Before, Again and Now
Before, Again and Now.
"If a woman has long hair, it is a glory to her."
I Cor. 11. 15.
"Finally, there is such a dignity in the hair that whatsoever she be, though she never be so bravely attired with gold, silk, precious stones and other rich and gorgeous ornaments, yet if her hair be not curiously set forth, she cannot seem fair."
Apuleius: The Golden Ass.
So the sweet night came and found us
Side by side in the dark as we had been before.
Before we had seen each other's sins,
Before, when we spoke of love as if we knew,
Before, when the whole world spun to our desire,
And the hedges sang us lullabies;
Before all these things,
Before our wedding's hollow ceremony,
Before, when eye-words led us on until
Side by side in the dark we lay.
And now again, as it had been before.
Again, as on that unforgotten time when first
My blood's unruly fever driven by my body's will
Had hurt her virgin youth because I did not know.
Again, again, again until we lost the joy
Of what had been, until the flame-bright metal
Of our ecstasy had rusted into habits to be lulled.
Again and again until now.
We lay. And as it was before and yet again,
So now, even now. I touched her,
Made one by touch returned.
Side to side and knee to knee
As love has always been.
Lying there I dreamed of all the past
And how it was no more nor would be,
Nor could be quite like this again forever.
I dreamed of
How we were chained in time and space.
How we were whipped towards the final dark
Whence there is no return,
How all the beauty of the earth,
Without reprieve, was doomed to dust and ashes,
How even the sharp pangs of our embrace
Could give no lasting satisfaction and
How, as it appears, the fish of all the seas
Are cool in life and free of all we felt.
Then of present, past, or future I thought no more
But kissed and in return was kissed
(As it had been with us before).
Folded together to wait and prepare
To feel the crescendo hurl us on
To the harmony of the glory of the last chord
(As it had been with us again).
Round her, to her, on her both my hands were lost
(As before and again):
Fruit ripe, fruit warm, fruit filled with sap
Her breasts felt to my touch
(As before and again).
Unwillingly, afraid to yield their beauty
To the night, my hands moved to the further
Pictured wonder of her tangled hair.
Side by side we lay, as before and again,
My hands smoothed slowly out her hair,
Slowly stroking, slowly, slowly.
Harshly they jarred and in the dark encountered
Steel curlers. My love's ship struck and foundered.
- James Hunter Capie.