cerusee: a white redheaded girl in a classroom sitting by the window chewing on a pencil and looking bored (it's roses not blood)
Conrad Aiken, "The Vampire"

She rose among us where we lay.
She wept, we put our work away.
She chilled our laughter, stilled our play;
And spread a silence there.
And darkness shot across the sky,
And once, and twice, we heard her cry;
And saw her lift white hands on high
And toss her troubled hair.

What shape was this who came to us,
With basilisk eyes so ominous,
With mouth so sweet, so poisonous,
And tortured hands so pale?
We saw her wavering to and fro,
Through dark and wind we saw her go;
Yet what her name was did not know;
And felt our spirits fail.

We tried to turn away; but still
Above we heard her sorrow thrill;
And those that slept, they dreamed of ill
And dreadful things:
Of skies grown red with rending flames
And shuddering hills that cracked their frames;
Of twilights foul with wings;

And skeletons dancing to a tune;
And cries of children stifled soon;
And over all a blood-red moon
A dull and nightmare size.
They woke, and sought to go their ways,
Yet everywhere they met her gaze,
Her fixed and burning eyes.

Who are you now, —we cried to her—
Spirit so strange, so sinister?
We felt dead winds above us stir;
And in the darkness heard
A voice fall, singing, cloying sweet,
Heavily dropping, though that heat,
Heavy as honeyed pulses beat,
Slow word by anguished word.

And through the night strange music went
With voice and cry so darkly blent
We could not fathom what they meant;
Save only that they seemed
To thin the blood along our veins,
Foretelling vile, delirious pains,
And clouds divulging blood-red rains
Upon a hill undreamed.

And this we heard: "Who dies for me,
He shall possess me secretly,
My terrible beauty he shall see,
And slake my body's flame.
But who denies me cursed shall be,
And slain, and buried loathsomely,
And slimed upon with shame."

And darkness fell. And like a sea
Of stumbling deaths we followed, we
Who dared not stay behind.
There all night long beneath a cloud
We rose and fell, we struck and bowed,
We were the ploughman and the ploughed,
Our eyes were red and blind.

And some, they said, had touched her side,
Before she fled us there;
And some had taken her to bride;
And some lain down for her and died;
Who had not touched her hair,
Ran to and fro and cursed and cried
And sought her everywhere.

"Her eyes have feasted on the dead,
And small and shapely is her head,
And dark and small her mouth," they said,
"And beautiful to kiss;
Her mouth is sinister and red
As blood in moonlight is."

Then poets forgot their jeweled words
And cut the sky with glittering swords;
And innocent souls turned carrion birds
To perch upon the dead.
Sweet daisy fields were drenched with death,
The air became a charnel breath,
Pale stones were splashed with red.

Green leaves were dappled bright with blood
And fruit trees murdered in the bud;
And when at length the dawn
Came green as twilight from the east,
And all that heaving horror ceased,
Silent was every bird and beast,
And that dark voice was gone.

No word was there, no song, no bell,
No furious tongue that dream to tell;
Only the dead, who rose and fell
Above the wounded men;
And whisperings and wails of pain
Blown slowly from the wounded grain,
Blown slowly from the smoking plain;
And silence fallen again.

Until at dusk, from God knows where,
Beneath dark birds that filled the air,
Like one who did not hear or care,
Under a blood-red cloud,
An aged ploughman came alone
And drove his share through flesh and bone,
And turned them under to mould and stone;
All night long he ploughed.
cerusee: a white redheaded girl in a classroom sitting by the window chewing on a pencil and looking bored (swan princess)
Man, men get so hung up on menstrual blood. Dudes, I promise you, when you're the one actually producing it, you get past the cosmic symbolism of it and into the mundane practicalities and the mundane irritations of it all really fast. (Or maybe not; some women get very hung up on the cosmic symbolism of menstruation, too. Either way, I find it flakey, but I suppose with the women who obsess about menstruation, they're likely to have at least experienced it at some point.)

Conrad Aiken, excerpted from "Blues for Ruby Matrix."


But God's terrific wing that day came down,
loud on the world as loud and white as snow
out of the blue the white and then the silence.
O Ruby, come again and turn the time.

Ruby your name is matrix, rock of ages
cloven by lightning, smitten by thunder,
the surged upon deep shore interminable,
the long, the nebulous waves, the foam of time,

beating upon you, breaking upon you foaming,
the worldlong fruitfulness of assuaging sea,
hammers of foam, O Ruby come again
be broken for our simple coming forth--

let the rocks fall upon us with fearful sound,
the long bright glacier of the stars be broken
the beginning and the final word be spoken
come again, come again, and turn the world.

This world that is your turning and returning,
matrix mother mistress menstrual moon,
wafer of scarlet in the virgin void,
O come again and turn the world to thought.

But God's terrific wing that day came down
snow on the world, and Ruby, you were snow.
deceitful whiteness and the blood congealed
so that the world might know how worlds will end.
cerusee: a white redheaded girl in a classroom sitting by the window chewing on a pencil and looking bored (singing down the moon)
Conrad Aiken, "Miracles."

Twilight is spacious, near things in it seem far,
And distant things seem near.
Now in the green west hangs a yellow star.
And now across old waters you may hear
The profound gloom of bells among still trees,
Like a rolling of huge boulders beneath seas.

Silent as though in evening contemplation
Weaves the bat under the gathering stars.
Silent as dew, we seek new incarnation,
Meditate new avatars.
In a clear dusk like this
Mary climbed up the hill to seek her son,
To lower him down from the cross, and kiss
The mauve wounds, every one.

Men with wings
In the dusk walked softly after her.
She did not see them, but may have felt
The winnowed air around her stir;
She did not see them, but may have known
Why her son's body was light as a little stone.
She may have guessed that other hands were there
Moving the watchful air.

Now, unless persuaded by searching music
Which suddenly opens the portals of the mind,
We guess no angels,
And are contented to be blind.
Let us blow silver horns in the twilight,
And lift our hearts to the yellow star in the green,
To find perhaps, if, while the dew is rising,
Clear things may not be seen.
cerusee: a white redheaded girl in a classroom sitting by the window chewing on a pencil and looking bored (it's roses not blood)
Conrad Aiken, "Red is the Color of Blood."

Red is the color of blood, and I will seek it:
I have sought it in the grass.
It is the color of steep sun seen through eyelids.

It is hidden under the suave flesh of women--
Flows there, quietly flows.
It mounts from the heart to the temples, the singing mouth--
As cold sap climbs to the rose.
I am confused in webs and knots of scarlet
Spun from the darkness;
Or shuttled from the mouths of thirsty spiders.

Madness for red! I devour the leaves of autumn.
I tire of the green of the world.
I am myself a mouth for blood ...

Here, in the golden haze of the late slant sun,
Let us walk, with the light in our eyes,
To a single bench from the outset predetermined.
Look: there are seagulls in these city skies,
Kindled against the blue.
But I do not think of the seagulls, I think of you.

Your eyes, with the late sun in them,
Are like blue pools dazzled with yellow petals.
This pale green suits them well.

Here is your finger, with an emerald on it:
The one I gave you. I say these things politely--
But what I think beneath them, who can tell?

For I think of you, crumpled against a whiteness;
Flayed and torn, with a dulled face.
I think of you, writing, a thing of scarlet,
And myself, rising red from that embrace.

November sun is sunlight poured through honey:
Old things, in such a light, grow subtle and fine.
Bare oaks are like still fire.
Talk to me: now we drink the evening's wine.
Look, how our shadows creep along the grave!--
And this way, how the gravel begins to shine!

This is the time of day for recollections,
For sentimental regrets, oblique allusions,
Rose-leaves, shrivelled in a musty jar.
Scatter them to the wind! There are tempests coming.
It is dark, with a windy star.

If human mouths were really roses, my dear,--
(Why must we link things so?--)
I would tear yours petal by petal with slow murder.
I would pluck the stamens, the pistils,
The gold and the green,--
Spreading the subtle sweetness that was your breath
On a cold wave of death....

Now let us walk back, slowly, as we came.
We will light the room with candles; they may shine
Like rows of yellow eyes.
Your hair is like spun fire, by candle-flame.
You smile at me--say nothing. You are wise.

For I think of you, flung down brutal darkness;
Crushed and red, with pale face.
I think of you, with your hair disordered and dripping.
And myself, rising red from that embrace.
cerusee: a white redheaded girl in a classroom sitting by the window chewing on a pencil and looking bored (shoukei the formerly divine)
Conrad Aiken, "Summer"

Absolute zero: the locust sings:
summer’s caught in eternity’s rings:
the rock explodes, the planet dies,
we shovel up our verities.

The razor rasps across the face
and in the glass our fleeting race
lit by infinity’s lightning wink
under the thunder tries to think.

In this frail gourd the granite pours
the timeless howls like all outdoors
the sensuous moment builds a wall
open as wind, no wall at all:

while still obedient to valves and knobs
the vascular jukebox throbs and sobs
expounding hope propounding yearning
proposing love, but never learning

or only learning at zero’s gate
like summer’s locust the final hate
formless ice on a formless plain
that was and is and comes again.
cerusee: a white redheaded girl in a classroom sitting by the window chewing on a pencil and looking bored (autumn travels)
Conrad Aiken, excerpted from Preludes for Memnon, or Preludes for Attitude


Beloved, let us once more praise the rain.
Let us discover some new alphabet,
For this, the often-praised; and be ourselves
The rain, the chickweed, and the burdock leaf,
The green-white privet flower, the spotted stone,
And ass that welcomes rain; the sparrow, too,--
Who watches with a hard eye, from seclusion,
Beneath the elm-tree bough, till rain is done.

There us an oriole who, upside down,
Hangs at next, and flicks an orange wing,--
Under a tree as dead and still as lead;
There is a single leaf, and in this heaven
Of leaves, which rain has loosened from its twig:
The stem breaks, and it falls, but it is caught
Upon a sister leaf, and thus she hangs;
There is an acorn cup, beside a mushroom,
Which catches three drops from the stooping cloud.

The timid bee goes back to hive; the fly
Under the broad leaf of the hollyhock
Perpends stupid with cold; the raindark snail
Surveys the wet world from a watery stone...
And still the syllables of water whisper:
The wheel of cloud whirs slowly: while we wait
In the dark room; and in your heart I find
One silver raindrop,--on a hawthorn leaf,--
Orion in a cobweb, and the World.
cerusee: a white redheaded girl in a classroom sitting by the window chewing on a pencil and looking bored (the last unicorn)
This is the first poem I saw when I took Conrad Aiken: Selected Poems off the shelf and opened it up for the first time.

Conrad Aiken, excerpted from Preludes for Memnon, or Preludes for Attitude


Or daylong watched, in the kaleidoscope,
While the rain beat the window, and the smoke
Blew down along the roof, how the clear fragments
Clicked subtly inward to new patterns, seeming
To melt from rose to crystal, moon to star,
Snowflake to asphodel, the bright white shrinking
To let the ruby vein its way like blood,
The violet opening like an eye, the pearl
Gone like a raindrop. Never twice the same,
Never remembered. The carpet there, the table
On which the dog's-eared Euclid with fixed stars,
The cardboard battleship, the tops, the jackstones,
And the long window lustred with changing rain,
And the long day, profound and termless.

The ship's deck, midnight, winter, and the stars
Swung in a long curve starboard above the mast,
And bow-ward then as the sea hoists the bow,
And back to port, in a vast dance of atoms,
Poured down like snow about you, or again
Steady above the mast-light, the wide span
Of brilliant worlds, not meaningless, watched bravely
By him who guards the lighted binnacle, and him
Dark in the swaying crow's nest, who beat his arms
Against the cold. What mind of stars is this?
What changing thought that takes its ever-changing
Pattern in burning worlds, worlds dying, named
Sirius or Vega or the Pleiades?
What voyage this beneath them, termless, but
Not wholly aimless, trackless in the trackless
Changing of thought in that wide mind of stars?

Back from the bitter voyage to this moment:
Where the clock's tick mark hunger from disgust,
And the hour strikes for laughter, causeless, caused
By one strayed particle, unseen, between
The heart's Nile and the brain's unknown Sahara:
Rolando's fissure and the Island of Reil.
Who watches here, oh mariners and surgeons?
What Pole Star lights these shores? The atom grows,
If so it will, much like a tree, its light
Orion's now, and now the Bear's, the clock
Seeking in vain its time. We will go on,
Since go we must, bending our eyes above
The little space of light we know, watching
Thought come from news, love come from thought, desire
Come to fulfilment or defeat; and all
Swinging beneath us like that mind of stars
Which alters when it must, alters for nothing,
In the long night that guides the ship to death.

I bought the book.
cerusee: a white redheaded girl in a classroom sitting by the window chewing on a pencil and looking bored (singing down the moon)
Conrad Aiken
The Face

The blue shawl first, a canopy of blue,
blue sky, blue ceiling, the bewildering light
that comes and goes, and in it formless forms
and then the form of forms the shape of shapes
the darkness with the face, the face with eyes,
the face with stars, the leaning face, the murmur,

sweet food, sweet softness, incalculable depth
unassailable but protective height
the tower among the stars, great Igdrasil,
and so the sounds grown slower, more distinct,
one from another clear, the murmur shaking
deeply the chords of being, and the voice

speaking or singing, with notes far apart--
so far apart that terror folds his wings
between one syllable of sweetest sound
and its successor,--but so slow, so slow,
that terror downward, on delicious wings
floats,--falls in the darkness,--in the silence,--

then upward beats his wings, when the word sings,
is gone away, into the blue of heaven,
up to the shawl of stars--and here the instant voice
murmurs into the heart, into the throat,
till all the blood is radiant in the veins
whispers the secret the lost secret, far away

and it is bird song, it is boughs of trees,
the flight of light among palmetto leaves,
the wave of wind across the fields of daisies,
the voice of water fluctuant in the night,
and the street-vendor, the old negress, singing
'yea prawns, yea okras,' in the bright blue morning--

and then the face withdrawn, farther withdrawn,
into the sunset red behind the lighthouse,
beyond the river's mouth, beyond the marsh,
far out at sea, or stars between two clouds,
farther and farther, till it lives again
only in nearer things--and it is now

the sunlight on the hand and on cold grass,
the acorn cup half filled with rain, the locust
unfolding irised wings of isinglass
the hummingbird above the flower's mouth
on an invisible cord of purest gold--
wing shadows on the wall of an old house--

and now in speed recaptured, now in strength,
and now in word dissembled, or half seen,
as when strange syllables with sudden brightness
open dark eyes, and all the page of words
becomes a field of flowers, moving and fragrant,
clover and tulip in deep grass and leaves--

all stirred and stirring in a wind from somewhere
far off and half-remembered--from that sky,
that ceiling, that bewildering light, that shawl
of stars from which the voice of voices came;
then lost once more, and half seen farther on,
glimpsed in the lightning, heard in a peal of thunder--

diffused, and more diffused, till music speaks
under a hundred lights, with violins,
soft horns, nostalgic oboes, where again
the terror comes between one sound and other,
floats,--falls in the darkness,--in the silence,--
then upward beats his wings when the voice sings--

and it is life, but it is also death,
it is the whisper of the always lost
but always known, it is the first and last
of heaven's light, the end and the beginning,
follows the moving memory like a shadow,
and only rests, at last, when that too comes to rest.
cerusee: a white redheaded girl in a classroom sitting by the window chewing on a pencil and looking bored (moonlight)
I totally almost forgot there for a minute because I had a paper due today and was rushing to finish it. Speaking of rushing,

The rush of rain against the glass
Is the only the damn thing I've been listening to all week. Man, it was been wet up here. It rained for like seventy-two straight hours or some shit, sometimes sideways. There has been fucking wind. What good is it for the sun not to set at 4:30pm if you don't get to see it all day anyway? What happened to my fucking springtime? The precious little snowdrops have probably all drowned.

Yeah, April is National Poetry Month! Since I always type that with an exclamation point, I've come to expect it, and I get weirded out when I see signs at the bookstore that don't have one. I'm like, yo, be more excited, y'all! National! Poetry! Month! April! is the cruelest month! It rains a lot!

But I know you just want me to post a goddamn poem (something not about rain) and shut up. So, here. I'm really into Conrad Aiken right now and will probably be a lazy ass and do a lot of that this month. Enjoy. Enjoy this poem by Conrad Aiken (that is not about rain).

Excerpt from "The Coming Forth by Day of Osiris Jones,"

Various Rooms:
A room in a school hospital:

so the three caravels to westward veiling
foamworthy frows and able seamen seething
southward in soft altlantic saw you sinking
depe depe and deeper darkly drown and drown
drenched and despatched and drunk with more than ether
ceiling concentric to a funnel flaring
sounds of wide froth and sea-surge softly hearing
whispers of space and time and nothing caring
the silver bubbles blinkt and you an oyster
dark smells of oakum, far above three shadows
Columbus gone, America discovered
down drown down drown down drown and you too soon
for what you know already and forget
put up your hands and touch the keels Columbus

See? Totally not about rain.

January 2017

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