Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Some Stars, They Burn Their Brightest . . .

I got a call two days ago that made me very sad.

It reminded me that I'm part of an extended family and that whatever happens to that family happens to me. My heart is aching at the moment and Kevin's description of "unbearable sadness" seems as accurate a summation as there can be.

When I first started drawing the dancers of American Ballet Theatre, I was at the end of a long period of loss and my drawings were a way of working through the sadness which was, at the time, elemental to me. I also wrote The Star Play then, a play strongly informed by my experiences traveling with the dancers and staff of ABT.

It's not a connection that's easy to see, but that part of my life made it into the fantasy that is The Star Play through discussions, relationships, and hours, days and months spent watching fantastic stories of magic and tragic love, delivered in dance and music.

One morning, Tina and I were sitting around the apartment on 82nd street, right after I had written the following section of the play in a sudden fit of progress. I remember reading it to her just after I had finished and feeling like whatever it was I was trying to say in the play had just about come as close to appearing as I was likely to get.

And it offered me some comfort.

I hadn't meant to write a poem, but the first section of the dialogue in this scene appeared as a dialogue in poetry, spoken by two characters standing before a tree . . .

(Arlen and Paco, two sprites--beings of magic and wonder who wander the edges of the here and now--are found, watching as the years go flying by before them like a movie; Paco sad beyond measure and Arlen optimistic, but gradually overwhelmed . . . )

Arlen: Paco, look how quickly the leaves grow again!

Paco: And look at how quickly they fall.

Arlen: Look how the rains kiss the trees and the flowers!

Paco: Look how it freezes and breaks the young branches.

Arlen: Look how much taller that tree grows. It's growing.

Paco: It's bending. It's falling. It crumbles. It dies.

Arlen: But there, in the wreckage, eight other trees grow!

Paco: And like that, they wither and none are recalled.

Arlen: Look how the snows are a thing of great beauty.

Paco: Ephemeral nothing. A nuisance. Mere slush.

Arlen: Summer days, they're like heaven. And the nights splendid cool.

Paco: Occasions for mishaps, mistakes made by fools.

Arlen: Oh Paco, the years are like bushels of flowers.

Paco: Once maybe, but now they're no more than decay.

Arlen: And Paco, the days are the sweet work of hours.

Paco: Time passing slowly, just endless delay.

Arlen: But surely you see that it's just a beginning, each moment, each gesture, each tear and each trial.

Paco: Beginnings? No, Arlen; Conclusion, adendum, postscript and post-mortem, post-laugh and post-smile.

(As the years continue to fly by before them, the two sit, cold and alone.)

Paco: There have been times when I sat and watched the process repeat a hundred hundred times.

Arlen: It's a good thing to do when sad--It numbs the pain into dull ache.

Paco: No, pain doesn't die with the falling of leaves, nor with the changing of seasons. Pain just waits for use to be made of it. It's a source, not an end.

Arlen: To do what?

Paco: I don't know. I'm not human.


Anonymous sarah sterner said...

...hearing about....was surreal, so hard to's terrible.

6:24 PM  
Blogger Michael Arthur said...

Yeah, it is.

3:38 AM  
Anonymous Jonny said...

Oh, such sad news ... I'm so sorry.

but your words are beautiful as always.

8:50 AM  

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