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Title: A Pushcart at the Curb
Author: Dos Passos, John, 1896-1970
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.

*** Start of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "A Pushcart at the Curb" ***




           *       *       *       *       *

_Books by John Dos Passos_


_Three Soldiers_

_One Man's Initiation_

_Streets of Night_

   _(In Preparation)_


_Rosinante to the Road Again_


_A Pushcart at the Curb_

           *       *       *       *       *




[Decorative Illustration]

George H. Doran Company
Publishers New York

Copyright, 1922,
By George H. Doran Company

[Decorative Illustration]

_A Pushcart at the Curb. I_

Printed in the United States of America






    My verse is no upholstered chariot
    Gliding oil-smooth on oiled wheels,
    No swift and shining modern limousine,
    But a pushcart, rather.

    A crazy creaking pushcart, hard to push
    Round corners, slung on shaky patchwork wheels,
    That jolts and jumbles over the cobblestones
    Its very various lading:

    A lading of Spanish oranges, Smyrna figs,
    Fly-specked apples, perhaps of the Hesperides,
    Curious fruits of the Indies, pepper-sweet ...
    Stranger, choose and taste.



  For permission to reprint certain of the poems
  in this volume, thanks are due _The Bookman_,
  _The Dial_, _Vanity Fair_, _The Measure_, and
  _The New York Evening Post_.



  WINTER IN CASTILE          13

  NIGHTS AT BASSANO          65



  ON FOREIGN TRAVEL         163

  PHASES OF THE MOON        185


    The promiscuous wind wafts idly from the quays
    A smell of ships and curious woods and casks
    And a sweetness from the gorse on the flowerstand
    And brushes with his cool careless cheek the cheeks
    Of those on the street; mine, an old gnarled man's,
    The powdered cheeks of the girl who with faded eyes
    Stands in the shadow; a sailor's scarred brown cheeks,
    And a little child's, who walks along whispering
    To her sufficient self.
                            O promiscuous wind.



    A long grey street with balconies.
    Above the gingercolored grocer's shop
    trail pink geraniums
    and further up a striped mattress
    hangs from a window
    and the little wooden cage
    of a goldfinch.

    Four blind men wabble down the street
    with careful steps on the rounded cobbles
    scraping with violin and flute
    the interment of a tune.

    People gather:
    women with market-baskets
    stuffed with green vegetables,
    men with blankets on their shoulders
    and brown sunwrinkled faces.

    Pipe the flutes, squeak the violins;
    four blind men in a row
    at the interment of a tune ...
    But on the plate
    coppers clink
    round brown pennies
    a merry music at the funeral,
    penny swigs of wine
    penny gulps of gin
    peanuts and hot roast potatoes
    red disks of sausage
    tripe steaming in the corner shop ...

    And overhead
    the sympathetic finch
    chirps and trills

                                _Calle de Toledo, Madrid_


    A boy with rolled up shirtsleeves
    turns the handle.
    Grind, grind.
    The black sphere whirls
    above a charcoal fire.
    Grind, grind.
    The boy sweats and grits his teeth and turns
    while a man blows up the coals.
    Grind, grind.
    Thicker comes the blue curling smoke,
    the moka-scented smoke
    heavy with early morning
    and the awakening city
    with click-clack click-clack on the cobblestones
    and the young winter sunshine
    advancing inquisitively
    across the black and white tiles of my bedroom floor.
    Grind, grind.
    The coffee is done.
    The boy rubs his arms and yawns,
    and the sphere and the furnace are trundled away
    to be set up at another café.

    A poor devil
    whose dirty ashen white body shows through his rags
    sniffs sensually
    with dilated nostrils
    the heavy coffee-fragrant smoke,
    and turns to sleep again
    in the feeble sunlight of the greystone steps.

                                _Calle Espoz y Mina_


    Women are selling tuberoses in the square,
    and sombre-tinted wreaths
    stiffly twined and crinkly
    for this is the day of the dead.

    Women are selling tuberoses in the square.
    Their velvet odor fills the street
    somehow stills the tramp of feet;
    for this is the day of the dead.

    Their presence is heavy about us
    like the velvet black scent of the flowers:
    incense of pompous interments,
    patter of monastic feet,
    drone of masses drowsily said
    for the thronging dead.

    Women are selling tuberoses in the square
    to cover the tombs of the envious dead
    and shroud them again in the lethean scent
    lest the dead should remember.

                                _Difuntos; Madrid_


    Above the scuffling footsteps of crowds
    the clang of trams
    the shouts of newsboys
    the stridence of wheels,
    very calm,
    floats the sudden trill of a pipe
    three silvery upward notes
    wistfully quavering,
    notes a Thessalian shepherd might have blown
    to call his sheep
    in the emerald shade
    of Tempe,
    notes that might have waked the mad women sleeping
    among pinecones in the hills
    and stung them to headlong joy
    of the presence of their mad Iacchos,
    notes like the glint of sun
    making jaunty the dark waves of Tempe.

    In the street an old man is passing
    wrapped in a dun brown mantle
    blowing with bearded lips on a shining panpipe
    while he trundles before him
    a grindstone.

    The scissors grinder.

                                _Calle Espoz y Mina_


    Rain slants on an empty square.

    Across the expanse of cobbles
    rides an old shawl-muffled woman
    black on a donkey with pert ears
    that places carefully
    his tiny sharp hoofs
    as if the cobbles were eggs.
    The paniers are full
    of bright green lettuces
    and purple cabbages,
    and shining red bellshaped peppers,
    dripping, shining, a band in marchtime,
    in the grey rain,
    in the grey city.

                                _Plaza Santa Ana_


    The fountain some dead king put up,
    conceived in pompous imageries,
    piled with mossgreened pans and centaurs
    topped by a prudish tight-waisted Cybele
    (Cybele the many-breasted mother of the grain)
    spurts with a solemn gurgle of waters.

    Where the sun is warmest
    their backs against the greystone basin
    sit, hoarding every moment of the palefaced sun,
    (thy children Cybele)
    Pan a bearded beggar with blear eyes;
    his legs were withered by a papal bull,
    those shaggy legs so nimble to pursue
    through groves of Arcadian myrtle
    the nymphs of the fountains and valleys;
    a young Faunus with soft brown face
    and dirty breast bared to the sun;
    the black hair crisps about his ears
    with some grace yet;
    a little barefoot Eros
    crouching to scratch his skinny thighs
    who stares with wide gold eyes aghast
    at the yellow shiny trams that clatter past.

    All day long they doze in the scant sun
    and watch the wan leaves rustle to the ground
    from the yellowed limetrees of the avenue.
    They are still thine Cybele
    nursed at thy breast;
    (like a woman's last foster-children
    that still would suck grey withered dugs).
    They have not scorned thy dubious bounty
    for stridence of grinding iron
    and pale caged lives
    made blind by the dust of toil
    to coin the very sun to gold.

                                _Plaza de Cibeles_


    and the leisurely patter of rain.

    Beside the lamppost in the alley
    stands a girl in a long sleek shawl
    that moulds vaguely to the curves
    of breast and arms.
    Her eyes are in shadow.

    A smell of frying fish;
    footsteps of people going to dinner
    clatter eagerly through the lane.
    A boy with a trough of meat on his shoulder
    turns by the lamppost,
    his steps drag.
    The green light slants
    in the black of his eyes.
    Her eyes are in shadow.

    Footsteps of people going to dinner
    clatter eagerly; the rain
    falls with infinite nonchalance ...
    a man turns with a twirl of moustaches
    and the green light slants on his glasses
    on the round buttons of his coat.
    Her eyes are in shadow.

    A woman with an umbrella
    keeps her eyes straight ahead
    and lifts her dress
    to avoid the mud on the pavingstones.

    An old man stares without fear
    into the eyes of the girl
    through the stripes of the rain.
    His steps beat faster and he sniffs hard suddenly
    the smell of dinner and frying fish.
    Was it a flame of old days
    expanding in his cold blood,
    or a shiver of rigid graves,
    chill clay choking congealing?

    Beside the lamppost in the alley
    stands a girl in a long sleek shawl
    that moulds vaguely to the curves
    of breast and arms.

                                _Calle del Gato_


    A brown net of branches
    quivers above silver trunks of planes.
    Here and there
    a late leaf flutters
    its faint death-rattle in the wind.
    Beyond, the sky burns fervid rose
    like red wine held against the sun.

    Schoolboys are playing in the square
    dodging among the silver tree-trunks
    collars gleam and white knees
    as they romp shrilly.

    Lamps bloom out one by one
    like jessamine, yellow and small.
    At the far end a church's dome
    flat deep purple cuts the sky.

    Schoolboys are romping in the square
    in and out among the silver tree-trunks
    out of the smoked rose shadows
    through the timid yellow lamplight ...
    Socks slip down
    fingermarks smudge white collars;
    they run and tussle in the shadows
    kicking the gravel with muddied boots
    with cheeks flushed hotter than the sky
    eyes brighter than the street-lamps
    with fingers tingling and breath fast:
    banqueters early drunken
    on the fierce cold wine of the dead year.

                                _Paseo de la Castellana_


    Green against the livid sky
    in their square dun-colored towers
    hang the bronze bells of Castile.
    In their unshakeable square towers
    jutting from the slopes of hills
    clang the bells of all the churches
    the dustbrown churches of Castile.

    How they swing the green bronze bells
    athwart olive twilights of Castile
    till their fierce insistant clangour
    rings down the long plowed slopes
    breaks against the leaden hills
    whines among the trembling poplars
    beside sibilant swift green rivers.

    O you strong bells of Castile
    that commanding clang your creed
    over treeless fields and villages
    that huddle in arroyos, gleaming
    orange with lights in the greenish dusk;
    can it be bells of Castile,
    can it be that you remember?

    Groans there in your bronze green curves
    in your imperious evocation
    stench of burnings, rattling screams
    quenched among the crackling flames?
    The crowd, the pile of faggots in the square,
    the yellow robes.... Is it that
    bells of Castile that you remember?



    The Tagus flows with a noise of wiers through Aranjuez.
    The speeding dark-green water mirrors the old red walls
    and the balustrades and close-barred windows of the palace;
    and on the other bank three stooping washerwomen
    whose bright red shawls and piles of linen gleam in the green,
    the swirling green where shimmer the walls of Aranjuez.

      There's smoke in the gardens of Aranjuez
      smoke of the burning of the years' dead leaves;
      the damp paths rustle underfoot
      thick with the crisp broad leaves of the planes.

      The tang of the smoke and the reek of the box
      and the savor of the year's decay
      are soft in the gardens of Aranjuez
      where the fountains fill silently with leaves
      and the moss grows over the statues and busts
      clothing the simpering cupids and fauns
      whose stone eyes search the empty paths
      for the rustling rich brocaded gowns
      and the neat silk calves of the halcyon past.

    The Tagus flows with a noise of wiers through Aranjuez.
    And slipping by mirrors the brown-silver trunks
        of the planes and the hedges
    of box and spires of cypress and alleys of yellowing elms;
    and on the other bank three grey mules pulling a cart
    loaded with turnips, driven by a man in a blue woolen sash
    who strides along whistling and does not look towards Aranjuez.


    Beyond ruffled velvet hills
    the sky burns yellow like a candle-flame.

    Sudden a village
    roofs against the sky
    leaping buttresses
    a church
    and a tower utter dark like the heart
    of a candleflame.

    Swing the bronze-bells
    uncoiling harsh slow sound through the dusk
    that growls out in the conversational clatter
    Of the trainwheels and the rails.

    A hill humps unexpectedly to hide
    the tower erect like a pistil
    in the depths of the tremendous flaming
    flower of the west.



    Genteel noise of Paris hats
    and beards that tilt this way and that.
    Mirrors create on either side
    infinities of chandeliers.

    The orchestra is tuning up:
    Twanging of the strings of violins
    groans from cellos
    toodling of flutes.

    Legs apart, with white fronts
    the musicians stand
    amiably as pelicans.

    Tap. Tap. Tap.
    With a silken rustle beards, hats
    sink back in appropriate ecstasy.
    A little girl giggles.
    Crystals of infinities of chandeliers
    tremble in the first long honey-savored chord.

    From under a wide black hat
    curving just to hide her ears
    peers the little face of Juliet
    of all child lovers
    who loved in impossible gardens
    among roses huge as moons
    and twinkling constellations of jessamine,
    Juliet, Isabel, Cressida,
    and that unknown one who went forth at night
    wandering the snarling streets of Jerusalem.

    She presses her handkerchief to her mouth
    to smother her profane giggling.
    Her skin is browner than the tone of cellos,
    flushes like with pomegranate juice.

        ... The moist laden air of a garden in Granada,
        spice of leaves bruised by the sun;
        she sits in a dress of crimson brocade
        dark as blood under the white moon
        and watches the ripples spread
        in the gurgling fountain;
        her lashes curve to her cheeks
        as she stares wide-eyed
        lips drawn against the teeth and trembling;
        gravel crunches down the path;
        brown in a crimson swirl
        she stands with full lips
        head tilted back ... O her small breasts
        against my panting breast.

    Clapping. Genteel noise of Paris hats
    and beards that tilt this way and that.

    Her face lost in infinities of glittering chandeliers.



    There's a sound of drums and trumpets
    above the rumble of the street.
    (Run run run to see the soldiers.)
    All alike all abreast keeping time
    to the regimented swirl
    of the glittering brass band.

    The café waiters are craning at the door
    the girl in the gloveshop is nose against the glass.
    O the glitter of the brass
    and the flutter of the plumes
    and the tramp of the uniform feet!
    Run run run to see the soldiers.

    The boy with a tray
    of pastries on his head
    is walking fast, keeping time;
    his white and yellow cakes are trembling in the sun
    his cheeks are redder
    and his bluestriped tunic streams
    as he marches to the rum tum of the drums.
    Run run run to see the soldiers.

    The milkman with his pony
    slung with silvery metal jars
    schoolboys with their packs of books
    clerks in stiff white collars
    old men in cloaks
    try to regiment their feet
    to the glittering brass beat.
    Run run run to see the soldiers.

                                _Puerta del Sol_


    Night of clouds
    terror of their flight across the moon.
    Over the long still plains
    blows a wind out of the north;
    a laden wind out of the north
    rattles the leaves of the liveoaks
    menacingly and loud.

           *       *       *       *       *

    Black as old blood on the cold plain
    close throngs spread to beyond lead horizons
    swaying shrouded crowds
    and their rustle in the knife-keen wind
    is like the dry death-rattle of the winter grass.

    (Like mouldered shrouds the clouds fall
    from the crumbling skull of the dead moon.)

    Huge, of grinning brass
    steaming with fresh stains
    their God
    gapes with smudged expectant gums
    above the plain.

    Flicker through the flames of the wide maw
    rigid square bodies of men
    opulence of childbearing women
    slimness of young men, and girls
    with small curved breasts.

    (Loud as musketry rattles the sudden laughter of the dead.)

    Thicker hotter the blood drips
    from the cold brass lips.

    Swift over grainless fields
    swift over shellplowed lands
    ever leaner swifter darker
    bay the hounds of the dead,
    before them drive the pale ones
    white limbs scarred and blackened
    laurel crushed in their cold fingers,
    the spark quenched in their glazed eyes.

    Thicker hotter the blood drips
    from the avenging lips
    of the brass God;
    (and rattling loud as musketry
    the laughter of the unsated dead).

           *       *       *       *       *

    The clouds have blotted the haggard moon.
    A harsh wind shrills from the cities of the north
    Ypres, Lille, Liège, Verdun,
    and from the tainted valleys
    the cross-scarred hills.
    Over the long still plains
    the wind out of the north
    rattles the leaves of the liveoaks.

                                _Cuatro Caminos_


    The weazened old woman without teeth
    who shivers on the windy street corner
    displays her roasted chestnuts invitingly
    like marriageable daughters.

                                _Calle Atocha_


    The clattering streets are bright with booths
    lighted by balancing candleflames
    ranged with figures in painted clay,
    Virgins adoring and haloed bambinos,
    St. Joseph at his joiner's bench
    Judean shepherds and their sheep
    camels of the Eastern kings.

    _Esta noche es noche buena
    nadie piensa a dormir._

    The streets resound with dancing
    and chortle of tambourines,
    strong rhythm of dancing
    drumming of tambourines.

    Flicker through the greenish lamplight
    of the clattering cobbled streets
    flushed faces of men
    women in mantillas
    children with dark wide eyes,
    teeth flashing as they sing:

    _La santa Virgen es en parto
    a las dos va desparir.
    Esta noche es noche buena
    nadie piensa a dormir._

    Beetred faces of women
    whose black mantillas have slipped
    from their sleek and gleaming hair,
    streaming faces of men.

    With click of heels on the pavingstones
    boys in tunics are dancing
    eyes under long black lashes
    flash as they dance to the drum
    of tambourines beaten with elbow and palm.
    A flock of girls comes running
    squealing down the street.

    Boys and girls are dancing
    flushed and dripping dancing
    to the beat on drums and piping
    on flutes and jiggle
    of the long notes of accordions
    and the wild tune swirls and sweeps
    along the frosty streets,
    leaps above the dark stone houses
    out among the crackling stars.

    _Esta noche es noche buena
    nadie piensa a dormir._

    In the street a ragged boy
    too poor to own a tambourine
    slips off his shoes and beats them together
    to the drunken reeling time,
    dances on his naked feet.

    _Esta noche es noche buena
    nadie piensa a dormir._



    The old strong towers the Moors built
    on the ruins of a Roman camp
    have sprung into spreading boistrous foam
    of daisies and alyssum flowers,
    and sprout of clover and veiling grass
    from out of the cracks in the tawny stones
    makes velvet soft the worn stairs
    and grooved walks where clanked the heels
    of the grave mailed knights who had driven and killed
    the darkskinned Moors,
    and where on silken knees their sons
    knelt on the nights of the full moon
    to vow strange deeds for their lady's grace.

    The old strong towers are crumbled and doddering now
    and sit like old men smiling in the sun.

    About them clamber the giggling flowers
    and below the sceptic sea gently
    laughing in daisywhite foam on the beach
    rocks the ships with flapping sails
    that flash white to the white village on the shore.

    On a wall where the path is soft with flowers
    the brown goatboy lies, his cap askew
    and whistles out over the beckoning sea
    the tune the village band jerks out,
    a shine of brass in the square below:
    a swaggering young buck of a tune
    that slouches cap on one side, cigarette
    at an impudent tilt, out past the old
    toothless and smilingly powerless towers,
    out over the ever-youthful sea
    that claps bright cobalt hands in time
    and laughs along the tawny beaches.



    How fine to die in Denia
    young in the ardent strength of sun
    calm in the burning blue of the sea
    in the stabile clasp of the iron hills;
    Denia where the earth is red
    as rust and hills grey like ash.
    O to rot into the ruddy soil
    to melt into the omnipotent fire
    of the young white god, the flamegod the sun,
    to find swift resurrection
    in the warm grapes born of earth and sun
    that are crushed to must under the feet
    of girls and lads,
    to flow for new generations of men
    a wine full of earth
    of sun.


    The road winds white among ashen hills
    grey clouds overhead
    grey sea below.
    The road clings to the strong capes
    hangs above the white foam-line
    of unheard breakers
    that edge with lace the scarf of the sea
    sweeping marbled with sunlight
    to the dark horizon
    towards which steering intently
    like ducks with red bellies
    swim the black laden steamers.

    The wind blows the dust of the road
    and whines in the dead grass
    and is silent.

    I can hear my steps
    and the clink of coins in one pocket
    and the distant hush of the sea.

                                _On the highroad to Villajoyosa_

    TO J. G. P.

    The greyish snow of the pass
    is starred with the sad lilac
    of autumn crocuses.

    Hissing among the brown leaves
    of the scruboaks
    bruising the tender crocus petals
    a sleetgust sweeps the pass.

    The air is calm again.
    Under a bulging sky motionless overhead
    the mountains heave velvet black
    into the cloudshut distance.

    South the road winds
    down a wide valley
    towards stripes of rain
    through which shine straw yellow
    faint as a dream
    the rolling lands of New Castile.

    A fresh gust whines through the snowbent grass
    pelting with sleet the withering crocuses,
    and rustles the dry leaves of the scruboaks
    with a sound as of gallop of hoofs
    far away on the grey stony road
    a sound as of faintly heard cavalcades
    of old stern kings
    climbing the cold iron passes
    stopping to stare with cold hawkeyes
    at the pale plain.

                                _Puerto de Navecerrada_


    Soft as smoke are the blue green pines
    in the misty lavender twilight
    yellow as flame the flame-shaped poplars
    whose dead leaves fall
    vaguely spinning through the tinted air
    till they reach the brownish mirror of the stream
    where they are borne a tremulous pale fleet
    over gleaming ripples to the sudden dark
    beneath the Roman bridge.

    Forever it stands the Roman bridge
    a firm strong arch in the purple mist
    and ever the yellow leaves are swirled
    into the darkness beneath
    where echoes forever the tramp of feet
    of the weary feet that bore
    the Eagles and the Law.

    And through the misty lavender twilight
    the leaves of the poplars fall and float
    with the silent stream to the deep night
    beneath the Roman bridge.



    In the velvet calm of long grey slopes of snow
    the silky crunch of my steps.
    About me vague dark circles of mountains
    secret, listening in the intimate silence.

    Bleating of sheep, the bark of a dog
    and, dun-yellow in the snow
    a long flock straggles.
    Crying of lambs,
    twitching noses of snowflecked ewes,
    the proud curved horns of a regal broadgirthed ram,
    yellow backs steaming;
    then, tails and tracks in the snow,
    and the responsible lope of the dog
    who stops with a paw lifted to look back
    at the baked apple face of the shepherd.



    You were beside me on the stony path
    down from the mountain.

    And I was the rain that lashed such flame into your cheeks
    and the sensuous rolling hills
    where the mists clung like garments.

    I was the sadness that came out of the languid rain
    and the soft dove-tinted hills
    and choked you with the harsh embrace of a lover
    so that you almost sobbed.

                                _Siete Picos_


    When they sang as they marched in step
    on the long path that wound to the valley
    I followed lonely in silence.

    When they sat and laughed by the hearth
    where our damp clothes steamed in the flare
    of the noisy prancing flames
    I sat still in the shadow
    for their language was strange to me.

    But when as they slept I sat
    and watched by the door of the cabin
    I was not lonely
    for they lay with quiet faces
    stroked by the friendly tongues
    of the silent firelight
    and outside the white stars swarmed
    like gnats about a lamp in autumn
    an intelligible song.



    I lie among green rocks
    on the thyme-scented mountain.
    The thistledown clouds and the sky
    grey-white and grey-violet
    are mirrored in your dark eyes
    as in the changing pools of the mountain.

    I have made for your head
    a wreath of livid crocuses.
    How strange they are the wan lilac crocuses
    against your dark smooth skin
    in the intense black of your wind-towseled hair.

    Sleet from the high snowfields
    snaps a lash down the mountain
    bruising the withered petals
    of the last crocuses.

    I am alone in the swirling mist
    beside the frozen pools of the mountain.

                                    _La Maliciosa_


    Infinities away already
    are your very slender body
    and the tremendous dark of your eyes
    where once beyond the laughingness of childhood,
    came a breath of jessamine prophetic of summer,
    a sudden flutter of yellow butterflies
    above dark pools.

    Shall I take down my books
    and weave from that glance a romance
    and build tinsel thrones for you
    out of old poets' fancies?

    Shall I fashion a temple about you
    where to burn out my life like frankincense
    till you tower dark behind the sultry veil
    huge as Isis?

    Or shall I go back to childhood
    remembering butterflies in sunny fields
    to cower with you when the chilling shadow fleets
    across the friendly sun?



    And neither did Beatrice and Dante ...
    But Beatrice they say
    was a convention.

                                _November, 1916--February, 1917._



    _And when the news of the Death of the Empress
    of that Far Country did come to them, they
    fashioned of her an Image in doleful wise and
    poured out Rum and Marsala Sack and divers
    Liquors such as were procurable in that place into
    Cannikins to do her Honor and did wake and
    keen and make moan most piteously to hear. And
    that Night were there many Marvels and Prodigies
    observed; the Welkin was near consumed
    with fire and Spirits and Banashees grumbled and
    wailed above the roof and many that were in that
    place hid themselves in Dens and Burrows in the
    ground. Of the swanlike and grievously melodious
    Ditties the Minstrels fashioned in that fearsome
    Night these only are preserved for the
    Admiration of the Age._


    Our lady lies on a brave high bed,
    On pillows of gold with gold baboons
    On red silk deftly embroidered--
    O anger and eggs and candlelight--
    Her gold-specked eyes have little sight.

    Our lady cries on a brave high bed;
    The golden light of the candles licks
    The crown of gold on her frizzly head--
    O candles and angry eggs so white--
    Her gold-specked eyes are sharp with fright.

    Our lady sighs till the high bed creaks;
    The golden candles gutter and sway
    In the swirling dark the dark priest speaks--
    O his eyes are white as eggs with fright
    --Our lady will die twixt night and night.

    Our lady lies on a brave high bed;
    The golden crown has slipped from her head
    On the pillows crimson embroidered--
    O baboons writhing in candlelight--
    Her gold-specked soul has taken flight.


    Deepening to tawniness
    As the throats of nightingales
    Strangled for Nero's supper.

    Like the coverlet of Dudloysha
    At the Hotel Continental.

    Thick to the lips and velvety
    Scented of rum and vanilla
    Oversweet, oversoft, overstrong,
    Full of froth of fascination,
    Drink to be drunk of Isoldes
    Sunk in champagne-colored couches
    While Tristans with fair flowing hair
    And round cheeks rosy as cherubs
    Stand and stretch their arms,
    And let their great slow tears
    Roll and fall,
    And splash in the huge gold cups.

    And behind the scenes with his sleeves rolled up,
    Kurwenal beats the eggs
    Into spuming symphonic splendor

    Red-nosed gnomes roll and tumble
    Tussle and jumble in the firelight
    Roll on their backs spinning rotundly,
    Out of earthern jars
    Gloriously gurgitating,
    Wriggling their huge round bellies.

    And the air of the cave is heavy
    With steaming Marsala and rum
    And hot bruised vanilla.

    Champagne-colored, one lies in a velvetiness
    Of yellow moths stirring faintly tickling wings
    One is heavy and full of languor
    And sleep is a champagne-colored coverlet,
    the champagne-colored stockings of Venus ...
    And later
    One goes
    And pukes beautifully beneath the moon,


    The autumn leaves that this morning danced with the wind,
    curtseying in slow minuettes,
    giddily whirling in bacchanals,
    balancing, hesitant, tiptoe,
    while the wind whispered of distant hills,
    and clouds like white sails, sailing
    in limpid green ice-colored skies,
    have crossed the picket fence
    and the three strands of barbed wire;
    they have leapt the green picket fence
    despite the sentry's bayonet.

    Under the direction of a corporal
    three soldiers in khaki are sweeping them up,
    sweeping up the autumn leaves,
    crimson maple leaves, splotched with saffron,
    ochre and cream,
    brown leaves of horse-chestnuts ...
    and the leaves dance and curtsey round the brooms,
    full of mirth,
    wistful of the journey the wind promised them.

    This morning the leaves fluttered gaudily,
    reckless, giddy from the wind's dances,
    over the green picket fence
    and the three strands of barbed wire.
    Now they are swept up
    and put in a garbage can
    with cigarette butts
    and chewed-out quids of tobacco,
    burnt matches, old socks, torn daily papers,
    and dust from the soldiers' blankets.

    And the wind blows tauntingly
    over the mouth of the garbage can,
    whispering, Far away,
    mockingly, Far away ...

    And I too am swept up
    and put in a garbage can
    with smoked cigarette ash
    and chewed-out quids of tobacco;
    I am fallen into the dominion
    of the great dusty queen ...
    Ennui, iron goddess, cobweb-clothed
    goddess of all useless things,
    of attics cluttered with old chairs
    for centuries unsatupon,
    of strong limbs wriggling on office stools,
    of ancient cab-horses and cabs
    that sleep all day in silent sunny squares,
    of camps bound with barbed wire,
    and green picket fences--
    bind my eyes with your close dust
    choke my ears with your grey cobwebs
    that I may not see the clouds
    that sail away across the sky,
    far away, tauntingly,
    that I may not hear the wind
    that mocks and whispers and is gone
    in pursuit of the horizon.

    TO D. P.

    The ropes of the litter creak and groan
    As the bearers turn down the steep path;
    Pebbles scuttle under slipping feet.
    But the Roman poet lies back confident
    On his magenta cushions and mattresses,
    Thinks of Greek bronzes
    At the sight of the straining backs of his slaves.

    The slaves' breasts shine with sweat,
    And they draw deep breaths of the cooler air
    As they lurch through tunnel after tunnel of leaves.
    At last, where the spray swirls like smoke,
    And the river roars in a cauldron of green,
    The poet feels his fat arms quiver
    And his eyes and ears drowned and exalted
    In the reverberance of the fall.

    The ropes of the litter creak and groan,
    The embroidered curtains, moist with spray,
    Flutter in the poet's face;
    Pebbles scuttle under slipping feet
    As the slaves strain up the path again,
    And the Roman poet lies back confident
    Among silk cushions of gold and magenta,
    His hands clasped across his mountainous belly,
    Thinking of the sibyll and fate,
    And gorgeous and garlanded death,
    Mouthing hexameters.

    But I, my belly full and burning as the sun
    With the good white wine of the Alban hills
    Stumble down the path
    Into the cool green and the roar,
    And wonder, and am abashed.


    The doge goes down in state to the sea
    To inspect with beady traders' eyes
    New cargoes from Crete, Mytilene,
    Cyprus and Joppa, galleys piled
    With bales off which in all the days
    Of sailing the sea-wind has not blown
    The dust of Arabian caravans.

    In velvet the doge goes down to the sea.
    And sniffs the dusty bales of spice
    Pepper from Cathay, nard and musk,
    Strange marbles from ruined cities, packed
    In unfamiliar-scented straw.
    Black slaves sweat and grin in the sun.
    Marmosets pull at the pompous gowns
    Of burgesses. Parrots scream
    And cling swaying to the ochre bales ...
    Dazzle of the rising dust of trade
    Smell of pitch and straining slaves ...

    And out on the green tide towards the sea
    Drift the rinds of orient fruits
    Strange to the lips, bitter and sweet.


    The air is drenched to the stars
    With fragrance of flowering grape
    Where the hills hunch up from the plain
    To the purple dark ridges that sweep
    Towards the flowery-pale peaks and the snow.

    Faint as the peaks in the glister of starlight,
    A figure on a silver-tinkling snow-white mule
    Climbs the steeply twining stony road
    Through murmuring vineyards to the gate
    That gaps with black the wan starlight.

    The watchman on his three-legged stool
    Drowses in his beard, dreams
    He is a boy walking with strong strides
    Of slender thighs down a wet road,
    Where flakes of violet-colored April sky
    Have brimmed the many puddles till the road
    Is as a tattered path across another sky.

    The watchman on his three-legged stool,
    Sits snoring in his beard;
    His dream is full of flowers massed in meadowland,
    Of larks and thrushes singing in the dawn,
    Of touch of women's lips and twining hands,
    And madness of the sprouting spring ...
    His ears a-sudden ring with the shrill cry:
    Open watchman of the gate,
    It is I, the Cyprian.

    --It is ruled by the burghers of this town
    Of Asolo, that from sundown
    To dawn no stranger shall come in,
    Be he even emperor, or doge's kin.
    --Open, watchman of the gate,
    It is I, the Cyprian.
    --Much scandal has been made of late
    By wandering women in this town.
    The laws forbid the opening of the gate
    Till next day once the sun is down.
    --Watchman know that I who wait
    Am Queen of Jerusalem, Queen
    Of Cypress, Lady of Asolo, friend
    Of the Doge and the Venetian State.

    There is a sound of drums, and torches flare
    Dims the star-swarm, and war-horns' braying
    Drowns the fiddling of crickets in the wall,
    Hoofs strike fire on the flinty road,
    Mules in damasked silk caparisoned
    Climb in long train, strange shadows in torchlight,
    The road that winds to the city gate.

    The watchman, fumbling with his keys,
    Mumbles in his beard:--Had thought
    She was another Cyprian, strange the dreams
    That come when one has eaten tripe.
    The great gates creak and groan,
    The hinges shriek, and the Queen's white mule
    Stalks slowly through.

    The watchman, in the shadow of the wall,
    Looks out with heavy eyes:--Strange,
    What cavalcade is this that clatters into Asolo?
    These are not men-at-arms,
    These ruddy boys with vineleaves in their hair!
    That great-bellied one no seneschal
    Can be, astride an ass so gauntily!
    Virgin Mother! Saints! They wear no clothes!

    And through the gate a warm wind blows,
    A dizzying perfume of the grape,
    And a great throng crying Cypris,
    Cyprian, with cymbals crashing and a shriek
    Of Thessalian pipes, and swaying of torches,
    That smell hot like wineskins of resin,
    That flare on arms empurpled and hot cheeks,
    And full shouting lips vermillion-red.

    Youths and girls with streaming hair
    Pelting the night with flowers:
    Yellow blooms of Adonis, white
    scented stars of pale Narcissus,
    Mad incense of the blooming vine,
    And carmine passion of pomegranate blooms.

    A-sudden all the strummings of the night,
    All the insect-stirrings, all the rustlings
    Of budding leaves, the sing-song
    Of waters brightly gurgling through meadowland,
    Are shouting with the shouting throng,
    Crying Cypris, Cyprian,
    Queen of the seafoam, Queen of the budding year,
    Queen of eyes that flame and hands that twine,
    Return to us, return from the fields of asphodel.

    And all the grey town of Asolo
    Is full of lutes and songs of love,
    And vows exchanged from balcony to balcony
    Across the singing streets ...
    But in the garden of the nunnery,
    Of the sisters of poverty, daughters of dust,
    The cock crows. The cock crows.

    The watchman rubs his old ribbed brow:
    Through the gate, in silk all dusty from the road,
    Into the grey town asleep under the stars,
    On tired mules and lean old war-horses
    Comes a crowd of quarrelling men-at-arms
    After a much-veiled lady with a falcon on her wrist.
    --This Asolo? What a nasty silent town
    He sends me to, that dull old doge.

    And you, watchman, I've told you thrice
    That I am Cypress's Queen, Jerusalem's,
    And Lady of this dull village, Asolo;
    Tend your gates better. Are you deaf,
    That you stand blinking at me, pulling at your dirty beard?
    You shall be thrashed, when I rule Asolo.
    --What strange dreams, mumbled in his beard
    The ancient watchman, come from eating tripe.


    Shrilly whispering down the lanes
    That serpent through the ancient night,
    They, the scoffers, the scornful of chains,
    Stride their turbulent flight.

    The stars spin steel above their heads
    In the shut irrevocable sky;
    Gnarled thorn-branches tear to shreds
    Their cloaks of pageantry.

    A wind blows bitter in the grey,
    Chills the sweat on throbbing cheeks,
    And tugs the gaudy rags away
    From their lean bleeding knees.

    Their laughter startles the scarlet dawn
    Among a tangled spiderwork
    Of girdered steel, and shrills forlorn
    And dies in the rasp of wheels.

    Whirling like gay prints that whirl
    In tatters of squalid gaudiness,
    Borne with dung and dust in the swirl
    Of wind down the endless street,

    With thin lips laughing bitterly,
    Through the day smeared in sooty smoke
    That pours from each red chimney,
    They speed unseemily.

    Women with unlustered hair,
    Men with huge ugly hands of oil,
    Children, impudently stare
    And point derisive hands.

    Only ... where a barrel organ thrills
    Two small peak-chested girls to dance,
    And among the iron clatter spills
    A swiftening rhythmy song,

    They march in velvet silkslashed hose,
    Strumming guitars and mellow lutes,
    Strutting pointed Spanish toes,
    A stately company.

    _Good Friday, 1918._

    This is the feast of death
    We make of our pain God;
    We worship the nails and the rod
    and pain's last choking breath
    and the bleeding rack of the cross.

    The women have wept away their tears,
    with red eyes turned on death, and loss
    of friends and kindred, have left the biers
    flowerless, and bound their heads in their blank veils,
    and climbed the steep slope of Golgotha; fails
    at last the wail of their bereavement,
    and all the jagged world of rocks and desert places
    stands before their racked sightless faces,
    as any ice-sea silent.

    This is the feast of conquering death.
    The beaten flesh worships the swishing rod.
    The lacerated body bows to its God,
    adores the last agonies of breath.

    And one more has joined the unnumbered
    deathstruck multitudes
    who with the loved of old have slumbered
    ages long, where broods
    Earth the beneficent goddess,
    the ultimate queen of quietness,
    taker of all worn souls and bodies
    back into the womb of her first nothingness.

    But ours, who in the iron night remain,
    ours the need, the pain
    of his departing.
    He had lived on out of a happier age
    into our strident torture-cage.
    He still could sing
    of quiet gardens under rain
    and clouds and the huge sky
    and pale deliciousness that is nearly pain.
    His was a new minstrelsy:
    strange plaints brought home out of the rich east,
    twanging songs from Tartar caravans,
    hints of the sounds that ceased
    with the stilling dawn, wailings of the night,
    echoes of the web of mystery that spans
    the world between the failing and the rising of the wan daylight
    of the sea, and of a woman's hair
    hanging gorgeous down a dungeon wall,
    evening falling on Tintagel,
    love lost in the mist of old despair.

    Against the bars of our torture-cage
    we beat out our poor lives in vain.
    We live on cramped in an iron age
    like prisoners of old
    high on the world's battlements
    exposed until we die to the chilling rain
    crouched and chattering from cold
    for all scorn to stare at.
    And we watch one by one the great
    stroll leisurely out of the western gate
    and without a backward look at the strident city
    drink down the stirrup-cup of fate
    embrace the last obscurity.

    We worship the nails and the rod
    and pain's last choking breath.
    We make of our pain God.
    This is the feast of death.


    Beer is free to soldiers
    In every bar and tavern
    As the regiments victorious
    March under garlands to the city square.

    Beer is free to soldiers
    And lips are free, and women,
    Breathless, stand on tiptoe
    To see the flushed young thousands in advance.

    "Beer is free to soldiers;
    Give all to the liberators" ...
    Under wreaths of laurel
    And small and large flags fluttering, victorious,
    They of the frock-coats, with clink of official chains,
    Are welcoming with eloquence outpouring
    The liberating thousands, the victorious;
    In their speaking is a soaring of great phrases,
    Balloons of tissue paper,
    Hung with patriotic bunting,
    That rise serene into the blue,
    While the crowds with necks uptilted
    Gaze at their upward soaring
    Till they vanish in the blue;
    And each man feels the blood of life
    Rumble in his ears important
    With participation in Events.

    But not the fluttering of great flags
    Or the brass bands blaring, victorious,
    Or the speeches of persons in frock coats,
    Who pause for the handclapping of crowds,
    Not the stamp of men and women dancing,
    Or the bubbling of beer in the taverns,--
    Frothy mugs free for the victorious--,
    Not all the trombone-droning of Events,
    Can drown the inextinguishible laughter of the gods.

    And they hear it, the old hooded houses,
    The great creaking peak-gabled houses,
    That gossip and chuckle to each other
    Across the clattering streets;
    They hear it, the old great gates,
    The grey gates with towers,
    Where in the changing shrill winds of the years
    Have groaned the poles of many various-colored banners.
    The poplars of the high-road hear it,
    From their trembling twigs comes a dry laughing,
    As they lean towards the glare of the city.
    And the old hard-laughing paving-stones,
    Old stones weary with the weariness
    Of the labor of men's footsteps,
    Hear it as they quake and clamour
    Under the garlanded wheels of the yawning confident cannon
    That are dragged victorious through the flutter of the city.

    Beer is free to soldiers,
    Bubbles on wind-parched lips,
    Moistens easy kisses
    Lavished on the liberators.

    Beer is free to soldiers
    All night in steaming bars,
    In halls delirious with dancing
    That spill their music into thronging streets.

    --All is free to soldiers,
    To the weary heroes
    Who have bled, and soaked
    The whole earth in their sacrificial blood,
    Who have with their bare flesh clogged
    The crazy wheels of Juggernaut,
    Freed the peoples from the dragon that devoured them,
    That scorched with greed their pleasant fields and villages,
    Their quiet delightful places:

    So they of the frock-coats, amid wreaths and flags victorious,
    To the crowds in the flaring squares,
    And a murmurous applause
    Rises like smoke to mingle in the sky
    With the crashing of the bells.

    But, resounding in the sky,
    Louder than the tramp of feet,
    Louder than the crash of bells,
    Louder than the blare of bands, victorious,
    Shrieks the inextinguishable laughter of the gods.

    The old houses rock with it,
    And wag their great peaked heads,
    The old gates shake,
    And the pavings ring with it,
    As with the iron tramp of old fighters,
    As with the clank of heels of the victorious,
    By long ages vanquished.
    The spouts in the gurgling fountains
    Wrinkle their shiny griffin faces,
    Splash the rhythm in their ice-fringed basins--
    Of the inextinguishable laughter of the gods.

    And far up into the inky sky,
    Where great trailing clouds stride across the world,
    Darkening the spired cities,
    And the villages folded in the hollows of hills,
    And the shining cincture of railways,
    And the pale white twining roads,
    Sounds with the stir of quiet monotonous breath
    Of men and women stretched out sleeping,
    Sounds with the thin wail of pain
    Of hurt things huddled in darkness,
    Sounds with the victorious racket
    Of speeches and soldiers drinking,
    Sounds with the silence of the swarming dead--
    The inextinguishable laughter of the gods.


    O I would take my pen and write
    In might of words
    A pounding dytheramb
    Alight with teasing fires of hate,
    Or drone to numbness in the spell
    Of old loves long lived away
    A drowsy vilanelle.
    O I would build an Ark of words,
    A safe ciborium where to lay
    The secret soul of loveliness.
    O I would weave of words in rhythm
    A gaudily wrought pall
    For the curious cataphalque of fate.

    But my pen does otherwise.

    All I can write is the orange tinct with crimson
    of the beaks of the goose
    and of the wet webbed feet of the geese
    that crackle the skimming of ice
    and curve their white plump necks to the water
    in the manure-stained rivulet
    that runs down the broad village street;
    and of their cantankerous dancings and hissings,
    with beaks tilted up, half open
    and necks stiffly extended;
    and the curé's habit blowing in the stinging wind
    and his red globular face
    like a great sausage burst in the cooking
    that smiles
    as he takes the shovel hat off his head with a gesture,
    the hat held at arm's length,
    sweeping a broad curve, like a censor well swung;
    and, beyond the last grey gabled house in the village,
    the gaunt Christ
    that stretches bony arms and tortured hands
    to embrace the broad lands leprous with cold
    the furrowed fields and the meadows
    and the sprouting oats
    ghostly beneath the grey bitter blanket of hoarfrost.



    In a hall on Olympus we held carouse,
    Sat dining through the warm spring night,
    Spilling of the crocus-colored wine
    Glass after brimming glass to rouse
    The ghosts that dwell in books to flight
    Of word and image that, divine,
    In the draining of a glass would tear
    The lies from off reality,
    And the world in gaudy chaos spread
    Naked-new in the throbbing flare
    Of songs of long-fled spirits;--free
    For the wanderer devious roads to tread.

    Names waved as banners in our talk:
    Lucretius, his master, all men who to balk
    The fear that shrivels us in choking rinds
    Have thrown their souls like pollen to the winds,
    Erasmus, Bruno who burned in Rome, Voltaire,
    All those whose lightning laughter cleaned the air
    Of the minds of men from the murk of fear-sprung gods,
    And straightened the backs bowed under the rulers' rods.

    A hall full of the wine and chant of old songs,
    Smelling of lilacs and early roses and night,
    Clamorous with the names and phrases of the throngs
    Of the garlanded dead, and with glasses pledged to the light
    Of the dawning to come ...

    O in the morning we would go
    Out into the drudging world and sing
    And shout down dustblinded streets, hollo
    From hill to hill, and our thought fling
    Abroad through all the drowsy earth
    To wake the sleeper and the worker and the jailed
    In walls cemented of lies to mirth
    And dancing joy; laughingly unveiled
    From the sick mist of fear to run naked and leap
    And shake the nations from their snoring sleep.

    O in the morning we would go
    Fantastically arrayed
    In silk and scarlet braid,
    In rich glitter like the sun on snow
    With banners of orange, vermillion, black,
    And jasper-handed swords,
    Anklets and tinkling gauds
    Of topaz set twistingly, or lac
    Laid over with charms of demons' heads
    In indigo and gold.
    Our going a music bold
    Would be, behind us the twanging threads
    Of mad guitars, the wail of lutes
    In wildest harmony;
    Lilting thumping free,
    Pipes and kettledrums and flutes
    And brazen braying trumpet-calls
    Would wake each work-drowsed town
    And shake it in laughter down,
    Untuning in dust the shuttered walls.

    O in the morning we would go
    With doleful steps so dragging and slow
    And grievous mockery of woe
    And bury the old gods where they lay
    Sodden drunk with men's pain in the day,
    In the dawn's first new burning white ray
    That would shrivel like dead leaves the sacred lies,
    The avengers, the graspers, the wringers of sighs,
    Of blood from men's work-twisted hands, from their eyes
    Of tears without hope ... But in the burning day
    Of the dawn we would see them brooding to slay,
    In a great wind whirled like dead leaves away.

    In a hall on Olympus we held carouse,
    In our talk as banners waving names,
    Songs, phrases of the garlanded dead.

    Yesterday I went back to that house ...
    Guttered candles where were flames,
    Shattered dust-grey glasses instead
    Of the fiery crocus-colored wine,
    Silence, cobwebs and a mouse
    Nibbling nibbling the moulded bread
    Those spring nights dipped in vintage divine
    In the dawnward chanting of our last carouse.






    O the savage munching of the long dark train
    crunching up the miles
    crunching up the long slopes and the hills
    that crouch and sprawl through the night
    like animals asleep,
    gulping the winking towns
    and the shadow-brimmed valleys
    where lone trees twist their thorny arms.

    The smoke flares red and yellow;
    the smoke curls like a long dragon's tongue
    over the broken lands.

    The train with teeth flashing
    gnaws through the piecrust of hills and plains
    greedy of horizons.

                                _Alcazar de San Juan_

    TO R. H.

    I invite all the gods to dine
    on the hard benches of my third class coach
    that joggles over brown uplands
    dragged at the end of a rattling train.

    I invite all the gods to dine,
    great gods and small gods, gods of air
    and earth and sea, and of the grey land
    where among ghostly rubbish heaps and cast-out things
    linger the strengthless dead.

    I invite all the gods to dine,
    Jehovah and Crepitus and Sebek,
    the slimy crocodile ... But no;
    wait ... I revoke the invitation.

    For I have seen you, crowding gods,
    hungry gods. You have a drab official look.
    You have your pockets full of bills,
    claims for indemnity, for incense unsniffed
    since men first jumped up in their sleep
    and drove you out of doors.

    Let me instead, O djinn that sows the stars
    and tunes the strings of the violin,
    have fifty lyric poets,
    not pale parson folk, occasional sonneteers,
    but sturdy fellows who ride dolphins,
    who need no wine to make them drunk,
    who do not fear to meet red death at the meanads' hands
    or to have their heads at last
    float vine-crowned on the Thracian sea.

    Anacreon, a partridge-wing?
    A sip of wine, Simonides?
    Algy has gobbled all the pastry
    and left none for the Elizabethans
    who come arm in arm, singing bawdy songs,
    smelling of sack, from the Mermaid. Ronsard,
    will you eat nothing, only sniff roses?
    Those Anthologists have husky appetites!
    There's nothing left but a green banana
    unless that galleon comes from Venily
    with Hillyer breakfasts wrapped in sonnet-paper.

    But they've all brought gods with them!
    Avaunt! Take them away, O djinn
    that paints the clouds and brings in the night
    in the rumble and clatter of the train
    cadences out of the past ... Did you not see
    how each saved a bit out of the banquet
    to take home and burn in quiet to his god?

                                _Madrid, Caceres, Portugal_


    Three little harlots
    with artificial roses in their hair
    each at a window of a third-class coach
    on the train from Zafra to the fair.

    Too much powder and too much paint
    shining black hair.
    One sings to the clatter of wheels
    a swaying unending song
    that trails across the crimson slopes
    and the blue ranks of olives
    and the green ranks of vines.
    Three little harlots
    on the train from Zafra to the fair.

    The plowman drops the traces
    on the shambling oxen's backs
    turns his head and stares
    wistfully after the train.

    The mule-boy stops his mules
    shows his white teeth and shouts
    a word, then urges dejectedly
    the mules to the road again.

    The stout farmer on his horse
    straightens his broad felt hat,
    makes the horse leap, and waves
    grandiosely after the train.

    Is it that the queen Astarte
    strides across the fallow lands
    to fertilize the swelling grapes
    amid shrieking of her corybants?

    Too much powder and too much paint
    shining black hair.
    Three little harlots
    on the train from Zafra to the fair.



    My desires have gone a-hunting,
    circle through the fields and sniff along the hedges,
    hounds that have lost the scent.

    Outside, behind the white swirling patterns of coalsmoke,
    hunched fruit-trees slide by
    slowly pirouetting,
    and poplars and aspens on tiptoe
    peer over each other's shoulders
    at the long black rattling train;
    colts sniff and fling their heels in air
    across the dusty meadows,
    and the sun now and then
    looks with vague interest through the clouds
    at the blonde harvest mottled with poppies,
    and the Joseph's cloak of fields, neatly sewn together with hedges,
    that hides the grisly skeleton
    of the elemental earth.

    My mad desires
    circle through the fields and sniff along the hedges,
    hounds that have lost the scent.



    The street is full of drums
    and shuffle of slow moving feet.
    Above the roofs in the shaking towers
    the bells yawn.

    The street is full of drums
    and shuffle of slow moving feet.
    The flanks of the houses glow
    with the warm glow of candles,
    and above the upturned faces,
    crowned, robed in a cone-shaped robe
    of vast dark folds glittering with gold,
    swaying on the necks of men, swaying
    with the strong throb of drums,
    haltingly she advances.

    What manner of woman are you,
    borne in triumph on the necks of men,
    you who look bitterly
    at the dead man on your knees,
    while your foot in an embroidered slipper
    tramples the new moon?

    Haltingly she advances,
    swaying above the upturned faces
    and the shuffling feet.

    In the dark unthought-of years
    men carried you thus
    down streets where drums throbbed
    and torches flared,
    bore you triumphantly,
    mourner and queen,
    followed you with shuffling feet
    and upturned faces.
    You it was who sat
    in the swirl of your robes
    at the granary door,
    and brought the orange maize
    black with mildew
    or fat with milk, to the harvest:
    and made the ewes
    to swell with twin lambs,
    or bleating, to sicken among the nibbling flock.
    You wept the dead youth
    laid lank and white in the empty hut,
    sat scarring your cheeks with the dark-cowled women.
    You brought the women safe
    through the shrieks and the shuddering pain
    of the birth of a child;
    and, when the sprouting spring
    poured fire in the blood of the young men,
    and made the he-goats dance stiff-legged
    in the sloping thyme-scented pastures,
    you were the full-lipped wanton enchantress
    who led on moonless nights,
    when it was very dark in the high valleys,
    the boys from the villages
    to find the herd-girls among the munching sweet-breathed cattle
    beside their fires of thyme-sticks,
    on their soft beds of sweet-fern.

    Many names have they called you,
    Lady of laughing and weeping,
    shuffling after you, borne
    on the necks of men down town streets
    with drums and red torches:
    dolorous one, weeping the dead
    youth of the year ever dying,
    or full-breasted empress of summer,
    Lady of the Corybants
    and the headlong routs
    that maddened with cymbals and shouting
    the hot nights of amorous languor
    when the gardens swooned under the scent
    of jessamine and nard.
    You were the slim-waisted Lady of Doves,
    you were Ishtar and Ashtaroth,
    for whom the Canaanite girls
    gave up their earrings and anklets and their own slender bodies,
    you were the dolorous Isis,
    and Aphrodite.
    It was you who on the Syrian shore
    mourned the brown limbs of the boy Adonis.
    You were the queen of the crescent moon,
    the Lady of Ephesus,
    giver of riches,
    for whom the great temple
    reeked with burning and spices.
    And now in the late bitter years,
    your head is bowed with bitterness;
    across your knees lies the lank body
    of the Crucified.

    Rockets shriek and roar and burst
    against the velvet sky;
    the wind flutters the candle-flames
    above the long white slanting candles.

    Swaying above the upturned faces
    to the strong throb of drums,
    borne in triumph on the necks of men,
    crowned, robed in a cone-shaped robe
    of vast dark folds glittering with gold
    haltingly, through the pulsing streets,
    advances Mary, Virgin of Pain.


    TO R. J.

    It would be fun, you said,
    sitting two years ago at this same table,
    at this same white marble café table,
    if people only knew what fun it would be
    to laugh the hatred out of soldiers' eyes ...

    --If I drink beer with my enemy,
    you said, and put your lips to the long glass,
    and give him what he wants, if he wants it so hard
    that he would kill me for it,
    I rather think he'd give it back to me--
    You laughed, and stretched your long legs out across the floor.

    I wonder in what mood you died,
    out there in that great muddy butcher-shop,
    on that meaningless dicing-table of death.

    Did you laugh aloud at the futility,
    and drink death down in a long draught,
    as you drank your beer two years ago
    at this same white marble café table?
    Or had the darkness drowned you?

                                _Café Oro del Rhin_
                                _Plaza de Santa Ana_


    Down the road
    against the blue haze
    that hangs before the great ribbed forms of the mountains
    people come home from the fields;
    they pass a moment in relief
    against the amber frieze of the sunset
    before turning the bend
    towards the twinkling smoke-breathing village.

    A boy in sandals with brown dusty legs
    and brown cheeks where the flush of evening
    has left its stain of wine.
    A donkey with a jingling bell
    and ears askew.
    Old women with water jars
    of red burnt earth.
    Men bent double under burdens of faggots
    that trail behind them the fragrance
    of scorched uplands.
    A child tugging at the end of a string
    a much inflated sow.
    A slender girl who presses to her breast
    big bluefrilled cabbages.
    And a shepherd in the clinging rags of his cloak
    who walks with lithe unhurried stride
    behind the crowded backs of his flock.

    The road is empty
    only the swaying tufts of oliveboughs
    against the fading sky.

    Down on the steep hillside
    a man still follows the yoke
    of lumbering oxen
    plowing the heavy crimson-stained soil
    while the chill silver mists
    steal up about him.

    I stand in the empty road
    and feel in my arms and thighs
    the strain of his body
    as he leans far to one side
    and wrenches the plow from the furrow,
    feel my blood throb in time to his slow careful steps
    as he follows the plow in the furrow.

    Red earth
    giver of all things
    of the yellow grain and the oil
    and the wine to all gods sacred
    of the fragrant sticks that crackle in the hearth
    and the crisp swaying grass
    that swells to dripping the udders of the cows,
    of the jessamine the girls stick in their hair
    when they walk in twos and threes in the moonlight,
    and of the pallid autumnal crocuses ...
    are there no fields yet to plow?

    Are there no fields yet to plow
    where with sweat and straining of muscles
    good things may be wrung from the earth
    and brown limbs going home tired through the evening?



    O such a night for scaling garden walls;
    to push the rose shoots silently aside
    and pause a moment where the water falls
    into the fountain, softly troubling the wide
    bridge of stars tremblingly mirrored there
    terror-pale and shaking as the real stars shake
    in crystal fear lest the rustle of silence break
    with a watchdog's barking.

    O to scale the garden wall and fling
    my life into the bowl of an adventure,
    stake on the silver dice the past and future
    forget the odds and lying in the garden sing
    in time to the flutter of the waiting stars
    madness of love for the slender ivory white
    of her body hidden among dark silks where
    is languidest the attar weighted air.

    To drink in one strong jessamine scented draught
    sadness of flesh, twining madness of the night.

    O such a night for scaling garden walls;
    yet I lie alone in my narrow bed
    and stare at the blank walls, forever afraid,
    of a watchdog's barking.



    Rain-swelled the clouds of winter
    drag themselves like purple swine across the plain.
    On the trees the leaves hang dripping
    fast dripping away all the warm glamour
    all the ceremonial paint of gorgeous bountiful autumn.

    The black wet boles are vacant and dead.
    Among the trampled leaves already mud
    rot the husks of the rich nuts. On the hills
    the snow has frozen the last pale crocuses
    and the winds have robbed the smell of the thyme.

    Down the wet streets of the town
    from doors where the light spills out orange
    over the shining irregular cobbles
    and dances in ripples on gurgling gutters;
    sounds the zambomba.

    In the room beside the slanting street
    round the tray of glowing coals
    in their stained blue clothes, dusty
    with the dust of workshops and factories,
    the men and boys sit quiet;
    their large hands dangle idly
    or rest open on their knees
    and they talk in soft tired voices.
    Crosslegged in a corner a child with brown hands
    sounds the zambomba.

    Outside down the purple street
    stopping sometimes at a door, breathing deep
    the heady wine of sunset, stride with clattering steps
    those to whom the time will never come
    of work-stiffened unrestless hands.

    The rain-swelled clouds of winter roam
    like a herd of swine over the town and the dark plain.

    The wineshops full of shuffling and talk, tanned faces
    bright eyes, moist lips moulding desires
    blow breaths of strong wine in the faces of passers-by.

    There are guards in the storehouse doors
    where are gathered the rich fruits of autumn, the grain
    the sweet figs and raisins; sullen blood tingling to madness
    they stride by who have not reaped.
    Sounds the zambomba.



    The train throbs doggedly
    over the gleaming rails
    fleeing the light-green flanks of hills
    dappled with alternate shadow of clouds,
    fleeing the white froth of orchards,
    of clusters of apples and cherries in flower,
    fleeing the wide lush meadows,
    wealthy with cowslips,
    and the tramping horses and backward-strained bodies of plowmen,
    fleeing the gleam of the sky in puddles and glittering waters
    the train throbs doggedly
    over the ceaseless rails
    spurning the verdant grace
    of April's dainty apparel;
    so do my desires
    spurn those things which are behind
    in hunger of horizons.

                                _Rapido: Valencia--Barcelona_



    See how the frail white pagodas of blossom
    stand up on the great green hills
    of the chestnuts
    and how the sun has burned the wintry murk
    and all the stale odor of anguish
    out of the sky
    so that the swollen clouds bellying with sail
    can parade in pomp like white galleons.

    And they move the slow plumed clouds
    above the spidery grey webs of cities
    above fields full of golden chime
    of cowslips
    above warbling woods where the ditches
    are wistfully patined
    with primroses pale as the new moon
    above hills all golden with gorse
    and gardens frothed
    to the brim of their grey stone walls
    with apple bloom, cherry bloom,
    and the raspberry-stained bloom of peaches and almonds.

    So do the plumed clouds sail
    swelling with satiny pomp of parade
    towards somewhere far away
    where in a sparkling silver sea
    full of little flakes of indigo
    the great salt waves have heaved and stirred
    into blossoming of foam,
    and lifted on the rush of the warm wind
    towards the gardens and the spring-mad cities of the shore
    Aphrodite Aphrodite is reborn.

    And even in this city park
    galled with iron rails
    shrill with the clanging of ironbound wheels
    on the pavings of the unquiet streets,
    little children run and dance and sing
    with spring-madness in the sun,
    and the frail white pagodas of blossom
    stand up on the great green hills
    of the chestnuts
    and all their tiers of tiny gargoyle faces
    stick out gold and red-striped tongues
    in derision of the silly things of men.

                                _Jardin du Luxembourg_


    The shadows make strange streaks and mottled arabesques
    of violet on the apricot-tinged walks
    where the thin sunlight lies
    like flower-petals.

    On the cool wind there is a fragrance
    of strawberries crushed in deep woods.

    And the flushed sunlight,
    the wistful patterns of shadow
    on gravel walks between tall elms
    and broad-leaved lindens,
    the stretch of country,
    yellow and green,
    full of little particolored houses,
    and the faint intangible sky,
    have lumped my soggy misery,
    like clay in the brown deft hands of a potter,
    and moulded a song of it.

                                _Saint Germain-en-Laye_


    In the dark the river spins,
    Laughs and ripples never ceasing,
    Swells to gurgle under arches,
    Swishes past the bows of barges,
    in its haste to swirl away
    From the stone walls of the city
    That has lamps that weight the eddies
    Down with snaky silver glitter,
    As it flies it calls me with it
    Through the meadows to the sea.

    I close the door on it, draw the bolts,
    Climb the stairs to my silent room;
    But through the window that swings open
    Comes again its shuttle-song,
    Spinning love and night and madness,
    Madness of the spring at sea.


    The streets are full of lilacs
    lilacs in boys' buttonholes
    lilacs at women's waists;
    arms full of lilacs, people trail behind them through the moist night
    long swirls of fragrance,
    fragrance of gardens
    fragrance of hedgerows where they have wandered
    all the May day
    where the lovers have held each others hands
    and lavished vermillion kisses
    under the portent of the swaying plumes
    of the funereal lilacs.

    The streets are full of lilacs
    that trail long swirls and eddies of fragrance
    arabesques of fragrance
    like the arabesques that form and fade
    in the fleeting ripples of the jade-green river.

                                _Porte Maillot_


    As a gardener in a pond
    splendid with lotus and Indian nenuphar
    wades to his waist in the warm black water
    stooping to this side and that to cull the snaky stems
    of the floating white glittering lilies
    groping to break the harsh stems of the imperious lotus
    lifting the huge flowers high
    in a cluster in his hand
    till they droop against the moon;
    so I grope through the streets of the night
    culling out of the pool
    of the spring-reeking, rain-reeking city
    gestures and faces.

                                _Place St. Michel_

    TO A. K. MC C.

    This is a garden
    where through the russet mist of clustered trees
    and strewn November leaves,
    they crunch with vainglorious heels
    of ancient vermillion
    the dry dead of spent summer's greens,
    and stalk with mincing sceptic steps
    and sound of snuffboxes snapping
    to the capping of an epigram,
    in fluffy attar-scented wigs ...
    the exquisite Augustans.



    They come from the fields flushed
    carrying bunches of limp flowers
    they plucked on teeming meadows
    and moist banks scented of mushrooms.

    They come from the fields tired
    softness of flowers in their eyes
    and moisture of rank sprouting meadows.

    They stroll back with tired steps
    lips still soft with the softness of petals
    voices faint with the whisper of woods;
    and they wander through the darkling streets
    full of stench of bodies and clothes and merchandise
    full of the hard hum of iron things;
    and into their cheeks that the wind had burned and the sun
    that kisses burned out on the rustling meadows
    into their cheeks soft with lazy caresses
    comes sultry
    caged breath of panthers
    fetid, uneasy
    fury of love sprouting hot in the dust and stench
    of walls and clothes and merchandise,
    pent in the stridence of the twilight streets.

    And they look with terror in each other's eyes
    and part their hot hands stained with grasses and flowerstalks
    and are afraid of their kisses.


    The mists have veiled the far end of the lake
    this sullen amber afternoon;
    our island is quite hidden, and the peaks
    hang wan as clouds above the ruddy haze.

    Come, give your hand that lies so limp,
    a tuberose among brown oak-leaves;
    put your hand in mine and let us leave
    this bank where we have lain the day long.

    In the boat the naked oarsman stands.
    Let us walk faster, or do you fear to tear
    that brocaded dress in apricot and grey?
    Love, there are silk cushions in the stern
    maroon and apple-green,
    crocus-yellow, crimson, amber-grey.

    We will lie and listen to the waves
    slap soft against the prow, and watch the boy
    slant his brown body to the long oar-stroke.

    But, love, we are more beautiful than he.
    We have forgotten the grey sick yearning nights
    brushed off the old cobwebs of desire;
    we stand strong
    immortal as the slender brown boy who waits
    to row our boat to the island.

    But love how your steps drag.

    And what is this bundle of worn brocades I press
    so passionately to me? Old rags of the past,
    snippings of Helen's dress, of Melisande's,
    scarfs of old paramours rotted in the grave
    ages and ages since.

    No lake
    the ink yawns at me from the writing table.


    Far away where the tall grey houses fade
    A lamp blooms dully through the dusk,
    Through the effacing dusk that gently veils
    The traceried balconies and the wreaths
    Carved above the shuttered windows
    Of forgotten houses.

    Behind one of the crumbled garden walls
    A pale woman sits in drooping black
    And stares with uncomprehending eyes
    At the thorny angled twigs that bore
    Years ago in the moon-spun dusk
    One scarlet rose.

    In an old high room where the shadows troop
    On tiptoe across the creaking boards
    A shrivelled man covers endless sheets
    Rounding out in his flourishing hand
    Sentence after sentence loud
    With dead kings' names.

    Looking out at the vast grey violet dusk
    A pale boy sits in a window, a book
    Wide open on his knees, and fears
    With cold choked fear the thronging lives
    That lurk in the shadows and fill the dusk
    With menacing steps.

    Far away the gaslamp glows dull gold
    A vague tulip in the misty night.
    The clattering drone of a distant tram
    Grows loud and fades with a hum of wires
    Leaving the street breathless with silence, chill
    And the listening houses.



    _O douce Sainte Geneviève
    ramène moi a ta ville, Paris._

    In the smoke of morning the bridges
    are dusted with orangy sunshine.

    Bending their black smokestacks far back
    muddling themselves in their spiralling smoke
    the tugboats pass under the bridges
    and behind them
    gliding smooth like clouds
    the barges come
    black barges
    with blunt prows spurning the water gently
    gently rebuffing the opulent wavelets
    of opal and topaz and sapphire,
    barges casually come from far towns
    towards far towns unhurryingly bound.

    The tugboats shrieks and shrieks again
    calling beyond the next bend and away.
    In the smoke of morning the bridges
    are dusted with orangy sunshine.

    _O douce Sainte Geneviève
    ramène moi a ta ville, Paris._

    Big hairy-hoofed horses are drawing
    carts loaded with flour-sacks,
    white flour-sacks, bluish
    in the ruddy flush of the morning streets.

    On one cart two boys perch
    wrestling and their arms and faces
    glow ruddy against the white flour-sacks
    as the sun against the flour-white sky.

    _O douce Sainte Geneviève
    ramène moi a ta ville, Paris._

    Under the arcade
    loud as castanettes with steps
    of little women hurrying to work
    an old hag who has a mole on her chin
    that is tufted with long white hairs
    sells incense-sticks, and the trail of their strangeness lingers
    in the many-scented streets
    among the smells of markets and peaches
    and the must of old books from the quays
    and the warmth of early-roasting coffee.

    The old hag's incense has smothered
    the timid scent of wild strawberries
    and triumphantly mingled with the strong reek from the river
    of green slime along stonework of docks
    and the pitch-caulked decks of barges,
    barges casually come from far towns
    towards far towns unhurryingly bound.

    _O douce Sainte Geneviève
    ramène moi a ta ville, Paris._


    And now when I think of you
    I see you on your piano-stool
    finger the ineffectual bright keys
    and even in the pinkish parlor glow
    your eyes sea-grey are very wide
    as if they carried the reflection
    of mocking black pinebranches
    and unclimbed red-purple mountains mist-tattered
    under a violet-gleaming evening.

    But chirruping of marriageable girls
    voices of eager, wise virgins,
    no lamp unlit every wick well trimmed,
    fill the pinkish parlor chairs,
    bobbing hats and shrill tinkling teacups
    in circle after circle about you
    so that I can no longer see your eyes.

    Shall I tear down the pinkish curtains
    smash the imitation ivory keyboard
    that you may pluck with bare fingers on the strings?

    I sit cramped in my chair.
    Futility tumbles everlastingly
    like great flabby snowflakes about me.

    Were they in your eyes, or mine
    the tattered mists about the mountains
    and the pitiless grey sea?




    Grey riverbanks in the dusk
    Melting away into mist
    A hard breeze sharp off the sea
    The ship's screws lunge and throb
    And the voices of sailors singing.

    O I have come wandering
    Out of the dust of many lands
    Ears by all tongues jangled
    Feet worn by all arduous ways--
    O the voices of sailors singing.

    What nostalgia of sea
    And free new-scented spaces
    dreams of towns vermillion-gated
    Must be in their blood as in mine
    That the sailors long so in singing.

    Churned water marbled astern
    Grey riverbanks in the dusk
    Melting away into mist
    And a shrill wind hard off the sea.
    O the voices of sailors singing.


    Padding lunge of a camel's stride
    turning the sharp purple flints. A man sings:

        Breast deep in the dawn
        a queen of the east;
        the woolen folds of her robe
        hang white and straight
        as the hard marble columns
        of the temple of Jove.

        A thousand days
        the pebbles have scuttled
        under the great pads of my camels.

        A thousands days
        like bite of sour apples
        have been bitter with desire in my mouth.

        A thousand days
        of cramped legs flecked
        with green slobber of dromedaries.

        At the crest of the road
        that transfixes the sun
        she awaits
        me lean with desire
        with muscles tightened
        by these thousand days
        pallid with dust
        naked before her.

    Padding lunge of a camel's stride
    over the flint-strewn hills. A man sings:

        I have heard men sing songs
        of how in scarlet pools
        in the west in purpurate mist
        that bursts from the sun trodden
        like a grape under the feet of darkness
        a woman with great breasts
        thighs white like wintry mountains
        bathes her nakedness.

        I have lain biting my cheeks
        many nights with ears murmurous
        with the songs of these strange men.
        My arms have stung as if burned
        by the touch of red ants with anguish
        to circle strokingly
        her bulging smooth body.
        My blood has soured to gall.
        The ten toes of my feet are hard
        as buzzards' claws from the stones
        of roads, from clambering
        cold rockfaces of hills.
        For uncountable days' journeys
        jouncing on the humps of camels
        iron horizons have swayed
        like the rail of a ship at sea
        mountains have tossed like wine
        shaken hard in a wine cup.

        I have heard men sing songs
        of the scarlet pools of the sunset.

    Two men, bundled pyramids of brown
    abreast, bow to the long slouch
    of their slowstriding camels.
    Shrilly the yellow man sings:

        In the courts of Han
        green fowls with carmine tails
        peck at the yellow grain
        court ladies scatter
        with tiny ivory hands,
        the tails of the fowls
        droop with multiple elegance
        over the wan blue stones
        as the hands of courtladies
        droop on the goldstiffened silk
        of their angular flower-embroidered dresses.

        In the courts of Han
        little hairy dogs
        are taught to bark twice
        at the mention of the name of Confucius.

        The twittering of the women
        that hop like silly birds
        through the courts of Han
        became sharp like little pins
        in my ears, their hands in my hands
        rigid like small ivory scoops
        to scoop up mustard with
        when I had heard the songs
        of the western pools where the great queen
        is throned on a purple throne
        in whose vast encompassing arms
        all bitter twigs of desire
        burst into scarlet bloom.

    Padding lunge of the camel's stride
    over flint-strewn hills. The brown man sings:

        On the house-encumbered hills
        of great marble Rome
        no man has ever counted the columns
        no man has ever counted the statues
        no man has ever counted the laws
        sharply inscribed in plain writing
        on tablets of green bronze.

        At brightly lit tables
        in a great brick basilica
        seven hundred literate slaves
        copy on rolls of thin parchment
        adorned by seals and purple bows
        the taut philosophical epigrams
        announced by the emperor each morning
        while taking his bath.

        A day of rain and roaring gutters
        the wine-reeking words of a drunken man
        who clenched about me hard-muscled arms
        and whispered with moist lips against my ear
        filled me with smell and taste of spices
        with harsh panting need to seek out the great
        calm implacable queen of the east
        who erect against sunrise holds in the folds
        of her woolen robe all knowledge of delight
        against whose hard white flesh my flesh
        will sear to cinders in a last sheer flame.

        Among the house-encumbered hills
        of great marble Rome
        I could no longer read the laws
        inscribed on tablets of green bronze.
        The maxims of the emperor's philosophy
        were croaking of toads in my ears.
        A day of rain and roaring gutters
        the wine-reeking words of a drunken man:
        ... breast deep in the dawn
        a queen of the east.

    The camels growl and stretch out their necks,
    their slack lips jiggle as they trot
    towards a water hole in a pebbly torrent bed.

    The riders pile dry twigs for a fire
    and gird up their long gowns to warm
    at the flame their lean galled legs.

    Says the yellow man:

        You have seen her in the west?

    Says the brown man:

        Hills and valleys
        stony roads.
        In the towns
        the bright eyes of women
        looking out from lattices.
        Camps in the desert
        where men passed the time of day
        where were embers of fires
        and greenish piles of camel-dung.

        You have seen her in the east?

    Says the yellow man:

        Only red mountains and bare plains,
        the blue smoke of villages at evening,
        brown girls bathing
        along banks of streams.

        I have slept with no woman
        only my dream.

    Says the brown man:

        I have looked in no woman's eyes
        only stared along eastward roads.

    They eat out of copper bowls beside the fire in silence.
    They loose the hobbles from the knees of their camels
    and shout as they jerk to their feet.
    The yellow man rides west.
    The brown man rides east.

    Their songs trail among the split rocks of the desert.

    Sings the yellow man:

        I have heard men sing songs
        of how in the scarlet pools
        that spurt from the sun trodden
        like a grape under the feet of darkness
        a woman with great breasts
        bathes her nakedness.

    Sings the brown man:

        After a thousand days
        of cramped legs flecked
        with green slobber of dromedaries
        she awaits
        me lean with desire
        pallid with dust
        naked before her.

    Their songs fade in the empty desert.


    There was a king in China.

    He sat in a garden under a moon of gold
    while a black slave scratched his back
    with a back-scratcher of emerald.
    Beyond the tulip bed
    where the tulips were stiff goblets of fiery wine
    stood the poets in a row.

    One sang the intricate patterns of snowflakes
    One sang the henna-tipped breasts of girls dancing
    and of yellow limbs rubbed with attar.
    One sang red bows of Tartar horsemen
    and whine of arrows and blood-clots on new spearshafts
    The others sang of wine and dragons coiled in purple bowls,
    and one, in a droning voice
    recited the maxims of Lao Tse.

    (Far off at the walls of the city
    groaning of drums and a clank of massed spearmen.
    Gongs in the temples.)

    The king sat under a moon of gold
    while a black slave scratched his back
    with a back-scratcher of emerald.
    The long gold nails of his left hand
    twined about a red tulip blotched with black,
    a tulip shaped like a dragon's mouth
    or the flames bellying about a pagoda of sandalwood.
    The long gold nails of his right hand
    were held together at the tips
    in an attitude of discernment:
    to award the tulip to the poet
    of the poets that stood in a row.

    (Gongs in the temples.
    Men with hairy arms
    climbing on the walls of the city.
    They have red bows slung on their backs;
    their hands grip new spearshafts.)

    The guard of the tomb of the king's great grandfather
    stood with two swords under the moon of gold.
    With one sword he very carefully
    slit the base of his large belly
    and inserted the other and fell upon it
    and sprawled beside the king's footstool.
    His blood sprinkled the tulips
    and the poets in a row.

    (The gongs are quiet in the temples.
    Men with hairy arms
    scattering with taut bows through the city;
    there is blood on new spearshafts.)

    The long gold nails of the king's right hand
    were held together at the tips
    in an attitude of discernment.
    The geometrical glitter of snowflakes,
    the pointed breasts of yellow girls
    crimson with henna,
    the swirl of river-eddies about a barge
    where men sit drinking,
    the eternal dragon of magnificence....
    Beyond the tulip bed
    stood the poets in a row.

    The garden full of spearshafts and shouting
    and the whine of arrows and the red bows of Tartars
    and trampling of the sharp hoofs of war-horses.
    Under the golden moon
    the men with hairy arms
    struck off the heads of the tulips in the tulip-bed
    and of the poets in a row.

    The king lifted the hand that held the flaming dragon-flower.

    Him of the snowflakes, he said.
    On a new white spearshaft
    the men with hairy arms
    spitted the king and the black slave
    who scratched his back with a back-scratcher of emerald.

    There was a king in China.


    Says the man from Weehawken to the man from Sioux City
    as they jolt cheek by jowl on the bus up Broadway:
    --That's her name, Olive Thomas, on the red skysign,
    died of coke or somethin'
    way over there in Paris.
    Too much money. Awful
    immoral the lives them film stars lead.

    The eye of the man from Sioux City glints
    in the eye of the man from Weehawken.
    Awful ... lives out of sky-signs and lust;
    curtains of pink silk fluffy troubling the skin
    rooms all prinkly with chandeliers,
    bed cream-color with pink silk tassles
    creased by the slender press of thighs.
    Her eyebrows are black
    her lips rubbed scarlet
    breasts firm as peaches
    gold curls gold against her cheeks.
    She dead
    all of her dead way over there in Paris.

    O golden Aphrodite.

    The eye of the man from Weehawken slants
    away from the eye of the man from Sioux City.
    They stare at the unquiet gold dripping sky-signs.



    Again they are plowing the field by the river;
    in the air exultant a smell of wild garlic
    crushed out by the shining steel in the furrow
    that opens softly behind the heavy-paced horses,
    dark moist noisy with fluttering of sparrows;
    and their chirping and the clink of the harness
    chimes like bells;
    and the plowman walks at one side
    with sliding steps, his body thrown back from the waist.
    O the sudden sideways lift of his back and his arms
    as he swings the plow from the furrow.

    And behind the river sheening blue
    and the white beach and the sails of schooners,
    and hoarsely laughing the black crows
    wheel and glint. Ha! Haha!

    Other springs you answered their laughing
    and shouted at them across the fallow lands
    that smelt of wild garlic and pinewoods and earth.

    This year the crows flap cawing overhead Ha! Haha!
    and the plow-harness clinks
    and the pines echo the moaning shore.

    No one laughs back at the laughing crows.
    No one shouts from the edge of the new-plowed field.

                                _Sandy Point_


    The full moon soars above the misty street
    filling the air with a shimmer of silver.
    Roofs and chimney-pots cut silhouettes
    of dark against the milk-washed sky!
    O moon fast waning!

    Seems only a night ago you hung
    a shallow cup of topaz-colored glass
    that tilted towards my feverish dry lips
    brimful of promise in the flaming west:
    O moon fast waning!

    And each night fuller and colder, moon,
    the silver has welled up within you; still I
    I have not drunk, only the salt tide
    of parching desires has welled up within me:
    only you have attained, waning moon.

    The moon soars white above the stony street,
    wan with fulfilment. O will the tide
    of yearning ebb with the moon's ebb
    leaving me cool darkness and peace
    with the moon's waning?



    The shrill wind scatters the bloom
    of the almond trees
    but under the bark of the shivering poplars
    the sap rises
    and on the dark twigs of the planes
    buds swell.

    Out in the country
    along soggy banks of ditches
    among busy sprouting grass
    there are dandelions.
    Under the asphalt
    under the clamorous paving-stones
    the earth heaves and stirs
    and all the blind live things
    expand and writhe.

    Only the dead
    lie still in their graves,
    stiff, heiratic,
    only the changeless dead
    lie without stirring.

    Spring is not a good time
    for the dead.

                                _Battery Park_


    Buildings shoot rigid perpendiculars
    latticed with window-gaps
    into the slate sky.

        Where the wind comes from
        the ice crumbles
        about the edges of green pools;
        from the leaping of white thighs
        comes a smooth and fleshly sound,
        girls grip hands and dance
        grey moss grows green under the beat
        of feet of saffron

        Where the wind comes from
        purple windflowers sway
        on the swelling verges of pools,
        naked girls grab hands and whirl
        fling heads back
        stamp crimson feet.

    Buildings shoot rigid perpendiculars
    latticed with window-gaps
    into the slate sky.

    Garment-workers loaf in their overcoats
    (stare at the gay breasts of pigeons
    that strut and peck in the gutters).
    Their fingers are bruised tugging needles
    through fuzzy hot layers of cloth,
    thumbs roughened twirling waxed thread;
    they smell of lunchrooms and burnt cloth.
    The wind goes among them
    detaching sweat-smells from underclothes
    making muscles itch under overcoats
    tweaking legs with inklings of dancetime.

    Bums on park-benches
    spit and look up at the sky.

    Garment-workers in their overcoats
    pile back into black gaps of doors.

        Where the wind comes from
        scarlet windflowers sway
        on rippling verges of pools,
        sound of girls dancing
        thud of vermillion feet.

                                _Madison Square_


    The stars bend down
    through the dingy platitude of arc-lights
    as if they were groping for something among the houses,
    as if they would touch the gritty pavement
    covered with dust and scraps of paper and piles of horse-dung
    of the wide deserted square.

    They are all about me;
    they sear my body.
    How very cold the stars are touching my body.
    What do they seek
    the fierce ice-flames of the stars
    in the platitude of arc-lights?

                                _Plaza Mayor, Madrid_


    Not willingly have I wronged you O Eros,
    it is the bitter blood of joyless generations
    making my fingers loosen suddenly
    about the full glass of purple wine
    for which my dry lips ache,
    making me turn aside from the wide arms of lovers
    that would have slaked the rage of my body
    for supple arms and burning young flushed faces
    to wander in solitary streets.

    A funeral clatters over the glimmering cobbles;
    they are burying despair!
    Lank horses whose raw bones show through
    the embroidered black caparisons
    and whose heads jerk feebly
    under the tall nodding crests;
    they are burying despair.
    A great hearse that trundles crazily along
    under pompous swaying plumes
    and intricate designs of mud-splashed heraldry;
    they are burying despair!
    A coffin obliterated under the huge folds
    of a faded velvet pall
    and following clattering over the cobblestones
    lurching through mud-puddles
    a long train of cabs
    rain-soaked barouches
    old landaus off which the paint has peeled
    leprous coupés;
    in their blank windows shines the glint
    of interminable gaslamps;
    they are burying despair!

    Joyously I turn into the wineshop
    where with strumming of tambourines
    and staccato cackle of castanets
    they are welcoming the new year,
    and I look in the eyes of the woman;
    (are they your wide eyes O Eros?)
    who sits with wine-dabbled lips
    and stained tinsel dress torn open
    by the brown hands of strong young lovers;
    (were they your brown hands O Eros?).

    --Your flesh is hot to my cold hands
    hot to thaw the ice of an old curse
    now that with pomp of plumes and strings of ceremonial cabs
    they are burying despair.

    She laughs and points with a skinny forefinger
    at the flabby yellow breasts that hang
    over the tarnished tinsel of her dress,
    and shows me her brown wolf's teeth;
    and the blood in my temples goes suddenly cold
    with bitterness and I know
    it was not despair that they buried.

                                _New Year's Day--Casa de Bottin_


    The leaves are full grown now
    and the lindens are in flower.
    Horseshoes leave their mark
    on the sun-softened asphalt.
    Men unloading vegetable carts
    along the steaming market curb
    bare broad chests pink from sweating;
    their wet shirts open to the last button
    cling to their ribs and shoulders.

    The leaves are full grown now
    and the lindens are in flower.

    At night along the riverside
    glinting watery lights
    sway upon the lapping waves
    like many-colored candles that flicker in the wind.

    The warm wind smells of pitch from the moored barges
    smells of the broad leaves of the trees
    wilted from the day's long heat;
    smells of gas from the last taxicab.

    Sounds of the riverwater rustling
    circumspectly past the piers
    of bridges that span the glitter with dark
    of men and women's voices
    many voices mouth to mouth
    smoothness of flesh touching flesh,
    a harsh short sigh blurred into a kiss.

    The leaves are full grown now
    and the lindens are in flower.

                                _Quai Malaquais_


    In me somewhere is a grey room
    my fathers worked through many lives to build;
    through the barred distorting windowpanes
    I see the new moon in the sky.

    When I was small I sat and drew
    endless pictures in all colors on the walls;
    tomorrow the pictures should take life
    I would stalk down their long heroic colonnades.

    When I was fifteen a red-haired girl
    went by the window; a red sunset
    threw her shadow on the stiff grey wall
    to burn the colors of my pictures dead.

    Through all these years the walls have writhed
    with shadow overlaid upon shadow.
    I have bruised my fingers on the windowbars
    so many lives cemented and made strong.

    While the bars stand strong, outside
    the great processions of men's lives go past.
    Their shadows squirm distorted on my wall.

    Tonight the new moon is in the sky.

                                _Stuyvesant Square_


    Three kites against the sunset
    flaunt their long-tailed triangles
    above the inquisitive chimney-pots.

    A pompous ragged minstrel
    sings beside our dining-table
    a very old romantic song:

    _I love the sound of the hunting-horns
    deep in the woods at night._

    A wind makes dance the fine acacia leaves
    and flutters the cloths of the tables.
    The kites tremble and soar.
    The voice throbs sugared into croaking base
    broken with the burden of the too ancient songs.

    And yet, beyond the flaring sky,
    beyond the soaring kites,
    where are no voices of singers,
    no strummings of guitars,
    the untarnished songs
    hang like great moths just broken
    through the dun threads of their cocoons,
    moist, motionless, limp
    as flowers on the inaccessible twigs
    of the yewtree, Ygdrasil,
    the untarnished songs.

    Will you put your hand in mine
    pompous street-singer,
    and start on a quest with me?
    For men have cut down the woods where the laurel grew
    to build streets of frame houses,
    they have dug in the hills after iron
    and frightened the troll-king away;
    at night in the woods no hunter puffs out his cheeks
    to call to the kill on the hunting-horn.

    Now when the kites flaunt bravely
    their tissue-paper glory in the sunset
    we will walk together down the darkening streets
    beyond these tables and the sunset.

    We will hear the singing of drunken men
    and the songs whores sing
    in their doorways at night
    and the endless soft crooning
    of all the mothers,
    and what words the young men hum
    when they walk beside the river
    their arms hot with caresses,
    their cheeks pressed against their girls' cheeks.

    We will lean very close
    to the quiet lips of the dead
    and feel in our worn-out flesh perhaps
    a flutter of wings as they soar from us
    the untarnished songs.

    But the minstrel sings as the pennies clink:
    _I love the sound of the hunting-horns
    deep in the woods at night._

    O who will go on a quest with me
    beyond all wide seas
    all mountain passes
    and climb at last with me
    among the imperishable branches
    of the yewtree, Ygdrasil,
    so that all the limp unuttered songs
    shall spread their great moth-wings and soar
    above the craning necks of the chimneys
    above the tissue-paper kites and the sunset
    above the diners and their dining-tables,
    beat upward with strong wing-beats steadily
    till they can drink the quenchless honey of the moon.

                                _Place du Tertre_


    Dark on the blue light of the stream
    the barges lie anchored under the moon.

    On icegreen seas of sunset
    the moon skims like a curved white sail
    bellied by the evening wind
    and bound for some glittering harbor
    that blue hills circle
    among the purple archipelagos of cloud.

    So, in the quivering bubble of my memories
    the schooners with peaked sails
    lean athwart the low dark shore;
    their sails glow apricot-color
    or glint as white as the salt-bitten shells on the beach
    and are curved at the tip like gulls' wings:
    their courses are set for impossible oceans
    where on the gold imaginary sands
    they will unload their many-scented freight
    of very childish dreams.

    Dark on the blue light of the stream
    the barges lie anchored under the moon;
    the wind brings from them to my ears
    faint creaking of rudder-cords, tiny slappings
    of waves against their pitch-smeared flanks,
    to my nose a smell of bales and merchandise
    the wet familiar smell of harbors
    and the old arousing fragrance
    making the muscles ache and the blood seethe
    and the eyes see the roadsteads and the golden beaches
    where with singing they would furl the sails
    of the schooners of childish dreams.

    On icegreen seas of sunset
    the moon skims like a curved white sail:
    had I forgotten the fragrance of old dreams
    that the smell from the anchored barges
    can so fill my blood with bitterness
    that the sight of the scudding moon
    makes my eyes tingle with salt tears?

    In the ship's track on the infertile sea
    now many childish bodies float
    rotting under the white moon.

                                _Quai des Grands Augustins_

    _Lua cheia esta noit_

    Thistledown clouds
    cover the whole sky
    scurry on the southwest wind
    over the sea and islands;
    somehow in the sundown
    the wind has shaken out plumed seed
    of thistles milkweed asphodel,
    raked from off great fields of dandelions
    their ghosts of faded golden springs
    and carried them in billowing of mist
    to scurry in moonlight
    out of the west.

    They hide the moon
    the whole sky is grey with them
    and the waves.

    They will fall in rain
    over country gardens
    where thrushes sing.

    They will fall in rain
    down long sparsely lighted streets
    hiss on silvery windowpanes
    moisten the lips
    of girls leaning out
    to stare after the footfalls of young men
    who splash through the glimmering puddles
    with nonchalant feet.

    They will slap against the windows of offices
    where men in black suits
    shaped like pears
    rub their abdomens
    against frazzled edges of ledgers.

    They will drizzle
    over new-plowed fields
    wet the red cheeks of men harrowing
    and a smell of garlic and clay
    will steam from the new-sowed land
    and sharp-eared young herdsmen will feel
    in the windy rain
    lisp of tremulous love-makings
    interlaced soundless kisses
    impact of dead springs
    nuzzling tremulous at life
    in the red sundown.

    Shining spring rain
    O scud steaming up out of the deep sea
    full of portents of sundown and islands,
    beat upon my forehead
    beat upon my face and neck
    glisten on my outstretched hands,
    run bright lilac streams
    through the clogged channels of my brain
    corrode the clicking cogs the little angles
    the small mistrustful mirrors
    scatter the shrill tiny creaking
    of mustnot darenot cannot
    spatter the varnish off me
    that I may stand up
    my face to the wet wind
    and feel my body
    and drenched salty palpitant April
    reborn in my flesh.

    I would spit the dust out of my mouth
    burst out of these stiff wire webs
    supple incautious
    like the crocuses that spurt up too soon
    their saffron flames
    and die gloriously in late blizzards
    and leave no seed.

                                _Off Pico_


    Out of the unquiet town
    seep jagged barkings
    lean broken cries
    unimaginable silent writhing
    of muscles taut against strangling
    heavy fetters of darkness.

    On the pool of moonlight
    clots and festers
    a great scum
    of worn-out sound.

        (Elagabalus, Alexander
        looked too long at the full moon;
        hot blood drowned them
        cold rivers drowned them.)

    Float like pondflowers
    on the dead face of darkness
    cold stubs of lusts
    names that glimmer ghostly
    adrift on the slow tide
    of old moons waned.

        (Lais of Corinth that Holbein drew
        drank the moon in a cup of wine;
        with the flame of all her lovers' pain
        she seared a sign on the tombs of the years.)

    Out of the voiceless wrestle of the night
    flesh rasping harsh on flesh
    a tune on a shrill pipe shimmers
    up like a rocket blurred in the fog
    of lives curdled in the moon's glare,
    staggering up like a rocket
    into the steely star-sharpened night
    above the stagnant moon-marshes
    the song throbs soaring and dies.

        (Semiramis, Zenobia
        lay too long in the moon's glare;
        their yearning grew sere and they died
        and the flesh of their empires died.)

    On the pool of moonlight
    clots and festers
    a great scum
    of worn-out lives.

    No sound but the panting unsatiated
    breath that heaves under the huge pall
    the livid moon has spread above the housetops.
    I rest my chin on the window-ledge and wait.
    There are hands about my throat.

        Ah Bilkis, Bilkis
        where the jangle of your camel bells?
        Bilkis when out of Saba
        lope of your sharp-smelling dromedaries
        will bring the unnameable strong wine
        you press from the dazzle of the zenith
        over the shining sand of your desert
        the wine you press there in Saba?
        Bilkis your voice loud above the camel bells
        white sword of dawn to split the fog,
        Bilkis your small strong hands to tear
        the hands from about my throat.
        Ah Bilkis when out of Saba?

                                _Pera Palace_

           *       *       *       *       *

Transcribers' note:

The original spelling has been retained.

Text in italics is enclosed by underscores (_italics_).

One typographical error was corrected:
   Jasdin-->Jardin du Luxembourg.

*** End of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "A Pushcart at the Curb" ***

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