Verse > Anthologies > Harriet Monroe, ed. > Poetry: A Magazine of Verse, 1912–22
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Harriet Monroe, ed. (1860–1936).  Poetry: A Magazine of Verse.  1912–22.
 
Melody in a Restaurant
By Conrad Aiken
 
From “Many Evenings”

THE CIGARETTE smoke loops and slides above us,
Dipping and swirling as the waiter passes.
You strike a match and stare upon the flame.
The tiny firelight leaps in your eyes a moment
And dies away as silently as it came.        5
 
This melody, you say, has certain voices—
They rise like nereids from a river, singing,
Lift white faces, and dive to darkness again.
Wherever you go you bear this river with you:
A leaf falls, and it flows, and you have pain.        10
 
So says the tune to you—but what to me?
What to the waiter, as he pours your coffee?
The violinist who suavely draws his bow?
That man, who folds his paper, overhears it.
A thousand dreams revolve and fall and flow.        15
 
Someone there is who sees a virgin stepping
Down marble stairs to a deep tomb of roses:
At the last moment she lifts remembering eyes.
Green leaves blow down; the place is checked with shadows;
A long-drawn murmur of rain goes down the skies.        20
And oaks are stripped and bare, and smoke with lightning;
And clouds are blown and torn upon high forests;
And the great sea shakes its walls.
And then falls silence….. And through long silence falls
This melody once more:        25
Down endless stairs she goes, as once before.
 
So says the tune to him—but what to me?
What are the worlds I see?
What shapes fantastic, terrible dreams?
I go my secret way, down secret alleys.        30
My errand is not so simple as it seems.
 
 
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