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The Stranger

 The restaurants on hot spring evenings
Lie under a dense and savage air.
Foul drafts and hoots from dunken revelers Contaminate the thoroughfare.
Above the dusty lanes of suburbia Above the tedium of bungalows A pretzel sign begilds a bakery And children screech fortissimo.
And every evening beyond the barriers Gentlemen of practiced wit and charm Go strolling beside the drainage ditches -- A tilted derby and a lady at the arm.
The squeak of oarlocks comes over the lake water A woman's shriek assaults the ear While above, in the sky, inured to everything, The moon looks on with a mindless leer.
And every evening my one companion Sits here, reflected in my glass.
Like me, he has drunk of bitter mysteries.
Like me, he is broken, dulled, downcast.
The sleepy lackeys stand beside tables Waiting for the night to pass And tipplers with the eyes of rabbits Cry out: "In vino veritas!" And every evening (or am I imagining?) Exactly at the appointed time A girl's slim figure, silk raimented, Glides past the window's mist and grime.
And slowly passing throught the revelers, Unaccompanied, always alone, Exuding mists and secret fragrances, She sits at the table that is her own.
Something ancient, something legendary Surrounds her presence in the room, Her narrow hand, her silk, her bracelets, Her hat, the rings, the ostrich plume.
Entranced by her presence, near and enigmatic, I gaze through the dark of her lowered veil And I behold an enchanted shoreline And enchanted distances, far and pale.
I am made a guardian of the higher mysteries, Someone's sun is entrusted to my control.
Tart wine has pierced the last convolution of my labyrinthine soul.
And now the drooping plumes of ostriches Asway in my brain droop slowly lower And two eyes, limpid, blue, and fathomless Are blooming on a distant shore.
Inside my soul a treasure is buried.
The key is mine and only mine.
How right you are, you drunken monster! I know: the truth is in the wine.

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