Monday, April 20, 2009

Life Story

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
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.

-- Tennessee Williams, from The Collected Poems of Tennessee Williams. © New Directions, 2002. Reprinted without permission, but with enormous thanks, via Writers Almanac


Nora Johnson said...

Not so much Life Story as Post Mortem...?

How sad (but inevitably true).


Anonymous said...

Well thats a bit bloody morbid for a Monday AM..whats got into you? Anything a bit more jolly?

PS. I have nt heard of that happening to anyone, he was just a writer after all. They make up things cause they sound good and then people seem to have to think they need to be recited for ever as there is nothing else to do it seems.

Miss Whistle said...

Anonymous, I'm not sure quite how to address your comment "he was just a writer afterall." I'm actually reeling at it. The writer is Tennessee Williams, one of the greatest American writers of our time.


Anonymous said...

I know, but still. He is not a God. Its just his mind wondering, finding a place for his so called creativity. It means nothing really. Infact everything means nothing really...tis all just an enormous amount of energy that really boils down to being a big bunch of space.