Rising, Madame, towards heaven in a bed
That elevates my knees and lifts my head
To sustenance, that is, a plastic tray
Of Jell-O, applesauce, and consommé,
I have become a connoisseur of juice,
Which leaves me liquid, not to mention loose,
And keeps my precious fluids running clear
Until such time as I shall disappear—
Like what descends transparently for pain,
Dripping, ex machina, to tubes that drain.
What has, you may well ask, contributed
To this apostrophe to one long dead
From one so nearly so? You come to me,
As Sting might say, in synchronicity;
Searching just now for bulletins about
This storm called Cara which, I have no doubt,
Shall live up to its namesake, namely you,
And do us in before the day is through,
I channel-surfed and lit on PBS.
My dear, shall I be coy and make you guess
What stopped me there and brought a hurricane
And you into one focus in my brain?
One line, in Mr. Wilbur's fine translation:
And cultivate a sober moderation ....
Think of it! If we ever needed proof
Of greater patterns, wasn't it Tartuffe
That brought us once and brings us now together—
Molière and two lost souls and raging weather?
Lord, twenty years have passed and still each line
Smacks tartly on the tongue like a good wine
Heady with epigram and foiled seduction.
It was The Coastal Players' great production—
Rhymed verse they said our audience could not
Make much of, let alone digest the plot—
Yet how we triumphed, I the raisonneur
Cléante and you the faithful spouse, the pure
Elmire, the model of a perfect wife.
So much for art. Who says it mirrors life?
Like leaves whirling outside, the years have flown
And taken with them Pernelle and Orgon.
Dorine the maid (Remember? What a bitch!)
Went into real estate and came out rich,
Sweet Marianne had children and grew fat,
And you'd have thought it less than fitting that
The charge against Tartuffe, so like the play's,
Was finally dropped: not only virtue pays.
In spite of the applause I found so sweet
I never found the courage to repeat
Those evenings' glories in another play.
And you? We gathered you were on your way
To greater things. A touring company
(A Chorus Line!) had called, you gushed to me
At the cast party, and our toasts went on
(Fuck "sober moderation"!) until dawn,
When I appeared, bedraggled, in your gown—
My coming out, no small thing in this town—
Battering Blanche against your not-so-manly
Peruked and powdered parody of Stanley
While Matt, your surly boyfriend, hulked and glared.
You laughed at him. I must say I was scared.
After that night our paths diverged. I learned
Your offers never came, heard that you'd turned
To wilder exploits, but, then, I was so
Into my own pursuits I didn't know
How dark your path became. Often our cars
Would pass en route to our respective bars.
We'd honk and wave like drunken teens. Dare I
Hope that one kiss I blew you said good-bye?
Your end came the next summer. Tom, the cop
Who'd played Laurent, came by the flower shop
To tell me what he knew—in rapid order,
Marriage, your panicked calls—quick as the border
Of this new storm front alters. Drugs, of
Were much of it, and there was the divorce
Which had turned ugly. Still, the Lord knows
Led to that final beating and the shot
That tore your face away—before Matt made
The 911 call, sobbing while he played
His own death scene. I only pray it's true
What Tom believed himself: he said that you
Were dead already when the shot was fired.
My own death is the kind that is "acquired,"
Which makes it sound like something one might paste
Into a book, as one "acquires" a taste
For sherry, leather scenes, or the ballet.
All prance around the piper. All must pay.
No more of that. The plot by now is stale.
Let Tony Kushner live to tell the tale
And garner all the money and awards.
May my audition be one aiming towards
A long run somewhere in a stellar cast
In which no bow I take will be my last.
Corny? You know me, Cara, for I am
The same as you, eternally a ham
Who holds out hopes of One who can explain,
A raisonneur of happiness and pain,
Who proves for us that love is possible
And need not climax in so great a fall
As what we've suffered ... and that The Machine
Will lower with a Prince who makes us clean
And whole again, who lends His blessed grace
To salve my wreckage and restore your face—
Who lets the memory of a dead friend's laugh,
In the dark valley, be my rod and staff.
In a world full of such unwelcome guests
As storms, Tartuffe, and sickness, small requests.
It makes a curious dénouement that I,
Too ill for anything except to die,
May be evacuated, which shall save
These sodden relics for a drier grave.
The winds are rising, Cara, your own winds
With the great closing curtain that descends
Upon us as we play our games again
With tracking charts and crayons. CNN
Leads the hour with your great whirling eye.
Live oaks and sweetgums just outside my high
Window gesticulate the agon for us
As fiercely as a Sophoclean chorus.
The living board their windows, and their eyes
Lift past their fragile rooflines to the skies.
What wind is this? they ask themselves.
It is the wind that bears the world away.