Verse > Anthologies > Harriet Monroe, ed. > Poetry: A Magazine of Verse, 1912–22
Harriet Monroe, ed. (1860–1936).  Poetry: A Magazine of Verse.  1912–22.
Cave Talk
By Joseph Warren Beach
From “Dry Points”

WHAT are you doing there by the shore?
  —I’m pushing out my boat.
I mean to follow the sun across
  To islands far remote.
It may be I shall find a land        5
  Where fruits and spices grow;
Fairer women, stronger men,
  And mountains topped with snow.
—Nay, go not forth across the wave,
  Where ghosts and monsters be.        10
What fairer folk can heart desire
  Than my sweet cubs and me?
And who shall bring us fish and flesh
  When you are gone away?
Come, spread the net and string the bow—        15
  But fare not far astray!
What are you scratching there on the rock?
  —I’m carving pictures here—
Feathered bird and otter furred,
  To bide for many a year.        20
When a thousand moons have waxed and waned
  And I am dust and smoke,
Men shall behold my handiwork
  And praise the master-stroke.
—O sluggard, leave your idle ways—        25
  Behold our bitter dearth!
We shiver in the frosty wind
  And couch upon the earth.
Go, strip the otter and her cubs
  For coats and kirtles fine,        30
And pluck the feathered bird to strew
  A bed for me and mine.
What are you doing out in the dark?
  —I count the stars in the sky,
And wonder if they are the souls        35
  Of such as you and I;
And if the bear and the lean gray wolf
  Have souls like yours and mine,
That go to feed the milky way
  Or make the great stars shine.        40
—O dreamer, what are the stars to you
  And the souls of wolf and bear?
The gray wolf prowls about the rock
  And sniffs upon the air;
His eyes are shining in the dark        45
  Like stars above the sea!
Build high the fire before the cave
  To guard my cubs and me.
What do you see that stare so hard?
  —A face all smooth and white,        50
And breasts and shoulders smooth and round
  And soft in the flickering light.
I muse how wondrous women are
  And how unlike to men …
I saw white arms in the sea at dawn …        55
  Long since … and never again …
—You love me not, O stranger man,
  Who talk of women and men,
Of white arms in the sea at dawn …
  You love me never again!        60
You sit and dream the while I wait—
  And the little ones all asleep …
Oh, if you love me a little, man,
  Kiss me … or I shall weep!

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