Sunday, February 7, 2010

The Snake in the Garden Considers Daphne

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My less erotic god condemned
my taste for girls less classical
than you, the kind that can't resist
a dazzling advance or trees that stand
for love. Of course I understand
up there it seems to be all light
and prelapsarian elation - but bear
in mind your lower half that gropes
for water, the slender roots you spread
in secret to fascinate the rocks,
while sunlight pries apart your leaves
and flights of birds arouse the air
around you. If only I could run
a brazen hand along this wood
and feel your heart accelerate
beneath it, rising to your lips.
If only you could pick the whitest
petals from the holy orchard
where I patrol the crevices
and slink along my damned gut,
you could arrange them as you wished
and change the ending of our story.
But we're disarmed, and nothing changes
in our natural gardens - we cannot grasp
the word hope, which the ones we've tempted
find always at their fingertips.

At Love's Coming


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Like some weed-tangled forest pool,
Unsunned, forgotten, grey,

So fared my shadowed fate before
Yon came your shining way.

Now, as a Dryad's mirrored face
Alight flush those waters dim,

Your coming floods my waiting life
With beauty to the brim;

And I would shine the wonder back
Till all sad eyes should know

Your sunlight, and all dry lips drink
Of my joy's overflow.

Monday, September 7, 2009

The Balcony

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Mother of memories, mistress of mistresses,
O thou, my pleasure, thou, all my desire,
Thou shalt recall the beauty of caresses,
The charm of evenings by the gentle fire,
Mother of memories, mistress of mistresses!
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The eves illumined by the burning coal,
The balcony where veiled rose-vapour clings--
How soft your breast was then, how sweet your soul!
Ah, and we said imperishable things,
Those eves illumined by the burning coal.
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Lovely the suns were in those twilights warm,
And space profound, and strong life's pulsing flood,
In bending o'er you, queen of every charm,
I thought I breathed the perfume in your blood.
The suns were beauteous in those twilights warm.
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The film of night flowed round and over us,
And my eyes in the dark did your eyes meet;
I drank your breath, ah! sweet and poisonous,
And in my hands fraternal slept your feet--
Night, like a film, flowed round and over us.
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I can recall those happy days forgot,
And see, with head bowed on your knees, my past.
Your languid beauties now would move me not
Did not your gentle heart and body cast
The old spell of those happy days forgot.
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Can vows and perfumes, kisses infinite,
Be reborn from the gulf we cannot sound;
As rise to heaven suns once again made bright
After being plunged in deep seas and profound?
Ah, vows and perfumes, kisses infinite!
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Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Hypatia

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1885
Oil on canvas
Laing Art Gallery
Newcastle upon Tyne

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A Venetian Night

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Come, let us leave the great Piazza's glare,
Out on the Riva, see, the night is fair
With stars and tenderest moonbeams, and the wave
Flows silvering from the far lagoon to lave
The old grey steps beside the little shrine ;
And look, — out in the dark canal there shine
Clusters of rose and orange lights that swing
With some soft-rocking keel ; and hark, they sing
There, throbbing notes that, like these ripples bright,
Seem pulsing from the happy heart of night.
Let us glide to them up that shining way.
"Gondola, Signorina, gondola? " —
Hear the soft syllables. Aye, let us go,
And leave the old world, love, — for you must know
These are the waterways of Fairyland,
And this our fairy bark, — give me your hand,
And lean back on your cushions ; listen now —
The lapping of the wavelets 'neath our bow,
The creak and soft slow plashing of the oar ;
And turn a moment, — on the enchanted shore
Fair dreamland palaces shine snowy white,
Agleam with lamps, whose gold and silvery light
A thousand quivering ripples catch below.
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But now look onward, — we are creeping slow
Into a ring of gondolas, and see
How like a sentient thing, how warily,
Our prow goes feeling, edging in its way;
And there, amid them all, the lantern-ray
Falls on the minstrels' faces and dark hair.
Look round us ere they sing again ; see where
The wet oar wavering fin-like at our side
To hold us steady 'gainst the breeze and tide,
Out of the purple shadow seems to turn
Bright pleats of liquid moonlight ; on each stern
The tall lithe figure of a gondolier
Shows dark against the Riva lights, or clear
Upon the seaward sky ; one strikes a match
Down his oar-handle, how the soft rays catch
The rich warm tints of sunburnt cheek and brow,
The broad sombrero, and his ear-rings ; how
It brings the memory of fierce mid-day skies
Into this tender moonlit paradise.
Around us other lovers lean and lie,
Rocked on the ripples, whispering happily;
On each boat-side the brass sea-horses gleam
Beneath our lamps, and how the high prows seem
Raising their hatchet-faces like a throng
Of strange wise sea-beasts waiting for the song;
Sudden they plunge and leap, for close behind
Our ring a great ship moves, her bulwarks lined
With shadowy, watching forms ; she goes to find
The wide sea and her work. But hush, they sing —
" Santa Lucia ! " — the rich voices ring,
Again with that same pulse, it seems to be,
That makes the moonlit tide run ripplingly,
And sets the stars a-quiver in the sky.
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Now let us go, but we will linger nigh
And learn the whole sweet magic of the hour :
Drooping above us Night's great purple flower
Seems trembling with a thousand dew-drops bright,
Unseen beneath the rosy lantern-light ;
And one must leave that merry lilt to hear
This deeper song of breeze and tide come clear;
Must leave the little, laughing ring to be
Nearer the great arc of humanity.
The silent palaces and temples stand
Dreaming the ancient glories of their land,
With snowy marble stairways leading wide
Down to their image in the whispering tide.
But let us steal out to the dim lagoon,
Past the Guidecca anchorage, — how the moon
Shines strangely on that orange fisher-sail,
Softening the glowing hues the gleam falls pale,
Like silvery tissue o'er a shield of gold.
Now, by moon-magic, fold on ghostly fold
The brooding night is veiled in mystery;
And now the faint breeze brings a scent of sea,
The breath of freedom ; and the soul awakes,
And stealing to her own domain, she shakes
Her earthly bonds aside ; a little space
She seemeth free, a little, blessed grace
In hers, untroubled as this tender light,
In the Nirvana of the dream-filled night.
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Saturday, August 29, 2009

Postlude

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Now that I have cooled to you
Let there be gold of tarnished masonry,
Temples soothed by the sun to ruin
That sleep utterly.
Give me hand for the dances,
Ripples at Philae, in and out,
And lips, my Lesbian,
Wall flowers that once were flame.
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Your hair is my Carthage
And my arms the bow,
And our words arrows
To shoot the stars
Who from that misty sea
Swarm to destroy us.
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But you there beside me—
Oh, how shall I defy you,
Who wound me in the night
With breasts shining
Like Venus and like Mars?
The night that is shouting Jason
When the loud eaves rattle
As with waves above me
Blue at the prow of my desire.
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Love in the Afternoon

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It was very hot. The day had gone just past its noon.
I'd stretched out on a couch to take a nap.
One of the window-shutters was open, one was closed.
The light was like you'd see deep in the woods,
or like the glow of dusk when Phoebus leaves the sky,
or when night pales, and day has not yet dawned,
- a perfect light for girls with too much modesty,
where anxious Shame can hope to hide away.
When, look! here comes Corinna in a loose ungirded gown,
her parted hair framing her gleaming throat,
like lovely Semiramis entering her boudoir,
or fabled Lais, loved by many men.
I tore her gown off - not that it mattered, being so sheer,
and yet she fought to keep that sheer gown on;
but since she fought with no great wish for victory,
she lost, betraying herself to the enemy.
And as she stood before me, her garment all thrown off,
I saw a body perfect in every inch:
What shoulders, what fine arms I looked on - and embraced!
What lovely breasts, begging to be caressed!
How smooth and flat a belly under a compact waist!
And the side view - what a long and youthful thigh!
But why go into details? Each point deserved its praise.
I clasped her naked body close to mine.
You can fill in the rest. We both lay there, worn out.
May all my afternoons turn out this well.
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Friday, August 21, 2009