Max Gutmann

The Art of Digressing 
    From Don Juan Finish’d 

I know you don’t believe me when I claim 
  I’ve not forgotten Juan, but it’s tough 
To focus on the story and to aim
  At ending it when all this other stuff 
Keeps vying for attention. Life’s the same: 
  The ending of the tale comes soon enough 
Without our rushing after it. Success 
Is in how well we manage to digress.
We have to tread a tricky tightrope act, 
  Digressing from the end we can’t control, 
Attempting neither to forget the fact
  Nor make that necessary death our goal: 
The chords with which the melody is back’d, 
  The rhythmic pace that underlies the whole. 
And this determines if the life we sing’ll 
Be aria or advertising jingle. 
How rarely do we belt the really high notes!
  While wishing the chanteuse would offer, “Take it,” 
In place of the melodious and fine notes
  We could sing, we but hum and try to fake it. 
This sing-song doggerel compos’d from my notes 
  Makes clear that mine’s a tune best warbl’d naked 
Behind lock’d doors, beneath a shower strong 
Enough to drown--if not my self--my song 
For (some will carp) the silly song is "literary," 
  Immers’d in books and having lost all bearings 
On anything that‘s real, not "just a bit, er, airy" 
  But lacking all solidity--from where ink’s 
Usurp’d true blood--and my attempt to hit a rare E 
  Above high C, though apt to wreck my larynx, 
Shall be condemn’d as empty virtuosity
By those who don’t just brand it an atrocity. 
Most hearers of my concert, disconcerted 
  By awkward tunes, completely out of style, 
Will quickly leave the concert hall deserted 
  (Nor exit slowly in a single file). 
They’ll find my song perverse--if not perverted--
  My love of rhyme and meter infantile. 
They’ll say, no doubt, I may as well forget 
The shower. “Buddy, you’re already wet!”  

Max Gutmann has contributed to dozens of publications including New Statesman, Able Muse, and Cricket. His plays have appeared throughout the U.S. and have been well-reviewed (see His book There Was a Young Girl from Verona sold several copies.