Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE WHITE WATCH (OPUS 27: NO. 2), by GORDON BOTTOMLEY

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Classic and Contemporary Poetry

THE WHITE WATCH (OPUS 27: NO. 2), by             Poet's Biography
First Line: O lifeless garden of the moon
Last Line: A little over the garden below.
Subject(s): Moon; Sleep; Women

O LIFELESS garden of the moon
You look as if I am unknown;
Across the valley the trees twist
As though bewildered by the mist --
They are strange because I have not come.
The moonlight makes the pale owl dumb.
Like window-veils in mirrors a hum
Of little flies waving their feet
Dims the air like a flicker of heat --
Before my window they spin and rise
In a shapeless cloud as wide as my eyes
Because the moonlight draws long streaks
Of earth-breath warm as girls' moist cheeks
Wavering up in vibrant veins.

They taper like my body's pains.

Moonbeams must have made these stains
Of whiteness on my narrow feet --
Through my long nightgown and one sheet
The moon has soaked night after night
Dissolving in me the linen's white.
There was a moon when I last stood
Loosing my flowered silk and my mood,
Looking down into air as slow
As water with a light below....
But I think it must not have been this moon,
For I have lain long though it comes soon;
A chill slim fever has made me thin,
Until my soul has whitened my skin
And keen lithe shudders have left me slight --
As though I had drunk too much moonlight.
There may have been days, but I only know
Nights and the moon I lay below;
And they watched, Elise and Rosanelle,
With unbound hair and robes that fell
To reveal their feet, sleep-robes so fine;
They gave me liquids crystalline
And white food toned with heavy white wine;
They watched that I did not leave these spaces
And go with the moon to other places,
For I dare not sleep lest I lose hold
And die in my sleep like a flower in a fold
When it slips from your neck inside your things.
O, I would sleep as still and clear
And hollow as the deep light here --
Suspended from earth's wanderings.
But Rosanelle and married Elise
Say my fever's secrecies
Are dry, so they may lie on the floor
And sleep to listen for my door....
I know they could waken if they heard
The little chir (as of cooling curd)
When bedclothes settle on one just dead;
Yet I have wavered from my bed
Through the scent of their bodies to pass,
I have taken their lantern of cinnamon glass
(Litten to look at me in the dark
Moonbeams stir up beyond their mark),
I have hung its cord my wrist to mar
That I may feel an attendant star
While now between the shutters I gaze
To find my antique moony ways.

The other stars, as thus we rise,
Crawl up heaven like old flies.
The darkness of air beneath its light
Makes it my mirror infinite --
Darkness sinks in my eyes so far
I can feel them repeat each floating star,
Until my eyes become the air
Whose darkness seems some moon-skirt spare,
So soft that the quivering touch of sight
Sinks beyond its down of light.
Pale inflammation of the moon
With intense clearness strokes me too soon;
I am cool as the red flowers hovering slow
A little over the garden below.

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