Hollow — NaPoWriMo day 26 — blackout poem with apologies to T.S. Eliot

Mistah Kurtz—he dead.
A penny for the Old Guy

I

We are the hollow men
We are the stuffed men
Leaning together
Headpiece filled with straw. Alas!
Our dried voices, when
We whisper together
Are quiet and meaningless
As wind in dry grass
Or rats’ feet over broken glass
In our dry cellar

Shape without form,
shade without colour,

Paralysed force, gesture without motion;
Those who have crossed
With direct eyes, to death’s other Kingdom
Remember us—if at all—not as lost
Violent souls, but only
As the hollow men
The stuffed men.

II

Eyes I dare not meet in dreams
In death’s dream kingdom
These do not appear:
There, the eyes are
Sunlight on a broken column
There, is a tree swinging
And voices are
In the wind’s singing
More distant and more solemn
Than a fading star.

Let me be no nearer
In death’s dream kingdom
Let me also wear
Such deliberate disguises
Rat’s coat, crowskin, crossed staves
In a field
Behaving as the wind behaves
No nearer—

Not that final meeting
In the twilight kingdom

III

This is the dead land
This is cactus land
Here the stone images
Are raised, here they receive
The supplication of a dead man’s hand
Under the twinkle of a fading star.

Is it like this
In death’s other kingdom
Waking alone
At the hour when we are
Trembling with tenderness
Lips that would kiss
Form prayers form broken stone.

IV

The eyes are not here
There are no eyes here
In this valley of dying stars
In this hollow valley
This broken jaw of our lost kingdoms

In this last of meeting places
We grope together
And avoid speech
Gathered on this beach of the tumid river

Sightless, unless
The eyes reappear
As the perpetual star
Multifoliate rose
Of death’s twilight kingdom
The hope only
Of empty men.

V

Here we go round the prickly pear
Prickly pear prickly pear
Here we go round the prickly pear
At five o’clock in the morning.

Between the idea
And the reality
Between the motion
And the act
Falls the Shadow
                            For Thine is the Kingdom
Between the conception
And the creation
Between the emotion
And the response
Falls the Shadow
                             Life is very long
Between the desire
And the spasm
Between the potency
And the existence
Between the essence
And the descent
Falls the Shadow
                             For Thine is the Kingdom
For Thine is
Life is
For Thine is the

This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper.

* * *

After I read the NaPoWriMo prompt this morning, I couldn’t NOT pick Eliot. I don’t know that it was a great idea to fool about with one of my favorite poems of all time, but as I thought and worked there was the “spark” that has been missing these last days. I spent several hours thinking and then another couple of hours choosing what to “black” out.  I am happy with this result (though formatting was a pain, and added probably yet another hour of work to the task — I figure that’s tech inexperience more than anything), and I think I was able to shift the meaning of Eliot’s original. In the process, I realized (again) how precious each little word is in the overall effect of a great poem like this one. Wow.  This was a powerful prompt.  ~LD

P.S. If you look closely, you can see the ghosts of the words I “blacked out” (I only changed their font color to blend into the background of the page) — I noticed that just now (23:54) and it gave me a shiver.  How apropos. ‘-) ~LD

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2 thoughts on “Hollow — NaPoWriMo day 26 — blackout poem with apologies to T.S. Eliot

    • Thanks for coming by to read AND comment! What an honor! Really. I had fun playing with Eliot’s poem, and I’m grateful for someone else giving me the idea. Napowrimo and the prompts each day have been a treat for my creativity. Thanks again! ~LD

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