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Authors: Tennessee Williams

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She didn't say what: I don't think she meant she'd remove it. I think that Miss Florida Dames was terrified of being without her canary, yellow as butter in a wire cage yellow as finely spun gold.

However, its presence didn't calm her nerves any more effectively than her nerves calmed the canary. She became more and more agitated as if there were a storm of wings in her narrow chest and her necklace of coral shook and her voice shook with it and the canary hopped about with more and more agitation, in precise correspondence to hers.

“Roger, will you please”

(She stopped, gasping for breath.)

“Pull down the”

(Gasp for breath.)

“Map of the world I received from the P.&O. Lines in Mobile?”

He was a tall boy in the front row and when he rose after long hesitation to comply with her request, the fly of his corduroy pants bulged as if he'd been entertaining libidinous thoughts concerning Miss Dames or her canary or the very large colorful map of the world. She had often informed us it was presented to her by a branch office of the P.&O. Lines twenty-five years ago when she had considered a holiday trip to Hawaii. She had been obliged to abandon that idea for an unexplained reason probably having to do with the expense of it, but she did have the map, courtesy of P.&O. Lines Ltd. . . .

(Limited to what? Her travel expenses that summer? Certainly not to the geographical details of the map.)

Again girls' giggles, boys' grins, and Roger flushing and shuffling up a narrow corridor of space between embarrassment and pride at the bulge of his sub-equatorial pointer that spring afternoon, and jerking the rolled map down with the violence of a rapist and Miss Dames gasped and her coral necklace bounced on her narrow chest. Girls giggled, boys grinned, the canary hopped wildly about and Miss Dames recovered sufficiently to request,

“Now point out to us the islands called the Marquesas.”

(And it occured to me, “Will he open his fly to point them out with his —?”)

He stood there, voiceless as the canary and beginning to grin.

“Roger, the
Marquesas, where?”

The heretofore voiceless canary utters a loud “Cheep” and the classroom explodes with laughter and a moment or two later the door explodes on the principal and he rushes straight up to the desk and grabs the cage handle with one hand and Miss Florida Dames' skinny elbow with the other and shouts “Class dismissed” as he exits with them both from the classroom into the corridor and the uproar of the geography students is abruptly hushed when, at some distance down the corridor, Miss Dames begins to cry out again and again as if mortally assaulted.

I remained after the others tumbled out of the classroom as if it had caught fire, some even out of the open windows, throwing their books before them, but I remained in the warm chalk-smelling room and went up very close to the P.&O. map, looking senselessly for the Marquesas and noticing the Solomons at the top of a long archipelago of little islands called the Louisiade. I see them distinctly now as I did in the desolate languor of that schoolroom in Thelma.

Where is the libido located, inflamed? In the unconscious, of course, as surely as the island of San Cristoval is located at the western end of the archipelago called the Louisiade but much more prominently and in brighter color since it is so inflamed by the absence of faithless Charlie, oh, much more prominently with much more inflammation.

“Hysterical, see a doctor.”

Never mind geography and Miss Dames . . .

But I have seen doctors and don't care to see them again, would rather see Big Lot and Charlie intimately sequestered in a dark booth at Phoebe's than a doctor ever again in my life, inflamed libido, hysterical, or whatever.

(I shall have to go on but you may stop when you please. . . .)

And by the way, who are you? I always have to be introduced at least twice as the panic that overtakes me at first meeting a person deafens me to the name.

After a cup of Gallo, “I am sorry, I didn't catch your name,” whether or not I wished to, a bit of Southern gentility in my nature or simply

Inflamed libido, liking the contours of . . .

Hawaii 50 is located in the Sandwich Islands somewhere in the suspiciously quivering space between, sorry but never catch names.

But there's one thing about me that you can count on. I am not dishonest. I do not write “unintelligible” or “inaudible” on my transcripts but of course they are nonexistent as the restraints of my libido on the rejection slips of my life or not on old dusty rectangular cardboards that once returned with shirts for love number one from the laundry named Oriental.

I jump up from
BON AMI
, crying out
Lance
and the outcry seems to be echoed all through the panicky corridors of my memory, nine-tenths of which are submerged in dark, icy waters like the great iceberg that so gently but fatally nudged the
Titanic
on its first “unsinkable” crossing of the Atlantic, and so I think about death, his completed, mine now surely approaching, and how the band played on in the grand ballroom of that worlds greatest steamship, the dancers unaware of what the slight nudge portended.

Lance
is reverberated as if through the whole empty warehouse which is the size of my heart at this moment in Blue Jay. . . .

So what do I do? I run to the improvised bathroom and dash the water, miraculously unfrozen, over my face, inflamed as my libido, and I realize that my chronic hysteria is now augmented by Charlie's fever as my libido is by his absence.

What did the ancient mariner say to the wedding guest? Stay with me and I will tell?

A cordial invitation.

A truly confident person is one who does not attend a banquet to which he has been invited and sends no word of
regret—
compliments of Jules Renard. . . .

Also this: Sarah Bernhardt descends the winding stairs as if she were standing still and the staircase unwinding about her. And in her salon, no chairs, just luxurious furs and pillows on which to recline, and she has five pumas which are ceremonially led in by footmen on chains, yes, both, footmen and pumas are led in on metal chains, captivity, bondage, love.

Success of Rostand's
Cyrano
and her fury that she is not in it for she is not Coquelin, but she carries it off with bravado, she rushes from her theater to his and she exclaims to Rostand, “I hastened through my death scene to catch your last act.” And if one artist will do that for another, the world is still not lost.

But that was years later. I also remember this verse about Sarah.

“How thin was Sarah Bernhardt, Pa,

That shadow of a shade?”

“As thin, my son,” his Pa replied,

“As picnic lemonade.”

I remember no rhymes about Duse, only that she died in a second-class hotel in an American city of no distinction on farewell tour. But I recall one more about La Bernhardt.

Sarah Bernhardt had one leg,

The other was a wooden peg.

But good she did, yep, she did good,

Clumping on a stump of wood.

Yes, I am with the clock which locksteps with me martially through the wolf's hours till morning. I say
alone
with the clock and underline alone to mean more intensely alone. Of course in a sense I am also with the Blue Jay, but in a stronger sense the Blue Jay is an extension of myself and so the accurate thing to say is that the Blue Jay and I are alone with the clock.

And the wolf has a varying number of hours, not just one. I would say that the wolf's hours are those spent alone, uncomforted by sleep, during a period of night, post meridial, when you are accustomed to a loved living presence which is not that of a clock, nor even of an “extension of yourself,” although

It is now after two by the one-legged clock which I have placed as far away from me as the limits of the rectangle permit, not only because its noise is much too assertive tonight but because it is the subject of Charlie's latest painting, executed in the style of that progenitor of pop art, Mr. Gerald Murphy. To do this sort of thing, this marvelously precise representation in pigment of such things as matchboxes and cocktail glasses and the interior mechanism of a watch, requires an all but impossible control of a brush as fine as a penpoint or finer, and Charlie's portrait of the exterior face of the one-legged clock shows an appreciation of Murphy's work and the others of that genre but doesn't approach the marvelous precision which was even more precise than the actual object.

I have now placed Charlie's portrait of the clock in the same place as the clock.

Fuck you, clock, you one-legged nickel-plated little mockery of my heart, and fuck
les points de suspension
too, those triple dots that betray an unwillingness to call it quits or truly completed. The clock completes each sentence with one tick, they're short and decided quite definitely, and going right on till the clock stops mocking your heart only because it's run down.

An admirable pursuit of a single course, no deviation from it, and one I'll attempt to

But it's no fucking use, deviation being the course of my life.

Chronological order means arrangement according to time: that much I will try to accomplish.

To begin it, a simple declarative statement.

I fled from home at fifteen.

There was much about me like the precocious Rimbaud when he started his literary career about five years before its completion. I had the (deceptively) innocent features, the dreamy-pale eyes, the very light and fine hair that stopped the star skater short outside the old San Remo bar, a landmark of the Village (and of my history) which exists no longer. I met them simultaneously, Lance and Moise, they were emerging together from the San Remo, the beautiful light-skinned Negro looming a foot above the crowd at the entrance and a foot above Moise who was exceptionally tall for a lady. They were in the doorway and I was on the edge of the crowd pushing in. I was not pushing in. I am not a pusher of anything but a pencil or pen, and that is part of my huge problem in life. Oh, I know it would have been quite different, my history in Manhattan, if those hazel-speckled green eyes had not slanted down at me from the San Remo doorway with the intensity of headlights turned on me just preceding a crash. The eyes were luminous and they were hypnotic. They blazed at me and transfixed me to the pavement and, well, I wouldn't have moved if I could and couldn't have moved if I would.

I heard him shouting, “Jesus, Moise, dig this dish of chicken
à la reine!”

(The reference was to me.)

It was Moise who said, “Come along with us, dear.”

“I beg your pardon. Where to?”

By this time he had seized my arm as if he thought I could fly.

“Your place or mine?” Moise inquired of Lance.

“Let's introduce him to yours,” said Lance. “He don't look ready for the warehouse yet.”

“I think I could paint him by candlelight,” said Moise.

And so Moise was complicit in my ravishment by the ice skater which occured in her world on Bleecker.

It was a place of curious enchantment from the first. The one great window in the back wall of the room was glazed with frost which refracted the gleam of that almost indispensable accessory to her life, the amber-tinted aromatic candle set upon a blue saucer. And as I went down the long corridor into the room, I felt that it was unheated except by the entrance of Lance. He gave it warmth and vibration which made the frost coating on the window crack a little.

“How nice to get in out of the cold,” said Moise. “Please excuse me a moment.”

She then retired to her bathroom where she remained long enough to plaster and paint the walls.

“Where you come from, baby?”

“From Alabama.”

‘Where stars fell one night?”

“Oh, yes, I”

“That's a long haul, you better lie down and rest and recover your breath. You are panting like you'd run the whole way.”

“I had no idea the city was so big.”

“You ain't seen nothing yet.”

BOOK: Moise and the World of Reason
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