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.
A Dead Woman
By Vance Thompson (1863–1925)

OPEN swing the doors; the torches
  Bicker in the windy night—
Cast strange shadows in the porches,
  Down dim alleys in the night.
Come away now—dust and ashes        5
  Dust to dust and clay to clay
Stormily the organ crashes
  Dust and ashes—come away.
High the wind snarls and the torches,
  Flaring down the blackening night,        10
Toss grim shadows in the porches
  And dim alleys in the night.
Men looked at you; saw the woman,
Just the eyes and limbs and common
Charm—odor di femmina—that        15
Draws us all. And only saw that.
One man cared not much for seeming—
Animal red lips and dreaming,
Helpless eyes; great limbs; the value
Of the flesh you wore to pall you,        20
All that palpitant, sweet vesture—
Caring not for these, he pressed your
Body in the rack, to tear it
Open, till he saw the spirit,
Soul of you, its shame or merit.        25
First he took your body, woman,
Stained it, smirched it, made it common,
Scarred it with strange loves, flagitious.
Gored it raw with lust; set vicious
Things to heat the eyes; lubricious,        30
Unclean things to smirk and chatter
In the ears lewd, Paphian matter.
So he made you foul; and eager
Then to see how fared the meagre,
Warped, black, ulcered soul, he started        35
The great rack wheels. Snapped and parted
All the strings of the flesh raiment
He had fouled. The man for payment
Saw white wings flash as your soul went,
White, white, white, to God’s enrollment.        40
They buried you to-night.
He saw the yellow torches blown alight,
Heard the organ’s thunder.
  He went away into the confused night,
Full of wonder.        45

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