Saturday Poet: Louise Bogan
Years later, loves later, these speak to me.
Epitaph for a Romantic Woman
She has attained the permanence
She dreamed of, where old stones lie sunning.
Untended stalks blow over her
Even and swift, like young men running.
Always in the heart she loved
Others had lived,—she heard their laughter.
She lies where none has lain before,
Where certainly none will follow after.
This youth too long has heard the break
Of waters in a land of change.
He goes to see what suns can make
From soil more indurate and strange.
He cuts what holds his days together
And shuts him in, as lock on lock:
The arrowed vane announcing weather,
The tripping racket of a clock;
Seeking, I think, a light that waits
Still as a lamp upon a shelf, —
A land with hills like rocky gates
Where no sea leaps upon itself.
But he will find that nothing dares
To be enduring, save where, south
Of hidden deserts, torn fire glares
On beauty with a rusted mouth, —
Where something dreadful and another
Look quietly upon each other.
I do not know where either of us can turn
Just at first, waking from the sleep of each other.
I do not know how we can bear
The river struck by the gold plummet of the moon,
Or many trees shaken together in the darkness.
We shall wish not to be alone
And that love were not dispersed and set free—
Though you defeat me,
And I be heavy upon you.
But like earth heaped over the heart
Is love grown perfect.
Like a shell over the beat of life
Is love perfect to the last.
So let it be the same
Whether we turn to the dark or to the kiss of another;
Let us know this for leavetaking,
That I may not be heavy upon you,
That you may blind me no more.
Song for the Last Act
Now that I have your face by heart, I look
Less at its features than its darkening frame
Where quince and melon, yellow as young flame,
Lie with quilled dahlias and the shepherd’s crook.
Beyond, a garden. There, in insolent ease
The lead and marble figures watch the show
Of yet another summer loath to go
Although the scythes hang in the apple trees.
Now that I have your face by heart, I look.
Now that I have your voice by heart, I read
In the black chords upon a dulling page
Music that is not meant for music’s cage,
Whose emblems mix with words that shake and bleed.
The staves are shuttled over with a stark
Unprinted silence. In a double dream
I must spell out the storm, the running stream.
The beat’s too swift. The notes shift in the dark.
Now that I have your voice by heart, I read.
Now that I have your heart by heart, I see
The wharves with their great ships and architraves;
The rigging and the cargo and the slaves
On a strange beach under a broken sky.
O not departure, but a voyage done!
The bales stand on the stone; the anchor weeps
Its red rust downward, and the long vine creeps
Beside the salt herb, in the lengthening sun.
Now that I have your heart by heart, I see.