That is not what I meant at all

Brian Hugenbruch

That is not what I meant at all

(A Golden Shovel after “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”)


My life runs backward in the evenings:
time and tenacious thought, pinned to my morning’s
coming and goings; soon, dreams of afternoons
will claim me. I ask again—am I
alive? Or simply the sum of what I have
recollection of?  Morning lingers: measured,
weighted in cringes, regrets, and fallings out.
The afternoon? a percolating blur of my
day to day routine. Every time I change my life,
and all its joys, my new history comes with
stronger sorrows. So I sit, unsleeping, with a cup of coffee.
I pour creamer into black memory, and I’ve misplaced my spoons.


Brian Hugenbruch lives in Upstate New York with his wife and their pets.  By day, he writes information security programs to protect your data on (and from) the internet.  By night, he writes speculative fiction stories and poems.  His poetry has appeared in Liminality Magazine.  His fiction can be found in anthologies from Zombies Need Brains and Broken Eye Books, as well as the final issue of Syntax & Salt.

You can find him online on Twitter @Bwhugen, on Instagram @the_lettersea, or at No, he’s not sure how to say his last name, either.

Backstory: “As someone who loves to play with form, the idea of a golden shovel has always intrigued me: using a string of text as a basis for something new. I spent a lot of time studying the poetry of T.S. Eliot in high school and college, and this snippet, with its fastidious (even pedantic) measurement of an entire life, rang painfully true around 3:30am when working on the next research paper. It’s been many (many) cups of coffee since those days, but my mind drifted back to that when I took on the challenge to write a golden shovel. It seemed all too appropriate to take time and coffee and transform an espresso-shot of metaphor into an Americano meditation on linear time and how one describes (or tries to revise) it. Instead of an entire life condensed to minutia, it revels in a pre-dawn introspection, with only a splash of creamer to offset a certain bitterness. Which is a bit dark…but I couldn’t figure out how to write a poem about Michaelangelo or peaches?”

Editor’s Notes: The entire poem by T. S. Eliot is found here: More about the Golden Shovel poem:

Image credit:  Coffee spoons (Flickr)


This entry was posted in Poetry. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to That is not what I meant at all

  1. Kathryn de Leon says:

    I love this poem. Extremely clever, though that word doesn’t do the poem justice. I studied “The Love Song…” in college decades ago and it’s always stayed with me. I love your title.

  2. Pingback: 2021 Rhysling Award Nominees | File 770

  3. Pingback: Rhysling Award Candidates Announced – SPECPO

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *