Last night I went to bed with Don Draper on my mind (Mad Men fans will understand) and woke up with Rosemary Tonks. Tonks is the eccentric British poet I discovered recently who seems as self-destructive and tortured as Don.
In Sunday’s Mad Men finale, Don has a breakdown at a hippie retreat center and calls his young protégée Peggy for what seems a final goodbye. The coast to coast telephone conversation becomes a confessional. As Don lists his sins, all that’s missing is a “Bless me, Father”: I broke all my vows, he tells her. I scandalized my child. I took another man’s name. And made nothing of it.
I confess: I like Don and I’ve always rooted for him, even when he was the most jackassy of jackasses. But hearing this litany of failures, I was struck all over again about how much damage he’s done to people who’ve loved him. And that thought brought a Tonks’ poem to mind.
Whether or not Don changes, whether or not anyone in the show really gets a happy ending, ferocious indelible harm has been done. And Tonks is my new favorite spokesperson for damaged people.
by Rosemary Tonks
Take care whom you mix with in life, irresponsible one,
For if you mix with the wrong people
– And you yourself may be one of the wrong people –
If you make love to the wrong person,
In some old building with its fabric of dirt,
As clouds of witchcraft, nitro-glycerine, and cake,
Brush by (one autumn night) still green
From our green sunsets…and then let hundreds pass, unlit,
They will do you ferocious indelible harm!
Far beyond anything you can imagine, jazzy sneering one,
And afterwards you’ll live in no man’s land,
You’ll lose your identity, and never get yourself back, diablotin,
It may have happened already, and as you read this…
Ah, it has happened already. I remember, in an old building;
Clouds which had cut themselves on a sharp winter sunset
(With its smoking stove of frosts to keep it cold) went by, bleeding.
Sorry about the dashes I had to insert between stanzas. I’m having trouble with formatting.