Life Story

After you’ve been to bed together for the first time,
without the advantage or disadvantage of any prior acquaintance,
the other party very often says to you,
Tell me about yourself, I want to know all about you,
what’s your story? And you think maybe they really and truly do

sincerely want to know your life story, and so you light up
a cigarette and begin to tell it to them, the two of you
lying together in completely relaxed positions
like a pair of rag dolls a bored child dropped on a bed.

You tell them your story, or as much of your story
as time or a fair degree of prudence allows, and they say,
Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh,
each time a little more faintly, until the oh
is just an audible breath, and then of course

there’s some interruption. Slow room service comes up
with a bowl of melting ice cubes, or one of you rises to pee
and gaze at himself with the mild astonishment in the bathroom mirror.
And then, the first thing you know, before you’ve had time
to pick up where you left off with your enthralling life story,
they’re telling you their life story, exactly as they’d intended to all along,

and you’re saying, Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh,
each time a little more faintly, the vowel at last becoming
no more than an audible sigh,
as the elevator, halfway down the corridor and a turn to the left,
draws one last, long, deep breath of exhaustion
and stops breathing forever. Then?

Well, one of you falls asleep
and the other one does likewise with a lighted cigarette in his mouth,
and that’s how people burn to death in hotel rooms.



Taddeo Zuccaro died on this day in 1566 in Rome, one day after his thirty-seventh birthday. Born in the Marches and trained by his father, Taddeo moved to Rome at fourteen, where he came to know the works of Raphael, Correggio, and Parmagianino. His Mannerist style, derived also from the work of Michelangelo, drew praise and commissions for facade paintings, frescoes, and altarpieces. Works left unfinished at his death were completed by his younger brother Federico (d. 1609). Taddeo was buried near his hero Raphael in the Roman Pantheon.

Reference: Liana De Girolami Cheney. “Zuccaro.” Grove Art Online. Oxford Art Online. Oxford University Press.<>

Further reading: Taddeo and Federico Zuccaro: Artist-Brothers in Renaissance Rome by Julian Brooks et al. (2007).

The Martyrdom of Saint Paul, ca. 1557-8. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Robert Lehman Collection, 1975.

Royal Entry of Emperor Charles V, Francis I of France, and Alessandro Cardinal Farnese into Paris, Villa Farnese, 1559, Caprarola.