The Broken Lily Lies


Walking in the brisk English air outside your window,
I feel the caress of your eyes against my neck, my legs.
You take keen pleasure in the way I move past you.
I walk knowing you watch me, knowing
You write about my long dark hair
Lifting up into the wind.

      I met a lady in the meads,
      Full beautiful—a faery’s child;
      Her hair was long, her foot was light,
      And her eyes were wild.

It has happened this way for a year—
You watch me walk;
I feel you watching, but do not look up.
It is 1822 and matters of love take much time.
Yet time is not something we have much of.

Today is the day when I stop beneath your windowsill.
When finally I decide to raise my head to you.
And, as if you knew it was to be the day,
You turn to me immediately and
Flash your brazen, blue-eyed stare.

But this day is too late for us.
Whatever occurs in this longed for
Rendezvous will be time-limited.
It is the eve of your departure to Rome.
In the morning you will leave me wishing
For what had never been.
Then what handsome man, what sensuous poet
Will wait at his window the full length of day
Simply to see me pass?

Like the still unravished bride
Upon your Grecian Urn, I will remain
Untouched by you, John Keats,
And have only your words
To enfold unto my breast.
I will mournfully recount your
Every delicate poem and ode,
Your bold epic tales,
And gently bespoken letters of
Exhaustive love penned in a fury for me.

Take me with you! I cry in vain.

You may say there is too much we do not know;
So much we guess at.
And yes, on a certain level, we are strangers.
You do not know my last name- my father’s name.
Nor do you know of my work, age, or the books I like.
Yet I am unafraid.
What superfluous matters are these!

Perhaps you guess that I have read your poetry
In the prominent journals. You may hope that
I haven’t read the unjust, malevolent criticisms
Hurled at you in those same journals.
(You will bring these to your death,
Afraid of ‘sinking into nothingness.’
Tragically, in life, you will never know how famed
Your remembrance will be – Beyond your ever imagining!)

Perhaps you suspect that,
Just as you watch me walk,
I watch you write.
Though you have no idea
Of how I come to your window at midnight
To witness your silhouette arranging
Words in motion with insomniatic zeal.
I feel these words on my body as you write them.
Every letter brands itself in burnt rhythm against me.
I suspect their emergent form to be more sensual
And triumphant than your hands would be;
More so than in the moment when your body
Would come near me, ecstatically.

      Catch the white-handed nymphs in shady places,
      To woo sweet kisses from averted faces,-
      Play with their fingers, touch their shoulders white
      Into a pretty shrinking with a bite
      As hard as lips can make it

This is why you watch me walk.
This is why you write about my hair,
My gait and glance, the color of my eyes
Through the iced window pane.
I am the woman who worships your words.
I am she who feels them as potently as you.

Do you still say there is so much you do not know?
O, there is so much you do!
You know I have passion for life;
That I desire to have this passion
Fulfilled through your body in mine.
You know the likeness of my soul.
What else is there to know but this?

     “Beauty is truth, truth beauty,”- that is all
      Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.

So take me with you. Take me!
I know you are going to Rome to die,
Just as you know it, as you knew with
Your mother and sweet brother Tom.
Though you have wooed death’s coming
On wings of the Nightingale,
You are not ready to be taken alone.

Do not worry for me. I am prepared, my love.
Perhaps more so than you.
I will cradle your head in my lap,
Run my hand against your cheek
In the hour of your death.

      I see a lily on thy brow
      With anguish moist and fever dew,
      And on thy cheeks a fading rose
      Fast withereth too—

Why would you deny me this? You are a poet!
How could you not understand that to feel
The fever of your last breath against the
Hairs of my forearm, I would give my soul?
You will be as defenseless and helpless as an infant.
My love for you can be a monument to your final happiness.

Let me be this for you!
Let me kiss your lips as they grow cold.

     One kiss brings honey-dew from buried days.

Otherwise, my young poet of only twenty-six,
You will die never having known my sweet embrace.
You will have missed life’s flowering-
The very goal of which is joy.

Let me be your solace in God’s Light,
To heal o’er you – your skin’s sweet balm
To the meadow of moon and midnight calm
While to my chest I hold you tight.
Alas! Pale eyes uplift, uplift!
Into the Sterling Bright
Your soul must drift.

      And this is why I sojourn here
      Alone and palely loitering;
      Though sedge is withered from the Lake
      And no birds sing—

(c) 2006

Italicized indented stanzas and lines from John Keats.
Title is borrowed from Percy Bysshe Shelley’s poem
Adonais: An Elegy on the Death of John Keats.