poet Henry Cuyler Bunner

Henry Cuyler Bunner

Just A Love Letter

NEW YORK, July 20, 1883.
DEAR GIRL:
The town goes on as though
It thought you still were in it;
The gilded cage seems scarce to know
That it has lost its linnet.
The people come, the people pass;
The clock keeps on a-ticking;
And through the basement plots of grass
Persistent weeds are pricking.


I thought ‘twould never come — the Spring —
Since you had left the city;
But on the snow-drifts lingering
At last the skies took pity.
Then Summer’s yellow warmed the sun,
Daily decreasing distance —
I really don’t know how ‘twas done
Without your kind assistance.


Aunt Van, of course, still holds the fort:
I’ve paid the call of duty;
She gave me one small glass of port —
‘Twas ‘34 and fruity.
The furniture was draped in gloom
Of linen brown and wrinkled;
I smelt in spots about the room
The pungent camphor sprinkled.

I sat upon the sofa where
You sat and dropped your thimble —
You know — you said you didn’t care;
But I was nobly nimble.
On hands and knees I dropped, and tried
To — well, I tried to miss it:
You slipped your hand down by your side —
You knew I meant to kiss it!

Aunt Van, I fear we put to shame
Propriety and precision;
But, praised be Love, that kiss just came
Beyond your line of vision.
Dear maiden aunt! the kiss, more sweet
Because ‘tis surreptitious,
You never stretched a hand to meet,
So dimpled, dear, delicious.


I sought the Park last Saturday;
I found the Drive deserted;
The winter-trough beside the way
Sad and superfluous spurted.
I stood where Humboldt guards the gate,
Bronze, bumptious, stained, and streaky —
There sat a sparrow on his pate,
A sparrow chirp and cheeky.

Ten months ago! Ten months ago
It seems a happy second,
Against a life-time lone and slow,
By Love’s wild time-piece reckoned —
You smiled, by Aunt’s protecting side,
Where thick the drags were massing,
On one young man who didn’t ride,
But stood and watched you passing.

I haunt Purssell’s — to his amaze —
Not that I care to eat there,
But for the dear clandestine days
When we two had to meet there.
Oh, blessed is that baker’s bake,
Past cavil and past question:
I ate a bun for your sweet sake,
And memory helped digestion.

The Norths are at their Newport ranch;
Van Brunt has gone to Venice;
Loomis invites me to the Branch,
And lures me with lawn tennis.
O bustling barracks by the sea!
O spiles, canals, and islands!
Your varied charms are naught to me —
My heart is in the Highlands!

My paper trembles in the breeze
That all too faintly flutters
Among the dusty city trees,
And through my half-closed shutters:
A northern captive in the town,
Its native vigor deadened,
I hope that, as it wandered down,
Your dear pale cheek it reddened.


I’ll write no more! A vis-a-vis
In halcyon vacation
Will sure afford a much more free
Mode of communication.
I’m tantalized and cribbed and checked
In making love by letter:
I know a style more brief, direct —
And generally better!

Poem Submitted: Saturday, September 4, 2010

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