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Written by Conrad Aiken | Create an image from this poem

Chance Meetings

In the mazes of loitering people, the watchful and furtive, 
The shadows of tree-trunks and shadows of leaves, 
In the drowse of the sunlight, among the low voices, 
I suddenly face you, 
  
Your dark eyes return for a space from her who is with you, 
They shine into mine with a sunlit desire, 
They say an 'I love you, what star do you live on?' 
They smile and then darken, 
  
And silent, I answer 'You too--I have known you,--I love you!--' 
And the shadows of tree-trunks and shadows of leaves 
Interlace with low voices and footsteps and sunlight 
To divide us forever.
Written by Conrad Aiken | Create an image from this poem

Improvisations: Light And Snow

 I

The girl in the room beneath 
Before going to bed 
Strums on a mandolin 
The three simple tunes she knows.
How inadequate they are to tell how her heart feels! When she has finished them several times She thrums the strings aimlessly with her finger-nails And smiles, and thinks happily of many things.
II I stood for a long while before the shop window Looking at the blue butterflies embroidered on tawny silk.
The building was a tower before me, Time was loud behind me, Sun went over the housetops and dusty trees; And there they were, glistening, brilliant, motionless, Stitched in a golden sky By yellow patient fingers long since turned to dust.
III The first bell is silver, And breathing darkness I think only of the long scythe of time.
The second bell is crimson, And I think of a holiday night, with rockets Furrowing the sky with red, and a soft shatter of stars.
The third bell is saffron and slow, And I behold a long sunset over the sea With wall on wall of castled cloud and glittering balustrades.
The fourth bell is color of bronze, I walk by a frozen lake in the dun light of dusk: Muffled crackings run in the ice, Trees creak, birds fly.
The fifth bell is cold clear azure, Delicately tinged with green: One golden star hangs melting in it, And towards this, sleepily, I go.
The sixth bell is as if a pebble Had been dropped into a deep sea far above me .
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Rings of sound ebb slowly into the silence.
IV On the day when my uncle and I drove to the cemetery, Rain rattled on the roof of the carriage; And talkng constrainedly of this and that We refrained from looking at the child's coffin on the seat before us.
When we reached the cemetery We found that the thin snow on the grass Was already transparent with rain; And boards had been laid upon it That we might walk without wetting our feet.
V When I was a boy, and saw bright rows of icicles In many lengths along a wall I was dissappointed to find That I could not play music upon them: I ran my hand lightly across them And they fell, tinkling.
I tell you this, young man, so that your expectations of life Will not be too great.
VI It is now two hours since I left you, And the perfume of your hands is still on my hands.
And though since then I have looked at the stars, walked in the cold blue streets, And heard the dead leaves blowing over the ground Under the trees, I still remember the sound of your laughter.
How will it be, lady, when there is none left to remember you Even as long as this? Will the dust braid your hair? VII The day opens with the brown light of snowfall And past the window snowflakes fall and fall.
I sit in my chair all day and work and work Measuring words against each other.
I open the piano and play a tune But find it does not say what I feel, I grow tired of measuring words against each other, I grow tired of these four walls, And I think of you, who write me that you have just had a daughter And named her after your first sweetheart, And you, who break your heart, far away, In the confusion and savagery of a long war, And you who, worn by the bitterness of winter, Will soon go south.
The snowflakes fall almost straight in the brown light Past my window, And a sparrow finds refuge on my window-ledge.
This alone comes to me out of the world outside As I measure word with word.
VIII Many things perplex me and leave me troubled, Many things are locked away in the white book of stars Never to be opened by me.
The starr'd leaves are silently turned, And the mooned leaves; And as they are turned, fall the shadows of life and death.
Perplexed and troubled, I light a small light in a small room, The lighted walls come closer to me, The familiar pictures are clear.
I sit in my favourite chair and turn in my mind The tiny pages of my own life, whereon so little is written, And hear at the eastern window the pressure of a long wind, coming From I know not where.
How many times have I sat here, How many times will I sit here again, Thinking these same things over and over in solitude As a child says over and over The first word he has learned to say.
IX This girl gave her heart to me, And this, and this.
This one looked at me as if she loved me, And silently walked away.
This one I saw once and loved, and never saw her again.
Shall I count them for you upon my fingers? Or like a priest solemnly sliding beads? Or pretend they are roses, pale pink, yellow, and white, And arrange them for you in a wide bowl To be set in sunlight? See how nicely it sounds as I count them for you— 'This girl gave her heart to me And this, and this, .
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! And nevertheless, my heart breaks when I think of them, When I think their names, And how, like leaves, they have changed and blown And will lie, at last, forgotten, Under the snow.
X It is night time, and cold, and snow is falling, And no wind grieves the walls.
In the small world of light around the arc-lamp A swarm of snowflakes falls and falls.
The street grows silent.
The last stranger passes.
The sound of his feet, in the snow, is indistinct.
What forgotten sadness is it, on a night like this, Takes possession of my heart? Why do I think of a camellia tree in a southern garden, With pink blossoms among dark leaves, Standing, surprised, in the snow? Why do I think of spring? The snowflakes, helplessly veering,, Fall silently past my window; They come from darkness and enter darkness.
What is it in my heart is surprised and bewildered Like that camellia tree, Beautiful still in its glittering anguish? And spring so far away! XI As I walked through the lamplit gardens, On the thin white crust of snow, So intensely was I thinking of my misfortune, So clearly were my eyes fixed On the face of this grief which has come to me, That I did not notice the beautiful pale colouring Of lamplight on the snow; Nor the interlaced long blue shadows of trees; And yet these things were there, And the white lamps, and the orange lamps, and the lamps of lilac were there, As I have seen them so often before; As they will be so often again Long after my grief is forgotten.
And still, though I know this, and say this, it cannot console me.
XII How many times have we been interrupted Just as I was about to make up a story for you! One time it was because we suddenly saw a firefly Lighting his green lantern among the boughs of a fir-tree.
Marvellous! Marvellous! He is making for himself A little tent of light in the darkness! And one time it was because we saw a lilac lightning flash Run wrinkling into the blue top of the mountain,— We heard boulders of thunder rolling down upon us And the plat-plat of drops on the window, And we ran to watch the rain Charging in wavering clouds across the long grass of the field! Or at other times it was because we saw a star Slipping easily out of the sky and falling, far off, Among pine-dark hills; Or because we found a crimson eft Darting in the cold grass! These things interrupted us and left us wondering; And the stories, whatever they might have been, Were never told.
A fairy, binding a daisy down and laughing? A golden-haired princess caught in a cobweb? A love-story of long ago? Some day, just as we are beginning again, Just as we blow the first sweet note, Death itself will interrupt us.
XIII My heart is an old house, and in that forlorn old house, In the very centre, dark and forgotten, Is a locked room where an enchanted princess Lies sleeping.
But sometimes, in that dark house, As if almost from the stars, far away, Sounds whisper in that secret room— Faint voices, music, a dying trill of laughter? And suddenly, from her long sleep, The beautiful princess awakes and dances.
Who is she? I do not know.
Why does she dance? Do not ask me!— Yet to-day, when I saw you, When I saw your eyes troubled with the trouble of happiness, And your mouth trembling into a smile, And your fingers pull shyly forward,— Softly, in that room, The little princess arose And danced; And as she danced the old house gravely trembled With its vague and delicious secret.
XIV Like an old tree uprooted by the wind And flung down cruelly With roots bared to the sun and stars And limp leaves brought to earth— Torn from its house— So do I seem to myself When you have left me.
XV The music of the morning is red and warm; Snow lies against the walls; And on the sloping roof in the yellow sunlight Pigeons huddle against the wind.
The music of evening is attenuated and thin— The moon seen through a wave by a mermaid; The crying of a violin.
Far down there, far down where the river turns to the west, The delicate lights begin to twinkle On the dusky arches of the bridge: In the green sky a long cloud, A smouldering wave of smoky crimson, Breaks in the freezing wind: and above it, unabashed, Remote, untouched, fierly palpitant, Sings the first star.
Written by Conrad Aiken | Create an image from this poem

All Lovely Things

 All lovely things will have an ending, 
All lovely things will fade and die, 
And youth, that's now so bravely spending, 
Will beg a penny by and by.
Fine ladies soon are all forgotten, And goldenrod is dust when dead, The sweetest flesh and flowers are rotten And cobwebs tent the brightest head.
Come back, true love! Sweet youth, return!— But time goes on, and will, unheeding, Though hands will reach, and eyes will yearn, And the wild days set true hearts bleeding.
Come back, true love! Sweet youth, remain!— But goldenrod and daisies wither, And over them blows autumn rain, They pass, they pass, and know not whither.
Written by Conrad Aiken | Create an image from this poem

The Room

 Through that window—all else being extinct
Except itself and me—I saw the struggle
Of darkness against darkness.
Within the room It turned and turned, dived downward.
Then I saw How order might—if chaos wished—become: And saw the darkness crush upon itself, Contracting powerfully; it was as if It killed itself, slowly: and with much pain.
Pain.
The scene was pain, and nothing but pain.
What else, when chaos draws all forces inward To shape a single leaf? .
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For the leaf came Alone and shining in the empty room; After a while the twig shot downward from it; And from the twig a bough; and then the trunk, Massive and coarse; and last the one black root.
The black root cracked the walls.
Boughs burst the window: The great tree took possession.
Tree of trees! Remember (when time comes) how chaos died To shape the shining leaf.
Then turn, have courage, Wrap arms and roots together, be convulsed With grief, and bring back chaos out of shape.
I will be watching then as I watch now.
I will praise darkness now, but then the leaf.
Written by Conrad Aiken | Create an image from this poem

The Carver

 See, as the carver carves a rose, 
A wing, a toad, a serpent's eye, 
In cruel granite, to disclose 
The soft things that in hardness lie, 
So this one, taking up his heart, 
Which time and change had made a stone, 
Carved out of it with dolorous art, 
Laboring yearlong and alone, 
The thing there hidden—rose, toad, wing? 
A frog's hand on a lily pad? 
Bees in a cobweb?—no such thing! 
A girl's head was the thing he had, 
Small, shapely, richly crowned with hair, 
Drowsy, with eyes half closed, as they 
Looked through you and beyond you, clear 
To something farther than Cathay: 
Saw you, yet counted you not worth 
The seeing, thinking all the while 
How, flower-like, beauty comes to birth; 
And thinking this, began to smile.
Medusa! For she could not see The world she turned to stone and ash.
Only herself she saw, a tree That flowered beneath a lightning-flash.
Thus dreamed her face—a lovely thing To worship, weep for, or to break .
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Better to carve a claw, a wing, Or, if the heart provide, a snake.
Written by Conrad Aiken | Create an image from this poem

The Window

 She looks out in the blue morning
and sees a whole wonderful world
she looks out in the morning
and sees a whole world

she leans out of the window
and this is what she sees
a wet rose singing to the sun
with a chorus of red bees

she leans out of the window
and laughs for the window is high
she is in it like a bird on a perch
and they scoop the blue sky

she and the window scooping
the morning as if it were air
scooping a green wave of leaves
above a stone stair

and an urn hung with leaden garlands
and girls holding hands in a ring
and raindrops on an iron railing
shining like a harp string

an old man draws with his ferrule
in wet sand a map of Spain
the marble soldier on his pedestal
draws a stiff diagram of pain

but the walls around her tremble
with the speed of the earth the floor
curves to the terrestrial center
and behind her the door

opens darkly down to the beginning
far down to the first simple cry
and the animal waking in water
and the opening of the eye

she looks out in the blue morning
and sees a whole wonderful world
she looks out in the morning
and sees a whole world.
Written by Conrad Aiken | Create an image from this poem

Nocturne Of Remembered Spring

 I.
Moonlight silvers the tops of trees, Moonlight whitens the lilac shadowed wall And through the evening fall, Clearly, as if through enchanted seas, Footsteps passing, an infinite distance away, In another world and another day.
Moonlight turns the purple lilacs blue, Moonlight leaves the fountain hoar and old, And the boughs of elms grow green and cold, Our footsteps echo on gleaming stones, The leaves are stirred to a jargon of muted tones.
This is the night we have kept, you say: This is the moonlit night that will never die.
Through the grey streets our memories retain Let us go back again.
II.
Mist goes up from the river to dim the stars, The river is black and cold; so let us dance To flare of horns, and clang of cymbals and drums; And strew the glimmering floor with roses, And remember, while the rich music yawns and closes, With a luxury of pain, how silence comes.
Yes, we loved each other, long ago; We moved like wind to a music's ebb and flow.
At a phrase from violins you closed your eyes, And smiled, and let me lead you how young we were! Your hair, upon that music, seemed to stir.
Let us return there, let us return, you and I; Through changeless streets our memories retain Let us go back again.
III.
Mist goes up from the rain steeped earth, and clings Ghostly with lamplight among drenched maple trees.
We walk in silence and see how the lamplight flings Fans of shadow upon it the music's mournful pleas Die out behind us, the door is closed at last, A net of silver silence is softly cast Over our thought slowly we walk, Quietly with delicious pause, we talk, Of foolish trivial things; of life and death, Time, and forgetfulness, and dust and truth; Lilacs and youth.
You laugh, I hear the after taken breath, You darken your eyes and turn away your head At something I have said Some intuition that flew too deep, And struck a plageant chord.
Tonight, tonight you will remember it as you fall asleep, Your dream will suddenly blossom with sharp delight, Goodnight! You say.
The leaves of the lilac dip and sway; The purple spikes of bloom Nod their sweetness upon us, lift again, Your white face turns, I am cought with pain And silence descends, and dripping of dew from eaves, And jeweled points of leaves.
IV.
I walk in a pleasure of sorrow along the street And try to remember you; slow drops patter; Water upon the lilacs has made them sweet; I brush them with my sleeve, the cool drops scatter; And suddenly I laugh and stand and listen As if another had laughed a gust Rustles the leaves, the wet spikes glisten; And it seems as though it were you who had shaken the bough, And spilled the fragrance I pursue your face again, It grows more vague and lovely, it eludes me now.
I remember that you are gone, and drown in pain.
Something there was I said to you I recall, Something just as the music seemed to fall That made you laugh, and burns me still with pleasure.
What were those words the words like dripping fire? I remember them now, and in sweet leisure Rehearse the scene, more exquisite than before, And you more beautiful, and I more wise.
Lilacs and spring, and night, and your clear eyes, And you, in white, by the darkness of a door: These things, like voices weaving to richest music, Flow and fall in the cool night of my mind, I pursue your ghost among green leaves that are ghostly, I pursue you, but cannot find.
And suddenly, with a pang that is sweetest of all, I become aware that I cannot remember you; The ghost I knew Has silently plunged in shadows, shadows that stream and fall.
V.
Let us go in and dance once more On the dream's glimmering floor, Beneath the balcony festooned with roses.
Let us go in and dance once more.
The door behind us closes Against an evening purple with stars and mist.
Let us go in and keep our tryst With music and white roses, and spin around In swirls of sound.
Do you forsee me, married and grown old? And you, who smile about you at this room, Is it foretold That you must step from tumult into gloom, Forget me, love another? No, you are Cleopatra, fiercely young, Laughing upon the topmost stair of night; Roses upon the desert must be flung; Above us, light by light, Weaves the delirious darkness, petal fall, And music breaks in waves on the pillared wall; And you are Cleopatra, and do not care.
And so, in memory, you will always be Young and foolish, a thing of dream and mist; And so, perhaps when all is disillusioned, And eternal spring returns once more, Bringing a ghost of lovelier springs remembered, You will remember me.
VI.
Yet when we meet we seem in silence to say, Pretending serene forgetfulness of our youth, "Do you remember but then why should you remember! Do you remember a certain day, Or evening rather, spring evening long ago, We talked of death, and love, and time, and truth, And said such wise things, things that amused us so How foolish we were, who thought ourselves so wise!" And then we laugh, with shadows in our eyes.
Written by Conrad Aiken | Create an image from this poem

ZUDORA

Here on the pale beach, in the darkness; 
With the full moon just to rise; 
They sit alone, and look over the sea, 
Or into each other's eyes.
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She pokes her parasol into the sleepy sand, Or sifts the lazy whiteness through her hand.
'A lovely night,' he says, 'the moon, Comes up for you and me.
Just like a blind old spotlight there, Fizzing across the sea!' She pays no heed, nor even turns her head: He slides his arm around her waist instead.
'Why don't we do a sketch together-- Those songs you sing are swell.
Where did you get them, anyway? They suit you awfully well.
' She will not turn to him--will not resist.
Impassive, she submits to being kissed.
'My husband wrote all four of them.
You know,--my husband drowned.
He was always sickly, soon depressed.
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' But still she hears the sound Of a stateroom door shut hard, and footsteps going Swiftly and steadily, and the dark sea flowing.
She hears the dark sea flowing, and sees his eyes Hollow with disenchantment, sick surprise,-- And hate of her whom he had loved too well.
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She lowers her eyes, demurely prods a shell.
'Yes.
We might do an act together.
That would be very nice.
' He kisses her passionately, and thinks She's carnal, but cold as ice.
Written by Conrad Aiken | Create an image from this poem

Morning Song Of Senlin

 from Senlin: A Biography 


It is morning, Senlin says, and in the morning 
When the light drips through the shutters like the dew, 
I arise, I face the sunrise, 
And do the things my fathers learned to do.
Stars in the purple dusk above the rooftops Pale in a saffron mist and seem to die, And I myself on a swiftly tilting planet Stand before a glass and tie my tie.
Vine leaves tap my window, Dew-drops sing to the garden stones, The robin chips in the chinaberry tree Repeating three clear tones.
It is morning.
I stand by the mirror And tie my tie once more.
While waves far off in a pale rose twilight Crash on a white sand shore.
I stand by a mirror and comb my hair: How small and white my face!— The green earth tilts through a sphere of air And bathes in a flame of space.
There are houses hanging above the stars And stars hung under a sea.
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And a sun far off in a shell of silence Dapples my walls for me.
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It is morning, Senlin says, and in the morning Should I not pause in the light to remember God? Upright and firm I stand on a star unstable, He is immense and lonely as a cloud.
I will dedicate this moment before my mirror To him alone, and for him I will comb my hair.
Accept these humble offerings, cloud of silence! I will think of you as I descend the stair.
Vine leaves tap my window, The snail-track shines on the stones, Dew-drops flash from the chinaberry tree Repeating two clear tones.
It is morning, I awake from a bed of silence, Shining I rise from the starless waters of sleep.
The walls are about me still as in the evening, I am the same, and the same name still I keep.
The earth revolves with me, yet makes no motion, The stars pale silently in a coral sky.
In a whistling void I stand before my mirror, Unconcerned, I tie my tie.
There are horses neighing on far-off hills Tossing their long white manes, And mountains flash in the rose-white dusk, Their shoulders black with rains.
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It is morning.
I stand by the mirror And suprise my soul once more; The blue air rushes above my ceiling, There are suns beneath my floor.
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It is morning, Senlin says, I ascend from darkness And depart on the winds of space for I know not where, My watch is wound, a key is in my pocket, And the sky is darkened as I descend the stair.
There are shadows across the windows, clouds in heaven, And a god among the stars; and I will go Thinking of him as I might think of daybreak And humming a tune I know.
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Vine-leaves tap at the window, Dew-drops sing to the garden stones, The robin chirps in the chinaberry tree Repeating three clear tones.
Written by Conrad Aiken | Create an image from this poem

Music I Heard

 Music I heard with you was more than music, 
And bread I broke with you was more than bread; 
Now that I am without you, all is desolate; 
All that was once so beautiful is dead.
Your hands once touched this table and this silver, And I have seen your fingers hold this glass.
These things do not remember you, beloved, And yet your touch upon them will not pass.
For it was in my heart that you moved among them, And blessed them with your hands and with your eyes; And in my heart they will remember always, —They knew you once, O beautiful and wise.
Written by Conrad Aiken | Create an image from this poem

The House Of Dust: Part 03: 10: Letter

 From time to time, lifting his eyes, he sees
The soft blue starlight through the one small window,
The moon above black trees, and clouds, and Venus,—
And turns to write .
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The clock, behind ticks softly.
It is so long, indeed, since I have written,— Two years, almost, your last is turning yellow,— That these first words I write seem cold and strange.
Are you the man I knew, or have you altered? Altered, of course—just as I too have altered— And whether towards each other, or more apart, We cannot say .
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I've just re-read your letter— Not through forgetfulness, but more for pleasure— Pondering much on all you say in it Of mystic consciousness—divine conversion— The sense of oneness with the infinite,— Faith in the world, its beauty, and its purpose .
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Well, you believe one must have faith, in some sort, If one's to talk through this dark world contented.
But is the world so dark? Or is it rather Our own brute minds,—in which we hurry, trembling, Through streets as yet unlighted? This, I think.
You have been always, let me say, "romantic,"— Eager for color, for beauty, soon discontented With a world of dust and stones and flesh too ailing: Even before the question grew to problem And drove you bickering into metaphysics, You met on lower planes the same great dragon, Seeking release, some fleeting satisfaction, In strange aesthetics .
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You tried, as I remember, One after one, strange cults, and some, too, morbid, The cruder first, more violent sensations, Gorgeously carnal things, conceived and acted With splendid animal thirst .
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Then, by degrees,— Savoring all more delicate gradations In all that hue and tone may play on flesh, Or thought on brain,—you passed, if I may say so, From red and scarlet through morbid greens to mauve.
Let us regard ourselves, you used to say, As instruments of music, whereon our lives Will play as we desire: and let us yield These subtle bodies and subtler brains and nerves To all experience plays .
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And so you went From subtle tune to subtler, each heard once, Twice or thrice at the most, tiring of each; And closing one by one your doors, drew in Slowly, through darkening labyrinths of feeling, Towards the central chamber .
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Which now you've reached.
What, then's, the secret of this ultimate chamber— Or innermost, rather? If I see it clearly It is the last, and cunningest, resort Of one who has found this world of dust and flesh,— This world of lamentations, death, injustice, Sickness, humiliation, slow defeat, Bareness, and ugliness, and iteration,— Too meaningless; or, if it has a meaning, Too tiresomely insistent on one meaning: Futility .
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This world, I hear you saying,— With lifted chin, and arm in outflung gesture, Coldly imperious,—this transient world, What has it then to give, if not containing Deep hints of nobler worlds? We know its beauties,— Momentary and trivial for the most part, Perceived through flesh, passing like flesh away,— And know how much outweighed they are by darkness.
We are like searchers in a house of darkness, A house of dust; we creep with little lanterns, Throwing our tremulous arcs of light at random, Now here, now there, seeing a plane, an angle, An edge, a curve, a wall, a broken stairway Leading to who knows what; but never seeing The whole at once .
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We grope our way a little, And then grow tired.
No matter what we touch, Dust is the answer—dust: dust everywhere.
If this were all—what were the use, you ask? But this is not: for why should we be seeking, Why should we bring this need to seek for beauty, To lift our minds, if there were only dust? This is the central chamber you have come to: Turning your back to the world, until you came To this deep room, and looked through rose-stained windows, And saw the hues of the world so sweetly changed.
Well, in a measure, so only do we all.
I am not sure that you can be refuted.
At the very last we all put faith in something,— You in this ghost that animates your world, This ethical ghost,—and I, you'll say, in reason,— Or sensuous beauty,—or in my secret self .
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Though as for that you put your faith in these, As much as I do—and then, forsaking reason,— Ascending, you would say, to intuition,— You predicate this ghost of yours, as well.
Of course, you might have argued,—and you should have,— That no such deep appearance of design Could shape our world without entailing purpose: For can design exist without a purpose? Without conceiving mind? .
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We are like children Who find, upon the sands, beside a sea, Strange patterns drawn,—circles, arcs, ellipses, Moulded in sand .
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Who put them there, we wonder? Did someone draw them here before we came? Or was it just the sea?—We pore upon them, But find no answer—only suppositions.
And if these perfect shapes are evidence Of immanent mind, it is but circumstantial: We never come upon him at his work, He never troubles us.
He stands aloof— Well, if he stands at all: is not concerned With what we are or do.
You, if you like, May think he broods upon us, loves us, hates us, Conceives some purpose of us.
In so doing You see, without much reason, will in law.
I am content to say, 'this world is ordered, Happily so for us, by accident: We go our ways untroubled save by laws Of natural things.
' Who makes the more assumption? If we were wise—which God knows we are not— (Notice I call on God!) we'd plumb this riddle Not in the world we see, but in ourselves.
These brains of ours—these delicate spinal clusters— Have limits: why not learn them, learn their cravings? Which of the two minds, yours or mine, is sound? Yours, which scorned the world that gave it freedom, Until you managed to see that world as omen,— Or mine, which likes the world, takes all for granted, Sorrow as much as joy, and death as life?— You lean on dreams, and take more credit for it.
I stand alone .
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Well, I take credit, too.
You find your pleasure in being at one with all things— Fusing in lambent dream, rising and falling As all things rise and fall .
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I do that too— With reservations.
I find more varied pleasure In understanding: and so find beauty even In this strange dream of yours you call the truth.
Well, I have bored you.
And it's growing late.
For household news—what have you heard, I wonder? You must have heard that Paul was dead, by this time— Of spinal cancer.
Nothing could be done— We found it out too late.
His death has changed me, Deflected much of me that lived as he lived, Saddened me, slowed me down.
Such things will happen, Life is composed of them; and it seems wisdom To see them clearly, meditate upon them, And understand what things flow out of them.
Otherwise, all goes on here much as always.
Why won't you come and see us, in the spring, And bring old times with you?—If you could see me Sitting here by the window, watching Venus Go down behind my neighbor's poplar branches,— Just where you used to sit,—I'm sure you'd come.
This year, they say, the springtime will be early.
Written by Conrad Aiken | Create an image from this poem

Turns And Movies: Rose And Murray

 After the movie, when the lights come up, 
He takes her powdered hand behind the wings; 
She, all in yellow, like a buttercup, 
Lifts her white face, yearns up to him, and clings; 
And with a silent, gliding step they move 
Over the footlights, in familiar glare, 
Panther-like in the Tango whirl of love, 
He fawning close on her with idiot stare.
Swiftly they cross the stage.
O lyric ease! The drunken music follows the sure feet, The swaying elbows, intergliding knees, Moving with slow precision on the beat.
She was a waitress in a restaurant, He picked her up and taught her how to dance.
She feels his arms, lifts an appealing glance, But knows he spent last evening with Zudora; And knows that certain changes are before her.
The brilliant spotlight circles them around, Flashing the spangles on her weighted dress.
He mimics wooing her, without a sound, Flatters her with a smoothly smiled caress.
He fears that she will someday queer his act; Feeling his anger.
He will quit her soon.
He nods for faster music.
He will contract Another partner, under another moon.
Meanwhile, 'smooth stuff.
' He lets his dry eyes flit Over the yellow faces there below; Maybe he'll cut down on his drinks a bit, Not to annoy her, and spoil the show.
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Zudora, waiting for her turn to come, Watches them from the wings and fatly leers At the girl's younger face, so white and dumb, And the fixed, anguished eyes, ready for tears.
She lies beside him, with a false wedding-ring, In a cheap room, with moonlight on the floor; The moonlit curtains remind her much of spring, Of a spring evening on the Coney shore.
And while he sleeps, knowing she ought to hate, She still clings to the lover that she knew,— The one that, with a pencil on a plate, Drew a heart and wrote, 'I'd die for you.
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Written by Conrad Aiken | Create an image from this poem

Beloved Let Us Once More Praise The Rain

 Beloved, let us once more praise the rain.
Let us discover some new alphabet, For this, the often praised; and be ourselves, The rain, the chickweed, and the burdock leaf, The green-white privet flower, the spotted stone, And all that welcomes the rain; the sparrow too,— Who watches with a hard eye from seclusion, Beneath the elm-tree bough, till rain is done.
There is an oriole who, upside down, Hangs at his nest, and flicks an orange wing,— Under a tree as dead and still as lead; There is a single leaf, in all this heaven Of leaves, which rain has loosened from its twig: The stem breaks, and it falls, but it is caught Upon a sister leaf, and thus she hangs; There is an acorn cup, beside a mushroom Which catches three drops from the stooping cloud.
The timid bee goes back to the hive; the fly Under the broad leaf of the hollyhock Perpends stupid with cold; the raindark snail Surveys the wet world from a watery stone.
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And still the syllables of water whisper: The wheel of cloud whirs slowly: while we wait In the dark room; and in your heart I find One silver raindrop,—on a hawthorn leaf,— Orion in a cobweb, and the World.
Written by Conrad Aiken | Create an image from this poem

Discordants

 I.
(Bread and Music) Music I heard with you was more than music, And bread I broke with you was more than bread; Now that I am without you, all is desolate; All that was once so beautiful is dead.
Your hands once touched this table and this silver, And I have seen your fingers hold this glass.
These things do not remember you, belovèd, And yet your touch upon them will not pass.
For it was in my heart you moved among them, And blessed them with your hands and with your eyes; And in my heart they will remember always,— They knew you once, O beautiful and wise.
II My heart has become as hard as a city street, The horses trample upon it, it sings like iron, All day long and all night long they beat, They ring like the hooves of time.
My heart has become as drab as a city park, The grass is worn with the feet of shameless lovers, A match is struck, there is kissing in the dark, The moon comes, pale with sleep.
My heart is torn with the sound of raucous voices, They shout from the slums, from the streets, from the crowded places, And tunes from the hurdy-gurdy that coldly rejoices Shoot arrows into my heart.
III Dead Cleopatra lies in a crystal casket, Wrapped and spiced by the cunningest of hands.
Around her neck they have put a golden necklace, Her tatbebs, it is said, are worn with sands.
Dead Cleopatra was once revered in Egypt, Warm-eyed she was, this princess of the South.
Now she is old and dry and faded, With black bitumen they have sealed up her mouth.
O sweet clean earth, from whom the green blade cometh! When we are dead, my best belovèd and I, Close well above us, that we may rest forever, Sending up grass and blossoms to the sky.
IV In the noisy street, Where the sifted sunlight yellows the pallid faces, Sudden I close my eyes, and on my eyelids Feel from the far-off sea a cool faint spray,— A breath on my cheek, From the tumbling breakers and foam, the hard sand shattered, Gulls in the high wind whistling, flashing waters, Smoke from the flashing waters blown on rocks; —And I know once more, O dearly belovèd! that all these seas are between us, Tumult and madness, desolate save for the sea-gulls, You on the farther shore, and I in this street.
Written by Conrad Aiken | Create an image from this poem

Evening Song Of Senlin

 from Senlin: A Biography 


It is moonlight.
Alone in the silence I ascend my stairs once more, While waves, remote in a pale blue starlight, Crash on a white sand shore.
It is moonlight.
The garden is silent.
I stand in my room alone.
Across my wall, from the far-off moon, A rain of fire is thrown .
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There are houses hanging above the stars, And stars hung under a sea: And a wind from the long blue vault of time Waves my curtain for me .
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I wait in the dark once more, Swung between space and space: Before my mirror I lift my hands And face my remembered face.
Is it I who stand in a question here, Asking to know my name? .
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It is I, yet I know not whither I go, Nor why, nor whence I came.
It is I, who awoke at dawn And arose and descended the stair, Conceiving a god in the eye of the sun,— In a woman's hands and hair.
It is I whose flesh is gray with the stones I builded into a wall: With a mournful melody in my brain Of a tune I cannot recall .
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There are roses to kiss: and mouths to kiss; And the sharp-pained shadow of death.
I remember a rain-drop on my cheek,— A wind like a fragrant breath .
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And the star I laugh on tilts through heaven; And the heavens are dark and steep .
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I will forget these things once more In the silence of sleep.