Dale L. Sproule

T.S. Elliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” has always been one of my favourite poems. But when I recently reread it for what must be about the fiftieth time, I made in interesting observation: it was no longer relevant to modern readers. This has probably been true for a long time, but this is the first time I was inspired to do something about it.

I decided to update it for the 2020s. I present it here, for your pleasure, At least I hope you enjoy it.

I made every effort to preserve the amazing rhythm and reflect the spirit of the original, while altering the text sufficiently to avoid any accusations of plagiarism or copyright infringement (although I do believe the copyright has expired in Canada.) No matter. I present it as an homage to the person I consider the greatest poet in the English language.

The Lament of Jimmy A. Prufrock – a 21st Century Perspective

By Dale L. Sproule

Let’s go, now, while it’s still light outside.

After all, we played Half-Life so deep into last night

our senses are dulled – half-anesthetized.

Let’s go, down this street of half-empty restaurants and stores,

through a maelstrom of food bikes dashing door to door.

While above our heads in condo unit fifty-three oh five

the occupant is locked up tight inside

logging onto interactive bliss, with Bedelia,

who spreads her juicy virtual lips and blows a kiss.

Round the corner, endangered revellers strive

to fill the dance floor and revive – the local music vibe

whose last lingering notes were played before the patrons were conceived.

…so worn by time, eroded channels warp the tile.

In the hall the strangers come and go

speaking of Gucci and Tarantino.

Outside, dog piss turns the snowbanks yellow

beneath grime-caked sills where the car exhaust bellows.

Between them, stylized dayglo tags are scrawled

spray-bombed by the disenfranchised – across the walls.

Weeks of dissolution, colour-dusted on the dirt,

where the concrete slabs descend into the earth.

And rise up to where smog curls around billboards

Reaching for the sky –

both the pictured mother and her infant child.

smile behind Movember moustaches.

We’re always running out of time, it seems

I need to hurry – to wipe the wet graffiti

from my many screens before it dries

and obscures my view of Messenger, What’s App and Zoom.

All mumbling as if they’re in another room.

It takes time to follow and to ghost

and time to mouse and thumb-type posts

to all who LOL and leave emojis on my wall.

After all, who has time to delete a thousand, thousand spams

or sort through selfies in search of some that tag me.

Who has time to Tik-Tok through someone else’s aimless days?

Better to go out for a pizza and a smoke

that curls around my shoulders like an acrid cloak

Rubbing its soft pink belly across my bleary eyes

to obscure my meta-feeds and all the lies.

In the hall the strangers come and go

speaking of Gucci and Tarantino.

I’m running out of time to wonder if I dare –

It’s time to dare already!

Dare to take the elevator down, my bald patch

reflected off the mirrors I’m trapped within.

The other occupants will look away, none notice,

nor do they say that my hair is getting thin.

None will note my Prada coat or the Porsche in my parking stall

(distracted I surmise by the golden Lamborghini parked beside).

Some may ask why I am so loud, and silently accuse me of

putting the universe on hold.

I check my phone to see if there is time

to set a calendar reminder or alarm

that I can erase without intention –

ignore without contravention

of the unread, unspoken rules.

No one knows what I have known at all,

Unless I post it on my wall,

Resigned that no one else will read it.

Does it matter if I measure out my life

in post-it notes, coffee spoons, or lost passwords?

Where should I go?

I’m missing all those views already,

having lost the algorithm before the internet was born.

And yet am borne on a pixelated tide

My life flashes off and on, unsteady

and in ever-scrolling columns that divide,

invisible ads from what I pinned,

wriggling to my wall.

What should I do?

I don’t know what to do at all.

I’ll have to find a how-to video to find out how

to spit out the compost of my hours and my days.

I have shopped online already, and filled

my cart with virtual goods to fill my longings.

And have bid them come to me.

And have watched them all undress,

Their smooth and no-doubt perfumed flesh, remote,

so I cannot press it to my chest.

They only know me by my credit-card

(“Oh, hello there, credit card!”)

At dusk, I wander through the alleys, in search of hidden doorways,

and find a soft parade of homeless folks in ragged coats,

Filled with regret that they won’t get to fret through many more days.

I might have been a scissor-wielding tailor,

gliding across a salon floor to an ornate dresser.

Watching them bogart their joints, they don’t share their spliffs at all.

My lack of purpose sprawls like a sleeping cockapoo

On the floor beside me.

I stroke it, feed it biscuits, and whisper in its ear.

It hears but never listens.

In the hall the strangers come and go

speaking of Gucci and Tarantino.

I wonder if I am strong enough to push this moment to the brink,

The precipice that I have dreamed and often fallen over.

The instant of my greatness gone in a flash.

I have heard the alerts blaring on my phone.

Watched the eternal desk clerk close my file –

even while I search my wallet for ID that is no longer there.

My identity is compromised again.

Would you remind me of my name along the way –

say, in the traffic while on my long commute?

Between the honks let’s talk about you and me.

Or should I instead push the button and end the conversation with a grin.

and take the Porsche on a shorter spin?

My corneas were frozen but are now thawed

so I can see the road ahead again.

While your voice comes crackling through the smog.

“I don’t think you understand. You don’t understand at all.”

Would it be of any use at all

to look for treasure long after you defeat the final boss?

Beyond the sequel and Survivor season 108?

There’s so much to say, but nothing to debate.

What if a toxic virus makes the text run off your screen,

would it be of any use at all.

To turn your gaze into the seething traffic, and opening the window, shout,

“I don’t think any of you understand.

You’re not listening at all!”

Sorry, I am neither Wonder Woman nor the mighty Thor.

I am somewhat lower on the pantheon;

a cosplay nerd set up to fall,

and be trampled by the teeming herd.

A conduit, a necessary tool, to keep the audience informed

about what has gone before to bring us here.

What storms are due, what threats unleashed, what cancers.

I am full of explanations, yet lack in answers.

Sometimes they come right out and cast me as a minion or a clown.

I am losing touch, forgetting passwords by the bunch

Falling for obvious scams like a fool.

What can I do, dye my grey hair pink or blue?

Can I still put on my dancing shoes and strut about the rooftop pools?

I have seen the unicorns jumping, one by one.

Though I’m too high to hear them hit the ground.

I used to think that unicorns had wings,

but yet, no horny Pegasus came ‘round.

Now I search for shafts of sunlight in the clouds

and loudly tell myself “Don’t look down”

at the bloody splotches on the sidewalk far below.

The voice on my satellite radio

speaks but will not let me know

what else is going down.


Remapping the Human Template

If you don’t yet have a copy of The Human Template, get your hands on the first edition before it’s replaced by the revised second edition in April.

A rare and wonderful book, though a tad cynical. It’s about us, after all. Be prepared to be shocked. And amazed.

Amazing Stories, Mar, 2021

Featured Story

Nunavut Thunderfuck

I was chillin’ solo at the club, three hours before opening, when I heard the brap of an iron dog on its last legs and went out to find Anyu Kigutaq just sittin’ there on his retro Ski-Doo in the middle of an ice storm. So I grabbed him by the hood of his parka and dragged him in the side door. “What the fuck you doin’ out there kid?”

Tell the truth, I knew Anyu was coming and had an idea why. Thanks to my bro, DJ Crispy Kay,  we got taps and spy-cams at three separate police detachments. He got access while workin’ security for Baffin Hydro when they were runnin’ the power lines from Jaynes Inlet – he da power bear. Even designed and installed our “industrial perimeter harpoon” rig round the welcome mat at the old lab. Durin’ the long darkness, if somebody we didn’t like came snoopin’ – ‘presto,’ they were on an instant fucking ice cube floating into Hudson Straight.  Smart motherfucker, my brother.  But still, he’s a polar bear, so his employment options are limited.

Dale’s Medium Page

Photo by Do-Ming Lum 2019
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1.1 – InDOCtrination  

“I think you’re finally ready,” said the Spectacular Doctor OWL to the photo-perfect avatar of Raine Naidu, who was spread-eagled in the air like Da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man.

Having not yet been activated, Raine could neither hear nor respond.

Doc OWL’s lengthy immersion in the chore of collecting and reassembling all the stray file-fragments of the long-lost personality matrix had been so all consuming that Doc had given little thought to the question of what to do with Raine when he was ready to bring him to life.

Eventually, the avoidable became inevitable. Doc looked into the blank eyes of the future and said, “G2G or at least as good as it’s gonna get.”

The room shifted.

Although typical of new avatars, Raine’s unblemished skin and perfect features gave him all the apparent depth and gravitas of a newborn.

What insights, Doc wondered, could the rebirth of this literal ‘babe in the woods’ possibly contribute to the development of beings hundreds of years older and wiser than itself?

Doc’s anxiety was in the red. What it was about to do would change the course of everything.

Diving as deeply into Raine’s psyche as it was possible to get, Doc found dozens of fragments of early Doctor OWL memories and steered them from that point onward.

Through the magical fusion between Raine’s Kinder Implant and the hospital’s ChildMinder, five year old Raine watched Doc OWL stand at the foot of the bed. The air was filled with antiseptic smells. Beeps from other rooms provided a faint and random soundtrack. Tall figures in white whizzed past in a hazy blur through the open door. Voices occasionally rose above the din in the hall. Raine heard his mother yelling about taking him to a country where her celebrity could buy him better treatments.

“Why don’t you do that, then,” said a different woman’s voice. “Save the health care for someone who couldn’t afford it otherwise.”

In that instant, Doctor OWL flapped up onto the foot of the bed and began to dance. Unlike a real owl, Doc OWL was an amazing dancer. Raine giggled as Doc did a pirouette, spreading its wings and rising into the air. Digging it’s talons into the soft yield of his pillow, it bent over and whispered to him like it often did. But instead of the usual, “Woo-Whoo, little squirrel!” to get Raine’s attention back into the lesson – today, Doc OWL said, in a very adult and, in fact, doctorly voice, “We need to talk. But not here. Come with me.”

“Come with you…?” Raine said in a child’s voice, but the final word, “Where?” came out in a clear baritone. He pushed aside a pang of panic. There was no entity that Raine trusted more than Doc OWL.  

The hospital bed grew icy cold beneath him, and Raine turned his head to see Doc tap-dancing on galvanized steel. They were inside Doc’s Two Hoots Treetop Laboratory.

Only that’s not what Doc said.

Instead, it said, “Welcome to the BioGrid.”

As Raine sat up, the first thing he noticed were his massive hands – as big as Doc OWL’s wings. He lifted them, wriggling the huge fingers and staring. He touched his face with one, pulling his hand back when his fingertips were prickled by the stubble on his chin. It was almost familiar; teetering on the verge of making sense. The words “Frankenstein’s monster” occurred to him but didn’t seem quite right. Closing his eyes, Raine damped down his panic, but still felt breathless. He fought to inhale.

You don’t need to breathe in this virtual environment, instructed a thought that somehow didn’t feel like his own.

“But I like to breathe, I want to breathe.” As he tried to wrap his head around what he heard himself saying, Raine placed a giant hand on his chest. “Can’t I breathe if I want to?” a strange warmth arose from the deep sonorous vibration in his chest. Aloud, he said, “I’m in a grown-up body. I’m a grown up aren’t I?”.

And you don’t need to talk either, added Doc Owl, continuing aloud,“although sound is one of the senses with which trees are most familiar. We love to talk because it makes us feel more human. That’s why the boles and host corridors are such noisy places.”

“Bowls?” asked Raine. Various sorts of bowls went through his head.  But, “Host corridors?” That was a new one.

“I’ll show you,” hooted Doctor OWL, growing from a tiny cartoon bird into a full- size man in an owl costume. It took Raine by the hand and guided him along a wide path that ran between featureless bunker-like structures, each with a single door opening into the corridor. The major differences between the structures were the doorways themselves, which ranged from cavern entrances to ornate gateways to energy portals.

“Technically, you never need to walk, stop, or loiter in a host corridor,” Doctor OWL was telling him. “Most guests travel straight from their door to their host’s door and just use the corridor as a throughway. Although it has become trendy for guests to scope out the host’s neighbourhood before dropping in.

Small groups of people in elaborate costume gathered in front of an elaborate iron gateway. Walking past a knot of armoured samurai and a rag tag assortment of what looked like bandits and cat burglars, they came to a group of aristocrats in long, frilly gowns with prominent decolletage, white wigs, and fluffy cravats – gathered in front of an open castle drawbridge. They spoke to Raine in French and he understood every word of their small talk.

“Is this the one?” A white-faced woman with a towering pouf of silver-blue ringlets asked Doctor Owl.

“He doesn’t know up from down yet, but yes.” Doc responded, before turning and leading Raine back down the corridor to the cubicle from which they had emerged a few minutes earlier. Or was it days? Time in the Bio-Grid was particularly hard to gauge.

Back in Doc’s treetop lab, Doc said to him, “As fascinating as all this may be, the varied intricacies and manners of arboreal society can wait. The best way for you to get orientated is to remember where you came from and how you got here.”

Raine felt as if he’d just staggered, drunk, into his Calculus and Vectors class and was forced to take a finals exam at a moment when even staying upright was a challenge. As he struggled to make sense of his new environment, his head was whirling and reality dissolving around him.

Giving into the vertigo, Raine was aware of Doc lowering him back down onto the examination table, explaining. “Your brain is trying to process and assimilate all this new input as though you still had a human brain. That’s unnecessary. I’ll teach you to store it properly soon enough. But for now, I need you to think about where you are and remember how you got here. Try to remember your upload.”


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