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Title: I, Mary MacLane - A Diary of Human Days
Author: MacLane, Mary
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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  [Photograph: Author’s portrait]
  [Signature: Mary MacLane]




  [Illustration: Publisher’s logo]


  _Copyright, 1917, by_

_All rights reserved, including that of translation into
foreign languages._

_To M-- T--_

  _these Live Fruits
  from the Withered Garden_


_A crucible of my own making_


It is the edge of a somber July night in this Butte-Montana.

The sky is overcast. The nearer mountains are gray-melancholy.

And at this point I meet Me face to face.

I am Mary MacLane: of no importance to the wide bright world and
dearly and damnably important to Me.

Face to face I look at Me with some hatred, with despair and with
great intentness.

I put Me in a crucible of my own making and set it in the flaming
trivial Inferno of my mind. And I assay thus:

I am rare--I am in some ways exquisite.

I am pagan within and without.

I am vain and shallow and false.

I am a specialized being, deeply myself.

I am of woman-sex and most things that go with that, with some other

I am dynamic but devasted, laid waste in spirit.

I’m like a leopard and I’m like a poet and I’m like a religieuse and
I’m like an outlaw.

I have a potent weird sense of humor--a saving and a demoralizing

I have brain, cerebration--not powerful but fine and of a remarkable

I am scornful-tempered and I am brave.

I am slender in body and someway fragile and firm-fleshed and sweet.

I am oddly a fool and a strange complex liar and a spiritual vagabond.

I am strong, individual in my falseness: wavering, faint, fanciful in
my truth.

I am eternally self-conscious but sincere in it.

I am ultra-modern, very old-fashioned: savagely incongruous.

I am young, but not very young.

I am wistful--I am infamous.

In brief, I am a human being.

I am presciently and analytically egotistic, with some arresting
dead-feeling genius.

And were I not so tensely tiredly sane I would say that I am mad.

So assayed I begin to write this book of myself, to show to myself in
detail the woman who is inside me. It may or it mayn’t show also a
type, a universal Eve-old woman. If it is so it is not my purport. I
sing only the Ego and the individual.

So does in secret each man and woman and child who breathes, but is
afraid to sing it aloud. And mostly none knows it is that he does
sing. But it is the only strength of each. A bishop serving truly
and tirelessly the poor of his diocese serves a strong vanity and
ideal of the Ego in himself. A starving sculptor who lives in and for
his own dreams is an Egotist equally with the bishop. And both are
Egotists equally with me.

Egotist, not egoist, is my word: it and not the idealized one is the
‘winged word.’

It is made of glow and gleam and splendor, that Ego. I would be its

So I write me this book of Me--my Soul, my Heart, my sentient Body,
my magic Mind: their potentialities and contradictions.

--there is a Self in each human one which lives and has its sweet
vain someway-frightful being not in depths and not in surfaces but
Just Beneath The Skin. It is the Self one keeps for oneself alone.
It is the Essence of soul and bones. It is the slyest subtlest thing
in human scope. It is the loneliest: tragically lonely. It is long,
long isolation--beautiful, terrifying, barbarous, shameful, trivial
to points of madness, ever-present, infinitely intriguing to oneself,
passionately hidden: hidden forever and forever--

It is my aim to write out that in the pages of this Me-book: no
depths save as they come up and touch that, no surfaces save as they
sink skin-deep. Only the flat unglowing bloody Self Just Beneath My

I shall fail in it, partly because my writing skill is unequal to
some nicenesses in the task, but mostly because I am not very honest
even with myself.

I’ll come someway near it.

_Half inevitably, half by choice_


Half inevitably, half by choice, I write this book now.

I am at a lowering impatient shoulder-shrugging life-point where I
must express myself or lose myself or break.

And I am quite alone as I live my life.

And I am unhappy--a scornful unhappiness not of bitter positive grief
which admits of engulfing luxuries of sorrow, but of muffled unrests
and tortures of knowing I fit in nowhere, that I drift--drift--and it
brings an unbearable dread, always more and more dread, into days and
into wakeful nights.

And writing it turns the brunt of it a little away from me.

And to write is the thing I most love to do.

And I myself am the most immediate potent topic I can find in my
knowledge to write on: the biggest, the littlest, the broadest, the
narrowest, the loveliest, the hatefulest, the most colorful, the most
drab, the most mystic, the most obvious, and the one that takes me
farthest as a writer and as a person.

I write myself when I write the thoughts smouldering in me whether
they be of Death, of Roses, of Christ’s Mother, of Ten-penny Nails.

One’s thoughts are one’s most crucial adventures. Seriously and
strongly and intently to contemplate doing murder is everyway more
exciting, more romantic, more profoundly tragic than the murder done.

I unfold myself in accursed and precious written thoughts. I cast the
reflections of my inner selves on the paper from the insolent mirror
of my Mind.

--my Mind--it is so free--

My Soul is not free: God hung a string of curses, like a little
manacling chain, round its neck long and long ago. Always I feel it.
My Heart is not free for it is dead: in a listless way and a trivial
way, dead. And my Body--it is free but has a seeming of something
wasted and useless like a dinner spread out on a table uneaten and
growing cold.

--but my free Mind--

Though I were shut fast in a prison: though I were strapped in an
electric chair: though I were gnawed and decayed by leprosy: I
still could _think_, with thoughts free as gold-drenched outer air,
thoughts delicate-luminous as young dawn, thoughts facile, seductive,
speculative, artful, evil, sly, sublime.

You might cut off my two hands: but you could not keep me from
remembering the Sad Gray Loveliness of the Sea when the Rain beats,
beats, beats upon it.

You might admonish me by driving a red-hot spike between my two white
shoulders: but you could not by that influence my Thoughts--you could
not so much as change their current.

I am intently aware of my Mind from moment to moment--all the passing
life-moments. The awareness is a troubled power, a heavy burden and a
wild enchantment.--

Also what I feel I write.

I am my own law, my own oracle, my own one intimate friend, my own
guide though I guide me to dead-walls, my own mentor, my own foe, my
own lover.

I am in age one-and-thirty, a smouldering-flamed period which
feels the wings of the Youth-bird beating strong and violent for
flight--half-ready to fly away.

I am not a charming person. Quite seventy singly-used adjectives
would better fit me.

But I have some charm of youth, and a charm of sex, and a charm of
intellect and intuition, and some charms of personality.

I have a perfervid appreciation of those things in other persons. And
my steel has sometime struck fire from their flint.

But always my steel has turned back drearily yet strongly to itself.

_A twisted moral_


If I should meet God to know and speak to the first thing but one I
should ask him would be, ‘What was your idea, God, in making me?’

I can believe he had some Purpose in it.

I’m in most ways a devilish person. There’s sevenfold more evil
than good in me. It is evil of a mixed and menacing kind, the kind
that goes dressed in brave and beauty-tinted clothes and is sane
and sound. While the good in me is ill and forlorn and nervously
afraid--a something of tear-blurred eyes and trembling fingers.

Yet God has made many things less plausible than me. He has made
sharks in the ocean, and people who hire children to work in their
mills and mines, and poison ivy and zebras--

--and he has made besides a Wonder of things: Thin Pink Mountain
Dawns, Young English Poets, Hydrangeas in the sudden Blue of their
first Bloom, human Singing Voices,--more things, always more--

When I think of them all a joyous thrill breaks over me like a little
frenzied wave. It is delirium-of-bliss to feel oneself living though
shadows be pitch-black.

God has a Purpose in making everything, I think.

I am half-curious about the Purpose that goes with me. He might have
made me for his own amusement. He might have made me to discipline
my Soul with some blights and goads or to punish it for bacchanalian
ease and pleasure in the long-distant centuries-old past. He might
have made me to season or scourge other lives, as I may touch them,
with Mary-Mac-Lane-ness. He might have made me to point a twisted

I muse about it with doubts.

But if I knew my Purpose I belike would not swerve a hair’s-breadth
from my own course which is an unhallowedly selfish one.

If I could myself see a way of truth I would walk in it. I have it in
me to worship. I long to worship. And I am game, wearily and coldly
game: when I start I go on through to the end.

But I see no way of truth--none for me. And God is eternally absent
and reticent. So I go on in the way where I find myself. And muse
about it. And damn it faintly as I make nothing of it.

_Everyday and to-morrow_


Aloofly I live in this Butte in the outward rôle of a family daughter
with no responsibilities.

This Butte is an incongruous living-place for me.

And I have not one human friend in it--no kindliness. And Nature in
her perplexingest mood would not of herself have cast me as a family
daughter. Three things have kept me thus for four years past: that
nothing has called me out of it: a slight family pressure like a tiny
needle-point which pierces only if one moves: and to stay thus is
presently the line of least resistance.

Unless impelled to violent action by a violent reason--like love
or hatred or jealousy or a baby or humiliated pride or rowelling
ambition--a woman follows the physical line of least resistance. I
have followed it these years with outward acquiescence and inward
rages--languid rages which lay me waste.

The years and acquiescences and rages have built up a mood which
compasses me, drives me, damns me and lifts me up.

It is a forceful mood, though I am not myself forceful.

This mood is this book.--

I live an immoral life. It is immoral because it is deadly futile.
All my Tissues of body, soul, mind and heart are wasting, decaying,
wearing down, minute by minute, hour by hour, day by day: with no
return to me or to my life, nor to anything human or divine.

It makes me dread my life and myself.

I do not quite know why.

But to be an ardent pickpocket or an eager harlot would feel honester.

My Everyday goes like this: I waken in the morning and lie listless
some minutes with drooping eyelids. I look at a gilt-and-blue bar
of morning light which slants palely in at one window and at a
melting-gold triangle of sun which shows at the other window on the
red brick wall of the house next to this. Then I say ‘another day,’
and I kick off bed-covers with one foot and slide out of my narrow
bed, and into blue slippers, and out of a thin nightgown, and into
peignoir or bathrobe. I twist and flatten and gather up my tangled
hair and push some amber pins through it. And I go into a respectable
green-and-gray bathroom and draw a bath and get into it. I splash in
brief swift soapsuds, and go under a sudden heroic icy cold shower,
and dry me with a scourging towel. Then I go back into the blue-white
bed-room and get into clothes, feminine thin under-garments and a
nunlike frock.

I look in my mirror. Some days I’m a delicately beautiful girl.
Other days I’m a very plain woman.

One’s physical attractiveness is a matter of one’s mental chemistry.

I say to Me in the mirror, ‘It’s you-and-me, Mary MacLane, and
another wasting damning To-morrow.

  “To-morrow and to-morrow and to-morrow
   Creeps in this petty pace from day to day.”’

A haunting decadence is in that To-morrow thought. And always the
To-morrow thought comes out of my morning mirror. I dwell on it
awhile, till my gray eyes and my lips and my teeth and my forehead
are tired of it, and make nothing new of it.

I jerk the flat scollop of hair at one side of my forehead and
turn away. I open door and windows wider for the blowing-through
of breezes. And I wander down-stairs. It is half-after nine or
half-after ten. I go into the clean empty clock-ticking kitchen
and cook my breakfast. It is a task full of hungry plaisance and
pleasantness. I make a British-feeling breakfast of tea and marmalade
and little squares of toast and pink-and-tan rashers of bacon and two
delightful eggs. Up to the moment of broaching the eggs the morning
has an ancient sameness with other mornings. But eggs, though I’ve
eaten them every day for quite five-and-twenty years, are always a
fascinating novelty.

They are delicious in my breakfast. So are the squares of toast and
the bacon-rashers and the tea and marmalade. When I’ve done with them
I lay down my napkin by my cup, light a cigarette, breathe a puff
or two from it and feel contentedly aware that my brain has gone to
rest in sweet tranquillity with my breakfast. When my brain is in my
head it analyzes the soul out of my body, the gleam out of my gray
eyes, the savor out of my life, the human taste off my tongue. That
post-breakfast moment is the only peace-moment I know in my day and
in my life.

Having puffed away the cigarette and read bits of a morning paper
I then prove me arrantly middle-class by contemplating washing my
breakfast dishes.

I am middle-class, quite, from the Soul outward. But it is not
specially apparent--one’s tastes and aspirations flit garbledly far
and wide. But a tendency to wash one’s dishes after eating one’s
breakfast feels conclusively and pleasantly middle-class. Not that I
do always wash them, but always I think of it with the inclination to
do it.

I sit on the shaded front veranda in the summer noon-day and look
away south at the blue Highlands, ever snow-peaked: or east at the
near towering splendid grim wall of the arid Rockies which separates
this Butte from New York, from London,--the Spain-castles--the
Pyramids--the Isle of Lesbos: or south-west beyond house-tops at some
foothills above which hangs a fairy veil made by melting together a
Lump of Gold and an Apricot and spreading it thin.

Then restlessly I go into the house and up to my room. I put it in
order--in prim, prim immaculate order. One marked phase of mine
is of some wanton creature--a mænad, a mental Amazon, a she-imp.
But playing opposite to that is another--that of a New-England
spinster steel-riveted to certain neat ferociously-orderly habits.
A stray thread on my blue rug hurts, _hurts_ me until I pick it
up. Dust around my room gives me a nervous pain, a piteous gnawing
grief-of-the-senses, until I’ve removed it. And my chastened-looking
bed--after I’ve turned over its tufted mattress and ‘made’ it, smooth
and white and crisp and soft--how the fibers of me would writhe
should anyone sit on it. But no one sits on it. And I myself sooner
than press one finger-tip down into its perfectness would sell my
body to a Balkan soldier for four dimes: it is that way I feel about
it. My bed _must_ be kept perfect till the moment I slip into it at
night to float under the dream-worlds.

Then maybe I pull a soft black hat down over my hair and draw on
gloves and go out into the gray-paved streets for a longish walk.
Or maybe the day is humidly hot. Then I don’t go but stay in the
blue-white room and mend a bit of torn lingerie or a handkerchief
or a silk stocking or a petticoat. Or I take books and dig out some
Greek--Homer or a Sapphic fragment--very laboriously but marvelling
that I can do it at all: the first things one forgets being the
last things one learned at school. Or I read an English or a French
philosopher, or a translated Tolstoi, or a bit of Balzac novel, or
some bits of Dickens-books with which latter I am long familiar and
long enamored for the restful falseness of their sentiment and the
pungent appetizing charm of their villains.

And betweenwhiles I think and think.

Then it’s dinnertime and I perhaps change into the other nunlike
dress, and nibble some dinner with no appetite, and talk with the
assembled small family in a vein and tone of life-long insincerity.
When in family-circle-ness I’ve had to hide my true self as if behind
a hundred black veils since the age of two years. It would be a
poignant effort now to show any of it at the family dinners, which
is the only meeting-time. The one easy way is to be comprehensively
insincere at the dinners where with no appetite I nibble. None
there wants my sincerity, and so in my Soul’s accounting now it is
eternally and determinedly No Matter. It is a little bell which
stopped ringing long and long ago. If it rang now it would ring only
No-Matter, No-Matter.

Then it’s night and I go to take the walk I didn’t take in the
afternoon. I walk down long lonely streets. Long lonely thoughts
pile into me and through me and wrap me in a nebula that I can feel
around me like a mantle. I walk two or three miles of paved streets
till I’m very tired. I am lithe but fragile from constant involuntary
self-analysis. One may analyze one’s life-experience and life-emotion
till physical tissues at times grow frail, gossamer-thin. It is then
as if--at a word, a whispered thought, a beat of the heart--one’s
Soul might flutter through the Veil, join light hands with the
death-angel and flee away.

--but I love my life even while I analyze it bit by bit and so hate
it. I love it in its grating monotones and its moments of glow and
its days of shadow and storm and bitterish lowering passion--

I walk back beneath a night sky of dusky velvet-blue decked with
jewels of moon and star and flying bright-edged cloud. The night has
a subdued preciousness, like an illicitly pregnant woman’s. It is big
with the bastard-exquisite To-morrow. The night air kisses my lips
and throat. I pull off my gloves to feel it on my hands. It gives me
a charmed and unexciting feeling of being caressed without being

I come back to my blue-white room, take off my hat, ruffle my fingers
through my hair, look at Me in the mirror and smile the melancholy
wicked smile which I keep for Me-alone. It’s an intimate moment of
greeting--a recognition of my Familiar on coming back to her. Often
when I walk I go without Me, and wander far from Me, and forget Me.

Then I sit at my flat black desk and write desultorily for two or
three or four hours. Sometimes a letter, sometimes some verses or a
hectic fancy in staid prose. But now mostly this.

Then I go downstairs to a refrigerator or a cellar-way to find
food--a slice off an affable cold joint, some chaste-looking slices
of bread, a slim innocent onion. And I eat them, not relishingly but
voraciously, reminding myself of a lean foraging furtive coyote. It
is two or three or four in the morning. I smoke a quiet cigarette in
a cool night doorway and count the nervous gray-velvet moths outside
the screen.

And all the while I think and think.

Then I come up to my room and sit on the floor by my low bookcase and
read some last-century English poets--the Brownings and Shelley and
the unspeakable John Keats. The Poets make me a space of incalescent
magic and loveliness. They are the beings blest of a flaming Heaven.
In the midst of soddenest earthiness their fiery wings ‘pierce the

Then I’m thrilledly tired. I close the books and make ready for
my bed in a lyric-feeling languor. A soft soothing unsnapping of
whalebone stays: a muffled rhythmic undoing of metal-and-silk-rubber
garters: a pushing down and sliding out of daytime clothes
and into a thin pale cool silk nightgown: a hurried brushing
of hair: an anointing of hands and throat with faint-scented
cream: a goodnight to Me in the mirror: a last wave of a fateful
thing--my life-essence--casual and determined and contemptuous and
menacing--sweeping down over me in an invisible shower: and I’m
betwixt smooth linen sheets.

In twenty seconds blest, blest sleep.

Of such wide littleness is my day made. One day will differ from
another in this or that volcanic molehill. And some days I not only
wash a great many dishes but do a deal of housework neatly and
self-satisfactorily and like a devilish scullery maid.

And some days as I move in the petty pace thoughts and feelings sweet
or barbarous come and change my world’s face in a moment.

Also a casual human being of rabbitish brain and chipmunkish
sensibility may stray across my path and gently bore me and
accentuate my own paganness.

But always the same days in restless dubious To-morrowness.

Always immorally futile.

And eerily alone.

_A mathematic dead-wall_


I’m put to it to decide whether God loves me or hates me when he sets
me down alone.

There are times when my Loneliness is a charmed and scintillant and
resourceful Loneliness with a strange and ecstatic gleam in it. The
miracle of being a person rushes upon and about and into me ‘with
lightning and with music.’

One loses that in a day of many friendships.

But oftener are times when the tired, tired heart and the weary,
weary brain beat-beat, beat-beat to anguished torturing self-rhythms.
The spirit of me closes its eyes in turbulent dusks of wondering
and wishing and leans its forehead against a mathematic dead-wall.
And it prays--blind useless unhumble prayers which leave it dry and
destitute, arid, unspeakably lacking. But when it lifts its head
and opens its eyes there are the melting mauves and maroons of a
dead sun across the evening sky, and the small far wistful flames of
always-hopeful stars.

--they make it matter less whether God loves or hates me, but I still
wish I knew.

_My neat blue chair_


I suppose there’s nothing quite peculiar to even my inmost self in
what I ponder and what I experience and what I feel.

My only elemental ‘differentness’ is that I find it and write it.

But I used to think at eighteen--those thrice-fired adolescent
moments--that only I suffered, only I reached achingly out into the
mists, only I tasted new-bloomed life-petals intolerably sweet and
bitter on my lips.

The egotism of youth is merciless, measureless, endlessly vulnerable.
Youth plays on itself as one plays on a little dulcimer, with music
as sweet, but with a crude cruel recklessness which jerks and breaks
the strings.

I have got by that stage of egotism. But I’ve entered on another
wilder, more lawless--farther-seeing if less be-visioned.

While I sit here this midnight in a Neat Blue Chair in this
Butte-Montana for what I know a legion-women of my psychic breed
may be sitting lonely in neat red or neat blue or neat gray or neat
any-colored chairs--in Wichita-Kansas and South Bend-Indiana and
Red Wing-Minnesota and Portland-Maine and Rochester-New York and
Waco-Texas and La Crosse-Wisconsin and Bowling Green-Kentucky:
each feeling Herself set in a wrong niche, caught in a tangle of
little vapidish cross-purpose: each waiting, waiting always--waiting
all her life--not hopeful and passionate like Eighteen but patient
or blasphemous or scornful or volcanic like Early-Thirty: the
waiting-sense giving to each a personal quality big and suggestive
and nurturing--and with it a long-accustomed feeling like a thin
bright blade stuck deep in her breast: each more or less roundly
hating Waco-Texas and Portland-Maine and Red Wing-Minnesota and the
other places: and each beset by hot unquiet humannesses inside her
and an old yearn of sex and the blood warring with myriad minute
tenets dating from civilization’s dawn-times.

But though I am of that psychic breed no little tenets war in me.

It’s as if a prelate and a wood-nymph had fathered and mothered
me: making me of a ridiculous poignant conscience and of no human

I am free of innate conventionalities, free as a wildcat on a
twilight hill. I am free of them as I sit here, quiet-looking in my
plain black dress. The virile Scotch-Canadian curl is brushed and
brushed out of my hair to make it lie smooth and discreet over my
ears and forehead. My feet are shod daintily like a charming girl’s.
My nails are pinkly polishedly pointed. My narrow black eyebrows
look nearly patrician in their sereneness. My lips are stilly sad.
My eyelids droop like the sucking dove’s. But my gray eyes beneath
the lids--when I raise them to the glass, my own Essence looks out
of them, tiredly vivid. It seems made of languor and barbaricness
and despair: and vague guiltiness, and some pure disastrous heathen
religion, and lust: and lurid consciousness of everyday things and
smouldering melancholy and blazing loving hatred of life.

My gray eyes out-look the wildcat’s on a twilight hill.

But--so far as the Sitting goes--I sit here in my Neat Blue Chair
the same as they all sit in any-colored chairs in their Wichitas and
La Crosses.

_A lost person_


I am wandering about, a Lost Person, wandering and lost.

Not magnificently lost in wide Gothic forest closes, with strong
great blackish green trunks and branches all around overwhelming and
thrilling me.

Not dramatically lost on desert reefs with breakers riding up like
menacing hosts and joyously drowning me.

But lost surprisingly in a small clump of shoulder-high hazel-brush.
In it are some wood-ticks, and a few caterpillars, and a few wan
spiders which spin little desultory webs from twig to twig and then
abandon them for other twigs. Underfoot are unexpected wet places at
intervals that my high hard heels sink into exasperatingly.

I walk round and round and across in the hazel-brush groping and
knowing I’m lost in it but knowing little else of it: knowing no way
out of it.

The bushes bear green leaves--rather small ones and warped because
the clump is in a half-shaded place back of a hill. And they bear
hazel-nuts, but not very good ones--mostly shell.

_A thin damnedness_


I own Two plain black Dresses and none besides.

And I need no more.

In which two sentences I touch the crux and the keynote and the thin
damnedness of my life as it is set: of my life, not of myself, for
myself lives naked inside the circle of my life.

But my outer life is spaced by my Two plain Dresses. My Two Dresses
measure how far removed I presently am from the wide world of things.

In the world of things a woman is judged not specifically by her
morals: not invariably by her reputation: not absolutely by her
money: not indubitably by her social prestige: only relatively by her
beauty: and as to her brain or lack of it--la-la-la! She is judged in
the matter-world simply, completely, entirely by her clothes. It is
tacitly so agreed and decreed all over the earth--wherever women are
of the female sex and men pursue them.

It is no injustice to any woman. It is the fairest fiat in the
unwritten code.

Only a few women, the few specialized breeds, can express the fire
or the humanness in them by play-acting or suffragetting or singing
or painting or writing or trained-nursing or house-keeping. But
there’s not one--from a wandering Romany gypsy, red-blooded and
strong-hearted, to an over-guarded overbred British princess--who
doesn’t express what she is in the clothes she wears and the way she
wears them.

Her clothes conceal and reveal, artfully and contradictorily and

It is all a limitless field.

No actor could act Hamlet without that perfect Hamletesque black

A nun’s staid beautiful habit interprets her own meanings within and

A woman naked may look markedly pure: the same woman clothed
conventionally and demurely may achieve a meanly ghoulishly foul

One either is made or marred by one’s habiliments.

A woman by her raiment’s make and manner can express more of her wit,
her ego, her temper, her humor, her plastic pulsating personality
than she could by throwing a bomb, by making a good or bad pudding,
by losing her chastity or by traducing her neighbor. The germ and
shadow and likelihood of each of those acts is in the fashion and
line and detail of her garments.

A jury thinks it tries a woman for a crime. Some of the twelve good
and true may admit each to himself that they are trying the color of
her eyes or the shape of her chin or the droop of her shoulders. But
it’s only her clothes they unwittingly try for murder or theft or
forgery, or whatever has tripped her. It may be an alluringly shabby
little dress that saves her from the gallows. It may be a hat worn at
the wrong angle that is found guilty and sentenced to death. A glove
in her lap, a fluttering veil, a little white handkerchief dropped to
the floor by her chair--those are what the court tries for life or

But it is I I tell about, I and my Two plain Dresses.

In me a smart frock or an unbecoming one makes a surprising
difference. I impress my costume with my mixed temperament and it
retaliates in kind.

One day I looked a beautiful young creature--one August Saturday in
New York it was--in a tailored gown of embroidered linen. With it I
wore such a good hat: its color was pale olive: its texture was soft
Milan straw: its price was forty dollars. My shoes were gray silk. I
so fancied myself that day that I feared lest my writing talent had
gone away from me. For God takes away the beer if he gives you the
skittles. And in ill-conditioned clothes--some days the weather, the
devil, the soddenness of life get into one’s garments and make even
fair ones look ill-conditioned--I am plain-faced, plain all over--so
plain that the villainies of my nature feel doubtful and I half-think
I may be a good woman.

In a life full of people I would own varied delicate beautiful
clothes since it is by them one is judged, and since I am quite
vain. But no people are in my life. I feel deadlocked. I am caught in
a vise made by my own analytic ratiocination. I am not free to live a
world-life till I’ve someway expressed Me and learned if not whither
I go at least where I stand.

So it’s Two plain Dresses I own and none besides.

It may be I shall not ever again need more.

The Two Dresses are at present of serge and voile. Their identity
changes with change of fashion and with wearing out. They are cut
well and fit me well. But the Two does not change, nor the plainness.
I change only from one Frock to the other and from the other to the
one again.

I have various other clothes. A woman--whatever her traits and
tempers--garners what she can of handmade under-linens and dainty
nightgowns and silk hose and all such private panoply. They are the
apparel of her sex rather than her individuality. The uncognizant
world is unable to judge her by them. But the woman herself judges
and respects herself by the goodness of her intimate garments.

My sex is to me a mystic gift. I marvel over it and clothe it

Also I own a healthful-looking percale house-gown or two in which I
do housework.

But my passing life, my eerie lonely life, is lived in my Two Dresses
and none besides, and I need no more.

_A prison of self_


My Two Dresses tell me the scope of my present Mary-Mac-Lane-ness.

Every day they tell me things about myself.

They tell me I’m living in a prison of self, invisible and ascetic
and somberly just.

They tell me I’m living an outer life narrow and broodingly
companionless and that if I were not self-reliant by long habit a
leprous morbidness would rot me in body and spirit.

They tell me because of outer solitude an inner fever of emotion and
egotism and a fervid analytic light are on all my phases of self:
mental, physical, psychical and sexual.

They tell me my way of thought is at once meditative and

They tell me I’m all ways the Unmarried Woman and profoundly

They tell me I’m like a child and like a sequestered savage.

They tell me I am having no restful unrealities of social life with
chattering women and no monotonous casually bloodthirsty flirtations
with men.

They tell me I walk daily to the edges of myself and stare into
horrible-sweet egotistic abysses.

They tell me I’m grave-eyed and coldly melancholy.

They tell me there’s a bereftness in the curves of my breasts and an
unfulfillment in my loose-girt loins.

They tell me I am barren of sensation and fertile in feeling.

They tell me God has taken away the beer and also the skittles and
left me only pieces of bread and drinks of water.

_A winding sheet_


The least important thing in my life is its tangibleness.

The only things that matter lastingly are the things that happen
inside me.

If I do a cruel act and feel no cruelty in my Soul it is nothing. If
I feel cruelty in my Soul though I do no cruel act I’m guilty of a
sort of butchery and my spirit-hands are bloody with it.

The adventures of my spirit are realer than the outer things that
befall me.

To dwell on the self that is known only to me--the self that is
intricate and versatile, tinted, demi-tinted, deep-dyed, luminous,
gives me an intimate delectation, a mental inflorescence and
sometimes an exaltation. It is not always so but it can be so. But
always to look back on the mass of outer events that have made my
tangible life darkens my day.

Introspection throws a witching spell around me, though it may be a
black one.

But retrospection wraps me in a Winding Sheet.

When the day is already dark from low-hanging clouds--and often when
the sun is bright, bright, bright--I walk my floor and think of my
scattered life-flotsam with a frown at the eyebrows: a coarse and
heavy and twisted frown.

To-day was a leaden day. The air held a quality like the infernal
breath of dead people. I leaned elbows on my dull window-sill and
looked off at green and purple mountains. I tried to think of some
reason--some reason tangible or poetic--for living.

I wore my brocade Chinese coat fastened down the left side with
round flashing glass buttons and embroidered with blue bats and
gardenias: and with it a crinkly crêpe-silk petticoat: and silk
shoes and respectable white silk stockings. I felt righteous because
in the forenoon I had done much housework. I worked thoroughly and
well, swearing and repeating poetry softly to lend me impetus. And
afterward I felt useful and good.

But having changed from Dutch cap and apron and domesticness to
scented silk and my sad window I grew suddenly frail and vulnerable.
Shadows stormed my wall and scaled it and entered in and sacked my
castle. I lounged away from my window, folded my arms in my loose
blue sleeves and slowly walked my floor. I had no strength within to
combat shadows.

I picked up two alien shreds, of lint and paper respectively, from
the rug, but inside me undigested and indigestible memories had their
own way.

They brought close an unsatisfying and dissatisfying vista of Mary

There was a stubborn baby in Winnipeg-Canada, as I’ve heard, a baby
with a white skin, coldly pensive dark-blue eyes, no hair, no voice,
hand-worked muslin frocks and a fat lumpish mien.

It was this Mary MacLane.

There was a three-year-old child, as I dimly remember, still in
Canada and still stubborn, with a stout keg-like pink-and-white body,
baffling blue eyes, a tiny voice, thick sun-colored curls, cambric
frocks and short white socks and a morose temper. She had one love,
a yellow tortoise-shell kitten which she hugged and hugged with
violence until one day it died surprisingly in her arms.

It was this Mary MacLane.

There was a seven-year-old child in Minnesota, as I well remember,
still stubborn and still often morose, with a thin bony little body,
conscious gray eyes, a tanned face, weather-beaten hands, untidy
frocks, beautiful fluffy golden hair, a tendency to secretiveness and
lies, a speculative mind, fantastic day-dreams and a free hoydenish
way of life. She had playmates but no loves except an objective love
for quiet greenwoods and sweet meadows and windy hills and hay-filled
barns, and for the surface details of life. She had subjective
hatreds for being fussed over, for being teased and for relatives.

It was this Mary MacLane.

There was a thirteen-year-old person, as I well remember, in a
windy Montana town, who was neither girl, child nor savage but
was a mixture of the three. She had a devilish contrary will and
temper, the unenlightened inexpressive wholly unattractive face and
features of early adolescence, a self-love that had not the dignity
of egotism and a devouring appetite for reading. She read everything
she happened on--from Voltaire to Nick Carter: from ‘Lady Audley’s
Secret’ to Fox’s Book of Martyrs. She read Alexander Pope and Victor
Hugo and John Stuart Mill. She read ‘Lena Rivers’ by Mary J. Holmes:
also Confucius: and the Brothers Grimm. She had a long-legged lanky
frame, conscious gray eyes, lovely coppery-gold dark hair and a silly
headful of tangled irrational thoughts. She had pathetic impossible
day-dreams. She had few companions and no loves but much hatred for
most things sane, sensible and honest.

It was this Mary MacLane.

There was an eighteen-year-old girl in this Butte, as I well
remember, with the outward savagery tamed out of her by studiousness.
She was slim but no longer lanky and owned a white-hot aliveness
and a grace. She had repelling gray eyes and the beautiful coppery
hair, and about her an isolation, a complete aloofness. Her spirit
fed itself on wonderful and exquisite dreams alternated by moods
of young passionate woe, analyzed and torn to shreds: all of it hid
beneath a very quiet surface. She had outwardly a tense markedly
virginal quality but was inwardly insolently demi-vierge. She had no
companions, no friendships. She absorbed herself in digging knowledge
out of her high school text-books, studying and imagining over it,
and wandering in the fascinating highways which it opened to her. She
was at her moment of brain-awakening, soul-awakening, sex-awakening,
life-awakening, world-awakening: it uncurtained windows of magic
old sorrow for her to look from. She had no characteristic
weaknesses--she was strongly and scornfully courageous. It and the
need of self-expression, born of her teeming spirit and life-long
suppression of it, led her to write herself out in a book, which was
published. It was a poetic book and had insight and vision and a riot
of color with youth as its keynote. And it was human and figuratively
and literally full of the devil. The far-and-wide public in England
and America read it, and the newspapers made a loud noise about it
and the lonely girl who wrote it found herself oddly notorious. It
brought money which made her free of Butte and it brought human
things into her life which changed her life forever. And it brought
her no inner or outer excitement or elation.

It was this Mary MacLane.

There was a girl of six-and-twenty in Boston and in New York who had
half-forgot her long-familiar Ego for several years. She lived and
moved in folly and triviality and falseness. From having had too
few companions she had too many who did her no good and no harm but
helped her waste passing days and dissipate her moods and mental
tissues. She had grown worldly in taste, weak in manner of thought,
fragile in body from a mad irregularity of food and sleep, and in
every attribute uncertain of herself. Her Soul lay sleeping: her
Heart because it felt too keenly worked overtime: nothing engaged her
Mind. But her analytic trend stayed by and with it she pulled to bits
the varied fragmentary things she encountered. She learned New York
town in human sordid enlightening disciplining ways. She learned
people of many kinds in many ways. She learned other young women,
which depressed and exhilarated and perplexed her. She learned men--a
race whose make and motive toward women bears no analysis. She had
not the usual defensive armor of the normal woman, for she was not a
normal woman but certain trends of varying individuals gathered into
one sensitive woman-envelope. She was careless toward men in their
crude sex-rapacity in ways no ‘regular’ woman would dare or care to
be. No man could wring one tear from her, nor cause a quickening of
her foolish Heart, nor any emotion in her save mirth. And there were
women friends-- There were some friendships whose ill effects she
will never recover from, from having bestowed too much of herself on
them in the headlong newness of knowing and owning friendship after
her long young loneliness.

--she could not cherish anything sanely. She couldn’t stand in her
doorway and watch a pretty bird flying above a green hedge, and
admire it for the gleam of its brilliant wings in the sun, and let
it go. She must needs run out--leaving her door standing open and
tea-and-cakes untasted within--and follow where the bird flew,
through mire and brier, round the world--

From the odd notoriety were many letters and experiences and
adventures. She met some famous persons--writers, actors, artists--of
agreeable philosophic plaisances. She saw her book of youth
burlesqued with artistic piquance in the Weber-and-Fields show of
its season (with one Collier, adroitest of comedians, cast as her
long-lost Devil). There was a hasty voyage to the edge of Europe--a
voyage of terrific seasickness lying in her stateroom: a half-glimpse
of Paris all gray and green in the rain: a whole glimpse of London,
mystic, Dickensesque and roundly British in its yellow-brown fog: and
back again within ten days with more berth-ridden seasickness lasting
from Cherbourg to New York harbor: the whole adventure grown from a
Spring morning impulse. There were winters in Florida at sun-flooded
resort towns full of gaudiness and gambling and surprising
winter-resort people. Those were mongrel wastrel years empty of
every realness, every purpose, every vantage: they filled her with a
bastard wisdom.

It was this Mary MacLane.

There was a girl of seven-and-twenty worn to psychic fragments and
returned on a winter’s day in a mood of indifference to this Butte.
It was her first return since she and her book had gone forth eight
years before. She celebrated it by being brought low with a baleful
blood-sucking demon of illness, what is called scarlet fever. Borne
upon by the mountain altitude after sea-levels and getting in the
way of epidemic germs, she had no chance. A strong feverish serpent
wound itself around her, consuming and destroying. There were
tortured dying weeks. She had never been ill before in all her life.
This was the most crucial bodily adventure she had known. It opened
a new and dreadful world. There was no passing of time in those
long, long weeks, no rational thinking, no day, no night, no dark,
no morning, no memory. There was pain, and utter weariness, and a
feeling of being hurried to her grave. There was an air of hurry
in the stillness around, as if she and Death had made a date which
she would be late in keeping unless she were urged on. There was a
doctor, and a crisp white starched nurse, and there were interminable
bitter drugs and tall narrow glasses of monotonous milk. She was
endlessly disturbed by milk and medicine, and by cold spongings
and changings of feverish bed-linens, and anointings with olive
oil, and takings of her temperature, and sprayings of her throat:
when she wanted only to sink down, down, forever and forever to the
underworld. She almost sank. But God capriciously decided he had
other plans for her--insomuch as decreeing she was not to be let
go then. After seven weeks she tiredly rose from her bed and took
stock of herself. Her rôle then was of a horrible yellow skeleton
with negative gray eyes, a wreck of tissue and vitality such as only
scarlet fever can achieve, and her beautiful thick coppery hair
changed to a strange short mouse-colored tangle. She was a long time
recovering. The scarlet demon changed her life and its meanings and
energies and outlooks more effectually than if she had been trapped
by a game-at-law and gaols and courts had had their toll of her.
But after months, a year and a half of months, her health came back
perfect if not vigorous, and her good looks--the few she ever had,
and even the humanizing incongruous curls, though changed, grew long
and covered her head again in a heathen frivol. A so magnificent
mystery is this blood-and-flesh. It grows up again out of its ashes.
Burn all of it but one cell in the scorchingest sickness and so that
bones are still whole it will renew itself from that, perfect as the
sweet-bay. But this mind, less magnificent and less mysterious and
more delicate and dubious, rallies only by aid of the heart beneath
it and the soul beyond it. Her mind came slowly out of darkened
apathy. It lived in a high-walled cloister telling its languid beads
by rote. But as if it sensed the sweet aura of her renewed body it at
last woke strong and cold overnight and was aware again of itself and
the mourning magic of being.

It was this Mary MacLane.

And after a year or two more it is this Mary MacLane.

It is I myself.

I walk my floor in leaden retrospect-days with a feel in my throat of
damned and damning unfulfillment and at my eyebrows the twisted frown.

In it is dread and anguish and worriment: in it is hideous altering
breaking prepollence of death.

--if my hair, just my hair, had not come back after that red fever
I’d have decided--not capriciously like God but determinedly like
myself--to have died by my own hand one night. It is no brave
thought and it would have been no brave deed. Though it wants a
lowering courage to leave life when, despite all, one loves its very
textureless _color_, its bodiless air: not to speak of the yellow hot
deathless sunshine that can not reach one in her dark grave--

But the look and feel of my hair are the look and feel of positive
life, opposed to death.

To live up to my hair would keep me brave.

But the retrospects, which I can’t escape, come and wrap me in the
Winding Sheet.

_The Dover road_


I lay down at noonday on my green couch and I had a quaint dream.
I have just awakened from it in a flush of languor and comfort.
And the dream is vivid in my mind. I dreamed I was married and it
was pink-and-pearl dawn in my married bed-room. And in the bed one
inch away from mine was not my married husband but ‘another man.’
It was no man I can recall having seen. As I look back into the
dream he seems of the nowhere, a stranger. But in the dream he was
no stranger. I had crudely admitted him to my night. And I had just
awakened in the pink-and-white dawn and was sitting silk-gowned and
ruffle-haired in my bed, cross-legged like a tailor with my elbows
on my knees and my chin on my palms, idly contemplating him. And
he was lying in the other narrow bed contemplating me and smiling
a little. He had nice teeth and yellowish hair. The crux of the
dream was the sound ‘off-stage’ of the approaching footsteps of
monsieur-the-husband. As it always is in the psychology of dreams
the insistent thing in the situation was not the footsteps, nor even
that they were approaching, but the sound: the elusive threat of
their sound. He would presently discover us. Nobody appeared to care:
not ‘another man’ smiling so tranquilly: not I sitting musingly
overlooking him who had overnight ‘enjoyed me’: not the husband,
because he never knew it--before he could open the guilty door I

A short-cut gently headlong dream. I was at once married, mixed
adulterantly with an imperfect stranger and awaiting in pleasant mild
anticipation, to match the pink-and-pearl of the summer dawn, the
climax in the approaching sound of my husband’s footsteps. It was
humorous and artistic. Unseemly preliminaries were done away with in
that dream. I was given at once the one exciting worthwhile moment
in it.

Having no data as to what were my husband’s temper and tenor, what
he looked like or who he was, I could not in the dream or out of it
surmise what he would say or how he would act when he opened the door.

--a theme for idling speculation in a summer’s day--

Also I wonder whence came that dream: so Unexpected: so Irrelevant to
any thought in me: so Artistically Right: so Disgusting: so Dramatic:
so quaintly Vulgar.

A question: to which the one answer is that unanswerable answer to
all questions, propounded by Mr. F.’s Aunt--‘There’s milestones on
the Dover road.’

_The harp of worn strings_


May I own no unleavened egotism.

May I own no egotism that is not sensitive and poignant and vibrant:
a harp of Worn Strings.

The surprising world is full of non-analytic persons of ox-eyed
vision and hen-headed mental caliber whose egotism is a stupendous
impregnable armor: those who burned the Maid of Orleans: those who
crucified the prophet of Nazareth: those who killed John Keats.

They inherit the earth, which is a Golden-Green earth, but never look
at it.

They accept this life, which is Intoxicating life, but never feel its
texture with their fingers.

They gather a Blue iris by a marsh-edge and let it die in their
sweating hands, or let it fall to the ground as they walk, or throw
it away when the Blue petals droop: without looking at it and
breathing it and knowing it: without sensing the tremulous Blue to be
lovelier in its wilting.

Theirs is the thick fat solidly-fierce egotism of an emperor or an
infant whose main metaphysic concept is that _he_ is alive, and will
remain alive, and must be alive, though all around him bleed drop by
drop to their death.

I have analyzed mine, and it is not so with me.

If I say I am enchanting or false or despicable it is because I know
it’s true. Not because I say it but because I have tested and proved
it. I feel the textures of my life with the tips of my fingers. I
turn my senses outward and let the old winds blow over them--icy,
balmy, harsh, gentle, scorching, cooling. I suffer for it but I know
those winds: songs of seas and stars and of little pebbles are in
their thunderous-dim wailing: life is in the soft stinging perfume of
their wings.

No breath of poetry and beauty comes to me that I do not pay for with
the beating ache of my Heart, the nervous tensions of my Body, the
fraying and shredding of my Soul. If any beauty or poet-thing comes
easily and gives me pleasure and not pain, I know I have not yet got
it and that it will come again.

It will come again: with the pain.

I can’t eat cake and have it.

I can’t make silk purses out of sows’ ears.

Those things I learn nearly perfectly from playing on my harp with
the Worn Strings.

_A strongly-windy Saturday_


It is a strongly-windy Saturday.

A thought achieves itself in my roiled-and-placid brain: that one
half of me is Mad, but the other half is doubly Sane and someway
over-Sane, so that in it all I break a little better than even.

_A someway separate individual_


This Body I live in is familiar and mysterious.

It is like a book of poetry to read and read again.

It has the owned sentientness of bone-and-flesh, and with it tremors
fine as spirit-emotions.

My Body is more chaste than my Mind, my Heart and my Soul. My Body if
fragile is healthful, and is one with the woman-race: it moves with
the sunlit cosmos. My Mind wanders in sex-chaos and muses on piquant
impure things, enchanting villainies, odd inversions, whatnot. My
Soul--a sweet and an exquisite Thing--its tired wings have borne it
languidly down the dim stairways of many centuries, some leading in
wilful perverted ways. And my Heart is a pagan Heart. Its essence is
flavored with the day and lyric trail of the Sapphic students.

Bodily I am also pagan in the freedom of my owned sex feelings--as
are all women. Most of them do not know it and those who do hide it
in a tomb-like silence, except the brazen, the headlongly honest and
the artlessly frank. I come under none of those heads. I am myself. I
live and ponder alone.

And my Body feels consciously aloof and as a someway separate
individual: with inner organs as eternal hopes, smooth skin as
emotion and drops of blood as thoughts--little drops of sparkling red
virile sweet blood for its thoughts.

I so _love_ my Body as it lives and breathes and moves about, with me
and close to me. It is my so constant companion. It is an attractive
girl, a human being of some charm. I love it for the priceless air
it breathes and the long jewel-days of sunshine it has known: for
the tiny wears and tears of its daily life--the rending of its
magic tissues with each going-up-or-down-stairs, each crossing of
a door-sill. I love it for that it must lie at last pale, pale and
still--still--still--in its grave.

I love my Body for its woman-complexities of sex. I love it for the
lonely lyric poetry of its cell-adventures.

I love my Body for this long journey of woe and loveliness which
it goes, from Birthday to Death-day, in wilding passions of subtle
nervousness: each day a day of bodily beauty and intolerableness and
fear and utter mystery: because life _is_, and because I own a white
smooth-skinned Body, and because the strange, strange Air of Everyday
breathes on it--touches it--always!

_Sincerity and despair_


I am a true Artist, not as a writer but as a writing-person.

I try to feel myself literarily a poet--finer-made than a god. But I
fail as a poet-litterateur as I fail as a poet-person. A poet flies
always on wings of fiery gold though it might be waywardly. But often
I walk with my feet in odd gutters, and have some plaisance in them,
and analyze their gutteriness absorbedly and own them as part of my

--poet or no poet, it is best to be myself. In heights and murks and
widths and trivial horrors, _myself_--

But as an Artist I am in the true. As a painter of words and maker of
paragraphs which picture my phases and emotions, and in my conscious
feeling anent it, I realize the artist _flair_, the artist temper. It
is not a literary but a personal art.

I have what goes with all artist-matter--long periods of dry-rot when
having nothing ripe to write I write nothing. My Artist-spirit proves
itself, justifies itself in my times of stagnation and reaction. Out
of it something human and sad and lustrous grows in me, something
which is half worldly but awaits its ripe time of expression with
someway-divine scorn.

I once thought me destined to be a ‘writer’ in the ordinary sense.
And many good people visioned a writing career for me. It has a vapid
taste, just to recall it. My flawed life has that to felicitate
upon--that I have not spent it in fat lumps of writing, magazine
tales and sex-novels. In the days, and later, when my demi-vierge
book made its success I was besought by publishers to write
others--to go on, to reap and garner. I pushed all that away with a
preoccupied hand, not as part and parcel of my wastrel living but in
my assured Artist-temper. I should feel more true-to-form to earn
my living by making linen roses in a shop, along with rows of pale
women, than by my writing.

My writing is to me a precious thing--and a rare bird--and a
Babylonish jade. It demands gold in exchange for itself. But though
it is my talent it is not my living. It is too myself, like my
earlobes and my throat, to commercialize by the day.

But I can not think of me as an Artist without thinking of me as a
Liar. The two are someway related. I am an appalling, an encompassing
Liar. I am a Liar by the clock. My life ticks out silent lies as my
little clock ticks out seconds. It is a phase hard to put my finger
on. I feel it on me the way I feel a headache. I write this book
with seriousness and earnestness. It is all a mood of sincerity and
despair. But except I give it some backgrounding of lies, though
each thing in it is fair fact, I fail as an Artist.

It is strange about lies--any lies, all lies. They are muscularly
stronger than truths. They come more readily to human tongues. They
fit more easily into the games of this life. And in me they seem
needful to my Artist mind.

I mean not the lies I may tell but the lies I think.

I mean not my falseness. That is a different thing, one I feel
someway responsible for. But the thinking lies feel to be a heritage
from ancient evil selves.

I lie to myself, to the air around me--I blow lies into space from my
quiet lips. And one half of me knows them for lies and the other half
of me _believes_ them.

Those half-known lies, the _need_ of the lies half-believed, are the
realization of an essential Artist-spirit.

The oblique belief in them and the recognition of them as lies
proclaim me to myself, as a writing-person: Liar and Artist.

_It’s not death_


It’s not Death I fear, nor Life.

I horridly fear something this side of Death but out-pacing Life a
little: a nervousness in my Stomach--a very Muddy Street--a Lonely
Hotel Room.

_A human prerogative_


It is a quiet deep of night. A bell has just tolled two.

I am clothed in cool bedroom negligées and a softening sweetness of
cold cream, from head to foot.

I am tranquil for to-day I had a walk that made me feel Sincere and

It is a comforting feeling: it is like a beef-sandwich.

It was a long walk south-east of Butte along an outskirting road
where I used often to walk when I was sixteen--a broad gray desert.
It was the same sand and barrenness. It was bare and withered as if a
giant coyote had picked its rocky ribs.

The day was windy and dusty. The sunshine was thick and sweet and
heavy like floating honey. The dust that blew against the white of my
neck was like ground glass.

My feet ached as I walked.

My shoes were Cuban-heeled thick-soled pumps of corded silk, a kind
easy to walk in. But the same feet which once readily bore me seven
miles along that road ache now at three. All of me ached as I walked
along. I cursed desultorily with a smooth whispered flow of curses,
because the circumstances seemed to demand it. But I loved the
walk--even the more for my tired feet and my aching knees and my
irking drooping shoulders and the hot glazed sand against my throat.

My Soul tasted realness in it.

Quite close to me, in immense sad beauty, were the deep high heavy
silent somber hills of Montana. To-day the nearer ones were a stately
enchanted Blue: a Blue of all ages: a Blue of infinitude: a Blue with
a feel of life and death in its Blueness. Above it the sky was not
blue but a pale glimmering shimmering silver hung across with gray
silk clouds soft as doves’ plumage.

I sat on a flat rock and looked at all of it and at the desert
around, and at my dusty shoes.

All of it felt overwhelmingly sincere: at one with the wide worn used

My dusty shoes looked to be at one with it and could interpret it.

I felt my shoes could claim their human prerogative of getting dusty
in any of this world’s roads.

It gave me a feeling of human Sincerity: good-and-evil Safeness.

It is on me now, along with cold cream and strong memory of Desert
and Sun and Blue.

It is as good as a beef-sandwich.

Better: I don’t like beef-sandwich.

_The merciless beauty_


Sometimes the dusk is full of fire.

Some dusks I sit by my window looking out and hotly and coldly want a
Lover: hotly with my Body and coldly with my Mind.

A dusk has just gone. I sat looking out at it.

A mist of dark cream tinged with heated violet came from nowhere and
hung above the ground.

Suddenly came on me a sense of bewildering mysterious beauty.

In it was a feel of rippling warmth that crept into my bone-and-flesh
from forehead to heel, from temples to soles, from crown to toe-tips.

It crept slow and suffocating like magic chloroform.

I leaned elbows on window-sill and chin on palms and sunk my gaze
in the violet shades outside and straightway knew I wanted a Lover:
not in delicate moonlit culmination like Juliet in her balcony: not
denyingly like the timid young nun in her cloister assailed unaware
by faint forbidden emotions.

I wanted a Lover like the jungle leopard leaping through the
Springtime covert at nightfall to find her mate.

It is a subtle and an obvious feeling, made of a merciless beauty.

It is the tired urge of sex-tissues and nerve-cells: positive,
furious, fiery as the bloodiest sun.

It is the same which the heated leopard feels in her sharp immaculate
lust. It is quite the same--but it could not move me as I sat alone
loverless to the knitting of an eyebrow, to a change of posture, a
movement of elbows on the window-sill or of palms beneath my chin.
Nor could it, though the potential Lover had stood outside my window.

For any woman of any charm the world is full of Lovers: each and
all to be had by the flutter of her finger, the droop of her white
eyelids, the trembling of her pink-bowed lips. The world is full of
them--facile Lovers, craven, potent and pinchbeck. And it’s that kind
I want hotly with my Body, coldly with my Mind in dusks of rippling
warmth--rippling, rippling warmth--

I want the Lover as the leopard wants hers. But I’m not a leopard:
instead, a woman-person of keen sentientness and wild wistful
imagination. So I wouldn’t so much as crook a finger to call a Lover
to me: a curious nervous inertia.

It’s only I _want_ the Lover with frantic blind cosmic ardors
inside me.

I analyze it in my magic Mind and find I would call no Lover.
I analyze farther and find I’d reject all but an impossible
one-in-ten-thousand. But remains the desire, hot as live embers,
cold as hail.

Sex is an odd attribute. It has been to me like a blest impediment
and a celestial incumbrance and a radiant curse.--

When I was seventeen I stood on a threshold and peered curiously into
a dim-lit strange-scented Room.

It was unknown to me then. My mind alone bespoke it. As I stood at
its doorway the air it wafted out touched my sense with only the
lightest frayed-cobweb contact, unintelligible and unenlightening. I
had lived an emptily alone girlhood. I was icily virginal.

At five-and-twenty I crossed the Room’s threshold. I breathed
lightly the odd fragrance. I looked curiously around. I touched some
amorous-looking grapes and some love-promising apples that lay about:
I bit into one and burst a grape with my finger and thumb. I gathered
a weak-petaled flower or two. I gauged the Room and its furnishments
and was unthrilled by anything in it. Even bodily it left me

Those two memory-mists do not keep me in the now-dusk and in the
strength and terror and fire of top-most youth from wanting a sudden
Lover with all that’s in my Body.

Love has naught to do with it. Love is a flame-winged Bird. I know
it. I know the values of my life and of me. I do not mistake tapers
for torches, ducats for louis d’ors, vicarious nepenthe for dreamless

In dusk-moments my bone-and-flesh is all of me I’m sure of. It begins
and ends in this earth. It answers the violent summonses of this
earth and its dusks.

In the just-gone dusk I felt the prickling blood flow to my
finger-ends. A flood-tide, blinding red, surged and seethed and
bubbled and pounded at my heart.

‘I want a Lover--some Lover’--I murmured to the shadows beyond my

I grew breathless.

The spirit of my flesh rose like a wind-blown flame.

A loud cry rang in my nerve-wilderness.

That moment the variant analysis which always rides with me stopped

There came instead sheer feeling--the merciless beauty.

--a man-person, maybe--the man of happy unanalytic brutality--to be
suddenly there with me: to flash into my shadowy solitude like a
lightning bolt and burst and break me.

--a quarter-hour of exquisite wildness--restlessness, made of
Star-flame and Lily-petal and Cloud-burst on Mountain-summits and
Sea-waves purple in a Stormy Dawn--an intolerable hunger and ecstasy--

But just gone and I sit writing it in the pale cast of thought.

But breathlessly I recall the breathlessness of it.

_My shoes_


I love my Shoes.

I love them because they so guard my feet.

I walk many a mile along the stone pavements and into distant odd
streets and on open roads at the outskirts of this Butte.

And while I walk I think.

I think things of a great many kinds--potent and magic and mad.
The act of walking starts an engine in my sparkling infernal mind.
And the weight and the sting and the hurt and the fascination of
my walking thoughts bear down on my slim feet as they carry me
along. And the hard-beaten world beneath them feels resentful and
uncomplaisant to my soles.

And then I look down at my Shoes with their trim tailored vamps and
their walk-worthy soles and instantly my feet feel secure against
evil, smartly protected from my thoughts and from the world’s
surface: my thoughts which shoot down on them out of my devilish
brain and the world-hardness beneath them.

To-day I was walking along the road that leads up the ever-wonderful
Anaconda Hill--a place of stones and sand-wastes and hoists and
scaffoldings and mines with ten thousand digging men thousands
of feet down in their metallic bowels. Close by were melancholy
mulberry-toned mountains at the north-east. They were tragic,
triumphant, grief-stricken, terrifyingly beautiful. Purple clouds
hung around them like mourning veils. I can’t look enough at
those--it is as if there weren’t enough looking-power in my human
gray eyes.

Presently I came to a small open space as I walked, a toy desert. A
toy desert is more like a desert than is a real one. The sand in it
is grayer sand. The stones are abrupter. The sun is flatter-looking.
The air is less willing to furnish breath to a human being. The best
that could be said of this one is that it was intolerably desolate. I
looked about and about it. And suddenly I was afraid. Afraid of many
things: afraid of grief-stricken mountains: afraid of my life and
of Me.

I leaned against a yellow ledge of rock with a subtle sickening
faintish feeling. ‘I am afraid,’ I said inside me, ‘of this world and
this life, and of all things little and large--nerves and Christmas
days and poetry: toy deserts and all. How can I cope with it--I

Then I looked down at my Shoes of black soft dull leather and cloth,
buttoned snugly around my ankles and with tough supple soles fit to
take me to Jericho and back. Thus neatly armored I felt suddenly my
blue-veined feet need fear nothing from sand and stone and hardness
of ground. And if my feet are not afraid--my feet which bear weights
of all-of-me--why should afraidness touch my spirit which is proud?

There will be always Shoes in the world: stout stylish serviceable
boots, and pale delicate rat-skin pumps, and satin mule-slippers.

And always I shall have Shoes: in toy deserts I shall have black
strong snug-buttoned ones.

I looked at them in this toy-desert and straightway I wasn’t afraid.

It has been often like that.

So I love my Shoes.

_An eerie quality_


When I was Ten years old I played marbles ‘for keeps,’ smoked
little pieces of rattan buggywhip in the hay-scented barn and slid
‘belly-buster’ down long winter hills on my sled. And I hammered and
sawed ruinously with grownup tools, whistling happily. And I played
with dolls absorbedly for hours on end.

I was not boyish and not girlish.

I was not childish except for an oddly hungry child-heart.

I was myself.

So long ago and longer I consciously owned an eerie quality which
toppled over the edge of my humanness.

And still own it.

_A helliad_


This noonday as I sat on the veranda two young lads stopped by the
stone coping which borders this front yard, and conversed. One was
eager-looking and about eleven years old. The other was perhaps
thirteen and morose and he had a small rifle which he polished with a
bit of waste, not lifting his gaze as they talked.

Said the younger boy: ‘Say-Frank, I could ’a’ had that old shot-gun
off my dad if I’d ’a’ went after it to Rocker that time.’

‘Like hell you could,’ said Frank.

‘Say-Frank, you know that Winchester o’ Billy O’Rourke’s?--he made
six bull’s-eyes and one inside ring with it day ’fore yesterday.’

‘Like hell he did,’ said Frank.

‘Say-Frank, Mexicans and Indians can get a guy ev’ry time with a
long-distance rifle without taking aim through the sight.’

‘Like hell they can,’ said Frank.

‘Say-Frank, there’s a kid down on South Arizona that’s got a Colt
automatic that’ll hit without him aiming at all.’

‘Like hell there is,’ said Frank.

‘Say-Frank, you know them little brass machine-guns the militia’s
got?--the bores o’ them things ’re rifled just like this.’

‘Like hell they are,’ said Frank.

‘Say-Frank, my grandfather in Illinois ’s got a bullet in him he got
at the battle o’ Fredericksburg in the Civil War.’

‘Like hell he has,’ said Frank.

‘Say-Frank, it costs a hundred-thousand dollars to make a Krupp gun
and eighty dollars ev’ry time you fire it.’

‘Like hell it does,’ said Frank.

‘Say-Frank, it ain’t a felony to croak a burglar with a gun even if
he’s only breakin’ into somebody else’s house.’

‘Like hell it ain’t,’ said Frank.

‘Say-Frank, my mother goes huntin’, too--she can shoot rabbits and
ducks on the wing and once she got a deer with that big old .44 o’ my
Uncle Walt’s.’

‘Like hell she did,’ said Frank.

‘Say-Frank--listen, will you gimme your gun for my bicycle, both my
catcher’s gloves and four dollars when I get paid?’

‘Like hell I will,’ said Frank.

‘Say-Frank--listen, will you gimme it for my bicycle, my two
catcher’s gloves, four dollars when I get paid and my shepherd pup?’

‘Like hell I will,’ said Frank.

‘Say-Frank--listen,--and my artificial snake?’

‘Like hell,’ said Frank.

‘Say-Frank--listen,--and my half o’ Ernest’s camera?’

‘Like hell,’ said Frank.

‘Say-Frank--listen,--and my last year’s shin-guards?’

‘Like hell,’ said Frank.

‘Say-Frank--_listen_,--and my _this_ year’s shin-guards?’

‘Like _hell_,’ said Frank.

‘Say-Frank, come right down to it I don’t want a .22. If I get a gun
this year it’ll be a .32.’

‘Like he--’--

       *       *       *       *       *

Which point I felt to be the too-note of the helliad, so I rose and
came into the house.

I felt replete with rhythm and with a sense of surprising human
attitudes remote from my own.

_Swift go my days_


Swift, Swift go my days.

By rights I think time should drag with me, for I am wasting my
portion of life as I live it.

But my days pass Swift--Swift, Swift.

They come, they fly away--before I know.

I’m thinking it is Tuesday: but while I’m thinking--Wednesday has
come: and gone: and Thursday is rushing in. Tuesday, blue-and-gold or
gray-and-silver, with its mornings and nights and bits of food and
openings of doors and thinkings: Wednesday with the same equipment:
Thursday the same.

Each day comes and goes like a flash of filmed silvered garbled light.

But there is time in each for me to touch the enchanted Everydayness:
time for the turbulent sly delight of tasting, smelling, feeling the
eternal humors and romances in each small thing near me--my Clock, my
Window, my Jar of Cold Cream, my Two Thumbs. There is time in each
day for it to make me pay a wearing glimmering feverish homage to the
mystic daily godhead.

My life exacts terrific homages from me.

I am wearing out--frailly, tiredly, from a desolate uneasy love of

It is why my days go Swift when by rights time should drag leadenly
in punishment for barbarous futileness.

There is not time-space enough in any of the days sufficient to love
the virile green and the murderous red and the sweet pale surprising
purple in the sunset above the west desert: nor space to love the
smell of a sudden August rain: nor the flaming delicate Idea of the
poet John Keats.

While I’m starting to love each of those to its height of
love-worthiness--the to-day is gone: and the to-morrow, which must
see a new love-game started for each Thing, is come.

But while I say ‘is come’: it’s gone.

So Swift go my days--oh Swift, Swift!

_By the blood of dead Americans_


Since I wrote the beginning of this there has come the war in Europe:
a war full of suffering brave women and dead children: full of
German greed and cruelty and stupidity and of French gameness and
cheerfulness, French splendor of valor.

It has an effect of some kind on each person who reads so much as its

It has the effect on me of making me a jealously patriotic American.

It makes me think of Lexington and Gettysburg with an odd furious
personal shame.

We are Americans not by accident but by the blood of dead Americans.
But we assume it is by accident.

We lie down like a nation of bastards to let the pig-hearted Hun
trample by proxy on our neck.

It was for America to declare war in the same hour the _Lusitania_
passengers met murder.

We were not ‘too proud’ but afraid. Afraid and not ready.

Not ready has no right thing to do with it.

They were not ready at Lexington.

I long with some passion to exchange my two black dresses for two
white ones with red crosses on the sleeves: to serve my country in a
day of death and honor.

It too is all the time under my skin though I write along but in this
flawed song of myself.

_To express me_


I suppose I’m very lonely.

It is luck--luck from the stars--not to be beset by clusters of
people, people who do their thinking outside their heads, ‘cheerful’
people, people who say ‘pardon me’: all the damning sorts scattered
about obstructing one’s view of the horizons.

But for want of--other, _other_ people--I am intensely lonely.

When I was eighteen I thought I must be the most lonely creature in
this world. I analyzed my life then as now and it by itself had set
me apart. But I stood then as it’s given Youth to stand--on High
Ground. I was strong to endure loneliness while viciously hating
it. There was unaware a hope-colored bliss in my inexperience which
companioned me. I felt it then without knowing I felt it. I can see
that plainly now.

Now also I see plainly and feel plainly that I stand on lower ground,
at poorer vantage. As my bodily strength which was then robust is
now slight. The metaphysic life-shadows reach me more easily. They
have a feel of fatally shutting down, fatefully closing in. They are
the mirages on the dun-colored worldly air near me of my own useless
untoward selves. There is no more the hope-colored bliss.

At eighteen I said to me: ‘I’m lonely but some day I may be happily
friendshiped and apprehended and it will be like paradise.’

Now I say to me: ‘I’m lonely by fate and by nature and temperament. I’ve
known some friendships of vivid alluringness and informingness--they
await me now in the offing. And others. There _is_ paradise in it--an
odd sweet dubious paradise. But what’s the use--?’

It’s that what’s-the-use, born of the lower vantage-ground and
the closing-in shadows, that chiefly makes me lonely--lonely to a
desperateness and on through to a ruinous calm.

It is this metaphysic loneliness which breeds in me one constant
reasonless restless urgent motif: to Express me: not of-the-past
except desultorily, not of-the-future save indifferently: but of
my low-toned, low-echoing now. Until I’ve Expressed me there’s no
setting open the gates of my spirit to a passer-by, though the
passer-by should be a poet-in-the-flesh, a god, an angel with a torch.

Four-and-twenty turbulent moods may break over me in a day, or
four-and-twenty passive ones, or four-and-twenty someway joyous ones.
But like the theme in a fugue this loud tranquil recurrent need to
Express me transcends them all.

It is a big voracious part-human bird of prey. Of it too I say
what’s-the-use. But it is a need without a use, a need scornful of
use. It springs unconceived, unsourced from inside me. It rises from
the ashes of blightingest moods and beats its bruising strong wings
against my face.

It says: ‘Know me, defer to me, Slim-woman. Serve me, follow me,
gather-in all your answers for me. Do this though I undo you, though
I rend you, tear you with my sharp teeth so like a wolf’s. When
you’ve answered me I may let you go. Until then, turn to me. Tell me:
tell me again and again. Utter yourself. Interpret. Unfold.’

It makes my life-space someway sweet, someway heartbreaking, someway
frightful--strewn with dust of broken stars.

I live long hours of nervous profound passionate self-communion. I
discover strange lovely age-worn facets of my Soul. I discover the
subtle panting Ego--the wonderful thing that lives and waits in its
garbled radiance just beneath my skin.

To ask oneself and make answer out of oneself is the most delicious
of this life’s mental delectations. I might have missed it but for
those beating bruising wings against my face, now and years ago: for
expressing breeds the last Expressions.

I might have gone on through years and decades and lumps of months
knowing at best a little of some rare person, a little less or
more of another rare person, a little of a musician’s soul in a
nocturne, a little of a dead poet’s splendors. But to Me and my own
fine spirit-relationships to those things I could remain, but for my
radiant flawed egotistic interpreting, eternally strange.

But for it I’d not have the wit to perceive the one human being in
the world I may know with vitalness: my own Self. I should drop into
my grave at last without a good-by to the glowing one who was locked
just inside, whose hand I’d never clasped, whose sad prescient eyes
I’d never looked in, who was then flitting out and on and away.

It is a being cruel and transfiguring and terrifying: terribly worth
clasping close and breathing with.

And some days it sleeps, sleeps like the dead: it is delicater than
rose-vapors before the dawn: a sun-blown faëry thing.

When it sleeps I’m left alone. Then comes a doubtful dreadful quiet,
a hell of dumbness that only God could reach.

It is as if neither God nor I attempts to cope with it.

_Bastard lacy valentines_


The thing I admire most is strength. The thing I most hate is
Weakness, of each and every kind.

All the reassuring things in the world are in and of the strong deeds
done in it. All the mischief and despair come from human Weakness.

I would better strongly murder my foe than forgive him Weakly for
my seeming advantage. I would be happier in my mind as a careful
charwoman than as a loose-jointed poet. I would rather have a
farthing’s value as a faithful concubine than no value as a slattern

Strength repays itself with strength--and with magnificence.

Truth is strength nearly always: and _not_ always.

To cheat strongly in the life-game gets me more than does Weak easy
honesty. By being a strong man Napoleon brought home the bacon. Being
an honest one would have got him not one rasher of the bacon of _his_
desire. The race is too ridden with ‘temperament’ to let truth be
its prevailing force. But strength plows its scornful way through
temperament like a steam-shovel. The bacon Napoleon brought home he
took from other people, causing them misery. They were Weak and let
him take it, or they were strong and got killed trying to keep it.
To get killed trying to keep your bacon is to be even stronger than
the Napoleon who lives and takes it from you. Those who sit still and
_let_ Napoleon get their bacon are fit only to be themselves made
into bacon.

Truth belongs with love, with friendship, with charity, with psychic
lovingkindness: with all the altruistic graces and tendernesses.

But in the mere grinding livingness of things it is to be strong. I
say to Me, ‘Mary MacLane, be strong: whether you’re living joyous on
a hill or mournful in a valley, make shift to be strong.’

In which paragraphs I make an apologetic preamble to Me when about to
dwell on my odd ironic element of Weakness. My Weakness is not an art
nor a science nor a gift nor a trait but is a sort of ruinous trade
touched with all of those, a trade at which I work and lose heavily
from a viewpoint of personal economy.

In Atlanta-Georgia lives a man with whom I exchange semi-occasional
letters. He is thirty-nine and clever and what is called a business
man. He is a business man not only by circumstance but by nature.
At a glance one would picture him in the setting of an office in
a steel-and-brick building with a roll-top desk, a swivel chair,
a cabinet full of files, a stenographer with an unregenerate
vocabulary, and stationery neatly engraved with his name, his
business, his cable address and his telephone number. The look of the
neat letterhead and the fibrous feel of the bond paper give one the
idea that whoever went into a business venture with him would come
out of it disadvantageously.

After another glance at himself one would infer that his leisure
hours might be fancifully spent. In hours of ease some business men
follow baseball, others golf, ‘tired’ ones musical comedy. Others
take up curio collecting or some personal phantasm. In the latter
category is my acquaintance of Atlanta. He affects Mary MacLane and
musings of her in his leisure hours. But what I am to him does not
concern nor much interest me. What he is to me concerns me, for
he--his letters--are a present source of my elaborated Weakness.

I feel a wave of conscious Weakness washing over me as I write about
it. His letters make a soft buffer, a foolish pretty window, a tinted
veil between me and my too-harsh actualities.

I met him when I lived in New York. He had read the book I wrote
in the early nineteen-hundreds and at meeting me he conceived a
thinly insistent admiration which someway went to his head. He has
at intervals since then written me letters full of charmed and
salubrious flattery and of appreciation and praise for traits and
gifts and qualities which I do not possess. They appeal and cater
remarkably to my vanity--and are pleasant and unreal and vain and
fatuous and fond and piquant.

He is a clever man and does not make love to me. A butcher’s-boy may
write love-letters--and I’d prefer those of a butcher’s-boy to those
of a business man: they would be more sincere and less hopelessly
discreet. But this business man is discerning and intuitive and
writes me no love. His wife--a business man always has a wife--could
not rationally object to what is in the letters, though she would
irrationally and naturally object to the letters themselves. She
is unloving and unloved--they always are--but whatever may be her
caste (I know only that she is tall and blonde and named Bertha)
she doubtless would find something superfluous in the idea of her
husband’s letters to me.

A letter comes from him in Georgia after I have written him a brief
disquieting one with a latent human appeal in it to make him think
the chief thing I need in life is his appreciation, his attitude
toward me, to brace my spirit. Then his comes, written in his small
slanting commercial hand. It is arresting from any angle and well
thought, well couched.

In it he tells me that my brain, scintillantly brilliant though it
is, needs the dim twilights of other brains such as his to catch the
sparks it throws off.

Which is a lie. My brain is not scintillantly brilliant and it
‘needs’ nothing. But the lie is agreeable to read. There is a gentle
caressingness in its untruth which feels someway soothinger than any
flattering fact.

And he tells me my chief attraction as an individual is my ability
accurately to gauge another individual and to breathe myself
graciously out to it and upon it while pretending to be immersed in
my own ego.

Which is another lie. Immersed in my own ego is never a pretense
with me, and I have not gauged--in the sense of weighing and
measuring--another individuality except to hate it. But it is
piquantly restful to hear that I am thus benign.

And he tells me that though several years have passed since he and I
took leave of one another he has never forgotten that last parting
because it was like the passing of a little weir-woman who brushed
him lightly with her garments as she went.

Which is another lie. My association with him was in brief meetings
at hectic studio tea-fights and two noisy dinners at Churchill’s,
at all of which I frowned impatiently at his tiresome conversation.
And his leave-taking with me consisted in his sharpening a
lead-pencil--beautifully he sharpened it--for me to write a telegram
with. It was not until this correspondence that we established an
unreliable intimacy. But to be told I seemed a weir-woman to a
hard-headed business man who could doubtless cheat a client out of
four thousand dollars easily in a half-day’s maneuvering is oddly

And he tells me he is highly privileged to be permitted to gaze in
at the mezzo-tinted windows of my soul, which are surely curtained
against the passing proletariat.

Which is another lie. He has never remotely glimpsed my tired Soul in
the firmly false little letters I’ve written him. As to its being a
privilege if he had: it is the proletariat, it so happens, who have
first chance at those windows, which are not mezzo-tinted but made of
the plainest of plain glass. But the conceit tastes mellow and naïf
and bromidic and appetizing to me, like cream and raspberries in July.

And he tells me the most delightful thing in the world would be to
live near me and have a season of daily meetings--meetings of astral
selves upon a ‘higher plane’ whereon we should exchange those flowers
and fruits of the spirit which grow not from the soils but from the
esoteric essences of life:--that sort of thing.

Which is another lie. No possible man (except a Poet whom I
loved--or perhaps a scientist--) could find me delightful for more
than two consecutive meetings--I develop something like temper--and
I care for no higher planes except in airships. As for esoterics--I
would fainer exchange musings anent over-shoes than over-souls. And
my spirit bears in fertile earthy soil chiefly thistles from which
men gather no figs. But it gives me a warmish feeling, similar to
a hot-water bottle between my shoulders on a winter night, to read
that picturesque palaver written to me in my slim scorn by him in his
springy swivel chair.

Thus it goes. His letters are made all of softest quaintest lies
which I know to be lies the moment my gray gaze falls on them. All
his premises in regard to me and his deductions from them are roundly
lightly mistaken. But I like that fluent flattery the more because
it is so false. I am too vain a creature to want to cope often with
truths even though they might be uplifting self-lauding truths. My
vain peculiar Weakness demands as well semi-occasional collations of
creamed lies upon which it feeds like a sleek cat on creamed fish. My
humor enters into it, in no obvious way but eerily like a gay ghost.
My humor is a strong influence in me. It is stronger than my pride
and anger and fear and caution and reverence and self-love--stronger
than most things I own.

And it’s for reasons of pastime and vanity and oblique humor I
let letters from the business man come, though not often, into my
solitudes. And I spend hours of inert time-waste conning his fanciful
ideas. And the letters I write him in reply, though brief and
impersonal and done in my best false manner, consume a surprising lot
of time and mental and physical force to write. It is the Weakness in
it which is so devouring: it eats me hungrily and lingers about like
a buzzard, picking my bones.

A spinelessly Weak game. I hate its Weakness more than I like its
pleasant futility. I hate it and myself in it all the time I’m
dwelling on it. I hate it as I’d hate a little drug habit fastened on
my nerves.

Its influence is the same but more insidious than a drug would be,
more demoralizing. As feeling fear makes one afraid, feeling more
fear makes one more afraid.

Still once in a month, once in a two-month, I feel the hankering
itch to be applauded for second-rate qualities I do not own, and I
give way to it: in a particularly Weak way, after my sanest self has
reduced it analytically to shreds, and after saying bosh! with all my

After telling Me too that it is a common-tasting game. Life is a
strange music-clangor of gold bells, some silent, some far-echoing.
And the common-tasting thing cracks a bell-edge.

Then briskly I answer the last letter from Atlanta-Georgia and soon
there comes a fresh sheaf of smooth velvetish lies to pad my way.

There may come no more if this I write now should find its way to
Atlanta-Georgia. Or if fate or Bertha should intervene.

But always I know Weakness of me will find ways to work at its losing

It is of the dubious inevitable side of human nature--like gold teeth
and tinned salmon and bastard lacy valentines.

_Sweet fine sweatings of blood_


Merely from the view-point of outward intellect this book of myself
is oddly difficult to write.

My most-loved thing to do and my hardest thing to do is to write.

It is hard to catch and hold with mental fingers one’s own emotions
and then doubly hard to write them. A feeling is something without
the words and without even the thought. To put it into the thought
and then into the words is a minuter task than would be the
translating of a François-Villon poem into Choctaw.

It’s a knowing person who realizes her own emotions and a knowinger
who recognizes what is what, who is who, which is which among them.
I look inward at Me and I see an emotion of World-Weariness and
want to write it. I write it as nearly as I can. But when I have
done--it’s not World-Weariness that I wrote but its twin-sister,
Boredom-of-the-Moment, which happened to be next the other when I
looked. I am glad to have transcribed Boredom-of-the-Moment. It is
the finer and thinner and more elusive of the two. But how and why
did I fail of World-Weariness?

But sometime when I aim at Fear or Resentment or Surprise it may be
World-Weariness I’ll bring down unexpectedly with a clean wing-shot.

When I set out to write the Look-in-my-Eyes it may be the
Feel-of-my-Fingers that comes out in my round writing. Another time I
think I’m writing my Bad-Tooth: until I get it written when it turns
out to be my little Eye-Wrinkles.

Having failed of the thought often I fail of the words. When I have
a particularly M.-Mac-Lane thought to express I review the top tier
of my vocabulary of words to find proper ones for it. They are all
very nice words in that top-tier--neatly washed and dressed and
hair-brushed and tidied-up, like the children in a small private
school: words like Necessary and Irresolute and Crockery and
Inconvenience and Broth and Apprise: good words and useful if one’s
thought is radical or risky and wants conserving. I call some of
them to me and question them and consider them and ponder a bit, and
decide they will none of them suit. Then I go to the bottom tier, the
unkemptest of words in the untidiest attire: words like Traipse and
Nab and Glim and Hennery and Chape and Plash. And I at once reject
those as too carelessly bred for my terse thoughts to associate
with. (But for my uncombed ungroomed grimy-faced thoughts I turn to
them.) Then I glance over a tier of mysterious words, spruce but
with indefinable vagabond faces: such as Whelk and Mauger and Frush
and Gnurl and Yare and Hyaline. They are expressive but of a kind
it’s well to use with caution, the kind that may trip up thoughts
that would make them their medium and lead to slips ’twixt cups and
lips. So I dismiss them with a mental reservation of one or two to
use if I fail to find right ones among the less mysterious. Then I
turn to a tier that represents the virile middle-class in words, the
lower-case words, the mob and riot words, the words for poets and
anarchists and prophets: such as Adroit and Nightingale and Gallows
and Gutter and Woman and Madrigal and Death. And I say, ‘Without
doubt here are my words.’ But I use discretion. I know that tier of
words to be of the nature of bombs, of strychnine, of a dynamic force
resistible against all human and wordly substance. They also must be
used cautiously and with a sparing hand. With caution one can handle
a bomb, and sparingly one can eat strychnine, and one can control
any dynamic force by studying its tendencies and keeping out of its
direct road. It behooves one to heed those conditions in broaching
the countermining counter-irritant words if one would avoid blowing
oneself analytically broadcast.

So I may have found the right sort of words and measured their
possibilities and pitfalls. But again: it’s a nerve-racking task
to choose out one word from seven, one from five, one from two. I
see two words which may be the only proper ones out of ten thousand
to bear my thought. The two may be Echo and After-glow, each an
unacknowledged half-sister to the other: meaning respectively
something living and growing and vibrant in my spirit-ears, and
fading and dying and radiant before my spirit-eyes. But because my
spirit-ears may glow bright and hot from what they heard, or my
spirit-eyes may seem to themselves to gaze a moment at a soundless
sound--an Unheard Melody of Keats,--I miss the raylike distinction
and I write After-glow when my true word was Echo.

But another time I write Echo perfectly and masterfully to my own
delight: having meant After-glow.

So it is. There’s no plain sailing on this analytic sea. And if there
were it would be not worth while. I want nothing, nothing, nothing
that comes easily. What comes easily I distrust, be it love or
language. It afterward proves dead-sea fruit. What I suffer to get I
know to be life-food even if it drugs or pains or poisons me. It is
one lesson I have learned.

Without doubt it is so with everybody, all around. One sees only
surfaces, husks. Anyone looking casually at this Me sitting writing
might say, ‘How easily and smoothly and well she writes. How kind
of God to give her so light a task in life. How complacently go her
working hours.’ And I looking casually at--oh--Miss Lily Walker
singing and swaying and glancing sideways in a gorgeous Broadway
chorus--I might say, ‘How easy a task in life has _that_ brainless
gazelle. To work with her body and not even with the sweats and
sinews of it like a scrub-woman, and not with the facile shames of
it like a lorette, but with the grace and suppleness and beauty and
suggestions of it, aided by a soprano throat and a soprano face--with
only the effort it wants to fling it all over footlights. And that
pastime gets her her livelihood.’

But whoever marks me writing as one doing an easy task because I
write along rapidly enough considers nothing of my mental travail
for the thought, my blind grope for the language, my little nervous
anguish of choice among the double-edged and triple-pronged words:
and the neat concise failure of the result.

And no, I do not thus comment on Miss Lily Walker. I have
an appreciative pleasure in her charm and suppleness and
bird-and-butterfly prettiness. But after a bit of contemplation and
analysis of her surface I deduce the unconscious struggle it may be
for Miss Lily Walker to be supple on nights when she does not feel
supple, the thin agony of being sweet when she does not feel sweet,
the neurotic torture of being seductive _regularly_--by the night:
the more that perchance the struggle always _is_ unconscious. Her
brain being required in her body it’s to be assumed there’s none in
her head. But I can deduce a nervous red heart beating illogically
somewhere in her being protesting dumbly sometimes against one irking
item, sometimes against another, sometimes against all the items in
Miss Lily Walker’s scheme of life, but beating and beating on, like a
little automatic drum wound up tight and tossed into a maelstrom to
beat itself out.

I’d like--like with breathless eagerness--to read the analyzed being
just beneath Miss Lily Walker’s skin.

Everybody--every human being--is wildly _Real_: radiant and

With no amount of temperamental struggling could Miss Lily Walker
analyze a psychic emotion of her own and then find the right
word-combination to write it in.

With no conceivable effort of mine could I manage to be supple when I
do not feel supple.

So Miss Lily Walker and I are quits at this game.

It totals up evenly, all ways around.

Nobody gets through one Real day--though it be a dayful of Real
lies--without a demoniacal struggle of soul or a heavy blow on the
personal solar plexus.

And I make not even the intellect side of this book, which is a
Realness to me, without sweet fine sweatings of blood.

_Instinct--a ‘first law’_


I long to do a Murder.

Despite my futile way-of-life and my rotting destroying
half-acquiescence in it I have a furious positive Murder in me.

One near me in my daily life injures me and goes on injuring me in
a way which is scourging and malicious and intensely petty. There
is in it helpless humiliation for me--me self-loving, proud and
determinedly unsuppliant--and it makes maddening Murder rise in me.

I don’t know why I do not do the Murder. I have nothing to lose by
paying the law-penalty: nothing but my life, and my life is stripped
bare--and was always barren by God’s decree--of all that makes a
life sacred or lovely or precious. For long years and years, since
child-days, I have been lost.

I don’t know why I do not do the Murder: except that I think of it
and brood over it and turn it round and round smoulderingly in my
Mind. From no choice. I have tried to push the feeling away as a
common thing beneath me. It is beneath me, for I am not little but
someway big. But my Mind will take its toll of all that confronts me.

The humiliation and the helplessness to combat being humiliated in me
who keep a casual proudness toward people is like a secret hot sword
thrust, and kept freshly thrust, in my flesh. It makes me wild to do
the Murder. But it makes me brood over it till the red act is lost in
red brooding.

There come also thinkings.

Murder, any Murder, is in its essence cowardly, a slinking meanness.
And I am not cowardly and I am not mean. I am above malice and
retaliation--all such impoverished impoverishing emotions. A shrug of
my shoulders and they are satisfied. The impulse to hit back after a
bitter wound is not of vengeance. It is instinct--a ‘first law.’ But
Murder is self-accusingly cowardly and sneakingly human. I can’t get
away from that. To take away a person’s life is like setting fire to
his house--an officiously stooping act. It’s for me to live my life
in aloof self-sufficience. No human malice should reach me in it.
Then it’s not for me to reach out of it and stain my good fingers
with unpleasant sticky blood. I am always in a prison of radiance and

But the mere habit of being a human being is breakingly insistent--no
matter how many or how few frocks one owns. Neither of my two dresses
is a protection against humiliation. A thin black serge dress
gives me to myself a melancholy cold inert air: but beneath the
smooth-fitting breast of it comes too often a throbbing frightful to
feel, frightful to know, made of fierce petty anger and abasing hurt.
I hide it and me in my room and twist my hands together and walk my
floor, and a hurricane of helpless bitter trifling woe shakes and
wrenches me. Then Murder enters me.

What humiliates me is an obvious common thing that to any human one
would mean hurt and more hurt. Though I am determinedly brave I am

I do not write itself because this is the book of me and not of

It is a slight, a poor and vivid cruelness. There is the tie of blood
in it which in all ways--from a deep heritage--I respect: and it rubs
an added stinging poison in the wound.

It is an injury I do not deserve. What I deserve I accept. What I
do not deserve pressed on me to humiliate me makes Murder in me.
Regardless of the other one--

--it would be simpler and finer for me to do that Murder than to keep
it in me. So many times in a week the trembling smothering longing
to do that Murder beats, beats in my thin breast. To be so owned by
a thing so small:--it is grief and despair and fury and wild nervous
intolerableness. It strains my flesh--it wrenches my pulse--it blinds
my eyes--it fills my throat--

--it would be a simpler and finer thing to do any Murder than to
feel, even once, the strangling damnedness rising, rising at my

_Loose twos_


I take it for granted God knows all about me.

If God should read this it would not be news to him.

But his knowledge of me is not immediate knowledge nor immediately
interesting to him. He knows my Twos-and-Twos but he does not make
Fours of them.

I am formed of loose Twos which wait for God to make them Fours.

I can not do it myself. When I’ve tried the added Twos come out
threes, seventies, nines, twelves--all the mysterious numbers. Never

Long ago I decided not to try but to wait for God.

I juggle with temperamental and psychic Twos and experiment in
hysteric additions.

But it’s no good my trying to make Fours.

If God does not take it up I shall be eternal Twos.

And I seem not greatly to care: whenever that comes home to me I
merely light a carefree cigarette.

_Knitting or plaiting straw_


The things I know are jumbled and tangled into an indescribable heap
inside me.

The things I Don’t Know are separated and ranged of their own
volition in long orderly rows in my conscious mentality.

The things I know glow with tints and gleams and will-o’-wisp lights
and primal colors and waveringly with the blinding gold-purple
lightnings of all-Time.

The things I Don’t Know glow--each one separately--with a small
precise lantern-brightness of its own.

Also in my wide background are things I don’t know and am unaware
of it: the mass of my luminous Ignorance--it shines with an earthy

When I look at the things I know I get an undetailed perspective of
me like a bird’s-eye view of London.

When I look at neat formal rows of things I Don’t Know I have a clear
look, as if through an uncurtained window into a bare little room, at
my quietest self sitting knitting or plaiting straw.

I reckon up and count up and check up lists of big and little things
I Don’t Know--like this, rapidly:

I Don’t Know what ink is made of, nor how to fire a Maxim gun:
I don’t know how to make a will: I don’t know how to cook a
prairie-chicken, nor what to feed a pet weasel, nor who invented the
snarling-iron, nor what it is.

I Don’t Know what food people eat in the Himalaya Mountains, nor how
Lord Cornwallis felt when he surrendered: I don’t know the color of
a chicken’s gizzard, nor of sand, nor of fish-scales, nor of mice: I
don’t know whether an English cabinet minister needs strength of mind
or strength of will, or both, or neither.

I Don’t Know how I hurt the true heart of my friend: I don’t know
astronomy nor solid geometry: I don’t know what I think with: I
don’t know what ooze leather is, nor who pitched for the Tigers in

I Don’t Know a good horse from a bad horse: I don’t know why a bat
sleeps head downward, nor what wasps live on: I don’t know how to
open oysters, nor how to milk a cow: I don’t know the Latin for

I Don’t Know whether friendship is a selfish or an unselfish thing,
nor who discovered the medlar apple: I don’t know what is a jab,
fistically speaking, nor a punch, nor a hook, nor a wallop, nor the
fighting weight of Packey McFarland: I don’t know whether a moth
‘marries’ or whether her eggs are impregnated like a fish’s: I don’t
know why a clasp knife is called a jack knife, nor what to do for an
aching foot.

I Don’t Know how glass is blown: I don’t know whether coal is
vegetable or mineral: I don’t know the chemical composition of the
sunset vapors, nor how to play euchre: I don’t know how many guns an
armored cruiser carries, nor whether a gorilla meditates: I don’t
know whether I hate or greatly admire Catherine and Marie de Medici:
I don’t know a winch from a windlass.

I Don’t Know where is the cinnamon bear’s native haunt: I don’t know
how flint is mined, nor if wire is made of steel: I don’t know who
was the better man--William Wordsworth or the Duke of Wellington: I
don’t know the advantages of tariff revision downward: I don’t know
where ex-President Taft will go when he dies.

I Don’t Know whether I feel more comfortable with or without my
stays: I don’t know the origin of the word ‘dogged’: I don’t know
whether a ‘full house’ is better than ‘two pairs,’ nor whether a
right merry heart to-day is better than a wrong contented mind
to-morrow: I don’t know whether rabbit-pie is made of cats in Paris,
nor how many sails has a sloop: I don’t know what makes a dead body

I Don’t Know how to sharpen a carving knife, nor how to roll a
cigarette: I don’t know the real English meaning of the French noun
‘élancement’: I don’t know whether my sex is a matter of my genital
organs or of my mental inwards: I don’t know how to determine the
contents of a circle in square inches, nor how to pronounce ‘zebra.’

I Don’t Know whether Edgar Allan Poe is big or little: I don’t know
how many soldiers fell at Shiloh: I don’t know whether temperament
or nature or circumstance makes one woman a happy kindhearted whore
and another an unhappy cruel-hearted nun: I don’t know how to grow
artichokes: I don’t know what brimstone is, nor how to play the
accordion: I don’t know what quality in me forms my handwriting.

I Don’t Know what-like was my Soul in the Stone Age: I don’t know
whether cheese is good or bad for my health: I don’t know what
becomes of discarded hairpins, nor a tooth-brush’s ultimate destiny:
I don’t know the ‘Fra Diavolo’ opera, nor whether anyone ever uses
the word ‘thwack.’

I Don’t Know whether my heart breaks from within or without: I don’t
know whether ‘good old Marie Lloyd’ of the London ‘halls’ has a brain
like G. K. Chesterton or a dexterous individuality like a juggler:
I don’t know whether I feel spiritual bliss in my knees or in my
spirit: I don’t know why I breathe and go on breathing.

I Don’t Know what became of the ten lost tribes of Israel: I don’t
know how to say how-do-you-do to a king: I don’t know the exact
meaning of my terror and despair: I don’t know why I love--why I ever

I Don’t Know whether laws of chance govern a spinning roulette
wheel and ivory ball or whether chance is beyond law: I don’t
know what kind of missile a Krupp gun shoots: I don’t know how a
ground-and-lofty tumbler turns a triple air-summersault: I don’t
know whether I really am the way I look in the mirror: I don’t know
whether the Russian language has Romanic roots: I don’t know what is
the wild power in poetry.

I Don’t Know whether lust is a human coarseness or a human fineness:
I don’t know why death holds a so sweet lure since it would take away
my Body: I don’t know that I wouldn’t deny my Christ, if I had one,
three times before a given cockcrow: I don’t know on the other hand
that I would: I don’t know whether honor is a reality in human beings
or a pose: I don’t know that I mayn’t be able to think with my Body
when it is in its coffin.

I Don’t Know what makes each day a Day of dark Gold and life
mournfully precious: I don’t know where is God: I don’t know how they
make tea in Ireland: I don’t know how to pronounce the word ‘girl’:
I don’t know how to make lace: I don’t know whether I hear a sound
or feel it, nor why a spool of thread looks exactly like a Spool of

I Don’t Know--I Don’t Know--I Don’t Know, rapidly, to the end of the
mystic common-place infinitudes.

--those give me a clear look, as if through an uncurtained window
into a bare little room, at my quietest self sitting knitting or
plaiting straw--

_A life-long lonely word_


Fleeting times I wonder if it is my defect or others’ that no human
family tie holds and warms me.

There is none. I think about it with wistfulness.

The only tie-of-blood feeling that clings to me is of my warming and
keeping-alive. And it is very feeble. It grows more feeble.

It is a trivial matter as I look at it universally.

But as I look at it earthlily: there would be an abnormalness, a
lostness in one when the mother who bore her got from it at best but
a small cool dislike.

It makes me feel humanly lost.

‘Lost’ is the shuddering life-long lonely word that brushes against
me some nights and noons.

_Their voices_


Every day at half-past ten and half-past two I hear the high
shrill sweet choric Voices of hundreds of children shaking the thin
clear air.

A public school is but a block from here. The children rush out of
it, a hilarious noisy crowd, for a few mid-morning and mid-afternoon
minutes. So those minutes, from hearing their Voices day after day,
and day after day, have become lyric to my inner-listening.

Their Voices stir me, rouse me, speak to me with old very joyous,
very woful meanings.

The children fairly leap out of the school-building through doors
and down fire-escape stairways. And their Voices are at once hurled
skyward, clamorous and chaotic.

The Sound they make is a roundly common sound yet ‘winged.’ It is an
untrammeled Sound, uncultivated, only a little civilized.

It is world-music.

In it is the note beyond culture, higher than civilization, and
older. It is brave as voices of the shrilling winds and warmer,
viriler. It is liltinger than bird-songs and lustier than roarings of
mountain cataracts.

Music of the world!--

A little door inside me opens to those Voices.

My little door opens at the first shriek of the first child out of
doors, and I hear not only the hundreds of vivid piercing Voices but
more--their far-off echoes.

They are the Voices of children, children light-held in crude cold
innocence. The eyes of the children are clear--their impulses and
instincts rule their little lives. They are yet untouched by the
tiredness and terror and shame and sorrow of being human beings.

So the Sound of their Voices sweeps out resistless and regardless
as the sea or the sun which makes nothing of its own strength or
weakness. And through my little spirit-door I hear them, the poignant
common little sweet Voices, echoing, flying away, farther and
farther: along the roads: over plains and hills: through valleys long
worldly distances from here: through streets: through stone buildings
and dingy courts: through big rich houses: through homes of comfort
and homes of misery and homes of desolate smugness: into lifeless
social foyers: into learned places: into law-courts and cabinet-rooms
of nations: into graveyards and churches and down into dead-vaults:
into theatres: into clinics: into shops: into factories: into dives
and stews and brothels and at lustful doorsteps: into hotels and
on sport-courses: into market-places and across battle-fields,
round monuments and in towers and in forts and in prisons and in
dungeons:--there along fly their Voices.

It is a brave, brave Sound, and an insistent: nothing stops it.

It is triumph.

The noise of the noisiest battle dies away in time. The pounding of
ocean-surf on the rocks and of electric thunder in the clouds are
lasting only with this earth. But brave wild Voices of children fly
on and on, outlasting a million earths, silencing aeons of thunder,
floating strongly back of the stars. The voices of men--wizards,
monks, artisans, thieves--echo no farther than their talking
conceits: even of poets except as they catch up into their sonance
something to interpret a cool gay clamor of child-Voices. The voices
of women--singing women, lovely women, angelic honest women--die with
their bodies: even of mothers of the children except as they follow
with their own echo, by dream and shadow, the thronging child-Voices
as they go.

For the Sound of the child-Voices is more potent than wizards’--it is
not cramped into thought-forms: more devotional than monks’ because
super-conscious; more menacing than thieves’ because absolute. And
it echoes, echoes, echoes in the market-place full-tongued, ringing,
rising like the northern gale when all the other voices are long
dead-silenced: and after.

Music of the world.

This moment I hear it for it is half-after two of a bright gold
day. The air is emotional, nectareal, and mellow and yellow and
hot-sparkling. The Voices pierce it like a storm of fine steel
arrows. I at once set open my spirit-door and through it come the
sweet shrill chorus and the marvel echo beginning and swelling and
starting away. It wakes vision so that I see--quick, evil, terribly
human, in the dazzlingest daytime colors--all those Places where the
Voices go.

I go to a window and watch the children running about beneath the
high tide of their Voices. And they and the school-building and the
streets and stone walls show in duller colors than the Places where
their Echo goes.

--small girls with clipped hair and bloused cotton frocks, taller
girls throwing a basket-ball, thin-legged little girls playing
hop-scotch, groups of varied sizes with rainbow ribbons in their
hair, confused masses of knitted sweaters and fat white-stockinged
legs and shiny leather belts and ankle-strapped shoes, and
little young shoulders and knees and waistlines--restless and

--and confused boy-groups--little fellows in suits misnamed
Oliver-Twist, larger boys of serge-Norfolk persuasion, types of
the generic knickerbocker at once motley and monotonous--all with
the strong sturdy calves of their legs clad in a time-honored kind
of black ribbed stockings, all with the same breed of ties and
collars and short-cropped hair, all with the tacit air of confessing
themselves the most serenely cruel of all animals--

A careless conscienceless happy mob.

It is the Sound of their Voices that invests them with the terrifying
Power, the long world-sweeping Force as of spirit and matter merged,
the human radioactivity not evil and not good, stronger than all evil
and all good.

Those children I look at must cease to be children, and must lose
their Voices and grow into monks and thieves and singing women--must
turn into persons--‘Romans, countrymen and lovers.’

But will come after those another chorus: the same chorus: the same

The brief yellow mellow minutes have passed and the last shout has
been silenced and the hundreds of children, Rainbow Hair-Ribbons and
Black Ribbed Legs, are again gathered into the McKinley School.

And my little door is shut again: that door opens but for those

The Voices: their echo flying everywhere flies here into my
still room: and it stirs me, rouses me, speaks to me with the old
joyous woe.

Music of the world.

_My damns_


I bear the detailed infliction of being a person with a tired mixture
of patience and indifference and scorn.

I say on Monday, Damn the ache in my left foot: on Tuesday, Damn
that rattling window--I hate it: on Wednesday, Damn this yellow
garter--it’s too tight: on Thursday, Damn my futile life: on Friday,
Damn the solitude: on Saturday, Damn these thoughts: on Sunday, Damn
my two dresses.

But I pronounce each day’s Damn in a half-perfunctory half-preoccupied
tone, more from duty and fitness than from conviction. I intently
mean each Damn, but the scornful indifferent patience which is my
spirit-essence leavens each one. I swear at my life’s perversities
with only a fatigued contempt due partly to bodily fragileness but
mostly to a cold continently reckless mood which is clasped on me
like a strong stupefied devil-fish. In this mood I should murmur the
same gelded Damn if I found myself penniless and foodless in strange
streets: if I became suddenly deaf: if my Body were being lashed with
whips or raped by a Mexican bandit. I should murmur the same worn
Damn if I were this moment on a gallows with the rope around my neck
and life were dearly madly precious.

I mark that with my musing regrets. I remember in the strong young
furies of eighteen each new day of my life was filled with passionate
poetic blasphemy, protests and rebellions of youth. Those were not
tired, not acquiescent, not indifferent to slings-and-arrows, but
firey-blooded quick-pulsed breathless brave young Damns.

There is splendor in being brave in a fighting attitude, but in being
brave through indifference there is no splendor.

But it is only toward calamity and adversity and worldly untowardness
that I feel indifferent. Fighting blood is stirred in me if not
against the hated things then for the loved things. I could fight
and I could die, and love it, to save poet-lusters, poet-fineness,
poet-beauty from the world’s flat griefs. In that, which I feel warm
and real and sparkling in my blood, in some splendor for me.

--and also I could die for my country: and there is fighting hatred
stirred in me against its foes--

But in poetry there is nothing that evokes a lusty curse against its
vulgar adversaries. Poetry floats too high upon its dazzling wings. I
get delicately drunk from watching it till I can see the wings’ Gold
Shadow touch its foes and magically split them into dust-atoms.

So then the morale of my Damns remains perfunctory.

But they are apt and useful. They fit into the nervous rhythms of my
life. They mark time in my spirit’s flawed action. I begin each day
with a Damn of sorts. I end each day with a Damn of sorts. At midday
sometimes it’s, ‘Damn the terrifying ignorance of people.’ In the
dusk a deep-felt Damn of the blood. In the night another. And at my
late eating time a negligible Damn.

A wonderful word, Damn. It means enough and not too much. It means
everything in life, and roundly nothing.

Without Damn my day would lack tone. Damn richly justifies each
pronouncement of itself in word-value, substance-value and musical
resonance. It harms nobody and it helps me. It destroys nothing and
it strengthens me. It damages my annoyances and mends me somewhat.

But--perfunctory, desultory, tiredly insolent, it would be thrilling
to think the hot fire would sometime be back in my Damns. Better that
than Youth’s faith in my dreams. Better that than the _jeune-fille_
beauty in my hair. Better than even Youth’s ichor in my veins:
Youth’s fire in my Damns--

But there is dearness in this mood, which is indifferent and scornful
and slightingly patient, though it wants splendor. Let my Damns be
always brave, always contemptuous of disaster to me, and they will be
first-water value though their kind alter never-so.

_To God, care of the whistling winds_


This morning came a letter from a half-forgot friend in London. She
is in vaudeville and has been booked for two months in the Music
Halls. Her letter is of a tenor productive of a letter in turn. But I
am somehow not free to write letters to friends while I’m living in
my two plain dresses. So I wrote this letter to God instead:

                                                 19th November.

Dear God:

I know you won’t answer this letter. I’m not sure you will get it.
But I have the feeling to write you a letter, though it should only
blow down the whistling winds.

I haven’t a thing to ask of you: no prayer to make. I am not
suppliant nor humble nor contrite. Nor would I justify myself as a
person in your eyes. I scorn to try to justify myself. What I am I
am. If I am a bad actor I take the results of it without plaint.
I comment on it--why not?--since cats may look at kings and each
person inherits four-and-twenty hours a day. But I am bewildered and
distraught and sad.

The best you do for me, God, when I think of you--you personally--is
to make me bewildered and distraught and sad.

But I’ve imagined I could put myself to you as a proposition to take
or to leave as you like: on my terms since I do not know yours.

There are some verses--the Rubaiyat--in which you are upbraided as if
you might be the dealer in some gambling game who had the long end of
all the wagers and still so protected his money that _he_ could not
lose however the cards turned.--‘from his helpless creature be repaid
pure Gold for what he lent him dross-allayed.’--‘thou who didst with
pitfall and with gin beset the Road I was to wander in--.’

But to me that seems a cheap attitude toward you, God. I admit you
are fair. If I thought you weren’t my mind would not vex itself with
you at all. I can not make you out a crooked dealer nor one who lends
out bad money and demands good money in repayment.

But you are reticent and cold-tempered and uninterested. So it seems.
The necklace which you gave me so long ago, made of little curses, I
wear always round my spirit-neck. It serves some purpose, perhaps,
and it answers as a keepsake: so at least I may not forget you
whether or not you forget me. I don’t ask any more of your attention
nor anything more of you than I would be willing to give you in
return. But I wish you would be willing to exchange attention with
me. I am lonely. I am terrified. I am frightfully overshadowed by
myself and my odd aloofness and my thronging solitary emotions and my
menacing trivialities. I am always fearing not that I may be wicked
or immoral or allied with evils--I don’t really care a tinker’s curse
about that--but that I may be growing petty and trivial and weak. It
is horrible, horrible to feel that I may be a weakling--you, God, may
not know how horrible to me. It is like black annihilation for all
eternity when my Soul longs frantically, desperately to live. I feel
weakness to be the only immoralness--hateful and vile in whatever
aspect. I want to be strong to endure and to live in noonday lights
and to overcome my poorness. I want, though I’m far from it, to be
brave and big. What I admire you for, though you’re so far off and
strange and inexplicable, is that you are strong. You are Strength,
you are Light, you are the Solution and the Absolute. You’d hardly
know what weakness is if it did not so crop out in this human race
you made. This human race is a faërily beautiful thing: star-flaming
poets have sung in it: lovely youth has breathed upon it: happy wild
hearts have informed it. But the odd keynote of it all is weakness.
And I have felt me tuned overmuch by that keynote.

--but I won’t be weak, I won’t be, I won’t be, God! Whether
you pay attention or not, whether I breathe only futileness, I
will be strong, strong, strong in myself--strong if only in my
falseness--strong and strong again--

This would be your chance with me if you cared to take it: because
I own now just my plain two dresses. When I grow out of this quiet
mood--(if ever I do: I begin to doubt it)--I shall have more dresses,
and then I shall think about them, God, and the phases of life
they’ll build up around me, and not about you. It’s not that pretty
frocks would take my attention away from you if you once claimed it.
Once you claimed my attention it would be yours forever. But pretty
frocks would mean I am again walking in paved peopled roads. Being
there without your attention I shall go where my garments may lead me
forgetful of you. One’s life is of the flavor of one’s clothes: ‘the
wine must taste of its own grapes.’

Now feels like a fitting time for you to be personal with me, to give
me a sign that you know I’m here. I know I am blind and ignorant
about that. You may know a time that shall be more fitting, a time
when my still mood and two dresses are long gone and my life is made
of fluff and lightness so your sign will crash into it like a black
two-ton meteor. I only tell you how it seems. If you should come
now and speak to me I should feel suddenly glad. To-day feels such
a day-of-God. The sky is all wet silver and the air a thin cloud
of gold. I sit writing you by my window, often looking out with
my forehead resting against the cool pane. There is an ache in my
forehead, in my insteps, in my backbone and in my spirit. By stopping
in here a moment you would gladden me. If you could give me, or show
me--where it perhaps had always been--one true thing to have always
in my life I should cling to it and ask nothing of it but that it
remain true. If you’d make me one far-off promise of a dawn to come
after this tired darkness I would take your word for it and would
walk toward your dawn in a straight road from which I should not ever
turn aside. In me is a small torch glowing though set in chaos. By
its light I should keep in the road leading to your dawn. I should
keep in it at any sacrifice to my merely human self: any sacrifice,
believe me.

It isn’t a bargain I would make with you. I don’t like the thought of
a bargain with you. I would rather take the chance and lose honestly:
not in everything but in this matter with you. You show me the road
and I take it for the sole reason that it’s a true one. I should
expect myself to pay the tolls--heavy ones since I’m innately a liar,
a someway bad lot. I know, the same as I know one and one make two,
that I’ve only to be square in the human business of living to get
back a square deal, though I’ll get badly battered, with it. But it
isn’t what I mean. Something inside me hungers for answeringness--a
Gleam--to make me know the worldly squareness and the battering are
worth while beyond themselves: but a detail in the game.

You mightn’t guess it but I am diffident about broaching this much
that may sound like a plea, so I’ll say no more of it.

But before I close the letter I want to tell you that I’m not wanting
in gratitude for the terrible beauty of this world. I feel with
ecstasy the burning loveliness of the life you give the human race.

I want to tell you thank-you for some things in it. But all that they
mean I can not tell in words.

Only yesterday a light at sundown lingered on the hill-tops and on
the desert back of the School of Mines in tints of Olive and Copper
and Ochre and Rose so delicate, so radiant, so dumbly forlorn that
I closed my eyes against it all as I walked along the sand: its
aliveness, its realness, its flawless golden dreadful peace tortured
and twisted and too-keenly interpreted me.

And one summer day in Central Park in New York I saw a little
Yellow-Yellow Butterfly fluttering above a small plot of brilliant
Green-Green Grass in the afternoon sunshine. To you, God, used to the
purpling splendor of untold worlds that mightn’t seem noteworthy.
But to me--because I am half-sister to so many trivialities the
Yellow-Yellow of those little wings and the sweet bright Green of
the clipped velvet Grass beneath the sun suddenly fiercely entered
in and beat-beat hard on my imagination. O the glare and the flare
of that fairy prettiness! I shall never forget that picture though
I should one day see those worlds. It made me think wildly of
you, God, at the time--and ever since. It is there yet in Central
Park, that particular plot of Grass, and if not that Yellow-Yellow
Butterfly--happily, happily Yellow it was--then another!

And to-day and often other days I read this--

  ‘_Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard are sweeter_’--

--magic words: potent hushed wizardry of beauty. It opens the
doors of all the Inner Rooms and more blest, more precious, of the
celestial brain of him who wrote it. In making the glimmering Purple
of all your worlds, God, you have not surpassed the thing you made in
the regal wistful glory of John Keats.

And two nights ago I went close to my glass and looked deep into my
own dark gray eyes, and they were beautiful. Their color is the gray
not of peace but of stormy sky and clouded sea. Their expression is
alien and melancholy and they are never without circlings of fatigue
or stress. And when I meet their glance they mostly accuse and
condemn and confound me. But two nights ago they grew wide and deep
and breathless-looking at realizing me human and alive. And presently
I saw, back of their gray iris--my Soul: like a naked girl: like a
willow in the wind: like a drowning star at daybreak: an inherent
inexpressible grace--my Soul of many ages.

And this moment another little memory, God, of a tropic marsh
a little way back from the sea on the island in the bay at
St. Augustine, as it looked in the wane of one sun-flooded February
day. In the marsh were tall waving feathery salt-marsh grasses,
and little pools of murky water. And there were snail-shells and
ancient barnacles and smooth beach pebbles. And bordering the pools
were reeds and flags and tiny wax-petaled death-white lilies. By a
mound of wet moss was a slim wild blue heron standing on one leg and
staring about and preening its blue feathers. And over all the scene
was a Pink-Pink Flush. The curving quivering tops of the long grass
were Pink with it. The pools were dull Pink mirrors. The barnacles,
the pebbles, the death-white lilies were as if a thin bloody veil
had been flung down on them. Pink touched the heron’s wings, its
beak, its head, its glittering beady eyes and spindly leg. The
sinking sun shot a Pink broadside of dream-dust all over the marsh:
it lingered and hung and floated. Almost I could have reached out my
two hands and gathered a bouquet of Pink Flush. The stillness, which
was intense, was Pink stillness. O but it was pleasant, pleasant,
pleasant, God--it wrapped me in a scarf of Pink sweetness: it filled
my throat with Pink honey: it laid on me a gentle eager quiet
covetous Pink spell.

Nobody knows how you do it, God. But it is all--Sunset Tint,
Yellow-Yellow Moth, Conscious Soul, Poet-Flame--maddening and
precious and terrifying and transfiguring to me who live among it. I
cherish it as a lonely one may who loves it with passion and is never
happy in it. And for it all I thank you, God.

                                        Yours very sincerely,
                                                  Mary MacLane.

I wrote the Letter on my long-unused monogram note-paper to please my
whim, and put it in the envelope and addressed it to God, care of the
Whistling Winds. He may receive it--what do I know?--only _he_ knows,
and is reticent.

I only know he’ll not answer it.

_A working diaphragm_


I am not Respectable nor Refined nor in Good Taste.

I take a delicate M.-Mac-Lane pleasure in those facts.

I doubt if they are anyway peculiar to me, but they feel like a
someway delicious clandestine circumstance: something to enjoy all to

It is difficult to imagine any woman really Respectable on her inner
side, the side that is turned toward herself alone. And it’s certain
no woman is Refined: it feels not possible. (There are yet inland
places where the word is used in its smug sense and believed in.) And
no woman but a dead woman in her coffin is in complete Good Taste.
Every live woman has for instance a working diaphragm: and in a
diaphragm there is, in the final analysis, simply no taste at all.

(As for men--except poets--I mean _poets_: and perhaps scientists--they
are so ungenuine: a race of discreet cautious puppets: wooden dolls
who move as their strings are pulled: with nothing so real about them
inside as even outside--what use to dwell upon them?)

Nearly all women are perplexingly interesting as human beings. And I
am quite the most interesting human being I know: and with it the
most appealing, the most sincere--in my own false fashion, and the
most bespeaking.

It is much due to knowing and feeling me to be not Respectable nor
Refined nor in Good Taste: particularly to being not in Good Taste.

One autumn evening in Boston I went to dine with a man in his
apartment in Beacon Street. He is a mining engineer whom I have
known since we were both children. He had bidden me to dinner in his
off-hand engineering way, but when I arrived at his diggings he was
not there. He did not come. Instead there was a dinner waiting, a
Japanese boy to serve it, and a strange man who had happened in. The
strange man had iron-gray hair, a brow like Apollo, a jowl like Bill
Sikes and much conversation. He said that he was newly from China,
South Africa and Egypt and that in his life he had been married
seven times with book and bell. Together we ate the dinner, talking
pleasantly in the light of colored Chinese lamp-shades. There were
little birds to eat and Chinese wine to drink--_sam shu_ distilled
virilely from rice: always a little of it is too much. After the
dinner we were standing by a teakwood sideboard and the strange man
was holding me tightly in his arms against a large smooth evening
panel of shirt-front, and he was kissing my mouth with a great
deal of ardor. I did not like it. I thought of all the women he had
married and wondered if they had liked it. And I mused in my placid
brain, ‘As I was going to St. Ives I met a man with seven wives.’ It
was the only thought in my mind as I waited boredly for him to have
done. (It’s no good struggling.) And that incident I know was not

And one summer day I was riding horseback up a steep gorge in these
Montana hills. It was hot dusty riding. I came to a mountain stream
with a beautiful little white-and-blue cascade tumbling over a high
rock upon smooth pebbles below. I got down from my horse, took off
my dusty khaki suit and all my clothes and stood under the fall of
the little tumbling cascade, whitely naked, without so much as a
figleaf’s covering. It was delectable and pagan, what with my quaint
thoughts as I stood crouched beneath the sparkling splash. And I know
there was nothing Refined in it.

And one evening between nine and ten, a week ago. I was walking
across the broad desert valley east of this Butte. It is late
November and the night was stormy. A strong high gale swept the
Flat. Presently it rained. I was on my way back with a mile or two
to go. It rained harder. Heavy sheets of black water whipped and
whirled down on me and wrapped me in their wet wings. I love all
weather when it is mild and more when it is rough except when it
bears down too hard: then I feel indifferent to it. As I moved along
the dark road not hurrying and not loitering I was saying inside
me, ‘Why am I going to any shelter out of this heavy wet rain? Why
am I not a houseless beggar-woman with nothing gentler in all my
life than this November storm? It is not because I deserve gentler
things--’ And with a sudden heavy shudder I whispered, ‘I wish I
were a beggar-woman! I wish I had no roof to cover me in this cold
night-blackness. It would be honest: I should be stripped to my
deserts. And I wish it were so--this drenching rain, this strangling
wind--nothing but this--shelter, money, comfort, self-satisfaction,
however seemingly earned, are dishonest--thieved. I ought to
be--ragged beggar--bleared eyes--dirty petticoats--a foul ratty hole
to creep into--hunger--bodily misery--all the portion of outcasts--
As God may hear me--I’d eagerly tremblingly change lives this moment
with a beggar-woman. I would--I would--!’ It is a piece of clear
inside truth about myself. And I know it proves me to be in poor

It is a matter of attitude. Each of those incidents might happen to
any woman--except perhaps the last. I have known but one girl who
agreed with me in such a feeling. And not quite that feeling. She
had married a lot of money with a horrible old gentleman and had
wearied of both. But the other two episodes could readily belong to
any woman of _esprit_ who might be on the outside both Respectable
and Refined: even a woman lawyer.

But my attitude in the incident of the strange iron-gray man,
though in a bored way I could have viciously knifed him, was not a
Respectable attitude. I was bored and fanciful when doubtless I ought
to have been breathlessly angry. But my breathless anger is too rare
and beautiful an emotion to waste on ridiculous strange iron-gray men.

In the incident of the sparkling cascade my attitude was shameless:
something of the sort. It is never reprehensible for a woman to
take a cold shower-bath in solitude and health. But my spirit rose
and rejoiced at my bodily nakedness and then grew nymph-like and
figleafless on its own account. My sex exploited itself in mental
visions, like of Leda and the Swan or of myself as a slim villainous
Scotch Aphrodite conceived by a bold surprising Titian. And doubtless
I ought to have felt timorous in the vast sunlit mountainside, or
like a sexless child (or merely ‘hygienic’ like William Muldoon and
Bernarr McFadden). But the quick charm of the situation and the
heavenly anguish of the icy water, and my lovely Body, and my odd
moralless musings were too intriguing to expend themselves banalely.

The wet night road and the beggar-woman wish: it is drearily real
to me. Though I wear two plain dainty dresses, in a house--in me,
beating, beating, pounding down is a cold wild heavy rain: and under
my feet a long lonely muddy road. If they belong to me--well. I love
Me the more for feeling them.

And I feel them because I am not yet dead and in my coffin, but alive
and with a working diaphragm: which diaphragms are in not Good Taste.

_Lot’s wife_


To-day in the afternoon I briskly manicured my fingernails, sitting
by my gold-and-blue window, and I mused upon Lot’s Wife.

So many persons and incidents and events and adventures and episodes
there are to muse upon, in this mixed world, dating from when it
began till now. There’s something to charm any mood. Let me leave the
doors of my mind open and anything at all may float in like an errant
butterfly on a summer’s day.

It is an entertaining world, by and large: a limitless vaudeville.

Lot’s Wife is to me a fantasy from the antique, a bit of archaic
frivol to beguile me.

When first I heard of her, from an acrid aunt of caustic humor who
told me the tale tersely in explanation of a biblical print, I was
seven years old. From that day to this my meditative thoughts have
from time to time flitted backward to dwell interestedly upon Lot’s
Wife. Later when I went to an Episcopal Sunday-school I was pleased
to find this adjuration in according-to-St.-Luke: ‘Remember Lot’s
Wife.’ There seemed no special meaning attached to it. It seemed like
Remember Lot’s Wife in any way you like--as it might be with a card
on her birthday, a useless gift at Christmas, in your prayers, or in
retributive patriotism like Remember the Alamo, Remember the Maine.

But I remember her because I like her.

There’s no name given for Lot’s Wife in the brief biblical narrative,
so I long ago named her Bella as expressive of the temperament and
character that have grown around her image in my thoughts. Poor
Bella, I ruminated as I tinted and polished my nails. Her life in
Sodom was not entirely satisfying to her. Sodom was a town completely
given over to pleasure of the physical and outward sorts. The
dwellers lived in and for their physical senses alone. And Bella had
it in her to care for the foods of the spirit. Not that she longed
for them--she was not so conscious of herself--but she had it in her
to care for them had they been given her. Still, Sodom and its ways
were the best she knew and she had known them all her life. The roots
of her temperament had shot down into the Sodomesque substrata. She
fondly loved the place.

Sodom was a prototype for Babylon or Pompeii, worshiping the hotness
of the sun in moralless plaisance, with fêtes and drinkings of wine
from gold and silver cups, and bathings in warm scented marble-lined
pools, and anointings with oils of olive and palm, and dwellings
among flowers of thin bright petals and birds of vivid plumage and
fountains of crystal and rainbow, and caterings to the sparkle and
froth of human emotions, and browsings amid loves and lights o’ love.
Can Bella be wondered at for growing fond of it all, having known
nothing substantialer? And can she rightly be blamed for hating the
thought of leaving it for dry sage-brush wilds in the mountains? She
did hate and dread that thought with all her soul from the moment
it was made known to her that Sodom for its sins was booked for
destruction. She had perhaps a fortnight in which to dread it, and a
fortnight if given over to dread is long enough to damage stronger
spirits than hers.

Bella was slender and svelte, with long straight soft beautiful
silken pale red hair and white-lidded eyes of grayish green. She
was thirty-eight--a young thirty-eight. There’s an old thirty-eight
which applies to greedy school-teachers, gangrenous woman
government-clerks, fading hard-hearted stenographers, over-righteous
woman doctors; to all whose virtue is ever indecently on guard. But
there’s a glory-tinted sun-kissed young thirty-eight which applies
to sensitive high-strung generously-emotional women like Bella Lot.
She had smooth hands with supple tapering fingers, an irregular
expressive-lipped mouth like a pimpernel-bloom, firm slim feet
and the quivering suggestive white knees of a wood-nymph. From any
angle-of-view can she be blamed for hating to take that equipment
away from the city-de-luxe which was its so proper setting and hiding
it in the sage-brush?

Furthermore Bella had a lover in Sodom. It is beyond a sane effort
of the imagination that she could have loved that unpleasing old man
Lot. The best and worst that can be said of him is that he was a fit
addition to the company of the old Patriarchs who were for the most
part an exceeding craven crew. The martyrs, the sages and especially
the prophets had their splendors. But the lean old patriarchs--The
sporting blood of all of them--in the sense of merest simplest
courage--from Adam down, would hardly aggregate one drop. There are
any number of reasons--as many as Bella had charms--to account for
Lot’s having married her. But what she could have seen in him to make
her wish or even willing to be married to him is a deep mystery to
me. It may have been his family. I believe Bella lacked family: she
was just a person. And was he not nephew to Abraham? But even being
niece-in-law to Abraham himself seems insufficient compensation for
being Lot’s Wife.

The Lots had two young daughters, one fifteen and one seventeen, it
might be. I do not know their names--call them Ethel and Agnes. But
they were of a recalcitrant temper and absorbed in their own racy
pastimes among the younger youth of Sodom and they had no need of
their mother. Besides, they ‘took after’ their father. So Bella was
fain to turn outward in search of nurturing matter whereon to feed
her humanness. Had it been expected of her to play fair with the
patriarch she would have played fair. But it was not expected of her
by anyone in Sodom--far from it, and least of all by the patriarch.
She was eight-and-thirty, and Lot--_he_ was doubtless eight or nine
hundred years old, after the surprising long-lived fashion of the

So Bella found a lover ready and awaiting her. She would have found
a lover in the circumstances even without caring to. But she quite
cared to, I think. Everything points that way, and when one remembers
that good old man her husband one can not censure her but only pity
her. Be it as it may she had one--one as real as anything could be in
that town of sparkling froth.

Of the lover’s identity--little is known, as the historians say. My
fancy as I filed my fingernails failed me on the point. Suffice it
to state that ever and anon as time passed in Sodom the gray-green
eyes of Bella were gazed into with fondness, affection, adoration
and desire: the white eyelids of Bella had showers of light kisses
bestowed on them, soft-falling as rose-petals shaken loose in summer
winds: the tapering white hands of Bella were caressed and caressing
with the oddly intense tenderness of physical love: the pale red hair
of Bella was ruffled and fluffed and disarrayed by the fingers of
love: the red-pimpernel mouth of Bella was touched, bruised, clung
to by the lips of love: the svelte whiteness and nymph-knees of
Bella glowed as she broached love’s arms:--and all went much merrier
than marriage bells. In short, Bella paid herself with usury for the
deadliness of being Lot’s Wife.

And there we have the crux of Bella’s dread of leaving Sodom and its
tempered sweetness for the arid sage-brush hills and the respectively
cold and hectic companionship of the good old patriarch and the
recalcitrant daughters.

It can not be claimed for Bella that any white poetic fires gleamed
across her soul, that any limning beauty shone palely from within
her. The air of Sodom was not conducive to suchlike matters and Bella
was no finer than her breeding and generation. But she was gentle and
wistful and kind of heart. She was lovely to look at and ingenuously
lovable in her clinging affection and disarming naturalness. She was
all one could want to imagine in the word charming.

Came the night set for destruction and the Lot family fled
according to schedule. They fled away in the early damps of an
autumn evening through the outer city gates and along a rough road
faintly lit by a dying moon. They had three separate reasons for
fleeing. Lot fled because he was a patriarch and was given to doing
craven Old-Testamentish things of that sort: Bella fled because
she was Lot’s Wife and obliged to act out the rôle: and Ethel and
Agnes fled because they had true patriarchal blood in their veins
and had therefore no marked inclination to remain in Sodom to be
annihilated--‘safety first’ was one of their watchwords. They fled in
the van. Lot came after them, being less swift of foot. Bella lagged
behind. She didn’t want to go. Every way she looked at it she didn’t
want to go. She hated that flight for a thousand reasons.

The ghastly moon shed a terror on her with its dim rays. The ground
was hard and rutted with frosty mud and bruised her slender feet
through her white buckskin sandals.

She wore a loose _ninon_ gown of white silk and linen with a
gold girdle around her narrow loins and a gold clasp at the left
shoulder. Binding her long hair, so palely red in the moon, was a
white-and-gold fillet. In one hand she carried a gold-and-enamel
link bracelet, a gift but that afternoon from the lover. Suddenly
she stopped and cried to herself, ‘I’m too lovely for this fate--I’m
too lovely and beloved--the cruelty of God--: I’ll not go on!’ She
thought of the gleams and colorings of Sodom. She quickly reckoned
the cost and decided to pay it. She was a rare good sport, and a
quaint. She looked back at the doomed city blazing in brimstone--‘But
his wife looked back from behind him, and she became a pillar of

As I put away my chamois-skin buffer and glass paste-jar through my
mind floated the pensive burden of a by-gone French song--

  ‘_Oh, the poor, oh, the poor, oh, the poor--dear--girl_’--

She must have made a beautiful statue, all in glistening salt.

I wish I had a glistening little salty replica of it to set on my
desk: a so unusual, a so dainty conceit, Lot’s Wife!

_My echoing footsteps_


While I live so still in this life-space, while I muse and meditate
and analyze everything I touch, while I walk, while I work, while
I change from one plain frock to the other: in quiet hours roiled
tumbling storms of vicarious unhopeful Passion whirl, whirl in me:
Passion of Soul, Passion of Mind, Passion of living, Passion of this
mixed world: in terror, in wild unease, in reasonless mournful joy.

I never knew real Passion, Passion-meanings, till I reached thirty.
It is now I’m at life’s storm-center, youth’s climax, the high-pulsed
orgasmic moment of being alive.

At twenty the woman’s chrysalis soul and aching pulses awaken in
crude chaste Spring-cold beauty. At forty her fires either have
subsided to dim-glowing coals or leaped to too-positive, too-searing,
too-obvious flames--her bones and the filigrees of her spirit may be
alike dry, brittle-ish. But at thirty her Spring has but changed to
midsummer. Poesy still waits upon her Passions.

My Spring has changed, bloomed, burst to midsummer.

Soft electrical heat-currents of being swing and sweep around me.
They touch me and enter my veins. But the liquid essences of youth
still quell and compass them. I am at youth’s climax--a half-sullen,
half-smouldering youth which still is youth.

My rose of life is fragrant and aglow. Its sweet pink petals are
uncurled and conscious in the wavering light.

Winds flutter and stir and rumple and twist those petals--

To-day is a To-morrow of countless unrests. Large and little
Passions beat at me all the blue-and-copper day. I walked my floor
with irregular lagging steps. I felt menacing, dangerous to myself,
dynamic as nitro-glycerine: and smoothly drearily sane as a bar of
white soap. I stood at my window and looked long at the circling
range of mountains which skirt this Butte. Nothing else I have looked
at, of sea or plain or hill, affected me like that chain of barren
peaks. They are arid splendor and pale purple witchery and grief and
lasting sadness and deathlike beauty and woe and wonder. Their color
quietly stormed my eyes and blurred them with tears.

It was a mood in which any color or gleam or thought or strain of
music or note of sad world-laughter or any un-sane loveliness of
poetry could enchant or flay or transport me to my frayed last nerve.

There is terror in facing death on battlefields, on sinking ships,
in black ice-floes, in blazing buildings. But to me no death, for I
fear no death, could be so dreadfully pregnant with in-turning woe
and frenzy and all intolerable feeling as facing starkly my futile

My life is a vast stone bastile of many little Rooms in which I am a
prisoner. I am locked there in solitude on bread and water and let to
roam in it at will. And each Room is tenanted by invisible garbled
furies and dubious ecstasies. I run with echoing footsteps from Room
to Room to escape them: but each Room is more unhabitable than the
last. There are scores of little Rooms, each with its ghosts, each

In one Room silent voices in the air accuse my tired Spirit of wanton
vacillations and barren lack of purpose and utter waste, waste, waste
of itself. And they threaten death and destruction. I know that
accusation and I hate it: I hate it the more for that it’s wholly
just. To escape it I run from that Room along a dim passage into
another one. In it unseen fingers clutch my Heart. In their touch
also is an accusation: of selfishness and waste and want of something
to beat for: and in their touch is the savor of wild wishes and human
longings and passionate prayers for something warm and simple and
real to rest against: and in their pressing clutching turbulent touch
is a tormenting half-promise, chance-promise, no-promise: and the
hovering inevitable threat of death and destruction. That too I know
and hate and half-love: and I can’t bear it. So I run out of that
Room along a passage and into another. I hear my footsteps echoing as
I run.

--as a child when I ran in the early night through a dark leaf-lined
tunnel-like driveway the sound of my own flying footsteps on the
hardened gravel was the only thing that frightened me. I quite
believed there were bears in the brushwood on either side, but
fear of them never struck to the core of my child-being like the
unknown thing in my echoing steps. And it is fear I feel now from
the ghost-sound of my ghost-footsteps running, running away from the
little Rooms. It is realer to me now than were my child footsteps to
my child-self long ago: it is more definite than my hand which writes
this: it is hideous--

Out of a dim passage I run into another little Room. In it some gray
filmy threads, like strands of loose cobwebs caught on ceilings,
float about. They sweep gently against my cheeks and hands and
neck, and cling and twine and lightly hold with the half-felt
feeling peculiar to bits of cobwebs on the skin. And it torments my
woman-flesh with calefacient thrills fierce and goading and sweet.
There also is the accusation, now against my Body; for tissues and
strength wasted: for useless fires meant to warm human seeds to life,
meant to make me fruitful, meant to make me bear dear race-burdens:
accusation for the cosmic waste of hot objectless desire, for the
subtle guilt of a Lesbian tendency, for an unleashed over-positive
sex-fancy. With it too is the lowering promise of death and
destruction. It also is just. But out of my borne-along helplessness
in it comes no culpable emotion because of cobweb thrills and their
arraignment but only a wearing wearying despair. I rush out of that
Room in shrugging impatience, with only scorn for a threat of death,
for a threat of destruction--but with a wild fear of my own flying
steps. I hurry and hurry on from door to door: but it’s no good. In
some other Room my brain is anathematized from frowning walls as an
impish demoniac power which I use with no good intent and therefore
with bad intent: and again I shrink and run away. In another Room are
all the lies I have ever told: I have told legions--my own peculiar
lies, gentler on me than truths: they dart around me in the Room like
black heavy-winged moths, clouds of them fluttering at my forehead.
They drive me out shivering. In another Room four times when I was
a not-good-sport confront me in a row like pictures and sting me
and make me hide my eyes: I’d rather be a leper, a beast, a maniac
than a not-good-sport (for my own precious reasons)--and I rush away
again. In some other Room--

--the same galling torment in all the Rooms. Wherever I run with the
echo-echo of steps there are Accusing voices and half-formed Prayer
and uncertain Yearning and violent yet dumb and inexpectant Protest
and the unfailing Threat of death and destruction: not earth-death
but universe-death: death and death and death everywhere coming on
and on: myself knowing the just note in it all and from it grown numb
with some cold and restless terror. Also I know no door I run through
with my panic-feet will ever set me free of the bastile except a
death door: the earthly death of this tired life--

But it’s from this maelstrom that the flashing burning sparkling mad
magic of being alive leaps out brilliant and barbarous--and throbbing
and splendid and sweet. A merely human hunger comes back on me. Then
I want all I ever wanted with a hundredfold more voltage of wanting
than I have ever yet known.

I am all unhopeful, all unpeaceful, all a desperate Languor and a
tragic Futileness: I am an unspeakably untoward thing.

And already I have been seared and scarred trivially from standing
foolishly near some foolish human melting-pots.

No matter for any of it. I want to plunge headlong into life--not
imitation life which is all I’ve yet known, but honest worldly
life at its biggest and humanest and cruelest and damnedest: to be
blistered and scorched by it if it be so ordered--so that only it’s
_realness_--from the outside of my skin to the deeps of my spirit.

It is not happiness I want--nothing like it: its like never existed
since this world began.

I want to feel one big hot red bloody Kiss-of-Life placed square and
strong on my mouth and shot straight into me to the back wall of my

       *       *       *       *       *

I write this book for my own reading.

It is my postulate to myself.

As I read it it makes me clench my teeth savagely: and coldly
tranquilly close my eyelids: it makes me love and loathe Me, Soul and

Clench and close as I will the winds flutter and stir and crumple and
twist my petals as _they_ will:--as I sit here tiredly, tiredly sane.

_A comfortably vicious person_


The blue-and-copper of yesterday is dead and buried this To-morrow in
a maroon twilight.

I this moment saw darkly from my window the somber hills in their
heavy spell of pale-purple and grief and splendor and sadness and
beauty and wonder and woe.

But their color brings no tears to my wicked gray eyes.

The passion-edged mood is burnt out.

Gone, gone, gone.

I listlessly change into the other black dress for listless
dinnertime and all my thought is that my abdomen is beautifully flat
and that I must purchase a new petticoat.

I rub a little rouge on my pale mouth and I idlingly recall a clever
and filthy story I once heard.

I laugh languidly at it and feel myself a comfortably vicious person.

I pronounce a damn on the familiar ache in my beloved left foot and
turn away from myself.

I stick out the tip of my forked-feeling tongue at the bastard
clock on the stairs. I note the hour on it with a fainness in my
spirit-gizzard to dedicate Me from that time forth to a big blue god
of Nastiness: Nastiness so restful, humorous, appetizing, reckless,

--these hellish To-morrows creeping in their petty pace: they bring
in weak-kneed niceness, and they bring in doubts, and they bring in
meditation and imagery and all-around humanness, till I’m a mere
heavy-heeled dubious complicated jade.

_In my black dress and my still room_


I have fits of Laughter all to myself.

The world is full of funny things. All to myself I Laugh at them. I
lounge at my desk in the small night hours, and I finger a pencil or
a box or a rubber or a knife and rest my chin on my hand, and sit on
my right foot, and Laugh intermittently at this or that.

Ha! ha! ha! I say inwardly: with all my Heart: relishingly.

I laugh at the thought of a mouse I once encountered lying dead--so
neat, so virtuous--though soft and o’er-long dead--with its tail
folded around it--in a porcelain tea-pot: a strong inimical anomaly
to all who viewed it. It had a look of a saint in effigy in a whited
sepulcher. Looked at as a mouse it seemed out of place. Looked at as
a saint it was perfect.

I Laugh at the recollection of a lady I once met who had thick
black furry eyebrows incongruous to her face, which she took off
at night and laid on her bureau. They were at once ‘detached’ and
detachable: itself a subtle phenomenon. She referred to her mind as
her ‘intellects’ and talked with a quaint bogus learnedness, and in
remarkable grammar, of the Swedenborgian doctrines. Looked at as a
person she was inadequate. Looked at as a conundrum she was gifted
and profound.

I Laugh at that extraordinary tailor in the Mother Goose rhyme--him
‘whose name was Stout,’ who cut off the petticoats of the little old
woman ‘round about,’ herself having recklessly fallen asleep on the
public highway. The tale leaves me the impression that such were the
straitly economic ideas of the tailor that he obtained all his cloth
by wandering about with his shears until he happened upon persons
slumbering thus publicly and vulnerably. Looked at in any light that
tailor is ever surprising, ever original, ever rarely delectable.

I Laugh at William Jennings Bryan.

How William Jennings Bryan may look to the country and world-at-large
I have never much considered.

It is all in the angle of view: St. Simeon Stilites may seem
rousingly funny to some: Old King Cole may have been a frosty dullard
to those who knew him best.

To me William Jennings Bryan means bits of my relishingest brand of
gay mournful Laughter.

The ensemble and detail of William Jennings Bryan and his career
as a public man, viewed impersonally--as one looks at the moon--is
something hectic as hell’s-bells.

I remember William Jennings Bryan when his star first rose. It
was before Theodore Roosevelt was more than a name: before the
battleship _Maine_ was sunk at Havana: before Lanky Bob wrested the
heavyweight title from Gentleman Jim at Carson: before aëroplanes
were and automobiles were more than rare thin-wheeled restless
buggies: before the song ‘My Gal She’s a High-born Lady’ had yet
waned: before one Carrie Nation had hewn her way to fame with a
hatchet. I was a short-skirted little girl devouringly reading and
observing everything, and I took note of all those. So I took note
of William Jennings Bryan nominated for president by the Democratic
convention in eighteen-ninety-six. The zealous Democratic newspapers
referred to him, though he was then thirty-six, as the Boy Orator
of the Platte. Looked at as a grown man, advocating free coinage
of silver at sixteen-to-one--a daring dashing Democrat, he was a
plausible thing and even romantic. Looked at as a Boy Orator he
turned at once into a bald and aged lad oddly flavored with an
essence of Dare-devil Dick, of the boy on the burning deck, of a kind
of political Fauntleroy madly matured.

Long years later with the top of his hair and his waistline buried
deep in his past he became Secretary of State: and at the same time a
Chautauqua Circuit lecturer--entertaining placid satisfied audiences
alternately with a troupe of Swiss Yodlers. Of all things, yodlers.
Politics makes strange bedfellows and always did. But never before
has the American Department of State combined and vied with the
yodler’s art to entertain and instruct. Looked at as a monologist he
might pass if sufficiently interpolated with ah-le-ee! and ah-le-o-o!
Looked at as Secretary of State he is grilling and gruelling to the
senses: a frightful figure quite surpassing a mouse softly dead in a
tea-pot, a pair of detachable fuzzy Swedenborg-addicted eyebrows, a
presumptuously economical tailor.

And he entertained the foreign ministers at a state dinner, did
this unusual man, and he gave them to drink--what but grape-juice,
grape-juice in its virginity. Plain water might have seemed the
crystalline expression of a rigid puritanic spirit. Budweiser Beer,
bitter and bourgeois, might have been possible though surprising.
But grape-juice, served to seasoned Latin Titles and Graybeards and
Gold-Braid, long tamely familiar with the Widow Clicquot: that in
truth seems, after all the years, boyishly oratorical, wildly and
darkly Nebraskan. Looked at as an appetizing wash for a children’s
white-collared and pink-sashed party, or for anybody on a summer
afternoon, grape-juice is satisfactory. In the careless hands of
William Jennings Bryan with his soul so unscrupulously at peace, the
virgin grape-juice becomes a vitriolic thing: a defluent purple river
crushing one’s helpless spirit among its rocks and rapids.

--a terrible American, William Jennings Bryan. He is for ‘peace
at any price.’ There were some, long and long ago, who suffered
and endured one starveling winter in camp at Valley Forge that
William Jennings Bryan might wax Nebraskanly fat: and _he_ is
valiantly for peace: at any price--

For that my Laughter is tinged with fulfilling hatred.

Rich hot-livered Laughter must have in it essential love or hatred.

To William Jennings Bryan everything he has done in his political
career must seem all right.

It _is_ all right, undoubtedly. Just that.

--that Silver-tongued Boy Orator

those Yodlers

that Peerless Leader

that Grape-juice--

They come breaking into my melancholy night-hours with an odd
high-seasoned abruptness.

I wonder what God thinks of him.

It might be God thinks well of him.

But I--in my black dress and my still room--I say inwardly and
willy-nilly, and with all my Heart and relishingly:

Ha! ha! ha!

_Their little shoes_


Often in windy autumn nights I lie awake in my shadowy bed and think
of the children, the Drab-eyed thousands of children in this America
who work in coal mines and factories.

Whenever I’m wakeful and the night is windy and my room is dark and I
lie in aloneness--a long aloneness: centuries--then shadows come from
far-off world-wildnesses and float and flutter dimly unhappy around
my bed. They tell me tales of shame and tame petty hopelessness and
trifling despair.

And the one that comes oftenest is the one that tells of those
Drab-Eyed children distances from here, but very immediate, who work
in coal mines and factories. I read about them in magazines and
newspapers, but they aren’t then one one-hundredth so real as when
their shadow floats as close to me in the windy autumn night.

Once in Pennsylvania I saw a group of children, very Drab in the Eyes
and very thin in the necks and legs, who worked in a mill. Their look
made its imprint in my memory and more in my flesh. And it comes back
as if it were the only thing that mattered as I lie wakeful in the
windy night.

The children--unconscious and smiling their small decayed
smiles--they are living and being crushed between greed and need as
between two murderous millstones. Their frail flesh and their little
brittle bones, their voices and their pinched insides, the sweet
vague childish looks which belong in their faces are squeezed and
crunched by two millstones--squeezed, squeezed till their scrawny
fledgeling bodies are dry, breathless, and are gasping, strangling,
striving frightfully for life: and still are slowly, all too slowly,
dying between two millstones.

If it were their own greed or their own need--but it’s the greed of
fat people and the need of their own warped gaunt parents. Betwixt
the two the children meet homelike hideous ruin. Placidly they are
cheated and blighted and blasted, placidly and with the utmost

The most darkling-luminous thing about the Drab-Eyed children is
that they never weep. They talk among themselves and smile their
little dreadful decayed smiles, but they don’t weep. When they walk
it’s with a middle-aged gait: when they eat their noontime food it’s
as grown people do, with half-conscious economic and gastronomic
consideration. They count their Tuesdays and Wednesdays with
calculation as work-days, which should be childishly wind-sweptly
free. Which is all of less weight than the heavy fact that they never

They reckon themselves fairly fortunate with their bits of silver
in yellow envelopes every Saturday. They are permitted to keep a
bit of it, each child a bit for herself or himself, so that on
Sunday afternoons they lose themselves for precious hours watching
Charlie Chaplin. Many pink-faced inconsequent children whose parents
nurture them and guard them and eternally misunderstand them are less
worldlily lucky. But the pink-faced children often weep--loudly,
foolishly like puppies and snarling furry cubs--and wet sweet salt
tears of proper childishness are round and bright on their cheeks
and lashes. It’s a sun-washed blestness for them: they’re impelled
and allowed to weep. But the Drab Eyes shed no tears--they know no
reason why they should. There’s no impulse for soft liquid grief in
the murderous philosophy of two grinding millstones. And there’s no
time--the lives of the work-children move on fast. Their very shoes
are ground between the millstones.

--their little shoes are heartbreaking. The millstones grind many
things along with little-little shoes of children: germs of potent
splendid humanness that might grow bigly American in heroic ways or
in sane round honesty: germs that might grow into brave barbaric
beauty or warm wistful sweetness: germs that would grow into lips
blooming tender and fragrant as jonquils or into minds swimming
with lyrics:--what is strongly lasting and glorified in the forlorn
divine human thing--crumpled--twisted forever when millstones grind
children’s little poor shoes--

The young Drab Eyes are endlessly betrayed: their very color thieved.
There’s no reason why they should weep.

But there’s a far-blown sound as if ten thousand bad and good worldly
eyes were weeping in their stead: with a note in it careless,
compassionate and jadedly menacing.

I seem to hear it in the wakeful windy night. And I hear no
world-music pouring out of small throats of work-children shrill with
woe-and-joy. The sound they make is a dumb sound, for they never
weep: a ghost-wail of partly-dead children borne lowly across this
mixed world on a stale hellish breeze.

_The sleep of the dead_


When I’m dead I want to Rest awhile in my grave: for I’m Tired, Tired

My Soul must go on as it has gone on up to now.

It has a long way to go, and it has come a long way.

My Soul first started on its journey somewhere in Asia before the
dawn of this civilization. And it has gone on since through the
centuries and through strange phases of Body, terrors of flesh and
blood, suffering long. But it has gone someway on, each space of the
journey taking it nearer to the journey’s-End.

It is the dim-felt memory of those journeys that heaps the Tiredness
on me now. Not only is my spirit Tired. Through my spirit my hands
are Tired: my knees are Tired: my drooping shoulders: my thin feet:
my sensitive backbone. When I lift my hand in the sunshine the weight
of the yellow honeyed air bears down and down on it because I’m so
Tired. When I start to walk on stone pavements the ache of them is in
my feet before I set a foot on them because I’m so Tired. The pulse
in my veins Tires my blood as it beats. My low voice, though I speak
but rarely--it Tires my throat. My breath Tires my chest. The weight
of my hair Tires my forehead and temples. My plain frocks Tire my
Body to wear. My swift trenchant thoughts Tire my Mind.

It is not the Tiredness of effort though I strive to the limits of my
strength every day.

It is not pain, Restful pain. It is Tired Tiredness.

So when I’m dead I want to Rest awhile in my grave. It _would_ Rest

In the Episcopal Church they use a ritual of poetic beauty, full of
Restful things. One of them is the sleep of the dead. The crucified
Nazarene slept three days. But all others of us when we go down
into our graves are to sleep until a Judgment Day. ‘Judgment Day’
is preposterous and evilly crude: there’s no judgment till each can
judge himself simply and cruelly in the morning light. But the sleep
of the dead--

--the sleep of the dead. Its sound by itself without the thought is

And the thought is Restful.

I imagine me wrapped in a shroud of soft thin wool cloth of a pale
color, laid in a plain wood coffin: and my eyelids are closed, and my
Tired feet are dead feet, and my hands are folded on my breast. And
the coffin is nine feet down in the ground and the earth covers it.
Upon that some green sod: and above, the ancient blue deep sheltering
sky: and the clouds and the winds and the suns and moons, and the
days and nights and circling horizons--those above my grave.

And my Body laid at its length, eyes closed, hands folded, down there
Resting: my Soul not yet gone but laid beside my Body in the coffin

--might we lie like that--Resting, Resting, for weeks, months, ages--

Year after long year, Resting.

_Stickily mad_


It is damn-the-Smell-of-Turpentine!

Here I happen on a damn in me which is not desultory but bloodily
strong and alive and alone.

The wood in my blue-white room has been newly painted. For a day
and a night I intermittently encounter and go to bed in a spirit of
Turpentine. It bears a cruel obscure abortive message to my nerves.

I lie wakeful in the dark and try to reason out a logicalness or
poetry in a thing so artfully pestilential. But I am hysterically
lost in it and my heart beats hysterically in it.

I remember the inexpressible ingenuity of man: of white man as
against bone-brained savage races. Every invented usefulness feels
like divine witchcraft. A pen and a bottle of perfume and a door-knob
and a granite kettle and an electric light: I have the use of each
since white man is so ingenious. Were I a red Indian I should have
only the awkward barbarous stupid tools my race had used a thousand
years. I contrast the two as I lie wakeful, with a sense of richness
and of detailed repletion and of material blestness.

But at once comes the Smell of Turpentine and announces itself
something outside that and _different_, something stronger, something
masterfuler than ingenuity and savagery together. It tortures my
nerves: it burns my eyes: it lames my flesh: it jerks and flays and
garbles my inner body. The ingenuity of man has produced opium and
cocaine which would combat and hide it all behind a heavy curtain of
stupor, with effects equally damaging if less grievously subtle.

The Smell of Turpentine is a thing to bear since all its
counter-things bring only solider evil.

The paint was put on the wood by a dirty little man whom I briefly
inspected as something removed from my range of life. In return he
covertly eyed me. I expected my wakeful hours would be punished
by strong new paint and be-visioned by dirty little men. But it
is all sheer Turpentine with a power suggesting nothing human nor
super-natural nor divine. Just itself: a goblin virulence.

In all my Soul and bones and Mary-Mac-Laneness it is damn-the-Smell-
of-Turpentine as a bastard murderous hurt.

I have an odd feeling God has no more power over it than have I.

It half-calls for a _different_ Turpentine God.

I am shakily mad tonight, I believe, from a so slight sticky matter.

_God compensates me_


It’s a Sunday midnight and I’ve just eaten a Cold Boiled Potato.

I shall never be able to write one-tenth of my fondness for a Cold
Boiled Potato.

A Cold Boiled Potato is always an unpremeditated episode which is its
chief charm.

It’s nice to happen on a book of poetry on a window-sill. It’s nice
to surprise a square of chocolate in a glove box. It’s nice to come
upon a little yellow apple in ambush. It’s nice to get an unexpected
letter from Jane Gillmore. It’s nice to unearth a reserve fund of
silk stockings under a sofa pillow. And especially it’s nice to find
a Cold Boiled Potato on a pantry shelf at midnight.

I like caviare at luncheon. And I like venison at dinner, dark and
bloody and rich. And I like champagne bubbling passionately in a
hollow-stemmed glass on New Year’s day. And I like terrapin turtle.
And I like French-Canadian game-pie. And artichokes and grapes and
baby onions. And none of them has the odd gnome-ish charm of a Cold
Boiled Potato at midnight.

I can imagine no circumstance in which a Cold Boiled Potato would not
take precedent with me at midnight. If I had a broken arm: if I had a
husband lying dead in the next room: if I were facing abrupt worldly
disaster: if there were a burglar in the house: if I’d had a dayful
of depression: if God and opportunity were knocking and clamoring at
my door: I should disregard each and all some minutes at midnight if
I had also a Cold Boiled Potato.

I love to read Keats’s Nightingale in my hushed life. I love to
remember Caruso at the Metropolitan singing Celeste Aïda. I love to
watch the bewitching blonde Blanche Sweet in a moving picture. I love
to feel the summer moonlight on my eyelids. And it’s disarmingly
contented I am with a Cold Boiled Potato at midnight.

Content is my rarest emotion and I get it at midnight out of a Cold
Boiled Potato.

Some things in life thrill me. Some drive me garbledly mad. Some
uplift me. Some debauch me. Some strengthen and enlighten me. Some
hurt, hurt, hurt. But I’m not thrilled nor maddened nor uplifted nor
debauched nor strengthened nor enlightened nor hurt, but only fed-up
and fattened in spirit by a Cold Boiled Potato at midnight.

I stand in the pantry door leaning against the jamb, with a tiny
glass salt-shaker in one hand and the sweet dark pink Cold Boiled
Potato in the other. And I sprinkle it with salt and I nibble,
nibble, nibble. And I say aloud, ‘Gee, it’s good!’

I liked Cold Boiled Potato at four-and-twenty. I liked it at
seventeen. I liked it at twelve. At three I climbed on cake-boxes in
search of one. And now in the deep bloom of being myself I am made
roundly replete at midnight with a Cold Boiled Potato.

A Cold Boiled Potato--it tastes of chestnuts at midnight, the first
frost-kissed chestnuts in the woods: and it tastes of rain-water and
of salt and of roses: it tastes of young willow-bark and of earth
and of grass-stems: it tastes of the sun and the wind and of some
nameless relishingness born of the summer hillside that grew it: it
tastes at midnight so _like_ a Cold Boiled Potato.

A precious peach-colored orchid, an antique spider-web-like lace
handkerchief, a delicate purple butterfly, an emerald bracelet: I’d
strive for each of those in an eagerly casual way. But it’s like an
ogre at midnight I pounce on a Cold Boiled Potato.

A Cold Boiled Potato reminds me of the Dickens books in which so much
food is eaten cold and tastes so savory--even the ‘wilderness of cold
potatoes’ portioned to the Marchioness by Sally Brass. And it reminds
me of the Rip Van Winkle play--‘give this fellow a cold potato
and let him go.’ And it reminds me of Hamlet--funeral baked meats
might include it. And it reminds me of Robin Hood’s merry men, and
Huckleberry Finn, and the Canterbury Pilgrims, and the Prodigal Son,
and all the picturesque wayfarers. It reminds me of the poor as a
colorful race wrapped around with hungry romance. It reminds me that
life is full of life--rich and fruitful and evolutionary and cosmic:
few things feel so cosmic as a Cold Boiled Potato at midnight.
It makes me want as I nibble to plant a field of potatoes on a
southern-exposed hill and hoe them and dig them all by myself: and
give all but one to the poor and Boil that to eat Cold at midnight.

I have to be very hungry to crave a Cold Boiled Potato, but being
hungry no possible morsel of food can so interest me at midnight. The
same potato hot is domestic and tasteless. The same potato at ten
in the evening lukewarm within and sodden with memories of dinner,
is a repellent item. At midnight it is all unexpected magnetism. At
midnight my whole being is profoundly courteous, wooingly cordial
toward a Cold Boiled Potato.

If I had only what I deserved my portion might well be a Cold Boiled
Potato. Intrinsically it is rated low and I know me to be a sort
of jezebel. But I’d wonder each midnight if whoever metes out the
deserts in this surprising universe knew with what gust I rise at
it--_would_ I get it.

Nor am I satisfied like the meek and lowly with my midnight supper of
Cold Boiled Potato: damn the meek and lowly. It’s a satanic delight
I take in it. It’s a sly private orgie I make of it: a pirate’s
banquet, a thieves’ picnic, a pagan rite, a heathen revelry, a
conceit all and unhallowedly my own. My thoughts as I nibble are set
mostly on my villainies. No food I eat brings me so broad a license
of feeling--a sense of freedom--as a Cold Boiled Potato at midnight.

On a Cold Boiled Potato at midnight I am lightly valorous: call me
a trickster and I’ll call you a rotter: call me a liar and I’ll
call you a traitor: call me a coward and I’ll call you another: not
pugnaciously but gayly and serenely.

I am then in my most bespeaking mood. Anyone who met me standing
nibbling in a pantry doorway at midnight would be charmed. I would
talk with a dainty ribaldry and offer to share the feast.

For shadow-things piled too near God compensates me in unexpected
midnights with a Cold Boiled Potato: along with it a pantry doorway
to stand in and a little glass salt-shaker to hold in my other hand.

_The strange braveness_


If God has human feelings he must often have a burning at the eyes
and a fullness at the throat at the strange Braveness of human
people: their Braveness as they go on in the daily life, with aching
dumbish minds and disgruntled bereft bodies and flattened pinched
gnawed hearts.

The easy human slattern way would be to sink beneath the burden.

Instead, people: I and Another and all others--seamstresses and
monotonous clerks and lawyers and housewives: sit upright in chairs
and talk into telephones and walk fast and eat breakfasts and brush
hair: all the while marooned in a morass of small wild unexciting
tasteless Pain.

Of others--what do I know?

But I might say, ‘Look, God, I am not fallen on the ground, from this
and that--utterly lost and down. But sitting, drooping but strong, in
a chair, mending a lamp-shade--neat, orderly and at-it in my misery.’

_Just beneath my skin_


This I write is a strange thing.

So close to fact: so far from it.

So close to truth: so surrounded by lies.

It does not contain lies but is someway surrounded by a mist of lies.

A strange thing about it is that it _is_ expressing the Self Just
Beneath My Skin.

That Self is someways trivial and outlandish and mentally nervous,
flightly, silly--silly to a verge of tragicness. I know that to be
true from a long acquaintance with me. It is oddly intriguing to read
over some chapters and find it _shown_.

Some unconscious exact photography aids my writing talent.

Some chapters are bewilderingly and mysteriously true to life.

My everyday self that casually speaks to this or that person is
nothing like this book. My absorbed self that writes a letter to
an intimate acquaintance is not like this book. My heartfelt self
that deeply loves a friend, and gives of its depths, and thrills
answeringly to other depths, is not like this book.

This book is my mere Hidden Self--just under the skin but hid away
closer than the Thousand Mysteries: never shown to any other person
in any conversation or any association: never would be shown: never
could be.

How Another, any Other, would come out: what Another would show:
photographed Beneath the Skin--what do I know?

Perchance ten times more trivial and inconsequent and mad than Me.

If Another thinks Me someway mad, let him look at Himself Just
Beneath the Skin.

Perchance Another every day as he thanks a janitor for holding open a
door, would much prefer to drive a long rusty brad-nail deep into the
janitor’s skull.

Perchance Another has a brain like Goethe, a Soul like a
humming-bird, a Heart like a little round nutmeg.

What do I know?

I know what I am.

Another may know what he is.

But I can’t tell Me to Another and Another can’t tell Himself to Me.

I can tell Me to myself and write it.

Another if he reads will see Me: but not as I see Me. Instead,
through many veil-curtains and glasses, very darkly.

_God’s kindly caprice_


For twenty-five cents and one hour and twelve minutes one may get
in this present detailed world a bit of unforgettable complete

So I found to-day in a moving-picture theater. A Carmen, the real
Carmen of Prosper Mérimée glowed, vibrated, lived and died with
passion on a white screen.

Of all prose writers I know Prosper Mérimée is the one--(intimate
and sensitively alive as if I had lain against his shoulder as I
read ‘La Guzla’ and ‘Venus d’Ille’--he melts into my veins--)whom I
would most eagerly see interpreted. Of all fiction characters--if she
is fiction--the poignant Carmen is the one I would most eagerly see

Carmen is one of those fictions which are truer to life than life is.
Such fiction-things are all around, touching everybody: the spoken
truths which grow false at being spoken: the thought lies which turn
to truths the moment they touch words.

I have heard Carmen sung and seen her filmed by the lustrous Farrar,
and I have seen her play-acted by some lesser lights. But Bizet’s
opera, a sparkling music-storm, creates a sonant objective Carmen,
a beautiful bloody lyric, remote from Mérimée who made a Carmen
intensely peculiar to his own subjective art. And the stage-Carmen
has always been a stage-Carmen waiting in dusty, draughty wings
for her cues. It remained for the cinematograph, which is a true
literal mirror of human expression, to make Carmen burst into violent
physical life.

But it was less the scopes of the films which made Carmen animate
than it was the virile woman who played her. It was acting--but
acting in the sense of losing and sinking and saturating and
dissolving herself in another woman’s temperament: and by it she
achieved some strong sword, keen shadings of the Carmen character--to
the hair’s-breadth.

And she _looked_ like Carmen. It was not important to the vigorous
fire of her acting but it made bewitchment in the portrait. No one
I have before seen play Carmen fitted the elusive points of her

  ‘Her eyes were set obliquely in her head but they were
  magnificent and large. Her lips, a little full but beautifully
  shaped, revealed a set of teeth as white as newly-skinned
  almonds. Her hair was black with blue lights on it like a
  raven’s wing, long and glossy. To every blemish she united some
  advantage which was perhaps all the more evident by contrast.
  There was something strange and wild about her beauty. Her face
  surprised you at first sight but nobody could forget it. Her
  eyes especially had an expression of mingled sensuality and
  fierceness which I had never seen in any human glance. Gypsy’s
  eye, wolf’s eye’--

This (from the English translation of the story by Lady Mary Loyd)
fitted to a charm the pictured vision of the foreign-looking
woman--her name is Theda Bara--who flung a throbbing Carmen across
the screen with indescribable heat and color and luster. It was
comparable only to the muscular force of the original which that
Mérimée rubs nervously and heavily into one’s thoughts. I felt it
someway satisfyingly unbelievable--an illusion more actual than
actuality: a dream which outbore fact.

I suppose there’s no other character like Carmen for flaming
roundness in all fiction: filled with her treacheries yet purely true
to herself, without fear, utterly game: fierce, coarse, ruthless and
reckless yet wrapped in a maddening unwitting pathos: strong and bold
and cruelly poised yet capable of sudden complete surrender: ignorant
and abandoned and criminal in every instinct yet beyond every
littleness, every pettiness: sensual yet contemptuous and indifferent
in it, a woman of essential chastity. Carmen is the one criminal
conception in whom there is no vulgar evil, no personal maculateness
though wrecking all the wildness of her temper in her tempestuous
days’-journeys. She is a romantic murderous appeal to human
superjudgment. It was this isolate quality of her which Theda Bara
gave out with mystic masterful art. She gauged the personal odors
and blood-pressures of Carmen. She slipped into Carmen’s skin and
first sucked in and then breathed out the irresistible menacingness
and arresting ruination of her beautiful diabolic spirit. A little
feverish artistic thrill ran in my veins as I sat in the dark

  ‘She had thrown her mantilla back,’ says Don José in the
  translated tale, ‘to show her shoulders and a great bunch of
  acacias that was thrust into her chemise. She had another acacia
  bloom in the corner of her mouth and she walked along swaying
  her hips like a filly from the Cordova stud farm. In my country
  anyone who had seen a woman dressed in that fashion would
  have crossed himself. In Seville every man paid her some bold
  compliment on her appearance. She had an answer to each and all
  with her hand on her hip--“Come, my love,” she began again, “make
  me seven ells of lace for my mantilla, my pet pin-maker.” And
  taking the acacia blossom out of her mouth she flipped it at me
  with her thumb so that it hit me just between the eyes. I tell
  you, sir, I felt as if a bullet had struck me.’

This first meeting of Carmen with the dragoon was pictured in a
brilliant hot-looking plaza as if before the cigarette factory in
Seville. This woman in throwing the flower at the soldier expressed
wonderfully in one fleet moment, by hand and lip and eye, the savage
sordid poetry and passionate freedom--that unearthly fragrance--which
_is_ Carmen.

The film version followed the scenes of the opera rather than the
story, which took nothing from the headlong truth of the central

But no picturing can equal the star-clarity of Mérimée’s prose in
Carmen’s death-scene--a thing of a piercing pathos comparable to
nothing I know in writing.

  ‘After we had gone a little distance I said to her, “So, my
  Carmen, you are quite ready to follow me, isn’t it so?”

  She answered, “Yes, I’ll follow you to the death--but I won’t
  live with you any more.”

  We had reached a lonely gorge. I stopped my horse.

  “Is this the place?” she said.

  And with a spring she reached the ground. She took off her
  mantilla and threw it at her feet, and stood motionless with one
  hand on her hip, looking at me steadily.

  “You mean to kill me, I see that well,” she said. “It is fate.
  But you’ll never make me give in.”

  I said to her: “Be rational, I implore you; listen to me. All
  the past is forgotten. Yet you know it is you who have been my
  ruin--it is because of you that I am a robber and a murderer.
  Carmen, my Carmen, let me save you, and save myself with you.”

  “José,” she answered, “what you ask is impossible. I don’t love
  you any more. You love me still and that is why you want to kill
  me. If I liked I might tell you some other lie, but I don’t
  choose to give myself the trouble. Everything is over between us
  two. You are my rom and you have the right to kill your romi,
  but Carmen will always be free. A calli she was born and a calli
  she’ll die.”

  “Then you love Lucas?” I asked.

  “Yes, I have loved him--as I loved you--for an instant--less than
  I loved you, perhaps. And now I don’t love anything. And I hate
  myself for ever having loved you.”

  I cast myself at her feet, I seized her hands, I watered them
  with tears, I reminded her of all the happy moments we had spent
  together, I offered to continue my brigand’s life, if that would
  please her. Everything, sir, everything--I offered her everything
  if she would only love me again.

  She said: “Love you again? That’s not possible. Live with you? I
  will not do it.”

  I was wild with fury. I drew my knife. I would have had her look
  frightened and sue for mercy--but that woman was a demon. I
  cried: “For the last time I ask you, Will you stay with me?”

  “No! No! No!” she said and she stamped her foot. Then she
  pulled a ring I had given her off her finger and cast it into
  the brushwood. I struck her twice over--I had taken Garcia’s
  knife because I had broken my own. At the second thrust she
  fell without a sound. It seems to me that I can still see her
  great black eyes staring at me. Then they grew dim and the
  lids closed.--For a good hour I lay there prostrate beside the

No play-acting could make the scene so pregnant and palpitant with
human-stuff and alive in vision as that translucent jewel-prose
of Mérimée. But so close as one art may counterfeit another, by
drinking-up the fiery spirit essence which informs it, so close
did this actor-woman compass and consummate the strong delicious
unafraidness of Carmen’s death-hour.

The scene was staged as in the opera--a court outside the
bull-fighting arena, with Carmen richly bejeweled and dressed in
the lacy smart-lady clothes of the Toreador’s mistress. But that
was nothing. The gypsy wildness of the written scene was in every
insolently splendid bodily movement and each fateful loveliness of
eyes and lips of the fulfilling Theda Bara.

I can still see the dark drooping-lidded dying eyes. I sensed Carmen
in conscious chambers of my Mind. I felt her in my throat. It was
Carmen herself living and breathing near me, the fearsomely adorable
Carmen who has haunted the edge of my thoughts since I first read her.

There are some odd crudenesses in Theda Bara’s acting which had the
effect of making her un-stagey, unobvious. They made her humanly
vibrant. And they added a devilish wistfulness to her Carmen and a
surprising feel of genuineness to the whole masque.

The actor’s art brings out the romance which is in human
bone-and-flesh. And Theda Bara seems someway a master of its physical
and spiritual subtleties. She expressed the swift emotion of Carmen
by ringing slightest possible changes on her own virile and mobile
body: insolence by kimboing an elbow: cruelty by the twitch of a
wrist: sensual feeling by moving a knee and an ankle: murder in the
twisting of her waistline: a fleet repressed animal tenderness by a
posture of shoulder and breast: a heartbreak of mirth in her careless
vivid lips: the desperate bravery of that death by the tilt of her
potent chin: the hurricane-freedom of Carmen’s soul by lifting her
face and her arms in the night wind. She worked with an exquisite
muscular sincerity, as if she strongly gave her best of brain and
blood and mettle to the part.

I looked at photographs of her which decorated the lobby of the
theater. She looks a beautiful and earnest-seeming girl of a mental
rather than a physical caste, with melancholy dark eyes, a childlike
mouth-profile and the slim patrician hands of a Bourbon duchess. She
will live in my warmed memory as the star of all the Carmens.

A flood of life and color goes into the staging of a Carmen film: a
throng of attractive faces and bodies of people, women and men and
lovely children, move through it in a pulsating gay pageant: flowers
and Spanish prettinesses of costume and country-side and street
and café are all over it, bright as life: and sweet winds blow in
it and leaves and grasses wave and flutter, and the sunshine melts
and mellows the air--all as if one saw it thrice-enlarged through
windows. It is not poetry--it is not in itself any art, but a dear
delectable counterfeit of it, a miracle-_taste_ of the outer-looking
madly-peopled world.

For me it meant my long-adored Mérimée given sudden brief life, the
haunting Carmen turned into flesh: a spell of silent human-music
which glowed and burned upon me like gentle fire.

Often is God thus capriciously kind to me.

_A fascinating creature_


I am a fascinating creature.

I move in no stultifying ruts. There’s no real yoke of custom on
my shoulders. My round white breasts beneath their black serge are
concurrent with nothing settled or subservient or discreet.

My Mind goes in no grooves made by other minds. It lives like a witch
in a forest, weaving its spells, revelling in smooth vivid adventure.
When I look at a round gray stone by a roadside I look at it not as
a young woman, not as a person, not as an artist, nor a geologist,
nor an economist, but as Me--as Mary MacLane--and as if there had not
before been a round gray stone by a roadside since the world began.
When I look at a chair with my somber eyes I say to the chair, ‘What
other persons may see when they look at you, chair, I don’t know--how
could I know? But I well know what I see and that what I see is
uninfluenced by other eyes that may have looked at you, were they
Aristotle’s or Galileo’s or an archangel’s.’ There may be equally
egotistic viewpoints--in Waco-Texas, or Japan, or Glasgow-Scotland or
the Orkney Islands, where not? I don’t know--I don’t care. What is it
to me? I know my own virile vision and that it thrills and informs
and translates me as if crackling bright-jagged lightnings broke
along my sky.--

It is a night of whispering breezes and little restless clouds, an
endearing night. It makes solitude a delectation. I walked out in it,
in the glimmering moonlight past buildings and houses and mines and
mounds. My thoughts as I walked were all of Me: how fascinating is Me.

I came in at midnight and met Me in my mirror. I pushed my
three-cornered hat backward off my head, slipped out of my loose coat
and dropped my squeezed gloves. I sank fatiguedly into a little chair
before the mirror, tipped the chair forward on its front legs, rested
my elbows on the bureau and my chin in my hands and looked absorbedly
at myself. Lovingly, tenderly, discerningly, marveling and absorbed
and deeply fascinated I looked at Me in the mirror. ‘You enchanted
one!’ said I, ‘You Witch-o’-the-world! you Mary MacLane!--who you
are _I_ don’t know--what you are I but partly know. You’re my
Companion, my Familiar, my Lover, my wilding Sweetheart--I love you!
I know that--that’s enough. I love your garbled temper, your aching
thoughts, your troubled Heart, your wasted spirit. I know much, much,
much of you and love you! I love your beauty-sense and your proud
scornful secret super-sensitiveness. I love your Eyes and your Lips
and your bodily Fire and Ice’--

--to _know_ oneself: apart from all the world!

One looking at me sees a cold-poised young woman, reserved and aloof,
slightly diffusing insolence and inspiring misgivings.

But I looking at Me see a woman standing high on flame-washed
battlements of her life in whom burn and beat the spirits and
lights and star-discords of uncounted tired lustrous ages. I see me
forlorn and radiant, drab and brilliant. I see me wrapped in a fiery
potentiality of pain and beauty and love and sorrow. I hear wild
voices in Me like horrid-sweet wailing of ghost-violins, muted but
crying loudly in frightful reasonless vital joy and in unspeakable
terror and sadness. I see Me ragged-clothed, bleeding, with
disordered tangled hair and bloodshot eyes, with coarse soiled hands,
broken-nailed, like a criminal’s: a woman of woes. And I see Me
wistful in quiet pure garments like one seeking light. I see Me old
as old sin and young as new Spring days. I see Me un-sanely sensitive
and hardened over--closed in worldly cases: guarded antagonism round
my thoughts, protecting indifference round my Heart, dead silence
round my Soul. I see Me with brains to know, with prescient mind to
grasp, with mobile sense to feel. I see Me all futile, all hopeless,
all miserable. I see Me all poetry. I see Me all wonder, mystery and
beauty. I see Me!--

--much more than that, _this_ Me sitting here! my deep gray wanton
dark eyes: my lips--like pink flowers--with the inscrutable
expression: my white fingers--slim, strong, glossy-nailed, silken at
the tips. My glass gives Me back to Me, sitting by it, languid of
Body, tense of spirit and Mind, bathed in witcheries of Self--

I love my Mary MacLane! Ah--I love her!

It is good--since I can’t find God, since I can’t find way-of-truth
however I grope about.

Every human friendship I form throws me back more completely on

Whom then shall I love but myself?

I know my own human enchantments and that they never fail me.

I’ll know them more! I’ll love them more!--I’ll love them in sane
madness lest mad madness overtake and destroy Me, Soul and bones.

_No resonance_


My life, myself, I know are nothing noble, nothing constructive.

There is no resonance in this analysis, but all Dissonance.

Something lives, lives muscularly in me that constantly betrays
me, destroys me against all my own convictions, against all my own
knowledge, against all my own desire.

It may be true of Everybody.

I don’t know. I think about it but get nowhere.

It seems someway unlike God to make each person a something all of

But I doubt that I am different from Everybody.

I doubt if I am anyway abnormal.

I am very sane.

A match-flame burns me the same as it burns Everybody: pins prick me
and hurt.

Yet I look in myself and see, through harmonic details, the massed

I am dying in a pit.

_Black-browed Wednesdays_


All my life I’ve liked the Back of a magazine.

Some black-browed Wednesday I purchase a magazine, a fifteen-cent
one, and read it through. I read the stories and they deeply
engage or lightly interest me. I read the ‘special articles’ and
if they tell about flying machines or wild birds or hospitals or
woman-prisoners in penitentiaries they charm or absorb my thoughts.
I look at the illustrations and try to decide whether they are art
or science or mechanism. I read the verse and if it’s poetry it
exhilarates me as if closed shutters were opened to let Day into a
gloomy Room.

Then I read the advertisements in the Back and they do all of those
things to me in comforting life-giving oxygen-furnishing ways. Each
advertisement is a short story with an eerie little ‘plot’ in it:
each is a special article full of purpose: each is fruitful poetry:
and in my two hands I all-but have and hold those wonderful Things
they exploit.

They make me feel it’s my birthday and I’m presented a wealth of
lavish gifts.

They make me feel it’s all a world of playthings.

They make me feel like a baby with a rattle, a ball and a hoop of

I like _everything_ in the Back of a magazine.

I like the Revolvers, handsome plausible short-barreled Revolvers
with pictures of ordinary people in dim-lit midnight bedrooms, and
ordinary expected-looking burglars climbing in windows--Revolvers
of ten shots and of six, and of different calibers, and all of them
gleamingly mystically desirable: I like the Soaps, smooth amorous
appetizing Soaps, some in luxurious Paris packets, and others
spread out in blue water and rosy foam, splashed in by athletic
Archimedesque young men and fat creamy babies and slim beautiful
ladies--Mary Garden Soap of pungent delicious scent, tar Soap for the
long lovely hair of girls, austere Ivory Soap--It floats: I like the
Rubber Heels of resilient charm so tellingly pictured and described
that at once I desire them beneath my spirit-heels--springy and
solid and thick and firm: I like the Tooth-pastes and Tooth-powders
and Tooth-lotions in tubes and tins and bottles, each bearing
beneficent messages to the human white teeth of this world--one
unfailing kind coming lyrically out like a ribbon and lying flat
on the brush: I like the foods--of miraculous spotless purity and
enticement--Biscuits and Chocolate and Figs, and _Foie-gras_ in
thick glossy little pots, so richly pictured and sung that merely
to let my thoughts graze in their pasturage fattens my Heart: I
like the men’s very thin Watches, and men’s Garters--no metal can
touch you--, and men’s fluffy-lathered shaving sticks, and men’s
trim smart flawless tailored Suits, in none of which I have use or
interest until I find them in the Back of a magazine--where at once
they grow charming and romantic: I like the jars and boxes and tubes
and glasses of Cold Cream, Cold Cream fit for skins of goddesses, fit
for elves to feed on--a soft satiny scented snow-white elysium of
wax and vaseline and almond paste, pictured in forty alluring shapes
till it feels pleasantly ecstatic just to be living in the same world
with bewitching vases of Cold Cream, Cold Cream, Cold Cream--always
bewitching and lovely but never so notably and festively as in the
Back of a magazine: and I like the Pencils: and Book-cases: and
Silver: and Jewels: and Glass: and Gloves: and Shoes--beautiful
Shoes: and Fountain-pens: and Leather things: and Paint--silkish
salubrious Paints, house-Paints, and the panegyrics with them--they
make me long to own a spirit-house and paint it liberally: and Rugs:
and Varnish: and Clothes--wonderful Clothes: and Bungalows: and
Phonographs--his master’s voice: and Paper--fine-wrought Paper to
write on--bond and linen and hand-pressed, pale-tinted--a vast virgin
treasure: and Oranges: and Cigarettes--a shilling in London a quarter
here: and Water-Bottles of powdery rubber: and Stockings--patrician
Stockings which take me into realms of silk-looms and delicate dyes
and slim ankles: and Candle-Shades: and Candle-Sticks: and countless
Cosmetics--Cosmetics of tender colors for the outer women: and
Sealingwax indescribably useless and attractive: and Tennis-Racquets:
and Ivory--smooth Vantine Ivory toys and trinkets polished softly
bright as moonlight--and their lily-worded descriptions like
restrained sonnets: and Washing Powders--let the Gold Dust twins do
your work: and Shower-baths: and Evans’ Ale: and Flying Boats: and
Umbrellas: and Cameras--if it isn’t an Eastman it isn’t a kodak: and
boxes of Candy--sweet wilderness of chocolates--their very makers’
names have a melting gust--Allegretti, Huyler, Clarence Crane,
Maillard--cloying courtiers all: and Diamond Dyes--a child can use
them: and Veranda Screens--she can look out but he can’t look in:
and Cedar Chests: and Chartreuse from Carthusian monasteries: and
Perfumes--Perfumes in their maddening-sweet pride, Perfumes from
Paris, Perfumes bottled in thick crystal, enchantingly costly--each
American dollar added to their price-by-the-ounce making them
fragranter to my thoughts: and boxes of benevolent Matches, and
captivating Brooms, and fascinating Scouring-powders--a Dutch girl
on the can chasing dirt--all three luscious tempting things in the
Back of a magazine: and Automobiles--ask the man who owns one: and
Rifles--simple and formidable and fine: and restful Rat-poison--they
die in the open air seeking water: and sacks of Flour--eventually
why not now--flour unusual and piquant in the Back of a magazine,
flour novel and endearing: and Type-writers: and Mushrooms: and
Monkey-Wrenches: and Rosaries: and Rock-salt--

the Back, the Back, the Back of a magazine--

There’s no sadness and no terror in the Back of a magazine.

And it is for Everybody, Everybody.

A million people read a story in the middle of the magazine and half
the million readily miss its point. But a single tin of Talcum Powder
in the Back--the whole million note that and miss nothing in it: it
gets to them both on and under their skin.

Some of the million read a ten-line poem in _vers libre_ in the front
of the magazine--and nine-tenths of their number are hard-put to it:
the mentalities of this human race being mostly shops shut down.
It is something pregnant and prophetic to a poet, merely musical
to a plain prose writer, arrant folly to a telephone girl, amusing
nonsense to a butcher, a comic fantasy to a milliner, a form of
insanity to a plumber, an unknown tongue to a milk-man, a kind of
sin to a Baptist minister. But to each of those a Can of Soup in the
Back of the same magazine has easily, exactly the same ox-tail-ish
meanings: it reaches them where they live.

A thousand persons agree with an article about atavism in
orang-outangs and ten thousand more quite refute it. But they all
harmoniously commit suicide with the same make of Revolver--hammer
the hammer--or get rousing drunk to the same degree with the same
brand of high-powered whiskey--Wilson, that’s all.

A countess, a courtesan and a convict-woman summarily pass over the
front and middle of the magazine as containing nothing to their
purpose. But like jungle denizens at their drinking pool the three
of them meet hostilely on the common ground of a popular Cigarette
featured in the Back--a blend to suit every taste--wherewith they
unwittingly smoke away half their generic differentiations. The
Colonel’s Lady and Judy O’Grady anoint themselves nightly into a
state of shining invisible kinship from separated twin jars of the
same bewitching Cold Cream.

I’m not sure myself and Miss Lily Walker of the Broadway chorus
regard similarly a beauteous box of Rice Powder: she perchance would
at once dash madly into it and powder herself o’er with it, whereas
I would fain ponder about it awhile as a tiny be-violeted adventure.
But pondering or powdering, equally exciting to each of us is its
delicate pale lilac blazonment in the Back of a magazine.

The front of the magazine may mean little to you and the middle
of the magazine may mean nothing to me: the Back of it none of us

It is for Everybody, Everybody.

Even Senegambians: they can look at the pictures and marvel over them.

I can there meet a Senegambian on the common ground of it might be a
delicate transparent oval of Pears’ Soap, pretty as a jewel of price:
perchance we would each unconsciously feel we wouldn’t be happy till
we got it.

It’s only as playthings I want the Things in the Back of a magazine.

To me they are toys, lyrics of matter, food of the senses.

The octroi would have no sympathy with my loiterings among their
wares. It is a fête of my own, indolent and fanciful, unrecognized in
commerce. Any article I may put to its forthright use in actuality
becomes an idyllic toy when I find it in the Back of a magazine.
The desirable Revolvers are not firearms with which to shoot myself
and burglars, but only bijous to have and handle and caress. The
luxuriant vervain- and violet-scented Soaps are not for my toilet,
but something to eat, for my astral body to feed on--nourishing food
they make. The lush Cold Creams have no massaging possibilities in
them--they are for my thoughts to gambol among, for my meddlesome
spirit-fingers to touch and fuss with deliciously, blissfully,
transcending all vulgar use. The men’s thin Watches mean nothing
to me as Watches: and their Garters--what’s it to me whether
no-metal-can-touch-you or no-metal-at-all? My thoughts merely revel
and juggle with them, picture and legend--they are pastimes of my
child-self. The cream-woven Note Papers are not to write on but
wherewithal to imagine how cool and smooth they would feel drawn
slowly across my flushed cheek. A sack of Flour--I feel only how
I’d like to have it spilled out--eventually-why-not-now--in a thick
warm-tinted heap on the blue-velvety floor of my room that I might
roll and bathe in it and feel it feathery-fluffy on my skin.

So I play with my toys on black-browed Wednesdays.

Some Wednesdays even fail to be black-browed because there are Backs
to magazines.

_The conscious analyst_


I don’t know whether I write this because I wear two plain dresses or
whether I wear two plain dresses because I write it.

My life fell into a lowering mood which calls for but two dresses:
which mood compels me to write out these things that are in me as
inevitably as heavy gathered clouds come raining to the ground. The
mood having overtaken me I can not keep from writing this day after
day, more than I can keep from brushing my hair every day, and eating
lumps of food every day, and picking up tiny white specks from my
blue rug.

I love this book and I fear and hate it. I love the writing of it
though it is a finical unobvious task--more so than it looks. And
often I fear to read it over lest I hurt my own feelings. And I hate
it in ways. I am a particularly sane woman when all’s said. And many
things I come to in me are grating and inexplicable and incongruous.

But also I love it. It is my companion ‘when the world is gone.’ I am
as solitary as if I had no human place in this earth. My days are as
silent as if I lived in it alone. The few voices that bespeak me in a
day or a week stop at my ear-drums and are immensely alien. At times,
for weeks on end, I am quite alone in this house and the silence
then has a depth and a hollowness. From it I feel not alone in a
house but alone in a world: and more when the family is in the house.

And it is what-should-I-do if I had not a writing talent to expend me
upon from day to day, and so rest me. I feel God around some corner
but that feeling is no rest, but only an odd terror which wants the
dignity of terror.

Times I wonder if I shall have this published afterward for all to
read and if so what colors it will paint on my world--and what else
may befall.

But it’s an aspect dim and remote now. I wearing but two nunlike
dresses and face to face with me, have nothing to do with publishing
books and with the beautiful noisy world and its befallings. It is
easy to believe I shall never again have to do with any of that. This
may be my death-mood. I am very tired. The weight of being a person
is heavy on me as weights of lead. And still I know if I suddenly
bloomed with beautiful frocks and went out to-morrow to lose myself
among people, people, people I should at once achieve a veneer of the
utmost frivol. I have an odd frivolous quality full of an ardor and
strength, with all of my mental mettle in it. Also I know if I did
that now it would be but postponing this analytic reckoning. Which
would confront me again with the more rancor, the more futileness
gathered into it from having been put off.

This book and the two dresses are my present portion. If I could
escape them (I am not quite sure I want to--but--_hell!_)--it would
be of no use. They would come back again in an unexpected ripeness of
time and demand a hearing: an exquisite nervous tragic hearing.

They are such stuff as the conscious analyst is made of.

But though I’m the conscious analyst I can’t quite tell whether I
write the book because I wear two plain black dresses or I wear those
because I write it.

_Eye when I mean tooth_


I write it, and it’s a surprising book.

It is not what on the surface it looks to be.

I do not write what my clear Mind may want to say to the white blank

I do not write what my thoughts are saying to me.

Those things are facile, uninformed--flat mental pictures, the
writer’s craft.

I write what still voices of life: voices trivially frightful in
their secret pettiness: voices of all my life--merest living--say
to my ancient Soul and my young present Body and what they two may

I am in some sort a wonderful person--and in places I do that, nearly

I am also tired and someway whelmed by self-conscious despair,
and possessed of a talent imperfect and inadequate to reveal the
radiances and shades my being perceives: and in places I fail.

I fail remarkably. I write Eye when I mean Tooth. I write Fornicate
when I mean Caress. I write Wine when I mean Blood. For no better
reason than that my writing hand is not sufficiently dexterous: the
little flashing shutters open and shut so quick that the second ones
are shut and the third starting to open before I have got written the
things I saw through the first ones.

Only not always.

_A wild mare_


Also I am dissatisfying to myself.

My thoughts smother me: they keep me from life.

I am a hundred times more introspective than most people, most
women. Most women, even conventional ones, are lawless--the more
conventional, the more lawless usually.

And so most women beat me to life. Where they yield to an
impulse the moment they feel it--I, because an impulse itself is
adventure-fabric--I feel of its quality, test it for defects, wash a
little corner of it to see if the color will run--and conclude not to
use it.

That I gaze inward at the garbled biograph of Me keeps me from
several sorts of violent action.

I have violent action in me, chained in analysis.

Most women are secretly lawless on the old plan inaugurated by
Eve--of inclining to do anything forbidden, of hugging everything
they are unsupposed to hug, of determinedly kicking over the traces
when coerced too much. The ban is the chief attraction.

It’s but little like that with me. There would be point and purpose
in my Action. But it is kept in stupor by analysis.

I am malcontent about that, though I live upon analysis. I hate the
inaction and inertia that follow on its heels.

I could be an anarchist. I condemn anarchists but not as I condemn
Me. I would respect me more were I this moment prisoned in a real
bastile for having stuck a good knife into a bad king. I could feel,
no matter how foolish and mistaken in itself the act, that I had done
the strong and brave thing at sacrifice of my personal selves. The
dry living-death of the prison would be compensated for each day when
I said to Me, ‘It was a needful honorable act and _I_ did it: for
once in my life I was a Regular Person.’

There would be a nourishment in being able to tell that to myself.
There would be warming food in owning one so brave remembrance of

But, my Soul-and-bones!--at the very moment of lifting the good
knife a thought would come: ‘How is this king worse than another?
What rotten rascal mightn’t rise in his place?’ And on with a
lightning-trail of analysis till my pale hand dropped inert and the
knife in it grew harmless as a lily-petal.

It isn’t that I haven’t the guts. I have.

I am a wild mare in foal: and unfoaling.

_The mist_


Because I am to myself someways dissatisfying and exasperating often
this thing I write is dissatisfying and exasperating.

It is a true account of what is inside me. ‘The wine must taste of
its own grapes.’

It would be easier to make it an untrue account, for fiction is the
most effortless of writing. So I have found it. And I am very clever.

I could write myself as a pretty dainty harmlessly purring one--the
leopard with claws clipped and fangs drawn.

When my dynamos rest I am like that, doubtless.

But the wears and tears of breathing and the influences of varied
life-details and of clothes worn and food eaten start me moving

Phases of a score of persons, men and women, come to light in me.

To be one human being means to be monstrously mixed.

I write me out not as I might be, nor as I should be--whatever that
may be--: but merely as I am.

As, Just Beneath The Skin, I am.

So my written account must come out someways dissatisfying and
exasperating. Logically dissatisfying and divinely and ethically

--a passage in Vergil tells of a Mist that is all over and about
this world from the human ‘tears that are falling, falling, falling
always.’ Something, and it may be that Mist, makes one’s view of
everything--everything in life--a little blurred. It may even blur
one’s view of oneself. So it may be I do not see myself with entire

I only know I write me as clearly as I see me, considering the Mist.

_A white liner_


To-day came the Finn woman and cleaned my blue-and-white bedroom.

She comes now and again and cleans excellently.

I would like to clean my room myself but lack the strength and skill
to do it well.

But I stay with the Finn woman and show her how and I watch her work
and muse upon her. She would be called in England a charwoman, but in
this America of the vast mongrel heterogenesis she is an unclassified

I like to watch her and talk with her a bit and dwell on her mixed
potentialities. She contrasts fascinatingly with me.

She is a human being and so am I, and beyond and with that there are
odd parallels and similarities and distinctions between her and me.

Her name is Josephina and she looks as if it might be.

Mine is Mary MacLane but I don’t look entirely like it.

She lives a lonely life and so do I, differing in sort and

I am middle-class and American of Canadian reminiscence, and

Josephina is Finn and lower-class with a ‘foreign’ look, and she is
forty-five and looks sixty and is twelve years out of Finland.

I am tallish and slim and weigh nine wavering stone.

The Finn woman is short and solid and weighs all of a hundred and
seventy pounds.

I am slender of flank and ankle, narrow through the loins and bony at
the shoulders.

The Finn woman is thick everywhere, broad of girth and deep of chest
like a Percheron stallion.

I am darkish with dusky gray eyes.

Josephina is dirty-blond with pale narrow blue eyes like a china

My sex feels to me like a mysterious sweetness.

Josephina’s sex looks porcinely obvious and uninteresting like her
large dubious breasts.

I am inwardly full of strong-flavored emotions.

The one positive outward feeling Josephina manifests is a dull but
comprehensive hatred, peculiar to her nationality and station, for
everything Swedish.

The Finn woman has a husband now and had a different one formerly.

I have none and never had.

Josephina is elemental primeval woman.

So am I but terrifically qualified by complexity, incongruity.

I have white smooth firm beautiful hands.

Josephina’s hands are particularly ugly and have a menacing look.

I have quick intelligence.

Josephina is markedly stupid.

I live in a quiet clean bungalow.

Josephina lives in an unusually filthy unrestful little house.

I own two dresses whose personnel alters at intervals.

Josephina owns one unchanging dress, septic, maculate and repellent.

I have a sense of humor vivid and intriguing to myself.

Josephina has no more sense of humor than a flatiron.

I bathe foamily icily each morning.

Josephina would seem never to have had a bath. She cleans windows and
floors and rugs for thirty-five cents an hour. She would regard it as
a fantastic waste of time and soap to clean herself for nothing.

I own in a still flawed life one phase which is an endless treasure
of beauty and power and charm and light: my love for John Keats.

The Finn woman owns about the same thing in a life which may be more
still and flawed than mine: her love for strong drink.

There begins a curious line of similitude between us.

I feel oddly joyous and light of heart on a solitary veranda corner
with the John-Keats poetry book open in my lap.

And Josephina has been found many a time by Butte policemen sitting
alone joyous and very drunk, in dark alleys with empty pint bottles
strewn all about her.

In my un-Keats hours I am mostly mournful. And Josephina sober
has all the melancholy of her race with an added gloom, as if the
acetylene had run out of all her lamps. That my melancholy is more
lustrous than hers I lay to her native dullness as against my native
braininess, and to alcohol’s having rotting effects on human mental
tissues: whilst John Keats to those who drink his poetry is a starry

I like to think there’s the same ambrosial food in the Demon Rum for
Josephina as in the Grecian Urn for me.

There seems no other pleasure in life for her.

The limit of her literary pursuit is the reading of a four-page
Finnish newspaper full of obituaries.

The opalescent enchantments of her inner being mean nothing to her:
she wouldn’t know her entity from her duodenum.

Her body can bring her no delight: there’s no lightness to it, no
tang, no feminine charm, no consciousness to make her love it as the
Dianas love theirs.

A sunset above the western peaks is less than a setting sun to her.

Her food is merely her fodder.

Love and Romance pass her by. She and the husband vie with each
other for solitary possession of their little nasty house. And her
personality is not conducive to lovers.

She has nor chick nor child to mother.

Her idea of a life beyond this vale is crude and uncomfortable. She
went two Sundays to the Finnish church and had a surprising lusty
doctrine of eternal fire rammed down her throat: she took the Finn
minister’s word for it and quitted the fold, preferring to live this
life unhampered by flaming anticipation. All her material treasure
she works for with mops and scrubbing-brushes at thirty-five cents an

Other roads being thus blocked it is sing-ho for King Alcohol in pint

Josephina is what is called a white liner. Which means that she
has drunk so long, so much, so regularly that whiskey, rum, gin
and brandy have no or negligible effects upon her. To achieve her
intoxicating aim she must drink pure alcohol.

By the same token I eschew many a tame poet: I must have John Keats.

What the poetry of John Keats does to me I know.

What the distilled waters of her choice do to Josephina it pleases me
to imagine while I watch her clean my walls and floor and windows.

She works strongly, steadily, quietly till I pronounce the room
clean. Then she stops, carries the pails and other things downstairs
to the kitchen, removes a big brass pin from the rear of her dingy
skirt which had held it back and doubled over her darkling petticoat,
re-dons an antique rain-coat and bad hat, ties her clinking silver
into the corner of a decadent handkerchief, bids me good-evening with
a grave blond Finn bow and goes out into the dusk. She takes her
way through alleys and short-cuts to the side door of a ‘Finlander’
gin-palace in the Finn quarter of the town. And there she lays out
her day’s wage in the pint bottles of her delight. As many pint
bottles as her few dollars will buy, so many she buys. She ventures
her all in the name of passionate thirst taking no thought of the
morrow. She then seeks out some alley with a dark door-step and
there she does her drinking. It would not do to go home with her
alcoholic wealth because the husband might be there who, like the
alphabetic vintner, would ‘drink all himself.’ So she drinks away in
pint-bottle-ish peace, sitting alone in the gloom of the alleyway
door-step, in her limp rain-coat and bad hat and her stolid Finn

Because I like Josephina it charms me to think of the happiness that
must be hers as she sits emptying pint bottles into herself and the
white strong fire-water begins to work.

Before having her drinks she is unelated and uninformed like a
corpse coldly electrified by a storage battery. As she drinks and
drinks on she remains outwardly unchanged as the way is with her
race--but within! The changes that come to pass in the heavy person
of Josephina as the white flames wash down her walls!

Into her dull veins pours a hot stream like melted seething copper
and it heats her knees till she knows she _has_ knees and that they
are white and very beautiful: and it heats her legs and her back and
her breasts till they glow with the double-glow of an Aphrodite’s in
a reluctant Adonis’s arms: it heats her eyes and temples and throat
till she feels herself a radiant girl: it heats the crown of her
head till she feels something like a brain there: it heats her heart
and stomach till she’s filled with a gay gust for life: it heats her
imagination till she even imagines herself in love with her hard
Finn husband since he is not by to beat her and so dispel the fancy:
it heats a sense of humor into her till she laughs suddenly and
heartily at some fugitive funniness that had lain long frozen in her
memory: it heats a hundred little human carburetors in her which send
a wreathe of vapors up into her drab being to flush it with misty
golds and thin blues and rosy crimsons till her dormant involuntary
soul awakes--a thing of old mellowed beauty, it may be--and is
wafted on warm pretty vapory wings far from alleys, far from mops
and scrubbing-brushes, far from thirty-five cents an hour, far from
doorsteps--to fair sweet Isles of the Blest!

Nearing the last of her pint bottles she reels sideways on the
doorstep: her bad hat cants forward: she sprawls about. The
policeman on that beat to whom in that aspect she is a figure long
familiar strolls toward her late in the night and looks at her with
a lackluster eye. But Josephina is physically unaware of all this
world. Her last pint bottle is gamely emptied, her inner sun’s
chromosphere burns like mad--but her body, unable to cope with the
virile delectations new-risen within it, limply gives way.

A quaint picture, interesting to dwell on: her thick bathless body
laid low in the darkened alley, with the empty pint bottles scattered
on the paving-stones beside it--but her astral shape, lit by the
subtle fires of alcohol, lifted high, high to remote elysiums. The
policeman calls the ‘wagon’ and Josephina is taken up by several
ungentle hands and tossed into it like a sack of coal. They take her
to the city jail and lock her in a cell. The next morning she stands
jaded and morbidly intoxicated before a police judge who glances at
her uninterestedly for the several-hundredth time and says five days.

The five days can not be pleasant days but Josephina owns a robust
sporting spirit. She gives not so much as the shrug of a shoulder
either at going into jail or coming out of it. A black eye from her
husband, a broken arm from a drunken fall, a filthy sojourn in jail:
all one to her. She accepts them as she accepts all of her life, with
an immense psychic calm. But she takes strongly to drink to translate
herself out of it. And let her drink.

I know how she feels for I take to John Keats. I don’t myself care
much for strong drink. I drink a little of it at irregular intervals,
but, by and large, I drink without éclat. In this mountain altitude
whiskey makes me sick, champagne makes me dizzy and gin is a pungent
punishment. One morning after reading of Josephina’s white-line
distinction in a police-court column I tasted some alcohol, but it
had a varnish flavor and had strangling effects on my throat. It
made me marvel at Josephina’s prowess. I like absinthe in its bitter
strength mostly because to sit sipping it feels restfully forbidden.
Port wine is a brackish medicine, I hate the stickiness of cordials,
and a cocktail I like chiefly to contemplate. So much for me and
strong drink.

Josephina on the other hand does not care for John Keats. I sounded
her on poetry in some of its human aspects: there was nobody at home.
Her own enlightened north country has some poets of borealic iron and
brain-brawn and beauty: to Josephina’s wooden intellect their books
are eternally closed.

But the Demon Rum looses a heated flood of poetry upon her, which I
can but vision and not feel.

I am incapable of strong drink even as Josephina is incapable of
John Keats.

We are quits there.

I look on myself as the more fortunate.--John Keats!

A woman so drunk as to fall and reel about is always an exquisitely
shameful thing. And when I think of how she’s tossed into the
wagon--to mention but one item--

But it’s a matter of the human equation. Doubtless it is all
relative. The Finn woman is not aware of how she is knocked about,
and if she were she would not regard it with any of my imagination.
So what matter?

A likeable and admirable person is Josephina. A so strong fine
businesslike worker, a so thoroughbred sport, a so splendid drunkard,
and asking no odds of God or man. In her stolid Finn fashion she
likes me as she has proven, and I like her though she makes me feel

--if Josephina could and would write _her_ inner isolated world of
thoughts--the saga of her one horrid gown! There would be a book. All
blacks and carmines--all stolidly sober and brilliantly drunk--all
dingily bathless: deeply savagely quietly human.

It would be a book savoring not of white alcohol but of the salty
unshed Tears, the dry artistic Griefs of Josephina.

_Beneficent bedlam_


I have been so long Sane it would be gay and sweet and resting to go

I would I could go Mad.

To a Mad-woman a Door is not a Door, probably: a Cat is not a
Cat, belike: and To-morrow is not To-morrow at all--it may be
week-before-last, it may be next year, it may be an exquisite jest.
One can not tell _what_ it is.

It is the thing one escapes by going Mad: Monotony.

It’s all beneficent bedlam.

_A deathly pathos_


I love the sex-passion which is in this witching Body of me. I love
to feel its portent grow and creep over me, like a climbing vine of
tiny red roses, in the occasional dusks.

It is no shame or shadow or sordidness: but beauty and sweetness and

no token of sin: a token of virtue.

no thing to crush: rather to nurture, to garner.

no thing to forget: to remember, to think about.

no flat weak drawn-out prose: live potent clipped heated poetry.

not common and loosely human: rare and divine.

not fat daily soup: stinging wine of life.

not valueless because born of nothing and nowhere: valuable,
priceless, a treasure under lock and key.

Sex-desire comes wandering in dusk-time and gulfs me as in a swift
violent sweet-smelling whirlwind. It goes away sudden-variant as it
came, out of a region of hot quick shadows.

And for that, for hours and days afterward, oranges and apples look
brighter-colored to my eyes: hammocks swing easier as I sit in them:
rugs feel softer to my feet: the black dresses lend themselves
gentler to my form: pencils slide faciler on paper: my voice speaks
less difficultly into telephones: meanings sound super-vibrant in
Keats’s Odes: sugar--little pinches of granulated sugar--are shaper,
sweeter-sweeter in my throat.

And God grows less remote. And my wooden coffin and deep wet yellow
clay grave move a long way back from me.

--all from fleeting ungratified wish of sly sex-tissues--

Also in it, and in my life from it, I sense some deathly pathos.

_The necklace_


The Necklace which God long ago hung round the white neck of my Soul
is composed of little-seeming curses, like precious and semi-precious
gems. They are polished smooth as if by age, as if by wear, as if by
fingering and as if by brisk industrious rubbing.

The Necklace is at once beautiful and ugly. The gems are in color
chiefly blues and greens--with grays, lavenders, drabs and mauves.
But mostly blues and greens. They make a circlet of small stones
strung at short intervals as if on a strong thin gold wire, with
two large tawdry pretty pendants hung in front. One of the pendants
is my fertile phase of Weakness and the other my odd encompassing
Folly. The smaller stones are seventeen in number and their names and
natures are these:

the first is Dishonesty which makes ghosts of half my life.

the second is Pretense, hard and genuine stone, which keeps me from
being all-ways sincere even to anyone who knows me and whom I know:
who loves me and whom I love.

the third is Fear which makes me who scorn all leonine dangers cringe
and crawl for Trifles of life incredibly little.

the fourth is Sensuality which burns and bursts across my Mind,
half-missing my Body.

the fifth is Anxiety, strange flawed green stone--by it I worry,
tortured and wildly wavering, about the passing hours of my life:
where they are going, where they are taking me.

the sixth is Amativeness, extraordinary deep-tinted warm false
gem--it makes me love someway amorously some person I meet and fancy:
an intimate tragedy, crucial and trivial.

the seventh is Fatigue of the spirit itself, gray sad stone, meaning
terrible sensations of age in my young flesh.

the eighth is Incongruity, the sense and feeling of it, round blue
stone--it kills what might be art and constructiveness and excellence
in me.

the ninth is Acquiescence, worn dull stone--it has kept me all the
ages from the salvation of heated luminous strife.

the tenth is Sensitiveness, pale-toned stone--by it the fingers of
life touch me too suddenly, too sharply, too tensely to do me the
good they might.

the eleventh is Doubt, frail opalescent stone--by it my delight in
the sunny Spring wind against my cheek is qualified with dubious
surprise: by it I half-disbelieve in moon and stars and in long
country roads stretched out solitary, lovely, drenched in sunset.

the twelfth is Self-consciousness, blue-and-green stone--it robs me
of the comfort and self-respect of feeling any motive in me to be

the thirteenth is Introspection, beautiful-beautiful blue-green
stone--it pays for its place in beauty but by it I lose the building,
the substance, the _matter_ of living.

the fourteenth is Intensity--too vivid vision, too vivid taste for
some details of life--little hot-looking cool-feeling stone--by it
I undervalue and overvalue, dwell upon surfaces, missing the serene
feel and possession of precious solidness.

the fifteenth is Isolation, pale purple stone--it makes me feel
_never_ at home, _never_ at ease, _never_ belonging--a subtle
insulation--in this sheltered peopled world.

the sixteenth is Bewilderment, mixed-tinted stone--by it I wonder
_what_ is truth with truth seeming that moment fluttering soft-plumed
wings at my throat.

the seventeenth is--it has no name--the _Feel-of-Me_, bright
blue-green stone, lovely and loathesome--by it I’ve lost my way, I’ve
felt all and only Me when I might have groped outward, hand and foot,
and found a wind-swept path to go in: I was always blurred by Me.

A small Necklace, all dull gleams and unusual tints, strung finely
and strongly and beautifully on shining gold. The sweet Soul droops
like a wilted lily under even its slight weight. Strong fine rivets
hold it firm-clasped and the weight of the two charming imitation
pendant-stones keep it gracefully in place. My loved and lovely Soul
has worn it through the ages: manacle, shackle.

How long more--God may know but does not tell me.

It’s only a Necklace. And my Soul is a Soul!

Even under the frail galling burden of the flesh the Soul of me
to-morrow could tear off that Necklace and crumble it to airless

It does not: but _could_.

_Slyly garbling and cross-purposing_


At rarish intervals comes my Soul to visit me.

My Soul is light sheer Being.

My Soul is like a young most beautiful girl marked and worn by long
cycles of time but not anyway aged. She comes dressed in something
like gray-white de-soie muslin or fine-grained crêpe silk, a
loose-belted frock reaching to her ankles.

My Soul is unmoved by the world and the flesh and their feeling,
as befits a Soul. She looks on me with a chill faëry-ish contempt,
as also befits a Soul. The quality of her contempt is of weary
understanding and is like a caress.

In the dusk of yesterday came my Soul to visit me--a dusk of a deep
beauty. The last glow of the sun lay along the earth, and all was
gentian blue.

I leaned against my window-pane watching it, and beside me sat her
Presence. Her Presence makes me feel wonderfully gifted: it is
_mine_, this Soul all Golden-Silk and Silken-Gold!

We talk on many topics, of many things: I in worldly nervous
ignorance and with a wishfulness to reach and compass and know: the
Soul with poise and surety of attitude, a wearied patience and the
chill sweet contempt.

She answers me from her cool old tranquil viewpoint, which is near
me yet remote.

We talked last of some bygone persons I have been, some shapes she

Said the Soul: ‘Early in the sixteenth century you were a ragged
Russian peasant girl living in ignorance and filth in a hut
by a swamp-edge. You had parents both of whom beat your body
black-and-blue from your babyhood. And at eighteen you were a
coarsened hardy wench tending a drove of pigs and goats on the sunny
steppe. I was there with you as presently as now--as sentient, as
perceptive. But it is a question whether you or the little beasts you
drove were the more beastly stupid. You and they were equal in outer
quality, equal in uncleanliness, equally covered with vermin.’

I have no ghost-memory of that time, but as the Soul told of it a
nascent feeling came on me, as if some part of my Mind felt its way
back to that. I warmed to the thought of the Peasant Girl. I was
quiescent to her filth and ignorance.

Said I: ‘Was she brave and fairly honest?’

Said the Soul: ‘You were a ready liar--you lied your way out of many
a beating. But you were brave enough. You faced the roughnesses of
your life uncringing, and you died game.’

Said I: ‘How did I die?’

Said the Soul: ‘You were run neatly through the body by the short
sword of a soldier whose lust-desire you had had the hardihood to
refuse--and I fled away upon the instant.’

Said I: ‘I half-knew it--she died a violent death. You--were you glad
to be quit of her filthy flesh, her surroundings, her ignorance?’

Said the Soul: ‘Glad? Such things mean nothing to me. Your
body, be it sweet or foul, has no bearing on my long journey.
Motives--motif--back of your human acts make me glad or sorry at
leaving you.’

Said I: ‘Tell me about a time when I seemed someway fine, humanly

Said the Soul: ‘In London, near the end of the seventeenth century,
before and during the period of the Gordon Riots, you lived in a way
of peace. From when you were fourteen until you were twenty-nine you
lived alone with your little lame half-sister whom you cared for very
devotedly, very tenderly.’

My little half-sister-- Until the Soul spoke of her there was no
vision, no image like her. Then something of me remembered.

Said I: ‘What was she like? Who were our parents?’

Said the Soul: ‘Your mother died at your birth, hers at her birth.
Your father was hanged at Tyburn for forgery. The sister was pale,
large-eyed, long-haired, crippled from a dislocated shoulder and
hip. When you were twenty-five she was eleven, a beautiful frail
child. You lived in two rooms above a linen-draper’s and you
supported the two of you by weaving and calendering cloths for the
shop-keeper, and by illuminating missals and manuscripts when you
could get that work. For a very poor wage, but living was cheap. All
the time you took zealous care of your sister. Your heart was bound
up in her--you adored her.’

Said I: ‘I know that. Tell me what we did--how we lived--how we loved
each other.’

Said the Soul: ‘In the summer evenings you often walked out along
quiet London streets--the sister sometimes with a crutch and your arm
about her, sometimes in a rolling chair, whilst you walked beside
her pushing it. Your father had educated you in an erratic fashion.
You had a deal of desultory knowledge--what is called knowledge--and
you educated the young sister in the same manner. Often it was of
the poets--Latin, English, Italian, and of histories and sciences
and arts--what odd comprehensive bits you knew--that you two talked
as you sauntered in the bright late English sunlight. Or you
talked of the little details of your joint life. Sometimes you sat
together--you holding her close in your arms--by a window in your
darkening front room, and watched the children at play in the common
opposite, and conversed and were quietly happy. You were maternal and
the child was a mature old-fashioned yet childish innocent child.’

My little sister--sweet--long gone-- Would that I had her now!

Said I: ‘Tell me what we said.’

Said the Soul: ‘You said to her, “Our poverty and even our
deprivations, dearest, which for your sake I feel deeply would not
matter, not the least, to me if I could see you well and strong.”
And the child replied, “Sweet, just to rest like this in your arms
each twilight makes me rich, rich--as rich as the smartest ladies
in Piccadilly.” And you said, “Rich reminds me, Darling, we shall
have four extra shillings--four bright silver shillings--at the end
of this week from the book-seller. So what shall we purchase for a
treat? There’ll be, if you like, prawns and crumpets for tea, for
days to come--or if my Child prefers oranges or pineapples once--”
And the child replied with her cheeks quite pink at the thought,
“O Sister-love, let us have the pines, just one day, and let us
make-believe to be ladies that day, and comport ourselves like
ladies, and take our tea--all like ladies.” And you pressed her close
to your breast--you both wore caps and kerchiefs and stuff-gowns in
the fashion of the lower-middle artisan class--and showered gentle
kisses on her cheeks and eyelids, and promised her the pineapples
and the tea like ladies.’

I listened to this with vivid still pleasure. It felt like endearing
fulfilling life--a day of tenderness--. And oddly familiar.

Said I: ‘What were we in the habit of having for our tea--that prawns
and crumpets would make us a treat?’

Said the Soul: ‘Your tea was chiefly bran-bread and cress or perhaps
lettuce, with a stone mug of milk for the child when you could afford
it. The London of that day had no luxuries for the poor. And having
had none you missed none. But the populace lived in starveling
misery. The rabble rose and rallied to the Gordon as it would have to
anyone who urged it to rioting. You were Protestants but you regarded
him as a weakling visionary. You watched the rioting in the streets
with little fear, but the linen-draper and all other shop-keepers
kept barred doors. You two were venturesome and were yourselves of
the masses, and when the mob stormed Newgate prison you both stood
watching with many other householders on the outskirts of the crowd,
in terror but secretly half in sympathy. You were safe enough from
the rioters who were intent on wrecking the gaol and freeing the
inmates. It was characteristic of you as you were then to be out
looking on at a murderous night scene with interest, carefully
protecting the child from contact with the throngs.’

Said I: ‘How long did that life last?’

Said the Soul: ‘Four years after that your sister changed from her
bare little bed to a coffin and you went on alone achingly suffering
her loss for long years. You lived to be seventy, a thin old woman,
working latterly as one of the night nurses in a public hospital. You
lived an abstemious outwardly self-sacrificing life and died alone,
from hardened arteries, one autumn night.’

Said I: ‘And was there an informing beauty for you, for you and for
me, in my life then?’

Coldly said the Soul: ‘You were self-centered, for all your
self-sacrifice. You reckoned it your duty to care for your sister.
It was also your irresistible delight. And after her death you took
self-satisfaction in self-sacrifice: smug--smug. For me there was a
laming distortion in it all.’

Said I: ‘Tell me some other life.’

Said the Soul: ‘You were once a little thief in the streets of a
later London. You picked pockets, you stole bits of food in Covent
Garden market, you pilfered shop-tills, you systematically worked the
wealthy throngs as they came from the Opera at midnight. You were
known to the police as the cleverest child-thief in London.’

It warmed my vanity to think of myself as clever in so theatric a
rôle as thief.

Said I: ‘How did that life like you?’

Said the Soul, with a shrug of her delicate shoulders: ‘I had little
to do with it and that in a negative way. My part in you was to keep
up your heart in hungry hunted days. You were neither a good thing
nor a bad thing: perishingly passive. And you were dead in a potter’s
field before your sixteenth birthday.’

Said I: ‘How did the little Thief look?’

Said the Soul: ‘You were sufficiently ugly--an undersized form, a
gamin face, bastard features.’

Said I: ‘And I daresay ignorant?’

Said the Soul: ‘Ignorant of everything rated useful, but wise to the
under-sides of human nature and in the sordid viciousness of London
slums. And singularly shrewd--what is called philosophical.’

Said I: ‘Pray tell me another life.’

Said the Soul: ‘An earlier time--Paris, some century before the
Terror saw you a slim _fille-du-pavè_, a prostitute of a low cheap
type, but with more brain, more of what is termed character than you
have ever possessed. You had wit, will, _esprit_, determination.
From having been at seventeen most obscenely of the streets you
were at thirty a wonderfully grand courtesan: no better in what are
called morals but possessed of very much inner and outer strength and
luster. You were _chère-aimèe_ to men of brain, men of importance
to the state, whose acts were shaded by your influence. And you
achieved unusual wealth chiefly by the powers and strategies of
your character. You lived in the extreme of luxury of that time and
of your type--a delicate luxury, almost high-bred. You were wanton
in amour, being physically extremely passionate, but admirably
straightforward and strong in each matter and aspect of your life.’

Said I: ‘You admired her?’

Said the Soul: ‘I was serene and vividly alive within you. You were
in all ways, simply and completely, an honest woman, and for the only

Said I: ‘How could she be honest, since she lived by exchanging
treasure of much personal economic value for cheap cheapest gold,
trash, and a besmirched name: and all through two sorts of greed?’

Said the Soul: ‘You were honest since you made no pretense of any
kind to yourself. You took no gold that you did not logically,
humanly or shamefully earn. You were consciously and unconsciously
above all subterfuge. You wrought no ruin nor error nor darkness
upon your own spirit or any other. You deceived neither yourself nor
anyone about you. The tone of your life was of sun-shining simplicity
and cleanness. There was no greed in you. You saw your way of life
before you and lived it without degradation, with a positiveness of

It is as if my Soul’s view and mine were infinitely separate from
being narrowly paralleled. The portrait was mystically familiar: but
not by her light.

Said I: ‘Was she beautiful to look at?’

Said the Soul: ‘You were beautiful in a pallid saintlike French
manner--an uncertain type of beauty which fatigue or depression
turns to plainness. You had but little light charm of prettiness.
But you had what counts for more than beauty: the nerve and verve
of attractiveness, the force and fascination of physical being, the
fragrance, the _flair_ of the deeply-sexed woman. In one phase you
were constantly preying and preyed upon, but with high valors of
attack and endurance.’

Said I: ‘Did she live in peace--had she no times of suffering?’

Said the Soul: ‘You had hours of violent bitter suffering. Paris
has always accepted without countenancing the properous cocotte.
And often you were infamously insulted at street-crossings by
soldiers and _sergeants-de-ville_ as you drove out in your small
bright-colored carriage. And you were hailed with opprobrious
appropriate names by the ragged populace as they picked up silver
pieces which you threw among them. Such things were stinging brands
and lashes to you. But you bore yourself with entire courage. You
gave much money to churches and charities but looked on such acts in
yourself rightly as some slight weakness which would, however, be of
benefit to the starving poor. I can not describe--so you could grasp
it--the peace, the expansion, the freedom for me in that life and in
that attitude.’

The exact outlook of the Soul throws over me a veil of wistfulness,
bewilderness, freedness, lostness which hides the material moorings
of my life and casts me adrift on broad clouded seas.

Said I: ‘What was the end of that--how did she die?’

Said the Soul: ‘You died exquisitely, of syphilitic disorders. You
were something past forty, badly broken--your looks were gone, your
friends were gone, your money was not gone but it was of little use
to you. But you smiled serenely and lived up personally and mentally
to your smile. A surgeon and a fat mustached old woman saw you die in
the beginning of that bodily rot--the just portion of the passionate
whore--one sweet Spring dawn, with birds twittering in green branches
outside your window and a great gold sun slowly breaking the mist.
Then for once I left you with reluctance. I clung to you. The kiss of
me was last on your fainting brain and your fast-cooling heart. For
I was leaving, in an agony of my own, an _honest_ person. And I knew
not what might be my next petty prison.’

Said I: ‘What was my next life?’

Said the Soul: ‘It was not so petty as were some others. You were
next--about seventeen-fifty--a quaint extremely common little person.
You were apprenticed as a child to a milliner in Liverpool, England.
You grew out of that and became a dancer in a dingy theatre--a cheap
bedraggled life. You were a cheap and bedraggled young woman. You
wore odd gay tawdry frocks, hideous little shoes, ragged raveled
silk hose, surprising bright bonnets. Your mind was a shallow pool
filled with tales from shilling shockers and penny dreadfuls in which
you believed implicitly. You were mentally degenerate, organically
a fool, a wonderful snob. You wanted only wealth and place bitterly
to deride and browbeat the low class to which you belonged--not
from lack of heart but because you believed it to be the proper
aristocratic manner. And what you wanted in mind you made up in
temper. You quarreled, you came to blows, with your fellow-dancers in
any of a half-score of small selfish daily disputes. Cleverness among
you consisted in gaining any possible advantage over the others and
in calling each other names. Also in maneuvering bits of money--as
much as might be--from unpleasing men who hung about the dingy
play-house. On holidays you were invariably half-drunk.’

Said I: ‘And wherein was she not petty?’

Said the Soul: ‘You believed in yourself. You had not a doubt you
belonged in worldly high places but were kept down by the malice and
depravity of human nature, people about you. And you lived up to your
vulgar ideal of ambition. There was a simplicity, an enlightening
pathos in you then which was lacking in the linen-draper’s lodger.’

In my flawed way I saw that, but objected to the bygone Liverpool
lady from many an angle.

Said I: ‘Had I no life of a sweetness and gentleness and with it
something that buoyed and bore you on?’

Said the Soul: ‘Never once. You were many centuries ago a Greek girl
of the aristocratic class, bred in an intellectual life. You read
the philosophers in the cool retreats of an olive grove. The mental
knowledge you have now compared to your learning then is a tangle
of ignorance. But the Greek girl had no heart, no human flame, no
active blood of personality. Those wanting I starved. The Liverpool
dancer in her warming virile vulgarness bore me vastly farther on
my way. You were a Greek woman in a still earlier time--of a type
which murders all simplicity. Your body and mind were haunted by
perfervid imagination and both ached with the weight of it. You were
made of twisted fires. I grew in _that_ day: grew burdenedly: grew

Always those Greek visions are my ‘half-familiar ghosts.’--

Said I: ‘Was I sometime a married woman?’

Said the Soul: ‘You were--in four separate ages. Which brought you
and me singular solitude.’

Said I: ‘Was I always woman?’

Said the Soul: ‘You were once a young lad of fierce temper and were
at twenty a madman. And died mad. No male body and brain could
withstand and outface merely the emotional besiegings of _you_.’

Said I: ‘When I went mad, what of you?’

Said the Soul: ‘I fell asleep, and knew no rest, but dreamed.’

Said I: ‘Of what?’

Said the Soul: ‘Things I always dreamed in your mad lapses--poetry
served very conscious and very hot: the material Color of the
Sunshine: the musical Softness of the Dawns: the pulsing Thoughts in
Girls’ Throats: the Scent of Water-Falls.’

The Soul has an airless voice which tells her meanings, beside her
words and in their rhythm.

Said I: ‘What do you, and how do you, with me now?’

Said the Soul: ‘I grow tired with you. Exasperated. Desperate. As if
I too wore flesh. You are a deathly prison, a torture chamber. I turn
everywhere and nowhere at all. You tire me--you wear me. I wait. I
stay. Yet I move.’

She looked lovely, my Soul--and quite in and of this bitter-ish
lovely world in its bloody bitter wrappings of bone and flesh. Around
her neck was the Necklace she wore in all the ages, showing greenish
in a dusk of gentian blue.--

All of it slyly garbles and cross-purposes me a little bit more than

I wish I’d been born a Wild Boar.

_Not quite voilà-tout_


The clearest lights on persons are small salient personal facts and
items about them and their ways of life.

To know that a woman is ‘sensitive’ is to have but a blurred
conception of her as one easily impressed, easily hurt. But to know
that she wears thick union-suitish under-clothes and uncompromising
cotton stockings is to know much about her: by those tokens she is
plain: she is stupid: she is smugly virtuous: she is poor: she is
narrow-thoughted: she lacks imagination: she is prosaic: she has a
defective sense of humor: she is catty: she is ‘kind’: she catches
cold: she is a thoroughly good woman.

To know that a child is ‘bright’ is to have no definite knowledge of
the child. But to know she flies into rages and bites whisk-brooms,
laces and her fragile grandmother is to have a wide-beamed
far-reaching spirit-light upon her.

That I am ‘thoughtful’ means little or anything or nothing: that I
love the odor of ink, that I hate the stings of conscience, that I
never lounge untidily about the house or in my room but am always
‘groomed,’--those tell me to myself.

Here for my enlightening I write a garbled list of my items and facts:

--I never see a soft new yeast-cake without wishing to squeeze it
for the salubrious feeling of the tinfoil bursting facilely and the
yeast oozing with its odd dry juiciness through my fingers.

--And I never see a shiny waxy green rubber plant without wanting to
bite the leaves precisely and daintily with my sharp teeth.

--My luncheon each late midday is made of four radishes, three
crackers and a thin glass of water: an anchoretic feast which I eat
with relish. The rhyme I murmur with it is: ‘what do you think, she
lives upon nothing but victuals and drink.’

--Whenever I look out my window at five in the afternoon I see a neat
nice-looking strange nigger-woman walking past. And the nigger-woman
glances casually up at my window and sees me. We are unknown to one
another and have belike as much and no more in common as if we grew
on different planets. But the nigger-woman and I are someway dimly
liking each other and dimly knowing it.

--I scent my belongings faintly with Houbigant’s Quelques Violettes

--I like to light a box of matches at a twilight window-sill singly
and by twos and threes and little bunches, and hold them till they
burn out, and watch the little flames, and drop the burnt ends out
the window: a pastime inherited from my child-self.

--Of living creatures that I know I most hate cockroaches.

--Of inanimate things that I know I most hate a loose shutter
rattling at night in the wind.

--While I smoke after-dinner cigarettes down-stairs I put flat round
black records on a tall red Edison phonograph and I curl up in a
leather chair in the dark to listen to the music which is soft and
deep: ‘Che Gelida Manina’ in a wistful tenor, and ‘Refrain Audacious
Tar,’ and ‘Ah Quel Giorno,’ and ‘Scenes That are Brightest’ and
others and others--tantalizing, tawdry, artistic, cheaply pleasant,
luring, whatnot. And by turns it makes me lighthearted, lightheaded,
emotional, romantic, restless, evilly coarse. It is piquant
debauchery. Music sweetly poisons me.

--My bureau-drawers I keep neatly in order--lingerie and other
articles arranged convenient to my hand in white rows and fragrant
tidy piles: with the exception of the upper left-hand drawer which is
a bit of terrific snarled chaos. In it is an inky handkerchief of an
old vintage: in it are several un-mated crumpled gloves: in it are
some olive-pits: in it is an empty sticky liquid cold-cream bottle
with tufts of eider-down power-puff stuck to it: in it is a tangle
of smudged ribbons: in it are two pieces of pink rock-candy: in it
is a spent yellow-silk garter: in it is a torn sponge: in it are
blackened pieces of chamois-skin: in it is a broken scissors: in it
are three twisted ragged black-net veils: in it is a brass curtain
ring: in it is a broken scattered string of coral beads: in it is
a lump of wax: in it is a piece of knotted twine: in it are little
bunches of cotton-wool: in it is a spilled box of powder whitening
everything: in it is a spilled box of matches: in it is a jet
bracelet broken into small pieces: in it is a broken hand-mirror: in
it are some crushed cigarettes: in it is a ruined blue plume: in it
is a warped leather purse: in it is a damaged lump of red fingernail
paste: in it is a stick of gum arabic: in it is a bisque kewpie
defiled by wax, ink, paste, powder and rock-candy: in it are some
partly melted vestas: in it are other bits of rubbish: all in wildest
disorder. Why I do not empty the drawer and burn the rubbish I don’t
at all know.

--I sometimes take one or two of the neighborhood children to a

--Sometimes as I lean at my window I alternate looking at the
distant deeply-blue mountains by looking at the near-by women
who chance to pass on the stone pavement below--the smartly-clad
and lighthearted-seeming ones. I look at their good shoulders in
pastel-toned silk and at their trim silk ankles and proud flaring
skirts and insolent beautiful hats--the buoyant worldly insouciance
of their ensembles--as their owners walk along on happy errands. As I
look I feel Me to be behind prison bars looking out in thin psychic
jealousy: regret for a time when I also went thus buoyantly on happy
worldly errands and an odd raging silent impatience for a time when
I may again. But with it too the wavering acquiescence in this
analytic-writing mood.--‘pussy-cat-mieow,’ I ruminate, ‘can’t have
any milk until her best petticoat’s mended with silk.’

--One kind of man I impatiently scorn is the kind that looks bored if
I mention Ibsen or ceramics or Aztec civilization but is interested
instantly, alertly if I mention my garters. Equally I abhor the type
that begrudges me my own private phases of amorousness: not those who
condemn me for them: not those who dislike them in me: not those who
deplore them: but who _begrudge_ me them.

--Always I come up a stairway softly. Always I close doors softly. I
make no noise.

--The quaintest character I have met with in fiction is Huckleberry
Finn’s father, looked at as a father. Next in quaintness I place
Sally Brass, regarded as a human being.

--I like a glass of very hot water and a dish of preserved damson
plums on a sultry August day: and another of each on top of that: and
another of each on top of that.

--I like the word addle: I hate the word redress. I would fain have
my ‘wrongs’ ever addled than redressed: merely for the word prejudice.

--I would rather that almost any physical disaster should befall me
than that I ever achieve an ‘abdomen.’ When an abdomen comes in at
the door life’s romances fly fast out the windows: so it looks to me.
May death overtake me haply before the menopause.

--The pictures I have crowded on a small side-wall space two feet
from my eyes as I sit at my desk are: Theda Bara as Carmen: the
late Queen Isabella of Spain: Marie Lloyd, loved of the London
populace: a velvety-looking black-and-orange print of a leopard:
Blanche Sweet, loveliest of film actors: John Keats, a small old
print: Ethel Barrymore, a pencil drawing made by herself: Nell Gwyn,
a photograph of a Lely portrait: Watts’s ‘Hope’: Stanley Ketchel,
dead middle-weight fighter: ‘Jane Eyre’ by a Polish artist: Fanny
Brawn, the solitary extant silhouette print: Ty Cobb: two children:
Charlotte Corday in the Prison de l’Abbaye: Susan B. Anthony: a
Chinese lady: Andrea del Sarto: Queen Boadicea: and Christy Mathewson.

--I am old-fashioned in many of my tastes--in all my reading and
writing tastes. I do not like typewriters: they make fingertips
callous in a poor cause. And I do not like fountain-pens which
someway seem suitable only for business-letters, forgeries,
bookkeeping and crude cursory love-letters. I like a steel pen
in a fat glossy green enameled wood penholder with a thick
pleasant-feeling rubber sheath at the lower end.

--I wear to-day a modest frock of black silk: beneath it a light silk
petticoat: beneath that a white pussy-willow silk ‘envelope’ and a
pale narrow pink silk shirt chastened by many launderings: no stays:
thick white silk stockings gartered above my knees by circles of mild
mauve elastic: on my feet cross-ribboned bright-buckled black shoes:
round my neck a jet necklace:--all of it a costume that might be of a
conventional woman, a plain-living woman, a good woman, a well-bred
woman--saving only that beneath my left shoulder-blade the smooth
new pussy-willow silk has a jagged two-inch rent where it caught on
a drawer-handle: and the rent--in lieu of neatly mending it with
the thread and needle of woman’s custom--I caught up any way by its
jagged edges and tied tight in a hard vicious heathen knot: the note
of spiritual fornication, of Mary-Mac-Laneness: always there’s some
involuntary pagan touch to undo me, to arraign me, to betray me to
God and to myself.

--I wear five-and-a-half A-last shoes: number twenty-one snug
whalebone stays: and weigh a hundred-twenty-four pounds.

--I am fond of green peas, baseball and diamond rings.

--I like violently to spoil a little charlotte-russe with a fork:
it gives me the same feeling of lawless sweet-fiery lust which must
belong to a Moslem soldier when deflowering a Christian virgin: and
harms nobody.

--Sometimes when I’m dressing in the morning I glance down through
my window and see two elderly Butte business men, one a lawyer and
one a banker, going by on the way to their offices. And I wonder at
how frightfully respectable they look in their tailored clothes and
reproachless gloves and perfectly celestial-looking hats. I murmur:
‘Robin and Richard were two pretty men who lay in bed till the clock
struck ten.’

--I keep on my desk a little doll with fluffy skirts, blue eyes,
pouting lips and curly hair and named Little Jane Lee after an
adorable child I have seen in moving pictures.

--I am five feet six inches tall in my highish heels:

--I wear number six gloves: the calf of my leg is a shapely thing.

--The six extant Americans I most admire are Thomas A. Edison,
Harriet Monroe, Gertrude Atherton, Theodore Roosevelt, the remaining
Wright Brother, and Amy Lowell.

--I think I’d learn to be a cook, a professional cook, if I were less
easily fatigued.

--I love the sound of the clinking of two clean new white clay pipes,
one upon the other.

--I crack nuts with my teeth.


But not quite voilà-tout.

_A damned spider_


To-day was one of the To-morrows of encompassing dissatisfaction when
this seems all a nasty world and a nasty life.

A Spider drowned in my bath-tub this morning.

It was one of those long-legged spiders. It was in the tub when I
went there--a small ovalish dark-gray pellet with seven ray-like
legs as of an evil little sun lying flat on a white desert. It feels
inconceivable that any creature should naturally have an odd number
of legs: we are all, including spiders, laid out as with rule and
compass. Perhaps it is inconceivable. But this Spider had seven legs.
I counted them while I knelt, blue-peignoired, beside the tub with
my elbows on the edge and watched the Spider and waited for it to go
away. Whether it had lost a leg, or had one too many, or its kind
is normally made like that: those things I vexedly wondered about.
In either case it seemed a so much worse Spider. It did not go away
so I touched it gently with an oblong of green soap. Then it moved
and began to walk up the side of the tub. But the side is smooth as
glass and always it slipped back. I went to my room and fetched a
post-card. With a post-card newly from Delaware I lifted the Spider
out of the bath-tub. Then I scaled card and Spider to the farthest
ceiling corner of the room. Then I drew the tub one-third full of
tepid water. And there floating in it as if brought down by Black
Art was the seven-legged Spider, drowned and ruined. It spoiled the
atmosphere and anticipation of my morning tub. I shuddered miserably.
I pulled out the rubber plug and water and Spider washed down and
away into the dark sewer-wastes of Butte, into the bowels of the
earth, through the gateways of hell, I hope. I took a hasty shower
with a flavor of long-legged Spiders in it. I dressed, and combed
and coifed my hair, with the clouded thought in me that throughout
my life I shall inevitably encounter by eternal law a long-legged
Spider from time to time. I know there’ll be no evading it. Those
who know statistics doubtless could tell me how many Spiders I shall
encounter in so many or so many years: the exact percentage even to
the division of a week and the half or the quarter of a Spider. There
is something disconcerting and tragic in the thought.

The drowned Spider’s ghost pursued me all day though its memory faded.

My breakfast, though it included an egg, seemed antagonistic, hostile
toward me as I ate it. It made me melancholy.

I watched from my back window a slim boy painting a porch and
singing in incipient tenor a rhythmic lullaby beginning ‘go to sleep
my dus-ky ba-by.’ He painted silently for some minutes and then
dipped his brush in the tin of paint. Whenever he left off painting
to dip the brush he sang. Once he failed to sing when he dipped the
brush but instead burst forth with it in the midst of painting a
long mustard streak on his porch. Ordinarily that would not have
mattered to me since I am innately keyed and pitched to expect the
galvanically unexpected. But to-day it made me rackingly nervous.

In the afternoon I went for a walk. Down and down, seventeen squares
from here, in a quiet neighborhood a strange woman accosted me. She
was pale and smartly dressed and quite drunk. She said, ‘Listen--can
you remember which of these corners I was to meet a friend at?’ It
made me feel annoyed and bewildered and sad and silly.

When I came back I read awhile--a story of Guy de Maupassant’s about
a little dog named Pierrot, whose owner loved him much but loved
money more and could not bring herself to pay a tax of eight francs
to make Pierrot’s existence legal. So she threw him into a pit. As
heartbreaking a tale as even de Maupassant ever wrote. It made all
the loves in this world feel terrifyingly sordid. It made me unhappy.

Then I found a poetry-book and read about the Blessed Damozel leaning
out from the gold bar of heaven. Always, by her loveliness alone, she
stirs me to my still depths of tears. But to-day the song made me
feel over-wrought and life-worn.

To-night I walked out to a little desert-space west of the town, a
very pale, very gray desert, with a sweet wet mist like dissolving
pearls swathing it. The million placid stars looked down, remote and
hard, as if each one had newly forsaken me. It made me afraid and
cold around my heart.

Here I sit and nothing in all the world is pleasant or reassuring.

That damned Spider.

_To wander and hang and float about_


My damnedest damningest quality is Wavering--Wavering--

I might say I prefer the dawn to the twilight or the twilight to the

Neither would be true.

I love the dawn--I love the twilight.

What I unconsciously _prefer_ is the long negative Wavering
space-of-day between the two.

I might say I prefer heaven to hell or hell to heaven.

Neither would be true.

My garbled gyral nature, partaking uneasily of both, prefers to
wander and hang and float about between the two.

I might say I prefer strength to weakness or weakness to strength.

Neither would be true.

What I prefer is a hellish hovering, an endless torturing Tenterhook
between the two.

And that Wavering preference is against my will, against my reason,
against my judgment, against my taste and liking--against my life, my
welfare, my salvation: against the clear lights of my spirit.

I know I work intently and industriously at the articles of my
damnation in the Wavering--Wavering--

I know it would be better to die at once: failing that, to live
but to live positively as a beggar, a whore, a thief or a milliner.
Knowing that, I know also I Waver: I know I shall prefer to Waver: I
know I shall constantly Waver.

I am constant--I am remarkably profoundly constant--in my Wavering.

In the morning as I dress I draw on a stocking--a long black or white
glistening stocking. I know I do it only because the mixed big world,
which refuses to Waver, is pushing--pushing me. I would choose if
I could--though loathing my choice--to stay with my bare foot and
my stocking in my hand, Wavering. Between drawing it on and pausing
barefoot, Wavering. I prefer not to draw on the stocking: I prefer
not to be barefoot: I prefer Wavering--Wavering--

When I’m hungry I choose: not to let food alone: not to eat it:
to have it by me and Waver, Waver emptily. Not to enjoy its
anticipation: not to contemplate it. No--_no_! To _Waver_! I reach
and take the food because the world in its pushing pushes me.

If the world stopped pushing--

One reason it will be pleasant to be dead: I can then no longer Waver.

Worms will eat me unwaveringly. Or they may then do the Wavering.
But _I_ shall no more pause with a bare foot and an empty stocking, a
dish of food and a gnawing midriff.

Here I sit as yet, alive and Wavering.

The Wavering is not the pale cast of thought: it is not my way of
analysis: it is only Wavering--Wavering--

Wavering is not among the blue-green Stones in my antique necklace:
not by that name--not as one Stone.

It is a marked and hateful and hellish gift of this present Me who
house my Soul.

It is half of this Mary MacLane--who is I--: and I know.

I am constant alone--noticeably tensely constant--in my Wavering: and
less constant in Wavering than in the ghoulish preference.

An odd and subtle doom.

_A thousand kisses_


Among my other gifts I own also Wantonness. In proof of which I am
wishing as I sit here for a Thousand careless kisses: eleven o’clock
of still evening--a Thousand Kisses.

A wonderful, wonderful attribute, Wantonness: rich, rich luster in
the conscious temperament which owns it, a Gift-thing delicate and

By it I want a Thousand Kisses: a Thousand--made all of Wantonness.

Kisses come in differing kinds and only one is Wanton.

The kiss of a lover has an intense cosmic use: the kiss of a mother
is tender fostering food: the kiss of a friend is vantage and grace
of friendliness: the kiss of a child is cool charm of snowflakes and
green springtime leaves.

And the kiss of Wantonness is not of use, nor of food, nor of gracing
vantage, nor of childhood charm--but is restless essence of humanness
and worldliness and mere sheer limitless encompassing liking: born of
sweet lips, alien it might be, and secretly ‘unattuned,’ but warm and
fond and _present_: answering the pathos of infinite jejuneness which
flows, flows always in red human blood.

Through the race rides a long dread wistfulness, made of tears and
lies and the barbaric distress and pitfall of everyday’s journey: a
crying wish for a cup of warmed drugged sweet ease to turn it all a
moment away: but a moment away.

And through all the race is the measureless poetry, purling and
mantling in its bowl of flesh. Each human one is made of the sun,
and made of the moon, and made of the four winds and the seas and
the last pink sea-foam on the crests of the twilit waves: and made
of salt and of sugar and of lonesome calling of loons and quick song
of skylarks: and made of sword-edges and of money and of dolls and
toys and painted glass: and made of loose reckless shuffling of dry
autumn leaves, and of nerves and of illusions and of broken food and
hesitance: and made of Mother-Goose rhymes and of cigarette-ashes and
of raveled silk: and made of layers and layers of mixed-up passionate
colors and of gilded cakes and of strawberries and of temperamental
orgasms and raw silvery onions and gaming and dancing and
minute-by-minute inconsistency: all veiled in a thin gold veil--all
in a thin gold veil.

Betwixt the wistfulness and the poetry--_hélas_, what chance has
the human equation, unsought, unwarned, unchallenged of God to be
straitly equable!

No chance.

Happily no chance.

Thus I, Mary MacLane, so conscious of Me and garbledly gifted, want
a Thousand Kisses at eleven o’clock of a still evening.

No spirit-hands of Love are laid soft on my drooping shoulders in the
passing days: no Love--no Love--in all my life.

No miracle Wonder and Gentleness stirs in and against my Heart: my
Heart is strangely dead of a strange Realness, known and felt but
unachieved:--no Love--no Love in my life.

And I can wish for no Love, for the listless Heart is listlessly dead.

I wish instead, in hastening present clock-ticking moments, for a
Thousand present-warmed Kisses: a Thousand in Wanton response to a
Wanton ’leven-o’clock.

Dominating waving washing warmth of Wantonness, compassing me at
eleven o’clock.

A Thousand careless insouciant Kisses: a Thousand gorgeous delicate
Kisses: a round Thousand.

From what lips--whose lips--what do I know?--: so their Kisses are a

From what lips--what do I care?--: so they be eager and live and
tenderly false.

--come some of the Thousand glowing on my pink lips, and my white
fingers, which were tense, relax--

--come more of the Thousand, and my rigid hard-riding thoughts grow
drowsy and pliant and negligible.

--come more of the Thousand, and my knees and the marrow in my bones
are gently aware of most logical opiate ease--

--come more of the Thousand, and my midriff is full of cream-and-chocolate
casualness and my smooth arms are washed down with mists of custom.

--come more of the Thousand, and my seven senses start to melt at the

--come more of the Thousand, and the palms of my hands wax merely
pleasant-feeling and the soles of my feet fatly comfortable--

--come the last of the Thousand in a swirling silly lovely
lightly-insane shower--and I feel exactly like a woman in the next
street who goes forth clad in mustard-and-cerise with a devilish
black-and-white Valeska-Suratt parasol: and more--much more--I feel
the way she _looks_--

For this Wanton-thing is not amour but psychology: in it I am less
the mænad than the philosopher: less the Cyprian woman than the Muse.

I am a deeply gifted woman.

I am not prone on my green couch, frayed, frazzled, bowed-down in
spirit from a day of frightful stress and cross-purpose.

Instead, hair-triggerishly alive, with definite desire beating
hotly this moment in my throat: the wish for Kisses--Kisses far
removed from Death and Graves and Coffins: Kisses of this present
clock-tickingness, Kisses useless, meaningless, sweet--oh, _sweet_!--

--in number, a Thousand: in kind. Wanton.

_A fluttering-moth wish_


A wish that God would come personally to see me flutters in my
thoughts ever and anon like a restless moth.

I am in a prison-mood and coldly content to be in it. For how long
content--content is not the word: despairingly acquiescent--there’s
no word to express that--I can noway tell. But now I live and breathe
aloof and strange-mooded. And with it I wish God would visit me a

It is not a strong wish. Yet restless and persistent.

I want to be free from myself and away, loosed in the little broad
big narrow World: but first and more I want God to visit me.

I want people again, those away from here who are my friends--some
glowing-spirited ones who appreciate my Mind and cater to me: I want,
I think, a poet to love me with some unobvious madness: but first and
more I want God to visit me.

More than I want strength of spirit and flesh, more than I want a fat
mental peace, more than I want to know John Keats in star-spaces:
more than I want my dream-Child: I want God to visit me.

More than I wish this appalling tiredness would leave me: more than
I wish this I write to be a realization, a _de-fait_ portrait of the
thin-hidden Me, my self-expression achieved: more than I want to be
quit of my two black dresses and back in the wide sweet frivol of
variegated clothes: I want God to visit me.

God must know all about that. He must have known it a long time. He
still does not come. If he would come and tell me one thing, one
_certain_ thing, it would be enough. It would show me a direction and
I could keep on in it by myself. If God would tell me even a sheerest
matter-of-fact, for _sure_--like What O’Clock by his time it really
_is_: that would be a spark from which I could build an eternal fire
for myself. Forever after I could dispense with God as a personality.

I am strangely weak. Strong of will, strong of mind, but weak of
purpose: damnably, damnedly. I shall never be able to write in words
one one-thousandth of the dramatic drastic weakness which is in me.
But I hate weakness with so deep and strong a hatred, and to know one
eternal certain thing would be so roundly restful, I could then go
on: I could vanquish the potent pettinesses which beset me.

I do not want from God a passport, a safe-conduct into heaven. I
don’t want to get into heaven. I don’t know what it is, but the word
has sounds of finality, as if all winds, sweet nervous petal-laden
winds, had stopped blowing forever. For cycles and centuries to come
the Soul of me will be too restless to live where winds can not blow.

I love the journey: so that only I might have one dim torch to go by.
I love the pitfalls and ditches--all the dangers--black-shaded woods
and wolds, and lonesome plains and briery paths, and very wet swamps,
and strong whistling gales which chill me: so that I could feel but
one tiny bright-bladed truth, within and without, pricking and urging
me to struggle on through it all till I might emerge at last like
a human being, rather than linger indifferent and inanimate like a
jaded wood-nymph in drearily pleasant spaces.

_Twenty inches of ajarness_


God might come to visit me on a Monday afternoon.

He would come in at the door of my blue-white room which had been
left about twenty inches ajar: for I cannot imagine God, the aloof
and reticent, opening a shut door to visit anyone. It is as if God
purposely lacks all initiative. If I wish to meet God I must first
suffer deeps of terror and passion and loneliness to make the mood
that wants it. Then I must train my life down to two plain frocks.
And to crown all my room-door must be left ajar on the day he happens
to come or he will not come in. _That_ seems certain: but for twenty
inches of ajarness at my door he will not come in.

In it God is quite fair. I do the reaching-out and I live out the
despairs: he furnishes a fact to go upon: I go upon it, in some
anguish doubtless: but then mine, not God’s, are the lights and the
translated splendor. It is a ‘gentleman’s game’ God plays. It is
because I feel that to be true, more than for that he is the Dealer,
that I would have a word with him.

On a Monday afternoon--

He might come in the figure of a precise mystic-looking little old
man, punctilious of dress and manner like an English duke on the
stage. He might wear overwhelmingly correct afternoon attire, with
spats and a monocle on a wide ribbon. It someway fills my peculiar
trivial concepts of God: mystic-seeming because he is the God of the
dead dusty hosts of Israel, and punctiliously modern because he is
also the God of new-poeted radium-gifted Now. A God like a druid or
like Aladdin’s genie, such as I fancied as a child, or like Jove or
Vulcan, would seem an inadequate and unsuitable God. What would such
a one know of the shape and fashion of my two plain dresses, and of
my shoes, and my breakfasts, and the charmed surface joy in the back
of a magazine? God, to be God to me, must know all those things.

And if he only bespoke me in thunderous preludes touching souls’
triumphant apotheoses--bold and intolerable ecstasies beyond heaven’s
last poignantest door--it would be nothing to my purpose. Those my
poet-brain can make for me if I wish. But I’d like God to explain me
the little frightful puzzles which thrive all around me in the wide
daylight of this knife-and-fork-ness.

God might come walking lightly in and perhaps seat himself
fastidiously in my chastest chair. He might cross one knee over
the other. He might adjust his monocle and regard me through it
speculatively or sadly or politely-wearily. I should be outwardly
calm but I might feel an inward panic: lest he go away again without
having told me a fact.

I might say to God: ‘God, if you please, this small blue vase on my
window-sill--I see it and I touch it and I love it--will you tell me,
you who know, _is_ there a blue vase there or is there no vase?’

And God might merely glance at the vase through his glass and
daintily hold his white handkerchief crumpled-up in his gray-gloved
fingers and might merely say: ‘Madame, you have eyes with which to
see the vase and hands with which to touch it and sentiments to lend
it charm for you, no doubt. Then why not let them inform you as to
its actuality?’

And then I might say, with a weariness equal to God’s: ‘My senses are
pleasant--they are sweet--but they do not inform me, or they inform
me wrong. Because they don’t plainly tell me whether it’s a Blue
Vase or a Blue Shadow--just for that I burn in little disconcerting
hell-fires, and vulture-thoughts with beaks and talons come and tear
me in the night, and I starve and decay trivially, and my life is a
flattish ruin and a tasteless darkness and a slight shallow death, a
death in the sunshine--I am fed-up with a sense of _death_ because of
pricking doubts as to my blue vase’s realness.’

To which, again, God might reply with his head tilted to one side,
tranquil and impersonal: ‘As to that, Madame, there may be less death
in doubt than in certainty about your vase. You might in discovering
it discover in yourself no right whatever to the sunshine--no right
to live in it, no right to die in it.’

And I might answer, with some insolent feeling: ‘I should wish to
discover the _fact_ about it though it proved to me I don’t exist
and never existed--that I’m a dust on a moth’s wing, and at that
alien--not belonging there.’

Upon which God, for what I know, might only shrug-the-shoulders.

In that identity he might shrug-the-shoulders or break-the-world with
equal omnipotent plausibleness.

But I might try again. I might say: ‘One thing _feels_ realer than my
blue vase--this blue-and-green Necklace which my Soul wears. It is
rare and recherché but my beautiful Soul is very tired from wearing
it. Will you please unclasp it for me?’

And God might say, deprecatory: ‘Pray, Madame, do you consider what
portion of the beauty you mention may be in the Necklace? Should I
unclasp it--it is doubtful whether you would recognize your soul
without it.’

To which I might answer, with more insolent feeling: ‘I don’t know
anything of that and I don’t care for it. I only know I want the
Necklace off. To wear it makes me languid and frenzied and worn--full
of wild goaded saneness and the wish to go violently mad.’

And God might answer: ‘Permit me to express my regrets for those
sentiments which, I should add, I neither concur in nor refute nor
deny nor share.’

There I might be: conversationally whip-sawed.--God is full of works
of beauty, serene and miraculous: Gray Lakes and Blue Mourning
Mountains and Deserts beneath the Moon. Those have quietly ravished
me many and many a night and day--and will again, and still again, in
pacing To-morrows.

But I can’t tell What O’Clock it is by them. And if God were by me
and I asked him the time the odds are all that he would look at the
toy-face of my little ivory toy-clock, which sets on my desk where I
can see it myself, and tell me the time by that.

But though he is thus perplexing he knows the right time and could
tell me it.

For that restlessly I wish God would make me one brief visit.

I wish that though he should so godlily baffle me and divinely bore

_A profoundly delicious idea_


It is nineteen minutes after one on a summer night. And if only I
felt a bit hungry this is what I should wish--spread out on a damask
cloth before me in a few gold-medallioned Chinese dishes, with no
forks or knives: first of all, two thin _foie-gras_ sandwiches, four
grilled snails and maybe a little alligator pear: on top of those,
two truffles: on top of those, two slim onions: on top of those, two
thin salted biscuits: on top of those, a bit of Camembert cheese: on
top of that, two cigarettes: on top of all a hollow-stemmed glass of
sparkling Burgundy.

I’m not hungry, but it is comforting to think how delightful that
supper would taste if I were. Food is a so magic rich gusty gift
bestowed on the human race: and is besides a profoundly delicious

I like food better to imagine than even to eat. If I were hungry I
think I could obtain that chaste supper item for item, and eat it:
swallow it down magic and all, and thus vanquish it magic and all,
and there an end. So I am glad I am not hungry. It is much more
delectable to sit here and think that if I were--

_if_ I were--

a Hollow-stemmed Glass of Sparkling Burgundy.

two cigarettes.

a Bit of Camembert Cheese.

two Thin Salted Biscuits.

two Slim Onions.

two Truffles.

two Thin _Foie-Gras_ Sandwiches: Four Grilled Snails: and maybe a
Little Alligator Pear.

If I were a bit hungry: oh, the idea of a little supper! It would
then be blestness, benediction--fruit of the very garden of Paradise!

_A mountebank’s cloak_


I am so _Clever_. I am the Cleverest human being I know.

I have thought my Cleverness an outer quality, a mountebank’s cloak,
and as such not belonging in this book of my own self. But there are
no outer qualities. Everything in and about me is my own self.

My Cleverness is of high quality--even supernatural, I have
thought--and is of unobvious tenors.

To any essentially false nature, such as mine, a quick and positive
Cleverness is its needfulest resource in coping with this pushing
world. To any un-sanely sensitive nature such as mine Cleverness is
its fender against human encounters and onslaughts.

There is no Cleverness in this I write. There is writing skill and my
dead-feeling genius. But my Cleverness is beside those points.

I use Cleverness when I encounter people.

Sometimes I like people and wish to impress them.

Always I am vain and sometimes I wish my vanity catered to.

And I can get from people whatever tribute I choose.

I mostly choose to bewilder and half-fascinate which is easiest:
I talk about anything, nothing, everything with a tinsel-bright
complexity which captures average intellects. And even very Clever
people seem not Clever to me because I feel so exceeding Clever to
myself. I am a little more intuitive, a little falser, a little
lightning-quicker than the most artistically antic mentalities I have

I am a lady with the ladies, a woman with women, a highly intelligent
writer with writers, a loosed fish with the loose fish: being all
the time nothing but my own self, unspeakably incongruent. Having
never found anyone remotely matching me in barbaric and devastating
incongruity of nature I use in human encounters whatever phase makes
the occasion most gently befit me. I cater, or I thrill some bastard
dull brain, or I grow roundly versatile: all with a sudden coruscant
Cleverness which is not in itself any of Me but is my mountebank’s
scarlet cloak.

But its main cause and reason is not vanity nor a fancy for piquant
trickery, nor the wish to try my superior wings in glowing human
atmospheres--the preponderant impulse to fly because I can fly. It’s
none of those, but a need of protection, of a bright armor to keep
other people’s superficialities from touching me. There’s a human
effluvium which I feel from people which would touch, wrap, enclose
me in a harsh vapor--a half-froze, half-stinging worldly cloud. It
hurts with thin cruelness like a corroding spray of acid on my skin:
unless I send out the sudden air of my own Cleverness to keep it off
and away.

It is long months since I have encountered people with any impulse
save hastily to avoid them. But if I should meet, with an aggression
of mettle and mood, some woman or man or little group of human
sorts (except children of and for whom I have always a fear and a
respect) I should then suddenly be casual and half-fascinating and
phosphorescently glowing and insolent: being inside me haggard from
solitude, wistful from a bereftness and a beauty-sense, suffering and

Ah, I’m notably Clever!

I write a letter of Clever delicate surprisingness--it is the only
Clever writing I do. There are twenty people, now long outside my
life, to whom a Mary-Mac-Lane letter is the agreeably-vividest thing
that could come into a day. The letter, which is an unapparent
cater, is not real Me who am someway a strong and contemptuous
spirit--but instead one tinsel facet. And it makes people--people!
people!--admire and defer to me in a subtlest human aspect: an
unwilling antagonistic homage. It stays me, buoys me for the time.

I am profoundly Clever in that I who am in reality so futile, so
wavering, so sensitively lyingly artistic, can still show myself
aggressively Clever to other persons. I must, being false, be Clever
in order to get by.

It is at its best a trickster’s quality: and so much the more am I
Clever in stretching it out over my shaded life like a strong bright

Just to be Mary MacLane--who am first of all my own _self_!--and get
by with it!--how I do that I can not quite make out.

I’m by odds the Cleverest human being I know: more than likely one of
the Cleverest who ever lived in this world.

_A familiar sharp twist_


I have--a Broken Heart--

It is nearly a year now.

It feels strange to be writing it. What _is_ one’s Heart? But it is a
plain fact of me.

I have not had a Broken Heart in the years before. I have had silly
fancies--I have wasted the outer tissues of my Heart, and it has been
bruised and battered. But nothing pierced deep enough to break it
till this.

My Broken Heart is the outstanding inner item of my life: and it
still is a very small thing even in my own reckoning. It tortures me
minutely all the minutes and moments and hours. And yet my all-round
life moves on beside it and often passes it on the road.

My Broken Heart contributes nothing, no cause and no urge, to the
writing of this song of my Soul and bones. It rather is a handicap.
It makes me sit and brood. It makes my eyelids heavy and my head
droop. It makes my shoulders ache. It makes me sit longish half-hours
with my head on my lonely hands. It fills me with foolish wasting

Its foolishness is the foremost thing about my Broken Heart. It is
not a foolishness of worldly reasons nor of outer causes but of
all the surprising folly of myself crowded into my Heart and into
that which Broke it. The foolishness would not be so noticeable
if the Brokenness were not so hideous and genuine and actual and
matter-of-course. It was foolish to lay myself open, who am humanly
starved, to the possible Breaking of my Heart: and doubly foolish
to let it be Broken. And being left in possession of a Broken Heart
I feel it to be a triply insanely foolish thing: but complete and
absolute and natural.

I am so oddly a fool.

The proper price for such or such a thing in the Market might be
one-and-twenty drops of red human blood. But I headlongly pay for it
one-and-ninety drops: each one touched with fire, shot with purple,
tinctured with hottest spirit-essence. The proper payment for Love is
to pay back value received--which is enough. But I in addition dip
my white bare foot into red world-and-hell flames by way of quixotic
bonus. When other persons emerge from Love with the old-fashioned
accustomed wounds and scars I emerge with besides an immensely
useless futilely ruined foot.

It is wildest foolishness. Not merely folly. Folly is something
picturesque--a bit romantic.

I am oddly a fool. It is that consciousness that rushes over me with
each sad black thought of my Broken Heart.

My Broken Heart--it feels half-false to myself as I write it. And
the written words look half-false to my eyes. But it is realer than
my fingernails: than my palms: than my aching left foot.

My Broken Heart, besides being a triviality is a mistake, and will
pass in time doubtless, but is long about it.

It is one thing I do not dwell upon in this book of me. A Broken
Heart is sharply immediate like a newly-bitten tongue. It may bleed
at a touch. To dwell on it connects me strainedly with the world
around, and the world is really gone from me. This book is I as I
breathe alone. I cannot write in it the silly shadowy Breaking of my
Broken Heart. This writing is I Just Beneath My Skin. My Broken Heart
is beneath bones and flesh. And though my M.-MacLane heart intact is
wildly individual, my Broken Heart is merely human: made not alone by
me and not alone by God. Its place in this I write is just outside
the margins.

At times my Broken Heart feels far off while I’m feeling it hideous
and wan inside my breast. Myself is Me, and much of Me had nothing
to do with my Heart when it Broke: though I loved with all of Me. I
loved with all of Me one who lives in New York--and I lost and lost,
all the way. There was mere human ordinariness about which I built
up a strangely sincere temple-of-grace which I looked to see shed
light on my life like the new eternal beauty of a Day-break. I gave
the best I knew to it, from the distance, and I lost. The day was
a little day and broke at last only like my Heart. All was broken
without so much as clasp-of-hands.

I am realest, strongest, passionately-sincerest in my essential known

It was all foolish and petty and someway false but I felt foolishly
and shudderingly that I could live no more. But I am singularly brave
from life-long custom. I have no pleas and surrenderings in me. I
shudder but live on.

One Thursday I felt suddenly oppressed and beset and something in my
throat cried out to the absent God to help me and guard me.

It was something in my throat which shrieked it dumbly in the
deafening silence in my room. It was not I myself: for I am
unsuppliant toward everyone human and divine though there often come
such Thursdays.

Harder than Thursdays are Fridays and some other days when comes a
familiar sharp twist beneath my chest-bones without the cognizance
of my remembering thoughts: and when though I strive against it my
Broken Heart makes me sit longish half-hours with my head on my hands.

_A dark bright fierce fire_


I am Lonely. I am so Lonely that I can feel myself rattle inside my
life like one live seed in a hollow gourd.

I am on fire with Loneliness.

I am living this month alone in this house. The solitude is pregnant:
Doors and Door-knobs and Curtains and Tables have silently come alive
in it and have taken on identities like those of tamed wild beasts.

I do housework--I dust window-sills and water flowers. I gather up
newspapers and brush the floors with a dust-mop. I wash my dishes. I
cook my breakfasts. I look out of windows. I linger at screen-doors.

I answer the telephone: I say, ‘They’re not at home.’

I change my frock and put on a hat and a cloak and gloves and go
softly out the door and front gate on an errand.

I meet people on the street whom I know, whom I may speak to, whom I
may avoid: who may speak to me: who may avoid me: for I am at best
well hated in this Butte.

I come back again, softly unlock the door and come in. I come
upstairs, take off the out-door things, give a hasty side-glance in
my glass and go downstairs.

I read awhile. To-day I read an old-fashioned short story whose soft
wondrous prose cadences fed my senses--the Parable of the Prodigal
Son.--for this my son was dead and is alive--was lost and is found--.

But I am very restless and cannot read long.

I am on fire--dark bright fierce fire with Loneliness.

I move about again from room to room. I look out of windows and
linger at doors.

I close my eyes and open my eyes.

My Soul-and-bones! I’m afire with Loneliness!

It is Loneliness not made of the Empty House and the tamed wild
Door-knobs and Doors and Curtains and the Lonely Errands. Those are
its small-fruits. Itself is my ancient daylight Loneliness dating
from Three-Years-Old when I first began whisperingly analyzing things
and finding little life-items to be of a fierce bitter importance.

If I were living among people, friendly people, then the Loneliness
though unchanged would be disguised and vested with a padded muffling
power--false, belike, and a mistake (but everything _is_ false and a
mistake: only there are wrong mistakes and right mistakes)--but made
of the world-stuff that lets a human being get by in this nervous

But it would be of no use now. I must face Loneliness: and outface
it. I do, and with no effort: for I am Lonelier than Loneliness’s
self. So it feels. This locked-in mood--soon it may be worn down and
outgrown, and the husks blown away in the winds.

But may come after it a wilder Loneliness of being free, fearfully
free: flavored with the heaviness of rain at night and draggledness
of beggar-women’s skirts.--

Meanwhile bright and black among Doors and Door-knobs and Curtains
and Tables burns the fire of this Loneliness with strong, strong
flame. It is mystic agony. There is no thinking in it. There is an
utterly irrational wish, an aching yearning for people: not people
to see, or listen to, or talk to, but--humanness I could _feel_ with
familiarity. I wish for hands and bodies near me: breath for mine
faintly to mingle with: the feel of their human garments in the room
around me: the feel of the pulsing blood in their veins remotely
vibrant in the air: the feel of minds and spirits and throats and
rich warm virile hair of human heads keeping me warmly company. I
have heard one may step rarefied out of this living-place into the
Fourth Dimension, where one feels everything without the efforts of
feeling, and knows everything without the weights of knowing. It
might be that I grope for in this black bright anguish.

Yet I feel rarely rarefied, heavily rarefied, wornly rarefied in this
living-place where Loneliness burns me in strong fire and where I can
shake my life like a hollow gourd and hear the eerie rattling sound I
make in it.

_Late afternoon_


Last night as I slept I dreamed a vivid dream.

I dreamed it was late afternoon and I was locked in a condemned
cell, sentenced to die. I would be led out and hanged on a gallows
the following morning at day-break. I dreamed I sat beneath a narrow
window in the cell through which shone the light of the waning
afternoon. The light was very pale, as of sunshine long dead. I
dreamed I held on my knees a small block of paper which had a
half-inch blue border at the top to mark a perforation, and in my
hand I had a red pencil. And I dreamed I had cheated the gallows and
was writing a little ballad about it in sudden rhymes and rhythms
quite alien to my waking forms. When I awoke the song was still
beating time in my brain. And with my black awake-time pencil I
wrote, except for two words, the rhyme, title and all, as I dreamed:


  They’ll think when I pass through that door
  To-morrow in the dawn,
  I’ll then be going to my death.
  _It’s I’ve already gone._

  They’ll watch me walk serenely out,
  Still-nerved and somber-eyed,
  ‘So strong,’ they’ll say, ‘to meet her death.’
  _To-day it is I died._

  There’ll be my pulses quick with life,
  My white sweet throat, my breath:
  But flesh and bone are all will hang.
  _This noon I met my death._

  For days I charmedly dwelt on death--
  I raved at death--I swore--
  Till vexédly death waived the date:
  _And came this Day-Before._

  From being lured with artful thoughts
  My life abortive grew.
  From being broached in livid mood
  _My death aborted too._

  To-morrow they’ll remark my calm--
  No fuss, no fright, no swoon.
  They’ll kill a wench to-morrow dawn
  _Was dead to-day at noon._

Three oddnesses are in that dream:

that it is true to life in that I in my lightning Mary-Mac-Lane-ness
_would_ manage to cheat a gallows.

that it is untrue to life in that instead of writing of it in the
true twilit poetry of my own sufficient prose I wrote it in the
shallow trick-phrasing of rhyme, a little serenade to the gibbet.

that it catches and holds my Shadow-self who lives not _in_side me
but _be_side me: the resembling dissembling shadow I cast when I
stand between the daylights of the actual world and the quivering
films of the region of dreams.--

My owned mysteries thrive apace. They are poetry and beauty and
loveliness yet they bruise and batter me and split me to atoms.
Withal are terrifyingly superfluous: they violently kill the wench
to-morrow dawn who died restfully to-day at noon.

_An ancient witch-light_


Also I am someway the Lesbian woman.

It is but one phase--one which slightly touches each other phase I
own. And in it I am poetic and imaginative and worldly and amorous
and gentle and true and strong and weak and ardent and shy and
sensitive and generous and morbid and sweet and fine and false.

The Lesbian sex-strain as an effect is reckoned a prenatal
influence--and, as I conceive, it comes also of conglomerate
incarnations and their reactions and flare-backs. Of some thus
bestowed it makes strange hard highly emotional indefinably vicious
women, turbulent and brilliant of mind, mystically overborne,
overwrought of heart. They are marvels of perverse barbaric energy.
They make with men varied flinty friendships, but to each other they
are friends, lovers, victims, preyers, masters, slaves: the flawed
fruits of one oblique sex-inherence.

Except two breeds--the stupid and the narrowly feline--all women have
a touch of the Lesbian: an assertion all good non-analytic creatures
refute with horror, but quite true: there is always the poignant
intensive personal taste, the _flair_ of inner-sex, in the tenderest
friendships of women.

For myself, there is no vice in my Lesbian vein. I am too personally
fastidious, too temperamentally dishonest, too eerily wavering to
walk in direct repellent roads of vice even in freest moods. There
is instead a pleasant degeneracy of attitude more debauching to
my spirit than any mere trivial _traînant_ vice would be. And a
fascination in it tempers my humanness with an evil-feeling power.

I have lightly kissed and been kissed by Lesbian lips in a way
which filled my throat with a sudden subtle pagan blood-flavored
wistfulness, ruinous and contraband: breath of bewildering demoniac
winds smothering mine.

Lesbian essence is of mental quality. There are aggressively endowed
women whose minds are so bent that they instinctively nurture
any element in themselves which is blighting and ill-omened and
calamitous in effect. There are some to which the natural inhibition
of their own sex is lure and challenge. There are some so solitary by
destiny and growth that the first woman-friend who comes into their
adolescence with sympathy and understanding wins a passionate Lesbian
adoration the deeper for being unrealized. There are some so roiledly
giftedly incongruous in trait that they are prone to catch and hold
any additional twisted shreds afloat in human air-currents.

Each of those influences biases the Mind of me, which is none the
less a clear-visioned mind which rates no thing a truth which it
knows to be a lie: though it batten on the lie.

--often here and there around this human world the twisted and
perverted and strongly false concepts are the strong actual working
facts and the straight road is myth--myth--existent but in visions--

I don’t understand why it’s so: I know it is so.

Not only so with me: so with millions whose stars jangled.

Not always. But often.--

The deep-dyed Lesbian woman is a creature whose sensibilities are
over-balanced: whose imagination moves on mad low-flying wings: whose
brain is good: whose predilections are warped: who lives always in
unrest: whose inner walls are streaked with garish heathen pigments:
whose copious love-instincts are an odd mixture of mirth, malice and

Its effects in me who am straight-made in nothing, but strongly
crooked, is to vivify tenfold or a hundredfold or a thousandfold in
my shaded vision the womanness of any woman whose inner or outer
beauty arrests and stirs my spirit.

I see in some woman, some girl, any who attracts me--be she a casual
acquaintance, or a Victorian poet dead fifty years whose poetry and
portrait live, or an actor in a play, or a sweet-browed friend, or
an Old Master--I see one such as if all her charm were newly painted
and placed near me shining wet with delicate fresh paint. It is
bewitching to look at: it has a deep seductive fragrance of smell:
it is luxuriantly aromatic to all my known senses--and two senses
unknown float from my deeps and rise at it. The Stranger becomes a
dearly poignant fancy to dream over. My Friend turns into a vivid
goddess whose fingers and hair I would touch tenderly with my lips.

Because of it a little flame, pale but primal, leaps from the
flattest details of life. In such a mood-adventure a window-shutter
blooms: a hair-brush glows: a sordid floor has gleams upon it. These
bewildering frightful beautifulnesses in this life--.

--withal the same inherence which makes me someway Lesbian
makes me the floor of the setting sun--strewn with overflowing
gold and green vases of Fire and Turquoise--a sly and piercing
annihilation-of-beauty, wonderful devastating to feel--oh, blighting
breaking to feel--oh, deathly lovely to feel!--It is the bewitched
obliquities that run away with me: grind, gnaw, eat my true human
heart like bright potent vitriol.

What God means me to do with such gifts and phases--I don’t and don’t
understand. I never get anywhere as I think it out. I don’t know
shades of rights and wrongs since that ancient witch-light has found
more trueness of human feeling in me than has any simplicity my life

It began, they say, with Sappho and her dreaming students in
the long-ago vales of Lesbos. It may be, I daresay. I know it
did not stop there. And I know that--Greek, French, Scotch,
Indian--Welch--Japanese--_all_ women sense its light lyric touch. For
myself, I know only it is part and parcel in my tangled tired coil.

I don’t know whether I am good and sweet in it or evil and untoward.

And I don’t care.

_The gray-purple_


Close at the east edge of this Butte is a barren ridge of Rockies
that is sudden and big and breathing-looking, barbarously personal,
touched with varying gifted color-moods and glowering morose
color-passions: at the south the snow-topped Highlands lie long faëry
solitary miles away, caressed at their summits by thin soft sun-rings
and sun-vapors of salmon and sea-green and turquoise and mauve: at
the west a gray-shadowed desert burns red-gold in the setting sun
and sleeps in pearl-and-ashen stillness under midnight stars: at the
north smaller spurs of the range break into foothills and bluffs and
gulches, restful wastes of lonely stones and blurred radiances of
tawny sand: on top of all the rarefied air of these plateau heights
refracts the light into hot dazzling prisms at any vagrant flash of
sun on a trailing storm-fringe. This Butte is capriciously decorated
with sweet brilliant metallic orgies of color at any time, all times,
as if by whims of pagan gods lightly drunk and lightly mad.

St. Paul-Minnesota looks a greenlier-prettier town: the Arizona Cañon
looks vastly more fearfully beautiful: Wichita-Kansas probably looks
more a regular town: Akron-Ohio doubtless looks more Americanly
reassuring: Rome-Italy must have a more ‘settled’ look: New York is
much larger and much brighter-looking.

Only this Butte looks deeply and exactly like Butte-Montana.

Its insistent charm is that it goes on strongly resembling itself
year after year.

There is love in me for this Butte.

I am profoundly lonely in it: my life-tissues are long-familiar with
the feel of it: its mournful beauty has entered like thin punishing
iron into my Soul: and my love for it is made of those things. For no
_reason_ I feel love for this Butte.

As much as for the mountains in their mourning intimateness I
feel love for all the outsides and surfaces of the town itself:
the stone streets full of houses and shops and stores and brick
walls and laundry-wagons and persons: the vacant lots where boys
play ball: the school-buildings which for twenty years have needed
the same green grass around them and the same playgrounds for
school-children to play in (and will go on twenty years needing
them): the little mines in unexpected midtown blocks with their
engines and hoists and scaffolds and green coppery dumps: the big
mines on the Hill busily working day and night, a bristling citadel
of smoke-stacks and tall buildings above the treasure-drifts and
tunnels that come down honeycombing the town under its streets
and hoses and yield up wealths of monthly millions: the desolate
wind-swept cemetery on the Flat: the Timber Butte: the School of
Mines: the Brophy grocery-window full of attractive grocery-food:
the St. Gaudens statue of Marcus Daly: the few sweet green trees on
North Montana Street by the court-house: the edge of Walkerville:
Ex-Senator Clark’s old-fashioned closed house in Granite Street: the
stone Episcopal Church with the memorial windows: the surprising
steep Idaho Street hill: the old Reduction Works reminiscent of the
bygone Heinze and the bold buccaneering days: the Montana Street
cemetery at last kempt and nurtured green as Beloit-Wisconsin: the
little rocky Missoula gulch: the North Excelsior Street neighborhood
where I wrote my Devil and Gray-dawn book: the Butte High School
where I studied and meditated youngly: the old Library where I used
to get a variety of books in my gangling girlhood: the electric
ore-trains going to Anaconda: the vegetable Chinamen: the Post-Office
News-stand: the Mexican tamale venders in the early night: the sweet
green trees and other greenness in people’s yards garnered and
cherished in a way which would astonish Toledo-Ohio: the brilliant
sparkling look of the town from far out on the Flat late in the
evening, like a mammoth broken tiara of starry diamonds, twinkling
points of blue and orange and cerise and violet, fired and flung
against a mountainside of dark velvet,--an aspect intensely Butte:
the cool mosquitoless summer nights: the Anaconda Standard: the
sulphurous smoky deadly-cold winter mornings: the Cornish and Irish
and Austrian and Finn miners: the little slim green onions in the
markets: the noise and color and morale of the crowds on a Miner’s
Union day: the markets on the afternoon shade side of West Park
Street full of crabs and lobsters from Seattle and shining fish from
California, and mushrooms and froglegs and squabs and hothouse things
from hereabouts: the Parrot smelter: the Chinese gardens at Nine
Mile: the Italian village of Meaderville: the fortified battlemented
look of the town at the east of South Butte: the mystic familiar

All of it has a feel of something aloof and metallic and distinctive
and gray-purple and Butte-Montana. Gray-purple is the color of the
town, its spirit-tone. Its odor and fascination are gray-purple.

This Butte is bodily a young rich present-day city of a
hundred-thousand population, all told: miners who bulwark
its foundations: masses who make and manage its business:
millionaire-members who spend most of their lives and dollars in
New York: all are Butte-made. But its soul is still the soul of the
frontier mining-camp which sprang into copper being when the Comstock
mine in Virginia-Nevada failed of its silver-ish promise.

A very few years ago--what one could count on one hand’s
fingers--there were no lids in this Butte. Every summer bony
thoroughbred horses from Juarez and Denver raced round the oval track
on the Flat, watched by a shrieking betting throng of Butte citizens
and citizenesses, ridden by silk-bloused black-booted jockies, their
finish-spurts under the wire chaperoned by a flock of bookmakers.
Roulette and poker and faro were wide-open in the town and flavored
the air with a taste of gray-purple hazard. Gin-palaces and
mining-camp dance-halls, highly de-luxe’d, lent their tinted breath
to the current. Noodle-ish and little bacchanalian dives flourished
in unexpected nooks. The police court on a Monday morning resembled
the debris from an alcoholic human volcano, a condemned but owned
portion of this Butte in its Butte-Montana-ness. All of it was but
one element in an isolated prosperous town of many elements, but it
someway tinctured all.

No pagan-wild sunset burst above the west desert but suggested that
the vague lid was off the town, and vaguely lost: a lost lid.

The gambling lid is fast on now--if they gamble they gamble under it.
And no more do ribby horses and surprising-mixed crowds disport them
at the deserted race-track.

But the setting Butte sun suggests the same wealth and wildness as if
always its celestial chemistry were shot with essence of mining-camp:
rich, generous, feverish and virile.

Brophy’s grocery-window and the Marcus Daly monument and the
Parrot smelter and the Clark house and the Idaho Street hill--all
of it--owns the gray-purple which is not St. Paul and not Wichita
and not Pittsburg and not Spokane: not anything except intensely

I have felt it since I first lived here in little young short-frocked
days, and I felt it when I lived away from Butte: I feel it all these
now-days to the roots of myself.

I have no reason: but the contrary: to love Butte as a townful of
human beings.

I have no friends in it, no feel-of-friendship, no human friendliness.

And the sculpturesque poetry of the outlying deserts and buttes
pushes and presses hurtingly upon the lonely and introspective gazer
in Body and Soul: I knew it as child and girl and woman.

There is nothing benign, nothing enlightening--no gentleness, no
pity--in its barren beauty. But its hard chaste influence on the
sensitive spirit is beyond any analytic power to gauge.

Its wonderful Aridness starves human nerve-soil till the sad
wide eyes of the Soul grow bright--fever-bright, light-bright,
star-bright--from denial and unconscious prayer: involuntary worship:
homage of the unsuppliant unhoping dévotee.

Because of that--and because of all its long-familiar outsidenesses--
mournful, beautiful, mystic, lavish, madly-mixed, gray-purple--a
fascination beyond plaisance or pain--I feel love for this Butte.

_The subdivided cell_


When I was twenty I was one strong Cell firmly, primly closing many
little cells different from each other but each greenly intact.

When I was thirty the Cell had burst in dusty worldly winds and
loosed the little cells. Those in turn had subdivided, losing
strength by the cellful but gaining in shadowed truth by a roundabout
road. And they showed me my fates and inevitablenesses as in a broad
wrecked field misty but plain to view. And thus I see me in the
subdivided cells:

a piece of a normal woman.

a piece of a child.

a piece of a poet.

a piece of a Lesbian woman.

a piece of a writer.

a piece of a jester.

a piece of a savage.

a piece of something someway brave.

a piece of a student.

a patriotic American.

a lump of tiredness.

My strength is in knowing the evil from the good and the false from
the true in it.

My weakness is in wildly waveringly inclining toward the false.

Except for love of my country I am ardenter, determinder, stronger
in my falseness than in any of my shadowy truth.

_Food and fire_


The first beauty in my life is John Keats.

In John Keats is my faith in some resurrection.

Without John Keats human nature feels to be something broken,
menacing, unspeakably despicable and lost--lost in the shade. With
John Keats the lights break across it and reflect the blazing yellow
sun again from eyes and foreheads and fingers and shining hair.

There are world-and-human things which it thrills me to think about
and dwell on: Nathan Hale on the British gallows: the charge of
Pickett’s Confederate infantry at Gettysburg: Henry V, prince among
kings and men, at Agincourt: Charlotte Corday in prison: Columbus
with his felon crews sailing westward: Susan B. Anthony--a woman
made in a strange still heroic splendor half-incredible: Alexander
Hamilton: Arnold Winkelried: the sea-worn Pilgrim women disembarking
into bitter Novemberness.

Those thrill me because they are brave persons and brave things
full of idealistic strife: but they still are made of very
struggling-garbled world-stuff--they are mere human fabric--till I
think of John Keats: and at once they grow informing and eternal.

In his light the detailed world burns and glows!

John Keats! John Keats!--

Other poets have written Nightingales and Grecian Urns and Sonnets
and Mirth-and-Passion things: but _he_ wrote them in his glorious
and wistful pain. He wrote the sweet headaches of his spirit into
his delicate beaten-gold verse: the precious fevers of his mental
veins: the bone-aches and muscle-aches of his thoughts: the darling
skin-damps and palm-damps of his divine fancy:--all in the Song of
his lilied youth.

There is no poet but writes his poetry out of inner travails and
immense wistfulness. But they all write just beside their travail,
not in it: just beside their wistfulness, not with it. A poet
who feels the throat of his soul aching and swollen and inflamed
writes--not just that astral diphtheria, not till another time:
but instead the fine smothering of a hope, perhaps, the oblique
suffocating of a love. A poet whose brain-hands throb with some
horrible dulcet-ish tiredness from handling the heavy bright tools
of his craft writes instead the throbbing of his brain-soles and
brain-insteps from walking small odd hard rutted daily ways.

It rouses me--it heats my eyeballs with salty honeyed warmth as I
read: but it is not John Keats: who writes his own immediate magic
sickness in perfect sudden obvious blood-warm golden _Now_!

It is always old, old-fashioned ailment, worn of ages. The drowsy
ache of the Nightingale goes a thousand years back and a thousand
years to come: the restless ecstasy of a thousand thousand
Nightingales, one for each who reads, in any age, all ages. Long,
long after the jeweled English language is gone, dead as Homer’s,
Keats’s Nightingale will flutter lyric-winged in the nervous jeweled
lovely _Now_.

‘Weep for Adonis,’ wailed the differently-lovely Shelley, ‘he is
dead.’ But he isn’t dead. He is terribly living, passionately living.

Each day of my life I feel him living. He breathes. He breathes close
to me, pantingly, like a swimmer breasting waves or a playing child
in a summer day.--John Keats!

Just Beneath My Skin he is my God-of-the-World, my Fetich and my
Lover. He has been my Lover for seven gold years.

He is the first beauty in my flawed futile life. He is the most
beautiful thing in the living and dying world. John Keats--John

In everyone else I can feel mixed motives, tough tangled silk threads
of self woven into wonderful wefts of days and deeds: in _everybody_,
from Iscariot to Toussaint L’Ouverture, from Jeanne d’Arc to
Victoria Woodhull, from Paul of Tarsus to Aaron Burr.

Only John Keats stands out alone, a true-breathing Poet, an Inmost
Heart bleeding outward.

The lyric poet is the true poet. The lyric poet achieves no end in
his art. He turns fragments of light and life into terms of beauty
and sends them flying forth on flaming word-wings which translate
the smooth human flesh they brush-by into delicious flesh-of-gold,
flesh-of-petals, flesh-of-fire! But he makes no morals, teaches
no lessons, finishes nothing. It’s as it should be. Nothing _is_
finished. The mixed world is all unfinished, a glorified Mistake.
The race is a millionfold Mistake: lives it, breathes it, battens on
it--coarsely and finely and lamentably and musically and bravely.
So that all poetry which wanders from the lyric is only a play or
a picture or an airship or a cause which aims at _fait-accompli_,
attaining an object: it is limited and man-made: its beauty is lopped
off like boughs and branches after a storm: its wings are clipped.
Its distanceless spaces, little and large, are visibly engineered
by mathematic hands. But the lyric poetry is the true luminous and
bloody interpreting of humanness.

John Keats wrote by the lights of his living and he lived all his
days in joyous lyric anguish.

Once he wrote, ‘Ever let the Fancy roam, Pleasure never is at home.’
It is a factful of himself--lawless, radical and non-civilized,
agleam in the mixed world. It is everybody--poets, burglars,
nursemaids: everybody. He wrote it in a hundred other ways, but it
is all in that: it is the lyric epitome of every day. Pleasure never
_is_ at home.

And ‘Heard melodies are sweet,’ he wrote, ‘but those unheard are

There spoke the wild delicate wiseness of his brain and the
passionate delicate wonder of his heart.--John Keats! John Keats!

But everything he wrote, the Grecian Urn itself, is immeasurably less
lyric than himself writing it and being it.

He is rich bright-wet living lyric for this Me in this Now though he
has lain dead in Rome nearly the full hundred years.

My garbled life and my thinking hunger feed upon him.

He was the one human one who walked on in the way before him: not
around the jagged little stones and icy little pools that were in
it: but straight on through them all, though his lyric feet were
quivering shuddering sensitive, sensitive beyond knowledge of
commoner feet that walk around.

It fattens my leanest self to keep that in my constant remembrance.

The thought of his brave radiant loveliness reassures me to myself,
by the hour.

I am futile: but _he_ is mysteriously omnipotently useful and I catch
some of it from him.

I am half-full of vanity: but he is of a lustrous priceless vanity
himself that justifies mine and all the world’s.

I am fearing and false: but he is so brave, so true to infinite
form, that by it he leavens the lump of the whole world’s mendacious

My brain is full of wilding darknesses, snarled and knotted gifts
and penchants: but into _his_ strong brain the strong fresh
yellow rain-washed sun shines straight down--through the wide
twin-brightness of his Eyes. I look down his Eyes--twin public wells
(he belongs publicly and privately to all this mixed mad world, and
anyone may look!--)--I look into that titanic vibrant brain, and mine
catches some of it: a blest and precious Disease, oh, a rare Disease!

My Heart--my Heart feels strange and tired and dead, a bit of
dead-sea fruit: but _his_ heart, warm and real and boundlessly
unsatisfied, is always the deep quick fragrant Rose of this World.

A Hero!--a Poet-at-arms!--John Keats!

‘He has outsoared the shadow of our night,’ wrote that Shelley, and
wrote no truer word.

I have read so many of the strange and splendid things--bits of them:
Vergil and Homer and Villon and Goethe and all the English poets,
and prose writers like Carlyle who in places out-poet poets,--and
moderner ones and the new poets, imagists and others: John Keats
feels a noticeably braver thing, and always, always a little way
beyond. He is purely lyric.

When he loved a woman he loved the dubious fascinating Fanny Brawn--
sordid-brained, worldly: to him a mixed living devilish-glowing
goddess. A higher-souled woman would neither have so tortured nor
so held him. He was purely lyric. He cared truly nothing for the
verdicts of critics and reviewers: and in the sweet-lipped boyish
beauty of his youth they truly and easily killed him. It would be
like that--it had to be. He was so purely lyric.

He died in the sweet fierce dazzling cause of Beauty.

I have so many thoughts and my thoughts are always my own. There
are endless written thoughts deeper than mine--finer, stronger,
anything-you-like. But mine answer for me: no written thoughts affect
them, though they thrill my reading hours. Only John Keats’s thoughts
can enter in and crush and cripple mine.

Because everybody is a little bit like John Keats I have a starry
thin edge of faith inside me. He is food for my hunger of thought,
fire for my passion of life.--John Keats!

He is the resurrection and the life.--

From my desk he gazes at me in a frame of old-gold. Every day the
sunset on the glass blurs his large mournful joyous eyes with
strangest agonized sunset tears: he shows me the sweet, sweet
intoxication of his lyric grief.

He died young, unfinished--and oh, but it’s a shivering ecstasy
to think of all those lyrics in him he never wrote!--the sweeter

_The edge of mist-and-silver_


Hidden somewhere in the invisible unused air-plateaus is a little
Child: mine: who has never been born.

A tenet in me is that a woman by every right and by old earthen law
should, if she will, have her child--should be the warm-winged mother.

I am a devil and a fantasy, a jezebel and a wanderer in fields of
inverted fungi: so I seem to me. I do not know my status--I but know
my personal incidents as they happen. But I am also woman: a woman by
inherence and by fact. Being woman I am the potential mother, mother
of my Child who has not been born.

I feel myself a fitting mother.

I am bodily in good health--if not robust yet durable, as a mother
should be: I am always tired as if from touches and weights of
living as a loving mother should be: I am warm of blood, latently
savage-toothed like a jungle-mother, deadlier than the male, as a
brave mother should be. Though I have no child I have an ancient
right in my Child, and I want my Child. My Child _is_, but has not
been, born. Merely to want my Child makes me a fitting mother.

My Child often is realer to me than books I read and walks I take
and the friend who writes me frequent letters.

Sometimes my Child is a soft pink baby smelling of rain-water, milk
and flowers: lying close to the curves of my breasts in the hollow of
my arms: feeding soft insistent baby hunger and feeding soft strong
living hunger of my kissing mother-lips--

More often my Child is a little happy-voiced fellow, my small brave
boy three years old: he clings to my skirt with his sweet tiny hand
as we hurry along a frosty pavement in an early December morning.
We live in New York in a little common quiet apartment and are
gratefully poor, and I work in a factory for a little weekly wage for
the living of my little fellow and me. Every day in the early morning
we go out to a corner bakery to buy a long crisp loaf of French bread
for breakfast. And in the December morning my heart contracts with a
sort of happiness and a sort of grief at the sound of little feet in
stout shoes yet frail shoes pattering-pattering gaily along beside me
on the frosty flagstones. We start out hand-in-hand--his small hand
is wonderfully firm and virile--but presently I let go his hand as we
hurry along, to feel it instantly clutch the folds of my work-skirt:
it pulls and drags at my waistbands and my Heart together with
twisted sweetness that makes me ache from head to foot. ‘Mother,
wait,’ he says in his happy voice, ‘wait for me.’ But I hurry faster.
Always I hurry faster when my happy brave little fellow cries, ‘Wait,
mother,’ for the sweet feel of that dragging at my mother-skirt--

More often my Child is the little girl six years old of the shy eyes
and the sun-kissed hair and the firm child-mouth, full of high temper
and strong will. All over her is need and demand of her mother to
guard and adore and cherish her every moment of her life. We are
together in a country field with oak-trees in it, and poplars, and
daisies and bluebells and other field-flowers, and it is overgrown
with long coarse fragrant wild grass. The noonday sun is bright-hot
and I bring my Child there to dry her hair, for I have newly washed
it with a square of white soap and a porcelain bluebird bowl: the
feel of her small round wilful head was marvelously fulfilling in
my cupped hands. She wanders around in the hot-brightness through
the tall grass, gathering the hardy scentless field-flowers with
her little brown fingers, and she shakes back her beautiful thick
short damp curls. I sit on a flat stone like a Sioux squaw and watch
her. The grass brushes her bare legs: the magic sun mixed with a
faint cool breeze plays upon her head: the tragic delicate music of
rustling poplar leaves comes down from tree-tops and catches her
in a fairy song-net. She is always very new, very incredible, my
Child. She looks toward me with her shy radiant eyes and she says,
‘Mother, look, my hair is nearly dry.’ Her hair is thick and heavy.
In my experienced subdued mother-wisdom I know it will not be dry for
an hour. I feel the damp of her hair rheumishly keen all over me: a
menacingness for me to guard her from: a dear anxiety: an ancient
mother-note in the long human gamut of sounds.

--it is precious wearing racking colorful romance to be her mother:
each mother-day holds gold-and-blue foreboding: each mother-day
holds thin insistent gold-and-purple sorrows: each mother-day holds
deep gold-and-gray care, incessant and absolute: an aching wealth
of beauty: no more but no less than the damp of her hair in the
noonday field. _My_ Child!--herself incessant and absolute: warm pure
palpitant gold-of-my-life--

Someway realer than books I read and walks I take my Child clamors to
be born.

My Child will never be born to any other woman. While she hovers and
flutters on the edge of Mist-and-Silver--a border edge--there are
ten million fertile hot milk-teeming bodies of women each ready to
gather her in and wrap her in delicate-sweet flesh. Ten million other
children hovering on the edge will drop off into the ten million
matrix-cups--each woman mysteriously a fitting mother so only she
wants her baby--though she be, besides, a thief or a traitor or a
weakling or a murderer or a harlot or a drunkard or a fool.

Let them come, the ten million. The chrysalid children are clamoring,
clamoring always for their birth: a wide ‘melody unheard.’

But my Child will never drop over the edge to any woman but me. She
calls with veiled and dazzling flames of eagerness for her Birthday:
but she will await my made-readiness through a long night, though it
should last till the day-break of another age. Dimly I weep for her,
my needing-me Child. I weep that she must come to this richly-cursed
me. But I weep more that I have not got her in this sterile now,
where is flawed passionate wealth of intangible life-stuff: but no
small round wilful head of hair to wash: no little fellow’s feet on
December flagstones and sweet dragging at my skirt: no soft pink-baby

It is hunger I feel from her. I feel her always _hungry_ where she is
and I can give her no nourishing--no warming _food_ in all my strange
unfertile passing life!

It is that less than my empty arms that makes blurred unrests and
writhings in my Dreaming Womb.

_A right shape and size_


Sometimes I fancy me married--a responsible wife, a housekeeping
matron: with my window-sills full of potted plants.

I have a woman quality which seems uxoresque: I am someway a Right
Shape and Size to be somebody’s wife. My bodily and astral dimensions
have outlines apparently suitable for something in the married-woman

The wild piquance of being myself--who but for extreme saneness would
be mad--rises up and smashes that concept.

But being a Right Shape and Size I involuntarily imagine it.

Fleetingly I imagine a flat in the West Seventies in New York,
or a bungalow on the Jersey side, or a middle-sized house in
a middle-sized town in Middle-West Illinois--whichever might
happen--with me set marriedly down in the midst of it like a suitable
maggot in a suitable nut. Suitableness, diametrically opposed to
Romance, is its keynote.

I fancy me walking about my married house mornings after breakfast
in a neat linen dress and high-heeled satin slippers: snipping dead
leaves off my window-sill plants, dusting bits of porcelain, giving
my maid some tame household directions. My Body looks slender and
supple and newly-married and in-the-drawing in the linen house-dress.
The geometric gods regard me with immense satisfaction as being an
exact proved theorem. I go to the telephone to order some Little
Neck clams and some vermouth cocktails for dinner, and a roast and
some Brussels sprouts and the assemblings of a salad: and in it I am
ingrainedly domestic, dreadfully useful, a strong pillar of the vast
good nice world.

Afternoons I go out to a modiste’s to fit a gown, or to a mild
bridge-party along with other suitable women, or to a matinée with a
suitable neighbor.

Everything is perfectly right in my insides and in my thoughts:
my thoughts run in little troughs in which there is no leakage or
deviation, thoughts of a dreadful niceness, thoughts which ever
presuppose potted plants on my window-sills.

Evenings I go out with my husband, or sit around with my husband, or
take leave of him for a few hours at the hall door.

My husband would be the sort of man that is called a Good Scout. And
he would have married me not for my wistfulness or wickedness or
weirdness but for that I am a proper Shape and Size, with a smooth
proper covering of flesh, to make a suitable sizable wife. And he
would be a heavy grappling anchor to hold me fast in an ocean of

Men of the genus Good Scout are all fiercely alike. All women, no
matter what their genus, are exceptions to the rule. But men--rich
men, poor men, beggar-men, thieves: so only they are Good Scouts--are
of marvelous sameness. It comes from the want of minute lifelong
pinpricking care of petticoats and potted plants--a detailed
intensely personal sort of pain which touches dull solid tones of
individuality with vivid various spots of color.

Men are made in ‘job lots’ like their own cravats. Their cravats will
differ in texture and color and quality and price. But each one is
innately necktie. Use it as a garter or a tourniquet or a strangler’s
noose: it still is a man’s deadly necktie. Its use may be ruined but
its necktique is deathless. Except poets--and perhaps scientists--men
are themselves like that. They cannot get away from the Adam. Nor can
women get away from the Eve. But Eve was not a type but a somewhat
pleasant human ensemble. While Adam was a type and a sufficiently
nasty one: a rotter and a welcher: doubtless the Good Scout type of
his day.

A Good Scout is the sort of man who if a woman trusts him with one
one-hundredth of her heart will take the whole heart and twist and
batter it: and read the paper and smoke his pipe and pay the bills:
serenely unaware.

Which is beside the point in this. For in this image all my
marriedness is a thing of outer Shape and Size and Suitableness. The
odd but natural sequence is that I make an excellent wife. Excellent
is the word. I keep a neat house with no dust left in the corners and
no dead leaves on the potted plants. My husband is well looked after
as to breakfasts and dinners and bodily comfort, and I am rigidly
square with him and chastely true to him.

If, some dinnertime, as I sit opposite him in a soft pretty chiffon
gown, my secret thoughts overflow their troughs and I passionately
forget the potted plants and the window-sills and want horribly to
rise up and bloodily murder my husband for being such a Good Scout:
that would be a genuinely powerless matter, a cobweb trifle, compared
with my actual potent Shape and Size which are so suitable for a wife.

I make truly and simply an excellent wife.

--by God and my Soul-and-bones! it would be honester, finer,
sweeter--more _comfortable_ to be the dirty beggar-woman in the wet
slippery streets--

But it’s facilely fancied because I am of Right Dimensions to be some
Good Scout’s wife.

A curious subtly pitfalled world: in it my Shape and Size, and my
Weight which is also Right, could betray me into being an excellent
wife: and by that a lying chattel, an inexpressibly damaged woman.

_Ice-water, corrosive acid and human breath_


I have love for two towns. One is this Butte that I tiredly love
inside me. And the other is New York that I smoothly love with all my

It is some years--a little lump of years--since I have seen New York:
and it is two thousand miles away. So I see and feel its hard sweet
lurid magnetism now ten times sharper than when I lived in it. But I
felt it sudden and sharp at every turn then. A surface emotion which
hits one’s flesh and spreads wide over one’s area is more exciting
than a spirit emotion which pierces inward at one tiny point: an ice
shower-bath on the white skin is more anguishing than an ice-water
drink down the red throat. The spirit emotion lives longer and works
more damage and buries itself at last in proud shaded soul-reserves.
The surface emotion stays always on the surface and lives actively in
the front of one’s senses and musings.

The feel of New York is a mixture of ice-water, a corrosive acid and
human breath sweeping someway warmish against one’s flesh.

It is immensely ungentle, New York: immensely human: immensely
intriguing to all one’s selves. It is too big to have prejudices and
traditions of locality: so it leaves its dwellers free, by ones and
multitudes, to be human beings.

In South Bend and Toledo and Beloit and St. Paul and all the
tight-built inland towns they murder you with narrowness and
harshness and rancorous ill-will: they are scowlingly annoyed with
you for making them murder you.

In New York they murder you with a large soft wave of indifferent
insolence--no annoyance, no friction. New York eats you as it eats
its dinner, rather liking you.

And my love for New York is made of liking: a plaisance of liking.

made of liking: a plaisance of liking.

I like New York with a charmed restfulness for varied things in
it: subways, and Fourth Avenue, and the River, and Fifth Avenue on
a sunny October afternoon, and the statue of Nathan Hale, and old
cockroachy downtown buildings, and the soft rich whelming creamy
boiling-chocolate fragrance from the Huyler factory in Irving Place.
And mostly I like it for the people in it--People--Persons--People:
they are human beings.

In the inland towns people are half-afraid of thoughts, half-afraid
of spoken words, half-afraid of each other, half-afraid of the fact
of being human.

In New York they are not afraid of any humanness. Even when they
are in themselves craven-cowardly, cowardly enough to turn their own
stomachs, they still turn their humanness unfearfully face-outward
like upturned faces of a pack of cards.

An Italian organ-grinder grinding out his loud fierce music
in a long deep New York side-street is a human organ-grinder:
he bestows his rasped melody widely on everybody in ear-shot,
not individually--since all around him is a spreading world of
strangers--but jointly. So it feels-like.

A beggar-woman at a subway-entrance with a whine and a dirty face
and the deadly black cape and chicken-coopish beggar-odor is a human
beggar-woman. She throws out an inner savor of herself like a soiled
aura on all collectively who pass her. Each-and-all of New York by
tolerating and owning her partakes of her mean human essence.

A stout-hearted worn-bodied Jew factory girl working at a hard greasy
little machine day after day gives all New York her bit of young
virtue which is hardy and heroic and unaware: the whole Island of
looseness and vice has an equal gift of impregnable surprising sordid
purity thriving on sixes and sevens of poor dollars-a-week.

All of it is because New York is one Large Condition made of human
breaths and the worn scrapings of tired Youth rather than one large
town made of individuals and stone houses.

And in that is an odd enchantment for me who am born and grown in the
places of Half-fear with an old isolated whole fear always on me.

In New York I am a partaker of that smooth manna of humanness as I am
of the air and the sunshine and the little black specks of coal-soot:
partly from choice, partly willy-nilly, partly in the sweeping
unanalyzable pell-mell-ness of massed human nature.

And it is in New York I have those strangest things of all: human
friendships. Not many friendships and not of spent familiarities:
for I don’t like actual human beings too much around me. But yet
friendships made of the edges of thoughts and vivid pathos and
pregnant odds and ends of nervous human flesh and fire.

It is in New York I go to the apartment of a Friend at the end of
an afternoon. In the apartment are some persons having tea, men and
women. The Friend greets me at the door. She wears maybe a dress of
thin dark and light silk, shaped in the quaint outlandish fashion of
the hour. And she has shrewd kindly eyes like a Rembrandt portrait,
and a worn New-York-ish Latin-ish brain and heart both of which are
made of steel, sparkle and the very plain red meat of living. She
says, ‘Hello-Mary-Mac-Lane,’ and clasps my hand, and we exchange
a glance of no real understanding at all but suggesting warmed
challenge of personality, and an oblique sweet call of depth to
depth, and of friendship which by mere force of preference and of our
separate quality and _calibre_ is true rather than false. So close
and no closer may friendship be. And friendship, with-all, is closer
than any love. It is the closest human beings ever come to meeting.

In a New York doorway I, made in broad loneliness of self, get
suddenly companion-warmed at the little pleasant twisted fire of
someone else.

It might be so in some other town, even Beloit, but it feels only
like New York to me.

I go in the room where the others are and they say, ‘Hello-Mary-Mac-Lane,’
and I drink some tea and listen and talk in fragments of half-meanings.
And I get warmed and half-warmed and cooled and slightly scorched in
the easeful unevenly-heated humanness of the women and men sitting

In the inland towns they throw their thoughts and ideas at you at
tea-time, inland thoughts and ideas, which hit you and then drop off
like little pebbles and nuts and hard green apples.

In New York they throw those things in the form of long ribbons,
heated from being worn next their skin, which fly out and wrap around
your skin: pleasantly or foolishly or fancifully.

The point of it is that nobody is afraid of that.

It is nothing fulfilling, nothing satisfying. It is merely human. It
is half-lyric.

It reassures me as a person: it makes me feel human in all my

Which are harder to humanize, in everybody, than any deepest deeps.

And it is therefore with all my surfaces, smoothly and restfully, I
love New York.



Now and again I think I catch some truth by the sweat of its Rhythm.

Often I read the Beatitudes in the Sermon on the Mount and feel their
truth in the blood-sweating tune of their Rhythm--Rhythm unspeakable
and ecstatic.

The prophet Christ believed himself divine and was all Rhythm in his
utterances: and so sounds true as the scheme of digestion and the
laws of hygiene.

He said, Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.

Everybody who has tried it knows that to be true with the flawless
Rhythmic truth of health and illness.

Mourn frightfully a day and the next day will be a day of soothed
warmth and quiet like a grateful pitiful heat current in the breast.
Mourn a week and that will come the week following. Mourn a year and
the next year will be the year of peace. For anguish: peace. For
peace: anguish. It never fails.

The great thing lacking in Christ, the sense of humor, permitted
his perfect personal Rhythm. Humor oddly wants Rhythm. The human
race is made in Rhythm like its beating heart: but humor is an
‘extra.’ Everybody is so full of lies that humor, an ‘extra,’ always
wonderfully appetizing and out of season, and inexplicably God-given,
feels like a great keystone of the race. So it is: but in a lying
race. And Christ in his beautiful dual rôle _would_ lack humor. As a
God come among the human race to save it, knowing it as he did: his
measureless worldly wisdom being paramount even to his gentleness:
his mind and his personal tenor could be set only in intense terrific

The Rhythm in the Beatitudes is equal Rhythm of sense and Rhythm of
sound: Rhythm of music and Rhythm of meaning. Equally, half and half.

The most Rhythm thing in it is: Blessed are the pure in heart: for
they shall see God.

I feel it soft-prickling just under my skin. Rhythm--Rhythm and

I have read it many times since I was a child: till I know it in my
brain, in my Soul, in my hands, in my breast, in my throat, in my
forehead, in my gray eyes, in my aching left foot. I know it and feel
it by its Rhythm. There is barbarous justice in it. It cuts everybody
off from seeing God.

Pure in heart I take to mean pure in motive. A fool has an equal
chance with a philosopher: a harlot with a horse-thief: a nasty
rag-picker with a small sweet child. But none is pure in motive.

Of other persons I don’t judge. But me I know to be murderously
un-pure of heart.

If I could open a window or unlock a door with only the simple
mechanical motive in the act-- But I can’t. There’s a romantic
impurity in even the look of my hand as it touches the window-sash or
the door-key. There’s a pervasive delicate infusion of impure motive
all over me, Soul and bones, as I perform the act. It is one curse in
the Necklace which God himself bestowed on me so long ago.

It is not my fault that I am un-pure in heart.

And it is not God’s. It is a comfort to me that I can reason out
that it is not God’s fault. He knew I needed the Necklace and
each blue-green stone in it to rhyme and balance me. In the wide
surprisingness of the universe everything will be rhymed and
balanced. In me, being savagely complex, that balancing took a bit
of doing: hence my unusual Necklace. It comforts me that I can reach
that analytic point. It leaves me a lightning conviction that God is
worth seeing.

And if a day dawns for me when I can open a door with no ulterior
motive: thinking only of the door and the fine small muscular power
of smooth hand and supple wrist given me to open it: thinking only
that I want to get the door open: then back of _that_ door I know I
shall see God!

It is so written in that barbarous blood-sweating worldly Rhythm on
the Mount.

_A prayer-feeling_


So it is finished: and I have oddly Failed.

I have slyly Succeeded and oddly Failed in equal degree.

I have Failed because I am too cowardly and too weak and too
dishonest to write certain bruised and self-accusing places in my
Soul and in my Heart and in my Mind which rightly come in the scope
of this: there are the Stern and Delicate Voices one closes one’s
ears against: there are the starry grimy Actualities one drops from
one’s hands: there are the Thoughts one Does Not Think. Yet and yet:
they too are in it, hanging cobweb-ish on my wordings and colons.

It is not a strong tale, and that is very well. This book is less
I-written than it is I-myself. And Just Beneath The Skin no person
is strong: not Theodore Roosevelt, true fearless American: not
Bonaparte, splendid tyrant: not Joan of Arc, titanic martyr. They are
strong in their depths and strong on the outside. So are many others.
So am I, I think. But just under the skin all who are human are
roundly weak.

Roundly weak, every one.

And with that, in my case, False.

This primarily is the picture of one who is made-False: False from
her fingertips to her innermost concept.

It is belike because of that that this, as itself, oddly Fails.

It is as if I have made a portrait not of Me, but of a Room I have
just quitted. My Gloves are left on a chair: my Hat is left on a
couch: my taken-off Shoes are left on the floor: my faint-smelling
Handkerchief is dropped by the door: my round ribboned Garter is
hanging on the door-knob: my Breath is in the air: my Grief is on the
walls clinging like smoke: my flat Despair is on the petunia-leaves
in the window: my fragrant Horridness lingers in the curtains. I am
not there! But I--_I have just Quitted that Room!_--

Therein I have slyly Succeeded.

       *       *       *       *       *

My feeling at my book’s-end is a prayer-feeling, both frantic and
quiet: God have mercy on me! but not unless you want to.

And I feel barbarous and utterly solitary, solitary from here to
Jericho, solitary from here to the cool stars.

There comes off the grim gray east hills a soft whelming taste of
Sunset, bloody and full of human marrows.

And I feel a need of great Pain or great Sin to make and break me,
Soul and bones.

[Transcriber’s Notes:

As the first lines of the paragraphs in the original are not indented,
in some cases the presence of a paragraph break is not entirely
certain. In such cases, insertion of paragraph breaks was determined
according to the structure and content of the surrounding text. Page
images of the original are available at the Internet Archive: American
Libraries (http://archive.org/details/imarymclanediary00macl).

Except for the following changes, spelling, hyphenation, and
punctuation have been preserved as printed in the original.

  Page 43, comma after “husband’s” was deleted (my husband’s temper).
  Page 59, “ecstasy” was changed from “esctasy” (hunger and ecstasy).
  Page 64, “I’d ’a’” was changed from “I’d’ a’”.
  Page 82, a period was added after “bastard lacy valentines”.
  Page 96, “Cornwallis” was changed from “Corwallis”.
  Page 138, “calefacient” was changed from “calefaciant”.
  Page 142, “listlessly” was changed from “listessly” (I listlessly
  Page 160, “four-and-twenty” was changed from “four-and twenty”
    (at four-and-twenty).
  Page 169, “arresting ruination” was changed from “arrest
  Page 174, “patrician” was changed from “partrician” (slim
    patrician hands).
  Page 175, “Mérimée” was changed from “Merimée” (long-adored
  Page 194, a period was added after “remembrance of myself”.
  Page 205, “of” was changed from “if” (herself out of it).
  Page 217, “Soul” was changed from “soul” (Said the Soul: ‘Glad?).
  Page 227, “philosophers” was changed from “philosphers”.
  Page 237, an em dash was added before “I keep on”.
  Page 256, “or” was changed from “of” (or a Blue Shadow).
  Page 276, “highly” was changed from “hightly” (highly emotional).
  Page 294, a closing single quotation mark was added after “are
  Page 300, a comma was added after “little fellow cries”.
  Page 306, “opposite” was changed from “spposite” (opposite him).]

*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "I, Mary MacLane - A Diary of Human Days" ***

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