Hilda Doolittle

Body and Soul

Why wait for Death to mow?
why wait for Death to sow
us in the ground?

precipitate the event
and in a row, plant
almond, olive, apple,

for by these fruits alone shall we be known.

And see the bleak sky
dimmed as in a mirror,
and under-water furl
your under-nourished limbs
into a lily-shape
held to a lily-centre:

O be content;
be small, a lily-bud
or spread at will
your limbs, your feet, your hands,
peninsulas and islands 
to your body’s continent.

You are even a world,
a planet,

and pass from history
and the day’s event 
to myth and phantasy,

with the Cloud-man
or the Mer-man or the Angel
who spills rain
and snow and hail.

Thou hast been slain
the nightingales wail;
the nightingales cry again
thou has been slain:

red-coral knows thy pain,
the sponge, dredged from the red-coral reef,
witnessed thy agony
and told thy grief.

O do not grieve
for a torn earth
barren fields burnt forests
cracked riven volcano-broken
hill-slopes islands shrunken
mountains lost

O do not grieve 
leave the stricken broken cities
give over prayer

for earthquakes shaken
broken husks of old fair river-ways
dykes fallen

against fire flood famine
your prayers your fears are useless
leave this to us

do not waste with the fever
or distrust; terror subdued
is yet terror

terror submerged may yet break
the soul-dykes
flood down.

London 1940