Tag Archives: TS Eliot


My idol was once Eliot:
I sought out stranger words
to seem more erudite and suave,
and introduced philosophies
through quotes in native tongues;
with long, ecstatic footnotes
in expository text
I piled up paraphrases,
odd translations and asides.

The simpler the subject,
the more complex grew the form,
until it took a thousand lines
of interlocking code
to show not tell in tortured verse
what could be said
in just three words.

08 FEB 2017

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P.S., T.S.

My idol was once Eliot:
I sought out stranger words
that seemed so erudite and suave.
I leaked philosophy
through lengthy quotes in native tongues;
with long, ecstatic notes
I piled up paraphrases,
odd translations and asides.

The simpler the subject,
the more complex the form required,
until it took a thousand lines
of interlocking verse
to demonstrate with certainty
a great command of thought;
to fill a bookshelf with such tomes
became life’s sole desire.

My readers, those who stayed the course,
at length just were bemused;
they thought themselves, like me, elite,
and with great dragon hoards
stored up minutiae by the pound
in some great thought Bastille,
imagining the world outside
looked up at us in awe.

And then one day, a prison break:
when that grand intellect
seemed no more than some prison slang
used to intimidate
and beat into submission
lesser minds and weaker souls,
who never heard of Eliot
nor cared what they had missed.

Epiphany! Enlightenment!
In freedom from the phrase,
unloosed from literary chains
and jumbled metaphor,
I found a simpler way to write
beyond mere show not tell,
past all that posturing and such:
just speak your mind, and quit.

27 APR 2013

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Thus fails poetry

What can I show you in mere words
requiring some shared frame,
a reference we both use to describe
a common ground only imagined
that in the vanity of hope we craft
of veiled illusions, archetypes
that may at best, sleep undiscovered,
buried in our separate egos?

What chance, if I fail to meet you
at some halfway point, by trying
just to tell you of my vision,
using concrete words we both know,
is there for our split subconscious
to agree on deeper symbols,
hidden glyphs or long lost mythos?

Yet you would insist that showing
best conveys intended meaning,
makes connection worth exploring
between minds that seek no merging.

Thus fails poetry.

05 JUN 2005

“I gotta use words to talk to you.” — T.S. Eliot

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Tradition and the Individual Talent

for T.S. Eliot

When Icarus took flight with home-made wings
he sought to rise above, not divine laws,
but listening to how the eagle sings
attempted to reach past the aeropause

that culture places on its young when born
to limit how far flung their dreams may reach,
and teaches children to avoid its scorn
by tempering their thoughts in civil speech.

Poor Daedelus, tradition’s solid stock,
can only watch in anguish from the bluff
as his bright future plummets to the rocks,
its bindings frayed, momentum not enough.

Against the ceiling set by common whim
there is no soar or dive; just fall, or skim.

03 JUN 2004

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Eliot’s Month, Not Mine

cywydd deuair hyrion

April is the cruelest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.
— T.S. Eliot, from The Waste Land

Again the winds are playing
like knives, and the steel wool gray
and ominous gathered clouds
have the horizon shrouded.
The spring that for a week warmed
winter’s bones is now forlorn
and hiding beneath the porch,
confused and quite out of sorts,

proud short-sleeved glory faded,
its sun-drenched dreams frustrated.
Like giants, groggy, half asleep,
the trees hang to their new leaves;
and tender young plants, untrained
and weak, lay flattened by rain
that keeps coming at odd hours
to chill the blooming flowers.

April, you promised sunshine,
but delivered a long line
of bitter squalls; now just half
spent, your span’s sad epitaph
will read of somber, bleak days
filled with dreary, wet malaise,
seeking in vain for some warmth
from your cruel unending storms.

13 APR 2004

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On TS Eliot

I’ve read you, T.S. Eliot,
and one thing I don’t get
is why between such lovely lines
you’re such a pompous twit

while sharing arcane references
lost on non-scholar types
you wail and moan the loss of myth
with poncey, highbrow tripe

it makes me wonder about schools
that teach us to ensnare
the young and willing eager mind
and leave it gasping there

its arms around a load of Greek
its tongue on Latin tripped
and by the time the poems done
the joy for life is whipped

but then a line of simple truth
comes gleaming through the mire
and makes the confused, convoluted
spirit catch on fire

for these small fragments, tiny gems
I bother with your stuff
and leave the rest: the posturing,
and clever dreck and fluff.

03 FEB 2004

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Coffee Spoons

Little by little, life goes on
Minute after minute, and then it’s gone
A brief bit of essence to work upon
Like a fog lingering on the lawn

Little by little, life it grows
Hour by hour, it never slows
And into the river of time it flows
Like the petals that fall from a fading rose

Little by little, life measures out
Second to second, through faith and doubt
A small chance to see what it’s all about
Like an interstate over a rural route

Little by little, life passes by
Morning to evening the hours fly
A slice of the infinite before your eye
Like birds flying south in a winter sky

Little by little, life goes on
Day after day it moves, then it’s gone
A miniscule fragment of hither and yon
Like a few fleeting flashes before the dawn

Little by little, life comes and goes
Measured in ounces that ebb and flow
A drop from the river for all we know
Like fast melting pieces of falling snow

Little by little, life goes so fast
Each grain of sand fills an hourglass
An tiny oasis on which we’re cast
Like desert birds, making each dewdrop last

Little by little, life ends too soon
Only so many suns and full moons
A short time to learn so many new tunes
Like emptying the ocean by coffee spoon.

03 MAR 2003

“I have measured out my life in coffee spoons …”
The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, T. S. Eliot

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