by Jonathan Vold

Sunday, July 31

One Summer : A True Story

  Sol didn’t cry, all through the night, but he was very quiet.  And the next day, Sunday, when his friends got together and talked about it, he still didn’t say much, even when they found out that Roxanne was actually dead.
  Everyone reacted differently.  Brandon wanted most to get the details straight.  Chad felt bad for Adam: “I wonder what’s going to happen to him,” he said.  Lenny cried, a whole lot, and he wasn’t ashamed.  And Al was a complete contrast: it was spooky how he just stared blankly into space and at the ground with a cold face.  But they were all quiet to some degree.
  There wasn’t much else to say.  One of their friends was dead, shot in the head by another friend, Adam.  Except for Sol, they had all witnessed it.  An ambulance rushed her to the hospital, but she took six hours to die, and the fact that she was dead was the news the morning brought.
  Around noon they all decided to go out to Adam’s house to see how he was doing.  They took Chad’s car.  Chad put the key in the ignition and suddenly Black Sabbath blared where it had left  off; he reached forward and ejected the tape.  “Not today,” he said quietly, smiling.  He started the car and they drove back to the scene of their party the night before.
  Sol had left early, before the third keg was cracked, but he had known the basic details of the shooting almost as soon as it had happened.  He hadn’t been home fifteen minutes when his father, the town pastor, got a midnight call, and when he came home he told Sol, who had stayed up waiting, what had happened.  For the benefit of Sol, before they went up the steps to Adam’s doorway they all stopped together and pointed to the place on the front lawn where Roxanne’s head had fallen.  The blood was dried to the color of dirt on the grass.  A couple of rains, maybe even the dew, would make it go away.
  Inside, Adam sat on the couch in his living room, his eyes red from crying.  Two of his cousins were there with him.  One of them got up to answer the door, and he immediately ushered everyone into the kitchen and offered them beer.  He said the police had come and gone and would be back later; apparently they had been convinced that Adam wasn’t going to go anywhere.

  They all went into the next room and sat with Adam.  They each made a few lame attempts at encouragement, then Chad got up and turned on the television.  A football game was on, and they watched it for a while without talking.  When it was halftime, Chad got up again and turned the television off.
  “I guess we should go,” he said, but they didn’t stand up right away.
  “Thanks for coming out here, guys,” Adam said finally, and they each went over to him and one at a time put a hand on his shoulder.
  “We’ll stick with you on this,” they all said, and Sol said it too, but at the same time it hurt for each of them to say this, because they knew that their next stop was to go visit Roxanne’s boyfriend, Bobby, who had been out of town the night before.
 The same odd silence was at Bobby’s house, even though Bobby’s position was hardly the same as Adam’s. He offered them all sodas and they watched the rest of the football game, and they all got up to leave after that, saying few words.
  Sol still didn’t cry, not yet, but he decided he would go back later, alone, to the spot that Roxanne had fallen.

Saturday, July 30

Review, Sweet Charity

  You will remember this...
  I watched a play, Sweet Charity, so full of social choreography and the edges of emotion, so typical a musical with everything on display, pleasantly raw, that I forgot for two hours, even more, that I was there alone.  Intermission reminded me, temporarily, while the house filtered into the lobby and the actors were left stuck in an elevator in the dark, but fifteen minutes later I sat down and got right back into the play, naively sweet yet cloyingly real how he was afraid to kiss her and she was avoiding the backstory.  And I admit, I was even close to tears, close to feeling my feet in their shoes, until the ending, oh.  An artless set of lies, an unrelented pause in the music, and awkward, beatless moves from stage left to stage right, until...  an hour later I'm alone, and painfully aware.

Friday, July 29

TWL, Lines 249-265: Olivia's Song

  249 She turns and looks a moment in the glass,
  250 Hardly aware of her departed lover;
  251 Her brain allows one half-formed thought to pass:
  252 'Well now that's done: and I'm glad it's over.'
  253 When lovely woman stoops to folly and
  254 Paces about her room again, alone,
  255 She smoothes her hair with automatic hand,
  256 And puts a record on the gramophone.
  257 'This music crept by me upon the waters'
  258 And along the Strand, up Queen Victoria Street.
  259 O City city, I can sometimes hear
  260 Beside a public bar in Lower Thames Street,
  261 The pleasant whining of a mandoline
  262 And a clatter and a chatter from within
  263 Where fishmen lounge at noon: where the walls
  264 Of Magnus Martyr hold
  265 Inexplicable splendour of Ionian white and gold.

250. DEPARTED LOVER: See note 248 for one (Tiresias or the carbuncular guest) “groping away”.

Compare the more painful awareness of the departed nymphs at lines 175-181.  See also Revelation 18:14 for the repeated use of the word “departed”:
 “And the fruits that thy soul lusted after are departed from thee, and all things which were dainty and goodly are departed from thee, and thou shalt find them no more at all.”

252. GLAD IT’S OVER: The reactions to departure have evolved from plaintiveness (see note 176) to being hardly aware (line 250) to gladness.  See note 297 for the context of the “event” now done and over.

253. OLIVIA’S SONG: Eliot: “V. Goldsmith, the song in The Vicar of Wakefield.”  See Oliver Goldsmith, The Vicar of Wakefield (1766) 24:

  “The next morning the sun rose with peculiar warmth for the season; so that we agreed to breakfast together on the honey-suckle bank: where while we sat, my youngest daughter, at my request, joined her voice to the concert of the trees about us. It was in this place my poor Olivia first met her seducer, and every object served to recall her sadness. But that melancholy, which is excited by objects of pleasure, or inspired by sounds of harmony, soothes the heart instead of corroding it. Her mother, too, upon this occasion, felt a pleasing distress, and wept, and loved her daughter as before. ....

   When lovely woman stoops to folly,
   And finds too late that men betray,
   What charm can soothe her melancholy,
   What art can wash her guilt away?

   The only art her guilt to cover,
   To hide her shame from every eye,
   To give repentance to her lover
   And wring his bosom, is—to die.”

For echoes of Olivia’s song beyond line 253, see line 182 (“By the waters of Leman I sat down and wept”) and note 182 (Rousseau’s “sweetest melancholy”); see also lines 11 (breakfast with Marie on a surprisingly warm day) and 99 (the rape of Philomela, her cries and the nightingale’s forest song resounding through the grove) and notes 0.3 and 63 (the wishes to die of the Sybil and of the undying souls in limbo).

256. THE MODERN WORLD of Eliot’s time was full of new concepts.  Record-playing continues the song theme of this section (see note 172.5), but along with the gramophone see also the typewriter, the two career family and ready-to-eat meals (line 223), horns and motors (line 197) and airplanes (note 374).  The term automatic (line 255) was itself a burgeoning word.  Add to these the modernist movement in literature and art, a development in which Eliot and The Waste Land were key factors.  See notes 1, 248, 412 and 418.

257. UNDERTONE: Eliot: “V. The Tempest, as above.”  See Shakespeare, The Tempest 1.2.392, and see note 26.

258. THE STRAND, about a mile west of where Eliot worked (see note 66), is a riverside London street once lined with mansions, almost all of which no longer exist. Eliot alluded to the Strand in an early unnamed poem, commonly known as At Graduation (1905):

  “Standing upon the shore of all we know
  We linger for a moment doubtfully,
  Then with a song upon our lips, sail we
  Across the harbor bar—  no chart to show
  No light to warn of rocks that lie below,
  But let us yet put forth courageously.

  As colonists embarking from the strand
  To seek their fortunes on some foreign shore
  Well now they lose what time shall not restore,
  And when they leave they fully understand
  That though again they see their fatherland
  They there shall be as citizens no more.”

CITIZENSHIP and its renouncement would be part of Eliot’s own story, although not until several years after The Waste Land and from an opposite direction than the British immigration his 1905 graduation poem spoke of.  He was at Harvard when that poem was written, but by 1910 he moved to Paris for a year of undergraduate studies.  He eventually ended up at Oxford (1914) and the working world of London (1917), and in 1927 he renounced his American citizenship to become a naturalized Briton.
259. CITY CITY: Eliot vacillated with the Unreal City’s capitalization here; it was capitalized in 1922, lower-cased in 1923 and recapitalized in 1925. Compare line 60, and see Baudelaire’s “city, city” at note 60. For this moment, however, the city is less unreal and more appreciated.

263. TIME’S PASSAGE is unclear here. It is noon again, after Eugenides’s foggy noon (line 208) and Tiresias’s evening hour (line 222); either time has passed or the order of events is not what it appears.  See also the limbo states at lines 40, 63, 126, 329 and 344 and the revivals at lines 1-7 and after line 359.  See also note 322.

265. ST. MAGNUS MARY: Eliot: “The interior of St. Magnus Martyr is to my mind one of the finest among Wren's interiors. See The Proposed Demolition of Nineteen City Churches (P. S. King & Son, Ltd.).”  Public outcry to this 1920 proposal from the London County Council spared both Magnus Martyr (line 264) and Mary Woolnoth (line 67) from being razed. Until 1922, St. Magnus Martyr celebrated an annual Fish Harvest Festival. The church was surrounded by pubs and fish, oil and tar (line 268), and whining, clatter and chatter, yet the scene still exuded pleasant music and an “inexplicable splendour.”

Thursday, July 28

Moleskin 4.2: To The Eavesdroppers

It is probably best that I do not divulge which one of you I am thinking of now. Eventually, privately perhaps, I will tell you, but first let me quickly assure you all who it is not. I am not speaking to anyone left behind in my past: not my ex-wife, not my forgotten friends, not my departed father. This is also not particularly addressed to those who most inspire me, though each of you deserve more appreciation (which will follow). Nor is this to one of my children, though both of you should know you are worth my undivided attention and will always have the whole of my love. Finally, this is not just a note to myself, no more than it is a vain pitch to everyone in the room. Each of you are invited to listen to my story and I am happy to have you all here, but I am speaking less to the rest of you, more to the other.

Wednesday, July 27

Filling In Blanks: Matins

John wrote: your random choice
for a moment of devotion, my sound request
in the midst of anger, sudden vespers
to escape the disorderly storm... and now
the soundless stream of consciousness
that flows into matins the morning after,
Where it is silent if not peaceful.  I write
as you quietly sleep. I read:
the Word, capital W.  I underline:
it is the Word of Life, capital L, made visible.
And I think of what I have learned,
what I would share, what I should write, small w,
that this journey may be complete.
I write, little ones, to you,
that your storms will be forgiven
because you would believe
in the creator and the forgiver.
I write, son and daughter,
that you will always be full of life
because your spirits within
have existed since the beginning.
I write to you, children,
that you never fear the path before you,
that you would walk beyond the darkness
and come to know the light.
I write to each of you now
that you always seek to be strong,
continually asking questions
and challenging the tangents,
but that you discover the Word
that has always been there,
follow the One who first forgave
and hear those morning words,
“Let there be Light.”
Beautiful spark, beautiful premise,
my children, children of God.
There will be anger and insolence
and there will be times of silence too,
but you, each of you, are beautiful
the way you complete my Joy
and help me fill in the blanks.

Tuesday, July 26

To Those Who Never Get To Verse 3...

To say that God knows those who don’t know God
Should not offend those who do not believe
In the existence or the mind of God,

But they might be insulted who do not
Find comfort in whatever they believe,
Those for whatever reason knowing God
As one who doesn’t care or won’t receive
Their prayers, the hopeless souls who think that God
Is never there, and anyone who’s thought
That God hates those who struggle to believe
That God is love...
        But this I do believe,
That God will walk with those who don’t know God
And weep with those who say he wasn’t there
And listen to an unbeliever’s prayer.

Monday, July 25

Filling In Blanks: Vespers

Theistic evolution,
that god plus evolution equals now
is your answer, and all that remains
is deciding who God is.  Yes,
and who are you and what is now
and where are we going from here?
I believe — do you want to know what I believe?
Not really, you say.  Clever little
conversation stopper, and yet
you have learned that you can
tell everyone what you believe,
believe it and impose it and
leave it at that, never leading
with a question.

But I believe you are right.
(Now do you want to know?)
Blank plus evolution is, you say,
and we fill in the blank with
Buddha, Christ, Mohammed.
Or godlessness, emptiness, chance.
You get to choose what leads you to now:
the blank is true, and beyond this
we may never know the empirical
but we will rest in our faith.
But I believe — a statement, not a question,
that Genesis is true, setting us free,
that God is the beginning and the end,
the Big Bang and the final Word,
the constant Grace and the now,
Immanuel.  This is what I believe.

And you can call me, as you suggest,
a theistic evolutionist with a neat little formula,
and you can rest in this, but now,
let me show you more of how
that blank can be filled with the poetry
of John and the songs of David,
the trial of Job and the angst of Qoheleth,
the emotions of the prophets.
Read the Gospels and Acts
and the letters to the early churches.
Read Revelation, and argue with it all,
question back if you must, but register
the incompetent hyper-human
history of that corner of the world,
the bumbling children of God,
trying to get to now, trying to understand.

Sunday, July 24

A Conversation

The people hold themselves as unaccountable:
Their inner souls are theirs (and theirs) alone
To be revealed but never to be known.
They build their walls and shields of insurmountable
Disclosure, every bit (of it) discountable
With very (very) little substance shown
Beyond the names and faces they would own,
Convenient tags and masks of empty countenance.

It’s funny how you never (really) see
Someone until the day she isn’t looking,
Never hear her (un)til she’s finished talking,
Never know her (un)til she goes away
(And how, when asked to give her eulogy,
You find she’s left you something good to say).

You people claim to have your own identity
And you pretend to bare (and share) your soul
With every handshake touch and every cold
Embrace, as if you gripped me with intensity,
But who (the hell) are you with this propensity
To speak in (cryptic) poetry, to hold
Me with a stranger’s words, to seek control
Beyond a time that’s silent, dark and meant to be?

Yet as I stare you (deeply) in the eye
I will admit to liking how you look at me
But never (truly) see me, how you talk to me
But never (really) have too much to say
(And even as I offer a reply
You didn’t seek, you get it anyway).

Saturday, July 23

A Matter of Perspective

Dostoevsky Final (Russian 141, 11/30/90, Prof. Rubchak)
In The Brothers Karamazov, Ivan “Grand Inquisitor” poem and Father Zossima’s last words are polar opposites, yet they share similar themes.  Separately, they discuss the concepts of freedom and happiness and the values of miracle, mystery, and authority.  The two speakers even begin to agree on some points, although their differences on these issues are numerous, to say the least.  But the main distinction that separates Ivan’s Inquisitor and Father Zossima more than points on any of the individual concepts is the difference of the speakers’ perspectives.

The Inquisitor lectures pedantically as from a podium, but only one person is meant to hear him; Father Zossima bears witness to only a few people around his deathbed, but it is a testimony for the world. As the Inquisitor speaks, he sees the universe with the conditions of “them” and “us”; Father Zossima does not separate as such, but says, here is what I have seen, how it has been for me, and how it can be for you.
This difference in perspective is evident in all the individual issues.  Freedom, the Inquisitor says, brings “unrest, confusion, and unhappiness” (301), and so “[we] have vanquished freedom... in order to make [them] happy” (294).  “...They will submit themselves to us gladly and cheerfully” (304).  
Father Zossima, too, sees negative aspects in the world’s idea of freedom: it brings “slavery and self destruction... separation and isolation” (369).  His response, however, is not to perpetuate the us/them separation and enslavement, but to acknowledge the alternative, truer freedom of a Christian.  Zossima does not quote the apostle Paul, but the allusion is implied: “For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a slave to all” (1 Cor. 9:19).  There is no us and them in Zossima’s kind of servitude, because it is universal.
Meanwhile, the Inquisitor is concerned with conquering people and holding them captive for the sake of their happiness.  “We shall reach onr goal and be Caesars... [for] the universal happiness of man,” he says (302).  “We shall give them quiet, humble happiness, the happiness of weak creatures” (303).

Father Zossima also talks about happiness in terms of humility and the universe, but again he does so with a different perspective.  He speaks of being “consumed by a universal love, as though in a sort of ecstacy” (376).  He also addresses global conquest: “ humble love... you may be able to conquer the world” (376).  Thus, he reverses the role of the happily humble, making them captors, not captives, with the force of love.
The Inquisitor’s forces are threefold: “miracle, mystery and authority” (299), the three things denied us when Christ resisted the devil’s temptations and established our dreaded freedom.  But the church resumes control of these forces, providing the bread of satisfaction, possessing people’s consciences, and wielding dominion to make the world “happy;” thus, man knows “whom to worship, to whom to entrust his conscience and how... to unite all” (302).  
For Father Zossima, love remains “the strongest [force] of all” (376), although he too values the forces of miracle, mystery, authority; unlike the Inquisitor, though, he appreciates this triune on the same plane as the recipients, and furthermore, he sees their combined force as inclusive of God’s plans. In fact, he finds miracle, mystery, and authority not only in God’s world and in God’s people, but also in the Word of God itself: “What a miracle and what strength is given with [the Holy Bible] to man!... And how many solved and revealed mysteries!” (343).  And he sees this power in “sorrow... [passing] gradually into quiet, tender joy” (343); in “Divine Justice, tender reconciling and all forgiving,” and in the central promise of a future life.  
It is all a matter of perspective.

Friday, July 22

TWL, Lines 215-248: Tiresius

215 At the violet hour, when the eyes and back
216 Turn upward from the desk, when the human engine waits
217 Like a taxi throbbing waiting,
218 I Tiresias, though blind, throbbing between two lives,
219 Old man with wrinkled female breasts, can see
220 At the violet hour, the evening hour that strives
221 Homeward, and brings the sailor home from sea,
222 The typist home at teatime, clears her breakfast, lights
223 Her stove, and lays out food in tins.
224 Out of the window perilously spread
225 Her drying combinations touched by the sun's last rays,
226 On the divan are piled (at night her bed)
227 Stockings, slippers, camisoles, and stays.
228 I Tiresias, old man with wrinkled dugs
229 Perceived the scene, and foretold the rest —
230 I too awaited the expected guest.
231 He, the young man carbuncular, arrives,
232 A small house agent's clerk, with one bold stare,
233 One of the low on whom assurance sits
234 As a silk hat on a Bradford millionaire.
235 The time is now propitious, as he guesses,
236 The meal is ended, she is bored and tired,
237 Endeavours to engage her in caresses
238 Which are still unreproved, if undesired.
239 Flushed and decided, he assaults at once;
240 Exploring hands encounter no defence;
241 His vanity requires no response,
242 And makes a welcome of indifference.
243 (And I Tiresias have foresuffered all
244 Enacted on this same divan or bed;
245 I who have sat by Thebes below the wall
246 And walked among the lowest of the dead.)
247 Bestows one final patronising kiss,
248 And gropes his way, finding the stairs unlit . . .

217. END OF THE WORKDAY: For the violet hour motif, see note 380.  See also note 221 for the sailor home from the sea.

218. TIRESIAS, INTRODUCED: Eliot: “Tiresias, although a mere spectator and not indeed a ’character’, is yet the most important personage in the poem, uniting all the rest. Just as the one-eyed merchant, seller of currants, melts into the Phoenician Sailor, and the latter is not wholly distinct from Ferdinand Prince of Naples, so all the women  are one woman, and the two sexes meet in Tiresias. What Tiresias sees, in fact, is the substance of the poem. The whole passage from Ovid is of great anthropological interest:

‘...Cum Iunone iocos et maior vestra profecto est
Quam, quae contingit maribus’, dixisse, ‘voluptas.’
Illa negat; placuit quae sit sententia docti
Quaerere Tiresiae: venus huic erat utraque nota.
Nam duo magnorum viridi coeuntia silva
Corpora serpentum baculi violaverat ictu
Deque viro factus, mirabile, femina septem
Egerat autumnos; octavo rursus eosdem
Vidit et ‘est vestrae si tanta potentia plagae’,
Dixit ‘ut auctoris sortem in contraria mutet,
Nunc quoque vos feriam!’ percussis anguibus isdem
Forma prior rediit genetivaque venit imago.
Arbiter hic igitur sumptus de lite iocosa
Dicta Iovis firmat; gravius Saturnia iusto
Nec pro materia fertur doluisse suique
Iudicis aeterna damnavit lumina nocte,
At pater omnipotens (neque enim licet inrita cuiquam
Facta dei fecisse deo) pro lumine adempto
Scire futura dedit poenamque levavit honore.’”

See Ovid, Metamorphoses 3:412-443:

“Twas now, while these transactions past on Earth,
And Bacchus thus procur’d a second birth,
When Jove, dispos’d to lay aside the weight
Of publick empire and the cares of state,
As to his queen in nectar bowls he quaff’d,
‘In troth,’ says he, and as he spoke he laugh’d,
‘The sense of pleasure in the male is far
More dull and dead, than what you females share.’
Juno the truth of what was said deny’d;
Tiresias therefore must the cause decide,
For he the pleasure of each sex had try’d.
It happen’d once, within a shady wood,
Two twisted snakes he in conjunction view’d,
When with his staff their slimy folds he broke,
And lost his manhood at the fatal stroke.
But, after seven revolving years, he view’d
The self-same serpents in the self-same wood:
‘And if,’ says he, ‘such virtue in you lye,
That he who dares your slimy folds untie
Must change his kind, a second stroke I’ll try.’
Again he struck the snakes, and stood again
New-sex’d, and strait recover’d into man.
Him therefore both the deities create
The sov’raign umpire, in their grand debate;
And he declar’d for Jove: when Juno fir’d,
More than so trivial an affair requir’d,
Depriv'd him, in her fury, of his sight,
And left him groping round in sudden night.
But Jove (for so it is in Heav’n decreed,
That no one God repeal another’s deed)
Irradiates all his soul with inward light,
And with the prophet's art relieves the want of sight.”

219. PERCEPTIVENESS: See John 9: 25:

“Whether [Jesus, by healing on the Sabbath] be a sinner or no, I know not: one thing I know, that, whereas I was blind, now I see.”

Compare Tiresias's ability to see (note 218) with that of Madame Sosostris (line 54), or of the one-eyed merchant with his allusion to the one-eyed Odin (lines 52, 54 and note 208), or, at the bottom of the sea, the pearly-eyed sailor (line 48).  For more of the eye's limitations, see note 308.

FEELING OLD: For another perspective of an old, blind man, see Eliot, Gerontion (1920):

“Here I am, an old man in a dry month
...A dull head among windy spaces.
...An old man in a draughty house
Under a windy knob.

...And an old man driven by the Trades
To a sleepy corner.
Tenants of the house,
Thoughts of a dry brain in a dry season.”

Gerontion had been part of an earlier draft of this poem but was cut at the suggestion of Ezra Pound. See note 167.

See also Eliot, The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock:

“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?
...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.”

Eliot wrote Prufrock in 1911 at the age of 26, feeling old before his time.  It was first published in 1915, and Eliot’s first book ofpoems, Prufrock and Other Observations, was published in 1917.  Gerontion was written in 1919, three years before the publicationof The Waste Land.

221. HOME FROM THE SEA: Eliot: “This may not appear as exact as Sappho's lines, but I had in mind the longshore' or 'dory' fisherman, who returns at nightfall.”

See Sappho, fragment 95 (ca. 600 BCE, tr. Henry Thornton Wharton, 1895):

“Evening, thou that bringest all that bright morning scattered;
thou bringest the sheep, the goat, the child back to her mother.”

Compare Albert returning to Lil at lines 139 and following, and see also Robert Louis Stevenson, Requiem (1879):

“Home is the sailor, home from the sea.”

See also Dante, Purgatorio 8:1-2:

“Twas now the hour that turneth back desire
In those who sail the sea...”

223. CHANGING TIMES: Typists, the two-career household and ready-to-serve meals, were part of the war and post-war trend. See note 256.  Compare the typist’s teatime with Countess Marie’s coffee break (line 11), the bar talk at last call (line 139), or lunch with the Smyrna merchant (line 213). See also note 263, and observe how time moves here from evening to breakfast to teatime.

227. COMBINATIONS are undergarments; stays are corsets. Contrast the piled up bed and the hyacinth girl's hair and clothes in need of drying (line 38) with Cleopatra’s chambers (line 77).

231. CARBUNCULAR: Pimpled. A carbuncle can also describe a burning charcoal or a red garnet stone.  Compare these to the sailor’s pearly eyes (line 48). See also Shakespeare, Hamlet 2.2.401, where Hamlet recites a play passage in which a vengeful Pyrrhus, son of Achilles, has “eyes like carbuncles,” i.e red and bent on killing.  The unsourced play is a dramatization of the fall of Troy from Virgil, Aeneid 2:506-558, and in this passage Aeneas is telling Queen Dido how Pyrrhus has covered himself in blood to avenge the death of his father.  Compare Dryden’s translation at Aeneid 2:539: “And all his father sparkles in his eyes.”  Compare this to the “one bold stare” of the young man (line 232).

234. BRADFORD MILLIONAIRE: Bradford was an English manufacturing town and home to the nouveaux riche.  Compare the socialite chess players at line 137.

The expected guest, a young house clerk, is "one of the low" (line 233) and of an even station with the typist home at teatime, but his stature is raised by his self-assurance.

235. THE TIME IS NOW: Compare this to the impatience of Marvell over his Coy Mistress (note 141), the “good time” Albert is expected to want (line 148) and the bartender’s call to “hurry up it’s time” (lines 141-169), all essentially happening at once.

242. INDIFFERENCE: Compare this to the rape of Philomela, whom Tereus rendered unresponsive and indifferent by cutting out her tongue (note 99).  See also the indifferent chess players, waiting for a knock upon the door (line 138).

244. FORESUFFERANCE: Tiresias, who had “perceived the scene, and foretold the rest” (see line 229), now reminds us, with a word that may be newly coined, that he perceives only by virtue of having “foresuffered,” or first experienced.  See note 218.  In Ovid’s tale, his experience was as an “umpire”between the sexes; however, Eliot suggests at note 218 that Tiresias, having suffered both sides, is more important than a mere spectator: he “sees... the substance of the poem,” and unites all of the characters.

245. THEBES, BELOW THE WALL: See Algernon Charles  Swinburne, Tiresias (1885):

“I, Tiresias the prophet, seeing in Thebes
Much evil...”

See also Homer, Odyssey 11:561-565 (ca. 800 BCE, tr. A. T. Murray, 1919), where Odysseus tells his crew,

“Ye think, forsooth, that ye are going to your dear native land; but Circe has pointed out for us another journey, even to the house of Hades and dread Persephone, to consult the spirit of Theban Tiresias;”

246. WALKING AMONG THE DEAD: See Dante, Inferno 20:34-42, where Tiresias, being one who sees the future, is consigned to walk backwards in the eighth circle of hell:

“See, he has made a bosom of his shoulders!
Because he wished to see too far before him
Behind he looks, and backward goes his way:

Behold Tiresias, who his semblance changed,
When from a male a female he became,
His members being all of them transformed;

And afterwards was forced to strike once more
The two entangled serpents with his rod,
Ere he could have again his manly plumes.”

TIRESIAS, FROM OTHER PERSPECTIVES: Tiresias makes a range of appearances in other works of literature, although he is frequently presented as a blind soothsayer with stern advice.  In addition to Ovid (note 218), Homer (note 245) and Dante (note 246), see Sophocles, Oedipus Rex, 468-474 (429 BCE, tr. Francis Storr, 1921), where Tiresias curses Oedipus:

“Thus then I answer: since thou hast not spared
To twit me with my blindness--thou hast eyes,
Yet see'st not in what misery thou art fallen,
Nor where thou dwellest nor with whom for mate.
Dost know thy lineage? Nay, thou know'st it not,
And all unwitting art a double foe
To thine own kin, the living and the dead.”

See also Sophocles, Antigone 5:79-83 (441 BC, tr. Francis Storr, 1912), where Tiresias curses King Creon for threatening to bury his niece Antigone alive:

“I prophesy.  For, yet a little while,
And sound of lamentation shall be heard,
Of men and women through thy desolate halls;
And all thy neighbor States are leagues to avenge
Their mangled warriors who have found a grave
I' the maw of wolf or hound.”

Compare this passage to the dog that would “dig it up again” at lines 74-75.  The “desolate halls” of Thebes can also be compared to the desolate streets of Jerusalem at Jeremiah 33: 3 (see note 27) of Babylon at Revelation 18: 19 (see note 209) and ultimately to the unreal city of London (see note 60).

For another king sternly advised by Tiresias, see Euripides, The Bacchae (406 BCE), in which King Penteus is warned not to cross Dionysus, the god of fertility.  When Penteus ignores Tiresias’sadvice, the god’s female followers, the doglike Maenads (the “raving ones”), tear him apart limb for limb.  Euripides was said to have died a similar death shortly after writing this play; see  Satyrus, Life of Euripides (ca. 250 BCE).  Compare the assault on fertility to the infertile image of Mr. Eugenides and his pocket full of currants (see note 210) and to Frazer’s Artemis, goddess of fertility, being hung in effigy (see note 55).

For an alternative cause of Tiresias’s blindness, see Callymachus, The Bathing of Pallas (ca. 250 BCE), in which Tiresias is blinded after seeing Pallas bathing.  Compare this to Ovid’s Actaeon being killed by his own dogs after watching Diana bathe (see note 197), and also to the fate of King Penteus, above.

Finally, reflecting the Tiresias of line 219, see Guillaume Apollinaire, The Breasts of Tiresias (1917), a French play described by its author as “a surrealistic drama,” thus coining a new word in modern art. Surrealism was not fully defined as a movement until after The Waste Land, although it was directly preceded by the more current trend of Dadaism (see note 418).

248. GROPING AWAY: Line 247 is enigmatically missing a subject, but in context it is either Tiresias himself, being blind and groping, or the carbuncular guest, being the patronizing third person and a departing lover (line 250) or, in the spirit of note 218, a melting of both, and all. At the end of the scene, he “gropes his way” out of the room.  Compare Fyodor Dostoevsky, The Brothers Karamazov: The Grand Inquisitor (1880, tr. ConstanceGarnett 1912): In Ivan’s dramatic “poem,” Christ’s only answer to his inquisitor is a kiss:

“The kiss glows in his heart, but the old man adheres to his idea.”

Christ, like the Ovidian Tiresias “groping into sudden night” (see note 218), then leaves into “the dark alleys of the town.”

Thursday, July 21

Moleskin 4.1: Audience

But where was I? Yes, the point. As I proceed past sixth grade, I begin beyond all whims and maybes to realize what wasn’t clear on the earlier pages: that I have a story to tell, a singular tale, and there is a point to it. In the summer before seventh grade I start to see past the nothing and everything of my memories that I have words that need to be said, and a narrative to lead me through my hesitations. And here is where I find myself turning, once again, to my audience. You are the point. You are the only reason I am writing, the prompt to get me to remember my lines, the pull that hooks me onto the stage and sets me before the spotlight. My better instincts would keep all this to myself and wallow in a comfortable shadowy shyness, but you, out there in the darkness, are why I have taken to these pages. All of you, in ways. But one of you in particular.

Wednesday, July 20


This is our new house, same as the old house,
Where we once lived before moving away
Into the next house, the house before this house
Ran out of room for a family to stay.
We thought the next house might be the last house
To live out our days in an ambient way
But this is the next house after the last house,
Where we once lived before moving away.

We thought the last house might be the best house,
And it was nice for a year and a day:
It was a new house, a nothing-to-do house,
All we could want for the price we could pay,
And it was a big house, a two story tall house,
A dream house for those who like dreaming that way;
At least it was newer and bigger than this house,
And it was nice for a year and a day,

But we missed our old house, our used-to-be-cold house,
And found our way back to a place we can say:
"A house that is old is a house that’s well settled,
A house that is small can be comfortably warm,
And the house that is ours at the end of the day
Is the house we return to, the house we call home."
This is a good house, the house we remember.
We’ve found our way back to a place we can stay.

Tuesday, July 19

Good People Of Chicago

Good People of Chicago, you and I
Belie our nature to categorize
By last names and colors of opacity:
Though I am see-through and you are tag-defined,
We all share the streets, the weather and time.

Good People, look beyond Division Street,
Past the iron gates and the cul-de-sacs:
We share main roads and fenceless avenues,
Undenied paths and ways to get home
Through this grand maze of lines: we need to share—

Good People, look beyond the lake effect
And local winds that vary by degrees:
We share the winter freeze that shuts us in
Till summer sends us out, year after year
To spraying hydrants, Michigan waves, escape—

And as we share time, Good People, you and I,
As the roads stretch on and on with potholes
And snowbanks, as seasons run their cycle,
Time touches all, heals all, moves all, tolls for all,
And here we are, Chicago, until we die.

Monday, July 18


And who would believe the outcome of this gathering babel?

Observe Sturnus vulgaris, everywhere,
A bird become too ubiquitous to deserve
The usual refuge of conserving care,
And so it’s granted air without reserve,
Thanks to the Bard for having Hotspur teach
The bird to speak the single word of Mortimer,
Which led old Eugene Schieffelin to reach
Across the Great Atlantic to import ‘em here;
He may have heard in turn of Laurence Sterne,
Once troubled by a caged bird that would shout
For freedom: “Can’t get out!” the starling churned;
“God help thee!” said he, “but I'll let thee out.”
Thus Eugene did release his forty darlings,
Progeny to a quarter billion starlings.

Sunday, July 17

The Disappearance Of Walter Herring

Walter Herring, age 29, was doodling on paper yesterday when he got carried away. Literally. According to witnesses, Herring had been scribbling on a paper place mat in a local restaurant when two men in collar-up overcoats came in and stood on either side of him. Herring and the men had a brief moment of what seemed to be conversation, then suddenly the men took hold of Herring’s arms, stood him up and walked him out of the restaurant. They pushed Herring into the back seat of a black car and inconspicuously drove away.

Tom Smith, the restaurant’s manager, had been working in the back when the incident occurred, but he was immediately called into the dining room after the abductors had left. “Everyone was gabbing away about what they had just seen,” said Smith. “After a few minutes I was able to piece together what had actually happened. ”

“It was Walter Herring, he’s my neighbor,” said Mrs. Harriet Lockwert of 872 Maplecourt Road. “He lives right next to me, so I know it was him. Yes, 874.”

“Oh, he was just sitting there, doodling, you know,” said Trent Dagnow. “What? Oh yes. He had this kind of absent face on, so he couldn’t have been writing anything seri... What? Oh, well, yes. No, you don’t need my address.”

“They just talked in whispers for a while and then they grabbed him,” said Archie Baldwin of Bensenville. “Yes, I was at the next table.”

“They looked like mobsters,” added Archie Baldwin’s wife, who asked to remain unnamed.

“Oh, Marcy, no, they were G-men, I’m sure,” said Constance Labelle.

“No, you didn’t get a good look at them,” said Mrs. Baldwin. “One of them had a scar.”

“They were from the State Department,” said Jack Lloyd.

“How do you know?” an unidentified voice in the crowd asked. “It was on their license plate. A government seal,” said Lloyd.

“Jack, you wouldn’t know a government seal if they stamped it on your forehead,” said another unidentified voice.

“Maybe so, but I saw it. It said, ‘U.S.A. State Department, Secret Service.’” said Lloyd.

“Jack, sit down,” said William Richter of Peoria. “Last I checked, you couldn’t even read.”

“Shut up, Billy, I can read.”

“What’s that say,” said Richter.

“I don’t have to prove anything,” said Lloyd.

~~~~  ζ  ~~~~

Detective Morley Bright of the Chicago Police Department arrived approximately forty five minutes after Herring’s disappearance. Bright questioned the several restaurant patrons who had remained behind waiting for him, then he talked with Tom Smith, who had taken notes from the diners who had left.

“Very concise report, Tom. ”

“Thank you. ”

“But I hate to tell you...”

“What’s that, detective?”

“The Secret Service is part of the Department of the Interior.”

“I know. I was just reporting what I heard.”

“So do you put much value in what Jack Lloyd said?”


“Why did you record it then?”

“Oh I don’t know. ”

After further questioning, Detective Bright determined that only the quotes from Harriet Lockwert and Trent Dagnow were of any worth in Smith’s report. It was certainly Walter Herring, and he had apparently been doodling.

The other witnesses, whom Bright had interviewed directly, were able to confirm many facts about themselves and that they had all been eating lunch at Denny’s on 1213 Rowday Drive when “the hell had broken loose.” They used these words several times, but  no one would elaborate. They asked Bright if he thought the TV news was going to come, but Bright was already done talking to them.

~~~~ ξ  ~~~~

“This is Brad Kopak of the Channel 4 Eyewitness News Team, live at the scene of Denny’s Restaurant at 1213 Rowday Drive, where just moments ago a most unusual abduction occurred. Behind me are Jerry Lyman and Mimi Peters. Jerry, Mimi, can you tell our viewers what just took place here.”



“Uh, Jerry, Mimi, we understand that a Mr. Walter Herring of 874 Maplecourt Road was forcibly dragged out of here tonight by two mysterious men. Can either of you confirm this?”


“Pardon me?”

“It happened today, not tonight. About eight hours ago. The hell broke loose.”

“So you’ve been here since two o’clock?”

“Well, sure.”

“Why not?”

“Uh, right, well —then what happened?”

“Since two o’clock? Not a whole lot.”

“What happened at two o’clock?”

“They took Walter Herring...”

“He was just sitting there doodling away...”

“And then the hell broke loose...”


“And that’s it.”

“Uh, well! So there you have it. Obviously not all has been answered yet, but we’ll keep you posted. From the Denny’s at 1213 Rowday Drive, this is Brad Kopak, investigative reporter. Back to you, Judy.”

~~~~ ϰ  ~~~~

“What was Walter Herring doodling? That is the question —the mystery of the week here in Chicagoland, and it is very mysterious indeed. Mr. Herring had been at Denny’s waiting on a late lunch last Friday. The meal had not yet come and he took out a pen and started drawing on his place mat with what one witness called an “absent” face. Suddenly, two men wearing trench coats and dark glasses burst into the restaurant. They went immediately to Mr. Herring and picked him up out of his chair, talked to him for a minute in hushed tones and then escorted him out of the restaurant. But here’s what no one noticed right away:  They also took the place mat! It was not until after they had left with Mr. Herring that anyone noticed that the place mat was gone!

“What was Mr. Herring doodling? We may never know for sure, but that is the question we will try to uncover in this week’s episode of... ‘It Really Happened.’

“We will return to ‘It Really Happened’ after these messages.”

~~~~  ϕ  ~~~~

“Hey Obert, will ya take a look over here?” Harrient Lockwert of 872 Maplecourt Road was leaning over her sink, peering out the kitchen window. “There’s somebody snooping around at Walter Herring’s house.”

“Let it be, Har. Stop snooping.” He was reading the paper.

“But Obert, they look like criminals.”

“Exactly. Don’t get involved.”

“Don’t you care, Obert? Don’t you want to help Walter?”

“Harriet, I barely know Walter Herring. In the five years he’s lived next to us, we’ve barely waved at each other.”

“Yes.” Harriet pondered, went back to the window, this time peeking more discreetly through the curtains. “But suppose they come here next?”

“Why would they do that?”

“They’ve got my name in the police report.”

“Harriet, will you get away from the window.” Obert put his paper down. “Look, Har. You saw that show on the television last night. Those guys are all concerned about a doodle, right? But it has nothing to do with us, so let’s keep it that way!”

Harriet went back into the kitchen and closed the curtain all the way. But she couldn’t resist one last peek.

Saturday, July 16

Notes From "Notes From Underground"

Dostoevsky Final (Russian 141, 11/30/90, Prof. Rubchak)

The question, with its “quoted translation,” is lost for all time; the answer is all that remains.

The Underground Man perceives the prostitute Liza as being a creature and a victim of debauchery, which itself exists, according to his perception, in lovelessness, with a general lack of all feeling.  (The quoted translation uses the phrase “at the culmination point” of love.  Another text, translated by David Magarshack, says “consummation” (339), which seems to imply that the vice is less a result of true love’s previous existence as an aspect following its absence.)  This perception differs from that of one of Liza’s more ordinary clients in that the Underground Man sees into this “general picture” and stays conscious of it, instead of merely being a “coarse and shameless” part of it.

To the ordinary man —the “plain man” or the “man of action” (269) —vice is just another stone wall before which he invariably yields.  As the Underground Man had described, to such a man of action “a stone wall is not a challenge as it is, for instance, to us thinking men... and it is not an excuse for turning aside.... No, [the ordinary man] capitulates in all sincerity” (269).  In other words, such a man yields to his debauched desire and lets himself be calmed by its effectual wall.

The Underground Man, a thinking man, sees debauchery here as  “inane... revolting... coarse... shameless;”  in another translation, “hideous... gross... absurd” (339).  In his mind he seems to turn away, repulsed —and yet he, too, is a living part of it.  The spider of vice even makes him feel “creepy” (339), as if he were the  spider himself.  Indeed, he has spent two hours “capitulating” with this as yet nameless prostitute, and still he continues to ‘lie next to her and look into her eyes.  But he is not calmed by her in any way.  The ordinary man is not revolted and pretends that there is a kind of consummated love in the prostitute’s bedroom; he becomes sincerely soothed by this lie.  But the Underground Man  is cursed by a continually sensitive conscience; he is painfully aware of this reality of absent love; and if he has paused at this wall, it has not been for “cheap happiness,” but rather “exalted suffering” (376).

Friday, July 15

TWL, Lines 207-214: Mr. Eugenides

207 Unreal City
208 Under the brown fog of a winter noon
209 Mr. Eugenides, the Smyrna merchant
210 Unshaven, with a pocket full of currants
211 C.i.f. London: documents at sight,
212 Asked me in demotic French
213 To luncheon at the Cannon Street Hotel
214 Followed by a weekend at the Metropole.

208. TIME FRAGMENTS: We return to the Unreal City.  Recall lines 60-61, which had set the city in the fog of a winter dawn.  Time is not linear, however, and memories are fragmented; see note 263 and compare lines 202, 222, 263.  See also note 60 for recurrences of the Unreal City and for specific London references.

209. MR. EUGENIDES is introduced just as the noon fog rolls in.  By his name alone, he would seem to be one who is well-bred (eugenetic), but the image here (lines 207-214) of an unshaven, demotic London currant merchant is unmitigatedly negative. His no-credit sales suggest a lack of trust; he chooses to speak a base version of French instead of the Greek or Turkish of his native Smyrna or the English of his clientele; and he operates within the prevailing brown fog of an unreal city. Even the product he sells, small dried grapes, are far from what one would hope to find in a healing holy grail (see note 0.2). In his notes, Eliot marked him as the “one-eyed” merchant in the Tarot deck (see line 52 and note 46) and his invitation directly follows an oblique reminder of  Philomela’s rape (see lines 203-206), suggesting that this too is the woven tapestry and birdsong of a victim’s report. But Eliot’s notes also associated the merchant with victims, identifying him as one who “melts into” the sailor who drowned and lost his looks and stature (see note 218 and see lines 312-321) and is himself tied to the drowned hyacinth girl (see note 126).

The merchant's one eye may also allude to the Norse god Odin, who gave up half his sight in exchange for a drink from the Well of Wisdom; see Storri Sturluson, The Prose Edda (ca. 1300 AD).

See also Rudyard Kipling, The Finest Story In The World (1891):

“When next I met him it was in Gracechurch Street with a bill-book chained to his waist. Business took him over London Bridge, and I accompanied him. He was very full of the importance of that book and magnified it. As we passed over the Thames we paused to look at the steamer unloading great slabs of white and brown marble. A barge drifted under the steamer’s stern and a lonely ship’s cow in that barge bellowed. Charlie’s face changed from the face of the bank clerk to that of an unknown and – though he would not have believed this – a much shrewder man.”

See also Revelation 18:1-19 (note 0.5) for multiple references to merchants of the earth in a fallen city:

“And after these things I saw another angel come down from heaven, having great power; and the earth was lightened with his glory. And he cried mightily with a strong voice, saying, Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and is become the habitation of devils, and the hold of every foul spirit, and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird. For all nations have drunk of the wine of the wrath of her fornication, and the kings of the earth have committed fornication with her, and the merchants of the earth are waxed rich through the abundance of her delicacies. And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Come out of her, my people, that ye benot partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues. For her sins have reached unto heaven, and God hath  remembered her iniquities. Reward her even as she rewarded you, and double unto her double according to her works: in the cup which she hath filled fill to her double. How much she hath glorified herself, and lived deliciously, so much torment and sorrow give her: for she saith in her heart, I sit a queen, and am no widow, and shall see no sorrow. Therefore shall her plagues come in one day, death, and mourning, and famine; and she shall be utterly burned with fire: for strong is the Lord God who judgeth her. And the kings of the earth, who have committed fornication and lived deliciously with her, shall bewail her, and lament for her, when they shall see the smoke of her burning, Standing afar off for the fear of her torment, saying, Alas, alas that great city Babylon, that mighty city! for in one hour is thy judgment come.  And the merchants of the earth shall weep and mourn over her; for no man buyeth their merchandise any more:  The merchandise of gold, and silver, and precious stones, and of pearls, and fine linen, and purple, and silk, and scarlet, and all thine wood, and all manner vessels of ivory, and all manner vessels of most precious wood, and of brass, and iron, and marble, And cinnamon, and odours, and ointments, and frankincense, and wine, and oil, and fine flour, and wheat, and beasts, and sheep, and horses, and chariots, and slaves, and souls of men. And the fruits that thy soul lusted after are departed from thee, and all things which were dainty and goodly are departed from thee, and thou shalt find them no more at all. The merchants of these things, which were made rich by her, shall stand afar off for the fear of her torment, weeping and wailing, And saying, Alas, alas that great city, that was clothed in fine linen, and purple, and scarlet, and decked with gold, and precious stones, and pearls! For in one hour so great riches is come to nought. And every shipmaster, and all the company in ships, and sailors, and as many as trade by sea, stood afar off, And cried when they saw the smoke of her burning, saying, What city is like unto this great city! And they cast dust on their heads, and cried, weeping and wailing, saying, Alas, alas that great city, wherein were made rich all that had ships in the sea by reason of her costliness! for in one hour is she made desolate.”

BABYLON, the fallen city in the Revelation account, is also a town of weeping at note 182, of desolate streets at note 248 and of falling towers at note 376.

211. CURRANTS: Eliot: “The currants were quoted at a price ‘carriage and insurance free to London’; and the Bill of Lading, etc., were to be handed to the buyer upon payment of the sight draft.”  In other words, shipping costs were built into the price, payable on delivery. Currants are dried, seedless berries, suggesting infertility, the opposite of the renewal and revegetation themes of the poem (see note 0.2).  They also carry inferences of homosexuality and graveside preparations; see note 214 for each of these perceptions.

212. DEMOTIC means common, of the people. Demotic and demobbed (line 139) were the only specific words Ezra Pound had suggested to improve the poem, but he also offered general encouragement and suggested broad edits.  See note 0.4.

214. THE CANNON STREET HOTEL, a hotel about a quarter mile northwest of where Eliot worked (see note 66), frequented by businessmen commuting to and from the Continent, was also reputed to be a homosexual rendezvous.

THE METROPOLE is a luxury resort hotel in Brighton on England’s southwestern coast, about sixty miles west of London. The hotel opened to great fanfare in 1890.

HOMOSEXUALITY, already suggested by the rendezvous at the Cannon Street Hotel and the follow-up weekend in Brighton, might also be inferred by the currants in the merchant’s pockets (line 210); see Whitman, These, I, Singing in Spring (note 2), in which currants are among the wild plants being “collect[ed] for lovers” as “the token of comrades”:

“Collecting, I traverse the garden, the world—but soon I pass the gates,
Now along the pond-side—now wading in a little, fearing not the wet.”

WEEDS AND WILDFLOWERS may be a homosexual token by Whitman’s measure, or a festive accouterment by any measure (see, e.g., Spenser, Prothalamion (note 176)), but there is also a more somber parallel: Compare the merchant’s currants with the “weedy trophies” that Ophelia reached for at her watery death (see notes 172 and 378), or Cornelia’s leaves and flowers covering unburied men (see note 74).  See also Whitman, Memories (note 2) 7:

“Copious I break, I break the sprigs from the bushes
With loaded arms I come, pouring for you,”

and compare the plants that drain their forgetfulness along the River Lethe (see note 4). See also the death and mourning ties of the lilac (line 2), the hyacinth (line 35) and the violet (note 378).

Thursday, July 14

Moleskin 3.10: Staying Alive

But this is —I am —more than a collection of anecdotes, so let me get to the point.  Chapter One: I was born; Chapter Two: I am alive; and Chapter Three:  ...It’s true, I don’t want to leave chapter two. I want to stay a little more in the trump of innocence and recreate those days with a parade of self-told anecdotes; let me tangent off in a dozen directions: friend Paul raising my musical awareness of Elton John; four square and fart jokes at school; the discovery, by a friend’s Hanukkah/Christmas present, of Pachinko; the legend and tribute of the kid squished by a steamroller; the Easter snowstorm of ‘74; regularly visiting our Chicago cousins; the all-orange decor of our living room; playing ice hockey on a frozen pond, without blades or proper sticks; the odd, sad story of the Zilligans; having, briefly, a dog and a cat at the same time; being given a punching bag for Christmas; being served Rommegrot on Lenten Wednesdays; weekends with Dad at the library; afternoons with Mom at the nursing home...

Wednesday, July 13

Coming In From The Cold

A Prayer

He’s living, he’s dying
she’s quiet, she’s crying,
and look at me, I’m none of these
and slowly going crazy.
And he’s working and she’s playing,
and —how would they term my deliberating?
Poor dullboy Jack,
he’s never gonna win.
They’re praying all the time,
and I’m praying right beside them
but it’s what we’re doing in between
that’s gonna save us in the end. See?
He’s living and he’s dying
and she’s quiet and she’s crying,
and I run on like my prayers
hadn’t said a goddamn thing.
So let him live, God, he deserves it,
and let him die, he’s well-prepared.
Let her find her peace in you
and let her cry right in your ear.
But God just let me be
among the living dying sitting crying
God just let me be
no more in limbo,
that’s my prayer...