There are, I kid you not, men and women with baccalaureate degrees that honestly (and dutifully, I suppose) believe that the annual breeding migration of approximately 1,900 bird species flying thousands of miles is, in a very broad sense, similar to the annual exodus tackled by proud alumni who drive 347 miles to celebrate homecoming. Go Anteaters (University of Irvine)!
I too, have gone full circle: Today I celebrated my birthday in the most appropriate location: A hospital! Not the exact hospital of my birth, but a medical institution nonetheless. And much to my surprise upon returning to my room after another test, was this small, charming cake to congratulate me. (They talked to God herself to get that cake on this floor). Go Nurses (Northwestern Memorial Hospital)!
I’m in the hospital: been since
Thursday, the day
my body packed on
seven pounds in two
days. Med. Staff scurry like Lillyputians
upon sleeping Gulliver; all rubber-gloved
hands on deck! Your charge: bee-line
to Admitting forthwith. Cardiac
Floor has custody; such largess traded
for freedom; headboard resembles
cockpit; heart monitor spies
on any movement: feels like house
My body threatens
my brain: both had breakdowns
mirroring the other: breakdowns
are my blind spot; mental
and physical illness collapse
beneath rubble of well-being’s
bombardment by remediless
A short while ago
my brain and my heart
were bright with promise
and smart with life’s storyline.
Today however, I can be found
in the scratch and dent
Upon graduating from Carnegie Mellon University with a Master of Fine Arts degree in Playwriting, my mentor, Mr. Arthur Giron cozied up to me and asked the question heard around the world: “Well, what are you going to do for the next twenty years?” Cocksure and filled to the brim with inflamed enthusiasm and a bulwark of self-confidence, I smugly replied, “Why, be famous of course!” I had a produceable play under one arm, a New York literary agent under the other; copies of my scripts being eyed by regional theaters all over the country, and a handful of positive reviews of my recent MainStage production; not-to-mention the sheepskin from a meritorious and first-string school like Carnegie Mellon! I mean really, really, what else did he think I would do? Mr. Giron shook his head slowly while he stroked and fiddled with his moustache: “You’re like a new-make-scotch-whisky. You’ve been recently poured into your used cask where you’ll age or mature (meaning you’ll absorb the character of the ageing oak casks heretofore used to ferment sherry); and just like new-whisky’s alcohol content diminishing year by year, so will the strangulating auspices of your of fame and fortune. The end result is a smooth, complex, and enigmatic author with the depth of character fossilized by year after year of life’s experience bearing down on talent; similar to pressure applied to coal produces diamonds. In other words, my dear boy, now you’ve got to live life to its fullest, absorb as much as you can. It’s from there, your experience of life from which you’ll withdraw the dark, dense, and curiously smooth depth.”
They couldn’t have told me that before I signed the promissory note for fifty thousand dollars to pay for two years of post-graduate education?
Mr. Giron’s soothsaying was brutally honest and absolutely true! For the next twenty years I was given the cold-shoulder by most of the legitimate theatres in America; my New York agent dropped me because I was a one-trick pony (I had only one produceable scripts so when directors asked: “What else have you got?” she had nothing to offer.) And soon thereafter I rendered my writing as the needless folly of starry-eyed twenty-somethings young men and turned my attention to the corporate world, leaving my writing to rot in a trunk in the attic.