The Artist Birthday Series

Mark Strand

I spotted the woman that had recruited me, and doing my best impression of Calm-Cool-Collected, I asked her just what it was exactly that was going to be required of me. Her replies were vague. When I pressed her for a direct response to whether or not I had to actually go up on that stage, she suddenly remembered she had to talk to the sound engineer, and flitted away, waving her hands at me and smiling, saying more to the air than to me, “Non รจ niente. Tranquilla! Tranquilla!” โ€“ “It’s nothing. Don’t worry! Don’t worry!” Her sudden disappearance and non-answer to my question, did anything but make me feel very “tranquilla.”

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As I was standing there, looking at the giant doorway that had led me to this, I began to think how easy it would be, just to slip away. I mean, I certainly didn’t want to let anyone down, but it is my deep-seated, personal feeling that I would rather wrestle a six-armed, rabid grizzly bear with severe halitosis and razorblades for claws, than set foot on any stage. As I stood there fantasizing about a quick and easy exit, a nice young man gently touched my arm, waking me from my mental-escape moment, and said, “It’s time to meet Mr. Strand.”

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