So I’ve been watching a large number of Tennessee Williams plays recently. I figured I may as well sooner or later, being part of a University whose theater department is funded on half his estate. My analysis, for the most part, is such: he is a terrible playwright. Not terrible in the unskilled way; he was extremely capable in my opinion. No, he is a terrible playwright in how his plays portray consistently terrible situations, usually with no clear resolve at the end. His players are losers who continue to lose, and his scenarios are bad and only getting worse. In all honesty, why would one ever go to watch one of them in the first place? After every single one of his plays I have seen put on, I have been left with a sinking hole in my heart reminding me of the despair of the human race. It is not exactly comforting.
It is, however, beautiful. I cannot describe why, but the characters–even in the midst of their despair–present a rare insight into the greatest part of the human condition (if played well, of course). I must say that, while I do enjoy comedy, it has never moved me half as well as a good tragedy. Perhaps another part of this human condition is a fatal attraction towards drama, tragedy, and ill-fortune–kind of like how one cannot help but stare at a car crash in the making or why public hanging became so popular that it was eventually outlawed. Perhaps, as my brother has suggested, tragedy becomes so popular because the audience lives vicariously through the play and are reminded to their relief how their life isn’t. Perhaps we are in love with emotional trauma, and good ol’ Williams knows just how to serve it. God help us, though: we are misery junkies, and God help me, I am hooked on Tennessee Williams’ plays. Gimme my fix, Blanche DuBois: I have always depended on the kindness of strangers.
But this is all tangential to my poem-post. If blogging is the food of thought, then here would be the main course:
To Her Sad Condition
O terminal affection, unconditional disease,
To her you’re no infection, but a love she cannot leave.
I’ve seen your wretched smile and I’ve seen your toxic grin
Stretched between her ears, but in a curl ’round her chin.
From there your agents whisper to her all-too willing ears
Bitter sweetened nothings that she made herself to hear.
Meanwhile, through her smile, down her throat, and in her chest,
You lie in cradled comfort as she holds you near her breast—
Dear cancer, how you hold her back! O hands around her heart!
Squeezing warmer blood away until it falls apart,
You cannot just be cut away; that treatment’s surely wrong,
For when the surgeon pulls you out, her heart would go along.
There’s no abusive manacles who make her stay this way,
And nothing forced her starry eyes within a weary gaze,
But Tragic Touch, Lamenting Love, I know you made her smile!
If music be the food of love, then yours would be the bile!
Despite her sad condition, though, she still insists she’s glad:
She wore your wretched smile ’cause it’s the best she’ll ever have.
~Michael Danger Caskey