I. (Bread and Music)
by Conrad Potter Aiken
Music I heard with you was more than music,
And bread I broke with you was more than bread;
Now that I am without you, all is desolate;
All that was once so beautiful is dead.
Your hands once touched this table and this silver,
And I have seen your fingers hold this glass.
These things do not remember you, belovèd,
And yet your touch upon them will not pass.
For it was in my heart you moved among them,
And blessed them with your hands and with your eyes;
And in my heart they will remember always,--
They knew you once, O beautiful and wise.
My heart has become as hard as a city street,
The horses trample upon it, it sings like iron,
All day long and all night long they beat,
They ring like the hooves of time.
My heart has become as drab as a city park,
The grass is worn with the feet of shameless lovers,
A match is struck, there is kissing in the dark,
The moon comes, pale with sleep.
My heart is torn with the sound of raucous voices,
They shout from the slums, from the streets, from the crowded places,
And tunes from the hurdy-gurdy that coldly rejoices
Shoot arrows into my heart.
Dead Cleopatra lies in a crystal casket,
Wrapped and spiced by the cunningest of hands.
Around her neck they have put a golden necklace,
Her tatbebs, it is said, are worn with sands.
Dead Cleopatra was once revered in Egypt,
Warm-eyed she was, this princess of the South.
Now she is old and dry and faded,
With black bitumen they have sealed up her mouth.
O sweet clean earth, from whom the green blade cometh!
When we are dead, my best belovèd and I,
Close well above us, that we may rest forever,
Sending up grass and blossoms to the sky.
In the noisy street,
Where the sifted sunlight yellows the pallid faces,
Sudden I close my eyes, and on my eyelids
Feel from the far-off sea a cool faint spray,--
A breath on my cheek,
From the tumbling breakers and foam, the hard sand shattered,
Gulls in the high wind whistling, flashing waters,
Smoke from the flashing waters blown on rocks;
--And I know once more,
O dearly belovèd! that all these seas are between us,
Tumult and madness, desolate save for the sea-gulls,
You on the farther shore, and I in this street.