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A Sad Tale

August 20, 2022
“I think that I shall never know
Why I am thus, and I am so.
Around me, other girls inspire In men
the rush and roar of fire,
The sweet transparency of glass,
The tenderness of April grass,
The durability of granite;
But me- I don’t know how to plan it.
The lads I’ve met in Cupid’s deadlock Were-
shall we say?- born out of wedlock.
They broke my heart, they stilled my song,
And said they had to run along,
Explaining, so to sop my tears,
First came their parents or careers.
But ever does experience Deny me
wisdom, calm, and sense!
Though she’s a fool who seeks to capture
The twenty-first fine, careless rapture,
I must go on, till ends my rope,
Who from my birth was cursed with hope.
A heart in half is chaste, archaic;
But mine resembles a mosaic-
The thing’s become ridiculous!
Why am I so? Why am I thus?”

Dorothy Parker has been regaled as a woman in the male dominated Mid-20th Century literary world, and demeaned as a commentator rather than a creative force. Her humor is beyond reproach, even at death – “Pardon My Dust” as her epitaph. 

But as any writer knows, each of us can be in the words we share. Emily Dickinson shared almost nothing while alive, but her revealed words are now crushing to me, every time I read them, more than a century after her death. Writer’s words live. Our lives do, too, but they are recounted, interpreted, sometimes videotaped, but our declared words extend the writer.

In this sad, classically glib, poem, Parker concludes:

“I must go on, till ends my rope,
Who from my birth was cursed with hope.
A heart in half is chaste, archaic;
But mine resembles a mosaic-
The thing’s become ridiculous!
Why am I so? Why am I thus?”

Who is she asking? Who would respond? I think she is calling out to the God she could never accept in the life of the cool. Being in the full rapture of the public world, Dorothy Parker made the cynical, naughty, intellectually precocious woman a source of guffaws and admiration for anyone pausing to partake of her articles for The New Yorker, movie screenplays and banter sitting at The Algonquin Round Table.

Hip, witty, nihilistic, unrelentingly self-deprecating, Parker was the Modern Woman in an Ancient Age. A time-traveling mind is revealed to have a heart, despite herself in her words:

“(my) heart…resembles a mosaic…
Why am I so? Why am I thus?”

Our time, this moment, is a moment of extreme superficiality in public projection, no different from a hundred years ago. “The Algonquin Roundtable” would be a killer Podcast today. The posthumous internet memes of Dorothy Parker are biting, hilarious and have a life far beyond her own.

But she did die 55 years ago. Her jaded intellect may thrill the glib, but her humanity, her living, breathing soul is the work of God in each of us. In me.

“Why am I so, why I am thus?”

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