Paul McNamara: A favorite poem

Grandfather’s Poem
from the film, “Night of the Iguana”
Tennessee Williams

I love this poem for its context, which illustrates the Reverend Dr. T. Lawrence Shannon’s (Richard Burton) struggle between spirit and flesh.  It’s also the culmination of the grandfather’s life, which speaks to our shared humanity in coming to terms with spirit living in a human body, and the underlying emotion of continuous reconciliation.

Paul McNamara
Fundraiser, SJSU
San Jose


Poem from “Night of the Iguana”

How calmly does the olive branch
Observe the sky begin to blanch
Without a cry, without a prayer
With no betrayal of despair

Some time while light obscures the tree
The zenith of its life will be
Gone past forever
And from thence
A second history will commence

A chronicle no longer gold
A bargaining with mist and mold
And finally the broken stem
The plummeting to earth, and then

And intercourse not well designed
For beings of a golden kind
Whose native green must arch above
The earth’s obscene corrupting love

And still the ripe fruit and the branch
Observe the sky begin to blanch
Without a cry, without a prayer
With no betrayal of despair

Oh courage! Could you not as well
Select a second place to dwell
Not only in that golden tree
But in the frightened heart of me

Tennessee Williams

(Note from Poet Laureate: Sounds like a good summer flick!)

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