Poets exist in this city of relics, but are never
Welcomed. They resent it, of course; flaunt
Their eccentric habit, or hide under serge the heartbeat.
But it expresses itself; it breaks through.
Even the illustrious dead must be polished off:
Amy was fat, bossy, smoked big black cigars;
Wheelwright was an odd fish, not really sound,
Talked about Trotzky at classic waltzing parties.
(The mother of one surviving prodigal
Admits in her broadest A, “I can’t understand.”
Thus are malicious friends subverted. She knows
They have their own exotic hushed-up scandals.)
Something in the air allures the heartbeat:
Salt wind off the harbor; the smell of spice.
Even the names are elegies: India Wharf
(A lost Cathay); bow windows in the slums.
And Prufrock sees ripe fields of swaying corn
On Pinckney Street, and meets, but does not greet,
The exiled friend who dreams of Spain. Theirs
Is a guilt too dangerous and strange to share.