Hail, Poetry

Hail, Poetry

Speaking of the human condition:

MARIA PERIPATETICA

 

Sad, painted flower, cast unwist

Into Life’s lap; poor face that Fate

Has mocked at, drunk to, smitten, kissed.

Until I read the rune thereof

With more in it to love than hate,

With more to pity than to love:

 

What nights were thine! What morns had they

Whose sleep was incense, vital, rare,

Burned into ashes by the day

Before thy desecrated shrine!

Thy barren bosom freed their care,

Because its milk was bitter wine.

 

Of all who loved and let thee go.

Is there not one whose lips impressed

Their stamp upon thy memory so —

Or dark or fair, or black or white —

His eyes outsparkle all the rest.

The casual Antonies of night?

 

 

Of all the mouths thy mouth hath drained,

Of all the bodies thine hath sought

And clung to, mad, desired, disdained,

In that long catalogue of dole.

Is there not one that something taught,

His soul embracing thy lost soul?

 

That fair first lover on whose head

Thy maiden shame and passion place —

Living and loving, or purged and dead —

So rich a crown of memory

That to thine inner heart his face

A sinning saint’s seems: is it he?

 

Or is it some poor drunken fool.

Wiser than thou — God save the mark! —

In that salacious, brutal school

Where beasts, as thou and I are, sweat

Over the Lessons of the Dark,

Whom thou recall’st with dear regret?

 

Perhaps some country lad, who came

Fresh from his home to town and thee.

Is closest — his the charmed name —

Who with the parting tears fresh shed

And all his sweet virginity

Thy sacramental table spread?

 

My canker-eaten rose, what then?

My scape-goat of an out-worn code,

“All things,” said Paul, “unto all men” —

So thou, who with the setting sun

Farest nightly on the endless road.

To all men mistress, wife to none

 

But mine tonight, though not to kiss I

I lay my head upon that breast

Whose scar our sisters’ safety is.

And, from our darkest misery,

To beg thy mercy is my quest.

Lest that we perish utterly.

 

Forgive our women’s scornful glance.

Our poor, pale, pure maidens decorous.

Virgins by purse and circumstance;

Forgive the tiger tusk and claw;

Forgive the law that made thee thus; —

Forgive the God that made the law.

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