LAMENT FROM THE EIGHTH CIRCLE OF HELL
“To lead you to an overwhelming question …
Oh, do not ask, “What is it?”
Let us go and make our visit.
— T.S. Eliot, “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,” *
A place between the first sip of coffee
and a bite of buttered toast, I see myself,
this earth, the sun, a bird’s eye view, this
representation—I the ever-searching eye,
like the lamp upon a lighthouse—this, this,
like butter seeps into the toast, recedes
into the place called everyday, a seemingly
sensible space, an agreeable agreement
—looking this and not another way—
or boredom’s ache all out of proportion.
“Well, don’t ask me,” who blames you
—whatever, however, whoever you really is;
which is awakening and which is sleep?—
but let us go and make our visit; do not ask
(or perhaps the asking is) what is it? Should
we go, grow old, wear our trousers rolled?
“Senza tema d’infamia ti rispondo:”
“So how should I presume?”* Did I dare
disturb the universe? I, who measured
out my life with coffee spoons ….*
Leland James is the author of five books of poetry, four children’s books in verse, and a book on poetry craft. He has published over 300 poems in poetry venues worldwide including Rattle, The Lyric, The South Carolina Review; The Spoon River Poetry Review, New Millennium Writings, HQ The Haiku Quarterly, and The London Magazine. He was the winner of The UK’s Aesthetica Creative Writing Award, and the Writer’s Forum short poem contest. He has won or received honors in many other competitions, has been featured in Ted Koszer’s American Life in Poetry, and was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Leland’s newest collection, Rollercoaster Moons, will be released by Little Red Tree Publishing, both in the US and UK, in the spring.