Spirits can be so needy. The Ogdens think that just because I grace their little graveyard with my presence and allow them to feed me that I owe them some sort of contribution. Let me make one thing clear right now: I am not doing this for them. I choose to post on this blog because I know that you, lovely reader, are being subjected to their slobbering, sentimental sap-fest and I’d like to offer a respite. Being of the feline persuasion, I move effortlessly between the living and the dead, and am superior to them all. I trust that, in spite of your insistence on reading the tripe on this site, you are a discerning reader. I trust your taste…even if you are human. That is why I, Countess Wednesday, am sharing with you some of my favorite poems. Enjoy with the lights low.
The Ladies who Look for Lice
When the child’s forehead, red and full of pain,
Dreams of ease in the streaming of white veils,
To the side of his bed two lovely sisters come
With delicate fingers and long silvery nails.
They take the child with them to an immense
Window, where blue air bathes a flowery grove,
And through his heavy hair, as the dew descends,
Their terrible, enchanting fingers probe.
He listens to their fearful slow breath vibrate,
Flowering with honey and the hue of roses,
Broken now and then with whispers, saliva
Licked back on their lips, a longing for kisses.
He hears their lashes beat the still, sweet air;
Their soft electric fingers never tire–
Through his gray swoon, a crackling in his hair–
Beneath their royal nails the little lice expire.
Within him then surges the wine of Idleness,
Like the sweet deluding harmonica’s sigh;
And the child can feel, beneath their slow caresses,
Rising, falling, an endless desire to cry.
Against the stone breakwater,
Only an ominous lapping,
While the wind whines overhead,
Coming down from the mountain,
Whistling between the arbors, the winding terraces;
A thin whine of wires, a rattling and flapping of leaves,
And the small street-lamp swinging and slamming against
the lamp pole.
Where have the people gone?
There is one light on the mountain.
Along the sea-wall, a steady sloshing of the swell,
The waves not yet high, but even,
Coming closer and closer upon each other;
A fine fume of rain driving in from the sea,
Riddling the sand, like a wide spray of buckshot,
The wind from the sea and the wind from the mountain contending,
Flicking the foam from the whitecaps straight upward into the darkness.
A time to go home!–
And a child’s dirty shift billows upward out of an alley,
A cat runs from the wind as we do,
Between the whitening trees, up Santa Lucia,
Where the heavy door unlocks,
And our breath comes more easy–
Then a crack of thunder, and the black rain runs over us, over
The flat-roofed houses, coming down in gusts, beating
The walls, the slatted windows, driving
The last watcher indoors, moving the cardplayers closer
To their cards, their anisette.
We creep to our bed, and its straw mattress.
We wait; we listen.
The storm lulls off, then redoubles,
Bending the trees half-way down to the ground,
Shaking loose the last wizened oranges in the orchard,
Flattening the limber carnations.
A spider eases himself down from a swaying light-bulb,
Running over the coverlet, down under the iron bedstead.
Water roars into the cistern.
We lie closer on the gritty pillow,
Breathing heavily, hoping–
For the great last leap of the wave over the breakwater,
The flat boom on the beach of the towering sea-swell,
The sudden shudder as the jutting sea-cliff collapses,
And the hurricane drives the dead straw into the living pine-tree.
The Darkling Thrush
I leant upon a coppice gate
When Frost was spectre-grey,
And Winter’s dregs made desolate
The weakening eye of day.
The tangled bine-stems scored the sky
Like strings of broken lyres,
And all mankind that haunted nigh
Had sought their household fires.
The land’s sharp features seemed to be
The Century’s corpse outleant,
His crypt the cloudy canopy,
The wind his death-lament.
The ancient pulse of germ and birth
Was shrunken hard and dry,
And every spirit upon earth
Seemed fervourless as I.
At once a voice arose among
The bleak twigs overhead
In a full-hearted evensong
Of joy illimited;
An aged thrush, frail, gaunt, and small,
In blast-beruffled plume,
Had chosen thus to fling his soul
Upon the growing gloom.
So little cause for carolings
Of such ecstatic sound
Was written on terrestrial things
Afar or nigh around,
That I could think there trembled through
His happy good-night air
Some blessed Hope, whereof he knew
And I was unaware.