Her Lips Are Copper Wire

Jean Toomer - 1894-1967
whisper of yellow globes
gleaming on lamp-posts that sway
like bootleg licker drinkers in the fog
 
and let your breath be moist against me
like bright beads on yellow globes
 
telephone the power-house
that the main wires are insulate
 
(her words play softly up and down
dewy corridors of billboards)
 
then with your tongue remove the tape
and press your lips to mine
till they are incandescent

More by Jean Toomer

Prayer

My body is opaque to the soul.
Driven of the spirit, long have I sought to temper it unto the
        spirit’s longing, 
But my mind, too, is opaque to the soul. 
A closed lid is my soul’s flesh-eye. 
O Spirits of whom my soul is but a little finger,
Direct it to the lid of its flesh-eye.
I am weak with much giving. 
I am weak with the desire to give more. 
(How strong a thing is the little finger!)
So weak that I have confused the body with the soul, 
And the body with the little finger. 
(How frail is the little finger.)
My voice could not carry to you did you dwell in stars, 
O Spirits of whom my soul is but a little finger . . . 
 

Her Lips Are Copper Wire

whisper of yellow globes
gleaming on lamp-posts that sway
like bootleg licker drinkers in the fog
 
and let your breath be moist against me
like bright beads on yellow globes
 
telephone the power-house
that the main wires are insulate
 
(her words play softly up and down
dewy corridors of billboards)
 
then with your tongue remove the tape
and press your lips to mine
till they are incandescent

Beehive

Within this black hive to-night
There swarm a million bees; 
Bees passing in and out the moon, 
Bees escaping out the moon, 
Bees returning through the moon, 
Silver bees intently buzzing, 
Silver honey dripping from the swarm of bees
Earth is a waxen cell of the world comb, 
And I, a drone, 
Lying on my back, 
Lipping honey, 
Getting drunk with silver honey, 
Wish that I might fly out past the moon
And curl forever in some far-off farmyard flower. 

Related Poems

Romance Sonambulo

(skip to the original poem in Spanish)

Green, how I want you green.
Green wind. Green branches.
The ship out on the sea
and the horse on the mountain. 
With the shade around her waist 
she dreams on her balcony, 
green flesh, her hair green, 
with eyes of cold silver. 
Green, how I want you green. 
Under the gypsy moon, 
all things are watching her 
and she cannot see them.

Green, how I want you green. 
Big hoarfrost stars 
come with the fish of shadow 
that opens the road of dawn. 
The fig tree rubs its wind 
with the sandpaper of its branches, 
and the forest, cunning cat, 
bristles its brittle fibers. 
But who will come? And from where? 
She is still on her balcony 
green flesh, her hair green, 
dreaming in the bitter sea.

—My friend, I want to trade 
my horse for her house, 
my saddle for her mirror, 
my knife for her blanket. 
My friend, I come bleeding 
from the gates of Cabra.
—If it were possible, my boy, 
I'd help you fix that trade. 
But now I am not I, 
nor is my house now my house.
—My friend, I want to die
decently in my bed. 
Of iron, if that's possible, 
with blankets of fine chambray. 
Don't you see the wound I have 
from my chest up to my throat?
—Your white shirt has grown 
thirsty dark brown roses. 
Your blood oozes and flees a
round the corners of your sash. 
But now I am not I, 
nor is my house now my house.
—Let me climb up, at least, 
up to the high balconies; 
Let me climb up! Let me, 
up to the green balconies. 
Railings of the moon 
through which the water rumbles.

Now the two friends climb up, 
up to the high balconies.
Leaving a trail of blood. 
Leaving a trail of teardrops. 
Tin bell vines
were trembling on the roofs.
A thousand crystal tambourines 
struck at the dawn light.

Green, how I want you green, 
green wind, green branches. 
The two friends climbed up. 
The stiff wind left 
in their mouths, a strange taste 
of bile, of mint, and of basil 
My friend, where is she—tell me—
where is your bitter girl?
How many times she waited for you! 
How many times would she wait for you, 
cool face, black hair, 
on this green balcony! 
Over the mouth of the cistern
the gypsy girl was swinging, 
green flesh, her hair green, 
with eyes of cold silver. 
An icicle of moon
holds her up above the water. 
The night became intimate 
like a little plaza.
Drunken "Guardias Civiles"
were pounding on the door. 
Green, how I want you green. 
Green wind. Green branches. 
The ship out on the sea. 
And the horse on the mountain.

Verde que te quiero verde. 
Verde viento. Verdes ramas. 
El barco sobre la mar 
y el caballo en la montaña. 
Con la sombra en la cintura 
ella sueña en su baranda, 
verde carne, pelo verde, 
con ojos de fría plata. 
Verde que te quiero verde. 
Bajo la luna gitana,
las cosas la están mirando 
y ella no puede mirarlas.

Verde que te quiero verde. 
Grandes estrellas de escarcha 
vienen con el pez de sombra 
que abre el camino del alba. 
La higuera frota su viento 
con la lija de sus ramas, 
y el monte, gato garduño, 
eriza sus pitas agrias.
¿Pero quién vendra? ¿Y por dónde...? 
Ella sigue en su baranda, 
Verde carne, pelo verde, 
soñando en la mar amarga.

—Compadre, quiero cambiar
mi caballo por su casa,
mi montura por su espejo,
mi cuchillo per su manta.
Compadre, vengo sangrando,
desde los puertos de Cabra.
—Si yo pudiera, mocito, 
este trato se cerraba. 
Pero yo ya no soy yo, 
ni mi casa es ya mi casa.
—Compadre, quiero morir 
decentemente en mi cama. 
De acero, si puede ser, 
con las sábanas de holanda. 
¿No ves la herida que tengo 
desde el pecho a la garganta?
—Trescientas rosas morenas
lleva tu pechera blanca. 
Tu sangre rezuma y huele 
alrededor de tu faja. 
Pero yo ya no soy yo,
ni mi casa es ya mi casa.
—Dejadme subir al menos 
hasta las altas barandas;
¡dejadme subir!, dejadme, 
hasta las verdes barandas. 
Barandales de la luna 
por donde retumba el agua. 
Ya suben los dos compadres 
hacia las altas barandas. 
Dejando un rastro de sangre. 
Dejando un rastro de lágrimas. 
Temblaban en los tejados
farolillos de hojalata. 
Mil panderos de cristal 
herían la madrugada.
Verde que te quiero verde,
verde viento, verdes ramas. 
Los dos compadres subieron.
El largo viento dejaba 
en la boca un raro gusto
de hiel, de menta y de albahaca.
¡Compadre! ¿Donde está, díme?
¿Donde está tu niña amarga? 
¡Cuántas veces te esperó!
¡Cuántas veces te esperara,
cara fresca, negro pelo, 
en esta verde baranda!

Sobre el rostro del aljibe
se mecía la gitana. 
Verde carne, pelo verde, 
con ojos de fría plata.
Un carámbano de luna 
la sostiene sobre el agua.
La noche se puso íntima 
como una pequeña plaza. 
Guardias civiles borrachos 
en la puerta golpeaban. 
Verde que te quiero verde. 
Verde viento. Verdes ramas. 
El barco sobre la mar. 
Y el caballo en la montaña.