Florence Wilkinson

(1878-1950 / United States)

Our Lady Of Idleness - Poem by Florence Wilkinson

They in the darkness gather and ask
Her name, the mistress of their endless task.

The Toilers

Tinsel-makers in factory gloom,
Miners in ethylene pits,
Divers and druggists mixing poisonous bloom;

Huge hunters, men of brawn,
Half-naked creatures of the tropics,
Furred trappers stealing forth at Labrador dawn;

Catchers of beetles, sheep-men in bleak sheds,
Pearl-fishers perched on Indian coasts,
Children in stifling towers pulling threads;

Dark bunchy women pricking intricate laces,
Myopic jewelers’ apprentices,
Arabs who chase the long-legged birds in sandy places:

They are her invisible slaves,
The genii of her costly wishes,
Climbing, descending, running under waves.

They strip earth’s dimmest cell,
They burn and drown and stifle
To build her inconceivable and fragile shell.

The Artist-Artisans

They have painted a miracle-shawl
Of cobwebs and whispering shadows,
And trellised leaves that ripple on a wall.

They have broidered a tissue of cost,
Spun foam of the sea
And lilied imagery of the vanishing frost.

Her floating skirts have run
Like iridescent marshes,
Or like the tossed hair of a stormy sun.

Her silver cloak has shone
Blue as a mummy’s beads,
Green as the ice-glints of an Arctic zone.

She is weary and has lain
At last her body down.
What, with her clothing’s beauty, they have slain!

The Angel With the Sword

Come, brothers, let us lift
Her pitiful body on high,
Her tight-shut hands that take to heaven no gift

But ashes of costly things.
We seven archangels will
Bear her in silence on our flame-tipped wings.

The Toilers

Lo, she is thinner than fire
On a burned mill-town’s edge,
And smaller than a young child’s dead desire.

Yea, emptier than the wage
Of a spent harlot crying for her beauty,
And grayer than the mumbling lips of age.

A Lost Girl

White as a drowned one’s feet
Twined with the wet sea-bracken,
And naked as a Sin driven from God’s littlest street.

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Poem Submitted: Thursday, April 22, 2010

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