Sea garden
Hilda (Doolittle) Aldington

PRISONERS

IT is strange that I should want
this sight of your face—
we have had so much:
at any moment now I may pass,
stand near the gate,
do not speak—
only reach if you can, your face
half-fronting the passage
toward the light.
Fate—God sends this as a mark,
a last token that we are not forgot,
lost in this turmoil,
about to be crushed out,
burned or stamped out
at best with sudden death.
The spearsman who brings this
will ask for the gold clasp
you wear under your coat.
I gave all I had left.
Press close to the portal,
my gate will soon clang
and your fellow wretches
will crowd to the entrance—
be first at the gate.
Ah beloved, do not speak.
I write this in great haste—
do not speak,
you may yet be released.
Page  37
I am glad enough to depart
though I have never tasted life
as in these last weeks.
It is a strange life,
patterned in fire and letters
on the prison pavement.
If I glance up
it is written on the walls,
it is cut on the floor,
it is patterned across
the slope of the roof.
I am weak—weak—
last night if the guard
had left the gate unlocked
I could not have ventured to escape,.
but one thought serves me now
with strength.
As I pass down the corridor
past desperate faces at each cell,
your eyes and my eyes may meet.
You will be dark, unkempt,
but I pray for one glimpse of your face—
why do I want this?
I who have seen you at the banquet
each flower of your hyacinth-circlet
white against your hair.
Why do I want this,
when even last night
you startled me from sleep?
You stood against the dark rock,
you grasped an elder staff.
Page  38
So many nights
you have distracted me from terror.
Once you lifted a spear-flower.
I remember how you stooped
to gather it—
and it flamed, the leaf and shoot
and the threads, yellow, yellow—
sheer till they burnt
to red-purple in the cup.
As I pass your cell-door
do not speak.
I was first on the list—
They may forget you tried to shield me
as the horsemen passed.
Page  39