Verse > Anthologies > Harriet Monroe, ed. > Poetry: A Magazine of Verse, 1912–22
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Harriet Monroe, ed. (1860–1936).  Poetry: A Magazine of Verse.  1912–22.
 
Spinsters
By Marsden Hartley
 
From “Kaleidoscope”

OCTOBER in New England:
They are the gargoyles supporting old buttresses,
These virgins that roam wistfully among the ruins,
Victims of an effete worship.
Some of them love their father,        5
Some of them love their mother,
Some of them love themselves,
Some of them watch for a sail
That will never skim their horizon.
They form the granite supports in the arches        10
Of old cathedrals and mausoleums with shut doors.
They hold the rafters up, whose lacework
Is the fluttering place of bats.
There is a spacious cobweb covering all their nights
With a dewless gossamer.        15
A stillness that is the speech of ice
Consumes their swiftly gliding days.
They mother the owl and nurse the adder
In their vacuous dreams.
Lost hopes run rivulets of despair        20
Down their parchment cheeks.
They are rushing eagles without a sky;
Their pinions are drenched, their heads droop
And they cannot soar for the beating of the rain.
Soon, and they will join their sisters the leafless trees,        25
Who stand like stone until the lightning strikes
Them to the mouldy earth, or a lusty axe
Fells them to the ground for the evening fire.
Delicious would the blow of the axe seem,
With health and vigor and lust springing from the handle.        30
Leaves are they that droop when the first frost touches
Their veins; they coil together and wither on the stem,
Swaying and swirling to the earth.
Their eyes are like lanterns in the depths
Of old cellars that are riddled with the years.        35
Deserted farms are they, with the good grain gone,
The flax spun. The fox eats the grapes, the deer
Pass furtively by on the edge of the dusk
For the sweet apples fallen from the once young boughs.
They search the cellar, seeking the hummingbird,        40
And find the cutworm on the beam.
Gargoyles of stone—soon the wind will have lifted
The furrows from your brows and cheeks, and hands.
Soon—when the work of the wind and rain are done—
You shall have the youth of the dust upon you—        45
Then you can run and dance and blow
And toy with the wind as if you had borne
Litters of laughing children.
The dust is your sighing place:
When you have finished with the mottoes        50
Of old gravestones—“here lies,” and what was good
Graven in white words—
You shall yourselves have one!
 
Bats breed in belfries, hummingbirds on young boughs!
Spinsters, you are the gargoyles for high towers!        55
The burr of the chestnut hides the meaty nut!
 
 
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