The Benefactress & the Poet

Musical accompaniment: Gnossienes by Erik Satie

 

I continue here with further research on the New England poet Thomas J. McSheey (1899-1935), concluding with his artistic death...with mustard...

 

The Benefactress

The struggling post-impressionist painter Vincent van Gogh had his brother, Theo, to support him financially.

Russian composer, Petr Ilich Tchaikovsky, had a benefactress in the form of the widow Nadezhda von Meck, who over the course of a dozen or more years supported him with the stipulation that the two never met.

Likewise, poet Thomas J. McSheey drew financial support from a woman known to him only as Miss Pelling, a mysterious person he never actually met, although he admitted to having vivid dreams of her.

In those dreams, Miss Pelling took the form of a left-handed pitcher for the minor league baseball team, the Springfield Sturgeons. In each dream she would make it to the bottom of the ninth inning without giving up a hit, only to walk the bases full with twelve consecutive balls. The manager would then come to the mound to pull her from the game in favor of a reliever. Miss Pelling would refuse to leave the mound and soon both pitchers would be throwing to the batter at the same time. Finally, the umpire would step out from behind the plate, throw his mask to the dirt, and call the game on account of extreme silliness.

The crowd would then rush onto the field, and the players would turn into chickens, which the fans would chase all around the baseball diamond.

The dream always ended with a gigantic barbecue.

McSheey's therapist, a Freudian, presented his interpretation of the dream at a well-attended psychology conference held in Boston, thus causing all those who had earlier chosen chicken instead of fish at the evening dinner to change their order.  

Meanwhile, the benefactress Miss Pelling eventually abandoned McSheey to support who she thought was an "aspiring" novelist (it turns out he was a "perspiring" novelist). Without her financial support, McSheey was forced to cut down to basic cable television service and to drinking only bottom shelf whisky.

 

The Poet

And then, upon one December day, the poet Thomas J. McSheey "died of a broken heart" according to his obituary, which was based on testimony provided by his landlady, a middle-aged woman named Tessie who hailed from County Monaghan, Ireland.

It turns out this was incorrect information fueled by the woman's Irish brogue, as McSheey actually "died of a broken art." Apparently, while visiting an exhibit of modern art, a suspended three-dimensional sculpture fell from its woefully inadequate hanger and struck McSheey on the head.

In his remaining moments, dazed upon the gallery floor, McSheey talked nonsense, gibberish, claiming that the sculpture was influenced by the works of Picasso when it was clearly reminiscent of the mobiles of Calder.

Finally, fighting for breath, or perhaps for a breath mint, and clutching the curator by the sleeve of his jacket, the penniless poet offered $5,000 for the sculpture, "and not a penny more" according to those standing nearby. Then, with a smile upon his face, as well as a little bit of mustard from a bratwurst he had for lunch, Thomas John McSheey departed this life for the heavenly realm ... where the rent may be higher, but at least the neighbors are quiet and rake their leaves.

Jack Sheedy

 

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