J—K. Huysmans

Amy Lowell - 1874-1925
          A flickering glimmer through a window-pane,
          A dim red glare through mud bespattered glass,
          Cleaving a path between blown walls of sleet
          Across uneven pavements sunk in slime
          To scatter and then quench itself in mist.
          And struggling, slipping, often rudely hurled
          Against the jutting angle of a wall,
          And cursed, and reeled against, and flung aside
          By drunken brawlers as they shuffled past,
          A man was groping to what seemed a light.
          His eyelids burnt and quivered with the strain
          Of looking, and against his temples beat
          The all enshrouding, suffocating dark.
          He stumbled, lurched, and struck against a door
          That opened, and a howl of obscene mirth
          Grated his senses, wallowing on the floor
          Lay men, and dogs and women in the dirt.
          He sickened, loathing it, and as he gazed
          The candle guttered, flared, and then went out.

          Through travail of ignoble midnight streets
          He came at last to shelter in a porch
          Where gothic saints and warriors made a shield
          To cover him, and tortured gargoyles spat
          One long continuous stream of silver rain
          That clattered down from myriad roofs and spires
          Into a darkness, loud with rushing sound
          Of water falling, gurgling as it fell,
          But always thickly dark.  Then as he leaned
          Unconscious where, the great oak door blew back
          And cast him, bruised and dripping, in the church.
          His eyes from long sojourning in the night
          Were blinded now as by some glorious sun;
          He slowly crawled toward the altar steps.
          He could not think, for heavy in his ears
          An organ boomed majestic harmonies;
          He only knew that what he saw was light!
          He bowed himself before a cross of flame
          And shut his eyes in fear lest it should fade.

More by Amy Lowell

A London Thoroughfare. 2 A.M.


They have watered the street,
It shines in the glare of lamps, 
Cold, white lamps, 
And lies
Like a slow-moving river,
Barred with silver and black.
Cabs go down it,
One,
And then another,
Between them I hear the shuffling of feet.
Tramps doze on the window-ledges,
Night-walkers pass along the sidewalks.
The city is squalid and sinister,
With the silver-barred street in the midst,
Slow-moving,
A river leading nowhere.

Opposite my window,
The moon cuts,
Clear and round,
Through the plum-coloured night.
She cannot light the city:
It is too bright.
It has white lamps,
And glitters coldly.

I stand in the window and watch the
   moon.
She is thin and lustreless,
But I love her.
I know the moon, 
And this is an alien city.

Opal

You are ice and fire,
The touch of you burns my hands like snow.
You are cold and flame.
You are the crimson of amaryllis,
The silver of moon-touched magnolias.
When I am with you,
My heart is a frozen pond
Gleaming with agitated torches.

The Taxi

When I go away from you
The world beats dead 
Like a slackened drum.
I call out for you against the jutted stars
And shout into the ridges of the wind.
Streets coming fast,
One after the other,
Wedge you away from me,
And the lamps of the city prick my eyes
So that I can no longer see your face.
Why should I leave you,
To wound myself upon the sharp edges of the night?