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Best Famous Conrad Aiken Poems

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Written by Conrad Aiken |

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 |


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.
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.
' 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.
She lowers her eyes, demurely prods a shell.
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 |

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.

More great poems below...

Written by Conrad Aiken |

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.
The scene was pain, and nothing but pain.
What else, when chaos draws all forces inward To shape a single leaf? .
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 |

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 |

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.
And a sun far off in a shell of silence Dapples my walls for me.
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.
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.
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.
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 |

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.
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 |

Chiarascuro: Rose


Fill your bowl with roses: the bowl, too, have of crystal.
Sit at the western window.
Take the sun Between your hands like a ball of flaming crystal, Poise it to let it fall, but hold it still, And meditate on the beauty of your existence; The beauty of this, that you exist at all.
She The sun goes down,—but without lamentation.
I close my eyes, and the stream of my sensation In this, at least, grows clear to me: Beauty is a word that has no meaning.
Beauty is naught to me.
He The last blurred raindrops fall from the half-clear sky, Eddying lightly, rose-tinged, in the windless wake of the sun.
The swallow ascending against cold waves of cloud Seems winging upward over huge bleak stairs of stone.
The raindrop finds its way to the heart of the leaf-bud.
But no word finds its way to the heart of you.
She This also is clear in the stream of my sensation: That I am content, for the moment, Let me be.
How light the new grass looks with the rain-dust on it! But heart is a word that has no meaning, Heart means nothing to me.
He To the end of the world I pass and back again In flights of the mind; yet always find you here, Remote, pale, unattached .
O Circe-too-clear-eyed, Watching amused your fawning tiger-thoughts, Your wolves, your grotesque apes—relent, relent! Be less wary for once: it is the evening.
She But if I close my eyes what howlings greet me! Do not persuade.
Be tranquil.
Here is flesh With all its demons.
Take it, sate yourself.
But leave my thoughts to me.

Written by Conrad Aiken |


(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 |

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 |

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.
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.

Written by Conrad Aiken |

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 .
Better to carve a claw, a wing, Or, if the heart provide, a snake.

Written by Conrad Aiken |

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 .
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 .
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? .
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 .
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 .
And the star I laugh on tilts through heaven; And the heavens are dark and steep .
I will forget these things once more In the silence of sleep.

Written by Conrad Aiken |

Hatteras Calling

 Southeast, and storm, and every weathervane 
shivers and moans upon its dripping pin, 
ragged on chimneys the cloud whips, the rain 
howls at the flues and windows to get in, 
the golden rooster claps his golden wings 
and from the Baptist Chapel shrieks no more, 
the golden arrow in the southeast sings 
and hears on the roof the Atlantic Ocean roar.
Waves among wires, sea scudding over poles, down every alley the magnificence of rain, dead gutters live once more, the deep manholes hollow in triumph a passage to the main.
Umbrellas, and in the Gardens one old man hurries away along a dancing path, listens to music on a watering-can, observes among the tulips the sudden wrath, pale willows thrashing to the needled lake, and dinghies filled with water; while the sky smashes the lilacs, swoops to shake and break, till shattered branches shriek and railings cry.
Speak, Hatteras, your language of the sea: scour with kelp and spindrift the stale street: that man in terror may learn once more to be child of that hour when rock and ocean meet.

Written by Conrad Aiken |

The House Of Dust: Part 03: 09: Cabaret

 We sit together and talk, or smoke in silence.
You say (but use no words) 'this night is passing As other nights when we are dead will pass .
' Perhaps I misconstrue you: you mean only, 'How deathly pale my face looks in that glass .
' You say: 'We sit and talk, of things important .
How many others like ourselves, this instant, Mark the pendulum swinging against the wall? How many others, laughing, sip their coffee— Or stare at mirrors, and do not talk at all? .
'This is the moment' (so you would say, in silence) When suddenly we have had too much of laughter: And a freezing stillness falls, no word to say.
Our mouths feel foolish .
For all the days hereafter What have we saved—what news, what tune, what play? 'We see each other as vain and futile tricksters,— Posturing like bald apes before a mirror; No pity dims our eyes .
How many others, like ourselves, this instant, See how the great world wizens, and are wise? .
' Well, you are right .
No doubt, they fall, these seconds .
When suddenly all's distempered, vacuous, ugly, And even those most like angels creep for schemes.
The one you love leans forward, smiles, deceives you, Opens a door through which you see dark dreams.
But this is momentary .
or else, enduring, Leads you with devious eyes through mists and poisons To horrible chaos, or suicide, or crime .
And all these others who at your conjuration Grow pale, feeling the skeleton touch of time,— Or, laughing sadly, talk of things important, Or stare at mirrors, startled to see their faces, Or drown in the waveless vacuum of their days,— Suddenly, as from sleep, awake, forgetting This nauseous dream; take up their accustomed ways, Exhume the ghost of a joke, renew loud laughter, Forget the moles above their sweethearts' eyebrows, Lean to the music, rise, And dance once more in a rose-festooned illusion With kindness in their eyes .
They say (as we ourselves have said, remember) 'What wizardry this slow waltz works upon us! And how it brings to mind forgotten things!' They say 'How strange it is that one such evening Can wake vague memories of so many springs!' And so they go .
In a thousand crowded places, They sit to smile and talk, or rise to ragtime, And, for their pleasures, agree or disagree.
With secret symbols they play on secret passions.
With cunning eyes they see The innocent word that sets remembrance trembling, The dubious word that sets the scared heart beating .
The pendulum on the wall Shakes down seconds .
They laugh at time, dissembling; Or coil for a victim and do not talk at all.