The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock

LET us go then, you and I,
When the evening is spread out against the sky
Like a patient etherized upon a table;
Let us go, through certain half-deserted streets,
The muttering retreats
Of restless nights in one-night cheap hotels
And sawdust restaurants with oyster-shells:
Streets that follow like a tedious argument
Of insidious intent
To lead you to an overwhelming question….

Oh, do not ask, “What is it?”
Let us go and make our visit.

In the room the women come and go
Talking of Michelangelo.

The poem is too long to quote in full, so read the whole thing here if you’ve never read this T.S. Eliot work. We read it senior year in high school, and I still think of it now and again. Funny, what sticks with you. When we read back then, it didn’t really make sense. I think you have to experience more of the exhaustion of life, some disappointments, before you can appreciate what the writer is depicting – it’s not a work that would resonate with a restless, angst-y, hormonal teens (though plenty of teenhood is quite tedious). After a long time, I have grown to love this poem and suggested as a possible monologue for Husband (though I know poems are not really great vehicles for that), but I loooooooved reading and writing poetry in high school and early college. It was electrifying, much the way my love for acting felt. (Alas, both have faded.) Nothing like listening to a young poet read their work – you can sense and feel the room’s vibes change because it just means so bloody much to them. Still, it’s worth revisiting because I have had such a hard time finding my spark writing lately, that maybe I need to reconnect to that idealistic, excited-share-teen poet past.

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