The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock

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Since I’ve been very busy with books and the craziness below Pikes Peak (seriously, Colorado? Go home…you’re drunk), I’ve been neglecting my poor blog (sorry!)

So I thought I’d share the poem that named this little dalliance of mine. Enjoy!

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Let us go then, you and I,
When the evening is spread out against the sky
Like a patient etherized 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. . . 10
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, 20
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; 30
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— 40
[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, 50
I have measured out my life with coffee spoons;

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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? 60
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 70
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? 80
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, 90
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, 100
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.” 110
. . . . .

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 . . . 120
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 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 130
Till human voices wake us, and we drown.

T.S. Eliot

Pilate

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Pilate

 

Alabaster and faded burgundy

Wine-tinged lips

Whisper to me from three days ago

Call between six and nine

Death got in my way: goodnight

Crash wrenches away the steering wheel, his shoulders separate

Flashes of his outstretched hands, car rolling

Walking down Olive I search for him

Find only shattered stained glass and bits of metal

Grope the ground for a figment, something

I should have held onto

Following the hearse I hear his voice

Don’t carry on like this

Both my hands collide

 

image credit: everythingsright.com

The Firefighter’s Wife

Waldo Canyon Fire coming into Mountain Shadows

Waldo Canyon Fire coming into Mountain Shadows

For the Waldo Canyon Fire, Colorado College will host an exhibit of work (poems, photos) commemorating those who endured and volunteered for the fire effort. Here is my (reworked) submission for the exhibit:

The Firefighter’s Wife

I am a car crash
Resounding
Cranked metal twisting
Freshly destroyed
I am not rusted
 
The fury of my hands colliding
Praying
Asking why asking how asking for anything at all because an answer would be better than this
Alone
And yet not
 
It’s not about me
Distorted in shock
In guilt
And yet it must be hidden: shame of undiluted fear for others
 
It was never about me
It’s about children needing me to hold it together
It’s my love on a fiery mountainside as the flame front spreads out tentacles lashing
Torching
Unblinking they fight
Terror packed in back bunker pockets
Secretive
It’s not there
 
Yet how can I tell them he’s safe
When he’s subduing and running and choking on smoke
Soaked
No room for bruises when reassurance is the most important thing
So I lie
To everyone
 
Blackened
Skeleton trees
Ash strewn in the air catching tongues
Catching catching gleaning peaking short
 
The rocks
Scorched but incapable of conducting
A wasted effort
Directed redirected reaching arching
Something more
 
These are the foothills of my young life
These are Jenner
Brogan
Ashton
Still
 
The trauma has passed in the wind wisps faded
Embers blown
Eyes streaming and for what
Nightmares shall pass
Hunger shall return
And this is only part of a sea of restless Colorado summers where yellowed ash
Collects on windshields overnight
 
For certainly we are lucky happy family
Unburned
Unbroken
It is through
Through to color memories of insufficiencies and bittersweet consolation prizes
Certain and savor the notion that we are lucky happy
Unwrecked
Unrusted
Crashing
No longer
 
– Carrie Nyman
 

I hate rollercoasters

 

Writing opens us up; it allows us to be our most basic human self. It makes us light. Writing strips away the armor that molds to my ribcage, restricting me…but no bird ever flew so high that it didn’t have to come down. Writing opens us up to criticism, failure, and as someone who chases the contrived idea of perfection, misunderstanding and negativity weigh me down. My elation quickly turns into a graceless descent: I sink. It seems like everything I’ve accomplished doesn’t matter.

I am not a robot. I am not impervious to insults and bad news and the roller coaster-ing emotions make me dizzy. But if I choose to shut myself off to this negativity, I limit my potential and the beauty that I am known to create. People do not tell me that they like my work because they know it’ll make me happy. They tell me because they feel that they should. This is not completely altruistic, but not totally selfish. I am thankful for those that encourage me. And I should be equally grateful for those that doubt me. They push me on. They help me to be better. This is not an uncommon feeling. I just had to get it out.

Image:  everythingsright.com