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

Fear

Vincent van Gogh Self-Portrait with Straw Hat

Vincent van Gogh
Self-Portrait with Straw Hat

Vincent van Gogh, in a letter to Theo, talked about fear and how it keeps a person from acting, of how intimidating the blank canvas could be. It’s pretty much the same with anything, especially anything new a person undertakes to do. Where to begin? What is right, and what is wrong? And, does it matter?

 
And it really doesn’t matter. Life is about the doing more than about the results. The results are good or bad depending on who’s doing the judging. Many, many people didn’t think much of van Gogh’s painting. As we judge ourselves, we always get better when we persist on doing. And, when the doing is over, life is sort of over as well.
 
van Gogh said it like this: “”Many painters are afraid of the blank canvas, but the blank canvas IS AFRAID of the truly passionate painter who dares – and who has once broken the spell of “you can’t . . . . Life itself likewise always turns towards one an infinitely meaningless, discouraging, dispiriting blank side on which there is nothing, any more than on a blank canvas . . . . But however meaningless and vain, however dead life appears, the man of faith, of energy, of warmth, and who knows something, doesn’t let himself be fobbed off like that. He steps in and does something …”
M L S Baisch