Blackberry

Last night’s performance of TONGUES WILL WAG was a fantastic gift from the audiences at ART–a wonderful full house, ready to hear a brand new story, and I thank you from the bottom of my heart for your generosity and time. We learned a tremendous amount about the show incredibly quickly, and I’m looking forward to the workshop performances at Berkeley Repertory Theatre and the Cape Cod Theatre Project later this year–it’s my hope that TONGUES WILL WAG will have a full production before the end of 2007, and we’ll keep our fingers crossed for that.

This is the end of our time at American Repertory Theatre. Today we’ll pack up, say goodbye to all the wonderful people we’ve grown to know so well and tie up our loose ends. Tomorrow Jean-Michele will drop me off at the MacDowell Colony, where I will endeavor to not lose my mind as I write in a cabin in the woods. I hope that my path crosses again in the future with ART and the people of Cambridge–it has been an intense time, and I’m hopeful that we’ll work together again in the future. I am reminded of the old Hippocrates maxim, the one that’s often truncated–the full version is

Ars longa, vita brevis, occasio praeceps, experimentum periculosum, iudicium difficile.

Translated, it is:

Life is short, the art long, opportunity fleeting, experiment treacherous, judgment difficult.

This is often abridged to “Life is short, art is long”, which I believe misses the essential point of urgency–it’s not about art being longer than life, but instead about learning one’s craft, a process which will end only with our death. It is a process that will never end so long as we breathe, and it has been a pleasure sharing some of that time here in Cambridge.

I don’t have a pithy closing in mind, but this morning I was reading and saw one of my favorite poems posted at a website, just serendipitously–and as soon a I saw it, I realized it reminded me intensely of the experience of performing last night for such a fantastic house of people who have shown real dedication to my work–a gift beyond measure.

Meditation at Lagunitas

All the new thinking is about loss.
In this it resembles all the old thinking.
The idea, for example, that each particular erases
the luminous clarity of a general idea. That the clown-
faced woodpecker probing the dead sculpted trunk
of that black birch is, by his presence,
some tragic falling off from a first world
of undivided light. Or the other notion that,
because there is in this world no one thing
to which the bramble of blackberry corresponds,
a word is elegy to what it signifies.
We talked about it late last night and in the voice
of my friend, there was a thin wire of grief, a tone
almost querulous. After a while I understood that
talking this way, everything desolves: justice
pine, hair, woman, you and I. There was a woman
I made love to and I remembered how, holding
her small shoulders in my hands sometimes,
I felt a violent wonder at her presence
like a thirst for salt, for my childhood river
with its island willows, silly music from the pleasure boat,
muddy places where we caught the little orange-silver fish
called pumpkinseed. It hardly had to do with her.
Longing, we say, because desire is full
of endless distances. I must have been the same to her.
But I remember so much, the way her hands dismantled bread,
the thing her father said that hurt her, what
she dreamed. There are moments when the body is as numinous
as words. Days that are the good flesh continuing.
Such tenderness, those afternoons and evenings,
saying blackberry, blackberry, blackberry.

Robert Haas

Crossposted to mikedaisey.com

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