Bahama Islands by Iris Tree


All down the somnolent street where pale tinged houses dream
The negroes go, black faces crowding together;
And between the palm leaves dancing with lethargic gestures,
The bright long water spreads, green as a parrot’s wing—
We have rest here and a monotony of wheels,
A peaceful noise like bees that moan in June—
And the sun rusts not, but his brazen heraldries
Tarnished with evening are burnished with the dawn.
Yet pain comes stabbing in the night with silver knife through the window,
A blanched moon full of fear and the burden of desire—
And nothing rids us utterly of grief,
We who have pilgrim souls that will not sleep.


Moonlight planting the world with lilies, so hushed it seems and scented,
But in the chapel is a droning where the negroes chant their hymns
And we in aureoled loneliness go down the street contented,
With hearts that beat for pleasure to the rhythm of our limbs.


From Poems, Iris Tree (1920)


I dread the beauty of approaching spring by Iris Tree

I dread the beauty of approaching spring
Now the old month is dead and the young moon
Has pierced my heart with her sharp silver horns.
My tired soul is startled out of sleep
By all the urging joy of bud and leaf,
And in the barren yard where I have paced
Content with prison and despair’s monotony,
The trees break into music wild and shrill,
And flowers come out like stars amid the dust,
Bewildering my loneliness with beauty….
For winter with her melancholy face
Shone back my miseries as in a glass,
And wept and whined in harmony with me;
And I could listen by the withering ashes
To the ill-omened drum of dropping rain,
And sighing harken sighs and mute feel silence,
And cold stretch forth my hand into the snows,
And hating, hear the laughter of the wind
Whose mad hands tear the sky.
But now again the promise of the spring
Shall lift my martyred spirit from the dust,
To where the lilied altar shines with peace,
And the white priestess comes
Crowning each candle with a gold desire
Engirdling with pallors
The forehead of a divine ghost.
Ah, but they die, these gods, the candles dwindle
And spring is but a radiant beckoning
To death that follows slowly, silently….

O flitting swallows, fleeting laugh of wind,
O flash of silver in the wings of dawn
That are spread out and closed. O hush of night
Breathless with love, oh swish of whispering tide
That swells and shrinks upon the dreaming shore.
O gentle eyes of children wonder-wide
That grow too soon to weariness and close;
O scuttling run of rabbit on the hills,
And flight of lazy rooks above the elm;
O birds’ eggs frail, tinged faintly, nestled close,
And mystery of flower in the bud.
O burning galaxy of buttercups,
And drone of bees above the pouting rose,—
O twilit lovers stilled with reverie
And footprints of them swerving on the sand
And darkness of them clasped against the sky!
I see beyond the glory of your days
The grey days marching one behind the other
To the bleak tunes of silence.
When mists shall smear the radiance of the moon
And the lean thief shall pass,
Snatching the glittering toys away from love,
Plucking the feathers from the wings of peace.
And Life herself, grown old and crooked now,
Shall go the way that her long shadow points,
Her long black shadow down the roads of sleep.


From Poems, Iris Tree (1920)

Nerves by Iris Tree

These curious looms where we have spun our fancies,
These intricate webs where our desires are threaded,
These weird trapezes that our passion frenzies
Strange acrobats to catch them dizzy headed.
These tightening strings upon our spirit’s fiddles
Tuneful or out of tune where music hungers
From writhing bow, these intertwining riddles
Mazes and labyrinths and storms and languors.
These colours twinging on a prism’s edges,
These speckled patterns of fanatic madness
From glittering eyeballs, these unresting dredges
For pearls within the depths of sadness and of gladness—
O tortuous thoughts, what are you seeking after
As flies around a carcass with a humming dreary,
Gibing the silent dead with treacherous laughter,
Molesting quietness and waking up the weary!
What then, what then, can sleep not crush you to forgetting
With all her body’s beauty, cannot peace submerge you
O wrangling, juggling, jangling, pirouetting—
What hope can drag you from the small desires that urge you?
You have lassoed the moon and trapped the sun’s bright lion,
And trodden out the red stars into ashes,
Destroyed night’s temple and broken the pillars of iron,
And striped the snowy horses of the clouds with zebra gashes …
You have debauched the world! And as I sit here weary,
Deafened with your demands and torn in tatters,
The world seems suddenly most passionless and dreary,
A poor bewildered clown—and nothing matters.

Iris Tree

From Poems, Iris Tree (1920)

My Heart, a Bitter Cherry by Gloria Diéz

My heart
a bitter cherry,
hung beneath the sun in spring.
My blood,
red sap
that satisfies itself
around a
black-green seed.

Autumn is here, extending
its roots
towards the unique point
where my stem is,
keeps me alive
and still suffering.

The void at my feet
like a lover
who patiently waits
to receive me.
Who knows
if one day
or another, or another,
he will have me:
amber at last,
mature and transparent,
fit to die or to be re-born.

Gloria Diéz

From Troubled Times, 20th Century Spanish Poets, Prospice 15: Edited/Translated by J.C.R. Green, Albert Rowe, & Sandra MacGregor Hastie.