Behind the Writing: “A Modern Wasteland” (Part IV)

One more time now — looking behind the writing at the poem I wrote most recently: A Modern Wasteland

It has honestly been such fun exploring this poem these last few weeks. Definitely going to try to do more poetry, in and around my other writing projects, in the future. But for now, let’s finish off with A Modern Wasteland‘s fourth and final chapter. Titled with my personal favourite line of the four used from The Sermon on the Mount: …AND TURN AGAIN AND REND YOU.



To my little estate I now retire

My sitting-room, my settee

Supine upon this couch I now expire

And muse on how I got here.

They all tell me not to dwell on past failures.

Impossible when all you see around you,

The endless visits from the Duvaliers,

The cards and biscuits – they’re all that’s left

Meanwhile, she’s out there somewhere – the victor with the spoils.

Her crimes were more on par with those of Marion Crane

Than with those of Lady Dedlock.

And yet ‘twas I who was dubbed profane.

A spectral voice inquires, “Could you forgive her?”

“Forgive her? Forgive me!” I realise I’m being an disgracious host.

“Has anyone offered you tea?”

They sit and stare – have I become the ghost?

“Monsieur — Sir Jack and Mr Gibson are leaving,” I’m told.

“Oh God, how rude of me,” I say.

And thus on reality I have an ever-loosening hold,

Lost in this mire of melancholy.

I resolve to sit here in my turban,

My monocle and my cigarette in a holder

And languish here for years uncertain


It was here that I was really inspired to expand upon the whole poem and turn it into a prose narrative. Oddly enough, the only line where I had to cop out — for lack of a rhyme for “failures” — sealed the deal. That will hopefully settle any queries that anyone has about what I meant by “the Duvaliers”. When I eventually get around to turning the whole Modern Wasteland into a prose piece, the Duvaliers will serve as supporting characters, as will Sir Jack and Mr Gibson (named after two of my best friends – just the latest in a series of allusions I like to include).

Who can pick out the cultural references in this stanza? And what they might mean? Well, for those still unsure, it’s a comparison between Marion Crane, from Robert Bloch’s Psycho (or more specifically Alfred Hitchcock’s adaptation thereof where she was played by Janet Leigh), and Lady Honoria Dedlock from Dickens’ Bleak House. Last week, you saw the narrator decide to let go of his failing marriage. Now we learn that, rather than sleep with men she wasn’t married to (as Lady Dedlock did), she embezzled money, as Crane did. Now riddled with grief and almost catatonic with depression, our narrator falls in and out of full consciousness, only partly aware of the visitors who show him support.

And that’s that! Thank you all as ever for your support. More updates and side-projects to come in the new year.

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