"Life Story" by Tennessee Williams

From the Collected Poems of TW (2002). This poem, while humorous at times, feels relevant, especially right now. We need empathy. So are you even open and ready to truly know another person and their inevitable differences? When they share their story, are you present and engaged enough to hear what they say and take it in? ❤️
  1. After you've been to bed together for the first time,
  2. without the advantage or disadvantage of any prior acquaintance,
  3. the other party very often says to you,
  4. Tell me about yourself, I want to know all about you,
  5. what's your story? And you think maybe they really and truly do
  6. sincerely want to know your life story, and so you light up
  7. a cigarette and begin to tell it to them, the two of you
  8. lying together in completely relaxed positions
  9. like a pair of rag dolls a bored child dropped on a bed.
  10. You tell them your story, or as much of your story
  11. as time or a fair degree of prudence allows, and they say,
  12. Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh,
  13. each time a little more faintly, until the oh
  14. is just an audible breath, and then of course
  15. there's some interruption. Slow room service comes up
  16. with a bowl of melting ice cubes, or one of you rises to pee
  17. and gaze at himself with mild astonishment in the bathroom mirror.
  18. And then, the first thing you know, before you've had time
  19. to pick up where you left off with your enthralling life story,
  20. they're telling you their life story, exactly as they'd intended to all along,
  21. and you're saying, Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh,
  22. each time a little more faintly, the vowel at last becoming
  23. no more than an audible sigh,
  24. as the elevator, halfway down the corridor and a turn to the left,
  25. draws one last, long, deep breath of exhaustion
  26. and stops breathing forever. Then?
  27. Well, one of you falls asleep
  28. and the other one does likewise with a lighted cigarette in his mouth,
  29. and that's how people burn to death in hotel rooms.