Verse > Anthologies > T. R. Smith, ed. > Poetica Erotica: A Collection of Rare and Curious Amatory Verse
T. R. Smith, comp.  Poetica Erotica: Rare and Curious Amatory Verse.  1921–22.
The Barber
By John Gray (1866–1934)
(From Silverpoints, 1893)

I DREAMED I was a barber; and there went
Beneath my hand, oh! manes extravagant.
Beneath my trembling fingers, many a mask
Of many a pleasant girl. It was my task
To gild their hair, carefully, strand by strand;        5
To paint their eyebrows with a timid hand;
To draw a bodkin, from a vase of kohl,
Through the closed lashes; pencils from a bowl
Of sepia to paint them underneath;
To blow upon their eyes with a soft breath.        10
They lay them back and watched the leaping bands.
The dream grew vague. I moulded with my hands
The mobile breasts, the valley; and the waist
I touched; and pigments reverently placed
Upon their thighs in sapient spots and stains,        15
Beryls and crysolites and diaphanes,
And gems whose hot harsh names are never said.
I was a masseur; and my fingers bled
With wonder as I touched their awful limbs.
Suddenly, in the marble trough, there seems        20
O, last of my pale mistresses, Sweetness!
A twy-lipped scarlet pansy. My caress
Tinges thy steel-gray eyes to violet.
Adown thy body skips the pit-a-pat
Of treatment once heard in a hospital        25
For plagues that fascinate, but half appal.
So, at the sound, the blood of one stood cold.
Thy chaste hair ripened into sudden gold.
The throat, the shoulders, swelled and were uncouth.
The breasts rose up and offered each a mouth.        30
And on the belly pallid blushes crept,
That maddened me, until I laughed and wept.

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