Conrad Potter Aiken (5 August 1889 – 17 August 1973 / Savannah, Georgia)
How Is It That I Am Now So Softly Awakened
How is it that I am now so softly awakened,
My leaves shaken down with music?—
Darling, I love you.
It is not your mouth, for I have known mouths before,—
Though your mouth is more alive than roses,
Roses singing softly
To green leaves after rain.
It is not your eyes, for I have dived often in eyes,—
Though your eyes, even in the yellow glare of footlights,
Are windows into eternal dusk.
Nor is it the live white flashing of your feet,
Nor your gay hands, catching at motes in the spotlight;
Nor the abrupt thick music of your laughter,
When, against the hideous backdrop,
With all its crudities brilliantly lighted,
Suddenly you catch sight of your alarming shadow,
Whirling and contracting.
How is it, then, that I am so keenly aware,
So sensitive to the surges of the wind, or the light,
Heaving silently under blue seas of air?—
Darling, I love you, I am immersed in you.
It is not the unraveled night-time of your hair,—
Though I grow drunk when you press it upon my face:
And though when you gloss its length with a golden brush
I am strings that tremble under a bow.
It was that night I saw you dancing,
The whirl and impalpable float of your garment,
Your throat lifted, your face aglow
(Like waterlilies in moonlight were your knees).
It was that night I heard you singing
In the green-room after your dance was over,
Faint and uneven through the thickness of walls.
(How shall I come to you through the dullness of walls,
Thrusting aside the hands of bitter opinion?)
It was that afternoon, early in June,
When, tired with a sleepless night, and my act performed,
Feeling as stale as streets,
We met under dropping boughs, and you smiled to me:
And we sat by a watery surface of clouds and sky.
I hear only the susurration of intimate leaves;
The stealthy gliding of branches upon slow air.
I see only the point of your chin in sunlight;
And the sinister blue of sunlight on your hair.
The sunlight settles downward upon us in silence.
Now we thrust up through grass blades and encounter,
Pushing white hands amid the green.
Your face flowers whitely among cold leaves.
Soil clings to you, bark falls from you,
You rouse and stretch upward, exhaling earth, inhaling sky,
I touch you, and we drift off together like moons.
Earth dips from under.
We are alone in an immensity of sunlight,
Specks in an infinite golden radiance,
Whirled and tossed upon silent cataracts and torrents.
Give me your hand darling! We float downward.
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