Verse > Anthologies > Harriet Monroe, ed. > The New Poetry: An Anthology
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Harriet Monroe, ed. (1860–1936).  The New Poetry: An Anthology.  1917.
 
342. Songs of the Coast-Dwellers
 
No Answer is Given
 
By Constance Lindsay Skinner
 
 
I AM Ah-woa-te, the Hunter.
 
I met a maiden in the shadow of the rocks;
Her eyes were strange and clear,
Her fair lips were shaped like the bow of dawning.
I asked her name,        5
Striking my spear in the deep earth for resting.
 
“I am Kantlak, a maiden, named for the Morning.
On the mountain-top I heard two eagles talking—
The word was Love.
They cried it, beating their wings on each other        10
Until they bled; and she fell,
Yet, falling, still weakly cried it
To him soaring: and died.
I came to a mossy low valley of flowers.
There I saw Men-iak, the white grouse,        15
(White with chaste dreams, like the Spring Moon, fairer than flowers).
Through the forest a dark bird swooped, with fierce eyes,
And Men-iak flew down to it.
Her white breast is red-dyed, she lies on the moss;
Yet faintly cries the same strange word.        20
Hunter, will you come to my little fire and tell me
What Love is?”
 
I could not see the maiden’s face clearly, for the dusk,
Where she sat by her small fire—only her eyes.
In the little flicker I saw her feet; they were bare—        25
Tireless, slim brown feet.
I saw how fair her lips were—
I drew nearer to cast my log on the fire. I said:
“Maiden, I am the Hunter.
When dusk ends the chase I leave the Mighty Killing.        30
Far or near, where gleams some little fire,
I grope through the forest with my heavy log;
Till I find one by the fire, sitting alone without fuel.
I cast my log gladly into the fire—thus.
It grips, the flames mount, the warmth embraces.        35
 
“Almost I can see your face, Woman;
The bow of your fair lips is hot with speeded arrows,
Your strange clear eyes have darkened.
Fear not—our fire will outlast the dark.”
 
“Hunter, what of the cold on the bleak hillside        40
When the log burns gray, and the fire is ashes?
I replied, “I have never seen this:
When the fire burns low I am asleep.”
She said: “What of me, if I sleep not, and see the ashes?”
I yawned: I said, “I know not;        45
I wake in the sun and go forth.”
 
The bow of her lips was like the moon’s cold circle.
She said, “Hunter, you have told me of Love!”
“It maybe so,” I answered. I wished to sleep.
She said, “Already it is ashes.”        50
I looked and saw that her face was gray,
As if the wind had blown the ashes over it.
I was angry; I said, “Better you had slept.”
She said, “Yes—but I lie bleeding on the moss,
Crying this word.”        55
I answered, “This is so; but wherefore?” and asked, idly,
“Wherefore remember him who brought to your lone little fire
The log that now is ashes?”
She shivered in the cold dawn;
I saw that her eyes were darker than shadows.        60
Her fair mouth was like my perfect bow,
But I could fit no more arrows to it.
 
She said, “Hunter, see how gray are these rocks
Where we have sheltered our brief night.”
I looked—they were ashen.        65
She said: “See how they come together here—and he—
As the knees, the breast, the great brow, the forgotten eyes,
Of a woman,
Sitting, waiting, stark and still,
And always gray;        70
Though hunters camp each night between her knees,
And little fires are kindled and burned out in her hollows.”
It was so; the mountain was a stone woman sitting.
Kantlak said: “She remembers him who turned her fire to ashes;
She waits to know the meaning of her waiting—        75
Why the love that wounded her can never be cast out.”
I asked idly, “Who will tell her?”—
And laughed, for the sun was up. I reached for my arrows;
I drew my strong spear from the deep earth by her feet.
Kantlak looked up to the other gray face, and said,        80
“No answer is given.”
Down to the cold white endless sea-shore
Slowly she went, with bent head.
A young deer cast its leaping shadow on the pool.
I ran upon the bright path, swaying my spear.        85
 

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