‘None of my essential personality problems are solved.
I have not found the sustained desirable lover.
No new convictions—
no new lamp-post on the dark road I am stumbling crazily along.
I think I grow steadily a little bit harder and emotionally tougher—
not what I want.’
–Tennessee Williams, New Orleans, October 29th 1941
All year you’ve stung with the failure
of your first play—the critics’ howl
that it was Amateurish, Repugnant;
the Censor called in
to investigate its putrid lines.
Your mother echoes disappointment,
she finds your work ugly, indecent
and a disgrace to her kinfolk. Wary of offending
her Southern manners, your letters home
omit the truth of your days.
I don’t believe anyone ever suspects
how completely unsure I am
of my work and myself.
On the other side of the world, war.
The theatres demand patriotic entertainment.
From a friend you borrow a typewriter
and put it in hock for a meal ticket.
Your weak eye needs a cataract operation,
an impacted tooth must be pulled, but not yet,
for now you must cultivate friends
who give dinners, live on fifty dollars
a month, accept the squalor, the awkwardness
and indignity of being broke.
What we need is writing
that gets at the fundamental falsehoods
and stupidities that makes the world
such a nightmare for most of its people.
Through practice you have become
horribly expert in the administration
of palliative drugs—
little temporary evasions and escapes.
On Royal Street you room opposite
the St James, from the balcony you
hover like a bright angel over the troubled
waters of homosociety. Only true friends
know how you spend your nights.
I am moving. A misunderstanding
about some sailors who come in occasionally
to discuss literature with me
provoked a tedious little quarrel
with the landlady—I told her
I could not live in such an atmosphere
of unwarranted suspicion.
December. The Japanese have bombed
Pearl Harbour. You are borrowing
against your gabardine suit. You wish
for a simple life with epic fornications
and make a religion of endurance.
Shore patrols and M.P.s raid the gay bars,
the life is going out of New Orleans.
But tonight there’s a party
in the Vieux Carré.
While you are out
I aim to slip into the low light
of your dark days. I plan
to leave some bank notes
on your dresser. I want to thank you
for lines you are yet to write.
I want to tide you over.