Call of the Night

- 1892-1982

Dark, and the wind-blurred pines,
           With a glimmer of light between.
Then I, entombed for an hourless night
           With the world of things unseen.

Mist, the dust of flowers,
           Leagues, heavy with promise of snow,
And a beckoning road ‘twixt vale and hill,
           With the lure that all must know.

A light, my window’s gleam,
           Soft, flaring its squares of red—
I loose the ache of the wilderness
           And long for the fire instead.

You too know, old fellow?
           Then, lift your head and bark.
It’s just the call of the lonesome place,
           The winds and the housing dark.
 

More by Djuna Barnes

The Dreamer

The night comes down, in ever-darkening shapes that seem—
To grope, with eerie fingers for the window—then—
To rest to sleep, enfolding me, as in a dream
            Faith—might I awaken!
 
And drips the rain with seeming sad, insistent beat.
Shivering across the pane, drooping tear-wise,
And softly patters by, like little fearing feet.
            Faith—this weather!
 
The feathery ash is fluttered; there upon the pane,—
The dying fire casts a flickering ghostly beam,—
Then closes in the night and gently falling rain.
            Faith—what darkness!

From Third Avenue On

And now she walks on out turned feet
Beside the litter in the street
Or rolls beneath a dirty sheet
       Within the town.
She does not stir to doff her dress,
She does not kneel low to confess,
A little conscience, no distress
       And settles down.

Ah God! she settles down we say;
It means her powers slip away
It means she draws back day by day
       From good or bad.
And so she looks upon the floor
Or listens at an open door
Or lies her down, upturned to snore
       Both loud and sad.

Or sits beside the chinaware,
Sits mouthing meekly in a chair,
With over-curled, hard waving hair
       Above her eyes.
Or grins too vacant into space—
A vacant space is in her face—
Where nothing came to take the place
       Of high hard cries.

Or yet we hear her on the stairs
With some few elements of prayers,
Until she breaks it off and swears
       A loved bad word.
Somewhere beneath her hurried curse,
A corpse lies bounding in a hearse;
And friends and relatives disperse,
       And are not stirred.

Those living dead up in their rooms
Must note how partial are the tombs,
That take men back into their wombs
       While theirs must fast.
And those who have their blooms in jars
No longer stare into the stars,
Instead, they watch the dinky cars—
       And live aghast.

Serenade

Three paces down the shore, low sounds the lute,
The better that my longing you may know;
I’m not asking you to come,
But—can’t you go?

Three words, “I love you,” and the whole is said—
The greatness of it throbs from sun to sun;
I’m not asking you to walk,
But—can’t you run?

Three paces in the moonlight’s glow I stand,
And here within the twilight beats my heart.
I’m not asking you to finish,
But—to start.

Related Poems

Stanzas in Meditation

Part I

Stanza XIII

She may count three little daisies very well
By multiplying to either six nine or fourteen
Or she can be well mentioned as twelve
Which they may like which they can like soon
Or more than ever which they wish as a button
Just as much as they arrange which they wish
Or they can attire where they need as which say
Can they call a hat or a hat a day
Made merry because it is so.

Part III

Stanza II

I think very well of Susan but I do not know her name
I think very well of Ellen but which is not the same
I think very well of Paul I tell him not to do so
I think very well of Francis Charles but do I do so
I think very well of Thomas but I do not not do so
I think very well of not very well of William
I think very well of any very well of him
I think very well of him.
It is remarkable how quickly they learn
But if they learn and it is very remarkable how quickly they learn
It makes not only but by and by
And they can not only be not here
But not there
Which after all makes no difference
After all this does not make any does not make any difference
I add added it to it.
I could rather be rather be here.

Stanza V

It is not a range of a mountain
Of average of a range of a average mountain
Nor can they of which of which of arrange
To have been not which they which
Can add a mountain to this.
Upper an add it then maintain
That if they were busy so to speak
Add it to and
It not only why they could not add ask
Or when just when more each other
There is no each other as they like
They add why then emerge an add in
It is of absolutely no importance how often they add it.

Part V

Stanza XXXVIII

Which I wish to say is this
There is no beginning to an end
But there is a beginning and an end
To beginning.
Why yes of course.
Any one can learn that north of course
Is not only north but north as north
Why were they worried.
What I wish to say is this.
Yes of course

Stanza LXIII

I wish that I had spoken only of it all.