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.
 
Black Prayers
By Mary Austin
 
From “High Places”

THERE is a woman
Has taken my man from me!
 
How was I to know,
When I gave him my soul to drink
In the moon of Corn-planting        5
When the leaves of the oak
Are furred like a mouse’s ear,
When the moon curled like a prayer plume
In the green streak over Tuyonyi?
 
When I poured my soul to his        10
In the midst of my body’s trembling,
How was I to know
That the soul of a woman was no more to him
Than sweet sap dripping
From a bough wind-broken?        15
 
If I had known
I could have kept my soul from him
Even though I kept not my body.
 
That woman, with her side-looking eyes!
Whatever she takes from him,        20
It is my soul she is taking.
Waking sharply at night,
I can feel my life pulled from me,
Like water in an unbaked olla.
Then I know he is with her,        25
She is drinking from his lips
The soul I gave him.
 
    Therefore I make black prayers for her
    With this raven’s feather,
    With owl feathers edged with silence,        30
    That all her days may be night-haunted.
    Let blackness come upon her
    The downward road
    Toward Sippapu;
    Let her walk in the shadow of silence!        35
 
Would I had kept my soul
Though I gave my body!
Better the sly laugh and the pointed finger
Than this perpetual gnawing of my soul
By a light woman.        40
 
Now I know why these women are so fair—
They are fed on the hearts of better women,
Who would not take another’s man
Knowing there is no untying
The knot of free-given affection;        45
 
    Let darkness come upon her!
    Let her feet stumble
    Into the Black Lake of Tears!
    Let her soul drown,
    Let those above not hear her!        50
    By the black raven’s plume,
    By the owl’s feather!
 
 
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