Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE SCREEN, by JOHN ORLEY ALLEN TATE



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THE SCREEN, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Dusk creeps in the parted shutter
Last Line: I have lived for, a lonely customer.
Alternate Author Name(s): Tate, Allen
Subject(s): Death - Animals


Dusk creeps in the parted shutter --
Spreads a silver shadow-screen:
Dinner is ended and the walls
Of the tired mind depict a scene
Of palaces no longer golden,
Of slippered years that patter down
Black marble stairways to the grey
Cold silence of a broken town:
Where boys and girls were quickly fair,
And boys lurked once in perfumed halls,
Cursed with ancient funerals,
Lost in blind avenues of hair.
I shall not ever hold again
The rapture of their last night --
One stricken night so endlessly
Marted for pinnacles of stone,
Motors and steel, in Tennessee:
Where now the cat-like limousine
Purrs to the prinkling Belle Meade grass
(Rouged with geraniums, slashed with rills),
Superior to the age of ruffles
In an age of jazz and chills . . .

I am not dead . . . I am alone,
Teasing a live corpse with a dream.

I am not dead. Shall I die?
Her eyes are open and she laughs
Like the hard quiet in an autumn dawn,
With lips hammered on old medallions --
Mute souvenirs of time and war
And beauty's vagrant cenotaphs . . .
I shall not die if this be sleep,
I shall not weep nor shall I die,
I will seek the golden blood
Of rivers, at sunset; I will drink.
For, athirst of golden hair,
I will drink with the evening star --
Walk a fearful road while a vision passes
Like a headlong flash of a motor-car.

Will the night be filled with footfalls . . .
With boys and girls and funerals?
She is dead now? Spring will not burst
Over the lawns and terraces
Stirred to magnolia bloom again
By an uncharted wayward thirst.
Spring is not happy now. And now,
With an echo of dead years, the night
Falls down from bitter stars and palls
The mind descanting to the dark
Of boys and girls and golden rivers,
Of a hammered lip that never quivers --
Pale eyes, black faces in a tree.

Hope I have clutched beyond death,
Stretched fingers down a street for light,
Panted for a stronger breath --
Cast jewels into a desolate sea.
And afterward, like a brutal song
Stabbing the young dusk to stillness,
Comes the after-dinner hour,
Bringing the years that patter down
The streets of a broken empty town,
Bringing the bellman to the tower
Of a final gong for weariness --
Bringing, at last, the ivory hand
I have lived for, a lonely customer.





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