Verse > Anthologies > Alfred Kreymborg, ed. > Others for 1919
Alfred Kreymborg, ed.  Others for 1919.  1920.
By H. L. Davis

WE rode hard, and brought the cattle from brushy springs,
From heavy dying thickets, leaves wet as snow;
From high places, white-grassed, and dry in the wind;
Draws where the quaken-asps were yellow and white,
And the leaves spun and spun like money spinning.        5
We poured them onto the trail, and rode for town.
Men in the fields leaned forward in the wind,
Stood in the stubble and watched the cattle passing.
The wind bowed all, the stubble shook like a shirt.
We threw the reins by the yellow and black fields, and rode,        10
And came, riding together, into the town
Which is by the grey bridge, where the alders are.
The white-barked alder trees dropping big leaves
Yellow and black, into the cold black water.
Children, little cold boys, watched after us—        15
The freezing wind flapped their clothes like windmill paddles.
Down the flat frosty road we crowded the herd:
High stepped the horses for us, proud riders in autumn.

Look up, you loose-haired women in the field,
From work, and thoughtless picking at the ground.        20
Cease for a little: pay me a little heed.
It is early: the red leaves of the blackberry vines
Are hoar with frosty dew, the ground’s still wet,
There is vapor over toward the summer fallow.
And you three make a garden, being put by—        25
Since you are too old for love you make a garden?
It is love with me, and not these dark red frosty leaves
The vines of which you root for garden-space.
You will be concerned, you three used up and set by:
I could speak of the red vines, of pastures, of young trees;        30
And you would dibble at love as you do the vine-roots.
It is early, but before your backs be warmed,
And before all this dew be cleared and shed,
I shall be half among your hearts with speech:
Love, and my sorrow, the disastrous passages,        35
So that you’ll cease all gardening, dangle dark red
Vines in your hands not knowing it, and whisper.
They forget me for a little pride of old time.

One cherry tree beside the house in this low field
Is yellow and bright-colored now. Several weeds        40
Are full of brown seed, and the ground is drying out hard.
What is not picked, now, in the garden, will never be picked.
In this fall, by this garden of grey stems and seeds
I sit in what dusty grass is left, and words
Come in groups, like floss upon the pale green water.        45
They concern the gypsy girl, fat with child, and sickly
Complexioned, who, I think, made me offers.
            Her long black hair
And yellow face above the pale green water at nightfall.
The gypsy girl was sallow, as if with nightfall,        50
Paler looking because of the necklace of red beads,
And because of her rings and bracelets of heavy silver.
There was a silk scarf, green and yellow, upon her hair,
Her most dark and heavy hair, bound at the back in small
Silver bands, all heavy; and light-colored and green silk        55
Was her bright dress, which was stretched with her young one
So that its pattern shaped into big ungodly flowers.
She came through the short willows; she came beside me
Smiling as if a crowd were watching her from the weeds.
“What is not picked, now, in the garden, will never be picked,”        60
I say, before this garden.
            I felt her child’s heart beating,
And, for thinking of that heart and of her lover,
The “Come, there is some good place near,” and the feel of her hand,
I would not answer. This which might have dispersed        65
The many girls who have appeared to me sleeping,
I would not consent to.
            It was that. I say to the sand,
Nevertheless, as if to one person: “Dear love, departed,
Can some season not freshen us? I am disheartened;        70
Are there many like the dark girl? are there many like me?”
But what is not picked now in the garden will never be picked.

In the early spring, the fattening young weeds
Appear, all green, their veins stretched, amongst their dead.
And every sand-hill, with its bundle of willow        75
And young green riding the sand, is my pleasant walk.
The river, every rock there, and the wind
Molding cold waves, have seen a spirit by day
Which I would see; and now that my heart’s a poor hired one
Which owns no favor or love, but did awhile,        80
I walk my pleasant walks. Where the new dark red
Willows feather in sand against the sky,
I make out a spirit sitting by the new grass:
The sun shines yellow on the hair, and a wind blows
That would melt snow, but her face calls it on.        85
And her hands are quiet in her red sleeves all day.
“All my pleasure begins when you come to this place.”
“I am sorry for it, spirit, yet I most wished it;
Has my heart commanding shamed me to your eyes?”
“Never in life shall these eyes see you shamed.        90
I half live, like a stalk, but no girl orders me.”

My step-grandfather sat during the noon spell
Against the wild crabapple tree, by the vines.
Flies about the high hot fern played, or fell
To his beard, or upon the big vein of his hand.        95
With their playing he seemed helpless and old, in a land
Where new stumps, piles of green brush, fresh-burnt pines,
Were young and stubborn. He mentioned the old times
As if he thought of this: “I have marched, and run
Over the old hills, old plowed land, with my gun        100
Bumping furrows—oh, years old. But in this new place
There is nothing I know. I ride a strange colt.”
“You know old times, and have seen some big man’s face:
Out of the old times, what do you remember most?”
“General Lee. Once they called us out in a cold        105
Plowed field, to parade for him. He was old with frost.
I remember our style of dress; my dead friends last long,
(I would have thought longer); and there were peaked women
Who watched us march, and joked with us as they were trimming
The green shoots of wild roses to eat. But these with me        110
Lack what the other has—they are not so strong.
And lost battles?—I would be prouder starving in rain
And beaten and running every day, with General Lee,
Than fat and warm, winning under another man.”
Alone presently, I laid myself face down        115
To avoid seeing the field; and thought of how the book
Describes Esther; and imagined how that queen might look,
Preferred for beauty, in her old fields red and brown.
“I am like my step-grandfather,” I thought, “and could
Follow whatever I love, blind and bold;        120
Or go hungry and in great shame, and, for a cause, be proud.”
And I came to work, sad to see him so old.

Honey in the horn! I brought my horse from the water
And from the white grove of tall alders over the spring,
And brought him past a row of high hollyhocks        125
Which flew and tore their flowers thin as his mane.
And women there watched, with hair blown over their mouths;
Yet in watching the oat field they were quiet as the spring.
“Are the hollyhocks full bloomed? It is harvest then.
The hay falls like sand falling in a high wind        130
When the weeds blow and fly—but steady the sand falls.
It is harvest, harvest, and honey in the horn.
I would like to go out, in a few days, through the stubble field,
And to all the springs—yours too we have known for years—
And to the bearing vines, and clean the berries from them.”        135
Call, women!—why do you stand if not for your pride’s sake?
But the women would neither call to me nor speak,
Nor to any man not mowing during their harvest.
They watched with their hair blowing, near the stalks,
In the row of red hollyhocks.
            Quiet as the spring.
What is by the spring? A bird, and a few old leaves.

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