Monday

Apr. 20, 2009

Life Story

by Tennessee Williams

After you've been to bed together for the first time,
without the advantage or disadvantage of any prior acquaintance,
the other party very often says to you,
Tell me about yourself, I want to know all about you,
what's your story? And you think maybe they really and truly do

sincerely want to know your life story, and so you light up
a cigarette and begin to tell it to them, the two of you
lying together in completely relaxed positions
like a pair of rag dolls a bored child dropped on a bed.

You tell them your story, or as much of your story
as time or a fair degree of prudence allows, and they say,
      Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh,
each time a little more faintly, until the oh
is just an audible breath, and then of course

there's some interruption. Slow room service comes up
with a bowl of melting ice cubes, or one of you rises to pee
and gaze at himself with mild astonishment in the bathroom mirror.
And then, the first thing you know, before you've had time
to pick up where you left off with your enthralling life story,
they're telling you their life story, exactly as they'd intended to all
      along,

and you're saying, Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh,
each time a little more faintly, the vowel at last becoming
no more than an audible sigh,
as the elevator, halfway down the corridor and a turn to the left,
draws one last, long, deep breath of exhaustion
and stops breathing forever. Then?

Well, one of you falls asleep
and the other one does likewise with a lighted cigarette in his mouth,
and that's how people burn to death in hotel rooms.

"Life Story" by Tennessee Williams, from The Collected Poems of Tennessee Williams. © New Directions, 2002. Reprinted with permission (buy now)

It's the birthday of Philippe Pinel, born in Saint-André, France (1745). He studied mathematics, theology, and internal medicine, and then he became the chief physician at a Paris insane asylum in 1792. He's considered one of the founders of psychiatry because when he arrived at the hospital, people generally believed that the insane were possessed by demons, but Pinel argued that they were just under a lot of stress. He started treating patients by talking to them about their problems.

It is the birthday of surrealist painter and sculptor Joan Miró, born in Barcelona, Spain (1893).

It's the birthday of science fiction writer Ian Watson, (books by this author) born in St. Albans, England (1943), the author of the two-volume Book of Mana (1993–34).

It's the birthday of the poet and satirist Pietro Aretino, (books by this author) born in Arezzo, Italy (1492). He wrote a set of 16 sonnets to accompanying the drawings of artist Giulio Romano, who had made a series of very beautiful and very pornographic images. Aretino's "Sonetti Lussuriosi" were very lewd and very popular. He is considered one of the inventors of modern pornographic literature. There wasn't much money in pornography at the time, and so Aretino survived through patronage. People would pay him to write flattering stories about them, or write vicious satire about their enemies. He also wrote a version of Plato that was set in a brothel.

Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®

 









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