TS Eliot and the Wall of Death

“I grow old… I grow old… I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.”

I read that line first in 1980 during a class to develop my Bachelors Thesis. I’d never read T.S. Eliot before and when I did I was struck dumb. I heard it the way I’d never heard poetry before. The line above is from “The Lovesong of J. Alfred Prufrock” and it is about a person who feels old (obviously). Much of Eliot’s work was about being a young man who feels old:

“Wipe your hand across your mouth, and laugh;
The worlds revolve like ancient women
Gathering fuel in vacant lots.”

There was a power in those words and a freedom for me, a freedom to feel harsh, cynical, or maybe misanthropic or possibly even hopeless; hopeless but not stupid.

For the life of me, lately, I have been trying to NOT feel that way. I have been trying to find a positive, lyrical voice inside of me that believes in things and life and really, finally, myself. I’ve been trying to FORGIVE myself for how I treated my mom. That’s the crux of it. I think the crux of everything. My mom made me feel old because she felt so young. I don’t mean young in a bright and vivacious sort of way though she was capable of being that. I mean it in a way of her being emotionally hurt, vulnerable to depression, moods and anger. Some of this was just normal. Hell, maybe ALL of it was. But it was so naked to me, so there, so in my face and…she was not supported by anyone. My father wasn’t there. They were divorced, and my mother was needy. Not always but… Oh, God, it was so hard to see it every day…this woman that I loved and was so proud of, to see her unhappy and frustrated and to see me, ME, be a part of that. That’s what I can’t forgive, that I was a part of what punished her. I punished her for hating my dad whom I loved. She hated him, was disappointed in him, hurt by him and insecure and scared because of how he left her. He left her in an impossible situation. Back then I wanted to blame her, to tell her she had the power to make her life better, because it was all I could think to do. I couldn’t take her pain. I resented it. I SHOULD NOT HAVE RESENTED IT! But… That’s the crux. I resented it for good reasons, too… I was young, a kid. Her pain was… Well, I think she did have the filters to tell her that I was not really to see these things in her, but sometimes too much is too much. She couldn’t handle it and neither could I.

So I beat on her because her pain, justifiable as it was, was too much for me to live with. It just took me too far into a place that scared me, a place that had I gone there would have motivated me to walk into traffic. I would have despaired.

I appreciated T.S. Eliot I think because I was broken, or maybe I was just up to the edge of being broken. I think he was, too. Maybe all artists are. Maybe the thing that inspires you is the sense of being on that edge. Like Richard Thompson’s song “Wall of Death”.

“Let me ride on the Wall of Death one ore time… You can waste your time on the other rides. This is the nearest to being alive.”

Still I miss my mom. I wish I could’ve done more. I wish we had both been different or better or stronger. I loved her so much. I hope she knows that. I hope somehow she does.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>