Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, METROPOLITAN, by EDITH SITWELL



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METROPOLITAN, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: The world grows furry, grunts with sleep
Last Line: Strange threads to hold time fast.
Subject(s): Memory; Railroads; Travel; Railways; Trains; Journeys; Trips


1.—STOPPING PLACE

THE world grows furry, grunts with sleep...
But I must on the surface keep.
The jolting of the train to me
Seems some primeval vertebrae
Attached by life-nerves to my brain—
Grown primitive, till, once again,
I see all shapes as crude and new
And ordered,—with some end in view,
No longer with the horny eyes
Of other people's memories.
Through highly varnished yellow heat,
As through a lens that does not fit,
The faces jolt in cubes, and I
Perceive their odd solidity
Anchored against the puff of breeze,
As shallow as the crude blue seas;
And there are woollen buns to eat—
Bright-varnished buns to touch and see
And, black as an Inferno, tea.
Then (Reckett's blue) a puff of wind...
Heredity regains my mind
And I am sitting in the train
While thought becomes like flesh,—the brain
A horny substance altering sight;
How strange, intangible is light
Whence all is born, and yet by touch
We live,—the rest is not worth much...
Once more the world grows furred with sleep,—
But I must on the surface keep
While mammoths from the heat are born—
Great clumsy trains with tusk and horn
Whereon the world's too sudden tossed
Through frondage of our mind, and lost.

2.—MISS NETTYBUN AND THE SATYR'S CHILD

As underneath the trees I pass
Through emerald shade on hot soft grass,
Petunia faces, glowing-hued
With heat, cast shadows hard and crude—
Green velvety as leaves, and small
Fine hairs like grass pierce through them all.
But these are all asleep—asleep,
As through the schoolroom door I creep
In search of you, for you evade
All the advances I have made.
Come, Horace, you must take my hand:
This sulking state I will not stand!
But you shall feed on strawberry jam
At tea-time, if you cease to slam
The doors that open from our sense—
Through which I slipped to drag you hence!

3.—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 in their wiles—

Sometimes they splash like water (you
Yourself reflected in their hue).

The conversation, loud and bright,
Seems spinal bars of shunting light

In firework-spirting 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.

4.—THE SPIDER

THE fat light clings upon my skin,
Like grease that slowly forms a thin
And foul white film; so close it lies,
It feeds upon my lips and eyes.

The black fly hits the window-pane
That shuts its dirty body in;
So once, his spirit fought to quit
The body that imprisoned it.

He always seemed so fond of me,
Until one day he chanced to see
My head, a little on one side,
Loll softly as if I had died.

Since then, he rarely looked my way,
Though he could never know what lay
Within my brain; though iron his will,
I thought, he's young and teachable.

And often, as I took my drink,
I chuckled in my heart to think
Whose dark blood ran within his veins:
You see, it spared me half my pains.

The time was very long until
I had the chance to work my will;
Once seen, the way was clear as light,
A father's patience infinite.

He always was so sensitive;
But soon I taught him how to live
With each day, just a patch of white,
A blinded patch of black, each night.

Each day he watched my gaiety:
It's very difficult to die
When one is young ... I pitied him,
The glass I filled up to the brim.

His shaking fingers scarce could hold;
His limbs were trembling as with cold...
I waited till from night and day
All meaning I had wiped away,

And then I gave it him again;
The wine made heaven in his brain:
Then spider-like, the kindly wine
Thrust tentacles through every vein,

And knotted him so very fast
I knew I had him safe at last.
And sometimes in the dawn, I'd creep
To watch him as he lay asleep,

And each time, see my son's face grown
In some blurred line, more like my own.
A crumpled rag, he lies all night
Until the first white smear of light;

And sleep is but an empty hole...
No place for him to hide his soul,
No outlet there to set him free:
He never can escape from me.

Yet still I never know what thought,
All fly-like, in his mind lies caught:
His face seems some half-spoken word
Forgot again as soon as heard

Beneath the livid skin of light;
Oh, just an empty space of white,
Now all the meaning's gone. I'll sit
A little while, and stare at it.

5.—THE DRUNKARD

THIS black tower drinks the blinding light.
Strange windows livid white,

Tremble beneath the curse of God.
Yet living weeds still nod

To the huge sun, a devil's eye
That tracks the souls that die.

The clock beats like the heart of Doom
Within the narrow room;

And whispering with some ghastly air
The curtains float and stir.

But still she never speaks a word;
I think she hardly heard

When I with reeling footsteps came
And softly spoke her name.

But yet she does not sleep. Her eyes
Still watch in wide surprise

The thirsty knife that pitied her;
But those lids never stir,

Though creeping Fear still gnaws like pain
The hollow of her brain.

She must have some sly plan, the cheat,
To lie so still. The beat

That once throbbed like a muffled drum
With fear to hear me come,

Now never sounds when I creep nigh.
Oh! she was always sly.

Yet if to spite her, I dared steal
Behind her bed, and feel

With fumbling fingers for her heart...
Ere I could touch the smart,

Once more wild shriek on shriek would tear
The dumb and shuddering air...

And still she never speaks to me.
She only smiles to see

How in dark corners secret-sly
New-born Eternity,

All spider-like, doth spin and cast
Strange threads to hold Time fast.




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