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“She Sat Beautifully in Chairs”: One Poem for Robert Wilson, Loree Wilson, Sheryl Sutton, and Raymond Andrews. NYC. 5.26.12

Robert Wilson: My mother was a beautiful, intelligent, cold and distant woman. She was very formal, very elegant, she sat beautifully in chairs. With my mother there was almost no personal communication. We could sit in a room together for hours and not talk. As a child I never received a goodnight kiss and I don’t remember my mother ever touching me. The first time I can recall her actually holding and kissing me is when I was eighteen years old and went away to the University of Texas. Then, for the first time, my mother showed emotion and told me that she loved me. It was the most bizarre thing. She probably felt things very deeply but was unable to express herself, and in some ways we were very alike….I didn’t have many friends. But when I was nine or ten, there was a black boy named Leroy, he was the son of a woman who worked in our house. This was a kind of friendship you had to hide in Waco, Texas. I grew up in a place that was completely segregated. There was no interaction between the blacks and the whites. My father was not a Klansman, but segregation was part of his education and environment. He was embarrassed when he saw me walking down the street with a black boy. He wouldn’t say anything but one certainly felt it. I think there was such a tight bond between Leroy and myself because we both felt segregated in some way…The problem with Raymond [Andrews] is that we knew nothing about him. We had no idea who his parents were. There was Sarah, his “sister”–she had come from New Jersey–but in the black culture you often refer to someone as a “sister,” or a “brother.” Genetically, I don’t think she was his sister. It was very curious: suddenly I had a black kid living with me. These were not times when that sort of thing was acceptable…I felt very uncomfortable about having to call my parents and say, “Hey, Dad, I’ve adopted a black kid.” Of course, they were afraid that I would bring a black boy back to Waco, to their home. It would be a great embarrassment for my father and for his friends. First I’m gay and now I’ve got a black son. It was something totally not understood, and very confusing for my father. His reaction was a big problem for me….I was fascinated by the way [Raymond’s] mind worked and the way he saw…My mother saw almost nothing; she died at the beginning of my career. She didn’t really know what I was doing, when we spoke it was more superficial, “How’s the weather? How are you?” We didn’t talk so much about the work. I guess she was supportive, she understood me best. She never said anything, but we communicated with looks, there was as a silent understanding. She died in May 1972, she had had cancer for a while and it was difficult for me, but it was not as difficult as I thought it would be. I was with her when she died. She was in a coma. Five days before she died she opened her eyes and said, “Am I dead yet?” My grandmother, who was there, said, “No, you’re not dead yet,” and I started talking to her. She told me, “You’ll be all right in this world. You’ll get along just fine because you know how to be alone and you like to be alone.” And it’s true.