NICHOLAS L. BROWN
NEW YORK MCMXX
BY NICHOLAS L. BROWN
BY NICHOLAS L. BROWN
The author acknowledges the courtesy of the editors of The Poetry Journal; Others; The Egoist (London); Poetry: A Magazine of Verse; Playboy; The Dial; The Liberator; Others: An Anthology of the New Verse; The Nation (New York): and The Lyric, from all of which poems in this volume have been reprinted.
Beautiful and obscene,
Leaping through the street
With a flicker of hoofs,
And a flash of tails,
You want dryads
And they give you prostitutes.
Bathed in kisses and blood.
The wheel of light
Rushes over your breasts.
Pale dilutions of the waters of the world
Come through the windows.
Back and forth the women glide in their little waters;
Cellar to garret and garret to cellar,
Winding in and out under door arches and down passages,
They and their spawn,
In the shell,
In the cavern.
You may come in the shell to overpower her,
But in the shell, in the shell.
She cannot be torn from the shell without dying;
And what is the pleasure of intercourse with the dead?
The color long since out.
The organ plays.
The leaves crackle and rustle a little;
Then sink down.
Old ladies with gray moss on their chins,
Old men with camphor and cotton packed around their heads,
Thin child spirits, sharp and shrill as whistles.
Gray old trees;
Gaunt old woods;
Souls as dry as leaves
After autumn is past.
You gave them the force,
You, when You poured the measure of agony into them.
Didn't You know what it would be,
Giving blind people fire?
Not gold and red and amber fire,
But marsh fire.
Fire of ice,
Suffering forged into suffering!
They are coming up now.
The sword is uplifted in the hands of the monster.
My valiant little puppets,
Did you think you could stand out against this?
Pierrot and Columbine breeding in the flowers....
There must be no flowers.
(Down by the river,
White face with blood on it.)
Black man creaks in the wind,
Brown poppies, melting in moonlight,
Swerve on glistening stems
Across an endless field
To the music of a blood white face
And a tired little devil child
Rocked to sleep on a rope.
When they bend they crack;
Conforming, yet not conforming–
Masculine souls pass across the mirrors:
Whirling, gliding ecstasies–
Like dreams fading across the mirrors.
Then the mirrors,
Stark and brilliant in the sunshine,
Blank as the desert,
Blank as the Sphinx,
Winking golden eyes in the twinkles of light,
Silent, immutable, vacuous infinity,
Illimitable capacity for absorption,
Have the shapes and the shadows been swallowed up
In your recesses without depth,
You drinkers of life,
Your golden yellow eyes,
Mirrors winking in the sunshine?
Weaving with the crafty fibers of your souls;
Nothing was given you but those impalpable threads.
Yet you have bound the race,
With your silver spun mysteries.
All the cruel,
All the mad,
And the beautiful, too:
It all belongs to you
Since the first time
That you began to drop the filmy threads
When the world was half asleep.
Sometimes you are young girls;
Sometimes there are roses in your hair.
But I know you–
Sitting back there in the hollow shadows of your wombs.
The crafty fibers of your souls
Are woven in and out
With the fibers of life.
Glide across the slick mirror of their own smiles
And vanish through lengths of gold and marble drawing rooms.
The marble smiles,
As sensuous as snow;
Hips of the Graces;
Shoulders of Clytie;
Breasts frozen as foam,
Frozen as camelia bloom;
Mounds of marble flesh,
Inexplicable wonder of white....
I dream about statuesque beauties
Who look from the shadows of opera boxes;
Or elegant ladies in novels of eighteen thirty,
At the hunt ball...
Reflections in a polish floor,
A portrait by Renoir,
A Degas dancing girl,
English country houses,
An autumn afternoon in the Bois,
Something I have read of...
In sleep one vision retreating through another,
Like mirrors being doors to other mirrors,
Satin, and lace, and white shoulders,
And elegant ladies,
Being a woman,
Being passive like all final things,
Being a mother,
Gray and melt into her flesh.
Death envies those asleep in her,
Little children who have come back,
Bright for a moment in the darkness,
Extinguished softly in her womb.