Djuna Barnes

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 besides 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.

spoken = Gwen Heistand