clear to the belvedere, yes, clear up there . . . "~ a summer belvedere ~
somewhere in Cape May, New Jersey
The Summer Belvedere
Such icy wounds the city people bear
beneath brown coats enveloping withered members!
I don't want to know of mutilations
nor witness the long-drawn evening debarkation
of warm and liquid cargoes in torn wrappings
the ships of mercy carry back from war.
We live on cliffs above such moaning waters!
Our eyeballs are starred by the vision of burning cities,
our eardrums shattered by cannon.
A blast of the dying,
a thunder of people who cannot catch their breath
is caught in the mortar and molded into the walls.
And I, obsessed with a dread of things corroded,
of rasping faucets, of channels that labor to flow
have no desire to know of morbid tissues,
of cells that begin prodigiously to flower.
There is an hour in which disease will be known
as more than occasion for some dim relative's sorrow.
But still the watcher within my soundless country
assures the pendulum duties of the heart
and asks no reason but keeps a faithful watch
as I keep mine from the height of the belvedere!
And though no eyrie is sacred to wind entirely,
a wall of twigs can build a kind of summer.
I asked my kindest friend to guard my sleep.
I said to him, Give me the motionless thicket of summer,
the velvety cul-de-sac, and quiet the drummer.
I said to him, Brush my forehead with a feather,
not with an eagle's feather, nor with a sparrow's,
but with the shadowy feather of an owl.
I said to him, Come to me dressed in a cloak and a cowl,
and bearing a candle whose flame is very still.
Our belvedere looks over a bramble hill.
I said to him, Give me the cool white kernel of summer,
the windless terminal of it, and calm the drummer!
I said to him, Tell the drummer
the rebels have crossed the river and no one is here
but John with the broken drumstick and half-wit Peg
who shot spitballs at the moon from the belvedere.
Tell the feverish drummer no man is here.
But what if he doesn't believe me?
Give him proof!
For there is no lie that contains no part of truth.
And then, with the sort of courage that comes with fever,
the body becoming sticks that blossom with flame,
the flame for a while obscuring what it consumes,
I twisted and craned to peer in the loftier room--
I saw the visitor there, and him I knew
as my waiting ghost.
The belvedere was blue.
I said to my kindest friend, The time has come
to hold what is agitated and make it still.
I said to him, Fold your hands upon the drum.
Permit no kind of sudden or sharp disturbance
but move about you constantly, keeping the guard
with fingers whose touch is narcotic, brushing the walls
to quiet the shuddering in them,
drawing your sleeves across the hostile mirrors
and cupping your palms to breathe upon the glass.
After a while anxiety will pass.
The time has come, I said, for purification.
Rub out the lewd inscriptions on the walls,
remove the prisoners' names and maledictions,
for lack of faith has left impurities here,
and whisper faith to the summer belvedere.
Draw back the kites of hysteria from the sky,
those struggling fish draw back from their breathless pool,
and whisper assurances cool
to the watchful corners, and whisper sleep and sleep
along the treads of the stairs, and up the stairwell,
clear to the belvedere, yes, clear up there, where giggling John
stood up in his onionskin of adolescence
to shoot spitballs at the moon from the captain's walk.
And then, at the last, he said, What shall I do?
The sweetest of treasons, I told him. Lean toward my listening ear
and whisper the long word to me,
the longest of all words to me,
the word that divides the sky from the belvedere.
by Tennessee Williams (1911 - 1983)
Twice awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Drama
Twice awarded the New York Drama Critics' Circle Award
1. "The Shadowy Feather of an Owl"
2. "Shadowy, Feathery"
1. In Cat On A Hot Tin Roof, when the doctor informs the family that Big Daddy is dying of cancer, Big Daddy is outside taking a walk on the "belvedere." Also Big Daddy says, "I thought the old man made out of bones laid his cold and heavy hand on my shoulder!"
2. My father was born 88 years ago today (on 18 July 1923); the day he died (Saturday, 27 June, 1987) we all watched Cat On A Hot Tin Roof that evening on TV. This was before the days of movie rentals, so it's not as if we planned or chose it; it's just what happened to be on. Although my dad's personality was nothing like the character of Big Daddy, we were all kind of mesmerized by the appropriateness of it.