- Tennessee Williams's Garden, 1979, Key West
Eleven days into the new year, the moonjust shy of full and growing,
Tennessee Williams came hometo his screen door slashed, split like a gash.
They'd taken the toaster, the lawn chairs. His roses warmtrampled against the ground.
Six days before, his gardenerwas found shot dead.
This old People magazine describesanother incident that same month—the walk home
blocks from the gay disco. Tennessee and his friendsinging a hymn when four or five men,
in the island's wide dark, jumped them. They were singing,Tennessee said, And he walks with me,
and he talks with me. He was knockedto the ground, heard the crunch of his glasses.
Boys threw beer cans at his house,lit firecrackers, shouted,
Come on out, faggot.Anita Bryant had said, zealous [End Page 112]
for such boys, that she would come down,bring her campaign to Key West.
People writes Tennessee Williamsas the playwright caught
in the middle, inconveniencedby the fuss. He seems to be holding a glass
of Chardonnay. If People asked Tennesseeabout his gardener, they don't quote him. They report
police think the murder was drug related—that he was killed "by men looking for cocaine."
The article doesn't include his name,describes the gardener only
as a "bejeweled eccentric fond of shrieking I am a sick woman"
between em dashes. He was founddead in a pool of his own blood.
But for a moment I only see nude in a pool
and imagine him prism-dappled and sparklinglike a fish in a halo
of camellias, pink bougainvilleas, feathered leavesfallen from the flame tree. [End Page 113]
hannah riddle is from North Carolina and now lives in the Twin Cities. She received her MFA from the University of Minnesota. Her poems have appeared in storySouth, Inch, and The Queer South.