In October the junior and senior classes went to Ashland, Oregon, for the annual high school class trips. I’ve gone to Ashland every summer since I was 8 years old. I’ve seen some great plays there, and I’ve come to recognize the actors from many past seasons.
This time around we saw a particular musical that struck me: “UniSon.” The musical is based on poetry written by August Wilson, a complicated man with much to teach, even after his death.
“UniSon” opens with Wilson and his apprentice in Wilson’s home. In the next few scenes, Wilson dies and the audience is transported to his funeral, where he bequeaths all his belongings to his apprentice, on one condition. Wilson kept a collection of his poems in a trunk in his house that he never released. He wanted his apprentice to burn all these poems, without reading them. But, of course, his apprentice wouldn’t do it. Instead, she opens the trunk, and out come these “horrors” – seven, to be exact. At this point, the ghost of Wilson comes back into the scene, and the rest of the play details each horror and why it so terrified Wilson.
This play moved me so much in part because I write. I consider myself a poet. Wilson was haunted his whole life by these seven people, seven mistakes he’d made, seven ways that he’d messed up not only his life but also the lives of others.
So I couldn’t help but think, watching this play, about how I’m living my life now. And I wondered: How do my actions affect other people? What could I be doing now that I’ll regret? How do I deal with the things that I’ve done that I regret? Will I end up like Wilson – alone and distrustful?
I have a trunk of sorts. Most poems I write I keep in a folder in my Google Drive, but some I want to keep more private and less permanent. So I write them in a light green, 5-by-8-inch hardcover Moleskine notebook. I don’t know if I’d want them never to be read, but I also don’t think that if they were read widely it would bring me any peace. Nor do I think they would help anyone else.
After watching this play, I reflected on my own life and how I was spending my time. That night I was alone in our hotel room for a blissful half hour, and, cuddled up under the sheets, I wrote this poem.