Posted by: youareuseless | July 22, 2010

I Should Have Been

I have been feeling very uninspired lately, so I was grateful to the Big Tent Poetry prompt (find it and lovely work from other writers at to take a part you love from your favorite poem (whether that’s an idea, an image, etc.) and use it in an original poem. I’ve chosen my favorite image from “… J. Alfred Prufrock” as a jumping-off point. I might have to do this with other poems as well!

I should have been a pair of ragged claws/scuttling across the floors of silent seas. (From T.S. Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.”)

I should have. This body won’t scuttle.
It rests, and sinks in the dark
Like a moon without edges.

I am eaten by vastness.
I should have been.

To stride in the dark, to scuttle!
A body with terrible parts.
Claws to kill, the mouth, a hole.
The ochre back. The silent crawl.

It eats its vastness and spits.

Copyright Megan Kennedy 2010



  1. I really like this, besides being based on one of my also favorite poems. It makes me afraid. If I looked externally like what I know myself to be…
    Eliot would be pleased with your poem.

    • Thank you so much! I don’t know, Eliot didn’t even like his friend William Carlos Williams’ poetry. He was a bit of a narcissist. 😉

      We seem to have very different interpretations of that Prufrock line — to me, it’s a longing for oblivion and a pure animal nature. The creature in the line seems ruthless to me, but also innocent (in a way animals can be and we cannot). That’s what I was trying to get across. But it’s hard to write about animal innocence and ruthlessness from a human point of view! We are moral creatures. I think your comment illuminates that.

      • I can see how you could read the line that way. But I am not sure I would put “ruthless” with innocent. Ruthlessness, I guess in a human context, is always a moral stance. I think on an animal level what looks ruthless to us is more of a casual self-centeredness, insensitive violence. But that distinction is sort of academic and not really relevant to the point you were making.
        There is a great song, a more wistful longing for oblivion, Perfect Blue Buildings by the Counting Crows. Have you heard it? Not everyone can stand that band, though.
        My other favorite poet is Sylvia Plath, and your poem reminds me of her a bit. She also longed for oblivion I think in a more serious way. That makes me afraid also.

      • I keep thinking about this poem. Scuttle is a very Plath-esque word by the way. The distinction between eating the vastness and being eaten by it, and the difference boils down to the ability to scuttle. As if it were the holding still that made you prey rather than predator, the opposite image of Curtains. I think this is my favorite poem of yours. You should have dry spells more often, huh?

  2. Yes, “casual self-centeredness” is a better word for it. I don’t think it’s academic.

    Haha, you’re right, I am one of those people who can’t stand the Counting Crows. Long December is a good song, though. I do, however, like Sylvia Plath and should read more of her. I think every human longs for oblivion at some point, but she let herself sink into it in a dangerous way.

  3. Wow. A brave composition-it’s like baring your soul to the world.

  4. Thank you so much Carroll! I’m very flattered you’re still thinking about it.

  5. I just really love the flow of this poem…the scuttling and the should have been. Great stuff.

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