As the days grow short and mornings chill and those last knockout roses cling sadly to summer, it seems the time to share this unsettling little poem by T.S. Eliot.
When we came home across the hill
No leaves were fallen from the trees;
The gentle fingers of the breeze
Had torn no quivering cobweb down.
The hedgerow bloomed with flowers still,
No withered petals lay beneath;
But the wild roses in your wreath
Were faded, and the leaves were brown.
* * *
This poem arrived in my in-box from Poem-a-day, an outreach of the Academy of American Poets. “Song” was published in The Harvard Advocate on May 24, 1907.
What do you think? It gave me such a pleasant, morbid shiver. Has one lover turned cold on the other? Or is this simply a reminder that we’re all walking towards the grave?
* * *
Former U.S. Poet Laureate Billy Collins has a new poetry collection out, The Rain in Portugal, which appeared at #15 on the New York Times bestseller list this past Sunday. He’s a master of those unsettling endings, too, though he’s always got a lighter touch. A lighter spirit seems to animate him – though who knows, about anyone.
In his “Note to J. Alfred Prufrock,” he tells us that:
I just dared to eat
a really big peach
as ripe as it could be
He describes the whole juicy experience and concludes, “What is your problem, man?”
In “Muybridge’s Lobsters,” the action begins pleasantly enough at an art gallery:
At first sight
the photographs in the series
appear to be the same –
all black and white,
a single lobster
at the center of each,
underwater, probably in a tank.
The end will give you one of those deliciously awful chills:
That day at the exhibition
a small boy asked his mother
why the pictures were not in color,
too young to know that a lobster
wagging its claws at the bottom of the sea
is either black or a very dark green
and that it must be coaxed, by boiling, into being red.
* * *
It’s killing me not to share the whole poems above! (Trying not to violate copyright laws.) But you’ll want a copy of the collection anyhow.
* * *
Finally, I’ll share one happy shiver tonight. If you’re not a Facebook friend, you haven’t seen Monday’s big news: With Laura Cooper’s Guest Post, “Marcel Proust, That Great Southern Writer,” Bacon on the Bookshelf got noticed by LitHub. I am thrilled for Laura to receive the national attention she deserves! And I am so thankful for Mary Laura Philpott’s very kind introduction, our sine qua non.
It’s okay to be walking towards the grave. Sometimes dancing.