Another name new to me — and indeed many are as I make my way through An Anthology of American Poetry — is Adelaide Crapsey (1878-1914), a poet you can read about here and here, and more of whose cinquains can be found here. Crapsey died young, a victim of tuberculosis. But for those of us who have managed to dodge such peril, her observations still seem eerily familiar — at least they do to me.
Listen . . .
With faint dry sound,
Like steps of passing ghosts,
The leaves, frost-crisp’d, break from the trees
On windless nights
The moon-cast shadows are,
So still will be my heart when I
Susanna and the Elders
You thus devise
Evil against her?” “For that
She is beautiful, delicate;
The Guarded Wound
Were lighter touch
Than petal of flower resting
On grass, oh still too heavy it were,
Not these my hands
And yet I think there was
A woman like me once had hands
Out of the strange
Still dusk . . . as strange, as still . . .
A white moth flew . . . Why am I grown
I make my shroud, but no one knows—
So shimmering fine it is and fair,
With stitches set in even rows.
I make my shroud, but no one knows.
In door-way where the lilac blows,
Humming a little wandering air,
I make my shroud and no one knows,
So shimmering fine it is and fair.
[From An Anthology of American Poetry: Lyric America, 1630-1930.]
Reading these, and hearing them, and knowing so well my mother’s own turn of mind, I can’t help thinking how much she would have loved these lines. Maybe she even knew them in her youth. Might there have been a copy of one of the Knopf editions of Verses in our old public library? Alas, I can think of no one living I might ask.