“I’m mighty glad to see you, Mrs. Curtis,
And thank you very kindly for this visit—
Especially now when all the others here
Are having holiday visitors, and I feel
A little conspicuous and in the way.
It’s mainly because of Thanksgiving.”
The speaker is a hospitalized young woman dying of leukemia. Hecht’s dramatic monologue is written in perfectly paced blank verse, and remains true to conversational American English throughout. Humility, the queen of virtues, is difficult for writers to render without sounding sententious. I once had a disagreement with a friend over Dostoevsky’s success in creating Prince Myshkin. I didn’t buy it for a minute. I do buy Hecht’s woman, a thoughtful, attentive person, sensitive to the feelings and reactions of others, attuned to beauty and complexity. She sees like a poet the correspondences that grace the world. I think of her as a courteous Midwesterner. She looks out the window at the winter trees:
“One by one,
They stand there like magnificent enlargements
Of the vascular system of the human brain.
I see them there like huge discarnate minds,
Lost in their meditative silences.
The trunks, branches and twigs compose the vessels
That feed and nourish vast immortal thoughts.”
The reader’s sense of helpless sadness is goaded by the young woman’s attractiveness. We think, I hope I could match her poise and intelligence, mortally sick in a hospital bed. No self-pity, no bitterness, no anger at fate. Only polite, wistful thanksgiving:
“So I hope that you won’t think me plain ungrateful
For not selecting one of your fine books,
And I take it very kindly that you came
And sat here and let me rattle on this way.”