World Poetry, Third Edition

For day three’s favorite poetry selection, I give you American poet T.S. Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock:”

T.S. Eliot

S’io credesse che mia risposta fosse

A persona che mai tornasse al mondo,

Questa fiamma staria senza piu scosse.

Ma perciocche giammai di questo fondo

Non torno vivo alcun, s’i’odo il vero,

Senza tema d’infamia ti rispondo.

*

Let us go then, you and I,

When the evening is spread out against the sky

Like a patient etherised upon a table;

Let us go, through certain half-deserted streets,

The muttering retreats

Of restless nights in one-night cheap hotels

And sawdust restaurants with oyster-shells:

Streets that follow like a tedious argument

Of insidious intent

To lead you to an overwhelming question …

Oh, do not ask, “What is it?”

Let us go and make our visit.

In the room the women come and go

Talking of Michelangelo.

The yellow fog that rubs its back upon the window-panes,

The yellow smoke that rubs its muzzle on the window-panes

Licked its tongue into the corners of the evening,

Lingered upon the pools that stand in drains,

Let fall upon its back the soot that falls from chimneys,

Slipped by the terrace, made a sudden leap,

And seeing that it was a soft October night,

Curled once about the house, and fell asleep.

And indeed there will be time

For the yellow smoke that slides along the street,

Rubbing its back upon the window-panes;

There will be time, there will be time

To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet;

There will be time to murder and create,

And time for all the works and days of hands

That lift and drop a question on your plate;

Time for you and time for me,

And time yet for a hundred indecisions,

And for a hundred visions and revisions,

Before the taking of a toast and tea.

In the room the women come and go

Talking of Michelangelo.

And indeed there will be time

To wonder, “Do I dare?” and, “Do I dare?”

Time to turn back and descend the stair,

With a bald spot in the middle of my hair–

(They will say: “How his hair is growing thin!”)

My morning coat, my collar mounting firmly to the chin,

My necktie rich and modest, but asserted by a simple pin–

(They will say: “But how his arms and legs are thin!”)

Do I dare

Disturb the universe?

In a minute there is time

For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse.

For I have known them all already, known them all:

Have known the evenings, mornings, afternoons,

I have measured out my life with coffee spoons;

I know the voices dying with a dying fall

Beneath the music from a farther room.

So how should I presume?

And I have known the eyes already, known them all–

The eyes that fix you in a formulated phrase,

And when I am formulated, sprawling on a pin,

When I am pinned and wriggling on the wall,

Then how should I begin

To spit out all the butt-ends of my days and ways?

And how should I presume?

And I have known the arms already, known them all–

Arms that are braceleted and white and bare

(But in the lamplight, downed with light brown hair!)

Is it perfume from a dress

That makes me so digress?

Arms that lie along a table, or wrap about a shawl.

And should I then presume?

And how should I begin?

Shall I say, I have gone at dusk through narrow streets

And watched the smoke that rises from the pipes

Of lonely men in shirt-sleeves, leaning out of windows? . . .

I should have been a pair of ragged claws

Scuttling across the floors of silent seas.

And the afternoon, the evening, sleeps so peacefully!

Smoothed by long fingers,

Asleep . . . tired . . . or it malingers,

Stretched on the floor, here beside you and me.

Should I, after tea and cakes and ices,

Have the strength to force the moment to its crisis?

But though I have wept and fasted, wept and prayed,

Though I have seen my head (grown slightly bald) brought in

upon a platter,

I am no prophet–and here’s no great matter;

I have seen the moment of my greatness flicker,

And I have seen the eternal Footman hold my coat, and snicker,

And in short, I was afraid.

And would it have been worth it, after all,

After the cups, the marmalade, the tea,

Among the porcelain, among some talk of you and me,

Would it have been worth while,

To have bitten off the matter with a smile,

To have squeezed the universe into a ball

To roll it towards some overwhelming question,

To say: “I am Lazarus, come from the dead,

Come back to tell you all, I shall tell you all”–

If one, settling a pillow by her head,

Should say: “That is not what I meant at all.

That is not it, at all.”

And would it have been worth it, after all,

Would it have been worth while,

After the sunsets and the dooryards and the sprinkled streets,

After the novels, after the teacups, after the skirts that trail along the floor–

And this, and so much more?–

It is impossible to say just what I mean!

But as if a magic lantern threw the nerves in patterns on a screen:

Would it have been worth while

If one, settling a pillow or throwing off a shawl,

And turning toward the window, should say:

“That is not it at all,

That is not what I meant, at all.”

. . . . .

No! I am not Prince Hamlet, nor was meant to be;

Am an attendant lord, one that will do

To swell a progress, start a scene or two,

Advise the prince; no doubt, an easy tool,

Deferential, glad to be of use,

Politic, cautious, and meticulous;

Full of high sentence, but a bit obtuse;

At times, indeed, almost ridiculous–

Almost, at times, the Fool.

I grow old . . . I grow old . . .

I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.

Shall I part my hair behind? Do I dare to eat a peach?

I shall wear white flannel trousers, and walk upon the beach.

I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.

I do not think that they will sing to me.

I have seen them riding seaward on the waves

Combing the white hair of the waves blown back

When the wind blows the water white and black.

We have lingered in the chambers of the sea

By sea-girls wreathed with seaweed red and brown

Till human voices wake us, and we drown.

~T.S. Eliot

World Poetry Day

In case you didn’t know, today is World Poetry Day, an international day founded in 1999 by UNESCO – the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. What’s the point? Poetry of course! World Poetry Day exists to celebrate and promote the publishing, reading, writing and teaching of poetry across the globe.

If you’d like to know more, and see a few of the poetry community’s favorite pieces, pop on over to One Stop Poetry for a look. If you get a chance, share some of your own favorites as well – the more the merrier, as they say.

To that same end, for the next five days, I’ll be celebrating World Poetry Day by stretching it out over a week, each day sharing one of my favorite poems from different poets. Hope you like my choices – want to share your own? Comment back! I’d love to hear them.

To kick things off today, I open with William Butler Yeats’s “Sailing to Byzantium:”

William Butler Yeats, care of Wikimedia Commons

That is no country for old men. The young
In one another’s arms, birds in the trees
—Those dying generations—at their song,
The salmon-falls, the mackerel-crowded seas,
Fish, flesh, or fowl, commend all summer long
Whatever is begotten, born, and dies.
Caught in that sensual music all neglect
Monuments of unaging intellect.

An aged man is but a paltry thing,
A tattered coat upon a stick, unless
Soul clap its hands and sing, and louder sing
For every tatter in its mortal dress,
Nor is there singing school but studying
Monuments of its own magnificence;
And therefore I have sailed the seas and come
To the holy city of Byzantium.

O sages standing in God’s holy fire
As in the gold mosaic of a wall,
Come from the holy fire, perne in a gyre,
And be the singing-masters of my soul.
Consume my heart away; sick with desire
And fastened to a dying animal
It knows not what it is; and gather me
Into the artifice of eternity.

Once out of nature I shall never take
My bodily form from any natural thing,
But such a form as Grecian goldsmiths make
Of hammered gold and gold enamelling
To keep a drowsy Emperor awake;
Or set upon a golden bough to sing
To lords and ladies of Byzantium
Of what is past, or passing, or to come.

~William Butler Yeats, 1926

St. Patty’s

Hello, my name is Chris, and I’m not Irish. My ancestors are from the isles, but they never did call the white-foamed cliffs or the emerald fields of Ireland their home.  I know, I’m sorry – but now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, allow me to add that I appreciate a good St. Patty’s as much as anyone. Started my day off right, with a fine play list taking us from as far off as the raging typical St. Patty’s tunes of Flogging Molly and Dropkick Murphys, through the Dubliners and Stephen Lynch and even a touch of Buck O Nine, between more traditional bits.

Outside, the day is already surrendered to the sound and the sight of the drink on campus – Frat Row, as it is called, has already got their beer pong tables set up, as usual, and I’m sure anything with pub or anything vaguely Irish in its name will be roaring with business all day. The weather couldn’t be better – 60s in Michigan in March, for St. Patty’s? Yes, please – and I am in a fantastic mood. I wrote and I danced, and you know what else? I worked up a little poem for you all, and I do hope you enjoy.

A shamrock lies between us.

The grievances of history

Balanced on the tips of leaves

Are swallowed in green beer

To high tide tunes of fiddlers

Passing in the night

Where love and lust are staggering

With dignity and design—

They say as much to Mr. Jameson

As they pour a little more cream,

Pondering the existential implications

Of the girls in their shortest skirts

Swaying and serenading

The Dance.

(All images care of Google – thanks Google search!)

Edit: And also to note – it is my good pleasure to announce that today is also my dear friend Kila’s (Willowwish) birthday! Happy Birthday Kila! And in the travesty of all travesties, she has to spend it AND St. Patty’s day mired in class…oh dears.

C’est la vie

They say success

never tastes so sweet

without the sour hors d’oeuvre

of failure’s bounty;

were I but once

to taste the former

I might have some basis

to compare.

* My latest contribution to the wonderful One Shot Poetry Wednesdays! If you get the chance, be sure to check out all the other talented One Stop poets posting there – and what about yourself? If you haven’t signed up yet, and you’re among the creative…what are you waiting for?

Coughing Camels

Photo by and copywrite Fee Easton.

It began with little Indians

rolling crude

puffing psychoactive spirituality

in lieu of peace signs in the sand.

Pet plants petted

coughing Camels patronizingly,

coaxing out life

one voice at a time.

Every breath breathes history

says the shaded mammal;

it sucks it up in fossilized harmony

and spits it out, in yellow –

it’s just shades of grey anyway

where humanity soars

out on a lung.

* My submission to this week’s edition of the One Shoot Sunday Photo Prompt, with that emotionally charged picture provided by one Fee Easton. I’ll be honest, this one’s still a work in progress; not entirely satisfied with how it turned out, but for the moment, it will do for this week’s prompt. As for Fee, well, she’s a fantastic photographer – be sure to have a look at my interview with her when you get a chance. You won’t come away disappointed…and while you’re there, check out all the other poets inspired by the prompt!

The Runner

“Never,” said the man,

and on he ran

pursuing the stars

like a drunkard to his bars,

crying “No” awash in the glow,

but never yet to know.

* My latest contribution to the wonderful One Shot Poetry Wednesdays! If you get the chance, be sure to check out all the other talented One Stop poets posting there – and what about yourself? If you haven’t signed up yet, and you’re among the creative…what are you waiting for?