Posts Tagged ‘Henry Darger’

The Writer’s Almanac

April 20, 2009

I just signed up for the Writer’s Almanac by newletter, since I can’t seem to listen to it on NPR in the morning at 8:30.  You can sign up for it online and today’s poem, by Tennessee Williams, is really, and sort of surprisingly, good.  Yesterday’s poem about blueberries was sort of underwhelming.  So here is today’s, you can read it with or without your best Garrison Keillor voice:

Life Story

by Tennessee Williams

<!– (from The Collected Poems of 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

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 without permission, but nobody really reads my blog anyway).

I’m going to New York this weekend, and I think I’m going to go see the Henry Darger exhibit at the American Folk Art Museum.

afam_2318afam_2314-1I like him for so many reasons.  I love the Vivian Girls, I really like folk art, or course, and 1900s Chicago is one of my top historical time periods — mostly from reading Sister Carrie, William Cronin’s Nature’s Metropolis, and everything about the Columbian Exposition.  Darger’s story was really sad — he had a tough childhood and spent a lot of time in institutions, and as an adult, could never really get over it.  So in his own way, he devoted his life to protecting children, in part by writing the Vivian Girls, his super-fantasy heroines, into being.  All his famiyl was gone, but he did have a friend, one friend.