The Seven Year Old Poet
And so the Mother,
shutting up the duty book,
Went, proud and satisfied.
She did not see the look
In the blue eyes, or how with secret loathing wild,
Beneath the prominent brow, a soul raged in her child.
All the day long he sweated with obedient zeal;
a clever boy; and yet appearing to reveal,
By various dark kinks, a sour hypocrisy.
In corridors bedecked with musty tapestry
He wouls stick out his tongue, clenching hid two fists tight
Against his groin, and with closed eyes see specks of light.
a door stood open on the evening;
when, aloof, Under a gulf og brightness hanging
from the roof, High on the banisters they saw him crowing.
In summer, cowed and stupid,
he’d insist on going
Off to the cool latrines,
for that was where he chose to sit in peace and think,
breathing deep through his nose.
In winter-time, when, washed by all the smells of noon,
The garden plot behind the house shone in the moon;
Lying beneath a wall, in lumpy earth concealed
And straining long for visions,
till his eyesight reeled,
He listened to the creak of mangy trellises.
Soft heart! He chose out as his sole accomplices
Those wretched, blank-browed children, of slurred eye and cheek
And grubby, thin, sick fingers plunged in the clothes that reek
Of excrement: already old, whose conversation
Is held with gentle, imbecilic hesitation.
And if his mother, catching him at some foul act
Of pity, showed alarm, the child must face the fact
That to his earnest, tender mind brought grave surprise:
That’s how it was. She had the blue-eyed stare– which lies!
at seven years he wrote romance about lives
In the great desert, where an exiled Freedom thrives,
Savannahs, forests, shores and suns!
He had some aid From illustrated magazines,
whose gay parade Of Spanish and Italian ladies made him blush.
When, brown-eyed, bold, in printed cotton,
in would rush The eight-year daughter of the working-folk next door,
And when the little savage down upon him bore,
Cornered him, leaping on his back, and tossed her hair,
He from beneath would bite her thighs, for they were bare
–She never put on drawers. Then, though she grapped fast,
Pounding with fists and heels, he’d shake her off at last
And bring the odours of her skin back to his room.
He feared December Sundays, with their pallid gloom,
When with pomaded hair, from a mahogany ledge he read a Bible
with gold, green-tarnished edge.
Dreams pressed upon him in the alcove every night.
Not God he loved, but men whom by the sallow light
Of evening he would see return,
begrimed and bloused,
To suburbs where the crier’s triple roll aroused
A jostling crowd to laugh and scold at the decrees.
He dreamed of the rapt prairie, where long brilliances
Like waves and wholesome scents and golden spurts of force
Persist in their calm stir and take their airy course.
And, as he relished most all things of sombre hue,
He’d sit in the bare, shuttered chamber, high and blue,
Gripped in an acrid, piercing dampness, and would read
The novel that was always running in his head
Of heavy, ochre skies and forests under floods —
Then vertigo, collapse, confusion, ruin, woe!–
While noises of the neighborhood rose from below,
He’d brood alone, stretched out upon a canvas,
prophesying strongly of the sail!…