Forsaking All Others Part 3

I

THERE was an instant when he might have said
He could not see the lady; but instead
He nodded with a blank, impassive face,
And waited, never moving from his place
Beside the window, till a moment more
And she was there, leaning against the door
Which she had closed. She stood there, silent, staring,
Trembling with fear at her own act of daring,
But not with fear of him. Erect and slim,
White as the daytime moon, she spoke to him.

'I know,' she said, 'that it was not your plan
That we should ever meet: I know a man
Assumes despotic power, assumes his voice
In cases such as ours shall have the choice...

'But is that just, I ask... is that fair play
That you should have the right to throw away,
Crush and destroy and utterly deny
Our joint possession... or rather mine, for I
Value our friendship so much more than you
Appear to...' 'No,' he said, 'That is not true.'

She shook her head. 'Ah, if you thought it rare,
Precious and wonderful, you would not dare
Destroy it by yourself... not even you.'

He answered: 'I not only would. I do.
You speak of friendship. What a silly word,
And as dishonest as I ever heard.
Let us at least be candid, for God's sake,
And speak the truth... what difference does it make?
It is not friendship we are speaking of,
But the first moments of a passionate love....'

'You're wrong,' she cried, 'you're absolutely wrong.
Not everything emotional and strong
Between a man and woman needs must be
Physical love... People like you and me
Are wise enough and old enough to take
This fiery elemental thing and make
Something for every day, serene and cool...
I am not of the all-or-nothing school.'

He smiled. 'We light hell-fires, and you engage
They'll warm our palsied hands in our old age,'
At this she paused, and then she said:'Your tone
Wounds me. I live so terribly alone,
I am perhaps too eager for a friend...
But not a lover. Oh, please comprehend
I want no lovers. Think me vain or not
But I assure you I might have a lot
Of them. But friendship such as you could give -
Wisdom and strength and knowledge how to live
In this harsh world in which I draw my breath
With so much pain... it seems a sort of death
To yield so rich a promise... to forego
Such happiness..,' She heard him laugh. 'You know
All that is nonsense,' 'Nonsense? ' 'All but this.'
And on her willing lips she felt his kiss.

II

'I HAVE a new friend,' thought Lee, 'I have a lover,
Made of steel and fire as a lover ought to be,
And I do not much care if all the world discover
That I adore him madly and that he loves me.

'Everything I do nowadays is pleasant,­
Talking, walking, brushing out my hair­
Oh, isn't it fine a friend, not being even present,
Can give the world a meaning, and common things an air! '

III

O, AGONY infernal
That lovers undergo!
O, secret trysts diurnal
That nobody must know.
O, vigilance eternal
The whole world for a foe.

But Lee and Wayne were clever
And all that springtime through
They met and met, and never
Were noticed so to do.
And no one whatsoever
Suspected them - or knew.

IV

LOVE in a city in spring,
Not so divine a thing
As love the poet dreams­
Meadows and brimming streams,
Yet there is much to say
For love in New York in May­
Parks set in tulip beds,
Yellows and whites and reds,
Japanese plums in flower
And that wisteria bower
Dripping its blossoms sweet
Over a rustic seat
Where tramps and nursemaids meet...

New York in early May
Breaks out in awnings gay;
Daisies and ivy trailing
From every window railing.
And at this time of year
Strange open hacks appear,
Shabby and old and low
Wherein strange couples go
Generally after dark,
Clop-clopping round the park.

And with it all, the loud,
Noisy, indifferent crowd
Offers to lovers shrewd
Infinite solitude.

V

FOUR thousand years ago a great king died,
And there were rites and hymns and long processions,
And he was buried in his pomp and pride,
With all his vast possessions.

Gold beds with lapis-lazuli inlay,
And chairs, and perfume jars of alabaster,
And many slaves were slain, lest they betray
The tomb that held their master.

Lee leant her hand upon his mummy case,
(Opened to show the gold and silver plating) ,
And as Wayne came her look was an embrace:
'Darling, I don't mind waiting.

'I like,' she said, 'to settle in my seat
A moment ere the rising of the curtain,
Waiting for something certain can be sweet...
For something almost certain.'

VI

THEY would meet for luncheon every day
At a small unknown French cafe
Half-way up town and half-way down
With a chef deserving great renown.
And Pierre the waiter would smile and say:
'Bonjour, Monsieur, dame,' and they
Would see by his smile discreet and sly
That he knew exactly the reason why
A couple so proud and rich should come
To eat each day in a squalid slum.
And nothing delighted his Gallic heart
More than to find he could play a part
And protect 'ces amoureux foux d' amour'
And guide their choice through the carte du jour.

VII

BUT most of all Lee loved the hours
When streets filled full of violet mists
And after-glows on taller towers
Prove that the sunset still exists:
And in Wayne's long dark car reclining
They'd cross a bridge, and bye and bye
Turn back to see the city shining
Against a pale blue, star-sewn sky.

VIII

'I KNOW,' she said, 'I am a fool to weep,
I know the time will pass, however black.
Oh, Jim, if I could take a drug, and sleep
And sleep till you come back.

'Do you remember how poor Juliet said:
'Think you that we shall ever meet again? '
And what was poor weak Romeo instead
Of you... a king of men!

'Don't be surprised to find me at the train
With pipes and garlands and a choric dance,
Telling the porters: 'That is J. H. Wayne,
My one supreme romance.' '

So it seemed natural to Lee to speak,
If Wayne were going away for a week.

IX

HE had been gone three days, when wearily strolling about
She stopped and sent him a wire, writing it out
With a pencil chained to a desk: 'This is to say
There are over eighty thousand seconds a day,
Each one of them longer than seconds ought to be
And a personal foe of yours devotedly Lee.'

X

A letter from Ruth - a letter from Lee.
Wayne took them both with his bedroom key.
Every day since he went away
Lee had written him - every day -
How kind, how tender! And yet his wife
Had always written him, all his life,
Since that first Fall day, since that first fond year
When to part was really 'un peu mourir.'
Ruth's letters had come in her small, black writing,
So faithful - and now so unexciting­
A long unbreakable chain whose fetters
Were formed of those little daily letters,
Leading him back to his alien youth,
And his love - his first deep love of Ruth.

Once he had waited, young and lonely,
For those daily letters to come, the only
Solace in absence, terror-smitten,
Thinking, Dear God, if she hasn't written!
When did they change? what day, what hour
Did her letters lose their magical power?
He was the same man, and she the same
Woman - and still her letters came...

A letter from Ruth - a letter from Lee.
Wayne took them both with his bedroom key.
Was it a habit - a memory
Of that deep old love that his heart once nursed?
Who knows?
He opened Ruth's letter first

XI

THE day that Wayne was coming home,
Lee flitted fleet-footed among the throng
Of suburbanites shuffling their feet along
Under the turquoise dome
With the signs of the zodiac all turned wrong.

A blue-capped official, proud and remote,
Was writing unmoved as the crowd increased
Messages brief as those fingers wrote
On the wall at Belshazzar's dreadful feast:
'Train Fifty-One is on time. Train Eleven
On time. Train Nineteen an hour late.'
And then the announcement, big with fate:
'Train Fifteen on Track Forty-Seven.'

And Lee's heart beat with a wild elation,
And she ran like a child in a childish game,
Pushed without pity or grace or shame
Past women and children to take her station
Where she could perfectly see
Down the dark hole where the train would be -
See Wayne as soon as he came.

The passengers came streaming out,
Some with bags and some without,
Some with babies, some with pets,
All about her was greeting,
Kissing and meeting,
Talking and lighting cigarettes.

And when she saw him coming,
His head above the stream,
No miracle so startling,
So magical could seem,
As this - that he was coming ­
A real man, not a dream!

by Alice Duer Miller

Comments (15)

its a cry for all of us to feel. lifting the burden of others is what all of us should have in mind. Great poem.
There is such raw pain in this and Helen Hunt Jackson is the mistress of touching the hearts of all her readers with not only pain but every raw emotion that mankind can feel. 10++++++++++++++++++++++++
A dreamful poem nicely executed. It is nice to be chosen as the poem of the day.
'alone in a crowed place' We rest with faith and hope.
A more engaging dream than this am yet to learn. Lovely stuff.👌10+.
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