Abroad in flounced proprieties and blessed
through storms of bony underwear, they had to thank
the staff of grand hotels, who, while they dressed
in fine things laundered to their table rank,
had toiled to keep them warm and fed.
The rich, that is, with umpteen maids and trunks —
how many trunks they had: good leather, gilt-embossed.
They swept like popes among their simple monks.
In transatlantic dining rooms they crossed
the others like them, each well bred.
But how they got with child, God knows. A maze
of ribbons met the ravisher, and eons went
in climbing perilously from slips and stays
you'd think that passion would be largely spent
before they ever trooped to bed.
Yet in our prurient world of porn today
when an intimate anatomy is laid
out to queered approval, what's to say
which one's the mistress, which the maid
with charms and privy looks outspread?
And where is dreamt-on woman in her state
of lambent passion with a famed contrariness,
her petulance, her periods, her urge to mate —
who knows? — it may best that the silk-lined dress
and petticoat left things unsaid.
But if we dwell on form it is because
it adumbrates that well-appointed, inner wealth
of self-delighting womanhood that was:
her moods, her winteriness, her very self
expressed before that shaping fled.
78. FILL WITH PRAISE
Our memories go part way with us, with smiles
or comradeship to show the path before,
and in their charity will shorten miles
that lead us glad or wearied to that waiting shore
where we must leave our erstwhile friends and wives,
and bid goodbye to all this glad earth was,
its joys and bitterness, its hurried lives
that never answered to our long 'because?'
But why indulge such questionings, which come
to be but sadnesses that fill the trees
with urgent restlessness. We never plumb
the least of our most pressing mysteries.
We live our lives as other lives are kept
within the scope of shared imagining,
in dreams and conjurations we accept
the insights sudden rain or sunlight bring.
No more than that, although we still would wear
the things not made for us, nor shaped to be:
some hope inhabiting the further air
that goes beyond our brief identity
with this, the world in splendour, given us
to room a little in, and to spend our days
in thought and new-found wonder at, and thus,
through all our ministries, to fill with praise.