The Waste Basket
— After T. S. Eliot
Mel C. Thompson
Copyright © 2012, 2017,
Mel C. Thompson Publishing
Mel C. Thompson
3559 Mount Diablo Boulevard, #112
Lafayette, CA 94549
Editing Note: To conform with all auto-flow text formats, I’ve put bullet points between what would have been traditional line breaks, and then double-spaced between what would have been traditional stanzas.
Table of Contents
Part One: A Funeral for The Living
The Waste Basket, Part Two — Failed Strategies
The Waste Basket, Part Three — A Lukewarm Doctrine
The Waste Basket, Part Four — A Loss Of Faith At The Embarcadero
The Waste Basket, Part Five — An Aborted Tornado
Notes On “The Waste Basket”
The Waste Basket, Part One: A Funeral For The Living
Return To Table of Contents
I would begin this with a quote in Latin, • Except my cheap-ass, social-promotion education • In the slacker high schools of the Seventies • Ensured that I would never get beyond inept Spanish.
April is truly the fool’s month, forcing • Ineligible bachelors from their ugly apartments, sending • Incompetent sole proprietors to flea markets, tempting • Uneducated shoppers out to buy cheap plastic junk from China.
Winter was as miserable as Hell, freezing • Low income, artsy posers too cheap to blast their heaters, torturing • Lonely cat ladies with an even deeper isolation.
Summer was just a complete farce. Sun-burnt • And sweaty, we lumbered on. We stopped by City Hall, • Took the antique street cars to Pier Thirty-Nine • And were tempted to revert to marijuana in North Beach.
Here I would insert something in some Germanic tongue, • But the sound of that language irritated me, and so I dropped • My course, forever ruining my chance to get my Masters • In Philosophy and do my thesis on Hagel by translating obscure • Passages back into English for no one to read, ever.
As for the mountains, you will find them degrading. • You will be relegated to South Lake Tahoe City. • Basically everyone will be drunk the whole time, • And if your health is delicate, you’ll be stuck on a cot • In a motorhome in a trailer park frequented by • Voracious black bears who would think nothing • Of consuming your thin, anxiety-battered frame.
What is my photo album, really? Just a collection • Of beautiful women, formerly-close family members • And dead friends, all eternally out of reach, (thank God).
There are shadows covering everything, the shadows • Of high-rise office towers full of healthy, young strivers • Who will see to it that the feckless and trembling sort • Are finally trampled over and forgotten. However, • I rather like those shadows because I’m allergic • To the sun, and to alcohol, and virtually every other • Form of ordinary happiness, except Earl Gray Tea • And self-flattery and self-indulgence, which I feel • Are equal to all of the monotheistic revelations combined.
(There is no need to show me fear, since I am an expert already.)
And here, I would switch from the German I never learned • To the French I never learned, and put in some cool quote • From a legendary Parisian author. But I was intimidated by • All things French. Furthermore, all the smart students took it, • And they all got amazing jobs and flew to Europe. (I needed • Spanish so that I could communicate with my coworkers • At my bus boy jobs, my prep cook jobs, my hotel desk clerk jobs • And my guard jobs, where I might be the only Anglo on duty.)
You came to me, from the dance floor, from the shower, • From everywhere that is sexy. But I was not really dead of soul. • I could love, except that I could not afford to refill my Viagra • Prescription, and the free clinic had run out of free samples. • Yes, psychologically I was destroyed, but not so wrecked • That I would have failed to try to suck your box dry. • But I was not willing to risk another woman storming out • The door screaming: “Men! They are such cowards! Men! • They are such wimps!” And then to hear the awful sound • Of a wall violently being slammed and a car door violently • Slamming, and tires violently screeching from the lot below.
Did I mention that I finally got over my airplane phobia • And saw the London bridge? The anticlimax of it was stunning. • Even the tourist workers told me it would be a disappointment. • Even there, I saw you. You were in Europe for the hundredth time. • You were with some hot Irish stud who was brash and drunk and sexy. • I slunk back into the Underground, but got lost in the labyrinth of tunnels.
The Waste Basket, Part Two — Failed Strategies
The yoga mat she worked out on, with the OM symbol, • Her crystals laid out on a marble table, each with photographs • Of discredited gurus and defrocked lamas, a still life painting • By Ferlinghetti, a menorah with half-melted candles, • (Odd because she knew nothing about Judaism).
A Feng Shui Art Deco pastiche of furniture and knickknacks, • Shelf after shelf of overstated costume jewelry and necklaces, • An overdone bed with a thousand dollars worth of quilts • And high-thread-count sheets and pillows and pillow cases, • All in high preparation for a long-awaited lover never to arrive.
The odor of strange bits of ingredients, the scent of tools employed, • The aroma of scattered boxes and assorted packing materials • On account of some unlikely business she has plunged into • To save face over the careers, (the collection of careers), that could • Never possibly happen in a million years of absurdly misguided labor.
The shocking truth that she is sneaking out and smoking again, • After having lectured me about the imperfections in my diet. • The amazing fact that she is eating compulsively around the clock • While lecturing me daily for hesitating to employ an acupuncturist. • Darling, (wherever you are), I didn’t try the Philippine psychic surgeon.
On her mantle she has displayed carefully-framed photographs • Of all of the men who tried, but could not quite finally love her. • I find myself among those photographs. I find half of the men I • know among those photographs. It seems the gods of love are • Nothing short of half-blind or perversely indiscriminate.
True, there were certain lovers who hunted her, stalked her, • Frightened her. They were more to her liking than the dull, • Gentle men who cared deeply for her but lacked animal passion. • In any case, the urge for basic safety outweighed crazed lust • And she unhappily settled for a stable of half-men who half-loved.
Just last year I feebly weaved a pretext to call her. • Alas, I was trying to date way out of my league. • Her millionaire father did not groom her for three decades • To have to support her perennially unemployable lover. • The cannon of accumulated practical wisdom forbade this.
I’ll go with the weapon of last resort. “I’m having a panic attack. • If our friendship meant anything to you, you will come to me • And hold me and comfort me. Otherwise I shall die of loneliness.” • This is a shameless tool. And I know for sure what she is thinking. • And she knows what I am thinking. Still, I get my way.
My how the rats are growing. Evolution is not stopped by us • Or our growing cities. The pythons who hunt these rats • Are also being found in alleys, sloughs and backyard shrubs. • This seems to be an ill omen for the future of our romance. • A waterspout freakishly comes ashore, failing to destroy
Buildings. It has only knocked out our windows, and ruined • The file folders that held the last copies of my book • And the rejection slips, (the whole pile of them), that came, • Week after week, year after year. I had to be honest with you: • “I really did not like most of Shakespeare’s plays. I’m sorry.”
Of course, in the aftermath of the whirlwind, a salty rain • Came pouring down for hours. I should have grabbed her, • Forced a kiss on her, even if she struggled. Perhaps she would • Peel me away from herself, slap me, shout at me, threaten to call • The police. And, even as I trudged away, head hanging down,
She might have thought, “The man is an ugly, old, haggish fruitcake, • And I’d never lie with him if a trillion universes were born and died • Between now and the end of Hell itself. But at least the old wimp • Finally had the guts to act like he meant what he said. Good for him. • For once he was not mincing words. For once he did not vacillate.”
I remember some nights when all I could think was, • “God, please kill off all her husbands and boyfriends. • Oh Lord, destroy all male humans on this planet till only • I am left. Dear Savior, decimate women’s lives till clinging • To me is the only choice left in this bitter, blue world.”
The Universe has never punished me on account of • These kinds of prayers. The council on Olympus said, • “The man is simply filled with hatred. It may be sin, but • Notice the way he stands up to us. It is his only honor, • That and the way he never tires of offending the fairer sex.”
Apollo chimed in, “And he was always telling editors • To go screw themselves. That was somehow greatly worthy.” • And how many men have had it far, far worse than I have? • How many died on the battlefield fighting a war they didn’t • Understand, for a president they disliked, and a first lady
They found repugnant, in both dress and style and affect. • The rose she preserved by pressing in book pages, from • Boyfriends who never rated high enough for fellatio. Cruel • Stacks of love letters, (each piling guilt upon guilt, forever). • For The Virgin Mary’s sake, why didn’t we leave her alone!
And you, for whom I intended to write this poem: How often • Did you say to me, “I suppose I owe you a hand job if I’m not • Willing to go all the way. Give me a moment to push down • Another drink or two, and let me slip off with Ronnie, since • He can afford dope to smoke. I can get high enough to do this.”
And I remember you asking me how many abortions, how many • Cases of the clap will it take before I learn my lesson? “By the way, • Mel, do you have herpes yet? I can’t believe you never got infected • After years of dragging me into bed.” No, no, somehow I was • Spared the punishment I deserved. Though it’s little consolation.
And so I say goodnight to all those are still working themselves • Pointlessly to death for a collection of ignorant, boring people. • And goodnight to the infinite multitude of people who hurt me • Every time they claimed to help me. Good night to every old love. • It’s not such a bad thing, marching toward doom full of regrets.
The Waste Basket, Part Three — A Lukewarm Doctrine
My discount-store camping tent • Got blown all to hell in this parched desert. • Instead of beautiful women, this campground is filled • To the brim with stocky, drunken rednecks.
This stagnant pond reminds me of the polluted Delta • Off the San Francisco Bay where Chevron dumps its chemicals. • We elected Liberals in order to preach sermons against polluting • Just so long as the polluters don’t actually stop paying everyone’s salaries or bribes.
On second thought, it might be simpler to just elect • Pro-pollution Republicans and just admit we’re being bought off. • The oil funds our fathers who fund our Masters Degrees • Which funds most of the poems you will read in my books.
God loves the arts. Meanwhile the mice and rats have given up • Any pretext of hiding, or even being wild animals. They are now • Simply stronger than we are. That’s why they walk on the floor • As broad daylight streams in through the Café Trieste windows.
Death is all around me. I’m wracked by the dark visions • Of the bodies and bones of all those who lived and died before me. • I was exaggerating. Mostly I’m just slightly buzzed all day • On Earl Grey tea. Honestly, I’m evading the topic of death.
Back to the rats. You really have to admire them for holding their own. • Last night they claimed a stretch of sidewalk on Market Street. • There must have been a half-dozen of them in a semi circle • Defying anyone to walk through them. We all stepped aside.
At this moment I feel an urge to tell you my whole long drama, • Listing every detail of every injustice. I must tell you the same story • Over and over again, every night. Not a single detail will change. • Not a single new insight will emerge. I’ll just keep narrating forever.
I’ve got an urge to do a Michael McClure or Jim Morrison • Kind of Lizard King or Reptile Consciousness poem, • Except I never quite looked the part to pull it off. • If my work is to sell, it won’t be through my sex appeal.
San Francisco isn’t so much a poetry town anymore. • Frankly my friends from Dallas get more art work done. • Hard to do any art when you’re working three jobs to pay rent. • In the end, the rednecks accidentally let you do more art,
Since in their heartland, you’re not paying a quarter-million • Per Bedroom. This has gotten depressing. Let us try harder • To focus on our trips to Europe. I’ll mostly talk about London • Since I didn’t make it much further. There were budget problems.
The educated ones among us speak French and go to France. • All of this is embarrassing for those of us who chose Spanish • In junior high school. Next time around I’ve got to study • The players more closely and shamelessly copy their moves.
So basically the twilight is coming on and I’m not getting laid. • There are straightforward marketing reasons for this. • But people have told me they are desperately tired of hearing • “Old man can’t get a date” poems. So I’ll spare you the long list
Of reasons why I’m alone. In any case, everyone from the sailor • To the temp clerk, if they have any steam left in their engines • And any hook into the world, such as looks or money or fame, • Or the ability to tell lies and not lose a minute of sleep, will be
Crowding the bars along Mission Street, The Haight, the Embarcadero, • Responding to the simple genetic call to get high and start mating. • What are the odds now that health and romance and finance • Could be recovered? It has happened, but it might be on the order
Of one in thirty-million. Note to the gods: Sending me an inheritance • Of a hundred-thousand dollars after I’m already impotent and bitter • Will not constitute an act of mercy on the part of Olympus. Sorry, • All you gratitude freaks, but I won’t fake like I’m impressed.
I have surely cast thirty-five years of withering judgment on those • Men who are bedding everyone in sight. But I notice my trenchant • Analysis of their successes has neither slowed their progress nor • Has it humbled them even slightly. That was a thousand volumes
Of preaching that counted for nothing. That’s a lesson to remember. • The women at this party are all streaming away with men whom • They’ll dismiss soon enough, but find suitable for one evening of monogamy. • (I say that because women apparently have a monogamy that is a dozen
Times more promiscuous than my polygamy.) Me and T. S. Eliot had • This one handicap in common: We both implied we were Christian. • As the heroic Jews of Israel proclaim, so do I proclaim. “Never again! • Never again!” Ah, but a childhood wasted can never be reclaimed
No matter what the white Shaman says, no matter what three-hundred- • Dollar an hour therapy or ceremony they offer. Hence, my resolve • To be a rouge cannot really be retroactive, however much I might try • To make good on my promise to be sinful. Unlike certain authors,
I accept patronizing kisses as readily as heart-felt ones. I would pay cash • For kisses, except that I’ve checked the rates and found them impossibly dear • For a man on the dole. Lest I sound too implacable, I’ll recall this fact: • The primitive humans did not usually live to be nearly 59 years of age.
The fact that a frail body like mine was not absolutely struck down • Decades ago could in itself be considered some type of Divine intervention. • It’s a rationalization you may want to use when whistling so melodically • Past your own private graveyard. I just realized London may well have been
Just as disappointing as San Francisco. I’d have been priced-out sooner. • Where would I be living now, in some cold, run-down shithole in Leeds? • Well then, there’s no need to wish I’d been born elsewhere. The capitols • of culture and finance and orgies would have eluded me on every continent.
It is not a misunderstanding that beer and sake appear on the altars • Of Shinto shrines. Nor was it some miscalculation that caused fertility • To rank as a high value in the functional faiths of this rock-solid Earth. • The fact that health has banned me from universally-loved communions
Should not reflect badly on those revered rites. Too bad for me if I must walk • By every tavern and simply hang my head, envying the whiffs of hemp • And tobacco now flaunted at every major intersection. The sick are destined • To be fakes. They must either pretend worldly participation is boring
Or pretend that they could compete in an arena far too violent for them. • To say, “I would love to be drinking and smoking and screwing and working, • But I lack the strength to carry on,” is the one sentence fully forbidden. • Hence you are ordered to lie and look phony either way. I would quote
Some silly English or Irish or Scottish poem at this point. But what • Did I ever really know about literature? Honestly, I started reading too late. • It’s all a harried catch-up. And even that job, I’m slowly resigning. You, • With your erudition, are welcome to lecture me on any text I’ve missed.
I could launch into a travelogue, but I dare not push my luck further. • If you have read this far, you are nothing short of saintly. Thank you. • We must both resolve, upon the New Year, to live a more exciting life. • We will clearly have to steal every dime it would take to fund adventures.
Just the other day, I saw you, proud Atheist, walking, slack-jawed, forlorn. • And you stopped in front of an open cathedral door and looked around and • Out, as if to say, “Now what?” Then you sheepishly ducked inside, only • To change your mind abruptly at the threshold. Your face looked frozen.
The Waste Basket, Part Four — A Loss Of Faith At The Embarcadero
The sea gulls used to be majestic, but • Now they grovel with pigeons for trash • South of Market, their ancient beauty • Wasted on the increasingly-filthy
Streets of San Francisco. It’s pathetic • To see all greatness bow before the seduction • Of trendiness, to which even birds succumb. • We are so stuck on the honor of being here
That we can’t see the Third-World decay. • The pigeons became rats and the gulls became • Pigeons. Since, we, the people, are less noble • Than the gulls, I’ll let go of any remaining faith.
Some days, if the tide is high and the wind is up, • The old poetry of the Bay comes surging in. • But even at the once-sacrosanct waterfront, • You have to watch your purse and wallet.
The Waste Basket, Part Five — An Aborted Tornado
After the homeless men were through extorting money from couples, • (More or less indicating that they would destroy the romance of the date • Unless cash was turned over in larger amounts than usual), • After the police refused to do anything about the routine assaults • And routine vandalism and routine burglaries, we decided
To vacation somewhere else next year. This mystified people. • It was as if, they felt, their offering of bad service at astronomical prices • Was somehow a kind of evidence of a deep and exotic virtue. • It was as if, by indisputably proving our infrastructure was ten times • More dilapidated than that of Los Angeles, we would attain some
Decisive cultural victory, not realizing that cheapness is not itself culture. • My argument was simply this: A shit-hole apartment that looks like Hell • In the Mission, is not more profound than a slum that looks like crap • In Hollywood. The fact that you are more likely to be stabbed in the Mission • Does not make it more sanctified. Will we ever come up with anything new?
The next part of this poem was to present a detailed landscape. • The rocks and hills and mountain roads and references to water • Were basically a ploy to explain to you my many emotional states. • Sadly, you don’t care about my emotional states, and so I will skip • That section, hoping to win applause from you some other way,
After having just insulted the very reverence of your chosen home • And after concluding a solid mockery of everything you believe in, • My poetry teachers think I might sprinkle this poem with grasshoppers, • Assorted bugs, perhaps the rushing of a stream, and maybe toss in • Some Whitman-like praises of the glandular and hearty life of men.
But alas, I can’t tell what kind of trees I’m looking at, and don’t know • The names of the insects. I could only describe their color, their mating, • The way it feels when they sting or bite. Anyway, I believe all that • Would bore you. Frankly, I don’t even want to go backpacking. That stuff • Is only cute when you haven’t spent fifteen years in a basement.
Back to the complaining! The apocalyptic vision endings are all the same. • I insinuate that the Hound of Heaven is following you everywhere, • But since you were having sex less than a week after you dumped me, • I think the Hound of Heaven has gone lax on His duties. Karma, • Fails again and must defer to the idea of “never seeing where it comes from.”
“Really,” an employer might say, “it may look like I’ve stolen from all of you, • But actually I’ve paid out the full sum owed to everyone, although you • Have to guess who got whose share of what from who and in what order.” • Did no one ever hear the phrase, “Justice delayed is justice denied?” • Dare I say that justice was denied! If so, then what is the meaning
Of your pitiful struggle? It never occurs to you that being born an idiot, • Living like an idiot and dying like an idiot might be some great calling. • I, for one, am prepared to defend the thesis. We agree that the mating • Dances of the birds is some fantastic blessing, some natural wonder. • We let them off without an ounce of Theology. “Fair enough to be eaten.”
I did not mean to neglect such great capitols, past and present, • As Athens, Vienna and Jerusalem, but admit to a sub-conscious • Motivation to slight them, only because I lacked the pocket change • For air fare. One could sing the praises of those dark-haired women, • Those indomitable walls, towers, fortresses and clanging bells.
But I like blondes and redheads more, so my next windfall may go • For a junket to Norway or Ireland. One may have a vision, • More likely a hallucination, involving the intonations of some • Angelic choir, their voices raised to the highest human aspirations. • It just happens to be so that I prefer the most inept Chinese violinists
Creaking out traditional Taiwanese melodies and the grating horns • One hears in Asian temples of all sorts. I’m tired of thinking of Europe • And it’s ugly, mutant, unwanted stepchild, my darling homeland. • But I would not want to give the impression that I am anti-American • For some idealist reason. I am simply bored beyond belief with it.
My attention would drift to the Ganges, to Mother India, • Except that it’s now a polluted, sewage-ridden electronic plantation, • A kind of New Deep South of the Orient. My heart drifts toward Japan, • Not that they aren’t ruled utterly by an even more ravenous consumerism, • But simply because the demographics show they are slowly depopulating.
There will soon be a shortage of people there. The streets are clean. • My American-Japanese friend tells me you could walk the streets of Osaka all night • And never turn to look behind you. I’m hard at work on my Kanji. • But what would love be in such a world? The love I know is a love stained • With fear of the future, distrust of all social structures. Would I know
Or recognize a love not born of slavery for slavery’s sake, which remains • Infinitely sicker than the most acquisitive greed. How to surrender • Into the arms of safety? Could our love ever associate with security? • We would have to import our neurosis into any peaceful situation. • The next world war will, beneath all its surfaces, really be about that.
May this poem generate ten thousand pages of intricate notations. • May these rants be subject to a literary scrutiny that slices • Every subtlety into a thousand smaller slices. Let these words • Be as wide and as full of grime as the great San Francisco Bay itself. • My heart is the spiritual equivalent of those sprawling refineries
In Richmond. But all that is so unseemly. Let us switch to myth. • Please find symbols here correlating to the whims of Egyptologists. • I sought to be my own reincarnation of the late Joseph Campbell, • But was told it had already, (and I quote very erudite scholars here), • “been done to death.” How many acts of incest between the gods?
How many prayers for crops, for fertility, for seasonal rain clouds? • Perhaps I may invoke the cards of the Tarot deck, or write my own • Tarot deck, copyright it, and have legal patent over the spirit world. • Ah, but in a fit of pique I tossed all of these words into the Waste Basket, • And I brought the Waste Basket to my love’s door, the paper still crumpled.
Notes On “The Waste Basket”
by Mel C. Thompson
— After T.S. Eliot
I could not say whether I was honoring, mocking, promoting or plagiarizing that epic poem that has stood as iconic for more decades than most of us have lived. In some places I seemed to be all but copying the work, yet making changes that appealed to me at every turn. But still, in other places I seemed to be contradicting everything the work was aiming at. In short, I simply pillaged a great classic poem for my own amusement, taking it anywhere I wanted it to go without due respect to the author, the heirs, legitimate presses and credible scholars.
Given the aforementioned facts, one would generally be ashamed to release such a barbaric document to the public, but, in this case, I have the advantage of utter shamelessness. Having disgraced myself so thoroughly in print that running for public office is out of the question, I tend not to think of the “grave consequences” that could follow such an action. There are many writers I have known who were very circumspect and considerate, however they have remained virtually as unknown as I have, which is to say that no one particularly paid for their sins nor benefited from their virtues, proving once again that the law of karma takes more faith to believe in than the rapture.
After considering deeply the profound philosophical and cultural implications of the fact that almost no one anywhere gives a god-damn what I or my associates do, for good or for evil, and given that the tiny hand-full of souls who might care are themselves less important than dying mosquitoes in uninhabited swamps in parts of Africa too war-torn for people to live in, I pressed on and proffered this ungodly work.
It must also be added that my own conflicting personal history with both Christianity and romance, and with their so-called morality, is always playing under the surface of this text, if not flashing itself like an overwrought light. It may not be within my rights to say this as a failed academic, but I believe that Eliot’s own inner conflicts with his faith, and with women, were related to his deeper moods, especially his depressive ones. And also, as I noted in a posting to a friend, I believe that Eliot, to some degree, casts a cross-examining eye upon his God and does not scrape or flatter in so doing.
As a younger person I abandoned the faith and reflexively believed Eliot ought to have also. He did not. Now, as I edit this work (if my horrific proofreading and neanderthal grammar structures could be called the result of anything worthy of the word “editing”), and as I am seven years older than when I first wrote this poem, I am charmed by how Eliot gracefully remained beside his faith the way a man might sit blissfully beside his faithless wife, never even considering her infidelity as an excuse for divorce. I simply feel Eliot was more mature than myself, and, although insecure, somehow still more secure than me, and thus he did not need to prove anything to the world by leaving his religion even though his implicit understanding of its limitations is hinted at each time he looks suspiciously at the cosmos his Creator left behind.
It must also be noted that Eliot remained with his first wife as long as it was possible to do so, although her relationship with him could have presented as many philosophical problems to Eliot as Christianity did. And he stayed with his second wife until his death. I, on the other hand, was unable to remain a husband and was raised by a combination of three families. (The first two families abandoned me and the third family I ended up abandoning.) In this limited sense too, I viewed Eliot as more mature than myself. However, in the end, one can never live another’s life nor meet another’s fate. If romantic instability and polytheism are my fate, I don’t believe I could change these things with a simplistic act of free will. Ostensibly, Eliot would have had to claim to believe in free will at some point, but each time I read his works, new doubts appear in my mind as to what his beliefs really were. And, in spite of any proclamation of faith Eliot may have formally made, I find, each time I review his words, something far, far larger than any creed’s dogma could contain. Alan Watts often notes, and I believe this applied to Eliot more than others: The more you try to pin a Christian down as to what he or she really believes, the more it starts sounding like Hinduism. But, because I don’t think anyone knows the whole truth of this matter, I won’t push the point any further.
If this work makes you deeply uncomfortable, realize that in rereading it, I myself was a little bit shocked by it. This is not to say that others have not taken confessional works to far greater and more embarrassing lengths, but only to note that, to borrow a friend’s phrase, “the squirm factor” is there. It’s not a work to recommend to brittle souls clinging for dear life to the dead skeletal outlines of their metaphysics. The work, whether it fails to do so or not, attempts to look at the world through two very critical sets of eyes, and it reports what it sees without flinching.
And I’d like to make a rather obvious and non-esoteric note: By the ending sections of the poem, one can see my deep disillusionment with the Bay Area setting in. The reader must know that I believe the Bay Area, after all these decades, finally turned out to be a place of uniquely bad faith. Now, I do not mean to compare it to Orange County, which is simply and obviously and proudly evil, stupid and insensitive, and which, being called so, might reply, “So what? Want to fight?” And, as such, it really can’t be held to the same kind of moral accountability as New York or San Francisco, places which boasted to the world of their progressive spirit, but which both voted to ultimately let the poor, sick, elderly and disabled simply die in exile, doing nothing as people, right at the most vulnerable points of their lives, were sent away to pass away among strangers, mostly dying of grief due to the loss of their homeland. (Although those deaths may have taken various acceptable forms such as cancer, heart disease, diabetes or stroke, make no mistake about it, until those tens of thousands of people, many my beloved friends, were forced out of their irreplaceable homelands, they weren’t dying of anything, hence my diagnosis of grief being the ultimate cause of their demise).
Again, one cannot blame Republicans or Orange County with the same blame as truly treasonous people or places, since, en masse, they never sold themselves as having any kind of virtue or humanity whatsoever. (They did so in a formal way, but made it clear enough, to even the most casual observer, what the true nature of their hatchet work was; and so they are not really, at last, classic deceivers in the usual sense.) But it is San Francisco and New York City, and The Democratic Parties of California and New York State, specifically, which have committed an unspeakable betrayal for which they cannot ever be condemned enough. And so while I began the poem perhaps roasting inauthentic love, I decided to devote some space toward the conclusion of the poem to remind the guilty inhabiting these offices all around us that someone here will call them out as extaordinary traitors, or perhaps traitors of the lowest and most rodent-like order.
But lest anyone fear a dreaded romantic-failure poem should devolve into a pseudo-political screed, and then remain that way, I offer the glum reassurance that the whole thing manages to wind it’s way back to the hallowed halls of dissatisfied, disgruntled, ungrateful lovers. And while highly-principled critics with rigorous standards might wish the whole thing were thrown in the waste basket, alas, this appears as a free ebook and thus leaves one without even the ability to appeal for a refund. And, one has to admit, there is never really much adrenalin rush to be obtained by taking vengeance against a writer merely by pushing the delete button. In olden times, authors were at least subject to having their works angrily crumbled up and physically tossed into the refuse bin amidst haughty and indignant imprecations. Alas, in the digital age, even the life of the critic is losing the petty perks that used to somehow make it all worth it, or, in the spirit of this genre “worth it, after all.”
Other Books by Mel C. Thompson
The Epic Journey to The Great Palace of Non-Judgment
Khrushchev’s Second Chance
The Triple Diamond Sutra
Like countless millions before me, I was quite fascinated with Eliot's "Wasteland," and sought to do a kind of tribute and parody of it. While I barely even quote more than a few words, here and there, from the poem, and while almost all of the work is actually "original," it seeks to bring the reader forward in history so that one could imagine Eliot traipsing the streets of Northern California after the year 2010. I attempted to both copy his style in some places, and then to radically oppose it in others. I find that, whether I'm going with the author of "Wasteland," or going against him, still his "mood stamp" is all over this experimental piece. The goal of this experiment is to bring the reader into my life and to see the conflicts I live here in this time and place, and also to simultaneously attempt to speak it with an Eliot-like voice, (except where I disagree with, or have moments of not liking his voice, at which point I often go into a mode of outright mockery.) Putting these odd parameters around this project made me make a lot of decisions at each juncture. I'd read a bit of Eliot, then imagine him in my shoes a half century later, and see what sort of "compromise" writing I could come up which would ideally come half way between his way of expressing things and mine. Coming from the San Francisco confessional school of poetry, mostly influenced by the 1990s style, I appear to the millennial reader after my time, or the more aged boomers before my time, as too negative and severe. Wildly, at the height of the time in which my style was more popular, audiences actually laughed all through works like this. But that has apparently all changed. In these times there is somehow a struggle with irony, parody, and satire, and a kind of humorlessness about gloominess. A kind of innocent and ultra-earnest literalism has set over the poetry establishment and audience now. This change of prevailing style took me out of the performing circles which has been purged of edginess, the former edginess now being replaced by a kind of obsession for safety and certainty, an atmosphere where the goal seems to be the banishment of uncertainty. If there is any prevailing religion now, it would neither be Christianity, nor Islam, (nor does Atheism prevail now). Instead certainty-ism is the all-consuming faith, the obsession with certainty merely undergoing a change of costume once in a while. This work, if one is looking for certainty, won't help your quest much. The work is admittedly meant to make you a little nervous and to disturb the complacent and controlled and orthodox messages now disseminated by virtually every major school of thought, whether political, religious, literary or romantic. In spite of all these disclaimers, I hope a few of you will make this poetic journey with me, and, if luck permits it, have a few laughs along the way.