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Today – St. Patrick’s Day – against my own resolve, I dashed up to 45th Street and was lucky enough to cadge  a ticket to see Glenda Jackson in Albee’s Three Tall Women, a dull American rumination on womanhood, death, greed, disappointment that ends with the lines ” .. You’ve got to keep battering your head against the wall. I don’t want to die before I’m ready to, and I have no intention of being ready ever. But when the time comes, I hope that I will be able to face it with a certain calm and sense that I’ve participated in it.” spoken by Glenda, stage center, drowning me in … not her/Albee’s words … but her large mouth, her ironic eyes, her iron voice. These I first sank into on Broadway in 1965 ( I was 20) in The Persecution and Assassination of Jean-Paul Marat as Performed by the Inmates of the Asylum of Charenton Under the Direction of the Marquis de Sade (originally Die Verfolgung und Ermordung Jean Paul Marats dargestellt durch die Schauspielgruppe des Hospizes zu Charenton unter Anleitung des Herrn de Sade) by Peter Weiss in which Glenda appeared as Charlotte Corday. In my memory, Glenda leapt around the stage like a mad monkey, but in truth played a narcoleptic waif-like murderess who stabs Paul Marat in his skull while he sits in his bathtub. This play (in my memory bank and at my time of life) was an earthshaking dramatic event- a tossed salad of human suffering, revolution, class struggle, edgy sensuality, acting at its best.

I so wish my reunion with Glenda had been her London return-to-the-stage in Lear as Lear, but Three Tall Woman, weak as it was in substance, scratched the itch.

Speaking of drowning, am I drowning in nostalgia? Or, simply, is it suicide by nostalgia?  Following, on the subject of suicide/nostalgia/drowning, and (as I’m ruminating on rumination on St. Patty’s Day) all of the above are touched on in Found and Lost – now available in USA @ NYRB.com. Excerpt from – to give a taste – taking you/me back several years, to a time of depletion during which I visited Greece just a few weeks before my mother’s passed on.

Part V- Snow Goose Weathervane

Snow Goose Weathervane

propped above my postcard rack

Dear Lily,

Arrived on Hydra. No strikes this time. No government formed from the first election; a second election to come on 17 June. A lull over the capital. In Piraeus, while I waited for the 13:30 hydrofoil, old ladies in black with covered heads selling crucifixes – dangling them in my face, cross first. I’m told they’re not nuns, just ladies dressed like nuns. And small brown men, young and old, Afghanis, Pakistanis, Bangladeshis, all patiently selling the identical sunglasses, pirated DVDs, batteries, opera glasses, passing back and forth offering their wares, hardly taking no for an answer. It took me time to remember that to say “No” I needed not to shake my head but to raise my chin and nod in a disapproving manner. There’s talk that a “slow run” on the banks has begun. I miss you more, not less.

When I arrived on the island, after tea on your terrace with Alan, crossing the dry riverbed on my way home, I saw a bent old man approaching with the help of a walking stick. Seeing his face, I realized it was Michali the boatman who once upon a time took us to Spetses on our drinking parties, with whom I once necked while you and our kids were at a festival across the water on the Peloponnese. Granted, he was many years older than me, even then, but still his old age was a shock.

Found the former mayor, and maybe because he took pity on me he did my taxes in one rather than the usual six visits: another shock.

The mirrored door broke off of the plastic bathroom medicine chest and there are none on the island to replace it. After feeling disproportionately deflated by this trivial setback, I badly stubbed my little toe on the base of my metal spiral staircase. It’s hurting like hell – black and red, blue and gray. Looking across the hills at your shadow-theater terrace, I remember how you slept outside during those early emphysema years because you could not stand to be inside where, you said, “There is no oxygen.” There you were, night or day, moving in profile, sometimes a Kabuki play.

Storm clouds all day, but not more than a few drops of rain. As the sun sets, the sea turns lavender, then eggshell pink, with a sheen of silver toward the Peloponnese. Perfect sea in which to drown oneself. If I should ever decide to commit suicide, there are two ways I’ve imagined:

One. Find fresh snow. Lie down in it. Take poison.

Two. Swim in a sea such as this. Swim toward and into the reflection of the setting sun, molten gold. Take poison.

I can hear you scolding me in your heavy Russian accent: “Al-i-son!”

Walking to the port this morning to buy a broom and bread accompanied by Marianne Ihlen – the Marianne of Leonard Cohen’s “So Long ….” fame – who told me that your mother’s lover was the King of Greece. That’s a new one to me. She also confided that yesterday a South African came up to her at the port, said, “Are you Leonard Cohen’s Marianne?” She answered, “Yes I am.” He pulled up his t-shirt, showed her a big scar on his chest, and explained: “I had a heart attack a few years ago. I was about to enter heaven when St. Peter stopped me and said, ‘You cannot die until you’ve met Marianne’.”

Now all is silent except for a dog in the distance. A slim new crescent moon, the shape of moon that would prompt you to suggest a haircut, or that I do something for the very first time. Of course I need a haircut, but you’re not here to give me it. I have not the imagination to venture into anything for the very first time. Sadly, I have not even the courage (or whatever it takes) to slide into the sea.

Your American friend wills you to hover.

 

Dear Ali,

Just back from Winchester Gardens. Mom is immensely better. She was dressed, answered a couple of phone calls, sat in her chair and talked my head off. No disorientation, in fact she repeated herself less often than usual. Seems she even went to a shul service they had this morning. (It was a woman rabbi.) Also she asked me to launder the knitted pieces the kids and I had put up in her room as decoration as she thinks they’ve gotten soiled. I’d say you all can breathe a sigh of relief.

Maggie

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