Verse > Anthologies > Harriet Monroe, ed. > Poetry: A Magazine of Verse, 1912–22
Harriet Monroe, ed. (1860–1936).  Poetry: A Magazine of Verse.  1912–22.
By Conrad Aiken
MUSIC I heard with you was more than music,
And bread I broke with you was more than bread.
Now that I am without you, all is desolate,
All that was once so beautiful is dead.
Your hands once touched this table and this silver,        5
And I have seen your fingers hold this glass.
These things do not remember you, beloved:
And yet your touch upon them will not pass.
For it was in my heart you moved among them,
And blessed them with your hands and with your eyes.        10
And in my heart they will remember always:
They knew you once, O beautiful and wise!
My heart has become as hard as a city street:
The horses trample upon it, it sings like iron;
All day long and all night long they beat—        15
They ring like the hoofs of time.
My heart has become as drab as a city park:
The grass is worn with the feet of shameless lovers,
A match is struck, there is kissing in the dark,
The moon comes, pale with sleep.        20
My heart is torn with the sound of raucous voices,
They shout from the slums, from the streets, from the crowded places;
And tunes from a hurdy-gurdy that coldly rejoices
Shoot arrows into my heart …
O my belovèd, sleeping so far from me,        25
Walking alone in sunlight, or in blue moonlight,
Are you alive there, far across that sea?—
Or were you only a dream?
Vermilioned mouth, tired with many kisses,
Eyes, that have lighted for so many eyes,        30
Are you not wearied yet with countless lovers,
Desirous now to take even me for prize?
Draw not my glance, nor set my sick heart beating,
Body so stripped, for all your silks and lace!
Do not reach out pale hands to me, seductive,        35
Nor slant sly eyes, O subtly smiling face!
For I am drawn to you, like wind I follow,
Like a warm amorous wind; though I desire
Even in dream to keep one face before me—
One face like fire, and holier than fire.
.  .  .  .  .  .  .  .
I walk beneath these trees, and in this darkness
Muse beyond seas of her from whom I came,
While you, with cat-like step, steal close beside me,
Spreading your perfume round me like soft flame.
Ah! should I once stoop face and forehead to you,        45
Into and through your sweetness, a night like this,
In the lime-blossomed darkness feel your bosom,
Warm and so soft, and find your lips to kiss,
And tear at your strange flesh with crazy fingers,
And drink with mouth gone mad your eyes’ wild wine,        50
And cleave to you, body with breathless body,
Till bestial were exalted to divine—
Would I again, O lamia silked and scented,
Out of the slumberous magic of your eyes,
And your narcotic perfume, soft and febrile,        55
Have the romantic hardihood to rise,
And set my heart across great seas of distance
With love unsullied for her from whom I came?…
With cat-like step you steal beside me, past me,
Leaving your perfume round me like soft flame.        60
Dead Cleopatra lies in a crystal casket,
Wrapped and spiced by the cunningest of hands.
Around her neck they have put a golden necklace,
Her tatbebs, it is said, are worn with sands.
Dead Cleopatra was once revered in Egypt—        65
Warm-eyed she was, this princess of the south.
Now she is very old and dry and faded,
With black bitumen they have sealed up her mouth.
Grave-robbers pulled the gold rings from her fingers,
Despite the holy symbols across her breast;        70
They scared the bats that quietly whirled above her.
Poor lady! she would have been long since at rest
If she had not been wrapped and spiced so shrewdly,
Preserved, obscene, to mock black flights of years.
What would her lover have said, had he foreseen it?        75
Had he been moved to ecstasy, or tears?
O sweet clean earth from whom the green blade cometh!—
When we are dead, my best-beloved and I,
Close well above us that we may rest forever,
Sending up grass and blossoms to the sky.        80
In the noisy street,
Where the sifted sunlight yellows the pallid faces,
Sudden I close my eyes, and on my eyelids
Feel from the far-off sea a cool faint spray,
A breath on my cheek,        85
From the tumbling breakers and foam, the hard sand shattered;
Gulls in the high wind whistling, flashing waters,
Smoke from the flashing waters blown on rocks.
And I know once more,
O dearly belovèd, that all these seas are between us—        90
Tumult and madness, desolate save for the sea-gulls;
You on the farther shore, and I in this street.

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