the world spins on a tilted shaky spindle
and we hold on tightly with our hopes and dreams
(there is no space for anything but dreaming!)
we defy gravity with our capacity to love and cherish
we are gods treading boldly on a blue-green marble
beneath a sea of stars tossed upon a blue-black canvas
the universe painted in brilliant colors in random rotation
stoking the fires of our imagination with worlds beyond our reach
the non-dreamers toil in despair, and soon to dust return
while we float through infinity and blow kisses to the sun
dream, dream, dream…close your eyes and open your mind
(there is no space for anything but dreaming!)
Happy Birthday to one of my greatest inspirations: T.S. Eliot (he is the reason I write as D.L. McHale)
The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock is perhaps one of the most introspective and transforming pieces of modern poetry ever written. It resonates, for me, on a substratum of my inner being, to which I rarely penetrate; for my life has been mostly a constant evasion of myself. My losses stack up accordingly.
In honor of his birthday, and his priceless contributions to both modern literature and to my own creative metal, “let us go then, you and I” to:
The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock
S’io credesse che mia risposta fosse A persona che mai tornasse al monda, 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 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 . . .
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 windowpanes; 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 know 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 pipesof 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 afternoons, 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 towards 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, setting 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 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, setting 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.
MY HUMBLE ANALYSIS:
Meet Prufrock. (Hi, Prufrock!). He wants you to come take a walk with him through the winding, dirty streets of a big, foggy city that looks a lot like London. He’s going to show you all the best sights, including the “one-night cheap hotels” and “sawdust restaurants.” What a gentleman, he is! Also, he has a huge, life-altering question to ask you. He’ll get to that later, though.
Cut to a bunch of women entering and leaving a room. The women are talking about the famous Renaissance painter Michelangelo. I don’t know why they’re talking about Michelangelo, and I never learn. Welcome to Prufrock’s world, where no one does anything interesting.
Did we mention that it’s foggy. Like really, really foggy. The fog has a delightful yellow color, and it acts a lot like a cat.
Yawn. What a day. i’ve accomplished so much already with Prufrock. There’s still a lot of stuff he still wants to get done before “toast and tea.” People to see, decisions to make, life-altering questions to ask. But not yet…There’s still plenty of time for all that later.
Where did the women go? Oh, yes, they’re still talking about Michelangelo.
Yup. Pleeeen-ty of time for Prufrock to do all that really important stuff. Except that he doesn’t know if he should. He’s kind of nervous. You see, he was about to tell someone something really important, but then he didn’t. Too nervous. Oops! At least he’s a sharp-looking guy. Well, his clothes are sharp-looking. The rest of him is kind of not-so-sharp-looking. People say he’s bald and has thin arms.
But he still has pleeen-ty of time. And he’s accomplished so much already! For example, he has drank a lot of coffee, and he’s lived through a lot of mornings and afternoons. Those are pretty big accomplishments, right? Plus, he’s known a lot of women. Or at least he’s looked at their hairy arms, and that’s almost as good.
Prufrock says something about how he wishes he were a crab. Oh, Prufrock! Always the joker. Wait, you were serious? That’s kind of sad, my friend. Don’t you have important things to do?
Oops! It looks like he didn’t do that really important thing he meant to do. He was going to tell someone something life-altering, but he was afraid of being rejected. So he didn’t. Oh well.
Meanwhile, Prufrock keeps getting older. He doesn’t worry about that really important thing anymore. Instead, he worries about other important things, such as whether to roll his pant-legs or eat a peach.
Ah yes…the peach! This is no ordinary question about fruit. This is perhaps the raciest line ever written…given the time in which it was written. Again, ” Do I dare to eat the peach?” Im not going to spell this out for you. I think you now know to what the “peach” refers.
It turns out that Prufrock really likes the ocean. He says he has heard mermaids singing – but they won’t sing to him. Boy, you sure do talk a lot about yourself, Prufrock.
Finally, he brings us back into the conversation. He talks about how we lived at the bottom of the sea with him (geez, we don’t remember that one!). It turns out we were asleep in the ocean, but all of a sudden, we get woken up by “human voices.” Unfortunately, as soon as we wake up, we drown in the salty ocean. Boy, what a day. We thought we were talking a walk, and now we’re dead.
And we die…we drown. And in that moment we understand, finally, the message of his love song….
Does any of it really matter…life, love, indulgences, hope, fear? For we age, and in aging become, not someone, but something to laugh and point at. And then we die.
There is much power and beauty in her world, yet her soul is divided into two houses:
One is spare and darkly decadent, surrounded by high windowless walls; there is very little color to break the monotony, and its gate is usually locked.
This house is full of decaying art – the crudely painted memories left by people who felt their life had been changed by divine intervention, offering eternal love for her with promises that were falsely laid.
The other house is rich in colour, its thick outside walls washed in strong blues and reds.
In this house, the gate is flung wide open, and on the patio outside there are clay pots and plates all decorated in a kalidescope of vibrant, living colours.
Inside is a tiny virginal bed with a mirror above it reflecting back the inconsistent themes of her life.
She wears her silken hair in ebony rivulets cascading in loose waterfalls down her gently curving back; she takes great pride in the delicate scar across her upper lip, a reminder of the evil that dwells in the angry guts of jealous men.
Her clothing echoes her hair – she dresses in embroidered shirts and wide floor-length flowing skirts, swirling in the warm summer winds of her womanhood.
All of this colour and dynamism reflect her conflicted character; the turbulent and contradictory life she lives. Her own story is both tragic and uplifting; the essence of her more provocative, daring and strange spirit.
Indeed, in some ways the dichotomy of her life are chapters in a long autobiography, paralleled and matched by her inner angels and demons.
This internal schizm is refracted through the broken shards of a glass imagination, a constant yearning to fill the void within her. And in that complex yearning, another looming presence which was impossible to escape.
Her secret love, her one true love, is a huge man who looks even more enormous beside her diminutive body. He is a constant (but not faithful) companion. She both loves and loathes him, in constant and equal measure.
The relationship between the two is fraught with conflict and anger. So it might be strange to see the two lace cloths embroidered with their names lying across the pillows of her bed.
There is in her life a curious blend of love, betrayal, hope, and long-sufferring sentimentality coupled with a harsh frankness about herself – a combination that seduces many people – not only him.
Each night, she gently and quietly untangles herself from his sleeping embrace and makes her way by moonlight to her gray, colorless house with the locked gate.
She indulges in intense relationships with faceless women and men, offering her backside to conventional morality. But in the cool grey light of morning, she folds herself once more into the warmth and safety of his arms.
This constant terrible pain is a permanent feature of her life, yet it does not restrain her. In some ways it makes her wilder and more uninhibited. For much of what compels her life is about pain, and the terrible fragility of her body compared with the resolution of her mind.
Each day she deals most explicitly with the paradox of excruciating joy and exquisite pain.
Her alter egos are attached by fragile vessels which are not easily cut – hence the bloodstained scissors resting on her white dress. The lush landscape of her dreams seem inaccessible because of the thorny brambles around her neck.
While she might appear, with her beautiful traditional dresses and her tiny broken body, like the ‘perfect doll’ that all men and certain women desire, she is nonetheless fulfilled in her own right, and pursues sexual fulfilment and monogamous peace with equal fervor.
A ribbon around a bombshell.
She is inexplicably wrapped in endless layers of the full spectrum of human experience and the unbidden possibilities in human understanding.
She senses affirmation in the enormous potentiality of both houses and the unique power of being a woman once freed from constraint.
She is fighting a revolution within herself.
Hers is a life of two-way narratives. Of unimaginable passions and failed restraint. An existence made all the worse by sadness, distress and a brutal sense of betrayal. Made all the better by the wanton surrender to the possibilities and potential of a woman’s body.
This is the permanent consequence of her life. Yet the often violent and disturbing intersection of her two houses within her soul provide ironic affirmations of life; there is beauty in both, not only in the qualities of conventionality, but in the power and strength of the life itself.
She is full of curses and imprecations interwoven with lyrical images and fragments of poetry. Her dualism defies fatalism with their colours, their endlessly surprising meetings of image and meaning, their powerful assertions of her womanhood.
She is both madonna and whore, and she is perfect in her imperection.
Full of hurt and pain and yet equally bursting with life, defiance, and rebellion.
She is an ever-evolving act of defiance, a challenge, a continuing affirmation of life itself.
Spat from the angered mouth of heaven
falling, spiraling, through the mystic ages
thrust without grace into the mortal coil
within my Mother’s sacred womb
and spat once more again into Life
I am become.
On broken knees with a broken voice
whispering hallowed hallelujahs
I am now become
this incredible expression of motion;
motion within volume,
volume within silent prayers
I am become.
Crimson rivers of blood wash
my bleached bones, cleansed and holy,
creating my presentational self –
a life defined in patterns of sentience
expressed through transcendent forms
of human feelings, of human failings,
of growth and attenuation,
of flowing and stowing,
of conflict and resolution,
speed, arrest, terrific excitement,
I am become.
In suffering forged and forgotten
shackled in the biting chains
of free will and isolation;
the celestial curse of the living flesh
now belies my subtle activation
In Death I am but sweetly spent
and spat once more
into the bowels of Earth
my soul surpassing the expression
of human feeling, of human frailty
transcending the mortal sphere
the push of life itself
it’s relentless assertion of tension
not only in myself, nor in all mankind
but rather in the cosmos
dissolving and so evolving eternal
once more spat into the Heavens