ACHILLES ON THE WALL
Drained — taken — overcome —
— Flat on my back! — I will die.
Like Polyxena, who beheld Achilles
There, on the wall —
In red — a bloody tower on the horizon
Of bodies he had laid low.
Like Polyxena praying: "Who is this?"
(And knew — the pyre!)
The united sorcery
Of awe, of love.
Like Polyxena, who beheld the Achaean
And whispered — and —
Do you know that ebb of Atlantean
Blood down my cheeks?
Over an invincible — expanse of no-man's land —
The quaking of our blood.
13 September 1923
THE LAST SAILOR
O you — of all below-line notes
The lowest! — Let's put an end to our quarrel!
Like that consumptive woman, who moaned
All night: ravish me again!
Who wrung her hands, as fights
And close blows and ropes of oaths intruded.
(Her sailor — no longer handsome — slept
As blood dropped on his rum-
Pled pillowcase . . .)
And then, bottoms up
With the glass, of crystal and blood
Laughing . . . — and she mistook blood for wine,
And she mistook death for love.
"You sleep. I'm — need to go! No preliminaries, no rehearsals —
Just the curtain! Tomorrow, flat on my back!"
Like that consumptive woman, who begged
Everyone: ravish me
A bit more! . . . (My hands are clean now,
My gaze troubled, fingers stiff . . .)
Like that woman with her sailor — with you, o life,
I haggle: for another minute
Ravish me! . . .
15 September 1923
THE CRY OF STATIONS
The cry of stations: don't go!
Of terminals: take pity!
And that of the brief stops:
Not exactly Dante's
And that of the engines.
Whose iron shuddered
Like the thunder of an ocean wave.
At the tiny ticket-window,
It crossed my mind — they traffic in space?
In seas and dry land?
In perishable meat:
We are meat — not souls!
We are mouths — not roses!
From us? No — over us
The wheels carry off our loved ones!
At such and such miles per hour.
Little dice of passionate chance.
One of us was right,
Who said: love — will stun the life out of you!
"This is life — on the rails! Don't cry!"
Rights of way — easements — rights of way . . .
(Owners reluctant to look into the eyes
Of their horses bound for slaughter).
"Unbroken and seamless, there is
No such happiness. Did I really buy it like that?"
The dressmaker was right, who held
Her tongue about it: "Use cross-ties."
24 September 1923
THE PRAGUE KNIGHT
Guardian of the age-old lapping —
Keeping watch on the river.
(O could I find peace
In it from arms and mouths?!)
Set at your post of partings.
The oaths, the rings . . .
Yes, like stones into the river
How many — of us
Over four centuries!
Admission into the waters
Is free. As are roses — in bloom!
He's thrown me over — I'll throw myself over!
That's vengeance for you!
We never tire of this
— So long as passion exists!
Taking our vengeance off bridges.
Making short but wide work of us,
My wings! Into the slime,
Into the scum — like brocade!
No lament for the moment
Over the bridge — toll!
--- "Off a fatal bridge
Down — I dare myself!"
I, at a level with you,
Whether it's sweetness or sadness
In it — is clearer to you,
Knight, watching over
The river — of days.
27 September 1923
If not a bayonet — then a tusk, a snowbank, a squall, —
On the hour, another train — to Immortality!
I came and knew one thing: it's just another stop.
And not worth unpacking.
Upon everyone, everything — my indifferent eyes,
Come to rest — on the immemorial.
O how natural to enter third class
Through the closeness of the ladies' rooms!
Where after warmed-over cutlets, cheeks
Are grown cold . . . — Can't we go further,
My soul? I'd sooner go down a streetlamp's drain
To escape this deadening discord:
Of end papers, diapers,
Red-hot curling irons,
Women's hats, oil cloths,
All the eau-de-Col—-ognes
Of families, the joys
Of sewing (Mere trifles!)
Is there a coffeepot?
Crackers, pillows, matrons, nannies,
The closeness of nurseries, and baths.
I don't want to be in this box of women's bodies
Waiting on the hour of my death!
I want this train to be drinking and singing:
Death — too, belongs in another class!
In a daze, a stupor, on a concertina, in distress, in vanity!
— These unbelievers do cling so to life! —
Prompting some pilgrim or other to say: "In the next world" . . .
So I interrupt to say: it must be better!
A platform. — And sleepers. — And a last shrub
In my hand. — I let loose. — It's too late
To hang on. — Sleepers. — I'm tired
Of so many mouths. — I look to the stars.
So through a rainbow of all the vanishing
Planets — did someone at least number them? —
I look and see one thing: another end.
And not worth regretting.
6 October 1923