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Adler, Philip A. (ed.) / The Wisconsin literary magazine
Volume I, Number 2 (November 1916)

Shostac, Percy; Jameson, R. D.; Taylor, Clara B.; Wallis, Winfred; Lyndon, Harold
Verse,   pp. 43-44


Page 43

WISCONSIN LITERARY MAGAZINE
Verse
The Reading
"Vanity of vanities, all is vanity"
Again, again the words pursue my thoughts
Again, again.
There stands the "poet" reading from his work
Reading to this group so well content
Which in the warmth and quiet of the room
Listens as he empties out his poem-
His vapid face oft wavering to a smirk
His dress suit perfect on his tall thin limbs
His nails well polished and well brushed his hair.
And while he reads one hears the maid
Preparing cups of coffee and sweet cakes
With which the company will soon refresh themselves.
I listen too-and yet I know not why
For as he reads his wingless words
I hear again, again the overtone-
"Vanity of vanities-all, all is vanity."
I raise my eyes
The man has moved close to the wall
And standing there, well groomed and satisfied,
Behind his head, even as a face reflected in a glass
There hangs upon the wall in austere eloquence
The image of great Dante.
My breath is choked-
Yet there they stand together,
The face of one drawn taunt with suffering
The other rounded with the fat of food.
One seared with lines of silent strength
Such as corode the contour of huge rocks
The other softly curved in chin and mouth
To grace a woman's clinging kiss.
The lips of one compressed in that disdain
In that austere complacency
Which stands impregnable
Against the whole world's blows and mockery,
And next him are those babbling, pretty lips.
They stand there side by side
Both are called poets
Even though one drank the bitterest of life's gall
And turned it into fire of the sun
While the other sips rich sweetened syrups
And vomits them on us.-
Yet both are called poets!
The reading stops.
The chatter and the compliments begin.
Coffee with cream and cake is passed around,
I rise from out my chair and while there thunders in
my ears
"Vanity of vanities-all is vanity"
I walk out in the early evening air.
The sun has almost set and in the west
Great clouds are turned to living heads of fire.
I bend my head and smell the smell of grass.
Oh God, I am not over blessed with ease
No women flock to hear my words
No costly garments clothe my limbs.
And yet I pray for thorns upon my head.
Let bread be scarce unto my lips
Let love be scanty to my heart
Let friends pass by me on the way
Let ever laughter greet my dearest dreams-
For all is vanity-all but the clouds
The clouds are good.
Oh God, I ask to find my comfort in the clouds,
In the high-piled clouds of burning gold,
In the long streaked clouds of gentle gray,
In the huge storm clouds that rock the sky
And hurl out fire from their blackened throats,
In the thin wavering clouds of amethyst and pearl,
In the great stately clouds of marble white-
I ask no other recompense, oh God
But let me find my all within the clouds-
For all the world is vanity.
PERCY SHOSTAC.
Fragment
You have sent me a bit of Erika,
And I hold it to my lips,
And kiss it,
Wondering.
You have sent me your love,
And my soul kneels before it
Singing prayers of old times,
Old passionate eddic prayers
That the Teuton Gods have stolen from
the hills
And from the crystal sweetness of the seas;
Singing prayers that the Teuton Gods
Shouted in their big red beards
In love and piety.
R. D. JAMESON,
November, 1916
43


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