The Hands of the Betrothed

Her tawny eyes are onyx of thoughtlessness,
Hardened they are like gems in time-long prudery;
Yea, and her mouth's prudent and crude caress
Means even less than her many words to me.

Except her kiss betrays me this, this only
Consolation, that in her lips her blood at climax clips
Two hard, crude paws in hunger on the lonely
Flesh of my heart, ere down, rebuked, it slips.

I know from her hardened lips that still her heart is
Hungry for love, yet if I lay my hand in her breast
She puts me away, like a saleswoman whose mart is
Endangered by the pilferer on his quest.

Though her hands are still the woman, her large, strong hands
Heavier than mine, yet like leverets caught in steel
When I hold them; my spent soul understands
Their dumb confession of what her blood must feel.

For never her hands come nigh me but they lift
Like heavy birds from the morning stubble, to settle
Upon me like sleeping birds, like birds that shift
Uneasily in their sleep, disturbing my mettle.

How caressingly she lays her hand on my knee!
How strangely she tries to disown it, as it sinks
In my flesh and my bone, and forages into me!
How it stirs like a subtle stoat, whatever she thinks!

And often I see her clench her fingers tight
And thrust her fists suppressed in the folds of her skirt;
And sometimes, how she grasps her arms with her bright
Big hands, as if surely her arms did hurt.

And I have seen her stand all unaware
Pressing her spread hands over her breasts, as she
Would crush their mounds on her heart, to kill in there
The pain that is her simple ache for me.

She makes her hands take my part, the part of the man
To her; she crushes them into her bosom deep
Where I should be, and with her own strong span
Closes her arms, that should fold on me in sleep.

Ah, and she puts her hands upon the wall,
Presses them there, and kisses her big dark hands,
Then lets her black hair loose, the darkness fall
About her from her maiden-folded bands.

And sits in her own dark night of her bitter hair
Dreaming—God knows of what, for to me she's the same
Betrothed young lady who loves me, and takes good care
Of her maidenly virtue and of my good name.
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