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Dorothy Parker

Prayer For a New Mother

The things she knew, let her forget again-
The voices in the sky, the fear, the cold,
The gaping shepherds, and the queer old men
Piling their clumsy gifts of foreign gold.

Let her have laughter with her little one;
Teach her the endless, tuneless songs to sing,
Grant her her right to whisper to her son
The foolish names one dare not call a king.

Keep from her dreams the rumble of a crowd,
The smell of rough-cut wood, the trail of red,
The thick and chilly whiteness of the shroud
That wraps the strange new body of the dead.

Ah, let her go, kind Lord, where mothers go
And boast his pretty words and ways, and plan
The proud and happy years that they shall know
Together, when her son is grown a man.

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The Danger Of Writing Defiant Verse

And now I have another lad!
No longer need you tell
How all my nights are slow and sad
For loving you too well.

His ways are not your wicked ways,
He's not the like of you.
He treads his path of reckoned days,
A sober man, and true.

They'll never see him in the town,
Another on his knee.
He'd cut his laden orchards down,
If that would pleasure me.

He'd give his blood to paint my lips
If I should wish them red.
He prays to touch my finger-tips
Or stroke my prideful head.

[...] Read more

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Of a Woman, Dead Young

If she had been beautiful, even,
Or wiser than women about her,
Or had moved with a certain defiance;
If she had had sons at her sides,
And she with her hands on their shoulders,
Sons, to make troubled the Gods-
But where was there wonder in her?
What had she, better or eviler,
Whose days were a pattering of peas
From the pod to the bowl in her lap?

That the pine tree is blasted by lightning,
And the bowlder split raw from the mountain,
And the river dried short in its rushing-
That I can know, and be humble.
But that They who have trodden the stars
Should turn from Their echoing highway
To trample a daisy, unnoticed
In a meadow of small, open flowers-
Where is Their triumph in that?

[...] Read more

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Salome's Dancing-Lesson

She that begs a little boon
(Heel and toe! Heel and toe!)
Little gets- and nothing, soon.
(No, no, no! No, no, no!)
She that calls for costly things
Priceless finds her offerings-
What's impossible to kings?
(Heel and toe! Heel and toe!)

Kings are shaped as other men.
(Step and turn! Step and turn!)
Ask what none may ask again.
(Will you learn? Will you learn?)
Lovers whine, and kisses pall,
Jewels tarnish, kingdoms fall-
Death's the rarest prize of all!
(Step and turn! Step and turn!)

Veils are woven to be dropped.
(One, two, three! One, two, three!)

[...] Read more

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Hearthside

Half across the world from me
Lie the lands I'll never see-
I, whose longing lives and dies
Where a ship has sailed away;
I, that never close my eyes
But to look upon Cathay.

Things I may not know nor tell
Wait, where older waters swell;
Ways that flowered at Sappho's tread,
Winds that sighed in Homer's strings,
Vibrant with the singing dead,
Golden with the dust of wings.

Under deeper skies than mine,
Quiet valleys dip and shine.
Where their tender grasses heal
Ancient scars of trench and tomb
I shall never walk: nor kneel
Where the bones of poets bloom.

[...] Read more

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The Maid-Servant At The Inn

"It's queer," she said; "I see the light
As plain as I beheld it then,
All silver-like and calm and bright-
We've not had stars like that again!

"And she was such a gentle thing
To birth a baby in the cold.
The barn was dark and frightening-
This new one's better than the old.

"I mind my eyes were full of tears,
For I was young, and quick distressed,
But she was less than me in years
That held a son against her breast.

"I never saw a sweeter child-
The little one, the darling one!-
I mind I told her, when he smiled
You'd know he was his mother's son.

[...] Read more

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The Trifler

Death's the lover that I'd be taking;
Wild and fickle and fierce is he.
Small's his care if my heart be breaking-
Gay young Death would have none of me.

Hear them clack of my haste to greet him!
No one other my mouth had kissed.
I had dressed me in silk to meet him-
False young Death would not hold the tryst.

Slow's the blood that was quick and stormy,
Smooth and cold is the bridal bed;
I must wait till he whistles for me-
Proud young Death would not turn his head.

I must wait till my breast is wilted.
I must wait till my back is bowed,
I must rock in the corner, jilted-
Death went galloping down the road.

[...] Read more

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Ballade at Thirty-five

This, no song of an ingénue,
This, no ballad of innocence;
This, the rhyme of a lady who
Followed ever her natural bents.
This, a solo of sapience,
This, a chantey of sophistry,
This, the sum of experiments, --
I loved them until they loved me.

Decked in garments of sable hue,
Daubed with ashes of myriad Lents,
Wearing shower bouquets of rue,
Walk I ever in penitence.
Oft I roam, as my heart repents,
Through God's acre of memory,
Marking stones, in my reverence,
"I loved them until they loved me."

Pictures pass me in long review,--
Marching columns of dead events.

[...] Read more

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A Fairly Sad Tale

I think that I shall never know
Why I am thus, and I am so.
Around me, other girls inspire
In men the rush and roar of fire,
The sweet transparency of glass,
The tenderness of April grass,
The durability of granite;
But me- I don't know how to plan it.
The lads I've met in Cupid's deadlock
Were- shall we say?- born out of wedlock.
They broke my heart, they stilled my song,
And said they had to run along,
Explaining, so to sop my tears,
First came their parents or careers.
But ever does experience
Deny me wisdom, calm, and sense!
Though she's a fool who seeks to capture
The twenty-first fine, careless rapture,
I must go on, till ends my rope,
Who from my birth was cursed with hope.

[...] Read more

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Plea

Secrets, you said, would hold us two apart;
You'd have me know of you your least transgression,
And so the intimate places of your heart,
Kneeling, you bared to me, as in confession.
Softly you told of loves that went before-
Of clinging arms, of kisses gladly given;
Luxuriously clean of heart once more,
You rose up, then, and stood before me, shriven.

When this, my day of happiness, is through,
And love, that bloomed so fair, turns brown and brittle,
There is a thing that I shall ask of you-
I, who have given so much, and asked so little.
Some day, when there's another in my stead,
Again you'll feel the need of absolution,
And you will go to her, and bow your head,
And offer her your past, as contribution.

When with your list of loves you overcome her,
For Heaven's sake, keep this one secret from her!

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