Things that were not the future

This show has been through many iterations, some performed and some not.  As it turns out, there were a lot of things that were not the future.  Here’s one of them that never made it out of my laptop.  Ten points if you know which poem this is.  And twenty if you can figure out what I’ve done to it.  Sorry it’s formatting so strangely.  Wordpress, be my friend!

Till human voices wake us, and we drown

By sea-girls wreathed with seaweed red and brown

We have lingered in the chambers of the sea.

When the wind blows the water white and black

Combing the white hair of the waves blown back

I have seen them riding seaward on the waves.

I do not think that they will sing to me.

I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each

I shall wear white flannel trousers and walk upon the beach

Shall I part my hair behind?  Do I dare to eat a peach?

I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.

I grow old… I grow old…

Almost at times, the Fool.

At times, indeed, almost ridiculous –

Full of high sentence, but a bit obtuse;

Politic, cautious and meticulous;

Deferential, glad to be of use,

Advise the prince; no doubt, an easy tool,

To swell a progress, start a scene or two,

Am an attendant lord, one that will do.

No!  I am not Prince Hamlet, nor was meant to be.


That is not what I meant at all

That is not it at all.

And turning toward the window, should say

If one, settling a pillow or throwing off a shawl

“Would it have been worthwhile?”

But as if a magic lantern threw the nerves in patterns on a screen:

It is impossible to say just what I mean!

And this, and so much more?

After the novels, after the teacups, after skirts that trail along the floor

After the sunsets and the dooryards, and the sprinkled streets,

Would it have been worthwhile,

And would it have been worth it, after all?

That is not it at all.

Should say, That is not what I meant at all.

If one, settling a pillow by her head

Come back to tell you all, “I shall tell you all” –

To say: “I am Lazarus, come from the dead.”

To roll it toward some overwhelming question,

To have squeezed the universe into a ball

To have bitten off the matter with a smile,

Would it have been worth while,

Among the porcelain, among some talk of you and me,

After the cups, the marmalade, the tea

And would it have been worth it, after all?

And in short I was afraid.

I have seen the eternal Footman hold my coat and snicker,

I have seen the moment of my greatness flicker

I am no prophet – and here’s no great matter;

Though I have seen my head (grown slightly bald) brought in upon a platter

Though I have wept and fasted, wept and prayed,

Have the strength to force the moment to its crisis

Should I, after tea and cakes and ices,

Stretched on the floor, here beside you and me

Asleep… tired… or I malinger

Smoothed by long fingers

And the afternoon, the evening, sleeps so peacefully!

Scuttling across the floors of silent seas

I should have been a pair of ragged claws.

Lonely men in shirt-sleeves, leaning out of windows

Watched the smoke that rises from the pipes

Shall I say, I have gone at dusk through narrow streets?

And how should I begin?

And should I then presume?

Is it arms that lie along a table, or wrap about a shawl

That make me so digress?

Is it perfume from a dress?

In the lamplight, downed with light brown hair,

Arms that are braceleted and white and bare

And I have known the arms already, known them all.

And how should I presume

To spit out the butt-ends of days and ways?

Then how should I begin?

When I am pinned and wriggling on the wall

When I am formulated, sprawling on a pin,

The eyes that fix you in a formulated phrase

And I have known the eyes already, known them all –

So how should I presume?

Beneath the music from a farther room.

I know the voices dying with a dying fall

I have measured out my life with coffee spoons;

Have known the evenings, mornings, afternoons,

For I have known them all already, known them all.

Decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse

In a minute there is time.

Do I dare disturb the universe?

(They will say: But how his arms and legs are thin!)

My necktie rich and modest, but asserted by a simple pin –

My morning coat, my collar mounting firmly to the chin,

(They will say: How his hair is growing thin!)

With a bald spot in the middle of my hair –

Time to turn back and descend the stair,

To wonder, “Do I dare?” and “Do I dare?”

And indeed there will be time.

In the room the women come and go,

Talking of Michelangelo

Before the taking of a toast and tea.

A hundred visions and revisions,

Time yet for a hundred indecisions

Time for you and time for me

To lift and drop a question on your plate

And time for all the works and days of hands.

There will be time to murder and create,

To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet.

There will be time, there will be time

Rubbing its back upon the window panes;

The yellow smoke that slides along the street.

And indeed there will be time

Curled once about the house, and fell asleep

And seeing that it was a soft October night,

Slipped by the terrace, made a sudden leap,

Let fall upon its back the soot that falls from chimneys,

Lingered upon the pools that stand in drains,

Licking its tongue into the corners of the evening

The yellow smoke that rubs its muzzle on the window-panes

The yellow fog that rubs its back upon the window panes.

In the room the women come and go

Talking of Michelangelo.

Let us go and make our visit,

Oh, do not ask: “What is it?”

To lead you to an overwhelming question….

Of insidious intent

Streets that follow like a tedious argument

And sawdust restaurants with oyster-shells:

Restless nights in one-night cheap hotels

The muttering retreats.

Let us go, through certain half-deserted streets,

Like a patient etherized upon a table

When the evening is spread out against the sky.

Let us go then, you and I.


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