the heft and the edge                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     10/6/2020







          VERSE                                           a grand allusion


This piece resulted from several months of reading T.S. Eliot. Clearly it follows a path through The Waste Land - sometimes trying to put into my own words an interpretation of Eliot’s vision, sometimes trying to marry something of the style of the poem to my own inner rhythms. This approach to The Waste Land is highly subjective: the range of allusions Eliot employs is wide, while my comprehension is limited - mostly by a determination not to read any critical analysis of the poem.
This five part poem is in itself a grand allusion to one of the greatest works of literature I know. You may think it almost insolent of me to perpetrate such a pastiche, but it was enormous fun to put together and I think the result is interesting enough in its own right.
I hope the great man will be smiling in an avuncular manner rather than spinning in his grave!





      The Works of Man

      In April spring returns
      An insult to the dead,
      The hanging tree bursts into bloom,
      On blood and tears is fed.
      The snow at least made smooth the mounds,
      Allowed the fields their rolling charm
             - lost for seven summers past -
      Everything is jumbled now:
      In summer pain, in winter calm,
      Those lost are not lamented;
      Cannot be lamented.
      Marie, Marie, where is your home?
      And do you take your mother's name?
      The Munich days,
      Vienna days,
      When all was young romance,
      When arms were warm that held you tight,
      Before the bombs began,
      They’re gone, all gone forever
      And cannot be lamented.
      Do you recall the laughter
      When down you went,
      Just for the thrill,
      And down we went soon after?

      From on that tree
      All he could see:
      The wasted works of man.
      From Calgary
      Down to the sea,
      His end where it began.

      All becomes one desert
            - a grinding of the soul -
            - a graveyard/charnel from the start:
      No city here, no mausolea,
      No science here, no art.
      Only sand and scorpions
             and under stone beginnings.
      Make your journey East my heart:
      A poison may be a promise,
      And Truth a part of Fear.

      Do you want answers?
      Do you need a future,
      Now that the past has shackled
      You, and me,
      And all?
      Pull the curtains, light the wicks!
      The cards will dance
      And tell the tale,
      A part of it,
      Not all,
      Before the crossing of the Styx.

      Before it falls,
      They cross the bridge
      And populate the town,
      All emptied by the same black night,
      Black night that took them down.
      Here in the City of the Dead
      I live with those that died;
      Those are not here that should be here:
      The mirror windows lied.
      Here all are ghosts
             whose only task:
      To walk and keep on walking.
      They'll never want
             nor need for love,
      For seeing or for talking.

      Yet out of such dull flesh
      Will mushroom
      Another generation
      To fill the streets,
             the trenches deep;
      To add more stony rubbish,
      To fill tomorrows beds.

      You plant the crop,
      Keep off the frost,
      And will that it will grow.
      Stetson! Confederate! Myself!
      The dog's a better friend to man
      Than you can ever know.
      Dig it up and dig it out
      I say!
      And let him come to dust.
      Why let him sprout
      Another corpse
      To lie -
             so soon undone,
             so soon removed -
      Beneath this four years tortured crust
      Then buried under snow.








                    Rat’s Alley

      breathe annihilation;
      cold, brutal rigor grips

           "My nerves are bad tonight."

      Shell shocked, seeks comfort,
      warmth in conversation,
      but everything is soured now;
      his cratered face is turned away,
      haunted by the broken years
      and blinded by the sight.

           "Do you know nothing?
            Do you see - nothing?"

      In self defence, defeated,
      her eyes turn in,
      but all of England's shaking now
      beneath this iron rain:
      the shrapnel cuts through all we know
      and all we knew before,
      and bleeding eyes,
      and souls in fright
      shiver, naked in the night.

      And on the town
      the flapper flaps,
      the drinks are drunk,
      the pension books are burned;
      survivor mad,
      the party swings,
      the laughter rings,
      yet life -
            life is unaffirmed.
           “Death is what remains, my friends;
            my sinking, shrinking, drinking friends.
            Yes, death is what remains.
            I have been to Hell!"
                   the compere cries,
           "That is all I see.
            I brought it back;
      brought it back;
            together brought it back;
                               yes, we!"

      mile on mile,
      the frightful miles
      of mud and blood and bone.
      Entrenched there still,
      still there, now here:
           "We brought it back,
            We brought it back!"
      Each brought it back alone.

            "They never told us spoils of war
            could spoil the peace.
            They never told us anything
            and that was just as well
            for nothing did we ever know,
            before the game or after,
            just what is real behind this haze
            of beer and cheer and laughter.

            For Nothing did we go!"
           "So what now shall I do,
            My butty,
            What now can I do?"
      I looked for answers firm and true,
      He looked at me askance:
            Strike up the band,"
      My butty said,
           "There's nowt to do but dance!"

      Dance and sing!
      and dance unhinged,
      and dance and not remember.
            The Time has come,
            so dance, my son,
            then grip her tight and bend her!"
      The pounding rhythm
      sounded out
      across the wasted land;
      he took her,
      shattered teeth and all,
      then pushed a note
      into her hand.

           "Dance faster!  Dance faster!
            The Time is come: dance faster!"

      Soon, so soon, the midnight bell,
      the magic bell, will chime,
      and bring an end
      to Lil and Bert,
      will bring an end to time.

      At last! The hour we've waited for:
      the end of time,
      the end of war.
      We're throwing in the towel.
      At last the end we're dying for;
      a last gasp then:
                   Goonight my butty,
                   goonight my lovelies.
                   We had a time, we had some fun,
                   it was grand while it lasted.
                   I sometimes wish...
                                but no:
                   no sense worrying now,
                   it's done, all done forever.

                   we never really got to know each other,
                   did we?
                   Oh well, too late, too late;
                   we'll leave it there.  So:
                   goonight  goonight.






                    the Typist and the Carbuncular Youth

      “O typist,
      you deserve a kiss:
      a kiss that's more than this
      fumbling selfish need.
      Ignore the way he's dressed,
      dismiss that bold stare:
      his want is all.
      A silk hat?  It is care
      that sits so ill
      and is a lie.”

      But how will he understand?
      that generations
      and not just war -
      have left him dead
      to any notion
      of Life's grandeur,
      and the beauty -
      real warmth, not heat -
      of a tender,
      touching hand.

      Wary of rejection,
      he awaits supine acceptance,
      for bored and tired is safer:
      she will offer no defence.

      “Oh carbuncular youth,
      even you deserve a kiss:
      a kiss that's more than this
      rutting, heartless deed.”
      But how can he know
      what is missing?
      Our typist reviews,
      As he stumbles upstairs:
      “I’m glad it’s over.”
      She fixes her hair.

      There’s a lifetime of loss
      born of his omission,
      a dying of souls
      in this hapless permission.
      Oh if they only knew
      true kisses to seek,
      they'd settle on a word
      and a whisper,
      cheek on cheek:
            "You fill me."







             Who the hell was this Phlebas bloke anyway?

      It don't matter what a man you've been;
      it don't matter much what you've seen.

      It don't count much what you've done;
      it don't count, son, what you've won.

      Doesn't really matter what town you’re from;
      doesn't really matter who was your mum.

      Your dad don't really matter much at all;
      doesn't even matter which god you call:

      whoever you are,
      whatever you were,
      whatever you did,
      the jewels you hid
      for a rainy day
      can't light your way
      from port to port
      for ever more.

      Sooner or later,
      whatever you be,
      you still get got

       - eventually.

      By what?
      Well, there's emotion,
            and there's death,
            and there's the fear of both.

      And denial will not stop you drowning.








      The Worth of a Moment’s Surrender


      Now that religion is dead
      and order and right daily dying,
      vigour seeps away
      through cracks in the earth
      leaving us parched

      leaving us dry and
      what now shall we do?
      Our withered seed, rootless,
      lying in dust,
      begs answer.

      "Now is the time for the sky to turn black."

      Overhead: heavy cloud;
      far ahead, the long road seems longer;
      I turn my head but cannot catch,
      I analyse but cannot nail down meaning.

      Dearest companion, a vexed question
      begs answer:  Do you tell
      who is there that walks by your side,
      who does not walk by me,
      who maybe once there walked?
      Whoever it is, escapes my cold, keen eye.

      He said:
         "This other we travel with
          transformed is,
          to fool the eye;
          you made him dead, but no:
          transformed is
          and death now life is;
          he has walked on both sides,
          a Tiresias of font and scythe;
          he calls the names
                 of those ready for the blade,
                 wanting release,
                 an end in admission.
          Close that eye!
          The gorgon stare
          can only destroy.
             and feel:

      Now is the time for the mountains to shake."

      But how will I see with my eyes firm shut?
      Will I understand those who make journey
      to this place or that place,
      pulled only by faith?
      I have seen Hell!
      Such a sight, such reality,
      has destroyed all I thought I knew:
      all that stood above,
      and all that stood beyond.
      Earth shakes to stony rubbish,
      towers fall;
      now this place and that place
      make one and the same,
      no use to me now,
      nor nothing to blame,
      no memory left,
      no future in sight:
      these 'cradles' are emptied of promise.
      Now that the game is up
      I welcome the night.

      But even in the dark something stirs
      when softly chimes the midnight bell:
          then the dead man
          long man
          kicking up dust
          rattles his hat
          pricks up lust
          and the night cock
          black cock
          fierce red eye
          crows from the rooftop
          greets the sky
          three times;
          he calls the dance to judgement
          then cries:

      "Now is the time for the Thunder

          to Speak
          and Tell
          and save us from this dream."

      Da Datta!
      spoke the God of Rain.
      "Give," said he,
      "though hard wrenched from the soul,
      (whatever may be left of that)
      one last seed of your self make free,
      and temper all your pain.
      And though it seeks, yearns, needs
      it is not need
      and need not be demand.
      And though not written
      of life when dead,
      cut in stone
      or inked in red,
      better this testament
      than to be
      listed lost among the brave,
      listed great among the free,
      and those deceived."

      Da Dayadhvam!
      spoke the God of the ground Rain fell on.
      "Sympathize," said he,
      "know your fellow traveller;
      be him, share his earth.
      Others live, as he lives,
      others suffer.
      I could speak of a bold warrior,
      a statesman unmoved by his people's worth.
      You have enough before you of yourself:
      do not be locked inside.
      He makes better the lesson
      if not revived."

      Da Damyata!
      spoke the God of that which grew.
      "Control," said he,
      "to exert and to accept,
      we must know both
      but accept not
      what is false to the heart,
      though swathed in logical glamour.
      Exert control,
      not on any other,
      but on yourself.
      We have all this, deep,
      At root.
      All this torture and pain,
          greed lust denial
          fear fear fear;
          and in the trunk and branch and flower
          grinding non-belief.
      All this to learn
      to Control.
      Keep tight the rein!"

      This is what I have learned:
      that all we have is ourselves
      and a time here,
      and the will to use it
      well or ill.
      We may seek something more,
      or settle for earthly pleasure.
      We are in such fear,
      such fear of loss
      we lose it:
      those things that we hold dear.
          and so control.
      Do not bow to chaos
      but surrender to Truth,
      let the water flow,
      let seed grow.

      Neither did I need make this journey,
      a journey to discover truth:
      there is only one desert.
      In the desert there is memory of water;
      in the barren land implication of growth;
      in the waste all that was and could ever be.
      I now see
      the cup was here from the start,
      if I had only seen it right.
      Will I dare blind trust,
      that the desert will bloom,
      under a firm hand?

      There will
      be fruit
      If I make it so.





This image from a Laotian monastary depicts Devadatta attacking Gautama Buddha