Reading & Books

The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock

Let us go then, you and I,
When the evening is spread out against the sky
Like a patient etherized 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.

Snow-Bound: A Winter Idyl

The sun that brief December day
Rose cheerless over hills of gray,
And, darkly circled, gave at noon
A sadder light than waning moon.
Slow tracing down the thickening sky
Its mute and ominous prophecy,
A portent seeming less than threat,
It sank from sight before it set.
A chill no coat, however stout,
Of homespun stuff could quite shut out,
A hard, dull bitterness of cold,
That checked, mid-vein, the circling race
Of life-blood in the sharpened face,
The coming of the snow-storm told.

The House Was Quiet and The World Was Calm

The house was quiet and the world was calm.
The reader became the book; and summer night

Was like the conscious being of the book.
The house was quiet and the world was calm.

The words were spoken as if there was no book,
Except that the reader leaned above the page,

Wanted to lean, wanted much most to be
The scholar to whom his book is true, to whom

The summer night is like a perfection of thought.
The house was quiet because it had to be.

A Trenta-Sei of the Pleasure We Take in the Early Death of KeatsA Trenta-Sei of the Pleasure We Take in the Early Death of Keats

It is old school custom to pretend to be sad
when we think about the early death of Keats.
The species-truth of the matter is we are glad.
Psilanthropic among exegetes,
I am so moved that when the plate comes by
I almost think to pay the God — but why?

Sleepers Awake

Cervantes was asleep when he wrote Don Quixote.
Joyce slept during the Wandering Rocks section of Ulysses.
Homer nodded and occasionally slept during the greater part of the Iliad; he was awake however when he wrote the Odyssey.
Proust snored his way through The Captive, as have legions of his readers after him.
Melville was asleep at the wheel for much of Moby-Dick.
Fitzgerald slept through Tender Is the Night, which is perhaps not so surprising,

On the Meeting of Garcia Lorca and Hart Crane

Brooklyn, 1929. Of course Crane’ s
been drinking and has no idea who
this curious Andalusian is, unable
even to speak the language of poetry.
The young man who brought them
together knows both Spanish and English,
but he has a headache from jumping
back and forth from one language
to another. For a moment’ s relief
he goes to the window to look
down on the East River, darkening
below as the early night comes on.
Something flashes across his sight,
a double vision of such horror

Eternity Blues

I just had the old Dodge in the shop
with that same damned front-end problem,
and I was out, so to speak, for a test run,

loafing along, maybe 35 m. p. h.,
down the old Corvallis road,
holding her out of the ruts and potholes.

That’ s out in Montana, the Bitterroot Valley.
Long ways from home is how they say it.
Long ways from home, boys, long long ways from home.

Living Among the Dead

First there were those who died
before I was born.
It was as if they had just left
and their shadows would
slip out after them
under the door so recently closed
the air in its path was still
swirling to rest.
Some of the furniture came from them,
I was told, and one day
I opened two chests
of drawers to learn what the dead kept.

Nabokov’s Blues

The wallful of quoted passages from his work,
with the requisite specimens pinned next
to their literary cameo appearances, was too good

a temptation to resist, and if the curator couldn’ t,
why should we? The prose dipped and shimmered
and the “flies,” as I heard a buff call them, stood

Sonnets Uncorseted


She was twenty-two. He was fifty-three,
a duke, a widower with ten children.

They met in Paris, each in exile from
the English Civil War. Virginal

and terrified, still she agreed
to marry him. Though women were mere chattel

spinsterhood made you invisible
in the sixteen hundreds. Marriage was arranged

— hers a rare exception. Despite a dowry
a woman never could own property.

Your womb was just for rent. Birth control
contrivances — a paste of ants, cow dung