Wednesday, June 12, 2013



HIM:  Damn everything but the circus!  (To himself) And here am I, patiently squeezing fourdimensional ideas into a twodimensional stage, when all of me that's anyone or anything is in the top of a circustent... (A pause)
ME:  I didn't imagine you were leading a double life -- and right under my nose, too.
HIM (Unhearing, proceeds contemptuously):  The average "painter" "sculptor" "poet" "composer" "playwright" is a person who cannot leap through a hoop from the back of a galloping horse, make people laugh with clown's mouth, orchestrate twenty lions.
ME:  Indeed.
HIM  (To her):  But imagine a human being who balances three chairs, one on top of another, on a wire, eighty feet in the air with no net underneath, and then climbs into the top chair, sits down, and begins to swing...
ME (Shudders):  I'm glad I never saw that -- makes me dizzy just to think of it.
HIM (Quietly):  I never saw that either.
ME:  Because nobody can do it.
HIM:  Because I am that.  But in another way, it's all I ever see.
ME:  What is?
HIM (Pacing up and down):  This:  I feel only one thing, I have only one conviction; it sits on three chairs in Heaven.  Sometimes I look at it, with terror; it is such a perfect acrobat!  The three chairs are three facts -- it will quickly kick them out from under itself and will stand on air; and in that moment (because everyone will be disappointed) everyone will applaud.  Meanwhile, some thousands of miles over everyone's head, over a billion empty faces, it rocks carefully and smilingly on three things, on three facts, on:  I am an Artist, I am a Man, I am a Failure -- it rocks and it swings and it smiles and it does not collapse tumble or die because it pays no attention to anything except itself.  (Passionately) I feel, I am aware -- every minute, every instant, I watch this trick, I am this trick, I sway -- selfish and smiling and careful -- above all the people.  (To himself) And always I am repeating a simple and dark little formula...  always myself mutters and remutters a trivial colourless microscopic idiom -- I breathe, and I swing; and I whisper:  "An artist, a man, a failure, MUST PROCEED."
ME:  (Timidly, after a short pause):  This thing or person who is you, who does not pay any attention to anyone else, it will stand on air?
HIM:  On air.  Above the faces, lives, screams -- suddenly.  Easily:  alone.
ME:  How about the chairs?
HIM:  The chairs will all fall by themselves down from the wire and be caught by anybody, by nobody; by somebody whom I don't see and who doesn't see me:  perhaps by everybody.
ME:  Maybe yourself -- you, away up ever so high -- will hear me applaud?
HIM (Looking straight at her, smiles seriously):  I shall see your eyes.  I shall hear your heart move.
ME:  Because I shall not be disappointed, like the others.

                                                                                                      --  from "i  six nonlectures"
                                                                                                                         e e cummings

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