Wednesday, 3 October 2012

A Classical Regularity.

We sat there under a hemlock tree,
The years in her but not in me;
And as the evening came on,
Extinguishing her light parasol kimono
Which draped her full-moon knees,
She talked more intimately, more
Succinctly to me, talked as though
She knew there were no need
For conversation between her and me.
And my eyes wandered less over the inconsequential lady-slippers;
For then, as the cemetery night wind
Motored through the small-town gossiping leaves,
Nestled in a wisp of new-mown hay,
And sang in a stunted Majolica tree,
I needed her, and she needed me.
She talked more intimately, more
Tersely to me, for the night
Dispelled the years,
The dry-boned years,
The memorial tears,
The inutility,
That lay between her and me.

"In four years my husband has been
Married twice," she said; "he was
Very brilliant, very progressive, but then..."

And looking for extinct lady-slippers,
I complete her sentence,
And quite aptly,
Not thinking of her
But of me,
"What is that to me!"

"And my daughter is nineteen; but she
Is different, quite different from me.
My boy, fourteen, decided and voluptuous,
My little girl, I don't know what she'll be."
(What we'll all be!)

Then I moved more closely,
Placing my hand over her August-moon knee,
But she continued to talk less succinctly,
Less intimately, to me:
"You see, my dear, you have not lived
In a civilized world, you
Do not know what it means to have
You do not realize...
I do not want this modern mess,
If I may use a literary expression.
I have dusted in the sitting-room,
Struggled with the cut-glass
And the silver-ware,
Sweet-smelling the kitchen with golden-broom--
All, my dear, for a classical,
A classical regularity."

"All for a photograph-album,
All for a colonial-parlor
But her years were weighing down on me--
It was inutile to say it
Either to her or to me.

The evening wind motored through the village leaves,
Nestled in a wisp of her dew-wet hair,
Nestled between her and the Majolica tree,
Sang strangely and sweetly to her,
But was mute to me.
The moon hung low,
As though suspended
On a trolley-wire,
And glittered over the baroque-roses
And the golden-broom
Beyond the garden-bed;
The irises, the larkspur, the sweet-peas,
Were a still lyre,
And lay extinguished in the darkness,
In the family-tree garden bed--
As in a sculptor's room
When the moon slits through no windows.

In the morning her face was a broken oval
In the raw light,
A white-slab broken oval around the mouth
Whose myriad lines were epitaph inscriptions
Which revealed not rain-fresh sadness
But a long-sustained drouth.
The evening was less cruel to her,
For in the day the years were more
In her than in me.
We said goodbye to one another,
A courteous parched farewell.

- Edward Dahlberg (1931).

Picture: "Private Discussion" by Felix Vallotton (1898)

No comments:

Post a Comment