Mark Doty |
Today the Masons are auctioning
their discarded pomp: a trunk of turbans,
gemmed and ostrich-plumed, and operetta costumes
labeled inside the collar "Potentate"
" Here their chairs, blazoned
with the Masons' sign, huddled
like convalescents, lean against one another
on the grass.
In a casket are rhinestoned poles
the hierophants carried in parades;
here's a splendid golden staff some ranking officer waved,
topped with a golden pyramid and a tiny,
No one's worn this stuff
for years, and it doesn't seem worth buying;
where would we put it? Still,
I want that staff.
I used to love
to go to the library -- the smalltown brick refuge
of those with nothing to do, really,
'Carnegie' chiseled on the pediment
above columns that dwarfed an inconsequential street.
Embarrassed to carry the same book past
the water fountain's plaster centaurs
up to the desk again, I'd take
The Wonders of the World to the Reading Room
where Art and Industry met in the mural
on the dome.
The room smelled like two decades
before I was born, when the name
carved over the door meant something.
I never read the second section,
"Wonders of the Modern World";
I loved the promise of my father's blueprints,
the unfulfilled turquoise schemes,
but in the real structures
you could hardly imagine a future.
I wanted the density of history,
which I confused with the smell of the book:
Babylon's ziggurat tropical with ferns,
engraved watercourses rippling;
the Colossus of Rhodes balanced
over the harbormouth on his immense ankles.
Athena filled one end of the Parthenon,
in an "artist's reconstruction",
like an adult in a dollhouse.
At Halicarnassus, Mausolus remembered himself
immensely, though in the book
there wasn't even a sketch,
only a picture of huge fragments.
In the pyramid's deep clockworks,
did the narrow tunnels mount toward
the eye of God? That was the year
photos were beamed back from space;
falling asleep I used to repeat a new word
to myself, telemetry, liking the way
it seemed to allude to something storied.
The earth was whorled marble,
at that distance.
Even the stuck-on porticoes
and collonades downtown were narrative,
somehow, but the buildings my father engineered
were without stories.
All I wanted
was something larger than our ordinary sadness --
greater not in scale but in context,
memorable, true to a proportioned,
Last year I knew a student,
a half mad boy who finally opened his arms
with a razor, not because he wanted to die
but because he wanted to design something grand
on his own body.
Once he said, When a child
realizes his parents aren't enough,
he turns to architecture.
I think I know what he meant.
Imagine the Masons parading,
one of them, in his splendid get-up,
striding forward with the golden staff,
above his head Cheops' beautiful shape --
a form we cannot separate
from the stories about the form,
even if we hardly know them,
even if it no longer signifies, if it only shines.
Alan Seeger |
First, London, for its myriads; for its height,
Manhattan heaped in towering stalagmite;
But Paris for the smoothness of the paths
That lead the heart unto the heart's delight.
Fair loiterer on the threshold of those days
When there's no lovelier prize the world displays
Than, having beauty and your twenty years,
You have the means to conquer and the ways,
And coming where the crossroads separate
And down each vista glories and wonders wait,
Crowning each path with pinnacles so fair
You know not which to choose, and hesitate --
Oh, go to Paris.
In the midday gloom
Of some old quarter take a little room
That looks off over Paris and its towers
From Saint Gervais round to the Emperor's Tomb, --
So high that you can hear a mating dove
Croon down the chimney from the roof above,
See Notre Dame and know how sweet it is
To wake between Our Lady and our love.
And have a little balcony to bring
Fair plants to fill with verdure and blossoming,
That sparrows seek, to feed from pretty hands,
And swallows circle over in the Spring.
There of an evening you shall sit at ease
In the sweet month of flowering chestnut-trees,
There with your little darling in your arms,
Your pretty dark-eyed Manon or Louise.
And looking out over the domes and towers
That chime the fleeting quarters and the hours,
While the bright clouds banked eastward back of them
Blush in the sunset, pink as hawthorn flowers,
You cannot fail to think, as I have done,
Some of life's ends attained, so you be one
Who measures life's attainment by the hours
That Joy has rescued from oblivion.
Come out into the evening streets.
The green light lessens in the west.
The city laughs and liveliest her fervid pulse of pleasure beats.
The belfry on Saint Severin strikes eight across the smoking eaves:
Come out under the lights and leaves
to the Reine Blanche on Saint Germain.
Now crowded diners fill the floor of brasserie and restaurant.
Shrill voices cry "L'Intransigeant," and corners echo "Paris-Sport.
Where rows of tables from the street are screened with shoots of box and bay,
The ragged minstrels sing and play and gather sous from those that eat.
And old men stand with menu-cards, inviting passers-by to dine
On the bright terraces that line the Latin Quarter boulevards.
But, having drunk and eaten well, 'tis pleasant then to stroll along
And mingle with the merry throng that promenades on Saint Michel.
Here saunter types of every sort.
The shoddy jostle with the chic:
Turk and Roumanian and Greek; student and officer and sport;
Slavs with their peasant, Christ-like heads,
and courtezans like powdered moths,
And peddlers from Algiers, with cloths
bright-hued and stitched with golden threads;
And painters with big, serious eyes go rapt in dreams, fantastic shapes
In corduroys and Spanish capes and locks uncut and flowing ties;
And lovers wander two by two, oblivious among the press,
And making one of them no less, all lovers shall be dear to you:
All laughing lips you move among, all happy hearts that, knowing what
Makes life worth while, have wasted not the sweet reprieve of being young.
"Comment ca va!" "Mon vieux!" "Mon cher!"
Friends greet and banter as they pass.
'Tis sweet to see among the mass comrades and lovers everywhere,
A law that's sane, a Love that's free, and men of every birth and blood
Allied in one great brotherhood of Art and Joy and Poverty.
The open cafe-windows frame loungers at their liqueurs and beer,
And walking past them one can hear fragments of Tosca and Boheme.
And in the brilliant-lighted door of cinemas the barker calls,
And lurid posters paint the walls with scenes of Love and crime and war.
But follow past the flaming lights, borne onward with the stream of feet,
Where Bullier's further up the street is marvellous on Thursday nights.
Here all Bohemia flocks apace; you could not often find elsewhere
So many happy heads and fair assembled in one time and place.
Under the glare and noise and heat the galaxy of dancing whirls,
Smokers, with covered heads, and girls dressed in the costume of the street.
From tables packed around the wall the crowds that drink and frolic there
Spin serpentines into the air far out over the reeking hall,
That, settling where the coils unroll, tangle with pink and green and blue
The crowds that rag to "Hitchy-koo" and boston to the "Barcarole".
Here Mimi ventures, at fifteen, to make her debut in romance,
And join her sisters in the dance and see the life that they have seen.
Her hair, a tight hat just allows to brush beneath the narrow brim,
Docked, in the model's present whim, `frise' and banged above the brows.
Uncorseted, her clinging dress with every step and turn betrays,
In pretty and provoking ways her adolescent loveliness,
As guiding Gaby or Lucile she dances, emulating them
In each disturbing stratagem and each lascivious appeal.
Each turn a challenge, every pose an invitation to compete,
Along the maze of whirling feet the grave-eyed little wanton goes,
And, flaunting all the hue that lies in childish cheeks and nubile waist,
She passes, charmingly unchaste, illumining ignoble eyes.
But now the blood from every heart leaps madder through abounding veins
As first the fascinating strains of "El Irresistible" start.
Caught in the spell of pulsing sound, impatient elbows lift and yield
The scented softnesses they shield to arms that catch and close them round,
Surrender, swift to be possessed, the silken supple forms beneath
To all the bliss the measures breathe and all the madness they suggest.
Crowds congregate and make a ring.
Four deep they stand and strain to see
The tango in its ecstasy of glowing lives that clasp and cling.
Lithe limbs relaxed, exalted eyes fastened on vacancy, they seem
To float upon the perfumed stream of some voluptuous Paradise,
Or, rapt in some Arabian Night, to rock there, cradled and subdued,
In a luxurious lassitude of rhythm and sensual delight.
And only when the measures cease and terminate the flowing dance
They waken from their magic trance and join the cries that clamor "Bis!" .
Midnight adjourns the festival.
The couples climb the crowded stair,
And out into the warm night air go singing fragments of the ball.
Close-folded in desire they pass, or stop to drink and talk awhile
In the cafes along the mile from Bullier's back to Montparnasse:
The "Closerie" or "La Rotonde", where smoking, under lamplit trees,
Sit Art's enamored devotees, chatting across their `brune' and `blonde'.
Make one of them and come to know sweet Paris -- not as many do,
Seeing but the folly of the few, the froth, the tinsel, and the show --
But taking some white proffered hand that from Earth's barren every day
Can lead you by the shortest way into Love's florid fairyland.
And that divine enchanted life that lurks under Life's common guise --
That city of romance that lies within the City's toil and strife --
Shall, knocking, open to your hands, for Love is all its golden key,
And one's name murmured tenderly the only magic it demands.
And when all else is gray and void in the vast gulf of memory,
Green islands of delight shall be all blessed moments so enjoyed:
When vaulted with the city skies, on its cathedral floors you stood,
And, priest of a bright brotherhood, performed the mystic sacrifice,
At Love's high altar fit to stand, with fire and incense aureoled,
The celebrant in cloth of gold with Spring and Youth on either hand.
Have ye gazed on its grandeur
Or stood where it stands
With opal and amber
Adorning the lands,
And orcharded domes
Of the hue of all flowers?
Sweet melody roams
Through its blossoming bowers,
Sweet bells usher in from its belfries the train of the honey-sweet hour.
A city resplendent,
Fulfilled of good things,
On its ramparts are pendent
The bucklers of kings.
Broad banners unfurled
Are afloat in its air.
The lords of the world
Look for harborage there.
None finds save he comes as a bridegroom, having roses and vine in his hair.
'Tis the city of Lovers,
There many paths meet.
Blessed he above others,
With faltering feet,
Who past its proud spires
Intends not nor hears
The noise of its lyres
Grow faint in his ears!
Men reach it through portals of triumph, but leave through a postern of tears.
It was thither, ambitious,
We came for Youth's right,
When our lips yearned for kisses
As moths for the light,
When our souls cried for Love
As for life-giving rain
Wan leaves of the grove,
Withered grass of the plain,
And our flesh ached for Love-flesh beside it with bitter, intolerable pain.
Under arbor and trellis,
Full of flutes, full of flowers,
What mad fortunes befell us,
What glad orgies were ours!
In the days of our youth,
In our festal attire,
When the sweet flesh was smooth,
When the swift blood was fire,
And all Earth paid in orange and purple to pavilion the bed of Desire!
Langston Hughes |
The instructor said,
Go home and write
a page tonight.
And let that page come out of you--
Then, it will be true.
I wonder if it's that simple?
I am twenty-two, colored, born in Winston-Salem.
I went to school there, then Durham, then here
to this college on the hill above Harlem.
I am the only colored student in my class.
The steps from the hill lead down into Harlem,
through a park, then I cross St.
Eighth Avenue, Seventh, and I come to the Y,
the Harlem Branch Y, where I take the elevator
up to my room, sit down, and write this page:
It's not easy to know what is true for you or me
at twenty-two, my age.
But I guess I'm what
I feel and see and hear, Harlem, I hear you:
hear you, hear me--we two--you, me, talk on this page.
(I hear New York, too.
Well, I like to eat, sleep, drink, and be in love.
I like to work, read, learn, and understand life.
I like a pipe for a Christmas present,
or records--Bessie, bop, or Bach.
I guess being colored doesn't make me not like
the same things other folks like who are other races.
So will my page be colored that I write?
Being me, it will not be white.
But it will be
a part of you, instructor.
You are white--
yet a part of me, as I am a part of you.
Sometimes perhaps you don't want to be a part of me.
Nor do I often want to be a part of you.
But we are, that's true!
As I learn from you,
I guess you learn from me--
although you're older--and white--
and somewhat more free.
This is my page for English B.
Walt Whitman |
BROTHER of all, with generous hand,
Of thee, pondering on thee, as o’er thy tomb, I and my Soul,
A thought to launch in memory of thee,
A burial verse for thee.
What may we chant, O thou within this tomb?
What tablets, pictures, hang for thee, O millionaire?
—The life thou lived’st we know not,
But that thou walk’dst thy years in barter, ’mid the haunts of brokers;
Nor heroism thine, nor war, nor glory.
Yet lingering, yearning, joining soul with thine,
If not thy past we chant, we chant the future,
Select, adorn the future.
Lo, Soul, the graves of heroes!
The pride of lands—the gratitudes of men,
The statues of the manifold famous dead, Old World and New,
The kings, inventors, generals, poets, (stretch wide thy vision, Soul,)
The excellent rulers of the races, great discoverers, sailors,
Marble and brass select from them, with pictures, scenes,
(The histories of the lands, the races, bodied there,
In what they’ve built for, graced and graved,
Monuments to their heroes.
Silent, my Soul,
With drooping lids, as waiting, ponder’d,
Turning from all the samples, all the monuments of heroes.
While through the interior vistas,
Noiseless uprose, phantasmic (as, by night, Auroras of the North,)
Lambent tableaux, prophetic, bodiless scenes,
In one, among the city streets, a laborer’s home appear’d,
After his day’s work done, cleanly, sweet-air’d, the gaslight burning,
The carpet swept, and a fire in the cheerful stove.
In one, the sacred parturition scene,
A happy, painless mother birth’d a perfect child.
In one, at a bounteous morning meal,
Sat peaceful parents, with contented sons.
In one, by twos and threes, young people,
Hundreds concentering, walk’d the paths and streets and roads,
Toward a tall-domed school.
In one a trio, beautiful,
Grandmother, loving daughter, loving daughter’s daughter, sat,
Chatting and sewing.
In one, along a suite of noble rooms,
’Mid plenteous books and journals, paintings on the walls, fine statuettes,
Were groups of friendly journeymen, mechanics, young and old,
All, all the shows of laboring life,
City and country, women’s, men’s and children’s,
Their wants provided for, hued in the sun, and tinged for once with joy,
Marriage, the street, the factory, farm, the house-room, lodging-room,
Labor and toil, the bath, gymnasium, play-ground, library, college,
The student, boy or girl, led forward to be taught;
The sick cared for, the shoeless shod—the orphan father’d and mother’d,
The hungry fed, the houseless housed;
(The intentions perfect and divine,
The workings, details, haply human.
O thou within this tomb,
From thee, such scenes—thou stintless, lavish Giver,
Tallying the gifts of Earth—large as the Earth,
Thy name an Earth, with mountains, fields and rivers.
Nor by your streams alone, you rivers,
By you, your banks, Connecticut,
By you, and all your teeming life, Old Thames,
By you, Potomac, laving the ground Washington trod—by you Patapsco,
You, Hudson—you, endless Mississippi—not by you alone,
But to the high seas launch, my thought, his memory.
Lo, Soul, by this tomb’s lambency,
The darkness of the arrogant standards of the world,
With all its flaunting aims, ambitions, pleasures.
(Old, commonplace, and rusty saws,
The rich, the gay, the supercilious, smiled at long,
Now, piercing to the marrow in my bones,
Fused with each drop my heart’s blood jets,
Swim in ineffable meaning.
Lo, Soul, the sphere requireth, portioneth,
To each his share, his measure,
The moderate to the moderate, the ample to the ample.
Lo, Soul, see’st thou not, plain as the sun,
The only real wealth of wealth in generosity,
The only life of life in goodness?
Denise Duhamel |
At first she was sure it was just a bit of dried strawberry juice,
or a fleck of her mother's red nail polish that had flaked off
when she'd patted her daughter to sleep the night before.
But as she scrubbed, Snow felt a bump, something festering
under the surface, like a tapeworm curled up and living
in her left cheek.
Doc the Dwarf was no dermatologist
and besides Snow doesn't get to meet him in this version
because the mint leaves the tall doctor puts over her face
only make matters worse.
Snow and the Queen hope
against hope for chicken pox, measles, something
that would be gone quickly and not plague Snow's whole
If only freckles were red, she cried, if only
concealer really worked.
Soon came the pus, the yellow dots,
multiplying like pins in a pin cushion.
the greasy hair.
The Queen gave her daughter a razor
for her legs and a stick of underarm deodorant.
doodled through her teenage years—"Snow + ?" in Magic
Markered hearts all over her notebooks.
She was an average
student, a daydreamer who might have been a scholar
if she'd only applied herself.
She liked sappy music
and romance novels.
She liked pies and cake
instead of fruit.
The Queen remained the fairest in the land.
It was hard on Snow, having such a glamorous mom.
She rebelled by wearing torn shawls and baggy gowns.
Her mother would sometimes say, "Snow darling,
why don't you pull back your hair? Show those pretty eyes?"
or "Come on, I'll take you shopping.
staying in her safe room, looking out of her window
at the deer leaping across the lawn.
Or she'd practice
her dance moves with invisible princes.
And the Queen,
busy being Queen, didn't like to push it.
Anne Sexton |
I knew you forever and you were always old,
soft white lady of my heart.
Surely you would scold
me for sitting up late, reading your letters,
as if these foreign postmarks were meant for me.
You posted them first in London, wearing furs
and a new dress in the winter of eighteen-ninety.
I read how London is dull on Lord Mayor's Day,
where you guided past groups of robbers, the sad holes
of Whitechapel, clutching your pocketbook, on the way
to Jack the Ripper dissecting his famous bones.
This Wednesday in Berlin, you say, you will
go to a bazaar at Bismarck's house.
see you as a young girl in a good world still,
writing three generations before mine.
to reach into your page and breathe it back.
but life is a trick, life is a kitten in a sack.
This is the sack of time your death vacates.
How distant your are on your nickel-plated skates
in the skating park in Berlin, gliding past
me with your Count, while a military band
plays a Strauss waltz.
I loved you last,
a pleated old lady with a crooked hand.
Once you read Lohengrin and every goose
hung high while you practiced castle life
Tonight your letters reduce
history to a guess.
The count had a wife.
You were the old maid aunt who lived with us.
Tonight I read how the winter howled around
the towers of Schloss Schwobber, how the tedious
language grew in your jaw, how you loved the sound
of the music of the rats tapping on the stone
When you were mine you wore an earphone.
This is Wednesday, May 9th, near Lucerne,
Switzerland, sixty-nine years ago.
your first climb up Mount San Salvatore;
this is the rocky path, the hole in your shoes,
the yankee girl, the iron interior
of her sweet body.
You let the Count choose
your next climb.
You went together, armed
with alpine stocks, with ham sandwiches
and seltzer wasser.
You were not alarmed
by the thick woods of briars and bushes,
nor the rugged cliff, nor the first vertigo
up over Lake Lucerne.
The Count sweated
with his coat off as you waded through top snow.
He held your hand and kissed you.
down on the train to catch a steam boat for home;
or other postmarks: Paris, verona, Rome.
This is Italy.
You learn its mother tongue.
I read how you walked on the Palatine among
the ruins of the palace of the Caesars;
alone in the Roman autumn, alone since July.
When you were mine they wrapped you out of here
with your best hat over your face.
because I was seventeen.
I am older now.
I read how your student ticket admitted you
into the private chapel of the Vatican and how
you cheered with the others, as we used to do
on the fourth of July.
One Wednesday in November
you watched a balloon, painted like a silver abll,
float up over the Forum, up over the lost emperors,
to shiver its little modern cage in an occasional
You worked your New England conscience out
beside artisans, chestnut vendors and the devout.
Tonight I will learn to love you twice;
learn your first days, your mid-Victorian face.
Tonight I will speak up and interrupt
your letters, warning you that wars are coming,
that the Count will die, that you will accept
your America back to live like a prim thing
on the farm in Maine.
I tell you, you will come
here, to the suburbs of Boston, to see the blue-nose
world go drunk each night, to see the handsome
children jitterbug, to feel your left ear close
one Friday at Symphony.
And I tell you,
you will tip your boot feet out of that hall,
rocking from its sour sound, out onto
the crowded street, letting your spectacles fall
and your hair net tangle as you stop passers-by
to mumble your guilty love while your ears die.
David Lehman |
"My propositions serve as elucidations in the following way:
anyone who understands them eventually recognizes them as
nonsensical, when he has used them -- as steps -- to climb
up beyond them.
(He must, so to speak, throw away the ladder
after he has climbed up it.
)" -- Ludwig Wittgenstein, Tractatus
The first time I met Wittgenstein, I was
"The traffic was murder," I explained.
He spent the next forty-five minutes
analyzing this sentence.
Then he was silent.
I wondered why he had chosen a water tower
for our meeting.
I also wondered how
I would leave, since the ladder I had used
to climb up here had fallen to the ground.
Wittgenstein served as a machine-gunner
in the Austrian Army in World War I.
Before the war he studied logic in Cambridge
with Bertrand Russell.
his father's fortune (iron and steel), he
gave away his money, not to the poor, whom
it would corrupt, but to relations so rich
it would not thus affect them.
On leave in Vienna in August 1918
he assembled his notebook entries
into the Tractatus, Since it provided
the definitive solution to all the problems
of philosophy, he decided to broaden
He became a schoolteacher,
then a gardener's assistant at a monastery
He dabbled in architecture.
He returned to Cambridge in 1929,
receiving his doctorate for the Tractatus,
"a work of genius," in G.
Starting in 1930 he gave a weekly lecture
and led a weekly discussion group.
without notes amid long periods of silence.
Afterwards, exhausted, he went to the movies
and sat in the front row.
He liked Carmen Miranda.
He would visit Russell's rooms at midnight
and pace back and forth "like a caged tiger.
On arrival, he would announce that when
he left he would commit suicide.
So, in spite
of getting sleepy, I did not like to turn him out.
such a night, after hours of dead silence, Russell said,
"Wittgenstein, are you thinking about logic or about
yours sins?" "Both," he said, and resumed his silence.
Philosophy was an activity, not a doctrine.
"Solipsism, when its implications are followed out
strictly, coincides with pure realism," he wrote.
Dozens of dons wondered what he meant.
how he knew that "this color is red," he smiled
and said, "because I have learnt English.
were no other questions.
Wittgenstein let the
Then he said, "this itself is the answer.
Religion went beyond the boundaries of language,
yet the impulse to run against "the walls of our cage,"
though "perfectly, absolutely useless," was not to be
Ayer, one of Oxford's ablest minds,
If logic cannot prove a nonsensical
conclusion, why didn't Wittgenstein abandon it,
"along with the rest of metaphysics, as not worth
serious attention, except perhaps for sociologists"?
Because God does not reveal himself in this world, and
"the value of this work," Wittgenstein wrote, "is that
it shows how little is achieved when these problems
" When I quoted Gertrude Stein's line
about Oakland, "there's no there there," he nodded.
Was there a there, I persisted.
His answer: Yes and No.
It was as impossible to feel another's person's pain
as to suffer another person's toothache.
At Cambridge the dons quoted him reverently.
I asked them what they thought was his biggest
contribution to philosophy.
"Whereof one cannot
speak, thereof one must be silent," one said.
Others spoke of his conception of important
But I liked best the answer John
Wisdom gave: "His asking of the question
`Can one play chess without the queen?'"
Wittgenstein preferred American detective
stories to British philosophy.
He liked lunch
and didn't care what it was, "so long as it was
always the same," noted Professor Malcolm
of Cornell, a former student, in whose house
in Ithaca Wittgenstein spent hours doing
He was happy then.
There was no need to say a word.
Barry Tebb |
I never did fit in – at six or sixty one –
I stand out in a crowd, too young or old
And gather pity like a shroud.
"Is that real silk?"
A teenager inquired.
"As real as Oxfam ever is
For one pound fifty.
" The vast ballroom was growing misty
And blurred with alcohol I’ve never had the taste for.
"**** off" a forty-plus dyed blonde said half in jest.
So I chose the only Asian girl in Squares with hair like jet
And danced with her five minutes centre stage –
I’ve lost all inhibitions in old age.
A Malaysian architecture
Student invited me to sit and get my breath back
"Le Corbusier described a house as a machine for living in,"
I quipped; she slipped a smile and sipped her drink and said
"I love Leeds and its people; in seven years I’ve never
Heard a single racist comment, whatever the papers say"
Malaysian girls are rightly known for their sensual beauty
But I made my pitiful excuses and slipped away.
I knew I couldn’t make it, couldn’t even fake it
With all this damned depression in the way.
Leeds boys are always friendlier than the girls,
They see themselves grown older in my years
And push the girls towards me with a glance
"Go and give the poor old man a dance!"
And dance I do and show my poems around
Like calling cards and jot lines on my palms.
Reading Lacan into the night I thought things through
But somehow none of them was half as good as you.
Billy Collins |
The early sun is so pale and shadowy,
I could be looking up at a ghost
in the shape of a window,
a tall, rectangular spirit
looking down at me in bed,
about to demand that I avenge
the murder of my father.
But the morning light is only the first line
in the play of this day--
the only day in existence--
the opening chord of its long song,
or think of what is permeating
the thin bedroom curtains
as the beginning of a lecture
I will listen to until it is dark,
a curious student in a V-neck sweater,
angled into the wooden chair of his life,
ready with notebook and a chewed-up pencil,
quiet as a goldfish in winter,
serious as a compass at sea,
eager to absorb whatever lesson
this damp, overcast Tuesday
has to teach me,
here in the spacious classroom of the world
with its long walls of glass,
its heavy, low-hung ceiling.
Robert William Service |
I'm waiting for the man I hope to wed.
I've never seen him - that's the funny part.
I promised I would wear a rose of red,
Pinned on my coat above my fluttered heart,
So that he'd know me - a precaution wise,
Because I wrote him I was twenty-three,
And Oh such heaps and heaps of silly lies.
So when we meet what will he think of me?
It's funny, but it has its sorry side;
I put an advert.
in the evening Press:
"A lonely maiden fain would be a bride.
Oh it was shameless of me, I confess.
But I am thirty-nine and in despair,
Wanting a home and children ere too late,
And I forget I'm no more young and fair -
I'll hide my rose and run.
No, no, I'll wait.
An hour has passed and I am waiting still.
I ought to feel relieved, but I'm so sad.
I would have liked to see him, just to thrill,
And sigh and say: "There goes my lovely lad!
My one romance!" Ah, Life's malign mishap!
"Garcon, a cafè creme.
" I'll stay till nine.
The cafè's empty, just an oldish chap
Who's sitting at the table next to mine.
I'm waiting for the girl I mean to wed.
She was to come at eight and now it's nine.
She'd pin upon her coat a rose of red,
And I would wear a marguerite in mine.
No sign of her I see.
It's true my eyes
Need stronger glasses than the ones I wear,
But Oh I feel my heart would recognize
Her face without the rose - she is so fair.
Ah! what deceivers are we aging men!
What vanity keeps youthful hope aglow!
Poor girl! I sent a photo taken when
I was a student, twenty years ago.
(Hers is so Springlike, Oh so blossom sweet!)
How she will shudder when she sees me now!
I think I'd better hide that marguerite -
How can I age and ugliness avow?
She does not come.
It's after nine o'clock.
What fools we fogeys are! I'll try to laugh;
(Garcon, you might bring me another bock)
Falling in love, just from a photograph.
Well, that's the end.
I'll go home and forget,
Then realizing I am over ripe
I'll throw away this silly cigarette
And philosophically light my pipe.
* * * * *
The waiter brought the coffee and the beer,
And there they sat, so woe-begone a pair,
And seemed to think: "Why do we linger here?"
When suddenly they turned, to start and stare.
She spied a marguerite, he glimpsed a rose;
Their eyes were joined and in a flash they knew.
The sleepy waiter saw, when time to close,
The sweet romance of those deceiving two,
Whose lips were joined, their hearts, their future too.