love, suffering, despair, madness, obsession, descent

Because the latest messenger has gone,

my pale collections and delivered notes

are scattered everywhere – in trays,

in Cambridge cups and silver-rooms.

(Sticklebacks nest in my larger spoons.)

I am myself a fisher of sorts

and I fish green pike in redundant moats;

occasionally, I am owl of tombs,

a donkey’s back or half a goat’s,

and I call each flower Katharine

by desperate day and night.

I am waking germ in a field of blight

and a heart of heaping sin,

and my mind is mad and has mushroomed in,

and I call each flower Katharine.


And I call each flower Katharine

where the blossoms flame and stray.

My darling, my dearest Katharine,

I have placed my love in clay,

and a dark and desperate flower grows

and gobbles the joy therein –

it is now by night that the brightest day

is shinnying summer-thin;

but Katharine, my Katharine,

Kathy, Kathy, go in,

for my heart has mangled my brain to bran

and my love is murder and sin.

The loops of hawthorn flutter all day

but my darling, my darling, I’m done

with the wildered stars that confuse the sky

and the blackness that is one.


I call each flower Katharine.

Each beauty begets each pain.

Where the desperate violence lies and groans,

the mind weeps a furious rain;

and last but not least the lupins flare

and I call them Katharine!

Since I went from you, I’ve been horrified

by the cruelties closing in.


Ah, Kathy, Kathy, what will become of you

and your voice as soft and low

as the shadowing whistle of verdurous leaves

stirred by the gusts that blow?


And what of your petalled arms and breasts

that were treasures in my hands?

The only ream is a broken star

and a blaze in forsaken lands.


I’ll burn the heart and the mind of flame

and I’ll do my best to win;

but my dearest love, my sweetest love,

I shall call it Katharine.


I am fighting flames and my heart is bent

on the flowers that never rim

a tomb as lost as an oyster-pearl

that I’ve labelled Katharine.

But the label is a useless wrong

for your tiny, bitten hands

and the pitiless pointers going in

to the love-deserted strands

with a waste of pain and an empty sea

and Katharine on my mind

and the leaping storms and the bartered loves

in the summer-winds that blind.


My Katharine, my Katharine,

I have called to you all day

but the night has twined like monster weed

and the buckles burst the way.


I am led beyond by a file of rust

and a palmed hand like a fist

and a desperate ritual driven up

like a dark moon through dark mist;

but I pause and pander to any stem

that is broken into bud,

and the poppies that are fluttering

are jets of your brooding blood;

and every petal and every vein

is Katharine through and through.

What should I care for an Amazon wish

or kaleidoscopic dew

when every English field and fold

is alive with Katharine still,

and the wavering spray of a honey-tree

is an idee fixe at will?

But why should I even wish to write

with thousands who scribble a rhyme?

I cannot begin to substantiate you

with the dull verse I design.

But what would your mannerisms be

if I could not make them sing:

your sidelong glance or the fluttering dance

of your gentle mimicry?

your swearing that was as soft a sound

as the spiralling leaves on pools,

your downcast eyes or your tyrant-love

for the man who broke the rules? -

the rules he made with a wringing grasp

that was everywhere-despair -

a weeping child who was weeping still

though loving your loving care.


My dark-haired darling, you’re bending down,

you’re kissing my lips away.

I am crying until your bosom may drown

in my wavering tears astray.


Your humour is what I cannot bear

and perhaps the tender ease

with which you will spurn my agony

as a maniac’s disease.


I am bending down to the brief, bright plants

and up to the blossom-tree

but every beauty is Katharine

and the light has gone from me;

and everywhere in my silver-rooms

the portraits panic the air,

and conjured out of the merest sound

my Katharine standing there!

I shall take to my tumbled tower again

and the failure-flowers sow,

and the lavender-press of the dying plants

shall tender me to and fro.

I shall never notice the flowers again

but Kathy, Kathy, there is

the violent pain in the misery

of the unremembered kiss.


Remember me, for I think you won’t,

you will think me a beast beyond,

a swirling stream that you visited

that you’ll turn to a dulled mill-pond.

Remember me, for my love is still

in the memory in these hymns.

All night all nights’ hours I’ve repeated here

a thousand, thousand Katharines!

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