BECAUSE I CRY TOO MUCH, I CRY

Because I am strangely attracted to love,
Not as attempts by whim or fancy,
But purely tender as the eternal dove:
The light of the other the light by which I see,

You may note me smiling as if in pain,
Or hear my laughter sounding like tears;
For when does love ever rest upon the plain,
Or gaze straight into a face for years?

There is much to consider when the beautiful
Sink to their knees and wish to die.
Weeping and ashamed, I told the philosophical:
Because I cry too much, I cry.

8 Comments

  1. January 30, 2014 at 3:19 am

    Do you make anything of the fact that (as I’ve heard) the shortest verse in the whole Bible is “Jesus wept”?–(at the death of Lazarus). I recall seeing a World War II movie made not too many years ago–its name escapes me now–in which a boy being trained for Hitler Youth tells his mother and her anti-Nazi boyfriend, “A German boy doesn’t cry.” I find in this little textual comparison support for the view that the Third Reich was unChristian. And sure enough, when Eleanor Roosevelt went to Europe after the war and had a reunion with an old friend from boarding school, her old friend admitted to her, “We did not live by the teachings of Christ.”

  2. thomasbrady said,

    January 30, 2014 at 4:24 am

    Thank you, David. I’m not very familiar with the Bible. I do know I am very happy how this poem came out. It says something to me—even though I wrote it. The poet is the teacher who teaches himself.

    • January 30, 2014 at 4:41 pm

      Dear Tom, So you are an “autodidact,” then, a self-taught poet? So was Somerset Maugham an autodidact, as a novelist and playwright, you know. Officially he was a doctor, made it through medical school, garnered all the necessary legal qualifications to practice medicine, and then did serve as a doctor for about a year, bringing lots of babies into the world, and I think especially those of poor women. (England did not yet have socialized medicine. I think Germany did, though!) There is certainly nothing wrong, I think, with being moved to tears by one’s own work. I once reviewed a new play written about the Titanic tragedy, and when I occasionally reread my review, it still brings tears to my eyes. Come to think of it, Maugham said, “The purest sort of artist is the humorist who laughs alone at his own jests.” (I think that may be in “Cakes and Ale.”) I’d say that gives all us sob-sisters and sob-brothers all the precedent we need to cry over our own sad lines that we write. I’ll just cite one other example that comes to mind: I can’t think of his name now, but the screen writer who wrote the script for Casablanca, said the part, in Rick’s American Cafe, where the French drown out the Germans singing some horrible Nazi anthem with “La Marseilaise,” still moved him to tears! All for now! David Bittner

      • thomasbrady said,

        January 30, 2014 at 7:46 pm

        Hi David,

        But of course the accomplished artist is supposed to be impervious to sentiment: one thinks of young Beethoven playing a beautiful sonata to weeping ladies and thundering, “Why are you weeping? It’s only a pretty tune!”

        So perhaps I’m a second-rate, self-indulgent poet.

        To forge ahead, though: I did not mean that I was a “self-taught poet” but that my own poem teaches me. Which shows me, perhaps, to be a hopeless and sentimental amateur.

        I like ‘the purest sort of artist is the humorist who laughs alone at his own jests.’ That gives me hope. Because that’s me.

        Tom

        • February 1, 2014 at 3:34 am

          Dear Tom, Then you’re not the only hopeless and sentimental “amateur.” My review of “The Floating Palace” was not that long, so I will keystroke it in. Please read it and as you do, ask yourself if you’d rather be a cold professional writer like Truman Capote whose own blood ran cold enough to make the murder of the Klutter family so fascinating to him.

          This review of “The Floating Palace,” billed as a “world premiere,” ran in about 1990 in the (defunct) “Palm Beach Jewish World.”

          ” ‘Floating Palace’ Wins Hearts of Audiences”
          By David Bittner

          Would you believe that I once spoke with a
          survivor of the Titanic? It’s no joke. In 1985, when I was researching a piece on the “Jews of the Titanic,” I telephoned 80-year-old Miss Eva Hart of London, England, who was just 7 when the great ship went down.
          I thought she might provide a good angle for my story–only to learn that she was not Jewish–despite the fact that her parents were named Benjamin and Esther.
          She seemed irritable–perhaps because I may have calculated the London-Florida time difference incorrectly and reached her at a late hour. At any rate I found out what I wanted to by asking her if she belongred to the Church of England, which she confirmed.
          Any little claim to fame I may have felt as a journalist since interviewing Miss Hart was effectively dashed last Saturday, when I saw the Theater Club’s excellent production of “The Floating Palace.” The play by Charles R. Johnson features a young reporter (Christopher Clavelli) whose interview with an aged survivor of the Titanic is just slightly more dramatic than mine with Miss Hart.
          The reporter, named Wesley Carew, is the great-nephew of a Titanic victim. The great uncle–also named Wesley Carew–had a shipboard romance with the survivor, Mrs. T. Collier (Nina) Griffin. In 1912, Nina (Kimberly Sterling) was a prodigious 18-year-old concert pianist with a special penchant for Chopin. In 1987, she is a very wealthy and influential 93-year-old woman (Lori March) whose grandson has just declared his candidacy for the presidency.
          Carew knows about the shipboard romance because he inherited Nina’s diary. His great-uncle came into possession of it after escorting Nina to the last lifeboat to leave the Titanic. The diary was found in Carew’s great-uncle’s pocket when his lifeless body was pulled from the ocean.
          Having already covered the Jewish angle on the Titanic, I was interested to discover the journalist’s angle on the historic event, which the play brings out so well. The play–a world premiere, no less–is all the more interesting because it catches the audience up in a “time warp.” The play goes back and forth between 1912 and 1987. In 1987, Clavelli and March play reporter and survivor. In 1912, Clavelli plays the great-uncle–who was also a journalist–and March plays the grandmother of the young Nina.
          “Grandedame,” as Nina calls her grandmother, puts down journalists by telling Nina they are “reporters, not writers.” As an old woman, Nina sounds just like her grandmother. She makes fun of the convoluted questions Carew begins his interview with, mocking their pretentiousness by replying with simple “yes” and “no” answers. She reminds him, additionally, that his pursuit of sentimental, sensationalistic stories will “never change the world.” Her condescension is not entirely unkind. She offers Carew a position on her grandson’s campaign staff.
          But if Carew has some professional weeknesses, it is also true that he involves himself in his work with admirable personal interest, integrity, and compassion. His ambitions are much greater than just to file another human interest story. He is in pursuit of history. His great-uncle also had high standards as a journalist and a human being. If Benjamin Gugenheim dressed in formal wear to go down with the Titanic “like a gentleman,” Carew’s heroic actions on the fateful night of April 12, 1912 are characterized by much more than “gentlemanliness.” They better exemplify “menschlikeit.”
          The elderly Nina is clearly conflicted about the social responsibility of journalists. She has never forgotten her grandmother’s warning aboard the Titanic that George Sand had ruined Chopin by turning him into a “pet monkey,” and that she, the young Nina, should beware the attentions of the young journalist Carew.
          Her grandmother’s warning has haunted Nina all her long life. In a way she did become a “pet monkey” the night the Titanic sank. She felt manipulated by some deception Carew resorted to to save her life. She tells late twentieth-century reporter Carew that she lives with “no guilt” as the survivor of what was “just a nasty boating accident,” but is she telling the truth?
          It takes a stenographically accurate, 75-year-old reporter’s quotation–as relayed by Carew in 1987–to engulf the socialite, power-broker, and king-maker Mrs. T. Collier Griffin, in all the old emotion of that tumultuous night three quarters of a century ago in the frigid North Atlantic. She breaks down in tears as she hears her grandmother’s loving advice repeated verrbatim from her diary:
          “Look at your hands, Nina… If you give equal weight to all your fingers, all you will get in return is equal sound. Look at your hands, Nina. Hold them up and look at them. Take advantage of their strengths and utilize their weaknesses.”
          “Nina died that night,” Mrs. Griffin tells Carew mid-way through their interview to try to throw him off the track. Truly, though, in a sense, she is right. At the end of the play, when she sits down at the piano for the first time since 1912, you know that she has finally come to terms with a part of her life she has buried under an iceberg of emotional trauma for 75 years. And she owes this rebirth to the efforts of a diligent, sensitive practitioner of the journalist’s art.
          The acting of March, Clavelli, and Sterling was excellent, and it is all the more remarkable that Sterling manages to combine the talents of an actress and a pianist. She is lovely of face and form. A few of the lines were muffed just a little, but doubtless this minor deficiency will be ironed out with succeeding performances. ###

          More about the moral of the story tomorrow. I’m turning in now. Good night!

          • February 2, 2014 at 9:49 pm

            l. This helped me understand the term “dying to self.” i was already used to thinking of myself as a phoenix dying and rising from the ashes whenever I had to make an important career or family decision. Nina’s “death that night” (April 12, 1912) helpfully concretized the concept for me.
            2. As Dr. Cukrowitz (Montgomery Clift) says in “Suddenly Last Summer,” “I get worried when people can’t cry.” I was going through a period of “frozen affect” in the mid-90s when I happened to be sent to New York on a little business. I went to the Elllis Island Museum, not knowing what to expect. I rented a portable headphone to take a self-conducted tour. It was pointed out by “the voice” that I was now sitting on the same vintage wood and wrought iron benches where the immigrants sat as they awaited inspection. They pre-dated 1929, when my father’s family arrived in New York on their way to Fremont, Nebraska. Sitting on the same seats as my grandmother, father, uncles and aunt gave me a lump in my throat. That was as good as tears in my book and told me I was on the way to recovery. Yes, I say now with Emma Lazarus, “keep your storied pomp, you ancient lands!”

  3. February 2, 2014 at 10:06 pm

    If I may be permitted one more example….. The late entertainer Eydie Gorme used to tell the story of singing a new, novelty number about a woman seeing two people having dinnner in a restaurant. They seemed to be having a high old time together. At the very end of the song it became clear that the woman had discovered her husband out with another woman. And right in front of her audience, Eydie Gorme burst into tears.

  4. thomasbrady said,

    February 5, 2014 at 4:43 pm

    I saw an interview with an English woman who survived the Titanic, because of her daddy, who led her to safety while telling her they couldn’t get her teddy bear now…and she never saw him again.


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