The Love Song of J. Alfred Pfaurock

by Miranda Elliot CC'10

for Steven J. Pfau(rock)

Trimalchio, lautissimus homo. Horologium in triclinio et bucinatorem habet subornatum, ut subinde sciat quantum de vita perdiderit!

Let us go then, you and pi,


Like a mathematician confounded at his desk;

Let us go, through somewhat-postered walk-abouts,

The crazed campouts

Of Red Bull nights in a dark, dank Butler room,

and brief Hamdel forays for food,

Exits only at 114th and 116th like the tedious bureaucracy

Of Columbia University,

To lead you to a soul-crushing question...

Oh, do not ask, “What are you doing after college?”

Practicality? Ha! I have fostered my love for knowledge.

In Art Hum, to the Met I would come and go,

Talking out of my ass about art I did not know.

The stacks of paper that beckon me to work,

The piles of paper that present themselves as work

Throw themselves on me, after hours and hours they linger,

Stood silently, mocking me, asking me to finger

The pages, let itself crash to the floor, a disaster,

For days and days, I passed her

Lying there, asking for one kiss, an article of the Spec, she

Proclaims, “Consent? It's sexy.”

And indeed, just give it time for career paths to materialize out of nowhere,

The thought of future perfect and the subjunctive potential;

It might be fine, it could be fine,

Without the 101 of networking know-how.

In Music Hum, to opera I would come and go,

Talking out of my ass about music I did not know.

And indeed, life finds its way to beg the question, “Who are you?” and, “Who are you?”

To submit cover letters anew,

With dangling modifiers and run-ons too.—

[They will say, “How her grammar grows so dim!”]

Does she wait tables on a whim?

Her pencil skirt high-waisted, connected precariously by a pin

[They will say, “But how her meter grows so dim!”]

Who are you,

With your fish unsalted

And your sauce on the side?

And I should speak my mind,

For dignity and sanity, which fleetingly wave their goodbyes.

For these people I serve, one and all,

Think me uneducated, judged so soon,

I have measured out my life with a sorbet spoon,

Presented over and over into the fall

From the summer for the moneyed,

So how should I proceed?

And I have known the 10% tips already, expect it all,

Rich white people who fix my predetermined worth,

And when predetermined, presented on a bill, When I am scribbled drunkenly infinitesimally small,

Then how should I not hate you still,

To spit in your halibut and joke with the busboy about your relative girth?

And how should I then proceed? And how should I begin?


Shall I say, I leave nightly after ten o'clock onto commuter trains,

And dream of nine-to-five paperwork tedium, of bored men in starched shirts, crouching in their cubicles?...

I should have been a fisticorn,

Fisting across the plains of distant galaxies.


And the morning I never see, until the afternoon I wake!

Next to some girl, or boy,

Either way some pretty toy,

With whom love, or rather lust, I make,

Should I, in my somewhat disrobed state,

Ask if I am your only mate?

So naked, so nude, under these sheets we currently share,

Though my heart gets hurt and and bruised and wrecked again,

I am an honest girl—and here's the honest girly truth;

My glory years have come and gone,

I have run a successful clothes check at an underwear party twice,

And in short, I am no longer that cool.

And are the condescending comments worth it after all,

After the Cicero, the Chaucer and the Butler

Have been reshelved, among the rest of past literary

Obsessions, is it worthwhile

To swallow their bullshit with a smile?

To compartmentalize my life before the fall?

“So tell me,” he said, “were there no jobs in your intended field?”

To tell him, “I'll be right back with your foie gras, And, oh, this is my intended field.”—

If he, swirling California Cab in his glass,

Should say: “That is not what I meant at all. That is not it, at all.”


No! I am no alumni success, nor was meant to be;

Am loyal and mistrusting, but serviceably new,

To critique surroundings intensely, while working a job or two,

Serve the rich; and watch the wine director act like a tool,

Smile pleasantly, “Certainly, sir; thank you very much,”

Polite, watchful, and careful

Full of shit, and such and such

And yes, completely disingenuous,

And, always, the educated Fool.

Such an alum, such an alum,

Hey, alum, you look so glum!

Shall I pay for student loans? Can I budget a bit of fun?

I shall invite her to drinks, and pay for every one,

And groan silently to myself when leaving before the drink is done.

I do not think that she will decide to go home with me.

I have seen them driving home in fancy cars,

To houses of brick or steel or stone,

Meanwhile our first guests have not yet shown.

We have waited around all night,

Till two a.m., for a table to stop eating,

Until I may return to an apartment where I can barely afford the heating.

The Philolexian Society
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