cleaning up so well (jones_casey) wrote,
cleaning up so well

do i dare disturb the universe?

he approached the girl and started to lay his hand upon her forehead. she drew back with a savage little growl. a smile touched his lips.

"you need not fear me," he said. "i shall not harm you. i only wish to discover if you have fever--if you are entirely well. if you are we will set forth in search of korak."

meriem looked straight into the keen gray eyes. she must have found there an unquestionable assurance of the honorableness of their owner, for she permitted him to lay his palm upon her forehead and feel her pulse. apparently she had no fever.

her hair was cut short to make her father's war head-dress - even as our own sina's is at this moment; and the decollator was probably, in his red flurry of fight, wholly unconscious of her sex. i am sorry for him in the future; he must make up his mind to many bitter jests - perhaps to vengeance. but what an end to one chosen for her beauty and, in the time of peace, watched over by trusty crones and hunchbacks!


can i write or not?

quick, make up thy mind,
and fresh wealth find.
if honour is gone--then much is gone!
seek glory to find,
and people then will alter their mind.
if courage is gone--then all is gone!
'twere better that thou hadst never been born.

what the immortals
confide to thy keeping,
tell unto no man;
waking or sleeping,
closed be thy portals
to friend as to foeman.

silence conceals it;
the word that is spoken
betrays and reveals it;
by breath or by token
the charm may be broken.

behind us in our path we cast
the broken potsherds of the past,
and all are ground to dust at last,
and trodden into clay!

we have learned to whittle the eden tree to the shape of a surplice-peg,
we have learned to bottle our parents twain in the yolk of an addled egg,
we know that the tail must wag the dog, for the horse is drawn by the cart;
but the devil whoops, as he whooped of old: "it's clever, but is it Art?"

let us go then, you and i,
when the evening is spread out against the sky
like a patient etherized upon a table;
let us go, through certain half-deserted streets,
the muttering retreats
of restless nights in one-night cheap hotels
and sawdust restaurants with oyster-shells:
streets that follow like a tedious argument
of insidious intent
to lead you to an overwhelming question ...
oh, do not ask, “what is it?”
let us go and make our visit.

in the room the women come and go
talking of michelangelo.

the yellow fog that rubs its back upon the window-panes,
the yellow smoke that rubs its muzzle on the window-panes,
licked its tongue into the corners of the evening,
lingered upon the pools that stand in drains,
let fall upon its back the soot that falls from chimneys,
slipped by the terrace, made a sudden leap,
and seeing that it was a soft october night,
curled once about the house, and fell asleep.

and indeed there will be time
for the yellow smoke that slides along the street,
rubbing its back upon the window-panes;
there will be time, there will be time
to prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet;
there will be time to murder and create,
and time for all the works and days of hands
that lift and drop a question on your plate;
time for you and time for me,
and time yet for a hundred indecisions,
and for a hundred visions and revisions,
before the taking of a toast and tea.

in the room the women come and go
talking of Michelangelo.

and indeed there will be time
to wonder, “do i dare?” and, “do i dare?”
time to turn back and descend the stair,
with a bald spot in the middle of my hair —
(they will say: “how his hair is growing thin!”)
my morning coat, my collar mounting firmly to the chin,
my necktie rich and modest, but asserted by a simple pin —
(they will say: “but how his arms and legs are thin!”)
do i dare
disturb the universe?
in a minute there is time
for decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse.

for i have known them all already, known them all:
have known the evenings, mornings, afternoons,
i have measured out my life with coffee spoons;
i know the voices dying with a dying fall
beneath the music from a farther room.
so how should i presume?

and i have known the eyes already, known them all—
the eyes that fix you in a formulated phrase,
and when i am formulated, sprawling on a pin,
when i am pinned and wriggling on the wall,
then how should i begin
to spit out all the butt-ends of my days and ways?
and how should i presume?

and i have known the arms already, known them all—
arms that are braceleted and white and bare
(but in the lamplight, downed with light brown hair!)
is it perfume from a dress
that makes me so digress?
arms that lie along a table, or wrap about a shawl.
and should i then presume?
and how should i begin?

shall i say, i have gone at dusk through narrow streets
and watched the smoke that rises from the pipes
of lonely men in shirt-sleeves, leaning out of windows? ...

i should have been a pair of ragged claws
scuttling across the floors of silent seas.

and the afternoon, the evening, sleeps so peacefully!
smoothed by long fingers,
asleep ... tired ... or it malingers,
stretched on the floor, here beside you and me.
should i, after tea and cakes and ices,
have the strength to force the moment to its crisis?
but though i have wept and fasted, wept and prayed,
though i have seen my head (grown slightly bald) brought in upon a platter,
i am no prophet — and here’s no great matter;
i have seen the moment of my greatness flicker,
and i have seen the Eternal Footman hold my coat, and snicker,
and in short, i was afraid.

and would it have been worth it, after all,
after the cups, the marmalade, the tea,
among the porcelain, among some talk of you and me,
would it have been worth while,
to have bitten off the matter with a smile,
to have squeezed the universe into a ball
to roll it towards some overwhelming question,
to say: “i am lazarus, come from the dead,
come back to tell you all, i shall tell you all”—
if one, settling a pillow by her head
should say: “that is not what i meant at all;
that is not it, at all.”

and would it have been worth it, after all,
would it have been worth while,
after the sunsets and the dooryards and the sprinkled streets,
after the novels, after the teacups, after the skirts that trail along the floor—
and this, and so much more?—
it is impossible to say just what i mean!
but as if a magic lantern threw the nerves in patterns on a screen:
would it have been worth while
if one, settling a pillow or throwing off a shawl,
and turning toward the window, should say:
“that is not it at all,
that is not what i meant, at all.”

no! i am not prince hamlet, nor was meant to be;
am an attendant lord, one that will do
to swell a progress, start a scene or two,
advise the prince; no doubt, an easy tool,
deferential, glad to be of use,
politic, cautious, and meticulous;
full of high sentence, but a bit obtuse;
at times, indeed, almost ridiculous—
almost, at times, the Fool.

i grow old ... i grow old ...
i shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.

shall i part my hair behind? do i dare to eat a peach?
i shall wear white flannel trousers, and walk upon the beach.
i have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.

i do not think that they will sing to me.

i have seen them riding seaward on the waves
combing the white hair of the waves blown back
when the wind blows the water white and black.
we have lingered in the chambers of the sea
by sea-girls wreathed with seaweed red and brown
till human voices wake us, and we drown.

the shattered storm has left its trace
upon this huge and heaving dome,
for the thin threads of yellow foam
float on the waves like ravelled lace.
Tags: poems, stichomancy

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