Friday, August 27, 2010

Last night.

Last night Jackson asked me to read to him. I chose T.S. Eliot's The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.

It's been a while since I've read any Eliot, despite him being my favourite poet. Though, I suppose, reading is something that I find hard to make time for at the moment, so it's not so surprising.

I remember reading Prufrock for the first time (it was the first poem in the Eliot book we studied in Lit) and I recall being baffled by it. Even after doing some research, a lot of it went over my head, it would seem. Last night I felt like I knew it completely.

If someone were to ask me to explain myself - my past decisions, my motivations - I would refer them to this poem. Prufrock, it would seem, is me.

After I'd finished my reading, and Jackson went into the front room with Patrick and Stan, I re-read the poem. Fifteen, twenty times I must have raked my eyes along the lines. I was shocked. Eliot writes from the perspective of someone who is not just simlar to me, but feels everything I feel, knows everything I know. It was if he'd reached within me and withdrawn a hand full of everything I keep so carefully guarded from the people around me.

I cried at what we'd discovered.

The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock

S’io credesse che mia risposta fosse
A persona che mai tornasse al mondo,
Questa fiamma staria senza piu scosse.
Ma perciocche giammai di questo fondo
Non torno vivo alcun, s’i’odo il vero,
Senza tema d’infamia ti rispondo.

LET us go then, you and I,
When the evening is spread out against the sky
Like a patient etherised upon a table;
Let us go, through certain half-deserted streets,
The muttering retreats
Of restless nights in one-night cheap hotels
And sawdust restaurants with oyster-shells:
Streets that follow like a tedious argument
Of insidious intent
To lead you to an overwhelming question …
Oh, do not ask, “What is it?”
Let us go and make our visit.

In the room the women come and go
Talking of Michelangelo.

The yellow fog that rubs its back upon the window-panes,
The yellow smoke that rubs its muzzle on the window-panes
Licked its tongue into the corners of the evening,
Lingered upon the pools that stand in drains,
Let fall upon its back the soot that falls from chimneys,
Slipped by the terrace, made a sudden leap,
And seeing that it was a soft October night,
Curled once about the house, and fell asleep.

And indeed there will be time
For the yellow smoke that slides along the street,
Rubbing its back upon the window-panes;
There will be time, there will be time
To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet;
There will be time to murder and create,
And time for all the works and days of hands
That lift and drop a question on your plate;
Time for you and time for me,
And time yet for a hundred indecisions,
And for a hundred visions and revisions,
Before the taking of a toast and tea.

In the room the women come and go
Talking of Michelangelo.

And indeed there will be time
To wonder, “Do I dare?” and, “Do I dare?”
Time to turn back and descend the stair,
With a bald spot in the middle of my hair—
[They will say: “How his hair is growing thin!”]
My morning coat, my collar mounting firmly to the chin,
My necktie rich and modest, but asserted by a simple pin—
[They will say: “But how his arms and legs are thin!”]
Do I dare
Disturb the universe?
In a minute there is time
For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse.

For I have known them all already, known them all:—
Have known the evenings, mornings, afternoons,
I have measured out my life with coffee spoons;
I know the voices dying with a dying fall
Beneath the music from a farther room.
So how should I presume?

And I have known the eyes already, known them all—
The eyes that fix you in a formulated phrase,
And when I am formulated, sprawling on a pin,
When I am pinned and wriggling on the wall,
Then how should I begin
To spit out all the butt-ends of my days and ways?
And how should I presume?

And I have known the arms already, known them all—
Arms that are braceleted and white and bare
[But in the lamplight, downed with light brown hair!]
Is it perfume from a dress
That makes me so digress?
Arms that lie along a table, or wrap about a shawl.
And should I then presume?
And how should I begin?

. . . . .

Shall I say, I have gone at dusk through narrow streets
And watched the smoke that rises from the pipes
Of lonely men in shirt-sleeves, leaning out of windows?…

I should have been a pair of ragged claws
Scuttling across the floors of silent seas.

. . . . .

And the afternoon, the evening, sleeps so peacefully!
Smoothed by long fingers,
Asleep … tired … or it malingers,
Stretched on the floor, here beside you and me.
Should I, after tea and cakes and ices,
Have the strength to force the moment to its crisis?
But though I have wept and fasted, wept and prayed,
Though I have seen my head [grown slightly bald] brought in upon a platter,
I am no prophet—and here’s no great matter;
I have seen the moment of my greatness flicker,
And I have seen the eternal Footman hold my coat, and snicker,
And in short, I was afraid.

And would it have been worth it, after all,
After the cups, the marmalade, the tea,
Among the porcelain, among some talk of you and me,
Would it have been worth while,
To have bitten off the matter with a smile,
To have squeezed the universe into a ball
To roll it toward some overwhelming question,
To say: “I am Lazarus, come from the dead,
Come back to tell you all, I shall tell you all”—
If one, settling a pillow by her head,
Should say: “That is not what I meant at all.
That is not it, at all.”

And would it have been worth it, after all,
Would it have been worth while,
After the sunsets and the dooryards and the sprinkled streets,
After the novels, after the teacups, after the skirts that trail along the floor—
And this, and so much more?—
It is impossible to say just what I mean!
But as if a magic lantern threw the nerves in patterns on a screen:
Would it have been worth while
If one, settling a pillow or throwing off a shawl,
And turning toward the window, should say:
“That is not it at all,
That is not what I meant, at all.”

. . . . .

No! I am not Prince Hamlet, nor was meant to be;
Am an attendant lord, one that will do
To swell a progress, start a scene or two,
Advise the prince; no doubt, an easy tool,
Deferential, glad to be of use,
Politic, cautious, and meticulous;
Full of high sentence, but a bit obtuse;
At times, indeed, almost ridiculous—
Almost, at times, the Fool.

I grow old … I grow old …
I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.

Shall I part my hair behind? Do I dare to eat a peach?
I shall wear white flannel trousers, and walk upon the beach.
I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.

I do not think that they will sing to me.

I have seen them riding seaward on the waves
Combing the white hair of the waves blown back
When the wind blows the water white and black.

We have lingered in the chambers of the sea
By sea-girls wreathed with seaweed red and brown
Till human voices wake us, and we drown.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

A little bit.

A little bit of stream of consciousness because I feel as if I haven't written anything in a long time.

You Cannot Possibly Understand Regret

You asked me about regret because you said it was how you felt and I’m not one who’s often lost for words but your question caught me off guard and I was not sure exactly how to say that yes I know about regret because it often hangs over me and drenches me in darkness like that night when the sky was overcast I was at that park with my blood pulsing in tandem with the alcohol that swamped my veins and the moon peeked out from behind the clouds and frolicked for a while in the rare expanse of emptiness and that man left me to buy cigarettes and I’m not sure what made me feel so safe when I was so alone and these days I walk in the middle of the road at night time so I don’t have to pass through the shadows but he said it wasn’t far and I trusted him for some inexplicable reason so I sat on the swings and I waited until I heard noise behind me but when I looked it was not him it was two boys who I’d never seen before and they said things to me that now I can’t even remember but I didn’t think it was so malicious at the time I just didn’t know why they were talking to me at all and so when one of them hit me I don’t think it was pain that made me fall over but shock and I lay still as they loomed over me just looking not speaking when his shout split the suffocating silence and they ran without a second glance and he picked me up and dusted me off and I fell into his arms because I was frightened and confused so I did not say anything when he led me away I just followed this man who’d saved me because I felt I’d found a friend who would protect me and he took me to his house and made me sit on the couch in the front room and as I looked around I started to feel strange because there was just so much stuff there were magazines on the coffee table and there was a flower pot that someone had knocked over but hadn’t bothered to put right so it just lay there spilling its contents onto the wooden surface and it was just so cluttered and even though light filtered in through a window with open blinds I began to feel claustrophobic and then he sat next to me but not just next to me he was too close to me and then I knew that I didn’t want to be there anymore but when I shifted in my seat his hand shot out and he had my arm in his grip was not reassuring anymore and my pulse jumped as I tried to move away and he captured my wrist with his other hand and he pushed me backwards and even though I began to struggle my back hit the couch and I felt as if was being swallowed whole by those lumpy cushions and his body ran the length of mine and held me down and I could not get away though I struggled and I began to cry and I could barely breathe because my chest was being crushed beneath his hands were moving too fast and he was so much bigger and so much stronger than I was so even though I shoved with all my strength I could not move him and sometimes when I look back I think maybe it happened like they say in the movies it happened so fast I can barely remember but I know that it didn’t because minutes dragged on and I recall every excruciating second and maybe that’s why it’s so hard to explain to people because you cannot possibly know without having felt the way that he pushed his body against mine and the arm of the couch on the back of my neck and his knee on my leg and his elbow in my ribs and his tongue in my mouth and you cannot possibly understand the shame I felt when he moved away and I did not know what to do when his voice came from somewhere within the house asking me if I wanted a drink so I burst from his door and out onto an unfamiliar street and I don’t know how I got home but you cannot possibly understand why I put my clothes in the washing machine and I showered and washed my hair and brushed my teeth until my gums bled and you cannot possibly talk to me about regret because you don’t know what regret is.