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Our Favorite Poetry By Amy Lowell


(Her lesbian love poems are listed in The Complete Poetical Works of Amy Lowell, under the Planes of Personality: Two Speak Together)

A Sprig of Rosemary
I cannot see your face.
When I think of you, 
It is your hands which I see.
Your hands
Sewing,
Holding a book,
Resting for a moment on the sill of a window.
My eyes keep always the sight of your hands,
But my heart holds the sound of your voice,
And the soft brightness which is your soul.


Vernal Equinox

The scent of hyacinths, like a pale mist,
  lies between me and my book;
And the South Wind, washing through the room,
Makes the candles quiver.
My nerves sting at a spatter of rain on the shutter,
And I am uneasy with the thrusting of 
  green shoots
Outside, in the night.


Mise en scene

When I think of you, Beloved,
I see a smooth and stately garden
With parterres of gold and crimson tulips
And the bursting lilac leaves.
There is a low-lipped basin in the midst,
Where a statue of veined cream marble
Perpetually pours water over her shoulder
From a rounded urn.
When the wind blows,
The water-stream blows before it
And spatters into the basin with a light tinkling,
And your shawl-- the colour of red violets--
Flares out behind you in great curves
Like the swirling draperies of a painted Madonna.


Madonna of the Evening Flowers

All day long I have been working,
Now I am tired.
I call: "Where are you?"
But there is only the oak-tree rustling in the wind.
The house is very quiet,
The sun shines in on your books,
On your scissors and thimble just put down,
But you are not there.
Suddenly I am lonely:
Where are you?
I go about searching.

Then I see you,
Standing under a spire of pale blue larkspur,
With a basket of roses on your arm.
You are cool, like silver,
and you smile.
I think the Canterbury bells are playing little tunes.

You tell me that the peonies need spraying,
That the columbines have overrun all bounds,
That the pyrus japonica should be cut back and rounded.
You tell me these things.
But I look at you, heart of silver,
White heart-flame of polished silver,
Burning beneath the blue steeples of the larkspur,
And I long to kneel instantly at your feet,
While all about us peal the loud sweet
  Te Deums of the Canterbury bells.


Bright Sunlight

The wind has blown a corner of your shawl
Into the fountain,
Where it floats and drifts
Among the lily-pads
Like a tissue of sapphires.
But you do not heed it,
Your fingers pick at the lichens
On the stone edge of the basin,
And your eyes follow the tall clouds
As they sail over the ilex-trees.


Ombre Chinoise

Red foxgloves against a yellow wall
   streaked with plum-coloured shadows;
A lady with a blue and red sunshade;
The slow dash of waves upon a parapet.
That is all.
Non-existent-- immortal--
As solid as the centre of a ring of fine gold.


July Midnight

Fireflies flicker in the tops of trees,
Flicker in the lower branches,
Skim along the ground.
Over the moon-white lilies
Is a flashing and ceasing of small, lemon-green stars.
As you lean against me,
Moon-white,
The air all about you
Is slit, and pricked, and pointed with 
  sparkles of lemon-green flame
Starting out of a background of vague, 
  blue trees.


Wheat-In-The-Ear

You stand between the cedars and the green spruces,
Brilliantly naked
And I think:
   What are you,
    A gem under sunlight?
    A poised spear?
    A jade cup?
You flash in front of the cedars and the tall spruces,
And I see that you are fire--
Sacrificial fire on a jade altar,
Spear-tongue of white, ceremonial fire.
My eyes burn,
My hands are flames seeking you,
But you are as remote from me as a bright pointed planet
Set in the distance of an evening sky.


Interlude

When I have baked white cakes
And grated green almonds to spread upon them;
When I have picked the green crowns from the strawberries
And piled them, cone-pointed, in a blue and yellow platter;
When I have smoothed the seam of the linen I have been working;
What then?
To-morrow it will be the same:
Cakes and strawberries,
And needles n and out of cloth.
If the sun is beautiful on bricks and pewter.
How much more beautiful is the moon, 
Slanting down the gauffered branches of a plum-tree;
The moon,
Wavering across a bed of tulips;
The moon,
Still,
Upon your face.
You shine, Beloved,
You and the moon.
But which is the reflection?
The clock is striking eleven.
I think, when we have shut and barred the boor,
The night will be dark
Outside.


A Shower

The sputter of rain, flipping the hedgerows
And making the highways hiss,
How I love it!
And the touch of you upon my arm
As you press against me that my umbrella 
May cover you.

Tinkle of drops on stretched silk
Wet murmur through green branches.


Summer Rain

All night our room was outer-walled with rain.
Drops fell and flattened on the tin roof,
And rang like little disks of metal.
Ping!-- Ping!-- and there was not a pinpoint of silence between them.
The rain rattled and clashed,
And the slats of the shutters danced and glittered.
But to me the darkness was red-gold and crocus-coloured
With your brightness,
And the words you whispered to me
Sprang up and flamed-- orange torches against the rain.
Torches against the wall of cool, silver rain!


April
A bird chirped at my window this morning,
And over the sky is drawn a light network of clouds.
Come,
Let us go out into the open,
For my heart leaps like a fish that is ready to spawn.

I will lie under the beech-trees,
Under the grey branches of the beech-trees,
In a blueness of little squills and crocuses.
I will lie among the little squills
And be delivered of this overcharge of beauty,
And that which is born shall be a joy to you
Who love me.


Coq D'or
I walked along a street at dawn in cold, grey light
Above me lines of windows watched, gaunt, dull, drear.
The lamps were fading, and the sky was streaked rose-red,
Silhouetting chimneys with their queer, round pots.
My feet upon the pavement made a 
knock- knock- knock.
Above the roofs of Westminster, Big Ben struck.
The cocks on all the steeples crew in clear, flat tones,
And churchyard daisies sprang away from thin, bleak bones.
The golden trees were calling me:
   "Come! Come! Come!"
The trees were fresh with daylight, and I heard bees hum.
A cart trailed slowly down the street, its load young greens,
They sparkled like blown emeralds, and then I laughed.
A morning in the city with its upthrust spires
All tipped with gold and shining in the brisk, blue air,
But the gold is round my forehead and the knot still holds
Where you tied it in the shadows, your rose-gold hair.


After the Storm

You walk under the ice trees.
They sway, and crackle,
And arch themselves splendidly
To deck your going.
The white sun flips them into colour
Before you.
They are blue, 
And mauve,
And emerald.
They are amber,
And jade,
And sardonyx.
They are silver fretted to flame
And startled to stillness,
Bunched, splintered, iridescent.
You walk under the ice trees
And the bright snow creaks as you step upon it.
My dogs leap about you,
And their barking strikes upon the air
Like sharp hammer-strokes on metal.
You walk under the ice trees
But you are more dazzling than the ice flowers,
And the dogs' barking
Is not so loud to me as your quietness.

You walk under the ice trees
At ten o'clock in the morning.



Opal

You are ice and fire,
The touch of you burns my hands like snow.
You are cold and flame.
You are the crimson of amaryllis,
The silver of moon-touched magnolias.
When I am with you,
My heart is a frozen pond
Gleaming with agitated torches.


Wakefulness
Jolt of market-carts;
Steady drip of horses' hoofs on hard pavement;
A black sky lacquered over with blueness,
And the lights of Battersea Bridge
Pricking pale in the dawn.
The beautiful hours are passing
And still you sleep!
Tired heart of my joy,
Incurved upon your dreams,
Will the day come before you have opened to me.


Penumbra

As I sit here in the quiet Summer night,
Suddenly, from the distant road, there comes
The grind and rush of an electric car.
And, from still farther off,
An engine puffs sharply,
Followed by the drawn-out shunting scrape of a freight train.
These are the sounds that men make
In the long business of living.
They will always make such sounds,
Years after I am dead and cannot hear them.

Sitting here in the Summer night,
I think of my death.
What will it be like for you then?
You will see my chair
With its bright chintz covering
Standing in the afternoon sunshine,
As now.
You will see my narrow table
At which I have written so many hours.
My dogs will push their noses into your hand,
And ask-- ask--
Clinging to you with puzzled eyes.

The old house will still be here,
The old house which has known me since the beginning.
The walls which have watched me while I played:
Soldiers, marbles, paper-dolls,
Which have protected me and my books.

The front-door will gaze down among the old trees
Where, as a child, I hunted ghosts and Indians;
It will look out on the wide gravel sweep
here I rolled my hoop,
And at the rhododendron bushes
Where I caught black-spotted butterflies.

The old house will guard you,
As I have done.
Its walls and rooms will hold you,
And I shall whisper my thoughts and fancies
As always,
From the pages of my book.

You will sit here, some quiet Summer night,
Listening to the puffing trains,
But you will not be lonely,
For these things are a part of me.
And my love will go on speaking to you
Through the chairs, and the tables, and the pictures,
As it does now through my voice,
And the quick, necessary touch of my hand.



Planning the Garden

Bring pencils, fine pointed,
For our writing must be infinitesimal;
And bring sheets of paper
To spread before us.
Now draw the plan of our garden beds,
And outline the borders and the paths Correctly.
We will scatter little words
Upon the paper,
Like seeds about to be planted;
We will fill all the whiteness
With little words,
So that the brown earth
Shall never show between our flowers;
Instead, there will be petals and greenness
From April till November.
These narrow lines
Are rose-drifted thrift,
Edging the paths.
And here I plant nodding columbines,
With tree-tall wistarias behind them,
Each stem umbrella'd in its purple fringe.
Winged sweet-peas shall flutter next to pansies
All down the sunny centre.
Foxglove spears,
Thrust back against the swaying lilac leaves,
Will bloom and fade before the China asters
Smear their crude colours over Autumn hazes.
These double paths dividing make an angle
For bushes,
Bleeding hearts, I think,
Their flowers jigging
Like little ladies,
Satined, hoop-skirted,
Ready for a ball. 
The round black circles
Mean striped and flaunting tulips,
The clustered trumpets of yellow jonquils,
And the sharp blue of hyacinths and squills.
These specks like dotted grain
Are coreopsis, bright as bandanas,
And ice-blue heliotrope with its sticky leaves,
And mignonette
Whose sober-coloured cones of bloom
Scent quiet mornings.
And poppies!  Poppies!  Poppies!
The hatchings shall all mean a tide of poppies,
Crinkled and frail and flowing in the breeze

Wait just a moment,
Here's an empty space.
Now plant me lilies-of-the-valley--
This pear-tree over them will keep them cool--
We'll have a lot of them
With white bells jingling.
The steps 
Shall be all soft with stone-crop;
And at the top
I'll make an arch of roses,
Crimson,
Bee-enticing.

There, it is done;
Seal up the paper.
Let us go to bed and dream of flowers.


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