Tanya Contos

Tanya Contos '71 double-majored in Russian Studies and Theatre at Smith. Throughout her first career as an international banker and her second as a consultant to cultural and academic institutions, she has written continuously, publishing poetry, short fiction, and magazine features. As a playwright, she has won several awards and commissions. Her first book of poems is forthcoming in fall 2008 from Somerset Hall Press.

Her passion for language is equaled only by her love for the sea. She has served as a flotilla staff officer in the US Coast Guard Auxiliary, specializing in lighthouse history. She divides her time between Boston and Cape Ann, where she is active in maritime preservation issues.

Her son Alexander Henry is a classical guitarist and writer, and his mother's most valued editor.



Tanya Contos '71


Seaview Manor

“Lucky they lose their minds together,”
the night nurse says to the couple’s son.

Her accent is succulent,
soothing as aloe.

“Most of them,
they’re here alone.
They have to be crazy alone.
C’est triste.                              

She knows that the son speaks French,
the French of her schoolgirl days,
when she spoke Creole only at home.

“So it’s not so bad for my parents,” the son says,
wishing he’d allowed more time for traffic.
“Sort of a folie à deux.”

L’amour, Monsieur, c’est toujours une folie à deux,” she says.
Her white teeth shine in the darkened passage
outside the room where his parents sleep,
rehearsing for nonexistence.

“They like to sit in the garden,” she tells him,
“watching the wall.”

“The wall? That ugly cinderblock wall?”

“Ah, not so bad since the last time you come.
An artist cover it all with a trompe l’oeil picture of the harbor.
The patients, they love it.
They don’t try to escape so much.

Today your parents sit for hours,
watching the wall.

Your father say (it’s here on the chart)
‘Dead calm out there. See that sailboat?
She’s going nowhere fast.’

Then your mother ask him 
if he can take her out on the boat.

He say yes,
of course he will,

as soon as the wind is right.”