The Poetry of
Jack Scott

Note or Notes on The Wasteland


A large tree fell in the forest. No one was there to hear it fall. We know it fell, because its massive carcass lies there still mouldering. Was there no sound when it fell because there was no one there to hear? There was one more element to the occurrence. The tree struck a deaf idiot wandering through the wood, crushing him to death.             Was there still sound, or no sound, no one else hearing, not hearing? Was there something like the sound of a tree crashing in the mind of the victim as he was struck down?

The following note or notes was found in the victim’s pocket.
The paper was yellow with age and wrinkled with much carrying.

“There is an awful Void, and that Void is Shit.
Out of misery, company.
Out of company, more misery.
Words, words! I am mobbed by words.
Bombarded, not by random missiles missing,
but by words well aimed, homing true.
It’s over – dead, not dead.
With my nails, I dig it up once more, it’s dead again,
then once more not dead.”

The contagion of poetry with age. I have caught from what made me merely uncomfortable what now sickens me with life. I have caught not what I will die from, but what I must live with. I am alive with the maggots of other life, not mine, which are now all that moves of me.

(But there is still a me!), I say quietly. I say I am not all maggots
and the dung of less fertile insects, that distant life of other on me.
I, Tiresias, queer old man with wrinkled dugs,
perceive the scene, and foretell the rest.
I, too await the unexpected guest
and, queer no more, I age with zest.
Free in the rattling mold
I shrink as I grow old.
All I know of space and time
is what is left
when filled with ancient rhyme.
Tough shit, Eliot.
Though shit, world.
Through shit, people.
If there are no words, there are no people.
If there are no people, there is no world.
Go home, Eliot.
Tough Shit, you have no home except in words.

You sonofabitch. If I knew where your words had been, I would have robbed you of them before they grew and married (what’d you get married for if you didn’t want children?)
and spawned the many sighs and silences, and died silently with them within me instead of
of them. Poison the well! There is no water.

Slough, you meat of you, dead Eliot! Essence that hast never been. (or never wert)
(or something) Believe, ye who cannot. Believe and be free to write or withhold The Wasteland.

No one is using the land. It is the waste land.
No one admits he knows how to use the land. It is still the waste land.
It is the People who do not use (and say they do, and can’t) the land.
It is still, nevertheless, the waste land of wasted people.

We are waiting, we say self-consciously:
To use the water,
To use the land,
To hold the wetness,
To build the sand,
To smell the sweetness,
To breathe the freshness,
To touch the pulse,
To quicken the hand,
To hear . . .
to hear . . .
We are waiting to hear:
that we need,
what we need,
who we need,
when we need,
why we need,
and where we will fill the need.

We are thirsty for all of this.
(drip drop)
We are waiting to hear
(I think drip drop)
how to drink,
and what to drink,
(drop drop)
and the rest . . .
(but there is still no water)

My thirst creates a Trinity:
Myself, whom I cannot know,
Yourself, whom I cannot touch,
And the mirage who walks always beside you.

The strength of my thirst creates the wasteland. (Where is my England in it?) And deafens me.

April is the cruelest date.
(I am born in April, too.)
Equally January and July.
(When lilacs fade, I start to die.)
Till crocus is the longest wait.
(Before I die, I start to hate.)
April is the cruelest, true,
when endless resurrection’s due.

Is boredom the waste? (It fills the land.)
Orderliness? (It fills the boredom.)
Orderly boredom? (It fills us.)
The boredom of order? (up,)
The orderly boredom of bored orderliness? (up to here)
Or the symptom (merely?) of the waiting
for the Word from the Void
and the solution (the only?)
to what to fill the waiting with?
(to hear.)
My nerves are bad tonight.
(Who was that corpse I saw you plant last Spring?)
(That was no corpse, that was my life.)
My nerves are growing worse.
(Will it bloom this year?)
(And next and next and next and next and next and next
until my end of next.)

Speak to me. Why do you never speak. Speak!
What are you thinking of? What thinking? What?
I never know what you are thinking. Think!
Or is it that I never hear? Listen!
Hurry up, please, it’s Time.
Yes, bad. Stay with me.
A sudden frost disturbs my bed of stony rubbish.
Let’s drink coffee after and talk for an hour.
In the mountains you feel free
twit twit twit
Mountains of rock without water
where one can neither stand nor lie nor sit.
My nerves are bad tonight.
There is not silence in the mountains,
nor even solitude.

And the dry stone gives no sound of water.
I thought . . .
I thought in the mountains you felt free.
I never know what I am thinking.
(I have heard the key
turn in the door once and turn once only.
We think of the key, each in his prison,
hers’n in hers’n, and his’n in his’n.)
The boat responds daily
to controlling hands
Fishing , with the arid plain behind me . . .
If there were the sound of water only
If there were only the sound of water
If there were the sound, only, of water.
If there were the sound of only water.
But there is no water.
Burning burning burning burning
Oh, Lord, I fuckest

jug jug jug jug jug jug
twit twit twit
drip drop drip drop drop drop drop
– – – But who is that on the other side of you?

Then spoke the thunder:

I do not fear death by water
Waiting, wasting,
I fear only
Jug, Jug
to my dirty senseless ears.

L3 ®Copyright 1966 Jack Scott. All rights reserved.