Djuna Barnes

Six Songs of Khalidine

To the memory of Mary Pine

The flame of your red hair does crawl and creep
Upon your body that denies the gloom
And feeds upon your flesh as ‘twould consume
The cold precision of your austere sleep —
And all night long I beat it back, and weep.

It is not gentleness but mad despair
That sets us kissing-mouths, O Khaladine,
Your mouth and mine, and one sweet mouth
We call our soul. Yet thick within our hair
The dusty ashes that our days prepare.

The dark comes up, my little love, and dyes
Your fallen lids with stain of ebony,
And draws a thread of fear ‘tween you and me
Pulling thin blindness down across your eyes —
And far within the vale a lost bird cries.

Does not the wind moan round your painted
Like rats within an empty granary?
The clapper lost, and long blown out to sea
Your windy doves. And here the black bat
Against your clock that never strikes the hours.

And now I say, has not the mountain’s base
Here trembled long ago unto the cry
“I love you, ah, I love you!” Now we die
And lay, all silent, to the earth our face.
Shall that cast out the echo of this place?

Has not one in the dark funereal
Heard foot-fall fearful, born of no man’s tread,
And felt the wings of death, though no wing
And on his cheek a tear, though no tear fell —
And a voice saying without breath “Farewell!”

spoken = Monica Ammerman