The Basket

by Amy Lowell

Amy Lowell

I

The inkstand is full of ink, and the paper lies

white and unspotted,

in the round of light thrown by a candle. Puffs of darkness

sweep into

the corners, and keep rolling through the room behind his chair. The

air

is silver and pearl, for the night is liquid with moonlight.

See how the roof glitters, like ice!

Over there, a slice of yellow cuts into the silver-blue,

and beside it stand

two geraniums, purple because the light is silver-blue, to-night.

See! She is coming, the young woman with the bright hair.

She swings a basket as she walks, which she places on the sill,

between the geranium stalks. He laughs, and crumples

his paper

as he leans forward to look. "The Basket Filled with

Moonlight",

what a title for a book!

The bellying clouds swing over the housetops.

He has forgotten the woman in the room with the geraniums. He

is beating

his brain, and in his eardrums hammers his heavy pulse. She

sits

on the window-sill, with the basket in her lap. And tap! She

cracks a nut.

And tap! Another. Tap! Tap! Tap! The

shells ricochet upon the roof,

and get into the gutters, and bounce over the edge and disappear.

"It is very queer," thinks Peter, "the basket was

empty, I'm sure.

How could nuts appear from the atmosphere?"

The silver-blue moonlight makes the geraniums purple,

and the roof glitters

like ice.

II

Five o'clock. The geraniums are very

gay in their crimson array.

The bellying clouds swing over the housetops, and over the roofs

goes Peter

to pay his morning's work with a holiday.

"Annette, it is I. Have you finished? Can

I come?"

Peter jumps through the window.

"Dear, are you alone?"

"Look, Peter, the dome of the tabernacle is done. This

gold thread

is so very high, I am glad it is morning, a starry sky would have

seen me bankrupt. Sit down, now tell me, is your story

going well?"

The golden dome glittered in the orange of the

setting sun. On the walls,

at intervals, hung altar-cloths and chasubles, and copes, and stoles,

and coffin palls. All stiff with rich embroidery, and

stitched with

so much artistry, they seemed like spun and woven gems, or flower-buds

new-opened on their stems.

Annette looked at the geraniums, very red against the blue sky.

"No matter how I try, I cannot find any thread

of such a red.

My bleeding hearts drip stuff muddy in comparison. Heigh-ho! See

my little

pecking dove? I'm in love with my own temple. Only

that halo's wrong.

The colour's too strong, or not strong enough. I don't

know. My eyes

are tired. Oh, Peter, don't be so rough; it is valuable. I

won't do

any more. I promise. You tyrannise, Dear,

that's enough. Now sit down

and amuse me while I rest."

The shadows of the geraniums creep over the floor,

and begin to climb

the opposite wall.

Peter watches her, fluid with fatigue, floating, and drifting,

and undulant in the orange glow. His senses flow towards

her,

where she lies supine and dreaming. Seeming drowned in

a golden halo.

The pungent smell of the geraniums is hard to bear.

He pushes against her knees, and brushes his lips across her languid

hands.

His lips are hot and speechless. He woos her, quivering,

and the room

is filled with shadows, for the sun has set. But she

only understands

the ways of a needle through delicate stuffs, and the shock of one

colour

on another. She does not see that this is the same, and

querulously murmurs

his name.

"Peter, I don't want it. I am tired."

And he, the undesired, burns and is consumed.

There is a crescent moon on the rim of the sky.

III

"Go home, now, Peter. To-night is full

moon. I must be alone."

"How soon the moon is full again! Annette,

let me stay. Indeed, Dear Love,

I shall not go away. My God, but you keep me starved! You

write

`No Entrance Here', over all the doors. Is it not strange,

my Dear,

that loving, yet you deny me entrance everywhere. Would

marriage

strike you blind, or, hating bonds as you do, why should I be denied

the rights of loving if I leave you free? You want the

whole of me,

you pick my brains to rest you, but you give me not one heart-beat.

Oh, forgive me, Sweet! I suffer in my loving, and you

know it. I cannot

feed my life on being a poet. Let me stay."

"As you please, poor Peter, but it will hurt me

if you do. It will

crush your heart and squeeze the love out."

He answered gruffly, "I know what I'm about."

"Only remember one thing from to-night. My

work is taxing and I must

have sight! I MUST!"

The clear moon looks in between the geraniums. On

the wall,

the shadow of the man is divided from the shadow of the woman

by a silver thread.

They are eyes, hundreds of eyes, round like marbles! Unwinking,

for there

are no lids. Blue, black, gray, and hazel, and the irises

are cased

in the whites, and they glitter and spark under the moon. The

basket

is heaped with human eyes. She cracks off the whites

and throws them away.

They ricochet upon the roof, and get into the gutters, and bounce

over the edge and disappear. But she is here, quietly

sitting

on the window-sill, eating human eyes.

The silver-blue moonlight makes the geraniums purple,

and the roof shines

like ice.

IV

How hot the sheets are! His skin is

tormented with pricks,

and over him sticks, and never moves, an eye. It lights

the sky with blood,

and drips blood. And the drops sizzle on his bare skin,

and he smells them

burning in, and branding his body with the name "Annette".

The blood-red sky is outside his window now. Is

it blood or fire?

Merciful God! Fire! And his heart wrenches

and pounds "Annette!"

The lead of the roof is scorching, he ricochets,

gets to the edge,

bounces over and disappears.

The bellying clouds are red as they swing over

the housetops.

V

The air is of silver and pearl, for the night is

liquid with moonlight.

How the ruin glistens, like a palace of ice! Only two

black holes swallow

the brilliance of the moon. Deflowered windows, sockets

without sight.

A man stands before the house. He sees

the silver-blue moonlight,

and set in it, over his head, staring and flickering, eyes of geranium

red.

Annette!