John Crowe Ransom

Two in August

Two that could not have lived their single lives 
As can some husbands and wives 
Did something strange: they tensed their vocal cords 
And attacked each other with silences and words 
Like catapulted stones and arrowed knives. 

Dawn was not yet; night is for loving or sleeping, 
Sweet dreams or safekeeping; 
Yet he of the wide brows that were used to laurel 
And she, the famed for gentleness, must quarrel. 
Furious both of them, and scared, and weeping. 

How sleepers groan, twitch, wake to such a mood 
Is not well understood, 
Nor why two entities grown almost one 
Should rend and murder trying to get undone, 
With individual tigers in their blood. 

She in terror fled from the marriage chamber 
Circuiting the dark rooms like a string of amber 
Round and round and back, 
And would not light one lamp against the black, 
And heard the clock that clanged: Remember, Remember. 

And he must tread barefooted the dim lawn, 
Soon he was up and gone; 
High in the trees the night-mastered birds were crying 
With fear upon their tongues, no singing nor flying 
Which are their lovely attitudes by dawn. 

Whether those bird-cries were of heaven or hell 
There is no way to tell; 
In the long ditch of darkness the man walked 
Under the hackberry trees where the birds talked 
With words too sad and strange to syllable.