Love Song

by William Faulkner

William Faulkner

Shall I walk, then, through a corridor of profundities
Carefully erect ( I am taller that [than?] I look)
To a certain door – – – and shall I dare
To open it? I smoothe my mental hair
With an oft changed phrase that I revise again
Until I have forgotten what it was at first;
Settle my tie with: I have brought a book,
Then seat myself with: We have passed the worst.

Then I shall sit among careful cups of tea,
Aware of a slight perspiring as to brow,
(The smell of scented cigarettes will always trouble me);
I shall sit, so patently at ease,
Stiffly erect, decorous as to knees
Among toy balloons of dignity on threads of talk.

And do I dare
(I once more stroke my hand across my hair )
But the window of my mind flies shut, I am in a room
Of surcharged conversation, and of jewelled hands;
– – -Here one slowly strips a flower stalk.
It is too close in here, I rise and walk,
Firmly take my self-possession by the hand.

Now, do I dare,
Who sees the light gleam on her intricate hair?
Shall I assume a studied pose, or shall I stand —–
Oh, Mr. . . .? You are so kind . . ..
Again the door slams inward on my mind.

Not at all….

Replace a cup,
Return and pick a napkin up.

My tongue, a bulwark where a last faint self-possession hides,
Fails me: I withdraw, retreat,
Conscious of the glances on my feet,
And feel as if I trod in sand.

Yet I may raise my head a little while.
The world revolves behind a painted smile.
And now, while evening lies embalmed upon the west
And a last faint pulse of life fades down the sky,
We will go alone, my soul and I,
To a hollow cadence down this neutral street;
To a rhythm of feet
Now stilled and fallen. I will walk alone,
The uninvited one who dares not go
Whither the feast is spread to friend and foe,
Whose courage balks the last indifferent gate,
Who dares not join the beggars at the arch of stone.

Change and change: the world revolves to worlds,
To minute whorls
And particles of soil on careless thumbs.
Now I shall go alone,
I shall echo streets of stone, while evening comes
Treading space and beat, space and beat.
The last left seed of beauty in my heart
That I so carefully tended, leaf and bloom,
Falls in darkness.

But enough. What is all beauty? What, that I
Should raise my hands palm upward to the sky,
That I should weakly tremble and fall dumb
At some cryptic promise or pale gleam; – –
A sudden wing, a word, a cry?
Evening dies, and now that night has come
Walking still streets, monk-like, grey and dumb;
Then softly clad in grey, lies down again;
I also rise and walk, and die in dream,
For dream is death, and death but fathomed dream.

And shall I walk these streets while passing time
Softly ticks my face, my thinning hair?
I should have been a priest in floorless halls
Wearing his eyes thin on a faded manuscript.

The world revolves. High heels and scented shawls,
Painted masks, and kisses mouth and mouth:
Gesture of a senile pantaloon
To make us laugh.

I have measured time, I measured time
With span of thumb and finger
As one who seeks a bargain: sound enough
I think, but slightly worn;
There’s still enough to cover me from cold,
Momentous indecisions, change
And loneliness. Does not each fold
Repeat – – the while I measure time, I measure time –
The word, the thought, the soundless empty gesture
Of him that it so bravely once arrayed?

Spring . . . shadowed walls, and kissing in the dark.
I, too; was young upon a time, I too; have felt
All life, at one small word, within me melt;
And strange slow swooning wings I could not see
Stirring the beautiful silence over me.

I grow old, I grow old.
Could I walk within my garden while the night
Comes gently down,
And see the garden maidens dancing, white
And dim, across the flower beds?

I would take cold: I dare not try,
Nor watch the stars again born in the sky
Eternally young.

I grow old, I grow old.
Submerged in the firelight’s solemn gold
I sit, watching the restless shadows, red and brown
Float there till I disturb them, then they drown.

I measure time, I measure time.
I see my soul, disturbed, awake and climb
A sudden dream, and fall
And whimpering, crowd near me in the dark.

And do I dare, who steadily builds a wall
Of hour on hour, and day, then lifts a year
That heavily falls in place, while time
Ticks my face, my thinning hair, my heart
In which a faint last long remembered beauty hides?

I should have been a priest in floorless halls
Whose hand, worn thin by turning endless pages,
Lifts, and strokes his face, and falls
And stirs a dust of time heaped grain on grain,
Then gropes the book, and turns it through again;

Who turns the pages through, who turns again,
While darkness lays soft fingers on his eyes
And strokes the lamplight from his brow, to wake him, and he dies.

Last updated October 15, 2022