The Wastnesse

Sonnets I—XII


I

So fair is she, the one who lights my lips:
   To walk a step with her is near divine,
And truth is felt through all our echoed trips—
   To think I had the time to call her mine.
   The stripes of gold that waver in a line,
Her full moon face and hazel eyes ablaze;
   Please kneel astride and bear with me a sign
As supple legs remind me of those days.
I thought it wise to wander in her maze,
   Get lost in sights that only she could paint;
I fell with care into her lucid ways,
   And witnessed graces no cruel man could taint.
      Now trapped am I within her tender cell:
      A paradise that saves me yet from Hell.


II

Could I find her within the book’s embrace?
Her cheeks are stranger than a layman’s tale;
A labyrinth of literature, her face—
An impish smile she solders as her hail.
I find her name enwrote upon the page
As silence rocks the structure to the bone;
Mere words can chance to history her wage,
A solemn bow I leave to her alone.
And then a sting, a pang, the greatest fear:
That I may draw too close, tempt sedition;
When I should stay a scholar to those near,
Most umbrageous sects of our condition.
      Yet I wait in perdition’s umber gaze
      To hear her name beyond the page’s haze.


III

A word decries its meaning; fraught through sheets,
Upon the lips of youthful sapphic puck,
Connexions rise within the mind’s conceits
And activate the notation of luck—
A wrinkle now, and caught in shock it stays,
For arrow’s line is thus forever straight;
There is no shade from antiquated ways
   When we lead ourselves to the Heaven’s Gate.
   Is there escape from such a baseless fate,
And could I lead her by her dawn-spread wrist—
   To lands unseen by mortal kind, and sate
The wish to lie yfere in Baybab’s kist?
      A yea: in death, her goodly form shall crest
      The providence of Word’s unbeating chest.


IV

In days forespent, empers’d by thoughtless care
They lingered listless by the Saeble’s banks:
Emboss’d unto a chaos-ridden fare,
And caught in humours disseizing all thanks;
Their skin was dulled by history’s brute hand,
Their thoughts encased in aperture of gold—
These siblings three cast dialogue to sand,
Until but two were left in brazen hold.
At once a reminisce came from the wind:
That age had caught their deprecated lives,
All amiss amidst reverie’s rescind;
Held reverence for none but that deprives.
      But tho they spent that age in hedony,
      It shan’t denied t’was in fine companie.


V

Ah! Those earthen locks I once held so close.
   Her name — no, I remember, of course, yes;
   It was just yesterday she wore that grey dress,
When we were young, and would say “Adiós!”
Oh! How the light begins to wane, my friends,
   What left there are — if there are; I see not—
   And perhaps I am alone in empty cot,
Coddled by none whom I would make amends.
If I myself were spritely once again,
   Should I enter such darker pact of dole?
   Nemesis, take my dire hand, taketh my soul,
Guide me my youthful love in Darkwood Fen.
      Avaunt! And such I depart for fair Thebe,
      Visiting memorie of golden Hebe.


VI

I circle you from time to time, I see your stare,
As if a sister never born had stole a dare;
Give me your hand, dear one, I recall it quite well:
And how it might yet have been, I try not to dwell.
   Just see this vista — a world of undreamt fever,
   A world of amethyst driven snow and water;
   A world unbefit for such a misbeliever—
   So I make us a castle of salt and mortar.
We could live there as one, away from the hounds,
Perform our rituals, and make our subtle sounds;
Take a bow for me, and I shall perform a feat
Where I lay down the grass in blue, beautiful sheets:
      But for all of the canvases that I may dream away,
      The only miracle would to have you forever stay.


VII

Do I love thee? I can account thy face
For swaths of prickles on my agèd skin,
And for the anxious pangs of gut within;
So thus thy blooming conscience is my chase.
Thy cupid voice is subject to this place
Whence I was made a scholar of the sin,
And followed girl I thought to be my twin;
So thus thy slender neck is my disgrace.
And what is love but simple chemistry?
Alembic wrought to distill mind’s red rain
Which patters on the roof of history—
Objective truth we cannot now regain:
So know I not of whether I love thee;
But yet I feel the sting of love’s sweet stain.


VIII

The vile disease of love comes unbidden
Unto a fractured soul, which shan’t refrain
   From holding it, ere stifling it hidden
   In morbid vault of hateful self’s retain;
It poisons common wit, and keeps afeared
The poor old fool who falls into this trance:
A hangman’s noose of harried care is seared
In St Valentine’s hideous semblance.
   It gives us life; it gives us sense: but yet
   Love also treats us like a bidden dog—
We treat it as a right; I’d like to bet
There’s not a soul not lost into its fog.
      So steersmen blind are we, lost unto the sea;
      O! to cast love ashore, and live in apathy!


IX

Thy barren heaps of rotted land do shew,
Mirksome beyond the fronds of God’s domain;
I thought thee once to be nymph as white as snow,
   Now see thy flesh does run in case of rain.
So thus I scrawl a writ of holy force
And pin it to thy door to keep thy bay,
For nevermore I want to guide thy course
   Nor lance thy putrid and corrupt delay.
Tho now I think upon my self’s retort—
Remind it of my debt and years of grief;
When I as well caused innocence distort,
Engaged in acts that Satan would as lief.
      For all the bitter vitriol I cast,
      It is as two our actions that will last.


X

Dry, dry bones of mine. I am the lonesome
I am the dry, dry heat of April. Damp
I am the voice who cries above the city
   Dry, dry city, drowned in blood. Damp with mould
Tired smog drifts through tent encampment. Shouting
Any change any cigs. Reverberant
   Dry heat. I am the dry sands of Richmond
I am the Eccho. Dem bones dem bones dem
Now hear: diving from the clouds, wings of bronze
It falls, sword of divine justice, it breathes
Blue mist onto the dry, dry city streets
Of Kensington, Westminster: Salvation.
      Dem bones, dem dry, dry bones will walk around
      And speak: Death shall not have providence here



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