Tennessee Williams — leaves you in a place you’ve never been before.

Tennessee Williams

Tennessee Williams

If you have never read Night of the Iguana, or seen the play, you might consider it. There is a poem near the end, called Nonno’s poem that is quite beautiful. And existentially profound. It sneaks up on you, the end of this play–and this poem–and you wonder how this improbable piece of fiction turns on its heels and grabs you by the throat. How did these strange, impossible fictional characters pull it off.

Nonno’s poem wraps itself around the enormity of what it means to live. Most of us, I imagine, think more about the vicissitudes of everyday life than existential realities. Everyday life is scary enough, frightening; but existential realities terrify.

Knowing full well that very few people who haven’t already read Tennessee William’s Night of the Iguana will ever read it, here is Nonno’s poem. It’s worth knowing that someone wrote this.
 
How calmly does the orange branch observe
Without a cry, without a prayer,
With no betrayal of despair.
 
Sometime while night obscures the tree
The Zenith of its life will be
Gone past forever, and from thence
A second history will commence.
 
A chronicle no longer old,
A bargaining with mist and mold,
And finally the broken stem
The plummeting to earth; and then
 
An intercourse not well designed
For beings of a golden kind
Whose native green must arch above
The earth’s obscene, corrupting love.
 
And still the ripe fruit and the branch
Observe the sky begin to blanch
Without a cry, without a prayer,
With no betrayal of despair.
 
O Courage could you not as well
Select a second place to dwell,
Not only in that golden tree
But in the frightened heart of me?
 
– Tennessee Williams
1961, Broadway Premier
 
M L S Baisch

Books

Hermann Karl Hesse was a German-born Swiss poet, novelist, and painter. His best-known works include Steppenwolf, Siddhartha, and The Glass Bead Game, each of which explores an individual's search for authenticity, self-knowledge and spirituality. Wikipedia

Hermann Karl Hesse was a German-born Swiss poet, novelist, and painter. His best-known works include Steppenwolf, Siddhartha, and The Glass Bead Game, each of which explores an individual’s search for authenticity, self-knowledge and spirituality. Wikipedia

“Among the many worlds that man did not receive as a gift from nature but created out of his own mind, the world of books is the greatest… Without the word, without the writing of books, there is no history, there is no concept of humanity. And if anyone wants to try to enclose in a small space, in a single house or a single room, the history of the human spirit and to make it his own, he can only do this in the form of a collection of books.” – Herman Hesse

 
I can’t imagine a world without books. Real books. Things you can touch and feel, hold and turn the pages. An electronic device just isn’t the same (though they have their uses).
 
We live in an age with a disappearing history; modern history is largely going to disappear–well, all ages do, but ours is going to disappear more quickly. All those digital pictures: do you have prints made? If you don’t, they will inevitable be lost. You won’t even be able to look through them a few years from now, must less your great-grandchildren 100 years from now.
 
Our governments now store meeting minutes on video tape. There are no longer archives of current written summary documents. The electronic technology is not stable. Why I have old VCR movies that can’t find a player anymore. I have laptop computers that have antiquated operating systems stuck on shelves. Computer technology changes rapidly and then is quickly so antique as to be inaccessible. Unlike an old book, it can’t be read or viewed.
 
The ultimate sin, as far as I’m concerned, is to stop teaching our kids how to write in cursive.
 
One bad decision after another will leave us with a society of of functional illiterates. We’ll be able to punch butons, and ask computers questions. But not many of us will be thinking for ourselves. Finding our own answers from within.
 
Which brings me back to books. I can imagine a world without them, but I don’t like what I see.
 
M L S Baisch