You open your eyes to the sound of a motor. There is sun enough today, you think, that my neighbor is mowing his lawn. You shuffle to the window and you greet the cold, slick rain. Across the street, a generator forces air and paint through the nozzle of a power spray-gun.
You put on your Sunday best.
You must wash it away—you tell yourself—the stink of all your unfinished work. A reminder: be sure to get under the nails, for it lingers there, sickly and brown. But be quick about it, now—it’s already five of one and she’s due back at two.
Round the corner with a bright red umbrella. Mind the puddles for it will not do for your boots to be wet until dinner.
Sit on a stage. The patrons are around you, with their coffee and their books. They open their books and they open their ears and they await your performance with the stiffness of those words. Be a little nimble with your chatter and your wit; extol the virtue of this gay and profane little world of ours—so flippantly grave, so exuberantly serious. Do it with a little craft. They are listening, after all.
And then, good-bye! —She is gone to the street with the cold and the rush and sting of the traffic going by. Try to remember the warmth of red booths, of the coffee and the patrons and the chatter. Red can be warm but it does not last. The last warm things in life can all be found, abandoned at the bottom of empty cups.
You hum a little; it gives you strength. Strength can be real but it does not last.
You walk out into the rain and make something out of nothing. Nothing is what there is until you’ve poured some something into it. The universe is closed. In from where; out from what? You walk into the rain. You wonder about nothing.
Here is a full stop. There is the road. Here are the vines and there are the envelopes, full once with words but now empty of rain. The river is swollen and it bears no regard. Departed; left no addresses.
You think with your eyes. They are tired.
—Your hands are scrubbed raw but you still see the stains; the flowers have all gone to seed.
You try to work but you sleep instead; fall asleep to the sound of a motor.
Dream a dream where the sun is shining—and your neighbor is mowing his lawn.
That quote at the top is one of my favorite parts. I quote it in every essay I can possibly make it work in, even if just remotely. hehe
I love those lines, too. In fact, together with pretty much the entirety of “What the Thunder Said,” they are the inspiration for my would-be-novel, “Mementos of the Fall.” Well, that and a few other things. I keep meaning to make a thorough inspiration map and post it here, but I haven’t gotten around to it.
On an unrelated note, I really want to attack “Mementos” for National Novel Writing Month coming up soon. I made 30,000 words last year, but it only got me about a quarter through and Jordan, Ferdinand, Rainer, Jan, and the rest have been stranded in notes. But there are many work things to be done in November, too, so we’ll see what happens!
Would people be interested in reading more?
What are the roots that clutch, what branches grow / Out of this stoney rubbish? Son of man, / You cannot say, or guess, for you know only / A heap of broken images, where the sun beats, / And the dead tree gives no shelter, the cricket no relief, / And the dry stone no sound of water.
I thought it would be nice, as the 500th post of “A Heap of Broken Images,” to pay tribute to the poem that inspired the blog. In that vein, what follows is “The Burial of the Dead,” first of five parts to “The Waste Land,” by TS Eliot.
Thank you all for reading and “liking” and responding to the strange collection of thoughts that I post here. There are a lot of times I feel like I’m kidding myself that I could ever be a writer, and your support helps to keep me going. I hope you stick around for the next 500.
I. The Burial of the Dead
April is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.
Winter kept us warm, covering
Earth in forgetful snow, feeding
A little life with dried tubers.
Summer surprised us, coming over the Starnbergersee
With a shower of rain; we stopped in the colonnade,
And went on in sunlight, into the Hofgarten,
And drank coffee, and talked for an hour.
Bin gar keine Runnin, stamm’ aus Litauen, echt deutsch.
And when we were children, staying at the arch-duke’s,
My cousin’s, he took me out on a sled,
And I was frightened. He said, Marie,
Marie, hold on tight. And down we went.
In the mountains, there you feel free.
I read, much of the night, and go south in the winter.
What are the roots that clutch, what branches grow
Out of this stoney rubbish? Son of man,
You cannot say, or guess, for you know only
A heap of broken images, where the sun beats,
And the dead tree gives no shelter, the cricket no relief,
And the dry stone no sound of water. Only
There is shadow under this red rock
(Come in under the shadow of this red rock),
And I will show you something different from either
Your shadow at morning striding behind you
Or your shadow at evening rising to meet you;
I will show you fear in a handful of dust.
Frish weht der Wind
Der Heimat zu
Mein Irisch Kind,
Wo weilest du?
‘You gave me hyacinths first a year ago;
They call me the hyacinth girl.’
—Yet when we came back, late, from the hyacinth garden,
Your arms full, and your hair wet, I could not
Speak, and my eyes failed, I was neither
Living nor dead, and I knew nothing,
Looking into the heart of light, the silence.
Oed’ und leer das Meer.
Madame Sosostris, famous clairvoyante,
Had a bad cold, nevertheless
Is known to be the wisest woman in Europe,
With a wicked pack of cards. Here, said she,
Is your card, the drowned Phoenician Sailor,
(Those are pearls that were his eyes. Look!)
Here is Belladonna, the Lady of the Rocks,
The lady of situations.
Here is the man with three staves, and here the Wheel,
And here is the one-eyed merchant, and this card,
Which is blank, is something he carries on his back,
Which I am forbidden to see. I do not find
The Hanged Man. Fear death by water.
I see crowds of people, walking round in a ring.
Thank you. If you see dear Mrs. Equitone,
Tell her I bring the horoscope myself:
One must be so careful these days.
Under the brown fog of a winter dawn,
A crowd flowed over London Bridge, so many,
I had not thought death had undone so many.
Sighs, short and infrequent, were exhaled,
And each man fixed his eyes before his feet.
Flowed up the hill and down King William Street,
To where Saint Mary Woolnoth kept the hours
With a dead sound on the final stroke of nine.
There I saw one I knew, and stopped him, crying: ‘Stetson!
You who were with me in the ships at Mylae!
That corpse you planted last year in your garden,
Has it begun to sprout? Will it bloom this year?
Or has the sudden frost disturbed its bed?
O keep the Dog far hence, that’s friend to men,
Or with his nails he’ll dig it up again!
You! hypocrite lecteur!—mon semblable,—mon frere!’