"Do I dare to eat a peach?" is a line in the penultimate stanza of T.S. Eliot's "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock." He wrote it sometime before 1920, when it was published; I read it sometime around 1973 ; it has lived with me ever since. The line comes up, you know? Along the way, as I've done this or that, it's surfaced, throughout my adult life-as have other bits from this or that poem, but I'd have to go on and on and on to talk about all of them, and we don't want that. No. Just Prufrock's peach. Why has it stuck with me is what I'm wondering about here.
Great peaches are messy, juicy, risky. Then there's the fuzz. What to do about that? Decisions abound. To peel? To cut? Is a knife at hand or will I have to ask for one? Maybe I should skip this fuzzy, juicy, delicious-looking peach. Eat something else… what to do? Do I dare? Well, I have. And have not.
I've messed up a lot of clothes, of course, and washed many dribbles off my chin. I've gone all out and been astonished. Sometimes I've done without, skipped the burst of flavor, the pleasure, because I've lacked nerve. Sure, I have. We all have.
I imagine T.S.'s line about J. Alfred's peach will continue to pop up as I move on in life, even if I'm not trying to get ahead with quite so much oomph. There's still risk-plenty of peaches to consider. I've had, and will have, poetry within easy reach, and some of it right there behind my eyes, between my ears, oh, hell, in my heart and soul.
So, when you write (when I write) it is (I tell myself) always worth trying to go for those phrases, lines, stanzas that might move right in with someone and stay for a lifetime. We never know, do we? The choices we make in meter, language, form can churn up a poem that will rock someone's world. It could happen. I wonder if Mr. Eliot had his Prufrock look over apples, mangoes, or muscadine grapes before he pondered daring to eat a peach? Eliot didn't write his poems for me, (I doubt he would have liked me, let alone written for me) but I have them, just as if he did. Writers are generous, aren't they? They put in all that time trying to get it right. They don't know if they'll be read, liked, paid. But they risk; they dare. I dare.