSIS: A short monologue about memory, an embattled spirit, and death.

(She is a spirit talking to us from Heaven or wherever souls go when people die.)
When I opened my umbrella that day on the beach – except I liked to think of it as a parasol, to protect me from the sun – a swarm of black birds escaped from beneath it. Or maybe I just remember it that way. Me walking along the beach, in the sun, in my white linen dress with my black umbrella, and the birds darting away from me. Maybe it was only my imagination.
I love birds. Descended from the dinosaurs, they are, and though we ate them sometimes, their tiny bones between our teeth, their flesh feeding and nourishing us, - we also felt joy in their cousins’ presence in the spring, for their announcement of warm weather again after those snowy New England days, after the harsh and wild winter. And we found their eggs in nests, so carefully tended by their bird parents, which we left alone because we did not want to disturb Mother Nature.
I walked at least three miles along the beach that day. The sand looked like handfuls of crushed topaz beneath my feet. I’d been thinking, you see, of my hopes that had faded, then risen again. I’d lived in a house near the ocean for several years, men had come and gone, and I was never so alone, nor as happy, as I was on that day.
My parents had passed on, my brothers didn’t live nearby. I worked at a canning factory. We canned seafood. It was a strange and thankless job, like nothing I’d ever expected to do, after I left New York and a promising position as an editorial assistant at a large publishing house. But things turned sour, a boyfriend left me for someone else, probably someone who was less selfish and more sensitive than I was, and I couldn’t afford the rent on my apartment anymore, so I moved back here.
Sometimes I think I’d like that life again, the manic city, with its exuberant lights and frantic taxicabs and constant hustle and bustle, but, really, often one is better off staying where one is, and so I stayed where I was, in my last, lingering days, along the salty beach. I became a recluse, like one of those little old ladies who’s grown so ancient she thinks no one will ever again be interested in sharing conversation with her. It’s much the same way I am now, alone and ever-watchful, but also ever-at-peace, in the spirit world. They say there’s a reason for everything, and there’s a reason why I left the city. And after all, there’s always another man. I needed to uproot myself, to change, to be reborn like a baby robin climbing out of its blue shell. I needed to live near the sea.
Here’s the way it is now: I am dead. I died of cancer at the age of 34. I never expected to die so young. And yet I’m happy here, in the land of the non-living, where I can remember that which I choose to, and forget what no longer seems important. It’s rather like standing at the edge of the ocean as I did not many years ago, with a black umbrella sheltering me from the spectacular sun, the sun that warms us, the sun that is the origin of all life.
Mark, the man in New York, would have told me to get to work on a new project, to forget the past. But I can’t. I’m no longer among the living, after all. I can only think of that day on the beach, when I knew I would die, and the swarm of black birds that seemed to cascade out from under my umbrella into the hot air, with fluttering wings and the promise of unexpected surprises. Like death, which came to me suddenly and decisively after a long illness, which came to me like the rush of feathers against a windowpane when a bird doesn’t realize that it can’t fly through the glass – death, which came to me like the soft flutter of a sweet angel bearing a gift from an unknown land.
It’s not so lonely here, in what you might call “Heaven,” as I’d anticipated. I have my spirits and the memory of loved ones and the remembrance of scorching sun falling on my face in the summer, when I walked along the beach and thought, “Well, it will all be over soon.” And when emotions get the best of me – for I did not leave emotions behind when I died – I think, “So – I’m at peace now. And I live on at least for a while in the memory of those who knew me, who don’t forget me and who perhaps forgive me for my rashness, my selfishness, and my insensitivity when I was among the living. Perhaps they can forgive all that, and just remember me as a girl who loved sunshine, and the sparkling sand, and – birds.”
(Lights go down.)


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