by Jef Peeples
The Stress Song of J. Alfred Prufrock III
Everyone knows what I should do.
My grandfather thinks I should find a new career.
My minister thinks I should come to church.
My boss thinks I should spend more time at work.
Splintering carnival lights,
blinding colors of a rotating, suffocating world,
a beam across my nostrils,
outward stretching fire.
Spindles of desire.
My wife thinks I should spend more time at home.
It’s not the major crisis that will kill you, the death or lost exception
It’s the stress of unfulfilling the endless expectations.
It’s the bouncing baby boy--
changed to the bouncing of the ball--
changed to the bouncing of the lover--
who must earn the grade.
It’s not the glass ceiling that binds my flight
as much as the glass walls.
My neighbor thinks I should paint my house.
My friend thinks I should paint the town red.
I am Stanley Kowalski ripping his shirt,
Miniver Cheevy masking the hurt.
I am every man who internally rages,
a thousand brains in a hundred cages.
Only idiot children read my pages.
I am an overdue book.
My television thinks I should eat.
My physician thinks I should lose twenty pounds.
The explosion I make--
not a bang
but a whimper,
less eruption than sneeze,
the plastic collapsible dagger
aimed at the world--
scares no one but me.
In the presence of mine enemies
I lay out Chinet®.
My mother thinks I should call more.
My brother thinks I should live my own life.
And should I scuttle across the floors of silent seas?
Do you want me to scuttle?
I’ll scuttle from chatroom to chatroom,
the one night cheap hotels of an introvert world,
electric sawdust filling my nostrils,
smudges of kisses across my lonely screen.
In truth, I have no name,
just a glory in my shame.
My attorney thinks I should remove all references to other people’s poetry.
Freud thinks all people want is sex.
Adler thinks all people want is to belong.
I think all people want is fame,
rocking back and forth in a darkened corner
cradling and nursing our blogs.
Maybe we all agree.
My blahblah thinks I should blahblahblah….
There is a fear we all have…
direct from Ecclesiastes…
a fear that one day we’ll wake up
and no one,
not even our shadows,
will really care.
Seedlings were planted in the park today.
I wonder if they will see the sun
enough to grow.
May I rest my head on a multifoliate pillow.
May the ceiling fan blades cut out the sound of
May I feel the hollowness of my belly
rising and falling as
a lullaby is hummed, miles away.
Out of the Mouths of Babes into the Mouths of Lions
So I'm driving from Town Center to the Square when it hits me [my mind races when I drive, maybe it was too much t ea or maybe too much studying for exams,
or maybe it was seeing my pastor flirting with the barista at Starbucks™].
All of a sudden every turn in the road-- every casual, causal, conclusive, concave decision, every left turn right turn choice-- feels like a moral dilemma.
And if every choice is a moral one when a tree falls in the forest on
my head which hurts from staying up all night with my books open
and my mind closed [shut tight], won't nothing get in, and I let all my windows down.
The fifty year old hippie driving the car next to me [doughy men should not wear t-shirts as fashion] seems to make me think of Jason's father who works out
and has a fauxhawk because he's scared of being forty-five and who says, "we all have our agendas" as if being seventeen and naive is something we need to set outside for the garbage man like the broken springed sofa with the scratchy fabric. One man's sophistry is another man's clever argument even if it’s up a tree in the forest.
Forgive me if I'm inappropriate, if my flipped tie and skirt plaid pattern is askew, but when I drive along and see the jeep parked at Walmart™ with the door left open [rushed to a sale on flip flops, I guess] should I stop and close it? When I'm outta here are there people to hear the noises in the forest?
I told you my mind races and is all over places.
I saw a cute cartoon on a graduati on card with Snoopy and his graduation hat
(I mean what do they call it--something mortar) anyway, he was carrying a suitcase, but I don't remember the message cause I got distracted by the "Hang in there, Baby" kitty card in the get well section. Funny, the get well section right next to the graduation section. So the stories blur, and if a graduate has an idea and there's no one there to hear it will it make a noise?
Well, the story ends when I get pulled over by the County cop, and I don't even appeal for grace cause I'm kinda glad that there are things like the law that stand up and fight for principles. And if there was a speed limit in the forest and no one was there to see it...The red lights and green lights and speed limits
aren't up for negotiations or relativity. When I speed I can bet on that little slip of yellow paper, and when I sign it, I feel, well, almost spiritual in my guilt, but he says it really doesn't mean I'm guilty.
So thank you, my brothas,
my artistic mothas who taught me of disposable Bic™ morality
the fatality of fertility,
the futility of purity,
the expiration of fidelity to God in whom we trust.
Give me stability over this poetry
It is the stuff we buy.
It is the need that is not quite a need.
It is the hollowness filled with chocolate.
It is the landfill on which I build my playground.
The plastic bag reads,
"Caution: Keep away from small children.
The thin film may cling to the nose and mouth and prevent breathing.
Atencion: Mantener alejado de los ninos pequenos.
Se puede adherir a la nariz y boca e impedir la respiracion. "
But the Spanish version adds,
"Esta bolsa no es juguete,"
a fact not given to English speakers.
No es juguete.
No es un chiste.
Se puede adherir e
impedir la respiracion
even for adults.
Born in Savannah, Georgia in 1965, Jef Peeples is a poet and fiction writer currently living near Atlanta. He holds an M.A.T. in English and an M.S. in professional counseling from Georgia State University. Influenced poetically by the poets Sylvia Plath, Stevie Smith, Scott Cairns, Billy Collins, almost any of the Beat poets, and his daughter, he has been published in such journals as Lost Beat Poetry, Flutter, Subtletea, and Contemporary Haibun Online. He has recently published a chapbook, Ain't Milton, available at lulu.com. His blog address is Jef Peeples.