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Arthur Henry Adams

(6 December 1872 – 4 March 1936 / Lawrence / New Zealand)

Bereft


FOR nine drear nights my darling has been dead;
And ah, dear God! I cannot dream of her!
Now I shall see her always lying white—
A frozen flower beneath a snow of flowers,
Drowned in a sea of fragrance. I shall hear
In every silence of the coming years
Only the muffled horror from the room
Where I had left my little child asleep—
And found a nameless thing shut in and sealed…
And I shall never feel her breath that kissed
Me closer than her lips did; for the thick,
Dead perfume of slow-drooping flowers has drawn
A veil across my memory.…She is dead;
For nine drear nights I have not dreamed of her.
When, all a tangle of wee clambering limbs,
And little gusts of laughter and of tears,
Sun-flecked and shadow-stricken every hour,
She played about me, I could lie all night
And dream of her. She came in wondrous ways,
Hiding behind the dark to startle me;
Then leaping down the vistas of the night,
And yielding all her wistful soul to me
With kisses tenderer and words more sweet
Than that mad, random vehemence of love
She lavished on me through her laughing day.

And now she has been dead nine dreary nights,
And ah, dear God! I cannot dream of her!
Her idle hoop is hung against the wall,
And in the dusk her cherished garments seem
As if still warmed with all her eager life.
And here the childish story that she wrote
Herself, and never finished;—how one day
With puzzled pucker of her brow she stopped
Mid-sentence! as if God had gravely held
A finger up to hush her, and she knew
She was to keep His secrets;—soon, so soon,
Perhaps He whispered low, she would know all.
And now she has been dead nine long sad nights;
And ah, dear God! I cannot dream of her!
So I shall see her always lying white—
A frozen flower beneath a snow of flowers,
Drowned in a sea of fragrance. Now it seems
As if the memories I hold of her
Have shrivelled with the lilies that she loved
And lay with on her little narrow bed.
And now she will not murmur through my dreams
Those faint, strange words that mean so much in dreams,
And wither with the morn. I lie awake
And whisper to my hopes, “To-night I'll hear
Her petulant hands knock at my dreams' shut gate;

And oh, the gladness when I let her in!
Hush! what a patter of impatient feet
Down the long staircase of the stars!” And then
I sleep, and with an endless weariness
I grope among the spaces of the dark
For rhythm of her unresting feet, or touch
Of her caressing fingers, or the kiss
And whisper of her little self-willed curls;
But never lifts her laugh across the dark,
And never may I smooth her wilful curls,
And when I wake again I see her yet,
So pitifully thin and chill and straight,
Who used to be all curves—a living flame!
For nine drear nights my darling has been dead,
And till I die I cannot dream of her.
Perhaps she aches to come, shut in her grave—
So deep to dig to hide that tender form!
Dear God! she is too frail and weak to climb
The horror of those walls that hedge her in;
And when you call her to you let me be
Close by her side to lift her little feet
Up to the grass and sunshine of this world,
That lacking her is now so desolate.
So I have called and called…she does not come.
And yet I know the way into my heart
She has not quite forgotten…She does not come.
And now for nine drear nights she has been dead;
And ah, dear God! I cannot dream of her!

Submitted: Thursday, April 26, 2012

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