Serenade

- 1892-1982

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.

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!

Call of the Night

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.
 

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.

Related Poems

Moonrise

Will you glimmer on the sea?	
Will you fling your spear-head	
On the shore?	
What note shall we pitch?	
 
We have a song,	        
On the bank we share our arrows—	
The loosed string tells our note:	
 
O flight,	
Bring her swiftly to our song.	
She is great,	        
We measure her by the pine-trees.