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The Ghetto and Other Poems
by Lola Ridge
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The Ghetto

Lola Ridge



TO THE AMERICAN PEOPLE

Will you feast with me, American People? But what have I that shall seem good to you!

On my board are bitter apples And honey served on thorns, And in my flagons fluid iron, Hot from the crucibles.

How should such fare entice you!

CONTENTS

The Ghetto Manhattan Broadway Flotsam Spring Bowery Afternoon Promenade The Fog Faces Debris Dedication The Song of Iron Frank Little at Calvary Spires The Legion of Iron Fuel A Toast "The Everlasting Return," Palestine The Song To the Others Babel The Fiddler Dawn Wind North Wind The Destroyer Lullaby The Foundling The Woman with Jewels Submerged Art and Life Brooklyn Bridge Dreams The Fire A Memory The Edge The Garden Under-Song A Worn Rose Iron Wine Dispossessed The Star The Tidings

The larger part of the poem entitled "The Ghetto" appeared originally in THE NEW REPUBLIC and some of poems were printed in THE INTERNATIONAL, OTHERS, POETRY, etc. To the editors who first published the poems the author makes due acknowledgment.



THE GHETTO

I

Cool, inaccessible air Is floating in velvety blackness shot with steel-blue lights, But no breath stirs the heat Leaning its ponderous bulk upon the Ghetto And most on Hester street...

The heat... Nosing in the body's overflow, Like a beast pressing its great steaming belly close, Covering all avenues of air...

The heat in Hester street, Heaped like a dray With the garbage of the world.

Bodies dangle from the fire escapes Or sprawl over the stoops... Upturned faces glimmer pallidly— Herring-yellow faces, spotted as with a mold, And moist faces of girls Like dank white lilies, And infants' faces with open parched mouths that suck at the air as at empty teats.

Young women pass in groups, Converging to the forums and meeting halls, Surging indomitable, slow Through the gross underbrush of heat. Their heads are uncovered to the stars, And they call to the young men and to one another With a free camaraderie. Only their eyes are ancient and alone...

The street crawls undulant, Like a river addled With its hot tide of flesh That ever thickens. Heavy surges of flesh Break over the pavements, Clavering like a surf— Flesh of this abiding Brood of those ancient mothers who saw the dawn break over Egypt... And turned their cakes upon the dry hot stones And went on Till the gold of the Egyptians fell down off their arms... Fasting and athirst... And yet on...

Did they vision—with those eyes darkly clear, That looked the sun in the face and were not blinded— Across the centuries The march of their enduring flesh? Did they hear— Under the molten silence Of the desert like a stopped wheel— (And the scorpions tick-ticking on the sand...) The infinite procession of those feet?

II

I room at Sodos'—in the little green room that was Bennie's— With Sadie And her old father and her mother, Who is not so old and wears her own hair.

Old Sodos no longer makes saddles. He has forgotten how. He has forgotten most things—even Bennie who stays away and sends wine on holidays— And he does not like Sadie's mother Who hides God's candles, Nor Sadie Whose young pagan breath puts out the light— That should burn always, Like Aaron's before the Lord.

Time spins like a crazy dial in his brain, And night by night I see the love-gesture of his arm In its green-greasy coat-sleeve Circling the Book, And the candles gleaming starkly On the blotched-paper whiteness of his face, Like a miswritten psalm... Night by night I hear his lifted praise, Like a broken whinnying Before the Lord's shut gate.

Sadie dresses in black. She has black-wet hair full of cold lights And a fine-drawn face, too white. All day the power machines Drone in her ears... All day the fine dust flies Till throats are parched and itch And the heat—like a kept corpse— Fouls to the last corner.

Then—when needles move more slowly on the cloth And sweaty fingers slacken And hair falls in damp wisps over the eyes— Sped by some power within, Sadie quivers like a rod... A thin black piston flying, One with her machine.

She—who stabs the piece-work with her bitter eye And bids the girls: "Slow down— You'll have him cutting us again!" She—fiery static atom, Held in place by the fierce pressure all about— Speeds up the driven wheels And biting steel—that twice Has nipped her to the bone.

Nights, she reads Those books that have most unset thought, New-poured and malleable, To which her thought Leaps fusing at white heat, Or spits her fire out in some dim manger of a hall, Or at a protest meeting on the Square, Her lit eyes kindling the mob... Or dances madly at a festival. Each dawn finds her a little whiter, Though up and keyed to the long day, Alert, yet weary... like a bird That all night long has beat about a light.

The Gentile lover, that she charms and shrews, Is one more pebble in the pack For Sadie's mother, Who greets him with her narrowed eyes That hold some welcome back. "What's to be done?" she'll say, "When Sadie wants she takes... Better than Bennie with his Christian woman... A man is not so like, If they should fight, To call her Jew..."

Yet when she lies in bed And the soft babble of their talk comes to her And the silences... I know she never sleeps Till the keen draught blowing up the empty hall Edges through her transom And she hears his foot on the first stairs.

Sarah and Anna live on the floor above. Sarah is swarthy and ill-dressed. Life for her has no ritual. She would break an ideal like an egg for the winged thing at the core. Her mind is hard and brilliant and cutting like an acetylene torch. If any impurities drift there, they must be burnt up as in a clear flame. It is droll that she should work in a pants factory. —Yet where else... tousled and collar awry at her olive throat. Besides her hands are unkempt. With English... and everything... there is so little time. She reads without bias— Doubting clamorously— Psychology, plays, science, philosophies— Those giant flowers that have bloomed and withered, scattering their seed... —And out of this young forcing soil what growth may come— what amazing blossomings.

Anna is different. One is always aware of Anna, and the young men turn their heads to look at her. She has the appeal of a folk-song And her cheap clothes are always in rhythm. When the strike was on she gave half her pay. She would give anything—save the praise that is hers And the love of her lyric body.

But Sarah's desire covets nothing apart. She would share all things... Even her lover.

III

The sturdy Ghetto children March by the parade, Waving their toy flags, Prancing to the bugles— Lusty, unafraid... Shaking little fire sticks At the night— The old blinking night— Swerving out of the way, Wrapped in her darkness like a shawl.

But a small girl Cowers apart. Her braided head, Shiny as a black-bird's In the gleam of the torch-light, Is poised as for flight. Her eyes have the glow Of darkened lights.

She stammers in Yiddish, But I do not understand, And there flits across her face A shadow As of a drawn blind. I give her an orange, Large and golden, And she looks at it blankly. I take her little cold hand and try to draw her to me, But she is stiff... Like a doll...

Suddenly she darts through the crowd Like a little white panic Blown along the night— Away from the terror of oncoming feet... And drums rattling like curses in red roaring mouths... And torches spluttering silver fire And lights that nose out hiding-places... To the night— Squatting like a hunchback Under the curved stoop— The old mammy-night That has outlived beauty and knows the ways of fear— The night—wide-opening crooked and comforting arms, Hiding her as in a voluminous skirt.

The sturdy Ghetto children March by the parade, Waving their toy flags, Prancing to the bugles, Lusty, unafraid. But I see a white frock And eyes like hooded lights Out of the shadow of pogroms Watching... watching...

IV

Calicoes and furs, Pocket-books and scarfs, Razor strops and knives (Patterns in check...)

Olive hands and russet head, Pickles red and coppery, Green pickles, brown pickles, (Patterns in tapestry...)

Coral beads, blue beads, Beads of pearl and amber, Gewgaws, beauty pins— Bijoutry for chits— Darting rays of violet, Amethyst and jade... All the colors out to play, Jumbled iridescently... (Patterns in stained glass Shivered into bits!)

Nooses of gay ribbon Tugging at one's sleeve, Dainty little garters Hanging out their sign... Here a pout of frilly things— There a sonsy feather... (White beards, black beards Like knots in the weave...)

And ah, the little babies— Shiny black-eyed babies— (Half a million pink toes Wriggling altogether.) Baskets full of babies Like grapes on a vine.

Mothers waddling in and out, Making all things right— Picking up the slipped threads In Grand street at night— Grand street like a great bazaar, Crowded like a float, Bulging like a crazy quilt Stretched on a line.

But nearer seen This litter of the East Takes on a garbled majesty.

The herded stalls In dissolute array... The glitter and the jumbled finery And strangely juxtaposed Cans, paper, rags And colors decomposing, Faded like old hair, With flashes of barbaric hues And eyes of mystery... Flung Like an ancient tapestry of motley weave Upon the open wall of this new land.

Here, a tawny-headed girl... Lemons in a greenish broth And a huge earthen bowl By a bronzed merchant With a tall black lamb's wool cap upon his head... He has no glance for her. His thrifty eyes Bend—glittering, intent Their hoarded looks Upon his merchandise, As though it were some splendid cloth Or sumptuous raiment Stitched in gold and red...

He seldom talks Save of the goods he spreads— The meager cotton with its dismal flower— But with his skinny hands That hover like two hawks Above some luscious meat, He fingers lovingly each calico, As though it were a gorgeous shawl, Or costly vesture Wrought in silken thread, Or strange bright carpet Made for sandaled feet...

Here an old grey scholar stands. His brooding eyes— That hold long vistas without end Of caravans and trees and roads, And cities dwindling in remembrance— Bend mostly on his tapes and thread.

What if they tweak his beard— These raw young seed of Israel Who have no backward vision in their eyes— And mock him as he sways Above the sunken arches of his feet— They find no peg to hang their taunts upon. His soul is like a rock That bears a front worn smooth By the coarse friction of the sea, And, unperturbed, he keeps his bitter peace.

What if a rigid arm and stuffed blue shape, Backed by a nickel star Does prod him on, Taking his proud patience for humility... All gutters are as one To that old race that has been thrust From off the curbstones of the world... And he smiles with the pale irony Of one who holds The wisdom of the Talmud stored away In his mind's lavender.

But this young trader, Born to trade as to a caul, Peddles the notions of the hour. The gestures of the craft are his And all the lore As when to hold, withdraw, persuade, advance... And be it gum or flags, Or clean-all or the newest thing in tags, Demand goes to him as the bee to flower. And he—appraising All who come and go With his amazing Slight-of-mind and glance And nimble thought And nature balanced like the scales at nought— Looks Westward where the trade-lights glow, And sees his vision rise— A tape-ruled vision, Circumscribed in stone— Some fifty stories to the skies.

V

As I sit in my little fifth-floor room— Bare, Save for bed and chair, And coppery stains Left by seeping rains On the low ceiling And green plaster walls, Where when night falls Golden lady-bugs Come out of their holes, And roaches, sepia-brown, consort... I hear bells pealing Out of the gray church at Rutgers street, Holding its high-flung cross above the Ghetto, And, one floor down across the court, The parrot screaming: Vorwaerts... Vorwaerts...

The parrot frowsy-white, Everlastingly swinging On its iron bar.

A little old woman, With a wig of smooth black hair Gummed about her shrunken brows, Comes sometimes on the fire escape. An old stooped mother, The left shoulder low With that uneven droopiness that women know Who have suckled many young... Yet I have seen no other than the parrot there.

I watch her mornings as she shakes her rugs Feebly, with futile reach And fingers without clutch. Her thews are slack And curved the ruined back And flesh empurpled like old meat, Yet each conspires To feed those guttering fires With which her eyes are quick.

On Friday nights Her candles signal Infinite fine rays To other windows, Coupling other lights, Linking the tenements Like an endless prayer.

She seems less lonely than the bird That day by day about the dismal house Screams out his frenzied word... That night by night— If a dog yelps Or a cat yawls Or a sick child whines, Or a door screaks on its hinges, Or a man and woman fight— Sends his cry above the huddled roofs: Vorwaerts... Vorwaerts...

VI

In this dingy cafe The old men sit muffled in woollens. Everything is faded, shabby, colorless, old... The chairs, loose-jointed, Creaking like old bones— The tables, the waiters, the walls, Whose mottled plaster Blends in one tone with the old flesh.

Young life and young thought are alike barred, And no unheralded noises jolt old nerves, And old wheezy breaths Pass around old thoughts, dry as snuff, And there is no divergence and no friction Because life is flattened and ground as by many mills.

And it is here the Committee— Sweet-breathed and smooth of skin And supple of spine and knee, With shining unpouched eyes And the blood, high-powered, Leaping in flexible arteries— The insolent, young, enthusiastic, undiscriminating Committee, Who would placard tombstones And scatter leaflets even in graves, Comes trampling with sacrilegious feet!

The old men turn stiffly, Mumbling to each other. They are gentle and torpid and busy with eating. But one lifts a face of clayish pallor, There is a dull fury in his eyes, like little rusty grates. He rises slowly, Trembling in his many swathings like an awakened mummy, Ridiculous yet terrible. —And the Committee flings him a waste glance, Dropping a leaflet by his plate.

A lone fire flickers in the dusty eyes. The lips chant inaudibly. The warped shrunken body straightens like a tree. And he curses... With uplifted arms and perished fingers, Claw-like, clutching... So centuries ago The old men cursed Acosta, When they, prophetic, heard upon their sepulchres Those feet that may not halt nor turn aside for ancient things.

VII

Here in this room, bare like a barn, Egos gesture one to the other— Naked, unformed, unwinged Egos out of the shell, Examining, searching, devouring— Avid alike for the flower or the dung... (Having no dainty antennae for the touch and withdrawal— Only the open maw...)

Egos cawing, Expanding in the mean egg... Little squat tailors with unkempt faces, Pale as lard, Fur-makers, factory-hands, shop-workers, News-boys with battling eyes And bodies yet vibrant with the momentum of long runs, Here and there a woman...

Words, words, words, Pattering like hail, Like hail falling without aim... Egos rampant, Screaming each other down. One motions perpetually, Waving arms like overgrowths. He has burning eyes and a cough And a thin voice piping Like a flute among trombones.

One, red-bearded, rearing A welter of maimed face bashed in from some old wound, Garbles Max Stirner. His words knock each other like little wooden blocks. No one heeds him, And a lank boy with hair over his eyes Pounds upon the table. —He is chairman.

Egos yet in the primer, Hearing world-voices Chanting grand arias... Majors resonant, Stunning with sound... Baffling minors Half-heard like rain on pools... Majestic discordances Greater than harmonies... —Gleaning out of it all Passion, bewilderment, pain...

Egos yearning with the world-old want in their eyes— Hurt hot eyes that do not sleep enough... Striving with infinite effort, Frustrate yet ever pursuing The great white Liberty, Trailing her dissolving glory over each hard-won barricade— Only to fade anew...

Egos crying out of unkempt deeps And waving their dreams like flags— Multi-colored dreams, Winged and glorious...

A gas jet throws a stunted flame, Vaguely illumining the groping faces. And through the uncurtained window Falls the waste light of stars, As cold as wise men's eyes... Indifferent great stars, Fortuitously glancing At the secret meeting in this shut-in room, Bare as a manger.

VIII

Lights go out And the stark trunks of the factories Melt into the drawn darkness, Sheathing like a seamless garment.

And mothers take home their babies, Waxen and delicately curled, Like little potted flowers closed under the stars.

Lights go out And the young men shut their eyes, But life turns in them...

Life in the cramped ova Tearing and rending asunder its living cells... Wars, arts, discoveries, rebellions, travails, immolations, cataclysms, hates... Pent in the shut flesh. And the young men twist on their beds in languor and dizziness unsupportable... Their eyes—heavy and dimmed With dust of long oblivions in the gray pulp behind— Staring as through a choked glass. And they gaze at the moon—throwing off a faint heat— The moon, blond and burning, creeping to their cots Softly, as on naked feet... Lolling on the coverlet... like a woman offering her white body.

Nude glory of the moon! That leaps like an athlete on the bosoms of the young girls stripped of their linens; Stroking their breasts that are smooth and cool as mother-of-pearl Till the nipples tingle and burn as though little lips plucked at them. They shudder and grow faint. And their ears are filled as with a delirious rhapsody, That Life, like a drunken player, Strikes out of their clear white bodies As out of ivory keys.

Lights go out... And the great lovers linger in little groups, still passionately debating, Or one may walk in silence, listening only to the still summons of Life— Life making the great Demand... Calling its new Christs... Till tears come, blurring the stars That grow tender and comforting like the eyes of comrades; And the moon rolls behind the Battery Like a word molten out of the mouth of God.

Lights go out... And colors rush together, Fusing and floating away... Pale worn gold like the settings of old jewels... Mauves, exquisite, tremulous, and luminous purples And burning spires in aureoles of light Like shimmering auras.

They are covering up the pushcarts... Now all have gone save an old man with mirrors— Little oval mirrors like tiny pools. He shuffles up a darkened street And the moon burnishes his mirrors till they shine like phosphorus... The moon like a skull, Staring out of eyeless sockets at the old men trundling home the pushcarts.

IX

A sallow dawn is in the sky As I enter my little green room. Sadie's light is still burning... Without, the frail moon Worn to a silvery tissue, Throws a faint glamour on the roofs, And down the shadowy spires Lights tip-toe out... Softly as when lovers close street doors.

Out of the Battery A little wind Stirs idly—as an arm Trails over a boat's side in dalliance— Rippling the smooth dead surface of the heat, And Hester street, Like a forlorn woman over-born By many babies at her teats, Turns on her trampled bed to meet the day.

LIFE! Startling, vigorous life, That squirms under my touch, And baffles me when I try to examine it, Or hurls me back without apology. Leaving my ego ruffled and preening itself.

Life, Articulate, shrill, Screaming in provocative assertion, Or out of the black and clotted gutters, Piping in silvery thin Sweet staccato Of children's laughter,

Or clinging over the pushcarts Like a litter of tiny bells Or the jingle of silver coins, Perpetually changing hands, Or like the Jordan somberly Swirling in tumultuous uncharted tides, Surface-calm.

Electric currents of life, Throwing off thoughts like sparks, Glittering, disappearing, Making unknown circuits, Or out of spent particles stirring Feeble contortions in old faiths Passing before the new.

Long nights argued away In meeting halls Back of interminable stairways— In Roumanian wine-shops And little Russian tea-rooms...

Feet echoing through deserted streets In the soft darkness before dawn... Brows aching, throbbing, burning— Life leaping in the shaken flesh Like flame at an asbestos curtain.

Life— Pent, overflowing Stoops and facades, Jostling, pushing, contriving, Seething as in a great vat...

Bartering, changing, extorting, Dreaming, debating, aspiring, Astounding, indestructible Life of the Ghetto...

Strong flux of life, Like a bitter wine Out of the bloody stills of the world... Out of the Passion eternal.



MANHATTAN LIGHTS

MANHATTAN

Out of the night you burn, Manhattan, In a vesture of gold— Span of innumerable arcs, Flaring and multiplying— Gold at the uttermost circles fading Into the tenderest hint of jade, Or fusing in tremulous twilight blues, Robing the far-flung offices, Scintillant-storied, forking flame, Or soaring to luminous amethyst Over the steeples aureoled—

Diaphanous gold, Veiling the Woolworth, argently Rising slender and stark Mellifluous-shrill as a vender's cry, And towers squatting graven and cold On the velvet bales of the dark, And the Singer's appraising Indolent idol's eye, And night like a purple cloth unrolled—

Nebulous gold Throwing an ephemeral glory about life's vanishing points, Wherein you burn... You of unknown voltage Whirling on your axis... Scrawling vermillion signatures Over the night's velvet hoarding... Insolent, towering spherical To apices ever shifting.



BROADWAY

Light! Innumerable ions of light, Kindling, irradiating, All to their foci tending...

Light that jingles like anklet chains On bevies of little lithe twinkling feet, Or clingles in myriad vibrations Like trillions of porcelain Vases shattering...

Light over the laminae of roofs, Diffusing in shimmering nebulae About the night's boundaries, Or billowing in pearly foam Submerging the low-lying stars...

Light for the feast prolonged— Captive light in the goblets quivering... Sparks evanescent Struck of meeting looks— Fringed eyelids leashing Sheathed and leaping lights... Infinite bubbles of light Bursting, reforming... Silvery filings of light Incessantly falling... Scintillant, sided dust of light Out of the white flares of Broadway— Like a great spurious diamond In the night's corsage faceted...

Broadway, In ambuscades of light, Drawing the charmed multitudes With the slow suction of her breath— Dangling her naked soul Behind the blinding gold of eunuch lights That wind about her like a bodyguard.

Or like a huge serpent, iridescent-scaled, Trailing her coruscating length Over the night prostrate— Triumphant poised, Her hydra heads above the avenues, Values appraising And her avid eyes Glistening with eternal watchfulness...

Broadway— Out of her towers rampant, Like an unsubtle courtezan Reserving nought for some adventurous night.



FLOTSAM

Crass rays streaming from the vestibules; Cafes glittering like jeweled teeth; High-flung signs Blinking yellow phosphorescent eyes; Girls in black Circling monotonously About the orange lights...

Nothing to guess at... Save the darkness above Crouching like a great cat.

In the dim-lit square, Where dishevelled trees Tustle with the wind—the wind like a scythe Mowing their last leaves— Arcs shimmering through a greenish haze— Pale oval arcs Like ailing virgins, Each out of a halo circumscribed, Pallidly staring...

Figures drift upon the benches With no more rustle than a dropped leaf settling— Slovenly figures like untied parcels, And papers wrapped about their knees Huddled one to the other, Cringing to the wind— The sided wind, Leaving no breach untried...

So many and all so still... The fountain slobbering its stone basin Is louder than They— Flotsam of the five oceans Here on this raft of the world.

This old man's head Has found a woman's shoulder. The wind juggles with her shawl That flaps about them like a sail, And splashes her red faded hair Over the salt stubble of his chin. A light foam is on his lips, As though dreams surged in him Breaking and ebbing away... And the bare boughs shuffle above him And the twigs rattle like dice...

She—diffused like a broken beetle— Sprawls without grace, Her face gray as asphalt, Her jaws sagging as on loosened hinges... Shadows ply about her mouth— Nimble shadows out of the jigging tree, That dances above her its dance of dry bones.

II

A uniformed front, Paunched; A glance like a blow, The swing of an arm, Verved, vigorous; Boot-heels clanking In metallic rhythm; The blows of a baton, Quick, staccato...

—There is a rustling along the benches As of dried leaves raked over... And the old man lifts a shaking palsied hand, Tucking the displaced paper about his knees.

Colder... And a frost under foot, Acid, corroding, Eating through worn bootsoles.

Drab forms blur into greenish vapor. Through boughs like cross-bones, Pale arcs flare and shiver Like lilies in a wind.

High over Broadway A far-flung sign Glitters in indigo darkness And spurts again rhythmically, Spraying great drops Red as a hemorrhage.



SPRING

A spring wind on the Bowery, Blowing the fluff of night shelters Off bedraggled garments, And agitating the gutters, that eject little spirals of vapor Like lewd growths.

Bare-legged children stamp in the puddles, splashing each other, One—with a choir-boy's face Twits me as I pass... The word, like a muddied drop, Seems to roll over and not out of The bowed lips, Yet dewy red And sweetly immature.

People sniff the air with an upward look— Even the mite of a girl Who never plays... Her mother smiles at her With eyes like vacant lots Rimming vistas of mean streets And endless washing days... Yet with sun on the lines And a drying breeze.

The old candy woman Shivers in the young wind. Her eyes—littered with memories Like ancient garrets, Or dusty unaired rooms where someone died— Ask nothing of the spring.

But a pale pink dream Trembles about this young girl's body, Draping it like a glowing aura.

She gloats in a mirror Over her gaudy hat, With its flower God never thought of...

And the dream, unrestrained, Floats about the loins of a soldier, Where it quivers a moment, Warming to a crimson Like the scarf of a toreador...

But the delicate gossamer breaks at his contact And recoils to her in strands of shattered rose.



BOWERY AFTERNOON

Drab discoloration Of faces, facades, pawn-shops, Second-hand clothing, Smoky and fly-blown glass of lunch-rooms, Odors of rancid life...

Deadly uniformity Of eyes and windows Alike devoid of light... Holes wherein life scratches— Mangy life Nosing to the gutter's end...

Show-rooms and mimic pillars Flaunting out of their gaudy vestibules Bosoms and posturing thighs...

Over all the Elevated Droning like a bloated fly.



PROMENADE

Undulant rustlings, Of oncoming silk, Rhythmic, incessant, Like the motion of leaves... Fragments of color In glowing surprises... Pink inuendoes Hooded in gray Like buds in a cobweb Pearled at dawn... Glimpses of green And blurs of gold And delicate mauves That snatch at youth... And bodies all rosily Fleshed for the airing, In warm velvety surges Passing imperious, slow...

Women drift into the limousines That shut like silken caskets On gems half weary of their glittering... Lamps open like pale moon flowers... Arcs are radiant opals Strewn along the dusk... No common lights invade. And spires rise like litanies— Magnificats of stone Over the white silence of the arcs, Burning in perpetual adoration.



THE FOG

Out of the lamp-bestarred and clouded dusk— Snaring, illuding, concealing, Magically conjuring— Turning to fairy-coaches Beetle-backed limousines Scampering under the great Arch— Making a decoy of blue overalls And mystery of a scarlet shawl— Indolently— Knowing no impediment of its sure advance— Descends the fog.



FACES

A late snow beats With cold white fists upon the tenements— Hurriedly drawing blinds and shutters, Like tall old slatterns Pulling aprons about their heads.

Lights slanting out of Mott Street Gibber out, Or dribble through bar-room slits, Anonymous shapes Conniving behind shuttered panes Caper and disappear... Where the Bowery Is throbbing like a fistula Back of her ice-scabbed fronts.

Livid faces Glimmer in furtive doorways, Or spill out of the black pockets of alleys, Smears of faces like muddied beads, Making a ghastly rosary The night mumbles over And the snow with its devilish and silken whisper... Patrolling arcs Blowing shrill blasts over the Bread Line Stalk them as they pass, Silent as though accouched of the darkness, And the wind noses among them, Like a skunk That roots about the heart...

Colder: And the Elevated slams upon the silence Like a ponderous door. Then all is still again, Save for the wind fumbling over The emptily swaying faces— The wind rummaging Like an old Jew...

Faces in glimmering rows... (No sign of the abject life— Not even a blasphemy...) But the spindle legs keep time To a limping rhythm, And the shadows twitch upon the snow Convulsively— As though death played With some ungainly dolls.



LABOR

DEBRIS

I love those spirits That men stand off and point at, Or shudder and hood up their souls— Those ruined ones, Where Liberty has lodged an hour And passed like flame, Bursting asunder the too small house.



DEDICATION

I would be a torch unto your hand, A lamp upon your forehead, Labor, In the wild darkness before the Dawn That I shall never see...

We shall advance together, my Beloved, Awaiting the mighty ushering... Together we shall make the last grand charge And ride with gorgeous Death With all her spangles on And cymbals clashing... And you shall rush on exultant as I fall— Scattering a brief fire about your feet...

Let it be so... Better—while life is quick And every pain immense and joy supreme, And all I have and am Flames upward to the dream... Than like a taper forgotten in the dawn, Burning out the wick.



THE SONG OF IRON

I

Not yet hast Thou sounded Thy clangorous music, Whose strings are under the mountains... Not yet hast Thou spoken The blooded, implacable Word...

But I hear in the Iron singing— In the triumphant roaring of the steam and pistons pounding— Thy barbaric exhortation... And the blood leaps in my arteries, unreproved, Answering Thy call... All my spirit is inundated with the tumultuous passion of Thy Voice, And sings exultant with the Iron, For now I know I too am of Thy Chosen...

Oh fashioned in fire— Needing flame for Thy ultimate word— Behold me, a cupola Poured to Thy use!

Heed not my tremulous body That faints in the grip of Thy gauntlet. Break it... and cast it aside... But make of my spirit That dares and endures Thy crucible... Pour through my soul Thy molten, world-whelming song.

... Here at Thy uttermost gate Like a new Mary, I wait...

II

Charge the blast furnace, workman... Open the valves— Drive the fires high... (Night is above the gates).

How golden-hot the ore is From the cupola spurting, Tossing the flaming petals Over the silt and furnace ash— Blown leaves, devastating, Falling about the world...

Out of the furnace mouth— Out of the giant mouth— The raging, turgid, mouth— Fall fiery blossoms Gold with the gold of buttercups In a field at sunset, Or huskier gold of dandelions, Warmed in sun-leavings, Or changing to the paler hue At the creamy hearts of primroses.

Charge the converter, workman— Tired from the long night? But the earth shall suck up darkness— The earth that holds so much... And out of these molten flowers, Shall shape the heavy fruit...

Then open the valves— Drive the fires high, Your blossoms nurturing. (Day is at the gates And a young wind...)

Put by your rod, comrade, And look with me, shading your eyes... Do you not see— Through the lucent haze Out of the converter rising— In the spirals of fire Smiting and blinding, A shadowy shape White as a flame of sacrifice, Like a lily swaying?

III

The ore leaping in the crucibles, The ore communicant, Sending faint thrills along the leads... Fire is running along the roots of the mountains... I feel the long recoil of earth As under a mighty quickening... (Dawn is aglow in the light of the Iron...) All palpitant, I wait...

IV

Here ye, Dictators—late Lords of the Iron, Shut in your council rooms, palsied, depowered— The blooded, implacable Word? Not whispered in cloture, one to the other, (Brother in fear of the fear of his brother...) But chanted and thundered On the brazen, articulate tongues of the Iron Babbling in flame...

Sung to the rhythm of prisons dismantled, Manacles riven and ramparts defaced... (Hearts death-anointed yet hearing life calling...) Ankle chains bursting and gallows unbraced...

Sung to the rhythm of arsenals burning... Clangor of iron smashing on iron, Turmoil of metal and dissonant baying Of mail-sided monsters shattered asunder...

Hulks of black turbines all mangled and roaring, Battering egress through ramparted walls... Mouthing of engines, made rabid with power, Into the holocaust snorting and plunging...

Mighty converters torn from their axis, Flung to the furnaces, vomiting fire, Jumbled in white-heaten masses disshapen... Writhing in flame-tortured levers of iron...

Gnashing of steel serpents twisting and dying... Screeching of steam-glutted cauldrons rending... Shock of leviathans prone on each other... Scaled flanks touching, ore entering ore... Steel haunches closing and grappling and swaying In the waltz of the mating locked mammoths of iron, Tasting the turbulent fury of living, Mad with a moment's exuberant living! Crash of devastating hammers despoiling.. Hands inexorable, marring What hands had so cunningly moulded...

Structures of steel welded, subtily tempered, Marvelous wrought of the wizards of ore, Torn into octaves discordantly clashing, Chords never final but onward progressing In monstrous fusion of sound ever smiting on sound in mad vortices whirling...

Till the ear, tortured, shrieks for cessation Of the raving inharmonies hatefully mingling... The fierce obligato the steel pipes are screaming... The blare of the rude molten music of Iron...



FRANK LITTLE AT CALVARY

I

He walked under the shadow of the Hill Where men are fed into the fires And walled apart... Unarmed and alone, He summoned his mates from the pit's mouth Where tools rested on the floors And great cranes swung Unemptied, on the iron girders. And they, who were the Lords of the Hill, Were seized with a great fear, When they heard out of the silence of wheels The answer ringing In endless reverberations Under the mountain...

So they covered up their faces And crept upon him as he slept... Out of eye-holes in black cloth They looked upon him who had flung Between them and their ancient prey The frail barricade of his life... And when night—that has connived at so much— Was heavy with the unborn day, They haled him from his bed...

Who might know of that wild ride? Only the bleak Hill— The red Hill, vigilant, Like a blood-shot eye In the black mask of night— Dared watch them as they raced By each blind-folded street Godiva might have ridden down... But when they stopped beside the Place, I know he turned his face Wistfully to the accessory night...

And when he saw—against the sky, Sagged like a silken net Under its load of stars— The black bridge poised Like a gigantic spider motionless... I know there was a silence in his heart, As of a frozen sea, Where some half lifted arm, mid-way Wavers, and drops heavily...

I know he waved to life, And that life signaled back, transcending space, To each high-powered sense, So that he missed no gesture of the wind Drawing the shut leaves close... So that he saw the light on comrades' faces Of camp fires out of sight... And the savor of meat and bread Blew in his nostrils... and the breath Of unrailed spaces Where shut wild clover smelled as sweet As a virgin in her bed.

I know he looked once at America, Quiescent, with her great flanks on the globe, And once at the skies whirling above him... Then all that he had spoken against And struck against and thrust against Over the frail barricade of his life Rushed between him and the stars...

II

Life thunders on... Over the black bridge The line of lighted cars Creeps like a monstrous serpent Spooring gold...

Watchman, what of the track?

Night... silence... stars... All's Well!

III

Light... (Breaking mists... Hills gliding like hands out of a slipping hold...) Light over the pit mouths, Streaming in tenuous rays down the black gullets of the Hill... (The copper, insensate, sleeping in the buried lode.) Light... Forcing the clogged windows of arsenals... Probing with long sentient fingers in the copper chips... Gleaming metallic and cold In numberless slivers of steel... Light over the trestles and the iron clips Of the black bridge—poised like a gigantic spider motionless— Sweet inquisition of light, like a child's wonder... Intrusive, innocently staring light That nothing appals...

Light in the slow fumbling summer leaves, Cooing and calling All winged and avid things Waking the early flies, keen to the scent... Green-jeweled iridescent flies Unerringly steering— Swarming over the blackened lips, The young day sprays with indiscriminate gold...

Watchman, what of the Hill?

Wheels turn; The laden cars Go rumbling to the mill, And Labor walks beside the mules... All's Well with the Hill!



SPIRES

Spires of Grace Church, For you the workers of the world Travailed with the mountains... Aborting their own dreams Till the dream of you arose— Beautiful, swaddled in stone— Scorning their hands.



THE LEGION OF IRON

They pass through the great iron gates— Men with eyes gravely discerning, Skilled to appraise the tunnage of cranes Or split an inch into thousandths— Men tempered by fire as the ore is And planned to resistance Like steel that has cooled in the trough; Silent of purpose, inflexible, set to fulfilment— To conquer, withstand, overthrow... Men mannered to large undertakings, Knowing force as a brother And power as something to play with, Seeing blood as a slip of the iron, To be wiped from the tools Lest they rust.

But what if they stood aside, Who hold the earth so careless in the crook of their arms?

What of the flamboyant cities And the lights guttering out like candles in a wind... And the armies halted... And the train mid-way on the mountain And idle men chaffing across the trenches... And the cursing and lamentation And the clamor for grain shut in the mills of the world? What if they stayed apart, Inscrutably smiling, Leaving the ground encumbered with dead wire And the sea to row-boats And the lands marooned— Till Time should like a paralytic sit, A mildewed hulk above the nations squatting?



FUEL

What of the silence of the keys And silvery hands? The iron sings... Though bows lie broken on the strings, The fly-wheels turn eternally...

Bring fuel—drive the fires high... Throw all this artist-lumber in And foolish dreams of making things... (Ten million men are called to die.)

As for the common men apart, Who sweat to keep their common breath, And have no hour for books or art— What dreams have these to hide from death!

A TOAST

Not your martyrs anointed of heaven— The ages are red where they trod— But the Hunted—the world's bitter leaven— Who smote at your imbecile God—

A being to pander and fawn to, To propitiate, flatter and dread As a thing that your souls are in pawn to, A Dealer who traffics the dead;

A Trader with greed never sated, Who barters the souls in his snares, That were trapped in the lusts he created, For incense and masses and prayers—

They are crushed in the coils of your halters; 'Twere well—by the creeds ye have nursed— That ye send up a cry from your altars, A mass for the Martyrs Accursed;

A passionate prayer from reprieval For the Brotherhood not understood— For the Heroes who died for the evil, Believing the evil was good.

To the Breakers, the Bold, the Despoilers, Who dreamed of a world over-thrown... They who died for the millions of toilers— Few—fronting the nations alone!

—To the Outlawed of men and the Branded, Whether hated or hating they fell— I pledge the devoted, red-handed, Unfaltering Heroes of Hell!



ACCIDENTALS

"THE EVERLASTING RETURN"

It is dark... so dark, I remember the sun on Chios... It is still... so still, I hear the beat of our paddles on the Aegean...

Ten times we had watched the moon Rise like a thin white virgin out of the waters And round into a full maternity... For thrice ten moons we had touched no flesh Save the man flesh on either hand That was black and bitter and salt and scaled by the sea.

The Athenian boy sat on my left... His hair was yellow as corn steeped in wine... And on my right was Phildar the Carthaginian, Grinning Phildar With his mouth pulled taut as by reins from his black gapped teeth. Many a whip had coiled about him And his shoulders were rutted deep as wet ground under chariot wheels, And his skin was red and tough as a bull's hide cured in the sun. He did not sing like the other slaves, But when a big wind came up he screamed with it. And always he looked out to sea, Save when he tore at his fish ends Or spat across me at the Greek boy, whose mouth was red and apart like an opened fruit.

We had rowed from dawn and the green galley hard at our stern. She was green and squat and skulked close to the sea. All day the tish of their paddles had tickled our ears, And when night came on And little naked stars dabbled in the water And half the crouching moon Slid over the silver belly of the sea thick-scaled with light, We heard them singing at their oars... We who had no breath for song.

There was no sound in our boat Save the clingle of wrist chains And the sobbing of the young Greek. I cursed him that his hair blew in my mouth, tasting salt of the sea... I cursed him that his oar kept ill time... When he looked at me I cursed him again, That his eyes were soft as a woman's.

How long... since their last shell gouged our batteries? How long... since we rose at aim with a sleuth moon astern? (It was the damned green moon that nosed us out... The moon that flushed our periscope till it shone like a silver flame...)

They loosed each man's right hand As the galley spent on our decks... And amazed and bloodied we reared half up And fought askew with the left hand shackled... But a zigzag fire leapt in our sockets And knotted our thews like string... Our thews grown stiff as a crooked spine that would not straighten...

How long... since our gauges fell And the sea shoved us under? It is dark... so dark... Darkness presses hairy-hot Where three make crowded company... And the rank steel smells.... It is still... so still... I seem to hear the wind On the dimpled face of the water fathoms above...

It was still... so still... we three that were left alive Stared in each other's faces... But three make bitter company at one man's bread... And our hate grew sharp and bright as the moon's edge in the water.

One grinned with his mouth awry from the long gapped teeth... And one shivered and whined like a gull as the waves pawed us over... But one struck with his hate in his hand...

After that I remember Only the dead men's oars that flapped in the sea... The dead men's oars that rattled and clicked like idiots' tongues.

It is still... so still, with the jargon of engines quiet. We three awaiting the crunch of the sea Reach our hands in the dark and touch each other's faces... We three sheathing hate in our hearts... But when hate shall have made its circuit, Our bones will be loving company Here in the sea's den... And one whimpers and cries on his God And one sits sullenly But both draw away from me... For I am the pyre their memories burn on... Like black flames leaping Our fiery gestures light the walled-in darkness of the sea... The sea that kneels above us... And makes no sign.



PALESTINE

Old plant of Asia— Mutilated vine Holding earth's leaping sap In every stem and shoot That lopped off, sprouts again— Why should you seek a plateau walled about, Whose garden is the world?



THE SONG

That day, in the slipping of torsos and straining flanks on the bloodied ooze of fields plowed by the iron, And the smoke bluish near earth and bronze in the sunshine floating like cotton-down, And the harsh and terrible screaming, And that strange vibration at the roots of us... Desire, fierce, like a song... And we heard (Do you remember?) All the Red Cross bands on Fifth avenue And bugles in little home towns And children's harmonicas bleating

America!

And after... (Do you remember?) The drollery of the wind on our faces, And horizons reeling, And the terror of the plain Heaving like a gaunt pelvis to the sun... Under us—threshing and twanging Torn-up roots of the Song...

TO THE OTHERS

I see you, refulgent ones, Burning so steadily Like big white arc lights... There are so many of you. I like to watch you weaving— Altogether and with precision Each his ray— Your tracery of light, Making a shining way about America.

I note your infinite reactions— In glassware And sequin And puddles And bits of jet— And here and there a diamond...

But you do not yet see me, Who am a torch blown along the wind, Flickering to a spark But never out.



BABEL

Oh, God did cunningly, there at Babel— Not mere tongues dividing, but soul from soul, So that never again should men be able To fashion one infinite, towering whole.



THE FIDDLER

In a little Hungarian cafe Men and women are drinking Yellow wine in tall goblets.

Through the milky haze of the smoke, The fiddler, under-sized, blond, Leans to his violin As to the breast of a woman. Red hair kindles to fire On the black of his coat-sleeve, Where his white thin hand Trembles and dives, Like a sliver of moonlight, When wind has broken the water.



DAWN WIND

Wind, just arisen— (Off what cool mattress of marsh-moss In tented boughs leaf-drawn before the stars, Or niche of cliff under the eagles?) You of living things, So gay and tender and full of play— Why do you blow on my thoughts—like cut flowers Gathered and laid to dry on this paper, rolled out of dead wood?

I see you Shaking that flower at me with soft invitation And frisking away, Deliciously rumpling the grass...

So you fluttered the curtains about my cradle, Prattling of fields Before I had had my milk... Did I stir on my pillow, making to follow you, Fleet One? I—swaddled, unwinged, like a bird in the egg.

Let be My dreams that crackle under your breath... You have the dust of the world to blow on... Do not tag me and dance away, looking back... I am too old to play with you, Eternal Child.



NORTH WIND

I love you, malcontent Male wind— Shaking the pollen from a flower Or hurling the sea backward from the grinning sand.

Blow on and over my dreams... Scatter my sick dreams... Throw your lusty arms about me... Envelop all my hot body... Carry me to pine forests— Great, rough-bearded forests... Bring me to stark plains and steppes... I would have the North to-night— The cold, enduring North.

And if we should meet the Snow, Whirling in spirals, And he should blind my eyes... Ally, you will defend me— You will hold me close, Blowing on my eyelids.



THE DESTROYER

I am of the wind... A wisp of the battering wind...

I trail my fingers along the Alps And an avalanche falls in my wake... I feel in my quivering length When it buries the hamlet beneath...

I hurriedly sweep aside The cities that clutter our path... As we whirl about the circle of the globe... As we tear at the pillars of the world... Open to the wind, The Destroyer! The wind that is battering at your gates.



LULLABY

Rock-a-by baby, woolly and brown... (There's a shout at the door an' a big red light...) Lil' coon baby, mammy is down... Han's that hold yuh are steady an' white...

Look piccaninny—such a gran' blaze Lickin' up the roof an' the sticks of home— Ever see the like in all yo' days! —Cain't yuh sleep, mah bit-of-honey-comb?

Rock-a-by baby, up to the sky! Look at the cherries driftin' by— Bright red cherries spilled on the groun'— Piping-hot cherries at nuthin' a poun'!

Hush, mah lil' black-bug—doan yuh weep. Daddy's run away an' mammy's in a heap By her own fron' door in the blazin' heat Outah the shacks like warts on the street...

An' the singin' flame an' the gleeful crowd Circlin' aroun'... won't mammy be proud! With a stone at her hade an' a stone on her heart, An' her mouth like a red plum, broken apart...

See where the blue an' khaki prance, Adding brave colors to the dance About the big bonfire white folks make— Such gran' doin's fo' a lil' coon's sake!

Hear all the eagah feet runnin' in town— See all the willin' han's reach outah night— Han's that are wonderful, steady an' white! To toss up a lil' babe, blinkin' an' brown...

Rock-a-by baby—higher an' higher! Mammy is sleepin' an' daddy's run lame... (Soun' may yuh sleep in yo' cradle o' fire!) Rock-a-by baby, hushed in the flame...

(An incident of the East St. Louis Race Riots, when some white women flung a living colored baby into the heart of a blazing fire.)



THE FOUNDLING

Snow wraiths circle us Like washers of the dead, Flapping their white wet cloths Impatiently About the grizzled head, Where the coarse hair mats like grass, And the efficient wind With cold professional baste Probes like a lancet Through the cotton shirt...

About us are white cliffs and space. No facades show, Nor roof nor any spire... All sheathed in snow... The parasitic snow That clings about them like a blight.

Only detached lights Float hazily like greenish moons, And endlessly Down the whore-street, Accouched and comforted and sleeping warm, The blizzard waltzes with the night.



THE WOMAN WITH JEWELS

The woman with jewels sits in the cafe, Spraying light like a fountain. Diamonds glitter on her bulbous fingers And on her arms, great as thighs, Diamonds gush from her ear-lobes over the goitrous throat. She is obesely beautiful. Her eyes are full of bleared lights, Like little pools of tar, spilled by a sailor in mad haste for shore... And her mouth is scarlet and full—only a little crumpled— like a flower that has been pressed apart...

Why does she come alone to this obscure basement— She who should have a litter and hand-maidens to support her on either side?

She ascends the stairway, and the waiters turn to look at her, spilling the soup. The black satin dress is a little lifted, showing the dropsical legs in their silken fleshings... The mountainous breasts tremble... There is an agitation in her gems, That quiver incessantly, emitting trillions of fiery rays... She erupts explosive breaths... Every step is an adventure From this... The serpent's tooth Saved Cleopatra.



SUBMERGED

I have known only my own shallows— Safe, plumbed places, Where I was wont to preen myself.

But for the abyss I wanted a plank beneath And horizons...

I was afraid of the silence And the slipping toe-hold...

Oh, could I now dive Into the unexplored deeps of me— Delve and bring up and give All that is submerged, encased, unfolded, That is yet the best.



ART AND LIFE

When Art goes bounding, lean, Up hill-tops fired green To pluck a rose for life.

Life like a broody hen Cluck-clucks him back again.

But when Art, imbecile, Sits old and chill On sidings shaven clean, And counts his clustering Dead daisies on a string With witless laughter....

Then like a new Jill Toiling up a hill Life scrambles after.

BROOKLYN BRIDGE

Pythoness body—arching Over the night like an ecstasy— I feel your coils tightening... And the world's lessening breath.



DREAMS

Men die... Dreams only change their houses. They cannot be lined up against a wall And quietly buried under ground, And no more heard of... However deep the pit and heaped the clay— Like seedlings of old time Hooding a sacred rose under the ice cap of the world— Dreams will to light.



THE FIRE

The old men of the world have made a fire To warm their trembling hands. They poke the young men in. The young men burn like withes.

If one run a little way, The old men are wrath. They catch him and bind him and throw him again to the flames. Green withes burn slow... And the smoke of the young men's torment Rises round and sheer as the trunk of a pillared oak, And the darkness thereof spreads over the sky....

Green withes burn slow... And the old men of the world sit round the fire And rub their hands.... But the smoke of the young men's torment Ascends up for ever and ever.



A MEMORY

I remember The crackle of the palm trees Over the mooned white roofs of the town... The shining town... And the tender fumbling of the surf On the sulphur-yellow beaches As we sat... a little apart... in the close-pressing night.

The moon hung above us like a golden mango, And the moist air clung to our faces, Warm and fragrant as the open mouth of a child And we watched the out-flung sea Rolling to the purple edge of the world, Yet ever back upon itself... As we...

Inadequate night... And mooned white memory Of a tropic sea... How softly it comes up Like an ungathered lily.



THE EDGE

I thought to die that night in the solitude where they would never find me... But there was time... And I lay quietly on the drawn knees of the mountain, staring into the abyss... I do not know how long... I could not count the hours, they ran so fast Like little bare-foot urchins—shaking my hands away... But I remember Somewhere water trickled like a thin severed vein... And a wind came out of the grass, Touching me gently, tentatively, like a paw.

As the night grew The gray cloud that had covered the sky like sackcloth Fell in ashen folds about the hills, Like hooded virgins, pulling their cloaks about them... There must have been a spent moon, For the Tall One's veil held a shimmer of silver...

That too I remember... And the tenderly rocking mountain Silence And beating stars...

Dawn Lay like a waxen hand upon the world, And folded hills Broke into a sudden wonder of peaks, stemming clear and cold, Till the Tall One bloomed like a lily, Flecked with sun, Fine as a golden pollen— It seemed a wind might blow it from the snow.

I smelled the raw sweet essences of things, And heard spiders in the leaves And ticking of little feet, As tiny creatures came out of their doors To see God pouring light into his star...

... It seemed life held No future and no past but this...

And I too got up stiffly from the earth, And held my heart up like a cup...



THE GARDEN

Bountiful Givers, I look along the years And see the flowers you threw... Anemones And sprigs of gray Sparse heather of the rocks, Or a wild violet Or daisy of a daisied field... But each your best.

I might have worn them on my breast To wilt in the long day... I might have stemmed them in a narrow vase And watched each petal sallowing... I might have held them so—mechanically— Till the wind winnowed all the leaves And left upon my hands A little smear of dust.

Instead I hid them in the soft warm loam Of a dim shadowed place... Deep In a still cool grotto, Lit only by the memories of stars And the wide and luminous eyes Of dead poets That love me and that I love... Deep... deep... Where none may see—not even ye who gave— About my soul your garden beautiful.



UNDER-SONG

There is music in the strong Deep-throated bush, Whisperings of song Heard in the leaves' hush— Ballads of the trees In tongues unknown— A reminiscent tone On minor keys...

Boughs swaying to and fro Though no winds pass... Faint odors in the grass Where no flowers grow, And flutterings of wings And faint first notes, Once babbled on the boughs Of faded springs.

Is it music from the graves Of all things fair Trembling on the staves Of spacious air— Fluted by the winds Songs with no words— Sonatas from the throats Of master birds?

One peering through the husk Of darkness thrown May hear it in the dusk— That ancient tone, Silvery as the light Of long dead stars Yet falling through the night In trembling bars.



A WORN ROSE

Where to-day would a dainty buyer Imbibe your scented juice, Pale ruin with a heart of fire; Drain your succulence with her lips, Grown sapless from much use... Make minister of her desire A chalice cup where no bee sips— Where no wasp wanders in?

Close to her white flesh housed an hour, One held you... her spent form Drew on yours for its wasted dower— What favour could she do you more? Yet, of all who drink therein, None know it is the warm Odorous heart of a ravished flower Tingles so in her mouth's red core...



IRON WINE

The ore in the crucible is pungent, smelling like acrid wine, It is dusky red, like the ebb of poppies, And purple, like the blood of elderberries. Surely it is a strong wine—juice distilled of the fierce iron. I am drunk of its fumes. I feel its fiery flux Diffusing, permeating, Working some strange alchemy... So that I turn aside from the goodly board, So that I look askance upon the common cup, And from the mouths of crucibles Suck forth the acrid sap.



DISPOSSESSED

Tender and tremulous green of leaves Turned up by the wind, Twanging among the vines— Wind in the grass Blowing a clear path For the new-stripped soul to pass...

The naked soul in the sunlight... Like a wisp of smoke in the sunlight On the hill-side shimmering.

Dance light on the wind, little soul, Like a thistle-down floating Over the butterflies And the lumbering bees...

Come away from that tree And its shadow grey as a stone...

Bathe in the pools of light On the hillside shimmering— Shining and wetted and warm in the sun-spray falling like golden rain—

But do not linger and look At that bleak thing under the tree.



THE STAR

Last night I watched a star fall like a great pearl into the sea, Till my ego expanding encompassed sea and star, Containing both as in a trembling cup.



THE TIDINGS (Easter 1916)

Censored lies that mimic truth... Censored truth as pale as fear... My heart is like a rousing bell— And but the dead to hear...

My heart is like a mother bird, Circling ever higher, And the nest-tree rimmed about By a forest fire...

My heart is like a lover foiled By a broken stair— They are fighting to-night in Sackville Street, And I am not there!

THE END

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