A Song of J. Prufred Alfrock

[For Damien Broderick]

"Mistah Brando -- he dead"

Let us go then, you and I,
When the evenings are hung out again to dry
Like impatient either/ors upon a table . . .

We can't.
Why not?
We're waiting for Frodo.

Let us go, through certain half-decided pages,
The muttering last stages
Of nestless rites in cheap three-day conventions
And sordid affairs that no-one mentions:
Pages that follow like a tedious agreement
On innocuous content
And draw you to a listless but compulsive question:
Oh, do not ask "But can you draw well?"
Let us go and see George Orwell.

We can't.
Why not?
We're waiting for Michelangelo.

In the room the women, gaunt and raw,
Talk of 1984.
On the road the men, debased and drear,
Go down and out to Wigan Pier.
At Father Bob's Anomaly Farm
Dazed Burmese (who mean no harm)
Pay homage to catatonia: there's laughter
(But the clergyman's dafter).
Inside the wailing Jonahs fly
Their withered aspidistras high . . .

Gentle Jesus, meek and mild,
What was it that made Oscar wild?
That tint of sky that Prussians call their blue?
But let us go now (me and you),
Through certain half-deserted alleys,
Singing the Ballad of Reading Galleys.

We can't.
Why not?
We're waiting for Marlo.

To live in the midst of the incomprehensible,
The detestable,
That fascinates even as you abominate it . . .
Imagine: the regrets, the longing to escape,
The powerless disgust, the surrender,
The hate . . . the smell
Of napalm in the morning. (He paused.)
The rest is sea story.

I grow bald . . . I grow stout . . .
I have worn the bottoms of my trousers out.
But let us take the air, in a tobacco trance,
And watch the mermaids dance.

I do not think that they will dance for me.
Why not?
Ain't mermaids.
What then?

This is the way the world ends
This is the way the
This is the
Not with a but a

The Society of Editors Newsletter, February 1984

John Bangsund
Melbourne, Australia