James Whitcomb Riley

(7 October 1849 - 22 July 1916 / Greenfield, Indiana)

The Lost Kiss - Poem by James Whitcomb Riley

I put by the half-written poem,
While the pen, idly trailed in my hand,
Writes on--, 'Had I words to complete it,
Who'd read it, or who'd understand?'
But the little bare feet on the stairway,
And the faint, smothered laugh in the hall,
And the eerie-low lisp on the silence,
Cry up to me over it all.

So I gather it up-- where was broken
The tear-faded thread of my theme,
Telling how, as one night I sat writing,
A fairy broke in on my dream,
A little inquisitive fairy--
My own little girl, with the gold
Of the sun in her hair, and the dewy
Blue eyes of the fairies of old.

'Twas the dear little girl that I scolded--
'For was it a moment like this,'
I said, 'when she knew I was busy,
To come romping in for a kiss--?
Come rowdying up from her mother,
And clamoring there at my knee
For 'One 'ittle kiss for my dolly,
And one 'ittle uzzer for me!'

God pity, the heart that repelled her,
And the cold hand that turned her away,
And take, from the lips that denied her,
This answerless prayer of to-day!
Take Lord, from my mem'ry forever
That pitiful sob of despair,
And the patter and trip of the little bare feet,
And the one piercing cry on the stair!

I put by the half-written poem,
While the pen, idly trailed in my hand
Writes on--, 'Had I words to complete it
Who'd read it, or who'd understand?'
But the little bare feet on the stairway,
And the faint, smothered laugh in the hall,
And the eerie-low lisp on the silence,
Cry up to me over it all.


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Poem Submitted: Friday, April 9, 2010



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