On the Road to the Sea

Charlotte Mew

 
We passed each other, turned and stopped for half an hour, then went our way,
           I who make other women smile did not make you--
But no man can move mountains in a day.
                  So this hard thing is yet to do.

But first I want your life:--before I die I want to see
                  The world that lies behind the strangeness of your eyes,
There is nothing gay or green there for my gathering, it may be,
                             Yet on brown fields there lies
A haunting purple bloom: is there not something in grey skies
                      And in grey sea?
                  I want what world there is behind your eyes,
                  I want your life and you will not give it me.

                 Now, if I look, I see you walking down the years,
                 Young, and through August fields--a face, a thought, a swinging dream
                               perched on a stile--;
                  I would have liked (so vile we are!) to have taught you tears
                   But most to have made you smile.
                 To-day is not enough or yesterday: God sees it all--
Your length on sunny lawns, the wakeful rainy nights--; tell me--;
                   (how vain to ask), but it is not a question--just a call--;
Show me then, only your notched inches climbing up the garden wall,
                     I like you best when you are small.

                                   Is this a stupid thing to say
                                  Not having spent with you one day?
                  No matter; I shall never touch your hair
                   Or hear the little tick behind your breast,
                                   And as a flying bird
                  Brushes the branches where it may not rest
                 I have brushed your hand and heard
               The child in you: I like that best
So small, so dark, so sweet; and were you also then too grave and wise?
                  Always I think. Then put your far off little hand in mine;--
                         Oh! let it rest;
I will not stare into the early world beyond the opening eyes,
                 Or vex or scare what I love best.
                  But I want your life before mine bleeds away--
                      Here--not in heavenly hereafters--soon,--
                      I want your smile this very afternoon,
                 (The last of all my vices, pleasant people used to say,
                     I wanted and I sometimes got--the Moon!)

                      You know, at dusk, the last bird's cry,
                  And round the house the flap of the bat's low flight,
                     Trees that go black against the sky
                 And then--how soon the night!

          No shadow of you on any bright road again,
And at the darkening end of this--what voice? whose kiss? As if you'd say!
It is not I who have walked with you, it will not be I who take away
                  Peace, peace, my little handful of the gleaner's grain
                 From your reaped fields at the shut of day.

                Peace! Would you not rather die
                  Reeling,--with all the cannons at your ear?
                So, at least, would I,
                   And I may not be here
                   To-night, to-morrow morning or next year.
                  Still I will let you keep your life a little while,
                      See dear?
                    I have made you smile.
 

Further Reading

Poems About Friendship
After the Movie
by Marie Howe
Blue Is Beautiful Amy but the Story Is So the '90s
by Farrah Field
Book Loaned to Tom Andrews
by Bobby C. Rogers
Dear Friends
by Edwin Arlington Robinson
For N & K
by Gina Myers
Friend
by Jean Valentine
Friend,
by Jean Valentine
From the Lives of My Friends
by Michael Dickman
Given
by Joanna Klink
Heaven for Helen
by Mark Doty
Heaven for Stanley
by Mark Doty
How I Am
by Jason Shinder
I Love the Hour Just Before
by Todd Boss
Mending Wall
by Robert Frost
On Gifts For Grace
by Bernadette Mayer
sisters
by Lucille Clifton
Skunk Hour
by Robert Lowell
Song of Myself, X
by Walt Whitman
Stanzas in Meditation
by Gertrude Stein
Suddenly
by Sharon Olds
The Armadillo
by Elizabeth Bishop
The Soul unto itself (683)
by Emily Dickinson
This Lime Tree Bower My Prison
by Samuel Taylor Coleridge
To a Friend who sent me some Roses
by John Keats
To Amy Lowell
by Eunice Tietjens
To My Oldest Friend, Whose Silence Is Like a Death
by Lloyd Schwartz
To Thomas Moore
by George Gordon Byron
Train-Mates
by Witter Bynner
Travelling
by William Wordsworth
We Have Been Friends Together
by Caroline Elizabeth Sarah Norton
You & I Belong in This Kitchen
by Juan Felipe Herrera
Your Catfish Friend
by Richard Brautigan
Poems of Queer Experience
Abandonment Under the Walnut Tree
by D. A. Powell
Antique
by Arthur Rimbaud
At a Dinner Party
by Amy Levy
At the Touch of You
by Witter Bynner
Blue
by May Swenson
Calamus [In Paths Untrodden]
by Walt Whitman
El Beso
by Angelina Weld Grimké
elegy for kari edwards
by Julian T. Brolaski
Elegy in Joy [excerpt]
by Muriel Rukeyser
He would not stay for me, and who can wonder
by A. E. Housman
I Built a Fire
by Natalie Clifford Barney
Langston Blue
by Jericho Brown
Love Returned
by Bayard Taylor
Lullaby
by W. H. Auden
Queer
by Frank Bidart
Starlight
by William Meredith
syntax
by Maureen N. McLane
The Embrace
by Mark Doty
The Hug
by Thom Gunn
The Next Table
by C. P. Cavafy
Tonight No Poetry Will Serve
by Adrienne Rich