To think that my eyes once could draw your eyes down for a moment, From their lifting and straining up toward the opulent heights— To think that my face was the face you liked best once to look on, When fairer ones softened to pleading ’neath shimmering lights! Regret you? Not I! I am glad that your proud heart disowned me, The while it was lying so sullenly under my feet; Since Love was to you but a snare and a pain, and you knew not Its height and its depth, all unsounded, and soundless, and sweet. Too dark was the shadow that fell from your face bending over me— Too hot was the pant of your breath on the spring of my cheek! I but dimly divined, yet I shrank from the warring of passions So strong that they circled and shook me while leaving you weak. Acknowledge! You knew not aright if you loved me or hated; But you pushed me aside, since I hindered your seeing the heights. They were but the cold, barren peaks up which selfish sould clamber, And for which they surrender the gardens of scented delights. From where I am sitting I watch your lone steps going upward, And to-night I am back in those nights that we knew at the start. I think of your eyes dark with pain, full of thwarted caressings, And suddenly, after these years, from my hold slips my heart! But no matter! There’s too much between us—we cannot go back now I’m glad of it!—yes, I will say it right on to the end!— I’m glad that my once sore-reluctant, tempestuous lover Hasn’t leisure nor heart now to be my most leisurely friend! My lover! Why how you would fling me the word back in fury! Remembering you loved me at arms’ length, in spite of denial; That the protests were double: each went from the struggle unconquered: The hour of soft, silken compliance was not on our dial. You were angry for loving me, all in despite of your reasoning— I was angry because you were able to hold your love down; And jealous—because in the scales of your logic you weighed me, And slighted me for the dry bread of a sordid renown. So I laughed at your loving—I laughed in the teeth of your passion; And I made myself fair, but to stand in you light from sheer malice; Delighting to hold up the brim to the lips that were thirsting, While I scorned to let fall on their dryness one drop from the chalice! Alas, for the lips that are strange to the sweetness of kisses— The kisses we dream of, and cry for, and think on in dying! Alas, for unspoken endearments that stifle the breathing; Since such in the depths of two hearts, never wedded, are lying! You say, “It is best!” but I know that you catch your breath fiercely. I say, “It is best!” but a sob struggles up from my bosom; For out of a million of flowers that our fingers are free of, The one that we care for the most is the never-plucked blossom. Yet, O, my Unbroken, my strong one—too strong for my breaking!— I am glad of the hours when we warred with each other and Love: Though you never drew nearer than once when your hair swept my fingers And their touch flushed your cheek as you bent at my side for my glove. Never mind! I felt kisses that broke through the bitterest sayings. Never mind! since caresses were hid under looks that were proud. Shall we say there’s no moon when she leaves her dear earth in the shadow And hides all her light in the breast of some opportune cloud? Yet this germ of a love—could it ever have bourgeoned to fulness?— For us could there ever have been a sereneness of bliss, With the thorns overtopping our flowers, turning fondness to soreness? Ah, no! ’twas a thousand times better it ended like this! And yet, if I went to you now in the stress of your toiling— If we stood but one moment alone while I looked in your eyes— What a melting of ice there would be! What a quickening of currents! What thrills of despairing delight betwixt claspings and cries!
This poem is in the public domain.