Gray and Scarlet

Benjamin De Casseres.


A tiny hair on my overcoat, coming from when I know not,
     Thrilling and trembling and wavering in the light winds, desiring to go,
Like the wandering hair that I am blown ’gainst the gray mantle of Chance,
     Thrilling and trembling and wavering in the light winds of passion, desiring to go, to go.


West Point.

Gray and white automatons in the summer sunshine, wheeling, counter-wheeling in lockstep.
Above, in the wells of azure, crows wheeling and counter-wheeling in locked measures,
Their prophetic nostrils sensing the fields of slaughter still nebulous dreams in the brains of the
Gray and white automatons who wheel and counter-wheel in the glare of the summer sun.



          Days when Nothing happens,
When the life in the brain and the heart seems shrivelled and dried up like a November leaf,
And our Will stares at us like the eye of a dead fish,
And we grasp the meaning of Nothing.

          Days when Nothing happens,
When the lips of Curiosity are bloodless and anathema marantha is pronounced ’gainst all Art,
And the eyes of our love are the eyes of a Jezebel
And we grasp the meaning of the Nothing.


Late Autumn.
Falling leaves sighing like dying fairies,
Frou-frou of death on the forest breeze,
A white flake in the air whirled from world-end,
     The winter is coming, coming tiptoe.


An Incident

Builded of prisms, old gold and green, the Temple of Paphos rose in the depths of the wine,
Liszt’s lecherous Second came to me from the Tzgaines behind the palms
The while I felt her hand, white and cold, sweep my cheek,
And on her breath there was the humid warmth of unwindowed sepulchres—
                    The Feast was at an end.
I rolled a crum of bread between my thumb and index like God contours a planet,
And with my other hand I plunged a dagger in her heart
And cancelled in a tidal wave of red the Paphian Temple of prismatic gold and green—
                    The Feast was at an end.


In the Slums.

Downtown, in the poorer quarters of my soul, in the slums of myself, I saw and heard this thing:

A high old Spanish doorway, like the doorway of a Prison, left half open by Some One.

On an old chair with three legs, in the middle of the Room, sat an Old Man, wrapped in a blanket, his head half-bowed as though in a doze.

There is a scamper of Rats near him; and he does not move.

There is a long, loud wail from Somewhere Within, a squalid wail, a wail weird and sharp that pierces the Air and reaches the brilliantly lighted avenues of my Consciousness.

But there is never a stir from the drowsing Figure on the three-legged chair-throne of repentance!

It all happened down there in the poorer quarters of myself, in the slums of my soul, far from the brilliantly lighted avenues of my Consciousness.


My Lamp.

The twilight blots out the sunbeams one by one on the wall above my lamp,
And in their place come three giant moths with amber wings.
Immobile, they watch for the golden glimmer from the light.
To open their amber wings and to feel the thrill of death.



I, a soldier of dreams, came to the fortress of my Ideal,

She was deliriously dark, and high on the ramparts of her body were set two great casements flaming with a strange fire.

She looked at me from out of her twin casements and made signals as if to a banquet spread in the Jasper Halls of her Heart.

There was a deep moat between us then, and I could not cross to the magic gate of her being swinging open for the soldier of dreams—the lord of the Jasper Halls of her Heart.

She, divine Amazon of Love, waits there for me now that I have returned from my season in Hell, the moat is paved over with onyx and gold, and I clamber wildly up the sweet rampart of her being and enter the Jasper Halls of her Heart.

There are flutes and fountains and rare vintages for the Hunter and his Faithful One, tears and sobs and the fairy stories of Two Hearts whispered to the sound of flutes and fountains and wild-throated nightingales.


Source: The International, Feb. 1915, Vol. IX No. 2, p. 60