Poem on the Lid of a Shoebox

Oscar Giner and Madeline Willemsen in El zoológico de cristal by Tennessee Williams, at the Corral de la Cruz in Old San Juan, directed by Dean Zayas. Photo by Edgardo Buxeda.

for Dean Zayas, mentor and friend

My dear Dino–

I will address you in English, the language in which we spoke, at least at the beginning. What we meant to each other I will keep to myself, but I cannot help but thank you for 4 of your productions, which have stood throughout the years for me as examples of wondrous artistry, solid craftsmanship and steely integrity.

El león en invierno, with Rafael Enrique Saldaña as Henry the Lion King. The night I saw him in rehearsal going over and over scene 2 again and again I said to myself, “that’s what I want to do.”

El efecto de los rayos Gamma sobre la flor maravilla, with the splendid Lucy Boscana in the lead, and Gilda Navarra as a silent ghost gliding from room to room on the stage.

La fortuna y los ojos del hombre, with Miguel Ángel Suárez as Queenie. You convinced me that great theater could exist in small spaces, and that Miguel was a great actor.

In El zoológico de cristal you gave me the chance to play Tom next to the sublime Madeline Willemsen. I sat at her feet every performance in the small backstage space of the Corral de la Cruz during the long scene between Laura and the Gentleman Caller while she fanned herself like only talented stars know how to push back the heat of the night and with every swish of her fan, I felt myself grow in mind, heart and spirit.

I have the books and records you gave me plus those you allowed me to steal from your library. I consult them often. The volume of Lorca’s Obras Completas — your first gift to me — gave me my career and my degrees. Your friendship gave me confidence and strength.       

I am tempted to repeat Tom’s last line from Glass Menagerie (“Blow out your candles, Laura—and so goodbye”), like all those lines from plays we used to quote at each other. But we know there are no goodbyes between us.

Wherever you have gone, wherever you will go, walk in beauty as you did among us.


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