Edith Sitwell




Portrait Of A Barmaid

Metallic waves of people jar
Through crackling green toward the bar

Where on the tables chattering-white
The sharp drinks quarrel with the light.

Those coloured muslin blinds the smiles,
Shroud wooden faces; and at whiles

They splash like a thin water (you
Yourself reflected in their hue).

The conversation loud and bright
Seems spinal bars of shunting light

In firework-spurting greenery.
O complicate machinery

For building Babel, iron crane
Beneath your hair, that blue-ribbed mane

In noise and murder like the sea
Without its mutability!

Outside the bar where jangling heat
Seems out of tune and off the beat — 

A concertina's glycerine
Exudes, and mirrors in the green

Your soul: pure glucose edged with hints
Of tentative and half-soiled tints.