by Jonathan Vold

Wednesday, August 31

4. Messaging

  (...the message of a chance alignment...)
  rain: cold colorless falling wet hard relentless dominating,
  weather offputting, setting aside coatless hatless daylight
  hours, nature’s nowcast, never mind forecast, upsetting social
  structures, cancelling performances played, attended,
  offering lightning’s unsubscribed sizzle instead, deceptively
  dry; thunder, decidedly loud exclamations without explana-
  tion; patter, splatter, drizzle, less music than noise then pour.

Tuesday, August 30

3. Twitter

  ( compose an image, more, to capture...)
  precipitation’s plain dull pallette shivers endlessly, above
  below around: today we wait, anticipating better fronts, left
  listening for conclusive punctuation, getting only ellipses,
  gradual premonitions hinting what’s coming: distant booms
  first telegraphed in whiplashed flashes; later followed by
  smells, electricity’s ominous odor, dampened dust, stirred up
  dirt, awakened earth; finally touch, feel: rainfall taking over.

Monday, August 29

2. Snapchat

  (...trying to find a thousand words without a camera...)
  subtitle: 1,000 imperfect words; thesis: an impossible sudoku.
  opening paragraph, initial sentencing: possessive noun,
  adjectives, subjective action verb, adverbs, et cetera...  already
  skeptical critics would criticize, deconstruct, misconstrue &
  decompose what I’ve proposed / begun composing:
  meanwhile, earth’s atmosphere weeps / continues weeping;
  another imitative artist cries, his ink unerasably flowing.

Sunday, August 28

1. Snapshot

  ...I, on a rainy day, once found the perfect picture
  when sunshine filtered through rolling gray
  to give raindrops their color.  Now
  cameras are useless brushes, should some sudden need occur
  , forever missing pixels, looking past contrast, losing focus;
  paint (oil, acrylic, maybe watercolor?) too cannot capture our
  climate’s spectral shades, frameless moments, shifting facts;
  language isn’t any better, not very, but if you’ll pardon
  contractions and count them anyhow (allow poetic cheats,
  permit imperfections), my pen is drawn.  I’m ready.  I’ll try.

Saturday, August 27

Poetry Discovered On A Rainy Day

  Poetry is trying to find
  a thousand words without a camera,
  to compose an image, more, to capture
  the message of a chance alignment
  will serve you better than your cell phone’s
  snapshot “can you hear me now?”
  Poetry is taking the time,
  waiting for lighting, adjusting the speed
  and exposure.  I, on a rainy day,
  once found the perfect picture
  when sunshine filtered through rolling gray
  to give the raindrops their color.  Now
  and then looking for reason
  you discover the art of a thousand words.

Friday, August 26

TWL, Part IV: Translations

  311.5 IV. Death by Water

  ACT FOUR: This is the water section, the fourth of five sections of The Waste Land that adopt the themes of the classical elements of earth, air, fire, water and wind (see note 0.5). Eliot foreshadowed the title and theme of this section pages earlier when Madame Sosostris generally warned her patron to “Fear death by water” (line 55). Like the previous sections, this shorter section is full of allusions, but the primary source of the text is now Eliot’s own voice, loosely translated from a poem he first wrote in French.  See notes 312-321.

  “YOU” THE READER are in this poem.  One might argue that the poet could just as easily have been talking to himself (see line 17) or addressing a particular audience (see the Son of Man at lines 20-30 or the “hypocrite lecteur” at 69-76), or setting up a conversation between characters (see the hyacinth girl and her companion at lines 35-42; Madame Sosostris and her patron at lines 43-59; or the nervous companion at lines 113-126) or playing a single character’s part (see Hieronymo at line 432).
 But the passage in this fourth part seems to be spoken through a crack in the fourth wall, directed more to the “you” of the moment: you, whether transient audience or fellow pilgrim, Gentile or Jew (line 319), who would seek answers through the figurative reading of the cards and the various surrounding elements.  At line 320 it is you who turns the wheel of the seasons, and also you who would turn with the poet towards the wind, that fifth classical element about to be introduced in Part V.
  Maybe, Gentile or Jew, it has been you in the poem all along, at every instance.
  DECONSTRUCTION comes first, however. Before moving windward, consider at lines 312-321 what the water has done, and compare this to how each of the classical elements is deconstructed in turn, beginning at the end of Part I, when the reader is asked to consider what happens to a body planted in the earth (see lines 69-76); then near the end of Part II, when the poet asks, in response to the “you” of lines 113-126, what “we” can ever do in the empty air (see lines 131-138); and finally at the end of Part III, amidst the consumption of fire, when you are turned through the poet’s prodding (see note 308) to the Sermon on the Mount, addressed very much to “you.” See Matthew 6:23 (note 0.5):

  “If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!”

 TRANSLATIONS: For a final take on the identity of “you,” consider the multiple languages used throughout Eliot’s poem and notes, with at least 27 passages that Eliot deliberately left untranslated, including Greek (line 0.3), Italian (lines 0.4 and 428 and notes 64, 293 and 428), German (lines 12, 31-34 and 42 and note 367), French (lines 76 and 202 and note 60), Nymphic (lines 77-278, 290-291 and 306), Birdsong (lines 103, 203-206, 358 and 393), Old Occitan (line 428 and note 428), Latin (line 429 and notes 92 and 218), Old English (line 432) and Sanskrit (433-434; Sanskrit also appears with translation at lines 402, 412 and 419 and note 434).  This use of many voices, like the children’s voices singing in the dome (see line 202 ad note 202), may suggest an appeal to a universal audience, with you being all who have ears (see Matthew 11:14 (note 0.5): “He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.”).  Yet it is in this Part IV that Eliot departs from this aloofness by translating Dans Le Restaurant, one of his own earlier poems (see note 321) that had previously been published only in French.  He is still addressing a universal audience by appealing ecumenically to Gentile or Jew (line 319), but even in doing this he is addressing a singular reader: you, having not only ears but a part in the action (line 320) and striking similarities to the victim (line 321).

Thursday, August 25

Moleskin 4.6: My Life As A Kid

  Don’s sister, his only sibling, lived with her husband halfway between our old townhome and our old apartment. Their daughter, an only child, was the apple of her uncle’s eye. The balance of his attention was sure to change in the years ahead, but I wasn’t sensing it that summer. All I saw was an old habit-worn bachelor stubbornly set in his ways, and whatever care he had for kids and family was obscured by caricature. He kept stacks of Playboys in a basement file cabinet. He had regular poker nights with the guys. He brandished a heavy sassage accent and gave my mother a monosyllabic nickname. He showed a humorous type-A charm to everyone in the rooms he entered —everyone, that is, except for kids. As if to prove the point, he kept a W. C. Fields poster on one of the walls of his house long after stepsons intruded, telling us in the clearest terms: “I never met a kid I liked.” Our new cousin, it seems, had been an exception, but we were given the rule.

Wednesday, August 24

The Sun, Continued

  from Walled Gardens
  But if I hold my mirror to the sun,
  I can’t pretend the two of these are one
  and same: although the image of the sun
  is in the mirror, it is not the sun
  itself; likewise the mirror itself is one
  thing and the image is another. One
  may never know a thing about the sun
  and still reflect its light, just as the sun
  may shine its rays of light on everyone
  but never be diminished. I am one
  who looks through cloudy skies, and I am one
  whose eyes are sometimes clouded, so the sun
  and what I would perceive are not the same;
  whatever else, the sun is not to blame.

Tuesday, August 23

Turning To The Sun

  from Walled Gardens
  My heart is but a mirror in the fog
  of my own hypocrisy; my very soul
  is stained by the rust of doubt and unbelief,
  and the fog won’t lift and the rust won’t go away.
  God knows I’ve tried to make this mirror shine
  but all I have is spit and vinegar,
  a sprayer of hate and a rag of hostility,
  and the fog won’t lift and the rust won’t go away.

  “Faith,” I’m told, “will make your mirror shine:
  faith and the unstained virtue of your creed.”
  And so I turn my mirror to the sun
  and through the darkness I begin to pray:
  “Create in me a clean heart, O God,
  renew my spirit, help my unbelief
  ...that the fog would lift and the rust would go away.”

Monday, August 22

Polishing the Mirror

  from Walled Gardens
  In time
      we are no longer
  testing the arguments
  that our experience
  will somehow
      make us stronger
  as if each pang of hunger
  itself were sustenance,
  as if the circumstance
  of age could
      make us younger.
  No more this
      vain pretending
  our skin gets tougher when
  we feel reality
      burn like the sun.
  We are born to suffer and
  bear our mortality;
  there will be
      no happy ending
  before this
      day is done.
 But this too
      is from the sun:
  a secondary fire cast
  from rippling waters,
  a flashing picture
  of the waters’ movement
      brushed upon the wall,
  and you start to see that
  everything is a mirror
  of a higher power
      of aboriginal light;
  But this too
      is from the sun:
  the bent reflection
  of passing souls
  on a dagger’s face
  whose verging angle
  and sharpened edge
      turn angels into devils,
  and you let your dagger
  talk to you, but it
  never tells you
  what is true
      or what is false.
 In time
      all secondary
  images turn to gray,
  stealing the light of day
  and leaving
  impressions on the mirror
  of our mortality,
  yet we may never see
  a time when
      truth shines clearer.
  No more this
  what keeps our darkened hearts
  strong: each determined beat
      comes from the sun,
  and every spark imparts
  the sun’s eternity
  of truth that
      keeps on burning
  after the
      day is done.
  And this too
      is from the sun.

Sunday, August 21


  from Walled Gardens
  But what about this intellectual exercise of mine,
  stirring up the dust and shifting with the wind?
  If I can’t find my way to God unless God shows
  the way, there can be no mindless praise,
  but what about this praiseless mind of mine?
  And what about intelligence? The premise of creation,
  the covet of my soul is the core of my design,
  yet it’s nothing but a word, only one of many spoken,
  and it’s keeping me in place. I’m sworn to intelligence,
  another soldier standing at the gate.
  If love is perfected by love reciprocated,
  why must my intelligence be tethered to the ground?
  My mind, my very soul, is confounded and bewildered,
  beholden to the mind over mine.

Saturday, August 20

The Fire Sermon

  by Siddhartha Gautama Buddha (my own translation)
  Everything is burning, holy ones.
  And what is everything?
  The eye, holy ones, is on fire;
  the forms that pass it by are on fire;
  the eye’s own awareness is on fire;
  the impressions it receives are on fire,
  and every sensation spawned
  by the need for those impressions:
  all pleasure, pain and numbness is on fire.
  And how does the fire burn?
  With the fires of passion:
  passion burns the eye, holy ones,
  with fires of hate and lust
  and fires of delusion,
  fires of birth and age, death and sorrow,
  fires of crying and suffering,
  grieving and despairing:
  the eye with all its passions is on fire.
  And not only the eye, holy ones,
  but the ear is on fire and all that can be heard
  is burning;
  the nose is on fire and all that can be smelled
  is burning;
  the tongue is on fire and all that can be tasted
  is burning;
  the body is on fire and all that can be touched
  is burning.  And sensing this, holy ones,
  the wise and honorable disciple
  learns to turn away:
  he turns away from the eye
  turns away from the forms,
  turns away from awareness,
  from impressions
  and from every sensation spawned
  by the need for those impressions,
  turns away from all that is
  pleasant, painful or numb;

  he learns to turn away
  from the ear and from what it hears,
  from the nose and from what it smells,
  from the tongue and from what it tastes,
  from the body and from all that it can touch;
  he learns to turn away from the mind
  and from ideas,
  from the mind’s awareness,
  from impressions
  and from the sensations spawned
  by the need for those impressions;
  he turns away from all that is
  pleasant, painful or numb.
  And by turning away, holy ones,
  the disciple gives up all passions,
  and when he leaves the fires of passion he is free:
  and being free he knows that he is free:
  he knows his birth is finally exhausted,
  his holy life lived, his duty done,
  and finally, holy ones,
  he is no more for this world.

Friday, August 19

TWL, Lines 307-311: Augustine, Buddha and Jesus

307  To Carthage then I came
308  Burning   burning   burning   burning

309  O Lord Thou pluckest me out
310  O Lord Thou pluckest
311  burning

  307. CARTHAGE, literally “new city,” second home of Queen Dido and the site of her tragic affair with Aeneus (see Virgil, Aeneid (note 92), was for St. Augustine a new world.  See Augustine, Confessions (398 AD) 3.1.1, as cited by Eliot (translation not identified).

  Eliot: “V. St. Augustine’s Confessions: ‘to Carthage then I came, where a cauldron of unholy loves sang all about mine ears.’”
  See also Confessions 10.16.25 (tr. E. B. Pusey, 1838):
  “For thus do I remember Carthage, thus all places where I have been, thus men's faces whom I have seen, and things reported by the other senses; thus the health or sickness of the body.”
  Augustine, born in Thagaste, North Africa, in what is now Algeria, first moved to Carthage, now in neighboring Tunisia, for schooling at the age of 16.  From the start he struggled between  his faith and the hedonistic lifestyle of the “subverters” he saw all around him.  See Confessions 3.3.6.  See also Confessions 8.7.17:

  “But I wretched, most wretched, in the very commencement of my early youth, had begged chastity of Thee, and said, ‘Give me chastity and continency, only not yet.’  For I feared lest Thou shouldest hear me soon, and soon cure me of the disease of concupiscence, which I wished to have satisfied, rather than extinguished.”

  At the age of 19, Augustine returned to Thagaste to teach, and while there he became greatly disturbed at the death of a close friend (compare Eliot’s loss of his friend Jean Verdenal, note 42), causing him to return to Carthage two years later.
  Augustine converted to Christianity relatively late in life, at the age of 34, after being especially moved by a random passage from Romans 13:13-14 (see Confessions 8.12.29):
  “Not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying, but put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh to fulfill the lusts thereof.”
  See also Confessions 10.6.8-9, and compare this to Eliot’s tour of the classical elements (notes 0.5, 26):
  “This is it which I love when I love my God.  And what is this?  I asked the earth, and it answered me, ‘I am not He’; and whatsoever are in it confessed the same. I asked the sea and the deeps, and the living creeping things, and they answered, ‘We are not thy God, seek above us.’ I asked the moving air; and the whole air with his inhabitants answered, ‘Anaximenes was deceived, I am not God.’ I asked the heavens, sun, moon, stars, ‘Nor (say they) are we the God whom thou seekest.’ And I replied unto all the things which encompass the door of my flesh: ‘Ye have told me of my God, that ye are not He; tell me something of Him.’ And they cried out with a loud voice, ‘He made us.’”  Finally, see Confessions 10.27.38:
  “Too late loved I Thee, O Thou Beauty of ancient days, yet ever
  new! too late I loved Thee! And behold, Thou wert within, and I abroad, and there I searched for Thee; deformed I, plunging amid those fair forms which Thou hadst made. Thou wert with me, but I was not with Thee. Things held me far from Thee, which, unless they were in Thee, were not at all. Thou calledst, and shoutedst, and burstest my deafness. Thou flashedst, shonest, and scatteredst my blindness. Thou breathedst odours, and I drew in breath and panted for Thee. I tasted, and hunger and thirst. Thou touchedst me, and I burned for Thy peace.”

  308. BURNING: Following the image of Augustine’s cauldron (note 307), see Shakespeare, Macbeth 4.1.10-11 for the witches’ chorus:

  “Double, Double toil and trouble:
  Fire, burn; and cauldron, bubble.”

  See also the witches call of “‘Tis time, tis time,” at note 141.

  For another reference to burning, see Joyce, Ulysses (note 111).

  THE FIRE SERMON: Eliot: “The complete text of the Buddha's Fire Sermon, (which corresponds in importance to the Sermon on the Mount) from which these words are taken, will be found translated in the late Henry Clarke Warren's Buddhism in Translation (Harvard Oriental Series). Mr. Warren was one of the great pioneers of Buddhist studies in the Occident.”

  The Fire Sermon is a central Buddhist text. See Siddhartha Gautama Buddha, Adittapariyaya Sutta, Samyutta Nikaya 35.28 (483 BCE, tr. Warren, 1896)):

  “The eye, O priests, is on fire; forms are on fire; eye-consciousness is on fire; impressions received by the eye are on fire; and whatever sensation, pleasant, unpleasant, or indifferent,  originates in dependence on impressions received by the eye, that also is on fire. And with what are these on fire? With the fire of passions, say I, with the fire of hatred, with the fire of infatuation, with birth, old age, death, sorrow, lamentation, misery, grief, and despair are they on fire.

  ...Perceiving this, O priests, the learned and noble disciple conceives an aversion for the eye, conceives an aversion for forms, an aversion for eye-consciousness, an aversion for the impressions received by the eye; and whatever sensation, pleasant, unpleasant, or indifferent, originates in dependence on impressions received by the eye.
  ...And in conceiving this aversion, he becomes divested of passion, and by the absence of passion he becomes free, and when he is free he becomes aware that he is free; and he knows that rebirth is exhausted, that he has lived the holy life, that he has done what it behooved him to do, and that he is no more for this world.”

  THE EYE, throughout this poem, is veiled or averted: it fails (line 39), is forbidden (line 54), fixes on the feet (line 65), hides behind wings (line 81), presses lidless (line 138), weeps (line 182), turns upward from the desk (line 216) and is covered, then opened (lines 360-363).  See also note 219 for the spectrum of perceptiveness in this poem.

  311. PLUCKED OUT: Eliot: “From St. Augustine's Confessions again. The collocation of these two representatives of eastern and western asceticism, as the culmination of this part of the poem, is not an accident.”

  See Confessions (note 307) 10.34.53:

  “And I, though I speak and see this, entangle my steps with these outward beauties; but Thou pluckest me out, O Lord, Thou pluckest me out; because Thy loving-kindness is before my eyes. For I am taken miserably, and Thou pluckest me out mercifully;  sometimes not perceiving it, when I had but lightly lighted upon them; otherwhiles with pain, because I had stuck fast in them.”

  Augustine’s reference to being plucked out mercifully comes from Psalm 25:15:

  “Mine eyes are ever toward the Lord; for he shall pluck my feet out of the net.”
  But for a different kind of plucking, see Matthew 5:29:

  “And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.”
  THE SERMON ON THE MOUNT, the source for this merciless plucking, turns everything around.  At Eliot’s own prompting, compare the ascetic representations (note 309) of Buddha’s Fire Sermon and St. Augustine’s Confessions with the  “corresponding importance “ (note 308) of Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount, his most extensively preserved public speech delivered at the beginning of his ministry, not long after he had been tested in the wilderness.  The Sermon includes many well known lessons, such as the Beatitudes, the Lord’s Prayer and the salt and light metaphors; see Matthew 5: 13, 14:
  “Ye are the salt of the earth... Ye are the light of the world”

  but also some harsh morality checks.  Following the above eye plucking passage, which spoke the one whose eye wanders lustfully towards adultery, consider this extension to the “eye” passage on how to react to the evil of others, at Matthew 5: 38-39:
  “Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.”  There is also a stern turn of both the eye and the light metaphors at Matthew 6: 22-23:

  “The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light. But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness.  If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!”
  Compare Beaumont and Fletcher, Philaster (note 28):
  “Preach to birds and beasts
  What woman is, and help to save them from you;
  How heaven is in your eyes, but in your hearts
  More hell than hell has
  ...How all the good you have is but a shadow,
  I' the morning with you, and at night behind you
  Past and forgotten.”
  This refers back to lines 27-29: “...Your shadow at morning striding behind you / Or your shadow at evening rising to meet you.”
  See also line 41: “looking into the heart of light, the silence.”
  The Sermon on the Mount concludes at Matthew 7: 26-27:
  “And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it.”

Thursday, August 18

Moleskin 4.5: Transplanted

  Our second suburban home had been four blocks away from the drainage ditch, and in the summer of twelve we moved even further away, to a place that seemed to be removed from rivers altogether. As before, I don’t remember much about the U-Hauling, maybe because it was mostly Dodge Darting, but oddly I can’t recall anything about the wedding either. We were just suddenly transplanted one suburb south, into a single family home with not much more yard than the townhouse had and with a new person in Dad’s place, someone who also wanted to be called “Dad.” My younger brothers obliged, but I insisted in calling him “Don.” Don was an engineer, and the house was his; he had shared the space with his parents, who were also suddenly transplanted that summer: out with the old, in with the new. Except that Don was old, too, forty four years old, never before married, never had kids. Didn’t have a clue. He was a loving uncle to his sister’s daughter, but that was hardly the same.

Wednesday, August 17

Sialia Sialis


  The sun is somewhere in a cloudy sky
  And I can’t tell the hour, nor east from west,
  But though the dusk my spirit would deny
  My body’s telling me it’s time to rest,
  And what has carried me these miles beyond
  My starting point, that dawn so far away
  The fundamental memories are gone,
  Would somewhere in the middle of the day
  Turn to its history of winding roads
  And heaving hills and shifting winds and rain.
  But if what breathes can bear the pains and loads
  What lives will take each step as gift and gain
  And claim the highways leveled and unbending,
  And dream the better day of its unending.


  Somewhere, past the fog, up in the trees,
  A bluebird sings its timeless song to me
  And to the world of possibilities
  Of heaven unsophisticatedly
  Descending on a sunless day, a song
  So sweet and sad and simple that the air
  At once intoxicates and makes me strong,
  Uplifts me and abandons me.  Somewhere,
  I must believe, my destiny awaits,
  And at the final turn, this history
  Will end and leave its luggage at the gates:
  This road, this day, this bird that sings to me,
  And all these weary words will cease to be
  And I will fly into eternity.

Tuesday, August 16

Following The Path

  from Walled Gardens
  A Restatement from David Pendlebury’s Garden
  The non-existent have come to serve
  at the door of true existence,
  nor is it just today that this is so
  but since time began
  dervishes have come
  bereft of wealth and power,
  swarming like ants at the door of love.
  ...No one knows how far it is
  from nothingness to God,
  but the self will wander right and left
  day and night
  for years and years
  turning around itself like an ox in the mill;
  break free from yourself,
  free yourself from yourself
  and in little time the wandering will cease
  and the door will open to you.

Monday, August 15


  Once, looking back,   my tracks   left in the    snow
  Seemed pigeon-toed and    rambling   hereandthere
  And   barely   showing where I meant   to go
  And   never really   getting   anywhere,

  So I resolved to walk a straighter line
  With better posture and a clearer goal,
     And in my mind the tracks I left behind
  Were perfect pictures of a pristine soul,

  Until,   unsatisfied,   I turned around
  To see   my legacy and   take account,
  Which  caused my steps to   weave   from
  edge to edge;
  My back   re-bent,   and   I began   to sway;
  And on my cue, a pigeon on a ledge
     Stretched out its sturdy wings
     and flew  away.

Sunday, August 14

Reason, Persisting

  from Walled Gardens
  And the son arose and started walking
  back towards his father’s place...
  Reason, the traveler, never gets to God:
  the traveler’s heart and soul are dust upon the road;
  reason’s eyes are dry, unwashed by the love of God,
  and blind, unwise to the holiness of God.
  Reason, the innocent child, stirs up imagination
  out of darkness; the child is moved to discuss eternity
  with thoughtfulness and sensuality
  until God shows up and sweeps it all away.
  Reason, the ambitious bird, takes to the air,
  a sparrow claiming the ranks of Gabriel,
  but Reason too, like every Gabriel before the Lord,
  must one day bow its head and fold its wing.
  How can one describe God
  if Reason denies that God’s the One,
  the step at the start of the journey,
  and the image before the dream?
  How can one discuss God
  if God is just an argument
  and heaven is some distant place
  beyond the rank and file?  O Lone Traveler, stumbling on your wicked soul,
  O Raw Youth, caught up in your shallow sense,
  O Poor Sparrow, making your way to majesty:
  submit yourself to the One without a place.

Saturday, August 13

The End Of Reason

  from Walled Gardens

  How can one describe God?
  What wins the argument?
  I tried reasoning my way to God: it did not work;
  How can one know a way that cannot be known?
  Reason took me no further than the door,
  But in the end God’s presence let me in.
  I tried willing the door to open: it would not move.
  How can one see a face before it’s shown?
  My willfulness had gotten me this far,
  But in the end God’s presence let me in.
  If reason is incompetent to know its own nature
  And will is incapable of knowing itself,
  If I don’t seem to know the first thing about knowledge,
  Why would I think I could ever know God?
  I tried willing myself to God, but I lost my will;
  I tried reasoning my way to God, but in the end
  it was God’s love and kindness that opened the door;
  it was God’s grace and presence that let me in.

Friday, August 12

TWL, Lines 296-306: Epigraphs And Epitaphs

  296  ‘My feet are at Moorgate and my heart  
  297  Under my feet.  After the event
  298  He wept.  He promised “a new start.”
  299  I made no comment.  What should I resent?’
  300  'On Margate Sands.
  301  I can connect
  302  Nothing with nothing.
  303  The broken fingernails of dirty hands.

  304  My people humble people who expect
  305  Nothing.'
  306   la la

  296. THE MOORGATE NYMPH: Moorgate is an Underground stop in London’s financial district.  This is the second of three Thames-daughters nymphs speaking, suggesting either three separate events or three perspectives of the same event.  See note 18 for the general events that set the mood of this poem (the war, the loss of a friend, a troubled marriage), and see note 263 for the possibility of events being out of order.  More immediately, and perhaps allegorically, consider the carnality of the event that “undid” the first of the Thames-daughters (line 294), with her knees supine (line 295), and compare this to the second position of one with “heart under my feet,” i.e., on her back.  See also the event perceived in the violet hour (line 220), an enactment both foresuffered by Tiresias (lines 243-244) and foresworn by the lovely woman’s half-formed thought: “Well now that's done: and  I'm glad it's over” (line 252).  In the present telling, note that however much thoughts are formed they are left unspoken; likewise, even the nymph’s emotion is reserved, with resentment only half-formed, this as her counterpart weeps and speaks.

  298. HE WEPT, HE PROMISED: “He wept” repeats the convalescent’s lament (see line 182: “By the waters of Leman I sat down and wept...”) but also recalls the two word verse after the event of Lazarus’s death: “Jesus wept.”  See John 11:35.  Jesus had seen Lazarus’s sister Mary weeping and those with her weeping, and this had troubled him (John 11:33).  Note that the “he” of line 298 is not necessarily the perpetrator but could be, like Tiresias or Jesus, an observer of the event, or, as in line 360, the one “who walks always beside.”

  EPIGRAPHS: By recalling the story of Lazarus, “he wept” returns us to this poem’s opening allusion from the Order of the Burial of the Dead (see note 0.5), and it also conjures the earlier allusion of the Sibyl wishing to die in the poem’s epigraph (note 0.3).  This might be considered the poem’s “old start,” and it is comparable to what Eliot had considered as an alternative epigraph, from Conrad, Heart of Darkness 3:
  “The horror! The horror!”
  But whether one weeps over death, curses life or is horrified over humanity, there is now the hope of a “new start.”  Consider the epigraph that starts the Order of the Burial of the Dead, a passage at the heart of the Lazarus event from John 11:26 (note 0.5):
  “...whosoever liveth and believeth in me, shall never die.”
  And in response to both the weeping and the horror, see Heart of Darkness 3 for Marlow’s comment on Kurtz’s last words:
  “Better his cry—much better. It was an affirmation, a moral victory paid for by innumerable defeats ...But it was a victory!”  Compare Herman Hesse, A Glimpse of Chaos: The Brothers Karamazov, or The Downfall of Europe (1920; tr. Sydney Schiff):

  “Those who cling definitely to the past, those who venerate time-honoured cultural forms, the Knights of a treasured morality, must seek to delay this Downfall and will mourn it inconsolably when it passes. For them the Downfall is the End; for the others, it is the Beginning.”
  Eliot met Hesse in Switzerland in 1922 and published this translation of Hesse’s essay in the first issue of his magazine The Criterion (October 1922), the same issue in which he offered his debut of The Waste Land.

  EPITAPHS: See note 306 for more of this turnaround from beginning to end and end to beginning.

  300. RECUPERATION: Margate is the southern England coastal town along a seaside cliff where Eliot, suffering from mental exhaustion, began a course of recuperation in the fall of 1921. He followed this with more formal treatment in Switzerland (see note 182), where he met Herman Hesse (see note 298).

  303. BROKENNESS: See note 123 for recurrent images of nothingness, emptiness and brokenness.  In this case, broken nails and dirty hands suggest a continuation of the carnality of the nymphs’ event-telling (see note 297).  For more broken and dirty nails, see the nails of the corpse-digging dog at line 75.

  THE MARGATE NYMPH, third of the three Thames-daughters, has not yet reached the resolution of a new start (see note 298).  None of the nymphs have made this connection, and with the Margate nymph’s lines their disconnection and lack of expectation is made even more apparent (see lines 299, 301-302 and 304-305), but their songs, sung at the end of this fire section of songs, are all part of the purgation.

 306. FINAL NOTES: The three Thames-daughters’ songs end with a brief “la la” epitaph, a feeble echo of their opening choruses  at lines 277-79 and 290-291, uttered with a tone of defeat.  The curtain appears to be drawn, even as it is done by the “beneficent spider” (line 408, and see Webster, note 408), who would “make a thin curtain for your epitaphs.”   Yet quietly tucked into their songs was that promise of a new start (line 298).
  ELIOT’S EPITAPH: Eliot’s hope for a new beginning and his appreciation for Hesse’s end to beginning turnaround (see note 298) would be developed further in his Four Quartets collection (see notes 0.5 and 64).  First, from East Coker (1940):
  “In my beginning is my end...
  ...Trying to learn to use words, and every attempt
  Is a wholly new start, and a different kind of failure...
  ...In my end is my beginning.”

  Eliot would take the East Coker bookends,“In my beginning is my end... In my end is my beginning,” as his own epitaph.
  See also Little Gidding (1942), the final part of Eliot‘s Four Quartets:
  “Every phrase and every sentence is an end and a beginning,
  Every poem an epitaph.”
  Thus, while the conclusion is not yet drawn, even in the nymphs’ songs as they reserve comment and fail to connect or expect, there is hope.
  Finally, or not so finally, compare Eliot’s “He wept. He promised...” (Line 298) and  Herman Hesse’s “For them the Downfall is the End; for the others, it is the Beginning” (note 298) to the epigraph Dostoevsky chose for his Brother’s Karamazov (note 248), from John 12:24 (note 0.5):  “Verily, verily, I say unto you, except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.”

Thursday, August 11

Moleskin 4.4: The Summer Of Twelve

  Put yourself in my shoes, just for a moment: it is the summer of ‘75, or for the sake of otherness, the summer of twelve. Your father and mother are working hard to raise you, and working together, but something isn’t right. They are living in separate places, looking in different directions; they are often consumed by their own challenges, facing their own futures apart from yours. So it is, with varying degrees of consumption and challenge, for every parent, but this does not occur to you in your youth, and it troubles you even more as parent one starts to talk about moving away to relaunch a career, and as parent two seems to be lonely, in need of a partner. And all of a sudden parent two finds that new partner to finally replace parent one, and in the same sudden, and the order doesn’t matter here, parent one moves two states away, happily accepting a call to a new beginning. And the world seems happy for both of them, but you’re left punching your Christmas present, wondering why.

Wednesday, August 10

Yoshi: My Walking Song


  Lately my life revolves around a dog
  Who knows whose leash it is and whose routine
  We follow, stretching thin the line between
  Our independent wills.
  I see the dog
  As one who needs a master, while the dog
  Sees one who needs a friend, and if I’ve been
  One caught up on commands the dog has seen
  Me friendly now and then.

  So man and dog
  Since time began have tugged upon this leash
  And traveled down the trails of this routine
  Each morning looking forward to the walk.
  Man and dog,
  Unequally assigned, but side by side
  Man walks the dog, dog walks the man, and each
  One seems to keep the other satisfied.
  I am the man. This is my dog
  What would I hear if my dog could talk?
  What would I want to say
  if I were the dog?

  What would I think? What would I know?
  Where would I run to? How far would I go?
  And would I run away
  if I were the dog?

   Let me stretch this leash from here to heaven,
  Let me sometimes think I know the way
  But let me take the paths that I’ve been given
  And learn what I should say.
  I am the man. This is my dog.
  I try to listen whenever we walk.
  But what can there be to say
  when you’re a dog?


  Sometimes I find myself spinning around
  And chasing after things that aren’t there,
  Entangling the one whose leash I share
  And losing sight of where we might be bound.
  I think it’s good to have someone around
  To take my side, to set the pace, to bear
  The distance and to gently lead me where
  I know I need to go,
  But I have found
  Myself spinning around things I don’t know.
  I’m leaping after birds up in the air
  And tracking common scents into the ground,
  But I have found
  The one whose leash I share at every turn
  Keeps telling me the things I ought to know
  But giving me the time I need to learn.

  God is the man. I am the dog.
  I’m not the man I once thought I was.
  He seems so far away.
  I am the dog.
  Prayer is the leash. This is my prayer,
  Drawing me close to the man up there.
  I don’t have words to say.
  I am the dog.
  But I’ll stretch this leash from here to heaven,
  And sometimes I’ll think I know the way,
  But I’ll take the paths that I’ve been given
  And learn what I should say.
  God is the man, but I am the one
  Who walks with him when the day is done
  And with each breaking dawn.
  I am the dog.


  Lately my mind has turned the metaphor
  Of man and dog, the leash and the routine
  Upon its head. What can these verses mean
  If I’m still learning what the walking’s for?
  And can there even be a metaphor
  Sufficient for the poetry I’ve seen
  Along the way, when every step has been
  Part of a song I’ve never sung before?

  All the more,
  I will walk, and in my walking sing,
  And with my singing cherish the routine
  And through routine embrace each metaphor
  All the more,
  Of God and man, of learning how to pray,
  Of never understanding everything
  About this life but walking anyway. \

   And I’ll stretch this leash from here to heaven,
  And sometimes I’ll think I know the way,
  But I’ll take the paths that I’ve been given.
  I’m learning how to pray.
  Prayer is the leash. This is my prayer,
  Keeping me close to the man up there,
  And he’s not so far away.
  I am the dog.

Tuesday, August 9

Bruiser: By Way Of An Introduction

  This is my walking song.
  Everyone should have a walking song,
  to break the silence,
  to add to the routine,
  to keep life's conversation going.
  A walking song helps one appreciate
  the world along the pathway,
  and the companions of the day.
  It's a talk to go with the walk,
  a song to sing when no one else is there.
  Best of all, a walking song is a daily discipline,
  putting to practice the challenge of Paul
  from 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18:
  Rejoice always, 
  pray without ceasing,
  give thanks in all circumstances...
  Which leads to verse 19: "Do not quench the spirit."

Monday, August 8

Duncan And The Closet Monster

  or Never Fear, by Dog
  Most of the time, there is absolutely nothing to worry about. The thing is usually not much more than an inanimate object. Right now, for instance, it seems to be sleeping in a corner of the hall closet, minding its own business, not making a sound. Of course, it is evening now, and the thing has never been known to stir at night, but even in the daytime, as long as the closet door is closed and it keeps to the shadows, it maintains a harmless peace that even a dutiful watchdog might begin to accept.
  But don’t be alarmed, my two-legged friends, for you have not only a dutiful dog but a wise one, who knows a deceptive calm when he sees one. I don’t mean to scare you, but there is a beast in our house, a savage monster behind that closet door, with a spine-chilling howl and armor-plated skin and hidden teeth. But rest assured, good people, you shall not be bothered. I am your guard dog, and I am keen to the monster’s ways. If that closet door cracks open even the slightest bit, I’ll perk up my eyes and ears. If the monster wakes, I promise to let you know. And if it dares to emerge from its shadows, never fear, people, I will be on my feet even before the demon lets out its first hair-raising screech. I will not allow it to take over the house. I will scare it back into the closet, so that all of you may stay safe and sound this evening. That is my job, after all, and I intend, as always, to do it right.

  Perhaps some of you aren’t even aware of the monster’s existence. I’m not surprised. The animal rarely comes out when everyone is home, largely due, I’m sure, to my persistent guarding. Right now, for instance, I do not allow it to intrude on you while you’re all eating your dinner, or later when you look at your television, or after that when you’ve fallen asleep. I am doubly alert with the whole family around, and in times like these the monster stays put, probably because it knows better.
  Likewise, the beast seems to have enough sense to keep to the shadows when no one is around —no one, that is, but me. It knows, I believe, that without the restraint that looking out for your safety puts on me, I would tear out its very heart. I swear, by dog, I would have no tolerance. In fact, more than once on those solitary days, I’ve thought of busting the door down and attacking the monster in cold blood, while it sleeps. Even now that is an appealing thought.
  But don’t be concerned, people, I am hardly a beast myself. I will control my temper, for your sake, even if just one of you is in the house.

  It is precisely those times, however, that the creature always seems to wait for. It’s as if it knows that I’m not the brutal savage then that I would be in an empty house, nor the alert guard, as I’m trying to be right now, with the house full. I guess it thinks that with just one or two people home, I’m not as much on my toes. And so it has been, I confess. In the winter afternoons, for instance, like the one we had today, the sun looks so inviting as it shines on the living room carpet. And from time to time, I’m sorry to say, I lapse from my basic duties, in favor of that carpet, giving the enemy more opportunity than it deserves.
  Usually only one of you is around. Maybe you’re in the kitchen, playing with dishes, or walking around the house rubbing  windows. I glance at the hall closet and see it closed. I peek in the kitchen and see you safe, and —just for a while, mind you —I stretch out and catch my breath, and I relax my guard. Oh, but forgive me, gentle people, for being less than diligent. Forgive me for thinking too much of myself. For it is in just this setting, me stretched out on the floor and you roaming unprotected through the house, that the creature suddenly roars. I jump up and run for the closet, but it is too late. You are no longer in the kitchen, playing with dishes, but in the hallway, gripping tightly at the monster’s neck. Oh, what a sorry dog I am! If only I had been lying against that door to keep, or if only I had not been lying down at all, then you would never have been involved.
  But the sly beast had waited for this opportunity. And what can I do now? As the battle gets under way, you have its neck, and I can only be ready on the side in case you lose your grip. Oh, how I wish that it could be me who has the throat-hold. By dog, I would rip that neck in two.
  As it is, though, I can’t do much more than cheer you on. I try to bark louder than the beast, but the beast is deafening, and has incredible endurance. I try to keep the beast at bay, but it is a very clever creature and cunningly expands the battlefield, pulling you slowly from one room to the next. I try to bite the beast, but it is a thick-skinned animal, impervious to my attacks. Only its neck appears to be vulnerable, and that is in your clutches. As you whip it here and there, I can only encourage you to tighten your hold. Of course I suggest, now and then, that maybe you ought to turn its pitiful neck over to me.
  But I can see that you’re afraid. You start speaking to me, perhaps asking me how and when you should let go of its neck. But because of the monster’s terrible screaming, I can’t make out exactly what you’re saying, and you don’t seem to hear my reply.

  The battle goes on, throughout the entire house. We move into the living room, and the animal spends an extra amount of time right over the area of carpet where I had been sprawled out on moments before. This really steams me, and I start barking even louder. You seem to apply more pressure on your strangle-hold, and yet the monster continues to roar. It could be, I consider, that the neck is thicker than I thought. But I keep barking back at the beast, hoping always that I might at least frighten it back into its shadows.

  We wrestle through every room of the house, and then suddenly, even as my barks are starting to crack, the roaring stops. The animal’s endurance has proven to be less than mine, and I keep on barking, triumphantly, as you drag the silent body back to the closet and firmly close the door.
  It is evening, and you are all in the house again. I always notice on nights like this that one of you —the recent warrior, I mean —never wants to say anything about the incident. I understand. You’re still a little shaky, or maybe you don’t want to concern the others. Maybe you know as well as I do that the beast isn’t dead yet. Well, rest assured. The next time I get a chance, I swear, I’m going to bust in and kill that thing for good. In the mean time, never fear, eat your dinner in peace, and enjoy complete safety. Your guard dog is on patrol. My ears are tuned to the closet door, and I will sense the slightest movement in the hallway. I will protect you from the evil monster of the shadows, and you fine people may continue your peaceful meal without any interruption.
  But say, I sure would appreciate it if you would put a plate of food aside for me.

Sunday, August 7


  Sir Walter Dog was not the knight
  we wanted him to be, and yet
  he struck a pose on our front steps,
     perusing distant fields.
  Nor was he quite the Scottish writer
  we would have him answer to,
  although I’d bet he had his own
     adventures to reveal.
  He was a dog, we’ll give him that,
  but nothing of the pedigree
  some said he was —more terrier,
     less cocka, mostly poo.
  But you’re one for the ages, Walter,
  living on in memories
  for more than thirty years, and we’re
     still calling out to you.

Saturday, August 6


  King Leopold of Vold once ruled
  that portion of our Glyndon jungle
  where the grass was not quite wild
     and the river didn’t reach.
  We kept a chain around his golden
  neck for his own good, we said,
  but when he grumbled now and then
     we’d let him off the leash.
  I want what Leo wanted then,
  to have the lion’s share of life,
  to run along the jungle’s edge,
     to chase what I desire.
  But in a dog’s life, just a taste
  of freedom turns into an urge
  to hit the roads and try to bite
     the tires off of cars.

Friday, August 5

TWL, Lines 266-295: Songs Beyond The Isle Of Dogs

  266 The river sweats
  267 Oil and tar
  268 The barges drift
  269 With the turning tide
  270 Red sails
  271 Wide
  272 To leeward, swing on the heavy spar.
  273 The barges wash
  274 Drifting logs
  275 Down Greenwich reach
  276 Past the Isle of Dogs.
  277    Weialala leia
  278    Wallala leialala

  279 Elizabeth and Leicester
  280 Beating oars
  281 The stern was formed
  282 A gilded shell
  283 Red and gold
  284 The brisk swell
  285 Rippled both shores
  286 Southwest wind
  287 Carried down stream
  288 The peal of bells
  289 White towers
  290   Weialala leia
  291   Wallala leialala
 292 ‘Trams and dusty trees.
  293 Highbury bore me.  Richmond and Kew
  294 Undid me. By Richmond I raised my knees
  295 Supine on the floor of a narrow canoe.’

  266. THE RIVER THAMES is central to this section of the poem, but see also lines 173-184 and note 209.  For London Bridge, see lines 62 and 427.  For other river allusions, see lines 4 (the Lethe), 25 (Isaiah’s river), 41 (the Congo), 77 (the Cydnus), 172 (Ophelia’s river), 266 (the Rhine), 293 (the Arno) and 396 (the Ganges) and note 430 (the Acheron).
  THE THAMES-DAUGHTERS’ SONG: Eliot: “The Song of the (three) Thames-daughters begins here. From line 292 to 306 inclusive they speak in turn.  V. Götterdammerung, III. I: the Rhine-daughters.”

  See Richard Wagner, Götterdammerung (note 8). The Thames-daughters’ song is directly derived from that of Wagner’s Rhine-daughters. The chorus lines "Weialala leia, Wallala leialala" (lines 277-278) and the more terse “la la”(line 306) are Wagner’s own, and Eliot also uses gold forging (lines 282-284) and assimilates Wagner’s clipped pace and spritely tone (lines 266-289) to contrast the song’s grimmer content.  In the opera, the nymphs take turns singing one line at a time, with some of the same curse and restoration motifs of the Grail legend (note 0.2).  See Götterdammerung 3.1.81-92:

  “From the Rhine's pure gold
was the ring once wrought.
He who craftily shaped it
and lost it in shame
laid a curse thereon
for time to come to doometh
its lord surely to death
...if thou the ring wilt not yield
to rest for aye in the waters
this stream alone stayeth the curse!”  NYMPHS, or singing spirits, hearken back to the airy spirits of Ariels’ song in the Tempest (see note 26).  Eliot's Thames-daughters also follow the nymphs of Edmund Spenser, Prothalamion (see note 176):

“Sweet Thames, run softly, till I end my song...
  There, in a meadow, by the river's side,
  A flock of nymphs I chanced to espy,
  All lovely daughters of the flood thereby....”
  See also lines 176, 183 and 184.  For the meaning of what Eliot’s nymphs sing, see note 293.

272. BARGES DRIFTING: See Conrad, Heart of Darkness 1:
  “The sea-reach of the Thames stretched before us like the beginning of an interminable waterway. In the offing the sea and the sky were welded together without a joint, and in the luminous space the tanned sails of the barges drifting up with the tide seemed to stand still in red clusters of canvas sharply peaked, with gleams of varnished sprits.”
  276. THE ISLE OF DOGS, once an island, is now a peninsula at one of the larger meanders in the Thames River, just north and west of Greenwich Reach, a straight section of the Thames. The royal dogs of King Henry VIII, and later Queen Elizabeth I, were said to be kenneled here, although there is no record of the name being used prior to 1588, when it first appeared on a map. It is, in any case, just across the river from the erstwhile grounds of the Palace of Placentia, the royal residence where Elizabeth was born in 1533 and where her Privy Council later met.  In 1597, Ben Jonson and Thomas Nashe wrote a satirical play called The Isle of Dogs, which allegedly offended the queen and crossed lines of propriety to the point that Jonson and two of his fellow actors were arrested and all copies of the play were destroyed. The matter was referred to the Privy Council, which found the actors guilty of “leude and mutynous behavior” and recommended a three month prison term and a ban on all public plays for the rest of the summer. Queen Elizabeth was generally a supportive patron of London’s theater scene, but she carried out the Council’s recommendations, effectively imposing a ban usually reserved for the lenten season.

  For commentary within a year of this event, see Francis Meres, Palladis Tamia (1598):

  "As Actæon was worried of his owne hounds: so is Tom Nash of his Isle of Dogs.  Dogges were the death of Euripedes; but bee not disconsolate, gallant young Iuuenall, Linus, the sonne of Apollo died the same death. Yet God forbid that so braue a witte should so basely perish! Thine are but paper doggies, neither is thy banishment like Ouids, eternally to conuerse with the barbarous Getæ. Therefore comfort thyselfe sweete Tom, with Cicero's glorious return to Rome, and with the counsel Æneas gives to his seabeaten soldiers.”
  Palladis Tamia, subtitled Wit’s Treasury, was used in the 1600's as a schoolbook covering English literature from Chaucer to Shakespeare.  Pallas, or Athena, was the goddess of wisdom, or wit (see Pallas Bathing, note 298), and Tamia means household attendant or, in this case, treasurer.  The cited Pallas Tarnia passage refers to Actaeon’s death by his own dogs (see note 197), Euripides’s death by dogs (see note 198) and the death of Apollo’s son Linus by sheepdogs (see Pausanius, Description of Greece (ca. 180 ACE)).  It also refers to the exiles of Juvenal, a second century Roman satirist; of Ovid, who was banished to Getae for “a poem and a mistake” (See Ovid, Tristia, ca. 8 ACE); and of Cicero, who returned to a cheering senate after a yearlong political exile in 58 BCE.  Finally it refers to Aeneas’s morale-boosting speech to his troops at Virgil, Aeneid (note 0.1) 1:198-207.
  DOGS appear only one other time in The Waste Land, when the poet bids his friend to keep the dog from digging up a corpse (line 74), but there are other seemingly related references within the poem’s principal allusions: besides the attacks by dogs of Actaeon and Euripides, noted above, barking watchdogs appear in Ariel’s song (see Shakespeare, The Tempest, at note 26), and Lilith is sent to the desert where the wild dogs dwell (see Jesus ben Sira, Alphabeta, at note 145).  See also Penteus’s gruesome demise by the Maenads in Euripides, The Bacchae (note 248).  Finally, see Sophocles, Antigone 5: 79-83 (note 248), in which Tiresias speaks of:

  “...mangled warriors who have found a grave
  I' the maw of wolf or hound.”

  279. ELIZABETH AND LEICESTER refers to Queen Elizabeth I, the so-called Virgin Queen, and her alleged long time lover, Lord Robert Dudley, the Earl of Leicester.

  Eliot: “V. Froude, Elizabeth, vol. I, ch. iv, letter of De Quadra to Philip of Spain...” See James Anthony Froude, The Reign of Elizabeth (1911) 1.4:

  “In the afternoon we were in a barge, watching the games on the river. [The queen] was alone with Lord Robert and myself on the poop, when they began to talk nonsense, and went so far that Lord Robert at last said, as I was on the spot there was no reason why they should not be married if the queen pleased.”

  In this 1561 letter to King Philip, Spanish Ambassador Alvaro de la Quadra supported talk that Elizabeth I, known as the Virgin Queen, and Lord Robert Dudley were lovers who would rendezvous at the Queen’s home in Greenwich, past the Isle of Dogs. A year earlier, Lord Robert’s first wife, Amy Robsart, had  died from a fall down a flight of stairs.  The coroner officially ruled her death an accident, but rumors persisted that he had arranged for her death in order to be free to marry the Queen.  In  1564, four years after the accident, the Queen appointed him Earl of Leicester, but she never did marry Lord Robert or anyone else, and Lord Robert did not remarry for eighteen years.

  Elizabeth ruled by the precepts of “semper eadem” (“always the same”) and "video et taceo" ("I see, and say nothing").  Compare these to the comfortable forgetfulness of winter before the season’s change (line 6), and the dismissive inability to see of Madame Sosostris (line 54).  For more on perceptiveness and the lack thereof, see notes 219 and 308.

  280. BEATING OARS are mentioned twice in the poem, here and at line 420, but there are also several indirect references, first through the adapted description of Cleopatra’s chambers (see note 77) and then in the allusion to Philomela’s abduction (see note 99).

  283. RED AND GOLD are the colors of the Spanish flag. In 1588, the Earl of Leicester ostensibly defended the Thames to keep the Spanish Armada from advancing towards London.

  291. THE PEAL OF BELLS from white towers suggest the festive trappings of a wedding, forever out of reach for Elizabeth and Leicester; bells would ring in the Tower of London and St. Paul’s  Cathedral, which were once white before taking on the dinge of time, pollution and war.  See also line 68 for St. Mary Woolnoth’s  bells with a “dead sound at the final stroke of nine” and lines 383-384: “...towers tolling reminiscent bells.”  See also Whitman, Memories 6:

  “With the tolling tolling bells’ perpetual clang.”

  Compare the bells ringing in Ariel’s song (note 26), at Shakespeare, The Tempest 1.2.405.

  295. THE PIA’S LAMENT: To make sense of what was carried downstream (see line 287), we are brought upstream to suburbs southwest of the City, where the dinge on the white towers is now reflected by “trams and dusty trees.”  First, Highbury is a working class London suburb, north of the river, presented here as an earlier point of origin; nothing more is said about Highbury, although Eliot had considered several digressive lines to further describe a somewhat pastoral, though still dusty, suburban scene.  The action, however, is at Kew and Richmond, communities along the River Thames in southwest London, with the Royal Botanic Gardens, commonly called Kew Gardens, situated between them.
  Eliot’s use of this multi-suburban allusion may have been initially inspired by Ezra Pound; see Pound, Ode to Hugh Selwyn Mauberley (1920), an autobiographical London satire with eighteen short poems, the seventh called “Siena mi fè, disfecemi Maremma.” As recognized by Eliot, this is a quote from “la Pia” in Dante’s Purgatorio, telling her life and death story in a few brief lines.  Eliot:
  “Cf. Purgatorio, V. 133:
  'Ricorditi di me, che son la Pia;
  Siena mi fe', disfecemi Maremma.'”

  See Dante, Purgatorio 5:133-134:
  “Do Thou remember me who am the Pia;
  Siena made me, unmade me Maremma”
  Pia de Tolemei, born to a noble family in Siena, was the gentle wife of a thirteenth century Tuscan captain, the lord of Castel di Pietra in Maremma.  She met her end when her husband, heart set on his next marriage, threw her from a castle window.  Compare this to the alleged murder of Amy Robsart (see note 279).
  The Pia’s displacement is similar to that of the Russian/German/ Lithuanian of line 12, or Aeneas from Troy to Carthage, or Queen Dido from Tyre to Carthage (see notes 12 and 92); her making and unmaking also reflects the doing and undoing of Queen Dido by Cupid and Aeneas, as described in Shakespeare, Antony and Cleopatra 2.2.208 (see note 80):
  “...and what they undid did.”
  The reflection is backwards, however: Queen Dido fell for Aeneas when Cupid intervened, but they never married and her love drove her to suicide when Aeneas left, while the Pia had been married until her husband murdered her.  The Pia’s lament continues at Purgatorio 5:135-136:
  “‘He knoweth it, who had encircled first,
  Espousing me, my finger with his gem.’”
  THE RICHMOND NYMPH:  This is the first of three parts to the Thames-daughters' song (see note 266). Three nymphic singers each relate a loss of innocence from a different perspective.  See notes 297, 298 and 303.  But more than just innocence is lost: in this first song, similar to the next two, there is a vulgar sexual act that marks an end of virginity, or at least of any sense of romance: in this first song the victim’s knees are raised, she is flat on her back on the bottom of a boat and she is undone.  At the same time, although the Pia ostensibly did nothing wrong, there is a lingering sense of shame and guilt in Eliot’s retelling.  Dante encountered the Pia in the second spur of ante-purgatorio, where those who died a violent death had repented of their sins just before dying.  Without such timely repentance the victim might have been found elsewhere in Dante’s journey.

Thursday, August 4

Moleskin 4.3: For What It’s Worth

  I should say, too, that I don’t actually know you. I may pretend to know exactly who you are, in order to relate to you, but you, my other, are a stranger to me; I will believe I can see you in a mirror, as I have seen my parents’ faces (or maybe more arrestingly, the other way around), yet I will admit to only imagining there is even a glimmer of their faces in mine or mine in yours. But I am speaking to you all the same, hoping you might get something out of my story. As I write this I’m fairly certain you aren’t even listening, barely noticing me scribbling away, or maybe years away from hearing me at all. But this story is for you, all the more, the point for my point: to show you, dear other, that beyond birth and life is more life, more than you might expect; to share some of the river secrets that can help you pass the time; not to tell you who you are —you know that more than I ever will— but to tell you an “other” story, for all that it is worth.

Wednesday, August 3

The Farmer


  There was once a farmer who with a smile endured
  The test of memory and in time inspired
  The stuff of legend: once a man became
  The hero and the villain and the dream
  Behind the smile became the memory
  Of someone else.  There was once a farmer, and he
  Worked hard to plow his thousand acre field
  Each spring, preparing someone else’s food
  With modern tools.  Allow this tale to start
  With shares of metal dragging through dirt
  And give the man a toil hardened grin
  And a severed hand; then let this truth be told
  Of every farmer whose every smile reveals
  Defiance, grit, survival, victory,
  But leave it there: a hundred stories end
  Where one begins and all of history
  Breathes the air of every once upon a time.

  There was once a time when smiles disappeared
  Throughout the county, turning to a hard
  Reality: the cruelest of crimes
  Came to their world and crushed the quiet dreams
  Of an adolescent girl and of the whole
  Community.  There was once a time when all
  Work stopped to hear the echoes of a gun,
  And it felt like everyone who heard the sound  Had pulled the trigger.  Oh dear audience
  Expecting simple songs and sweet romance
  Imagine you were there holding the gun
  That fateful Friday night; and picture this,
  A steadfast smile suddenly replaced
  With emptiness, then guilt, then rage and blame,
  And there you were, the gun still in your hand
  Above your victim, for the rest of time
  The final breath of a thirteen year old girl.

  She was once a summer smile that never feared
  Forever, thought forever was a word
  That didn’t end: she smiled like it was summer
  All the time, and by persistent dreams
  And distant memories her ghost pretends
  That nothing’s changed.  There was once, and there remains
  Worked in the weave of our surviving souls,
  The strand of innocence of teenaged smiles
  On summer nights.  Forgive us, farmer, for the blood
  We can’t unspill, collect the tears we’ve shed
  But let us smile that she may live again
  To find forever; let this be her truth,
  The ultimate discovery of youth:
  Not liberty, not passion, not abandon
  But innocence: accept this first and final
  Plea, the strand of our salvation and
  The breath that gives us immortality.

Tuesday, August 2

One Summer : A Song

  She rode on a beautiful horse, rode up the hill and across my lawn.  Roxanne!  She smiled bold and shy, beaming the bold-shy age of thirteen years.  Roxanne, 1979: there was a Top 40 hit that year, but she was a different tune.  Beyond the pure, but in the days before mature, she was not so grown up as a red light song, and none of us were as old as we pretended.
  We used to laugh at her: she had what Matt used to call a “cute duck butt,” and what Jim called a “ski-jump nose.”  We drank beer in the dark —she never drank, but she stayed out late with us; she teased us all, and she smoked Salem cigarettes and she swore.
  And one day she rode that beautiful horse up the hill of my lawn and smiled, and said, “Hey, Sol, want to go for a ride?”  I looked up at her on her big beautiful horse and smiled back, and Sugar took the opportunity to munch on my lawn.
  “Ro-o-0-OX! Anne! —that was another tune, by the Police, and Sting sounded like a reggae rooster on the radio.  We crowed that song all summer, thinking we liked it before we knew what it was about, knowing only that we too knew a girl named Roxanne.  Then we learned, learned to understand every word, and for a while that summer we sang it louder, and then in the fall we didn’t sing it anymore.
  She rode Sugar up to me —bold and shy —and asked if I wanted to ride with her.  And I smiled, not ready to answer, giving Sugar time to chew the grass.  Nights later, in the fall, I’d try to write a better song for her: “Roxanne, sweet thirteen, before she knew the world was mean...”    “Those days are over,” I might have added.  Nights later, we would turn the radio off.
  She smiled, bold and shy.  Sure, I said.  Great, she said, jump on.  We rode down the street and into a field, Roxanne and Sugar and I —we broke from a trot to a gallop, and I, sitting in back, clung on to Roxanne, held her near me, felt her warm and sweaty against me and felt safe in the saddle.  We were still closer to pure than mature, and I still remember Sugar munching quietly on the grass.  But then we were both well aware of where we were, on this beautiful horse galloping swiftly across the field.
  Another tune began playing on the radio, and we turned the volume higher.

  One night we all went to a party at Adam’s.  His parents weren’t home.  We drank beer in the dark, but Roxy still wouldn’t drink.  “Ro-o-0-OX! Anne,” squawked Adam.  She never did like that  song.  Adam took out a gun and started playing with it, as if it were a Saturday afternoon and he was shooting at beer cans on fence posts.  Wait, said Matt, let me set them up again.

  Sugar munched quietly on the grass —a big horse, with a big saddle.  Come on, said Roxanne, there’s room for both of us.  And I jumped on, fitting snugly into the saddle behind her, and we trotted off my lawn and down the hill, down a country road and across a field.
  She lit up a cigarette, while Adam started playing with his shotgun, shooting it into the air.   Come on, said Adam, Come on, bitch, or I’ll kill you.  He laughed.  We drank more beer.  She never did like that song.  And Adam started fooling around with his shotgun, holding it up to her throat.  Wait, said Matt, let me check the chamber.

  We used to laugh at her, and she teased us all, and she swore.  And she rode on a beautiful horse, up the hill and across the lawn, and she asked if I wanted to go for a ride.
  I held her near me.  She was warm and sweaty, and I clung to her.
  And we turned the radio off.
  Adam started playing with his shotgun, pulling the trigger, and the shot went into her head.
  Wait, said Matt, it was supposed to be empty.  Someone called the police, and we turned the radio off.
  We had been singing another tune, beyond the pure, before the mature.  And Sugar broke to a gallop from a trot.

Monday, August 1

One Summer : An Aspersion

  “You guys killed her,” she said.
  “What are you talking about,” Sol said quietly.
  “You had the party, you knew he was playing with guns.”
  Our accuser was my father’s age, and a friend of his.  She had silver-blond hair and a pleasantly trim figure; her skin was smooth and unwrinkled and her smile and the warm humor that accompanied it gave her the appearance of youth.  But on this day she did not smile and wasn’t warm, and suddenly and permanently to me she was as old and cold as a cackling, bony-nosed witch.  For the first time I noticed the wart on her neck, and it would stand out every time after that.  I noticed the way her dishwater gray hair was never combed.  Her humor, I began to realize, was full of secret sarcasm and based largely on hate.
  It was two days after my friend Adam accidentally killed my friend Roxanne.  Adam was messing around with a shotgun at a party.  He had forgotten to check the chamber, and when he playfully grabbed Roxanne and put the gun to her temple, when he jokingly pulled the trigger, ready to say “bang” in verbal mime, the noise was suddenly real and there was real, red blood, and she really collapsed to the ground in a slow motion you never see in the movies.
  We were all there to see it, and for a long time it was a very traumatic memory.