Prufrock’s Lament

Nuclear Brand ~ Philip Brent Harris

With the current news in the world, both economic and political, the aggression, bigotry, misogyny and xenophobia, it seemed time to revisit Prufrock, with thanks to T.S. Eliot for his original brilliance.

War is Peace; Freedom is Slavery; Ignorance is Strength; Trumpery is Reality

Let us slow then, you and I.
When vile emissions spread out across the sky
The ether that lays us upon the table;
Let us skulk through fear-deserted lanes,
The smoldering remains
Of soulless nights in one-night cheap brothels.
And raw rust juggernauts and mortar shells;
Streets that follow past the seediest tenement,
Too usurious to rent,
To lead you to an overwhelming bastion, …
Oh, do not ask, “What is it?”
Let us leave ere made to visit

In the room the women all have gone,
No longer talking of anyone.

The fetid smog that scrubs its wrack upon the russet stains,
The blood-red smoke that scrubs its muzzle on your windblown pains
Flicked its tongue into the mourners of the evening,
Lingered upon the fools that beat the drums,
Let fall onto it black soot, that falls from enemies,
Whipped by the barracks, turning up the heat
And perceiving it was a hard October night,
Curled once around the mice, began to eat.

And in time there will be need
For no poison smog that elides every street,
Rubbing its black into the sinner’s stains.
There will be need, there will be need,
To wear a face-mask before faces that you beat.
There will be need to shudder and repeat,
When greed robs all the perks and lays of lands
That lift and strop aggression till you’re late;
Need to spew and deed for fee,
And need yet for ten hundred prisons and divisions,
Before they take your friends and family.

In the room the women all have gone,
No longer talking of anyone.

And in time there will be need
To ponder, “Do I swear?” and “Do I swear?”
Need to turn back and ascend the track,
With a target in the middle of my back—
(They will say, “Now his wit is merely grin!”)
A worn old goat, why bother, spurned sup from a dumpster bin,
My necktie torn and ragged, but a belt around a waist too thin—
(They will say, “But how he harms and begs are sin!”)
Do I care,
Resort to nonsense verse?
Sin can limit; where the need
For excisions and revisions a limit will make worse.

For I have sung hymns all already, sung him all;
Have sung the evening’s mourning’s aftermaths,
I have parceled out my strife, no hope or laughs.
I show the choices, trying with a crying call,
Beneath the music of a far-out toon.
See how grow I jejune?

And I have known the whys already, known them all—
The whys that trick you with cheap formulaic praise,
And when I am inebriated, staggering on gin
Then how have I no sin?
Do without all the smut-trends of my phrase and gaze.
And now grow I jejune.

And I have known the arms already, known them all—
Arms that are bracketed, light and spare
(But in the streetlight, aimed most anywhere!)
Is it odor from a shell
That makes me sow unwell?
Arms that lie across a table or racked around a room
And then should I resume?
And how have I no sin?

Will I pay, to have done that bust, under your street
And snatched the coke that disguises sewers
Of lonely folk with heart hurts grieving beneath our feet?

Should I have seen the lairs of jagged maws
Struggling to kill the mores of silent peace.

And the oil tycoon, with breast heaving, hums relentlessly,
Stroked by strong figures,
Take acquired … by the blasphemers.
Scratched on the floor, from inside traders flee,
Should I after pleas and fakes and vices,
Save the winks, deplore government and its prices?
Shut out, I have slept and lasted, crept and preyed.
Stoned I may dream like dead (prone, ghostly, mute); caught in goop, will it splatter?
I make no profit—and hear no brave patter.
I have been the torment of my faithless ticker
And I have been the infernal Boatman, bold my boat and slicker,
Stand on shore; why snatch decayed?

And could I have come forth, sat on the wall,
After the quips, the harm I’ve made, the spree,
Among the barristers, after some balk, refuse to see?
Could I cave, sneeze, snort, smile,
To rave, pissed off, the latter all the while,
To wheeze the eunuch verse without a fall
To extol shit to a dumb, overbearing blank face,
You bray thy spam nightly, dumb, glib disgrace,
Some lack to sell us all, you shall sell us all—
If one, holding a pillow on my face,
Would bray, “What is not that I repent, at all;
What is it not, at all>”

And could wit make mean, cursed, laughter meat?
Could grit scrape clean my pride?
After the cheap wine, and the alley, and the littered street,
After the hovels, after the pain pills, after the rants that make us want to hide—
Or miss, but blow the scene.
It’s unprofitable to pay lust that I screen!
But as if a laser lightshow threw the nerves in patterns on the wall;
Could it have seen worse style?
If one, holding down a pillow or relishing a brawl
And spurning to warn the greeter
Would bray, “What is not that I repent, at all;
What is it not, at all?”

No! I am not a rich mogul, nor have spent to seem;
Am an accountant, bored, one that will do
To shill a prospect, part some green from you,
Advise the boss, no doubt, a sleazy fool,
Reverential, sad to be obtuse,
Wholly thick, nauseous, and meretricious,
Dull, blighted conscience, not a bit of use;
At times, in need, at most vermicules—
At most, the slime you drool.

I grow cold… I grow cold…
Shall I wear my best when in my coffin rolled,

Shall I first pursue my cause?   Do I dare to test my reach?
Shall I wear the rebel trousers and charge into the breach?
I have heard the cannons roaring, each to each

I do but shrink; death they sing, no plea.

I have seen them smoking, melting from the heat.
Bombing the lowest in the country’s lack,
When the world falls upon them, harsh attack.
We malingered in the numbers so elite,
Sly call-girls, wreathed with cigar smoke, undone.
Till foolish choices break us, and we’re gone.


Peace is Purpose, Nonviolence is Strength,  Diversity is Unity, Empathy is Empowerment


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