‘April is the cruellest month’—or is it?

One of America’s greatest poems and poets, The Wasteland by T.S. Eliot, seems to miss the full truth of this April, opening with its famous first line . . .

April is the cruellest month,
breeding/lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain
Winter kept us warm, covering
Earth in forgetful snow,
feeding a little life dried tubers . . .

Actually this April was preceded by one of the coldest and violent of winters on record and in the middle of a 13-year long world war. That war, that environmental degradation and human destruction is like a punishment from the creation. Read on . . .

The War on Terror has raged around the world, terrorizing the Middle East, deaths in the US-sponsored Syrian uprising, alone, are estimated to be more than 100,000, according to the United Nations.

UNICEF reported that over 500 children had been killed by early February 2012. Another 400 children have been reportedly arrested and tortured in Syrian prisons. Both claims have been contested by the Syrian government. Additionally, over 600 detainees and political prisoners have died under torture,” according to Wikipedia.

By mid-March 2014, the opposition activist group Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) reported the number of children killed in the conflict had risen to 7,796, while at the same time 5,166 women were also killed.[3] According to the UN, 6,561 children were killed by mid-June 2013. The Oxford Research Group said that a total of 11,420 children had been killed in the conflict by late November 2013.

In Libya, President Obama set up a NATO no-fly zone without congressional approval to take down Gaddafi. Russia Today estimated that NATO had dropped over 30,000 bombs on Libya, with an average of “two civilians killed in each attack.” Thus, Wikipedia has estimated that some 60,000 Libyan civilians had been killed by NATO air strikes alone by the end of August.

And now we have the war in the Ukraine, starting with Kiev and its brutal murderers and its population fleeing to the Crimea for protection from Russia. And despite a vote of 70% of the Crimean people and a winning number of 92.7% of them in the referendum, the U.S. once more sticks its nose into Russia’s backyard and accuses Putin of invading the country. The U.S. adds insult to injury, sanctioning Russia, which one day, annoyed enough by our parrot diplomats, will rise again and settle the score.

We are also perfecting the scourge of drone-bombing in Pakistan and Afghanistan and making enemies of people who will be the next wave of warriors. We have had back-to-back war presidents willing to make this huge sacrifice of life, leading to an April Fool’s day of any near and durable peace. Especially with a Republican Congress which had vowed to take down Obama [our first black president] albeit on a par with his Bush predecessor for violence in the White House.

So where do we go to take succor from the crumbling economy’s infrastructure, the scourge of debt, joblessness, the filthy rich wanting more and more wealth while begrudging the working class a minimum hourly wage; destroying unions, patronizing fraudulent banks indulged by the Fed until we’re disappeared. Yes, we the middle and working classes, are being devoured too by the hawks of the Pentagon, its voracious appetite for war and weapons, which still do not yield a durable peace, even in a shattered Iraq.

And the hypocrisy of what we say about peace and democracy, but do not practice ourselves reminds me of the souvenir bobble-head dolls at the first baseball games of our sports-distracted country. We live in a bubble of distracted media, business selling its wares but not the truth. Yes, “April is the cruellest Month,” Mr. Eliot, writing “Good night, ladies. good night, sweet ladies, good night, good night.” And brilliant lines like the following . . .

I Tiresias, though blind, throbbing between two lives
old man with wrinkled female breasts, can see
At the violet hour, the evening hour that strives
Homeward, and brings the sailor home from the sea. . . .”

And through all this we see our crumbling cities, buildings exploding from gas leaks, infrastructure like a used lady of the evening. Yet the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. But have no mind. We have baseball, “distracted from distraction by distraction.” We have the promises of eternal beauty, wealth and exceptionalism. Does it really succor us? Does the blue sky promise a future? Not in a polluted environment. .

The river sweats
Oil and Tar
The Barges drift
With the turning tide
Red Sails
To leeward, swing on the heavy spar.
The barges wash
Drifting logs
Down Greenwich reach
Past the Isle of dogs.
Weialala leia
Wallala leiala . . .

To Carthage then I came

Burning burning burning burning
O Lord Thou pluckest me out
O Lord Thou pluckest

burning. . . .

Eliot grasped in the 1920s where Western society was moving, towards materialism, commercialism, the destruction of its own momentum. And the cry “O Lord Thou pluckest me out . . .” is a cry for escape from what the Western world had turned into, even then, or, as Daniel Estulin writes decades later . . .

“Does this age promise a future or will we all turn into machines, cyborgs. Will our quest for immortality shadow the values that make us human? Will our desire to be free overcome the elites’ drive for complete control? I don’t know, but it won’t take long to find out.”

Jerry Mazza is a freelance writer and life-long resident of New York City. An EBook version of his book of poems “State Of Shock,” on 9/11 and its after effects is now available at Amazon.com and Barnesandnoble.com. He has also written hundreds of articles on politics and government as Associate Editor of Intrepid Report (formerly Online Journal). Reach him at gvmaz@verizon.net.

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4 Responses to ‘April is the cruellest month’—or is it?

  1. A poem by Eliot cannot touch or span the contemporary plains we have today. Although a great poet his work I believe written in another time is not timeless. An angrier poet of now would be better. Although the poem below is not necessarily great it is closer to communicating a better more precise response.

    Dead children bombed to death
    For a better future they say
    At home people sit in front of the box
    Watching them speak with authority
    I don’t know what is happening over there
    It is the people who can do the most damage
    And so are bombarded with rubbish twenty four seven.

    Warm regards,

  2. RE: des: Is Shakespeare irrelevant because he lived hundreds of years ago. So let’s get that out of the way. The full body of “The Wasteland” and Eliot’s other works is remarkable if studied. He is drawing on bodies of literature to illuminate the time (1920′s) he lived in. If you want anger, read Allan Ginsberg. He’ll shock your socks off. Eliot’s work is also elegant. If you want a taste of violence and shock, read my book “State of Shock=Poems from 9/11 on.
    Jerry Mazza.

  3. Hi Jerry,

    I think Shakespeare is on another level to Eliot, but even his work cannot really help with today, the same with Ginsberg, although his poem Howl enables readers of today to have an idea on what he was up against then, today it sounds simply from another time, and although it speaks of the same battle it doesn’t transcend time to help us navigate and understand our own. I guess what I’m getting at is we need a Ginsberg for today. Thank you for mentioning your poems from 911, I will certainly enjoy reading them. In poetry, violence and shock are possible strategies but they the rulers do this for real so much better, so first one could echo the violence in order to bring home the reality of what is actually happening but then I feel must make a departure into new territory so as to project a future worth fighting for. This is not easy, but I feel necessary if we are to put power’s actions in the shade.


  4. for you des and of course, jerry
    a bright white half moon in the sky tonight
    but i’m waiting for the dark blood red one

    i hear it portends perhaps an inkling of destruction
    and behind it maybe an awakening and a rebirth

    we’ve been here before many times in fact
    but we always manage to forget in somnolence

    where can we look for meaning and truth if not
    within our own hearts and those that surround us ?