Love Song, Revisited
Walking outside in the night,
while the mist envelopes fences, house and hill,
like the wind that holds a ship with furling sails.
Walking outside, treading dampened, cracked cement,
not trying to invent
a reason for this late-night stroll,
and roads that do not have to take a toll;
it's just two people walking,
clasping hand in elbow, thigh to thigh, that's all.
We will not talk about tomorrow,
or of futures we may borrow,
you will not look at me and sigh.
In the house the furnace clicks and blows,
warming air in subtle tropic flows...
The gleaming bulb that sends its beam behind the window glass;
the brightened light that presses warm against the window glass;
curled its paws around the edges of the darkness;
rested on the leaves that lie in sweeps,
made fast its teeth around the silky wind,
lipped through the feathered hedges, held a breathy bite--
and sliding off without a single sound,
left its sleeping place and slipped into the night.
Surely then there is a place
for the brightened light that filters through the glass,
beaming lightly through the hedges.
There is a place, there is a place
to make a self that fits the selves you will embrace;
there will be space to vent and reinvent,
and space for all the changes you would make
that haunt and dog the footsteps you have spent.
Space for you and space for me,
and for a thousand changes and exchanges
until the toasting of the bread and cheese.
In the house the furnace clicks and blows
warming air in subtle tropic flows...
And of course we will have space
to daydream, "Will I love?" and "Will I love?"
Space to move on and ascend the step,
with a slight run in the stocking on my thigh;
(None will say: "How her legs are getting thick!")
The wedding-gown, the sumptuous veiling covering my face,
the satin, subtle, costly, broadcasting virginity in lace;
(None will say: "She has such dignity and grace!")
Am I sure
this is a fine idea?
At the altar there is space,
for tensions and intentions that a moment will efface.
And I have seen these things already, seen these things.
Have seen the greetings, goodbyes, how-are-yous,
I have won the right to say I never lose.
I hear the revels rising with a rising ring
atop a hillock where the music plays--
and are these still my days?
And I have heard the conversations, heard them all;
The words that stop you in a thoughtless sentiment.
And once I am unthinking, fixed upon a nail;
once I am stuck and struggling in a case,
then how can I but fail
to breathe in all the ashes of my blazed intent?
And are these still my days?
And I have seen the hands already, seen them all.
Hands that are purposeful and brown and strong,
(but in the candles, pale against my gown!)
Was it hands growing colder
that turned me then bolder?
Hands that rest upon a chair-back, or wind around a glass.
And if these are my days,
Then how can I but fail?
Should I tell, I have walked at night in alleys dark,
and seen the mist that swirls off the ground,
Round sleepy women in nightdress, breathing in the even’.
I could have been a set of wispy wings,
feath'ring along the dark expanding skies...
And the morning, the noontime, lies so quietly;
ruffed by breeze wending.
Dozing...drowsy...or just pretending;
curled on the couch not far away from us.
Will I, after vodka, peppermint and ice,
Steel my nerve and make the needful sacrifice?
And since I have cried and wakened, cried and slept,
though I have known my thighs (grown palely thick) placed covered on the alter,
I am no maiden and I shall not falter.
I have known the minute I found myself undone,
and I have heard the huntress Diana, swooned with boredom, yawn.
Truthfully, I nearly wept.
And it would have been well- played, not to hear:
leave the glasses, peppermint and tongs,
with the table cleared, discussing what could come to be.
To shake my head and smile it to dying;
to nod my head not thinking that I'm lying.
Designing a feminine padded-satin bier.
Offering distracting tales and fascination,
to say, "I'm Persephone, just now returned,
listen to what I fear, listen to my fear."
If he, leaning in his chair, face turned
away says, "I do not understand you dear.
What do you mean, my dear?"
And it would have been well- played, not to hear.
It would have been well-planned,
after the sunrise and the gardens and the cobblestones;
after the poems, after the highballs, after the shoes that scrape the muddy mat.
Or even before that?
I’d speak my mind without a hesitating breath !
But as if I stilled my voice, grieving quiet love’s untimely death;
it would have well-played;
if he, leaning far back, shooting his cuffs and sounding bored,
eyes wandering to his wristwatch says:
"What do you mean, my dear?
What precisely do you mean?"
No! I am not Ophelia, although I trained to be.
Am a 'tween-stairs maid, for walk-on bit parts;
for moving things, discovering the corpse.
To spy on queens; pass notes, a simple girl,
dully envious, helpful when I'm bribed;
sweet-natured, ignorant and tidy;
badly accented, silly in my cups;
perfect for blaming, for arranging trysts.
Often stupid, but kind.
I do tire...I do tire...
I will wear my skirts ankle-length, no higher.
Should I dye my fading hair? Dare I sing as I wash up?
I will wear white linen dresses and stride freely on the shingle.
I have seen the whales breaching; one, then one.
I am certain that they cannot see me.
I have heard them blowing seaspume on the breach;
singing their songs across the singing banks,
while the blue water foams against their flanks.
We have wandered on the ocean's heaving breast,
dreaming notions we have never dared to speak.
And speaking things we never thought to dream.
In tribute to T.S. Eliot.
Copyright, 2005, Lori Covington