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)

Girls and boy

I was at the same time the best

and the worst

 

I felt myself torn apart

My bottom half was theirs

and my top was his

and he would stroke my hair

whilst they dug their nails

into the skin around my ankles

and in the moment when I’d look up

and see him staring down

I’d feel that wordless adoration

before their claws once more

plucked my toenails from my feet

and crawled up my legs

used knives to scar me

each one on each

 

So I found it hard to balance

with such a mess at my feet

Maybe I had to give up that part of me for him

 

I would give up anything for him.

Autumn

I watch quietly as the fields turn from green to gold whilst the corn feeds on our shared air and the earth continues, ignorant to its own incredible normality. I pick a blade of grass and split it with my nail, and then again until I’m holding tiny slivers of emerald in my hand and the weight is almost insignificant. The wind forces the dusty green in my palm to scatter and I am thinking of a time before now when she and I would lay upon this very earth and discuss our passions as if we were selling ourselves to one another.

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

2 pints

 

I’m thinking about the spit on my boyfriend’s cheek,

And how he doesn’t lift his arm to wipe it even though he knows it’s there,

And I’m thinking about the pressure of the glass on my lips,

And what would happen if I pressed a little harder,

And I’m thinking about you of course.

I’m thinking about the warmth of my coat, his coat,

And the cold at the end of my toes that I can only feel when I think about it,

And then I’m thinking about you again and I can’t feel my toes anymore.

I’m thinking about how close her arm is to his,

And how it’s hypocritical for me to burn when I see them touch,

Because I’m thinking about you of course.

I’m thinking about the couple across the garden,

And how they haven’t spoken once in ten minutes,

But have found an hour’s worth of kissing in that time,

And now I’m thinking about you of course.

I’m thinking about tomorrow and I’m thinking about tonight,

About whether I should leave early or stay for another pint,

About what my friends would say if I went right now,

‘Come on, stay for one more round’,

I’m thinking about my options and how they aren’t really mine at all,

And I’m thinking about you of course.