Verse > Anthologies > Alfred Kreymborg, ed. > Others for 1919
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Alfred Kreymborg, ed.  Others for 1919.  1920.
 
Mary Douglass Bruiting the Beauty of the Hands of Monsieur Y.
By Donald Evans
 
MONSIEUR Y., the artist, has haunting hands—
Fingers that are unforgetable.
I have sat for arrested spaces,
Pondering the influence of their inhibitions—
Gazing at a battlefield where emotions        5
Had been in tragic conflict.
The hands are to the first glance decently formed,
But they awaken curiosity rather than admiration,
For the essence of their exquisiteness
Is not quickly to be felt.        10
Their beauty is draped—as all enduring beauty
Must be—with indifference.
 
Monsieur Y. has always been indulgent to me.
His studio I seek as an asylum
From the wolves—my dear friends.        15
He says he is not my friend,
And for the whim I have believed it.
One November afternoon when I knew he would be
Heartily engrossed on his new canvas,
And I was chilled with Broadway’s ineptitudes,        20
I sought his presence.
It was even a chillier welcome I received,
But there is sometimes a flame in frigidity
That gives the longed-for social shock.
 
He lit the lamp for the tea kettle,        25
And went back to work,
Leaving me to the half-shadowed intimacies of housewifery.
The tea service is simply done,
So I was soon free to regard him,
And his brusqueness stirred me to protest.        30
I parried first—for I am not stupid—
And asked whether he thought
It was a strain of pity for the fallen Madonnas
He painted so admirably that had given his hands
An immaculate augustness that was smoothed away        35
Into a catholic simplicity.
That was grandiose, but it won a rejoinder.
I had not whispered of the spirituality,
But it was that he offered me.
I had seized the nuance.        40
“You have an insistent way,” he said,
“But insistence has its boundaries.
Yet you are a mirror, and a mirror
Is sometimes a solution.
It glimmers back one’s futility.        45
I like my hands more than you do,
For they are the symbols
Of the only triumph I shall ever know.
They are the trophies of my conquering.
A long time ago I was absorbed with love for a woman,        50
Who was merely touched with fragrant pleasure
Because I worshipped her.
She, too, was in love, but not with me.
We met often,
And spent long hours together and alone,        55
When only the sheerest intervals separated us.
We luncheoned, we dined, we theatred together.
We walked and talked. And we tea-cupped.
She gave me of the sight of her loveliness
In abundant generosity because I adored her.        60
And all the time I had my hands. All the hours
I was at her side they ached to touch,
To move over her—not to grasp in bestial, imperative fashion,
But to finger, to question the softness of her flesh,
To sing as they crept over her,        65
To give the quick, wild quivers of possession.
But because of the pride of the saffron highway
I never touched her;
I held back through all the evasions of our communion.
She came to like me very much, though I never        70
Thrilled her to a fine surrender.
But it has worked its way out—
For she was brought to realize
That because I did not make a false tempo
With the hungry hands there was homage to be paid them.        75
Now, I think it is really time for you to go.
 
There was the secret of his perfect hands—
They were still full of yearning blood.
All his desire had leaped out into them,
And it remained there—        80
The hands were two lovers, vainly waiting for their hour.
 
 
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