Friday, August 3, 2018

All-Hallow Eve - Goodale

All-Hallow Eve
Dora Read Goodale (1866 – 1915)

She too grows old.
She does not know me any more,
Beneath my lantern’s yellow flare,
Till I have crossed the crooked floor
And stand beside her chair
To have my fortune told.

One room—all still:
The ceiling bulges, black with rains;
The straight walls tremble, loose and thin;
And through the six uneven panes
Remorseless night stares in
Across the sloping sill.

The lamp is lit—
A little lamp of ancient brass
With tarnished figures, quaint and tall;
It throws huge shadows as I pass
Against the rocking wall:
She draws close under it.

She stoops her head:
Her black gaze on the chimney-place,
She hears, stern-featured, all I say;
Winding around the grim, bent face,
In lines as hard as clay,
Her blanket-shawl of red.

From two gray hands
The heavy, low, black-cushioned chair
Springs backward with a double creak;
Dark-outlined, with the yellow glare
Against her crumpled cheek,
How tall and still she stands!

My palm in hers,
With nods and cries and baleful signs,
With ancient charms of mumbled phrase,
With hard brows bent in knott, lines,
With shrewed and fickle gaze
She muses and demurs.

We two alone:
I burn the chestnuts on the hearth,
I drop the homespun ball of blue,
I share her cracked, unlovely mirth,
And hear my fortune through—
Strange warning, crooked crone!

Our eyes have met—
I cross the seamed and crumbling floor
Worn by the feet of buried men:
And as I shut the low, red door
The knocker jars again—
It rains—the stone is wet.

My fate is told!
I stumble down the lilac way—
A narrow footpath, flagged with blue—
So soon—so soon—I dare not say,
But if I prove it true
I’ll tell you—when I’m old.

The Overland Monthly, January 1884

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