The Waste La(w)nd


Summary: A poetic meditation upon the state of Lawndale, adapted from ‘The Waste Land’.


Acknowledgments: Thanks go out to Scissors Macgillicutty for his corrections regarding my French translations. Thanks to The Angst Guy and Deref for their positive feedback. Thanks to T.S Eliot for writing one of the greatest poems of the twentieth century.  


I. The Burial of the Series


April is the cruellest month, breeding

Anxiety out ofthe dead land, mixing

Memory and jealousy, stirring

Old tensions with new concerns.

Winter had kept us warm, covering 5

The cabin in forgetful snow, feeding

A little life with packaged meals.

Showers surprised us, coming over the freeway

With many crashed cars; I skidded out on the kerb,

And went on, into Mom’s Diner, where we met 10

And drank coffee, and talked for an hour.

Ich bin nicht neidisch, ich vergeben du, echt freund.

And when we were children, staying with our families,

My father, he went out on a nighttime trip,

And I was frightened. He said, Daria, 15

Daria, hold ontight. The other children are waiting.

In the schoolyard, there you feel free.

I read, much of my life, and went silent in the recess.


What are the roots that clutch, what threads grow

Out of this stony storyline? Son of MTV, 20

You cannot say, or guess, for you know only

A heap of broken episodes, where the advertisements,

And the real world gives no shelter, the credits no relief,

And the absent humour no sound of laughter. Only

There is shadow under this network, 25

(Come in underthe shadow of this network),

And I will show you something different from either

Your partner at evening striding behind you

Or your lover waiting in a car to kiss you;

I will show you fear in a handful of lust. 30

                                    Frisch weht der Wind

                                    Der Heimat zu

                                    Mein Kindergeld

            Wenn ar dugesund?

 ‘You gave me a hernia first a year ago; 35

‘They called me a brainless monkey or something.’

-- Yet when wecame back, late, from the summer vacation

Your answers foolish, and your stare blank, I could not

Speak, and my spirit failed! I was neither

Living nor dead, and you knew nothing, 40

Looking into the heart of idiocy, the ignorance,

Oed' und leer das Klasse!


Madame Morgendorffer, famous lawyer,

Had a bad case, nevertheless

Is known to bethe wisest woman in Lawndale, 45

With a wicked set of defenses. Here, said she,

Is my card, the legal firm drowned in work,

(Those are pearls that were our eyes. Look!)

Here is Monique, the Lady of the Night,

The lady of situations. 50

Here is the girl with three sycophants, and here the Club,

And here is the one-minded surgeon, and this card,

Which is blank, is something she carries on her brain,

Which is not there to see. I do not find

The Clever Man. Fear death by football post. 55

I see crowds of students, walking round in a ring,

Thank you. If you see dear Mrs. Griffin,

Tell her I made the horoscope myself:

One must be socareful these days.


Unreal Suburb,60

Under the brown fog of a summer dawn,

A crowd flowedinto Lawndale High, so many,

I had not thought detention had undone so many.

Sighs, short and infrequent, were exhaled,

And each student fixed their eyes before their feet, 65

Flowed up the hall and down past the classrooms,

To where Principal Angela Li kept the hours

With a dead sound on the final stroke of nine.

There I saw one I knew, and stopped her crying: ‘Jodie!

“You who were with me in the school at Grove Hills!’ 70

‘The seed of discontent you planted last year in that garden,

‘Has it begun to sprout? Will it bloom this term?

‘Or has the college application disturbed its bed?

‘Oh keep the Parents far away, fearing independence,

‘Or withtheir talks they’ll dig it up again! 75

‘You! Hypocrite viseur!—ma soeur,--ma frere! 76

II. A Game of Charades

The school she sat in, like a burnished throne, 
Glowed on the cement where the glass
Held up by standards wrought with fruited bars
From which a security camera peeped out
(Another hid its eyes in every wing) 5
Doubled the flames of Ultra-Soda paraphernalia 
Reflecting light upon the roof as
The glitter of the paint rose to meet it,
From security devices poured in rich profusion.
In vials of samples and coloured glass 10
Unstoppered, lurked her strange synthetic paranoia,
Unguent, powdered, or liquid - troubled, confused
And drowned the figures in odours; stirred by the air
That freshened from the window, these ascended
In fattening the prolonged file-flames, 15
Flung their smoke into the cafeteria,
Stirring the pattern on the coffered ceiling.
Huge metal drawers filled with information
Markedred and orange, judged by the coloured grade,
In which sad light an individual’s hope swam. 20
Above the antique plaque was displayed
As though a barred window gave upon the sylvan scene 
The charge of intrusion, by the tyrannous principal
So rudely forced; yet there the cynic 
Filledall the room with inviolable voice 25
And still she cried, and still the school pursues,
'Reap reap' to dirty ears.
And other withered stamps of time
Were told upon the walls; staring forms
Leanedout, leaning, hushing the hall beside. 30
Footsteps shuffled on the stair.
Under the harsh light, under the brush, her hair
Spreadout in muddy points
Shapedinto words, then would be savagely still--.
  'My nerves are bad to-day.  Yes, bad.  Don’t bother me. 35
'Speakto me.  Why do you never speak? Speak.
  'What are you thinking of? What thinking? What?
'I never know what you are thinking.  Think.'
  ‘I think we are in Aisle 18
Where you will surely cut me down.’ 40
  'What it that noise?'
                                   The food falling on the floor.
'What is that noise now?  What is the customer doing?'
                                   Squabbling again squabbling. 
                                                                            'Do 45
'You know nothing?  Do you see nothing?  Do you remember
   I remember
That this choice was never mine.
'Are you alright, or not? Is there nothing more to be said?' 50
O O O O that Jakespeherian rag -
It's so elegant
So incoherent
'What shall I do now?  What shall I do?' 55
'I shall rush out as I am, and walk the wilds
'With my hair down, so.  What shall we do tomorrow?
'What shall we ever do?'
                                            The cleanup at ten.
And ifit snows, a closed cabin at four.60
And weshall play a game of charades
Pressing imitations and waiting for a knock upon the door.
  When Sandi got her leg broke, I said-
I didn't mince my words, I said to her myself,
Your skirt. It looks really cute over that cast.’ 65
Now peach is coming back, make yourself a bit smart,
Waif’ll want to know what you done withthat advice they gave you
To lost yourself some weight. They did, I read it.
You sweat it all out, Sandi, and get a nice figure, 70
She said, I swear, ‘This can’t be happening’.
And nomore can't I, I said, and think of poor Brooke,
Wantedpopularity for four years, she wants a good time,
And ifyou don't get to work, there's others will, I said. 75
Is that so, she said.  Something o' that, I said.
‘Thank you being my best friend’, she said, and gave me a look.
If youdon't like it you can get on with it, I said.
Otherscan pick and choose if you can't. 80
But ifSkylar makes off, it won't be for a lack of telling.
You ought to be ashamed, I said, to look so downbeat.
(And her not yet thirty.)
“Can’t I rest?’ she said, pulling a long face,
It's those weeks I took off, to recover, she said. 85
(She'dhad two already, and nearly died of embarrassment.)
The doctor said it would be all right, but I've never been the same.
‘Now swim you cow!” I said.
Well, if the boys leave you alone, there it is, I said,
What you get fashionable for if you don’t want standards? 90
Well, that Tuesday Sandi was back, she had her slim self,
And they asked me into the Club, to talk about our looks -
Goonight Stacey.  Goonight Tiffany.  Goonight Sandi.  Goonight.
Ta ta.  Goonight.  Goonight.
Good night, ladies, good night, sweet ladies, good night, good night.  98

III. The Fire Sermon

  The field's tent is broken; the last fingers of life 
Have sunk into another brown bank.  The wind
Crosses the green grass, unheard.  The audience has departed.
Sweet Jane, run swiftly, till I end my song.
The stadium bears no empty bottles, shrill cheers, 5
Soft announcements, cardboard boxes, cigarette ends
Or other testimony of competition.  The litter is departed,
And its creators, the loitering hands of observers;
Departed, have left no addresses.
By thewasted waters of Lawndale I sat down and wept ... 10
Sweet Jane, run swiftly till I end my song,
Sweet Jane, paint swiftly, for I speak not loud or long.
But inmy mind in a cold blast I see
The launch of the race, and laugh at its futility.
A rat crept softly through the vegetation 15
Dragging its slimy belly on the line
While I was painting near the dull canal
On a summer evening round behind the gashouse
Musingupon the band my brother's wreck
And on the brother my father's absence before him. 20 
White bodies mingled in the low damp ground
And bones gathered in a low dry garret,
Rattled by the robber’s foot only, year to year--
But atmy back from time to time I hear 
The sound of shouts and motors, which shall bring 25
Anthony to Mrs. Bennett in the spring.
O the moon shone bright on Mrs. Bennett
And onher husband
They drape their house in wee bits
Et O cesvoix de Guptys, chantant dans la coupole! 30
Twit twit twit 
Smug smug smug smug
 So rudely forc'd.
  Unreal Suburb 35
Under the grey fog of an overcast morn
Mr. Woods, the Bromwell professor
Unshaven, with a pocket full of currants
C.i.f.Harvard: meetings in mind,
Asked me in elegant English 40
To luncheon at the Prufrock Hotel.
Followed by a discussion of our lives.
  At the violet hour, when the eyes and back
Turn sideward from the table, where the cynic waits
Like ataxi throbbing, wanting. 45
I, Timothy, though weak, teaching between two lives, 
Caringman lacking competence and tact, can see
At theviolet hour, the evening hour that strives
Homeward, and brings the student home from school.
The cheerleader home at teatime, ignores her schedule, orders 50
Her dinner, and lays out routines in rows.
Out ofthe window perilously spread
Her drying contributions touched by the television's rays,
On thedivan are piled (Just like her bed)
Stockings, skirts, magazines, and pompoms. 55
I Timothy, man with ineffective plans
Perceived the scene, and foretold the rest -
I too awaited the expected guest.
He, the young man carbuncular, arrives,
A small sleazy Lothario, with one bold stare, 60
One ofthe low on whom assurance sits
As a silk hat on an East Egg millionaire.
The time is now propitious, as he guesses,
The practice is ended, she is bored and tired,
Endeavours to engage her in suggestions 65
Which are still unreproved, if undesired.
Desperate and decided, he assaults at once;
Exploring hands encounter no defence;
His lustfulness requires no response,
And makes a welcome of indifference, 70
The only sin next to ignorance.
(And ITimothy have foresuffered all
Enacted on this same divan or bed;
I who have sat by Janet below the wall
And froze, lowering my head.) 75
Bestows one final patronising kiss,
And gropes his way, finding the door unlit...
  She turns and looks a moment in the glass,
Hardlyaware of her feisty lover;
Her brain allows one half-formed thought to pass: 80
'Well now that's done: and I'm glad Kevvy isn’t over.'
When bubbly Brittany stoops to folly and 
Paces about her room again, alone,
She smoothes her hair with automatic hand,
And oblivious, dials a number on the telephone. 85
 'Thismusic crept by me upon the waters' 
And past the Strawberry, up Harding Street.
O suburb, I can sometimes hear
Besidea public bar in Lower Lawndale,
The unpleasant droning of a guitar 90
And a clatter and a chatter from within
Where teenagers lounge at night: where the wails
Of supine singers hold
Inexplicable splendour of records white and gold.
               The street sweats 95
               Oil and tar
               The vehicles drift
               With the looming lights
               Red stops
               Wide 100
               Leeward, swing on the heavy spar.
               The vehicles crash
               During parades
               Attract Mad Dog’s ire 
               Past the aisle of displays. 105
                               Weialala leia
                               Wallala leialala
               Barksdale and Morgendorffer
               Sharing causes
               The image was formed 110
               A gilded pentagon
               White and airborne
               The solid shell
               Foiled their plan
               Cruel reality 115
               Carried down stream
               The appeal of dreams
               In sudden showers
               Weialala leia
               Wallala leialala 120
               'Trams and dusty morons. 
               Highland bore me.Beavis and Butthead
               Undid me. In Lawndale I boldly raised my hand
               And was soon condemned.
               'My feet want to flee and my heart 125
               Under my feet.’  After the event
               Dad had wept.  He promised "a new start."
               I made no comment.  What should I resent?'
               Standing in the Zon, 
               I can connect 130
               Nothing with nothing.
               The empty minds of followers,
               My people humble people, expect
                               la la la la 135
               To college then I came. (This is my stop.)
               Yearning yearning yearning
               O Lord Thou pluckest my eye out
               O Lord Thou pluckest (Please direct.)
               Yearning. 140

IV. Death by Post

Tommy once triumphant, two years dead
Forgotthe cry of all, and the hard goal-post,
The pain and irony.
                                  A current through the stadium
Whisked his bones in whispers.  As he ran and fell 5
He passed the end zone of his life
Entering the cold ground. .
                                            Jock or outcast,
O you who tread the field and walk oblivious,
Consider Tommy, who was so arrogant in the past. 10

V. What the Artist Said 

  After the torchlight red on frightened faces
After the frosty silence on the swings
After the agony in public places
The shouting and the crying
Trotsky and Fellini and accusation 5
Of boyfriends driving to distant mountains
She who was loyal has now deserted
We who were bonding are now drifting
With alittle patience
  Here is no trace but only rock 10
Rock and no memory but the crowded corridor
The corridor winding through among the classrooms
Packedwith hundreds of students without potential
If there were potential we should pause to drink
Amongst the crowds one cannot stop or think 15
Sweat is dry and feet are in the sand
If there were only honesty in the relationship
Deceitful montage of crises that cannot fit
As one here can neither stand not lie nor sit.
There is not even silence in the mountains 20
But dry sterile tourists without charm
There is not even solitude in the mountains
But red sullen faces playing checkers
From doors of withdrawn cabins
                                                      If there were trust 25
And nobetrayal
If there were trust
And also love
And friendship
A spring 30
A bondamong the fleeting
If there were the sound of laughter only
Not biting jealousy
And dry wit stinging
But rather new water over our rock 35
Where the outcasts sing in their kinship
Together, no longer fated to trip
But there is no water
  Who is the third who walks always beside us?
When Icount, there are only you and I together 40
But when I look ahead up through the seasons
There is always another one walking beside you
Gliding wrapt in brown slacks, hooded
I do not know whether a friend or a Sloane
 - Butwho is that on the other side of you? 45
We are of three minds.
  What is that sound high in the air
Murmurof fraternal lamentation
Who are those squirrel hordes swarming 
Over endless yards, stumbling in cracked earth 50
Ringedby the flat shrubs only
What is the city over the mountains
Cracksand reforms and cuts in the violet air
Falling towers
Jerusalem Athens Alexandria 55
Vienna Lawndale
  A woman drew her long blonde hair out tight
And fiddled whisper music on those strings
And bores with blank faces in the violet light 60  
Whistled, and fled their wings
And crawled onward down a blackened wall
Searching in air for towers
Tolling ignorant remarks, that kept the hours
And voices talking out of fear between exhausted minds. 65
  In this decayed suburb near the mountains
In thefaint moonlight, the grass is singing
Over the tumbled fields, about the school
There is the empty house, only the wind's home.
It hasno windows, and the door swings, 70
Dry tones can harm no one.
Only acock stood on the rooftree
Co co rico co co rico  
In a flash of lightning.  Then a damp gust
Bringing recognition 75
  Daria was sunken, and the limp leaves
Waitedfor reconciliation, while the black clouds
Moved far distant, past the horizon.
The cynic crouched, swathed in silence.
Then spoke the artist 80
Daria: what have we given? 
My friend, blood shaking my heart
The awful daring of that moment's surrender
Which an age of prudence can never retract 85
It passed, yet some bond may still exist
Which can linger to be found in our obituaries
Or in memories draped by the beneficent biographer
Or under spiels spoken by the maternal solicitor
In ourempty rooms 90
Daria: I have heard the key
Turn in the door once, a great way to deal 
We think of the key to end our problems
Thinking of the key, each confirms a problem 95
In theafternoon, aethereal possibilities
Revivea once broken Coriolaneus
Daria: The cynic responded
Warmly, to the hand experienced with friendship 100
The scene was calm, your heart responded
Warmly, when invited, bearing dedication
To still-caring hands
                                    I sat upon the shore
Thinking, with the arid plain behind me 105
Shall I at least set my relations in order?
Lawndale Bridge is falling down falling down falling down

Si è nascosta nell'amicizia che li riacquista.

When shall we be as we were? O remember remember
Le Principale d'Lawndale à la tour abolie 110
These fragments we have shored against our ruin
Why then Ile fit you.  Lawndale's mad againe. Be 
Droll.  Dedicated.  Direct. 
                Sarcasm sarcasm sarcasm.114


Notes to ‘The Waste La(w)nd


The best source for understanding this poem is of course the original source. A good annotated version can be found at;


The Burial of the Series

I.1: Retained from The Waste Land.

I.8-18: These lines recount events in 'Boxing Daria', including Daria and Jane's reunion and Daria's traumatic childhood. Jake here is as clueless as ever.

I.23: 'The Real World', the cheesy MTV reality television series. This show is usually opposed to quality fare.

I.29-30: References to scandalous acts in 'Daria'. Line 29 alludes to Tom waiting for Daria, while Line 30 is a close paraphrase referring to Upchuck.

I.31-34: A slight paraphrase of Wagner's Tristan and Isolde. The translation reads;

Fresh is the wind

That blows in the Homeland

My family

When are you sane?

As the lyrics suggest, the first thirty-four lines of the poem are voiced by Daria, with brief lines from Jane and Jake.

I.35-42: This section is told by Anthony DeMartino, driven to the brink by Kevin's idiocy.

I.42: Again paraphrasing Tristan and Isolde. The translation reads;

Desolate and empty is the class!

I.43-59: Helen appears here as the Lawndale equivalent to 'Madame Sesotris', foretelling subsequent events.

I.52: 'The one-minded surgeon' is Dr. Shar.

I.55: The tragical fate of Tommy Sherman.

I.58-59: Quoting the original poem.

I.60: Not quite a city, Lawndale is more accurately 'Unreal Suburb'. The original phrase refers to Charles Baudelaire’s' 'The Seven Old Men'.

I.62-63: A play on Dante. Here death is replaced by the LHS equivalent, detention.

I.60-76: The poem returns to Daria's perspective at this point.

I.70: A reference to 'Gifted'.

I.76: Baudelaire's 'Au Lecteur', adapted to a Lawndale context. The translation of this version reads;

Hypocrite viewer!-- my sister,__ my friend!

'Sister' feels appropriate here given Daria's largely female cast.


A Game of Charades

II.1-25: Angela Li in the 'role' of Cleopatra. This sequence is simply a description of Lawndale High School under her paranoid rule. The language (as in Eliot's original) frequently alludes to Shakespeare's 'Antony and Cleopatra'.

II.27: Daria's thought process from'Is it College Yet?". Possibly a symbol of futility.

II.35-50: A retelling of the confrontation between Daria/Jane and Andrea in 'Mart of Darkness'. Andrea was forced intoher banal position.

II:52-54: A parody of Eliot's 'That Shakespeherian rag', reflecting its subject.

II:55-62: The scene now shifts to 'Antisocial Climbers', focusing upon Jake and Helen in their cabin. The 'charades' is meant to have wider significance, with characters having different traits beneath the images they present their peers.

II:63-98: The speaker is now Quinn, in a fairly close retelling of 'Fat Like Me'. Almost all dialogue in this sequence is a direct quote.

II.96-98: The Fashion Club transposed into Ophelia's final speech in 'Hamlet'.


The Fire Sermon

III.4: A combination between Edmund Spenser's Prothalmion ("Sweet Thames, run softly...") and the Velvet Underground's 'Sweet Jane'. (Self-explanatory) The juxtaposition is not entirely coincidental.

III.12: The perspective shifts hereto that of Jane. She would rather define herself as a 'painter' than a runner.

III.19: Mystik Spiral is a bit of a shambles, really. See 'The Bands of Summer' for a depiction.

III.20: As is well known, Vincent Laneis rarely a presence in Lawndale.

III.24: Quoted from Eliot, in turn quoted from Andrew Marvell's 'To His Coy Mistress'.

III.26: Suggesting infidelity between DeMartino and Mrs. Bennett.

III.29: Fuzzy-Wuzzy Wee Bits.

III.30: Another slight paraphrase. The line originates in Verlaine. This version's translation reads;

And O those Gupty's voices singing in the dome!

III.36-42: This portion is from the perspective of Kay Sloane. The setting is the Bromwell scenes of 'Is it College Yet?"

III.41: An unsubtle homage with symbolic significance.

III.46-94: Tiresias here is Mr. O'Neill.

III.60: Charles Ruttheimer III.

III.62: F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby.

III.71. Cf. Christopher Marlowe, Tamburlaine Part 1. This is one of the few lines not 'adapted' from Eliot's original text.

III.87-94: Another description of Mystik Spiral and The Zon.

III.95-128: Cf. The Thames-daughters in The Waste Land. The three stanzas are a progression of generations, moving from Ruth/Mad Dog to Helen/Jake to Daria, becoming increasingly alienated.

III.129-31: Parodying one of the more famous passages in the poem. The Zon is transposed as 'Margate Sands' at this point.

III.135: Splendora, 'You're Standing on my Neck'. Lyrical fragments appear in the rest of this section.

III.136: Set post-'Is it College Yet?" The poem moves about in time.

III.138: DeMartino.


Death by Post

IV.1: Tommy Sherman, former QB and jerk, presently dead. This section recounts the events of 'The Misery Chick'.


What the Artist Said.

V:1-10: Various points in the 'Love Triangle'. This section, like much of the final part is voiced by Jane. It tells the desperate struggle to find the Pizza King, arcane symbol of sarcasm, friendship and pizza.

V:20-24:The Sloane cabin retreat.

V:39-46: Originally referring to certain expeditions of Ernest Shackleton.

V:46: Cf. Wallace Stevens, Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird 'I was of three minds'.

V:49-50:An overdramatic recount of 'One J at a Time'.

V:56: Probably the most direct example of Lawndale standing for London in this adaption.

V:80: Jane. Obviously.

V:81: 'DARIA' replaces 'DA' in this version.

V:83-85:A very close paraphrase of the original text, quoted in The Angst Guy's 'Die Die You Bastard' and elsewhere. "The awful daring of a moment's surrender/Which an age of prudence can never retract".

V:93: Alluding to sarcasm being 'a great way to deal'. This quote also marks the only appearance (trace) of Aunt Amy in this poem. Jane too knows the virtue of sarcasm, as the poem's conclusion demonstrates. Exactly how she heard the phrase is left tothe reader.

V:97: A cheap pun on 'Coriolanus'.

V:106: Left unstable after the traumatic reunion of 'The Teachings of Don Jake'.

V:108: Another paraphrase, rooted in Dante. This translation reads;

She hid herself in the friendship that redeems them.

V:110: Yet another paraphrase, translated as;

The Principal of Lawndale in the abandoned tower.

V:113-14: Playing on The Waste Land's famous concluding lines:

‘Datta. Dayadhvam. Damyata.

Shantih shantih shantih.’