One of my very favorite poems.
“I should have been a pair of ragged claws
scuttling across the floors of silent seas.” —T. S. Eliot, The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock [link]
All this talk of patients on tables
and ragged claws and indifferent mermaids!
Get a grip on yourself, J. A. Prufrock, you old toad.
What would it take to shake a modicum of laughter out of you?
Do you think, if you can’t reach the heroic ideal
you’ll cling to your ocean-bottom, anti-heroic nothingness?
Can’t you see that such clinging is also a foolish dream?
I wish you were a knotted, woven rug
I would beat the silly dust out of you.
So what if the women talk of Michelangelo?
Darling, it’s all fiddle faddle.
You shouldn’t let it bring you down.
And what if you asked your question, dear,
and the woman replied, “My love!
I was terrified, just like you.
I was terrified, too”?
And if she should dismiss you?
There are worse things than rolling your trousers, Alfie boy.
You don’t dare to eat peaches?
Eat apples! They’re good for you!
You may fool other people with this eternal footman crap
but Alfie, this is me. We ran together
with the smiling brown dog beside the sparkling sea,
we begged our mothers for ice cream,
we laughed till we rolled on the floor
when the radio comic described American tourists.
And I was with you when we giggled over peanuts
and put out our cigarettes in oyster shells.
How small does a spirit have to shrink
for it to be overwhelmed by coffee spoons?
Darling, really, you need to get therapy.
And sometimes you are able to say exactly what you mean.
Ragged claws! But I admit
I believed that once. I would have exiled
myself to the Mariana Trench
and said to myself, “There you are!
Scuttle there, soul. You deserve it.”
Such voiceless claws, all misery and despair
and it’s all hog wash!
What kind of parent raises children to be scuttling claws?
Who cares if you and I are not Hamlet and Ophelia
or Caesar or Catherine the Great?
We don’t have to be eagles or patients.
Listen, I am heroic enough to say “I love you” when I love,
heroic enough to sing a song and mean it,
heroic enough not to faint at the toss of a shawl
or the tilt of a baseball hat or the flick of tie.
And you are, too.
You have let your imagination run away with you.
“Till human voices wake us and we drown”?
There is something terribly, terribly wrong with you.
How about if we have a little human chit chat
and a nice bowl of New England chowder?
You still want to get away?—Sharon E. Svendsen
Sure then, let us go.
Let us move to L.A.
The weather there is less depressing
and no one there has even heard of Michelangelo.