The Love-Song of Harry N Abrams
With apologies to T.S. Eliot

“If I thought my reply were to one who could ever return to the world, this flame would shake no more; but since, if what I hear is true, none ever did return alive from this depth, I answer you without fear of infamy.”— Dante, Inferno

Let us go then, you and I,
When the Scraper’s reared against the sky
Like an author etherized upon a table;
Let us go, through certain Roman patterned streets,
Those harsh and sharp retreats
Of touring nights in small, Boutique hotels,
And Gainsvort restaurants, with oyster-shells:
Avenues that rush on like a vicious argument
Of most direct intent
To power you to an overwhelming question. . .
Oh, do not ask, “What is it?”
Let us move and make our visit.

In the firm the women come and go
Talking of Bad Pinnochio.

The yellow cab that rubs its lights upon the window-panes
The yellow smoke that rubs its muzzle on the window-panes
Licked its tongue into the corners of the evening
Lingered upon the pools that stand in drains,
Let fall upon its back the trash that falls from Galleys,
Slipped by the Brown Stone, made a sudden leap,
And seeing that it was a bright Eternal night
Curled once about its Publisher, and fell asleep.

And indeed there is no time
For the yellow cab that streaks along the street,
Flashing its eyes upon the window-panes;
There is no time, there is no time
To prepare a face to meet the falseness that you meet;
There is no time to murder or create,
No time for all the works and days of hands
That lift and drop a novel on your plate;

No time for you, no time for me,
No time yet for a hundred indecisions
And for a hundred visions and revisions
Before the ‘MOVE on’ for some Village tea.

In the room the women come and go
Talking of Bad Pinnochio.

And indeed there is no time
To wonder, “Was it fair?” or, “Did I dare?”
No time to turn back and descend the stair,
With some wood chip in the middle of my hair—
[They will say: “How his hair is growing thin!”]
My British coat, my collar fraying badly at the chin,
My Ink Pen rich and modest, but asserted by a simple grin—
[They will say: “But how his wooden legs are thin!”]
Did I dare
Disturb the Universe? It was disturbed.

In a minute there is no time
For decisions and revisions which a minute won’t reverse.

For I have known them all already, known them all;
Have known the evenings, mornings, afternoons,
I have measured out my life with lost dubloons;
I know the voices dying with a dying fall
Beneath the music from a happier room.
So how did I presume?

And I have known the eyes already, known them all—
The eyes that fix you in a nimble phrase,
Like, ‘Burns his bridges’,
or ‘Won’t avert his gaze,’
‘A kinda of own worst author,’
or ‘a heartbreak in a daze.’
And when I’m formulated, sprawling on a pin,
When I’m pinned and wriggling for them all,
Then how should I begin
To spit out all the butt-ends of my days and ways?
And how did I presume?

And I have known the arms already, known them all—
Arms that are amuleted, but white and bare
[Yet in the streetlight, downed with hard black hair!]
Is it perfume from a dress
That makes me so digress?
Arms that wait upon a proof, or edit out a scrawl.
And should I then presume?
And how should I begin?

Shall I say, I have gone at dusk through grid-lined streets
And watched the smoke that rises from the pipes
Of lonely CEO’s in shirt-sleeves, leaning out windows?

I should have been a pair of printed claws
Tapping across the floors of noisy seas.

And the afternoon, the evening, sleeps so fitfully!
Smoothed and edited by fingers,
Asleep . . . tired . . . or it malingers,
Stretched on the floor, here beside you and me.
Should I, after cupcakes and Bleeker ices,
Have had the strength to force the moment to its crisis?
But though I have wept and fasted, wept and prayed,
Though I have seen my wooden head (now bald) brought in upon a platter,
Perhaps I AM a prophet– and here’s great matter;
Yet I have seen the moment of my greatness flicker,
And I have seen the eternal Bellboy hold my coat, and snicker,
And in short, I was afraid.

And would it have been worth it, after all,
After the cupcakes, Margheritas, talk of being free,
Among the Galley Proofs, among some lies by you, of me,
Would it have been worth while,
To have bitten off the matter with a smile,
To have squeezed the universe into a ball
To roll it toward another overwhelming question,
To say: “I am Lazarus, come from the dead,
Come back to tell you all, I shall tell you all.”

If one, settling someone else’s novel by her head,
Should say, “That is not what I meant at all.
That is not it, at all.”

And would it have been worth it, after all,
Would it have been worth while,
After the sunsets and the meetings and the swarming streets,
After the novels, after the cupcakes, after the boots that stomp along the floor—
And this, and so much more?—
It is just possible to speak of what I mean!
But as if an emailed madness threw the nerves in patterns on a screen:
Would it have been worth while
If one, settling a cover, or throwing off my scrawl,
And turning toward the window, should say:
“That is not it at all,
That is not what I meant, at all.”

Yes! I was Prince Hamlet, and was sad to be;
Not just a branded author, one that once could do
To swell a progress, start a tale or two
Advise the prince; no doubt, an easy tool,
Deferential, mad to be of use,
Impolitic, outrageous, but meticulous;
Full of high sentence, but a bit obtuse;
At times, indeed, almost ridiculous—
Almost, at times, the Fool.

I grow old . . . I grow old . . .
I shall bear the dustjackets of my novels rolled.

Shall I part my wooden hair behind? Do I dare to grow a peach?
I shan’t wear All-Star Sneekers, or walk on Coney beach.
Yet I have heard bad mermaids singing, each to each.

I hear they will not sing to me.

I have seen them riding seaward on the waves
Combing the white hair of the waves blown back
When the wind blows the deep, loveless waters inky black.

We have lingered in the chambers of the sea
By press-girls wreathed with seaweed red and brown
Till New York voices wake us, and we drown.

DCD 2011

Leave a comment

Filed under New York, Poetry, Publishing

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s