NaPoWrimo Day#5

Today’s brief was very specific: there was a list of twenty different things I had to try to include, (some of them being writing things that make no sense!), plus a link to T S Eliot’s poem, ‘The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock’. For those of you who may not be familiar with T S Eliot, he was an American poet (1888-1965) who moved to England at the age of 25 and spent the rest of his life there, writing poems, essays and plays and being a respected literary critic. His poems are modernist in form and content, which means they are often very perplexing. (I studied ‘The Waste Land’ for A level, and it’s a collection of numerous quotations from or allusions to other works; apparently, the original poem was much longer, but then Eliot edited it down to the bare bones to make it harder to understand!) I currently teach ‘Prufrock’ to Year 9 students, who quite often struggle to understand the abstract concepts or the way in which unexpected adjectives are used to describe everyday nouns. The following is my homage to ‘Prufrock’, hence the title.

Prufrock’s Isolation

Let us stay, then, you and I

Within this isolation forest with a ceiling sky

Where arguments spring up around our feet

Like flowers, wreathing round our fragile souls;

Let all our words become hot coals –

Some spark of heat to end our apathy,

To energise, to combat lethargy.

O, let us end this weary isolation!

I smell your fear; I taste your sorrow –

Will there be food for us to buy tomorrow?

The streets outside are filled with empty spaces

The streets outside are filled with absent people

The ghosts of those who walk like hazy shadows

Flit through the empty streets and feel the silence

Their tendrils slipping fog-like

In and out of empty streets that have no voice, no purpose

And Boris Johnson sits in Downing Street

Encased in sterile gear from head to feet

This isolation coffin closes in

Its walls now shrink, compressing hair and skin

And bone into a compact ball of fear and loathing

And so this crumpled ball of stark humanity

Is swallowed by the tiger of profanity

And colours dance before my blinking eyes

And newsfeeds scream their worrying statistics.

The smell of sweat and fear and unwashed feet;

The taste of long forgotten tins of soup;

The dry, cracked skin from washing hands too often  –

All these and more are now our new existence.

The world has changed and we have no resistance.

I smell your fear; I taste your sorrow –

Will there be food for us to buy tomorrow?

But maybe there will be a hope and future:

The sun will shine once more on parks of children

And people litter streets with thoughtless actions;

Down ginnels dark and narrow, drab and twisting,

Humanity will celebrate the end of isolation,

And muggings will resume and theft and arson;

And we will celebrate that we have ‘freedom’.

Pollution will revive and grow much stronger –

“But,” we will say, “we choose to mar our planet.”

Rejoice, o man! For this forced isolation

Has only served to show us the importance

Of hurtling on our own terms to our final destination.

“Now sit thee down” and have a virtual cuppa

For all have sinned – maxima mea culpa.

The frozen butterfly of optimism

No longer flutters freely: wings iced over,

It stares with lifeless feelers, seeing nothing

And symbolising death for many thousands  –

The selfish folk who gather on the beaches,

Dispensing dangerous germs with wine and peaches,

May never know how many deaths they’ve caused

Because they thought they would not stay indoors.

I flit; I fly; I am the butterfly of doom –

My spirit soars, my body in this room.

On fairy wings I sprinkle fire and brimstone

On those whose selfish ways say no to isolation.

The Addicted Writer seeks her retribution.

There is no time for taking tea and toast

For I have measured out my life in Insta posts.

The squealing silence grates upon my nerves –

Like grated cheese it melts into my bones.

The tins of soup gaze at me in a way far too reproachful.

“We’re still in sell-by date,” they say, but I am ever watchful.

(Can someone really die from eating mouldy produce?

Are out-of-date fishfingers a form of child abuse?)

And I shall open up a tin of butterbeans.

Can I, dare I eat the soup?

The butterfly of doom unfolds its wings

Whilst overhead Corona virus sings.

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