Prufrocked and Rushdied

I don’t often recognise references or allusions in novels. I think I gloss over a lot and miss much of what makes a book special. But, when reading ‘The Golden House’ by Salman Rushdie, something stood out. It was a line at the end of a piece of prose, poetry? The line read, ‘…is this what you meant? Or this? Is this what you meant at all?’. It was the rhythm that caught me. Made me stop. I turned to my phone as it was closer than the book and googled ‘The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock’. Now, looking back and knowing more, I see so many clearer links to the poem. For instance the reference to the narrator being ‘prufrocked’ and the almost direct quotation, ‘I have see her like a yellow dog rubbing her back against, rubbing her muzzle upon, shall I say, licking her tongue into the corners of his evening?’. Nonetheless, it was the rhythm that caught me.

Let me explain.

When I was in second year of university going through a rough spot. Rough? Maybe it was more weathered, or stormed? Anyway, I found it harder and harder to fall asleep. I tried all sorts of remedies but nothing worked. And as always when stuck in an unsure moment with no one to turn to ( or maybe someone but oh god not them) I averted my gaze and found myself looking at poetry. The one thing that seemed to make a slight difference was listening to T S Eliot reading his poem ‘The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock’ each night. The 7.52min recital mimicked lullaby. The ups and downs, peaks and troughs, cadence of his voice sent my body into as close to sleep as I could muster. It became a ritual. I’d lie and let Eliot sing to me. I’ve always believed poetry should be heard not read and this poem proves that precisely. It is a joy to listen to. Makes reading seem unsubstantial and pointless. Makes my eyes redundant and my ears gold again.

I listened to it again after my recent early evening revelations and my body went into an almost paralysis, a lucid state. I was hypnotised by a familiar voice who had tried many times before to knock me out. But this time, although my mind was preparing to shut down, I wasn’t. I was still revelling at my newfound knowledge. Insider knowledge. Like I said, I never make the links. I can never cut as deep as others into the many facets that make up and inspire a novel. I’d struck gold and it felt amazing. And so, as cliche would want it, I couldn’t sleep that night. My head full of things I wanted to share. And so I share it with you. Below is the discussed extract from the novel ‘The Golden House’ by Salman Rushdie which I recommend no one reads but everyone to have read.

“The first night and the second night, the first two nights of the new year, she demonstrates her wares, let’s him see the quality of what’s on offer, not only physically but emotionally. She…and here I rear back and half myself, ashamed, prufrocked into a sudden pudeur, for, after all, how should I presume? Shall I say, I have known them all, I have seen her like a yellow dog rubbing her back against, rubbing her muzzle upon, shall I say, licking her tongue into the corners of his evening? Do I dare, and do I dare? And who am I, after all? I am not the prince. An attendant lord, deferential, glad to be of use. Almost, at times, the Fool…But, setting aside poetry, I’m too deeply in to stop now. I am imagining her already. Perhaps kneeling beside him on the bed. Yes, kneeling, I think. Asking, is this what you meant? Or this? Is this what you meant at all?” (p.78)

The Photographer

It is the amber dawn that chases me as I wake before 6am once more and take my camera out to the field and set it up on a tripod and trepidation and make a harness for my morning in green thistle and thorn until you rise and I forget to click the shutter because you amaze me again with your beauty and before I know you’ve dispersed and I must wake again tomorrow before 6am to catch you in my camera’s eye.

And she was lonely again

It was dark outside and the trees were howling. She spent a couple of minutes staring at the ceiling. Counting sheep they say. No. She was counting limbs. And lungs and strings. Strings around necks. And flecks. Flecks of skin creeping in. In to a wound of a darker red. It bled and it bled. She said, as they screamed, it’s okay. You’ll be dead. Soon. And the moon. The moon created a spotlight. And it was just right. Just right for her to drift off slowly. And she was lonely again.

Outside my body

I hold my arm up to the light

From the cheap unscented scented candle

And the pain of that night has almost faded

And the feelings that dripped over the edges like wax

Are nearly all dried up

Your eyes still burn though

Thick smoky black clouds

So, I cover myself

With silk and cotton and cashmere

Putting pretty things over ugly scars

Proof of what you didn’t do but think you did

When broken glass spread like an incoming tide

A forest stitched upon tendon, in white thread

A silhouette of lace snaking below my elbow

When 6am hurt more than anything

And our salty eyes bruised

When the distance grew larger than us

Than our ability to piece it together

So, we lay far apart planning ways to fill the gap

Between my thigh and your arm

And your arm and my brittle blood

And we did it, didn’t we?

So now, looking down to pencil marks

A children’s drawing on my skin

It remains a memory of harder, sharper times

Flames burning brighter now

Outside my body

Are you okay?

Yes, I am okay today,

As I was in the cloudy, stormed night of yesterday,

When my mouth frothed and sprayed,

With things I wanted to say,

But couldn’t.

And my hands lay electric under the immense weight,

Of everything that I have faked

And everything that I couldn’t.

But I am not happy.

Because every moment mocks and mimics me,

And makes me ‘okay’ again, you see,

It reminds me that I am and also am not.

And it laughs


It laughs at me:

At my okay-ness and willing to be who I don’t want to be.

So, when you ask,

‘Are you okay’

I say yes.

Because I have never felt so ‘okay’,

And at the same time never seen ‘okay’ so small and far away.

So I say,

‘Yes, I am okay’

But what I really want is for you to ask

Are you happy?

It’s about a boy (pt.6)

A long pause and I end the call. I divert my gaze, my thoughts. The leaves are tapping at my window again. The wind pushes them back and forth in a flowing tide. I watch, looking up to the sky light, the crisp edges stroking the glass. I want to zoom in and capture the moment the orange scrapes the window and I want to listen to the sound it makes because I don’t know what that sounds like and that’s odd because I’ve seen it so many times. That is odd isn’t it? I’ve seen it so many times yet I don’t know what it sounds like. As I stare upwards, I lay in the cocoon I created in my hours of slumber. My hand a pillow, my stomach the mattress and my arms a blanket.

And he didn’t need to text to say he was coming.

And he didn’t need to knock.

And he didn’t even need to say anything.

Instead, he lay down beside me and took my blanket and wrapped his whole body in it and he took the pillow and he placed it next to his own. And upon the mattress he rested his head and we lay there till the curtains filled with light and the storm subsided. Our bodies meshed together in fickle embrace. If an artist were to look down at us from this skylight, he wouldn’t know how to paint us. The lines of our bodies are blurred and frayed. As if dropped, our skin merges and shallows into the carpet. Our eyes closing, bodies breathing, minds at ease with the promise of another day paced to each other’s heartbeat.

It’s about a boy (pt.5)

And after 10 minutes (which turned out to be 2 hours) my phone tumbles in my pocket and the vibrations cascade down my leg. I answer.

Me: Hello?
Him: Hello

Me: You don’t sound the same
Him: Please listen to me. I can’t tell you what I want to because if I did I would be naked and I would be everything and you would see every stain and every bruise and every scar. I can’t tell you what you want to hear because it’s those words that haunt me. And I can’t tell you how much you need me because it’s wrong when I know I need you more.

Me:  Why do you sound so different?
Him: And I can’t tell you to forgive me because I haven’t forgiven myself

Me: Your voice…
Him: I know. I don’t sound the same because I don’t feel the same. It’s because I left your hands lonely as you lay suffocated on the floor. It’s because I was a coward and I wanted it to be perfect and it wasn’t because I am too tall to lie next to you and my neck hurt from looking down and my arms ached under your back. And I didn’t realise that it didn’t have to be perfect. It’s because in that moment you were everything and I was just a boy.