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01 January 2013 @ 11:50 am
The Love Song Of J. Alfred Prufrock Fiction: "Siren Songs From Untraveled Seas"  
Title: Siren Songs From Untraveled Seas
Fandom: The Love Song Of J Alfred Prufrock (by T.S. Eliot)
Author: HalfshellVenus
Summary: And indeed there will be time…
Author's Notes: A Yuletide Madness extra for PteranodonSays' prompt of, "Does he ever dare?" This was quite a challenge, but the idea was irresistible.


In the twilight of my own time
I venture forth from the suffocations of my Chesterfield.
Out into the streets I blunder, throwing caution asunder,
As the bleak municipal lamps of urban promise
Glow in a ghostly mockery of rarified life.

There, along the high road, I once chased hope—
Ran behind its unsteady course and sought to claim it,
Trap it soundly in the butterfly-net of loose ambition.
Tomorrow would come, it always comes,
And the words put down on pages fly their cages
While the sun burns the last lost boat from the horizon
And the waves foam like unfashionable lace
Billowing at the bosom of an aging vicar's wife.

I remember the blood-red victory parade roses
Clustered against the coffins of the fallen dead.

The moon edges out from behind the clouds
Over the avenue where I abandoned my youth.
Apart from the themes of turnstile dreams
And quick-footed commerce, I had no notion
Of the larger world of businessmen and bartenders,
Nor the galleries of splintered objets d'art
We would haunt in the belief that beauty still survived.

In the lightboxes of the soul,
Lie needful things all men should know.

Under the benediction of that golden gleam—
The moon's forgiveness for our hurried, haggard ways—
I see a woman once called Charlotte.
She will not notice me,
With my ancient skin withered apple-brown
And my wistful remnants of hair.
She was always a willow waiting to dance,
While I but rued my albatross grace.

In the passage under the stairs,
Others kept secrets I alone would never share.

My name rises like a whisper of smoke
Aloft on the drifting air (the soft, misted air).
I stand duly dumb,
Frozen in the lifelong habit of "Not me" (never me)
And certain time will unstick my ears and speak the truth.
I have listened long enough to odes for other men
While the meager poetry of limerick defines my fate.

I am the unbought rummage-sale painting,
never more than trash-heap bound.

Again I hear the sound, the syllables I own,
And Charlotte steps toward me as if I exist
(no mere myth). I smell the faintest hint of perfume.
"Charlotte, isn't it?" I say, with the false smoothness
Of one who could easily afford to forget.
"Is it you?" she asks, though who have I ever been
And what witnesses would remember?

We talk of acquaintances—Oh, lecture me not
Over substance and philosophies,
When the world is already dying!
I invite her to drinks at the Blue Café,
And we sit with the clank of dishes
Hovering close like unwanted relatives.

Outside the motorcars rumble to and fro,
Carrying their passengers to where they must go.

Here at a corner table, the candlelight tilts upward
To leave the soup-spattered tablecloth half-hidden.
We revisit the years that fell behind us,
My name uncurling from her tongue like a royal presentation,
No hesitation or sense of its bitter, pitiful past.
It was once accursed, afflicted with dull disregard
And offering only the cruel fruit of fractured laughter.

In the cobwebbed rafters of a history bereft of indiscretion,
I had schemed for just this moment
Before I realized it would never come.
Now the wondrous wreckage of those plans lies fallow,
Earthbound against the airy thrill of the gossamer tendrils
At the nape of Charlotte's neck, the level beauty of her eyes
As she overlooks the worn elbows of my jacket.

I have known the despair of fleeting faith, known it better
Than all the false minutes of misconceived Maybes
That sank like shipboard burial stones to the bottom of the sea.

I should have learned the art of cavalier courtship
Instead of clinging to the rude scraps lovers tossed beneath my feet.

But I am not so old as I once believed, nor so terrible,
And the Universe ticks onward despite my scratching at its door.
I bid Charlotte to my rooms, games of chance or even romance
Equally welcome in the mystery that is finally ready to unfold.

We walk out into the evening, her hand upon my arm
(Be silent, tremor!), until our leisured steps at last approach my gate.
Charlotte turns as I hold it open, words unspoken.
The pas de deux progresses with natural agility,
Her smile guiding us onward toward my doorstep
Ahead of the actual ascension of light.

------ fin ------

Cislyn: just a girl in the world...cislyn on January 8th, 2013 08:59 pm (UTC)
OMFG this is brilliant, and I love it. You've nailed the tone, the language, the rhythm, everything. I think this is my favorite:

"In the cobwebbed rafters of a history bereft of indiscretion,
I had schemed for just this moment
Before I realized it would never come.
Now the wondrous wreckage of those plans lies fallow,
Earthbound against the airy thrill of the gossamer tendrils
At the nape of Charlotte's neck, the level beauty of her eyes
As she overlooks the worn elbows of my jacket."

But then again, there's just so much to love. I have no idea how I missed this when you first posted it, but I'm really glad you poked and put out a reminder to people, because yeah, this was great and I'm thrilled to have read it.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on January 8th, 2013 09:12 pm (UTC)
*falls all over you*

THANK YOU for reading this!

It was such a terrific challenge, trying to get the feeling of Eliot and his rhyming scheme without outright copying parts of the original poem. The hardest part, honestly, was his sardonic sense of humor. It is so easy for that to just sound like bad poetry in the wrong hands, but it's so much a part of what makes the original so wonderful: "Like a patient, etherized, upon a table."

The order in which phrases arrived was also unexpected. "As she overlooks the worn elbows of my jacket." came long before I'd worked out a home for its sentiment, and the final line of the whole poem came about midway. I knew I wanted that line, and knew I wanted it near the end. Again, building the path to it was an entirely separate process.

Well, I'm so glad you took a moment to read it AND enjoyed it. Thank you so much!

Cislyn: bookycislyn on January 8th, 2013 11:26 pm (UTC)
I am a huge Eliot fangirl, so I know exactly what you're talking about with that wit and the sharp turns of phrase. I'm really impressed! And it's odd how once you're into the groove of writing something, the words and phrases will just sort of pop up and demand to be used, isn't it? Odd, but wonderful!
whipchickwhipchick on January 9th, 2013 03:36 pm (UTC)
Glad you poked, as I think this originally went up when I had a travel week and I got behind on LJ!

I love love love this line -
And Charlotte steps toward me as if I exist

And Prufrock is my all-time favorite poem, so this was awesome to read. I like the feeling that it's a companion piece, and it's beautifully written!

PS - Not sure if you would consider this, but I wish you would leave a teaser line or two of the beginning of the stories you hide behind cuts. But that's probably me being lazy and wanting to be sucked in!
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on January 9th, 2013 05:54 pm (UTC)
I re-read that poem over and over while writing this (it's my favorite as well), and the vaccillation between being mocked and feeling invisible just runs throughout. He so hates always being the outsider, always the one to see the wonder of life but never be included in it (the singing mermaids), but he's convinced that when he IS mentioned, it is always in a cruel or dismissive way. That line you pointed out... sums up the whole turning point that changes his position on the world.

I liked your suggestion! With so many years in fanfiction, there's this tendency to not want to annoy your f-list with more than just the fic header and maybe a single teaser line, but I tend to forget that there is a middle ground between that and putting a humongous entry out there without an lj-cut!

Now I'm going to update this entry, to reveal a little more of it. ;)

Thanks so much for taking the time to read this! I think this is the 2012 writing accomplishment I'm happiest about, but it's also one of the least read, so it nags at me. :)
Jas Massonjasmasson on February 3rd, 2013 11:19 am (UTC)
God, I needed to reread that poem. SO GOOD.

And THIS. THIS! The language was so perfect I can't tell you how beautifully it resonated. GOD. <3
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on February 3rd, 2013 07:24 pm (UTC)
I love, LOVE that poem, and the prompt for it-- god, how could you NOT want to try writing it?

I'm so glad you liked this in the context of the original! You can see why I've been so obsessed with having done this, and have been nagging people to read it. I'm just so thrilled with how this turned out, and there aren't many people on my f-list who would really have a sense of why the original is so fabulous and why telling the aftermath would be so irresistible. :)

Oh, Prufrock-- so many people's stories are reflected in that poem!