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[4 of 5] Joe Turner's Come and Gone, Act Two, Scenes 2 & 3, by August Wilson

Author: August Wilson

Wilson, August. "Act Two, Scenes 2 & 3," Joe Turner's Come and Gone. Signet, 1988.

Source: Joe Turner’s Come and Gone Full Vimeo Uploader: Anna Bean Uploaded: Thursday, August 20, 2020 at 8:11 PM


The lights come up on the parlor. Seth and Bynum sit playing a game of dominoes. Bynum sings to himself.

BYNUM (Singing):

They tell me Joe Turner’s come and gone
Ohhh Lordy
They tell me Joe Turner’s come and gone
Ohhh Lordy
Got my man and gone

Come with forty links of chain
Ohhh Lordy
Come with forty links of chain
Ohhh Lordy
Got my man and gone.

SETH: Come on and play if you gonna play.

BYNUM: I’m gonna play. Soon as I figure out what to do.

SETH: You can’t figure out if you wanna play or you wanna sing,

BYNUM: Well sir, I’m gonna do a little bit of both. (Playing) There. What you gonna do now? (Singing:)

They tell me Joe Turner’s come and gone
Ohhh Lordy
They tell me Joe Turner’s come and gone
Ohhh Lordy.

SETH: Why don’t you hush up that noise.

BYNUM: That’s a song the women sing down around Memphis. The women down there made up that song. I picked it up down there about fifteen years ago.

(Loomis enters from the front door.)

Evening, Mr. Loomis.

SETH: Today’s Monday, Mr. Loomis. Come Saturday your time is up. We done ate already. My wife roasted up some yams. She got your plate sitting in there on the table. (To Bynum) Whose play is it?

BYNUM: Ain’t you keeping up with the game? I thought you was a domino player. I just played so it got to be your turn.

(Loomis goes into the kitchen, where a plate of yams is covered and set on the table. He sits down and begins to eat with his hands.)

SETH (Plays): Twenty! Give me twenty! You didn’t know I had that ace five. You was trying to play around that. You didn’t know I had that lying there for you.

BYNUM: You ain’t done nothing, I let you have that to get mine.

SETH: Come on and play. You ain’t doing nothing but talking, I got a hundred and forty points to your eighty. You ain’t doing nothing but talking. Come on and play.

BYNUM (Singing):

They tell me Joe Turner’s come and gone
Ohhh Lordy.
They tell me Joe Turner’s come and gone
Ohhh Lordy
Got my man and gone

He come with forty links of chain
Ohhh Lordy.

LOOMIS: Why you singing that song? Why you singing about Joe Turner?

BYNUM: I’m just singing to entertain myself.

SETH: You trying to distract me. That’s what you trying to do.

BYNUM (Singing):

Come with forty links of chain
Ohhh Lordy
Come with forty links of chain
Ohhh Lordy.

LOOMIS: I don’t like you singing that song, mister!

SETH: Now, I ain’t gonna have no more disturbance around here, Herald Loomis. You start any more disturbance and you leavin’ here, Saturday or no Saturday.

BYNUM: The man ain’t causing no disturbance, Seth. He just say he don’t like the song.

SETH: Well, we all friendly folk. All neighborly like. Don’t have no squabbling around here. Don’t have no disturbance. You gonna have to take that someplace else.

BYNUM: He just say he don’t like the song. I done sung a whole lot of songs people don’t like. I respect everybody. He here in the house too. If he don’t like the song, I’ll sing something else. I know lots of songs. You got “I Belong to the Band” “Don’t You Leave Me Here.” You got “Praying on the Old Campground, “Keep Your Lamp Trimmed and Burning” … I know lots of songs. (Singing:)

Boys, I’ll be so glad when payday come
Captain, Captain, when payday comes
Gonna catch that Illinois Central
Going to Kankakee.

SETH: Why don’t you hush up that hollering and come on and play dominoes.

BYNUM: You ever been to Iohnstown, Herald Loomis? You look like a fellow I seen around there.

LOOMIS: I don’t know no place with that name.

BYNUM: That’s around where I seen my shiny man. See, you looking for this woman. I’m looking for a shiny man. Seem like everybody looking for something.

SETH: I’m looking for you to come and play these dominoes. That’s what I’m looking for.

BYNUM: You a farming man, Herald Loomis? You look like you done some farming.

LOOMIS: Same as everybody. I done farmed some, yeah.

BYNUM: I used to work at farming . . . picking cotton. I reckon everybody done picked some cotton.

SETH: I ain’t! I ain’t never picked no cotton. I was born up here in the North. My daddy was a freedman. I ain’t never even seen no cotton!

BYNUM: Mr. Loomis done picked some cotton. Ain’t you, Herald Loomis? You done picked a bunch of cotton.

LOOMIS: How you know so much about me? How you know what I done? How much cotton I picked?

BYNUM: I can tell from looking at you. My daddy taught me how to do that. Say when you look at a fellow, if you taught yourself to look for it, you can see his song written on him. Tell you what kind of man he is in the world.

Now, I can look at you, Mr. Loomis, and see you a man who done forgot his song. Forgot how to sing it. A fellow forget that and he forget who he is. Forget how he’s supposed to mark down life. Now, I used to travel all up and down, this road and that . . . looking here and there. Searching. Just like you, Mr. Loomis. I didn’t know what I was searching for. The only thing I knew was something was keeping me dissatisfied. Something wasn’t making my heart smooth and easy. ‘Then one day my daddy gave me a song. That song had a weight to it that was hard to handle. That song was hard to carry. I fought against it. Didn’t want to accept that song. I tried to find my daddy to give him back the song. But I found out it wasn’t his song. It was my song. It had come from way deep inside me. Ilooked long back in memory and gathered up pieces and snatches of things to make that song. I was making it up out of myself. And that song helped me on the road. Made it smooth to where my footsteps didn’t bite back at me. All the time that song getting bigger and bigger. That song growing with each step of the road. It got so I used all of myself up in the making of that song. Then I was the song in search of itself. That song rattling in my throat and I’m looking for it. See, Mr. Loomis, when a man forgets his song he goes off in search of it . . . till he find out he’s got it with him all the time. That’s why I can tell you one of Joe Turner’s niggers. ‘Cause you forgot how to sing your song.

LOOMIS: You lie! How you see that? I got a mark on me? Joe Turner done marked me to where you can see it? You telling me I’m a marked man. What kind of mark you got on you?

(Bynum begins singing:)


They tell me Joe Turner’s come and gone
Ohhh Lordy
They tell me Joe Turner’s come and gone
Ohhh Lordy
Got my man and gone.

LOOMIS: Had a whole mess of men he catched. Just go out hunting regular like you go out hunting possum. He catch you and go home to his wife and family. Ain’t thought about you going home to yours. Joe Turner catched me when my little girl was just born. Wasn’t nothing but a little baby sucking on her mama’s titty when he catched me. Joe Turner catched me in nineteen hundred and one. Kept me seven years until nineteen hundred and eight. Kept everybody seven years. He’d go out hunting and bring back forty men at a time. And keep them seven years. I was walking down this road in this little town outside of Memphis. Come up on these fellows gambling, I was a deacon in the Abundant Life Church. I stopped to preach to these fellows to see if maybe I could turn some of them from their sinning when Joe Turner, brother of the governor of the great sovereign state of Tennessee, swooped down on us and grabbed everybody there. Kept us all seven years. My wife Martha gone from me after Joe Turner catched me. Got out from under Joe Turner on his birthday. Me and forty other men put in our seven years and he let us go on his birthday. I made it back to Henry Thompson’s place where me and Martha was sharecropping and Martha’s gone. She taken my little girl and left her with her mama and took off North. We been looking for her ever since. That’s been going on four years now we been looking. That’s the only thing I know to do. I just wanna see her face so I can get me a starting place in the world. The world got to start somewhere. That’s what I been looking for. I been wandering a long time in somebody else’s world. When I find my wife that be the making of my own.

BYNUM: loe Turner tell why he caught you? You ever asked him that?

LOOMIS: I ain’t never seen Joe Turner. Seen him to where I could touch him. I asked one of them fellows one time why he catch niggers. Asked him what I got he want? Why don’t he keep on to himself? Why he got to catch me going down the road by my lonesome? He told me I was worth-less. Worthless is something you throw away. Something you don’t bother with. I ain’t seen him throw me away. Wouldn’t even let me stay away when I was by my lone-some. I ain’t tried to catch him when he going down the road. So I must got something he want. What I got?

SETH: He just want you to do his work for him. That’s all.

LOOMIS: I can look at him and see where he big and strong enough to do his own work. So it can’t be that. He must want something he ain’t got.

BYNUM: That ain’t hard to figure out. What he wanted was your song. He wanted to have that song to be his. He thought by catching you he could learn that song. Every nigger he catch he’s looking for the one he can learn that song from. Now he’s got you bound up to where you can’t sing your own song. Couldn’t sing it them seven years ’cause you was afraid he would snatch it from under you. But you still got it. You just forgot how to sing it.

LOOMIS (To Bynum): I know who you are. You one of them bones people.

(The lights fade to black.)

Source: Joe Turner’s Come and Gone Full Vimeo Uploader: Anna Bean Uploaded: Thursday, August 20, 2020 at 8:11 PM


The lights come up on the kitchen. It is the following morning. Mattie and Bynum sit at the table. Bertha busies herself at the stove.

BYNUM: Good luck don’t know no special time to come. You sleep with that up under your pillow and good luck can’t help but come to you. Sometimes it come and go and you don’t even know it’s been there.

BERTHA: Bynum, why don’t you leave that gal alone? She don’t wanna be hearing all that. Why don’t you go on and get out the way and leave her alone?

BYNUM (Getting up): All right, all right. But you mark what I’m saying. It’ll draw it to you just like a magnet.

(Bynum exits up the stairs as Loomis enters.)

BERTHA: I got some grits here, Mr. Loomis. (Sets a bowl on the table) If I was you, Mattie, I wouldn’t go getting all tied up with Bynum in that stuff. That kind of stuff, even if it do work for a while, it don’t last. That just get people more mixed up than they is already. And I wouldn’t waste my time fretting over Jeremy either. I seen it coming. I seen it when she first come here. She that kind of woman run off with the first man got a dollar to spend on her. Jeremy just young. He don’t know what he getting into. That gal don’t mean him no good. She’s just using him to keep from being by herself. That’s the worst use of a man you can have. You ought to be glad to wash him out of your hair. I done seen all kind of men. I done seen them come and go through here. Jeremy ain’t had enough to him for you. You need a man who’s got some understanding and who willing to work with that understanding to come to the best he can. You got your time coming. You just tries too hard and can’t understand why it don’t work for you. Trying to figure it out don’t do nothing but give you a troubled mind. Don’t no man want a woman with a troubled mind. You get all that trouble off your mind and just when it look like you ain’t never gonna find what you want … you look up and it’s standing right there. That’s how I met my Seth. You gonna look up one day and find everything you want standing right in front of you. Been twenty-seven years now since that happened to me. But life ain’t no happy-go-lucky time where everything be just like you want it. You got your time coming. You watch what Bertha’s saying.

(Seth enters.)


BERTHA: What you doing come in here so late?

SETH: I was standing down there on Logan Street talking with the fellows. Henry Allen tried to sell me that old piece of horse he got. (Sees Loomis) Today’s Tuesday, Mr. Looms.

BERTHA (Pulling him toward the bedroom): Come on in here and leave that man alone to eat his breakfast.

SETH: I ain’t bothering nobody. I’m just reminding him what day it is.

(Seth and Bertha exit into the bedroom.)

LOOMIS: That dress got a color to it.

MATTIE: Did you really see them things like you said? Them people come up out the ocean?

LOOMIS: It happened just like that, yeah.

MATTIE: I hope you find your wife. It be good for your little girl for you to find her.

LOOMIS: Got to find her for myself. Find my starting place in the world. Find me a world I can fit in.

MATTIE: I ain’t never found no place for me to fit. Seem like all I do is start over. It ain’t nothing to find no starting place in the world. You just start from where you find yourself.

LOOMIS: Got to find my wife. That be my starting place.

MATTIE: What if you don’t find her? What you gonna do then if you don’t find her?

LOOMIS: She out there somewhere. Ain’t no such thing as not finding her.

MATTIE: How she got lost from you? Jack just walked away from me.

LOOMIS: Joe Turner split us up. Joe Turner turned the world upside-down. He bound me on to him for seven years.

MATTIE: I hope you find her. It be good for you to find her.

LOOMIS: I been watching you. I been watching you watch me.

MATTIE: I was just trying to figure out if you seen things like you said.

LOOMIS (Getting up): Come here and let me touch you. I been watching you. You a full woman. A man needs a full woman. Come on and be with me.

MATTIE: I ain’t got enough for you. You’d use me up too fast.

LOOMIS: Herald Loomis got a mind seem like you a part of it since I first seen you. It’s been a long time since I seen a full woman. I can smell you from here. I know you got Herald Loomis on your mind, can’t keep him apart from it. Come on and be with Herald Loomis.

(He crosses to Mattie. He touches her awkwardly, gently, tenderly. Inside he howls like a lost wolf pup whose hunger is deep. He goes to touch her but finds he cannot.)

I done forgot how to touch.

(The lights fade to black.)

DMU Timestamp: September 29, 2023 15:01

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