At the Fair

Edith Sitwell - 1887-1964

                  I. Springing Jack

Green wooden leaves clap light away,
Severely practical, as they

Shelter the children candy-pale,
The chestnut-candles flicker, fail . . .

The showman’s face is cubed clear as
The shapes reflected in a glass

Of water—(glog, glut, a ghost’s speech
Fumbling for space from each to each).

The fusty showman fumbles, must
Fit in a particle of dust

The universe, for fear it gain
Its freedom from my cube of brain.

Yet dust bears seeds that grow to grace
Behind my crude-striped wooden face

As I, a puppet tinsel-pink
Leap on my springs, learn how to think—

Till like the trembling golden stalk
Of some long-petalled star, I walk

Through the dark heavens, and the dew
Falls on my eyes and sense thrills through. 

 

More by Edith Sitwell

Interlude

Amid this hot green glowing gloom	 
A word falls with a raindrop's boom...	 
  
Like baskets of ripe fruit in air	 
The bird-songs seem, suspended where	 
  
Those goldfinches—the ripe warm lights	         
Peck slyly at them—take quick flights.	 
  
My feet are feathered like a bird	 
Among the shadows scarcely heard;	 
  
I bring you branches green with dew	 
And fruits that you may crown anew	  
  
Your whirring waspish-gilded hair	 
Amid this cornucopia—	 
  
Until your warm lips bear the stains	 
And bird-blood leap within your veins.

Déjeuner Sur L’Herbe

Green apples dancing in a wash of sun—
Ripples of sense and fun—
A net of light that wavers as it weaves
The sunlight on the chattering leaves;
The half-dazed sound of feet,
And carriages that ripple in the heat.
The parasols like shadows of the sun
Cast wavering shades that run
Across the laughing faces and across
Hair with a bird-bright gloss.
The swinging greenery casts shadows dark,
Hides me that I may mark
How, buzzing in this dazzling mesh, my soul
Seems hardening it to flesh, and one bright whole.
O sudden feathers have a flashing sheen!
The sun’s swift javelin
The bird-songs seem, that through the dark leaves pass;
And life itself is but a flashing glass.

Related Poems

Sweeney among the Nightingales

Apeneck Sweeney spreads his knees	
Letting his arms hang down to laugh,	
The zebra stripes along his jaw	
Swelling to maculate giraffe.	
 
The circles of the stormy moon
Slide westward toward the River Plate,	
Death and the Raven drift above	
And Sweeney guards the horned gate.	
 
Gloomy Orion and the Dog	
Are veiled; and hushed the shrunken seas;
The person in the Spanish cape	
Tries to sit on Sweeney’s knees	
 
Slips and pulls the table cloth	
Overturns a coffee-cup,	
Reorganized upon the floor
She yawns and draws a stocking up;	
 
The silent man in mocha brown	
Sprawls at the window-sill and gapes;	
The waiter brings in oranges	
Bananas figs and hothouse grapes;
 
The silent vertebrate in brown	
Contracts and concentrates, withdraws;	
Rachel née Rabinovitch	
Tears at the grapes with murderous paws;	
 
She and the lady in the cape
Are suspect, thought to be in league;	
Therefore the man with heavy eyes	
Declines the gambit, shows fatigue,	
 
Leaves the room and reappears	
Outside the window, leaning in,
Branches of wistaria	
Circumscribe a golden grin;	
 
The host with someone indistinct	
Converses at the door apart,	
The nightingales are singing near
The Convent of the Sacred Heart,	
 
And sang within the bloody wood	
When Agamemnon cried aloud,	
And let their liquid droppings fall	
To stain the stiff dishonoured shroud.