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IV The Ivory Steeple

James Reaney


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A Fantasy and a Moral

By the moon’s rented light,
By that silver secondhand sun
That seems like all remembered things,
She could be seen
As she lay in her dark bedroom
Asleep and naked.
The darkness enclosed her
As a dark sock contains a white guitar
Or a black cloud extinguishes a brilliant star.

Now her breasts like two balloons
Draw her forth to wicked forests.
For they swell till they lift her
Up out of her bed, out of her room,
Through the door, down a stairs,
And into the fields of night
Where, above,
The silly piebald half-moon,
Out of breath
And frightened to death,
Half-white, half-black,
Sidles and slides across the dark floor
Where clouds are rowing with windy oar.

Low over the ground she floats
Until she reaches a grave grove
Where down winding paths she flows.
There a fox leaps up at her
In angry hunger
And luna-moths whose eyes resemble
Tears in a sunset
About her tumble and noctambulate.
Into a thicket of Jack-in-the-Pulpit plants
She does fianlly descend
And hears not one of those sly sermons
With which Reverend Jack catches flies,
For fiends dart forth
And upon her execute such actions
That thresh nervous drops of dew
Down from all leaves and twigs about her.

In the morning
She awakes in a garden near her house
While in the West as soft as a mouse
The moon is hurrying away
Before the sun shall rise.
Flowers surround her
As she wonders at her sleep-walking
And remembers a dream
Where a gentleman kissed her
And promised her his love beneath a tree
And said she was a hand
And he her glove,
So fitted were they to each other.
How wittily, how nicely he put it!
She never notes how sly
Her breasts look.
They should indeed look sly
For they have floated and lifted her
To a demon’s love
Whose poisonous child she’ll bear and die.

So love, though measured breath by breath,
May seem like walking in a summer dream,
Visiting nowhere but pleasant places;
So love does often lead a filthy way to Death.