Verse > Anthologies > Alfred Kreymborg, ed. > Others for 1919
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Alfred Kreymborg, ed.  Others for 1919.  1920.
 
Masks
By Max Michelson
 
DO birds sing for their mates?
 
My song was for one airy and shining,
Lighter than a butterfly’s wings.
On the way, she would half-turn and listen.
She fluttered solemn, occupied, yet I never knew her airy business.        5
Now that I sing of an earthly woman,
She listens wondering.
 
A HELEN

You looked tired,
For you came from afar,
Perhaps from Greece.        10
 
You may have been walking for ages.
 
You stepped slowly,
As though you carried
Some precious wine.
 
You stayed a moment…        15
Then vanished,
Wondering,
As if you were some one else.
 
GIRLS
I
Your family has moulded you.        20
 
Marks of their tools and fingers
Show about your torse and face.
 
Your cheeks near the mouth
Are half-frozen.
 
Your soul flutters        25
Faintly.
 
II
Your flesh slopes like rose-petals.
Like rose-petals
It holds and drinks in the light.        30
 
Your humid lips
Remember the mother’s milk.
 
Yet there flutters about you a flame—
Maturing you, withering you.
 
III
        35
In the cafeteria the girl moved briskly
In her imitation silk, sashed, hang-how-it-will dress;
Yet knocked constantly against the customs—
In taking her water, her sugar, her catsup.
 
In the street too she walked briskly,        40
The old purse dangling and the old hat moving firmly;
Of a sudden she stopped, looked about, listened—
Struck by the city—shot—like a flying bird.
 
Then she took herself in hand and went on.
 
.. MYRRH ..

Your face called up a lily
        45
Glowing in the dusk,
Your body the dusk-green stalk.
Your lips were parched, imploring…
 
  As if they thirsted for the kiss behind the kiss,
  As if they awaited disappointment.        50
 
PAIN

Her lips lie tired, discarded.
Her eyes are on the alert, as if for some mystic tryst.
Through the white limbs where desire has leaped and pranced
Now runs the invisible fire—
  An offering to some mysterious god.        55
 
A LADY TALKING TO A POET

For a moment you felt nude and shivered.
 
Your social position hung near;
You threw it about you—
A garment frail and lacy.
 
THE TRAITOR

He knew the lady’s half-mocking, half-regretful smile,
        60
Fluttering like one of the sweet-pea petals,
Had been fertilized by the sweat and blood of her husband’s vest-workers.
Yet his eyes resented the intrusion
Of firm matter-of-fact chins of servants.
 
A RICH GENTLEMAN

Your nostrils sniff the air,
        65
Your ears stand alert:
Near you, like wolves in the forest,
Lurk other people’s poverty and suffering;
And though your heart is robust—
Tough, like the cheek of a country girl,        70
You dare not trust it.
 
A PETIT BOURGEOIS

Sharp nails grow out from your fat fingers;
Over your clean-shaven lip glimmers the moustache of a tom-cat.
Your smiles are investments at a hundred per-cent.
 
Yet one has only one life, one mouth, one stomach, and can take only one woman at a time;        75
Also, when you were younger, before you knew,
You foolishly allowed suffering to reach your heart.
So your face sometimes contorts wistfully—
  You use this sanctimoniously to deceive.
 
LA MORT DE PAUL VERLAINE

The few rosy cloud-splotches
        80
In the bluish-white afternoon sky
Shed down ruddy flowers of light—
Big, capriciously shaped lilies and orchids—so thickly
That some, held at the stems, stood as if growing straight from the grass.
Among them he came—short, heavy, a little ragged,        85
With eyes and lips that had laughed much with wine;
Faintly-drunk, as if wine-vapors of the past were hovering in his head;
Blowing his flute and dancing,
Now fast, now slow, and now stopping … listening…
An earth-flower among the light flowers.        90
 
Tired, he dropped down on the grass.
The light-flowers caressed his cheeks and his drowsy eyes with their cloud-like coolness—piling about him.
Did the trees understand?
 
The birds sang
As though it were sunrise.        95
 
DEATH

One comes to me every day—
Gentle, tactful, and of
Admirable dignity.
 
He is friendly though not wheedling,
He wants me to know him.        100
Sometimes he touches my arm,
Or even presses it impulsively.
 
TO A WOMAN ASLEEP IN A STREET-CAR

Woman sleeping in the car—
Strange, aloof and far—
Shall I shake you and tell you        105
      Who you are?
 
Wake up and let us speak—
Till our hearts are bared to the core,
Till we are a man and a woman no more,
Till we are empty like vases that leak,        110
      Till we droop and fall,
      Till we are nothing at all.
 
 
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