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The House Of Dust: Part 03: 04: Illicit Analysis



Author: Poetry of Conrad Aiken Type: Poetry Views: 142

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The House of Dust1917Of what she said to me that night-no matter.

The strange thing came next day.

My brain was full of music-something she played me-;

I couldn't remember it all, but phrases of it

Wreathed and wreathed among faint memories,

Seeking for something, trying to tell me something,

Urging to restlessness: verging on grief.

I tried to play the tune, from memory,-

But memory failed: the chords and discords climbed

And found no resolution-only hung there,

And left me morbid . . . Where, then, had I heard it? . . .

What secret dusty chamber was it hinting?

'Dust', it said, 'dust . . . and dust . . . and sunlight . .

A cold clear April evening . . . snow, bedraggled,

Rain-worn snow, dappling the hideous grass . . .

And someone walking alone; and someone saying

That all must end, for the time had come to go . . . '

These were the phrases . . . but behind, beneath them

A greater shadow moved: and in this shadow

I stood and guessed . . . Was it the blue-eyed lady?

The one who always danced in golden slippers-

And had I danced with her,-upon this music?

Or was it further back-the unplumbed twilight

Of childhood?-No-much recenter than that.You know, without my telling you, how sometimes

A word or name eludes you, and you seek it

Through running ghosts of shadow,-leaping at it,

Lying in wait for it to spring upon it,

Spreading faint snares for it of sense or sound:

Until, of a sudden, as if in a phantom forest,

You hear it, see it flash among the branches,

And scarcely knowing how, suddenly have it-

Well, it was so I followed down this music,

Glimpsing a face in darkness, hearing a cry,

Remembering days forgotten, moods exhausted,

Corners in sunlight, puddles reflecting stars-;

Until, of a sudden, and least of all suspected,

The thing resolved itself: and I remembered

An April afternoon, eight years ago-

Or was it nine?-no matter-call it nine-

A room in which the last of sunlight faded;

A vase of violets, fragrance in white curtains;

And, she who played the same thing later, playing.She played this tune.And in the middle of it

Abruptly broke it off, letting her hands

Fall in her lap.She sat there so a moment,

With shoulders drooped, then lifted up a rose,

One great white rose, wide opened like a lotos,

And pressed it to her cheek, and closed her eyes.'You know-we've got to end this-Miriam loves you . . .

If she should ever know, or even guess it,-

What would she do?-Listen!-I'm not absurd . . .

I'm sure of it.If you had eyes, for women-

To understand them-which you've never had-

You'd know it too . . . 'So went this colloquy,

Half humorous, with undertones of pathos,

Half grave, half flippant . . . while her fingers, softly,

Felt for this tune, played it and let it fall,

Now note by singing note, now chord by chord,

Repeating phrases with a kind of pleasure . . .

Was it symbolic of the woman's weakness

That she could neither break it-nor conclude?

It paused . . . and wandered . . . paused again; while she,

Perplexed and tired, half told me I must go,-

Half asked me if I thought I ought to go . . .Well, April passed with many other evenings,

Evenings like this, with later suns and warmer,

With violets always there, and fragrant curtains . . .

And she was right: and Miriam found it out . . .

And after that, when eight deep years had passed-

Or nine-we met once more,-by accident . . .

But was it just by accident, I wonder,

She played this tune?-Or what, then, was intended? . . .






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