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Poetry of Amy Lowell
Sword Blades and Poppy Seed

After Hearing a Waltz by Bartok

But why did I kill him?  Why?  Why?
 In the small, gilded room, near the stair?
My ears rack and throb with his cry,
 And his eyes goggle under his hair,
 As my fingers sink into the fair
White skin of his throat.  It was I!

I killed him!  My God!  Don't you hear?
 I shook him until his red tongue
Hung flapping out through the black, queer,
 Swollen lines of his lips.  And I clung
 With my nails drawing blood, while I flung
The loose, heavy body in fear.

Fear lest he should still not be dead.
 I was drunk with the lust of his life.
The blood-drops oozed slow from his head
 And dabbled a chair.  And our strife
 Lasted one reeling second, his knife
Lay and winked in the lights overhead.

And the waltz from the ballroom I heard,
 When I called him a low, sneaking cur.
And the wail of the violins stirred
 My brute anger with visions of her.
 As I throttled his windpipe, the purr
Of his breath with the waltz became blurred.

I have ridden ten miles through the dark,
 With that music, an infernal din,
Pounding rhythmic inside me.  Just Hark!
 One!  Two!  Three!  And my fingers sink in
 To his flesh when the violins, thin
And straining with passion, grow stark.

One!  Two!  Three!  Oh, the horror of sound!
 While she danced I was crushing his throat.
He had tasted the joy of her, wound
 Round her body, and I heard him gloat
 On the favour.  That instant I smote.
One!  Two!  Three!  How the dancers swirl round!

He is here in the room, in my arm,
 His limp body hangs on the spin
Of the waltz we are dancing, a swarm
 Of blood-drops is hemming us in!
 Round and round!  One!  Two!  Three!  And his sin
Is red like his tongue lolling warm.

One!  Two!  Three!  And the drums are his knell.
 He is heavy, his feet beat the floor
As I drag him about in the swell
 Of the waltz.  With a menacing roar,
 The trumpets crash in through the door.
One!  Two!  Three! clangs his funeral bell.

One!  Two!  Three!  In the chaos of space
 Rolls the earth to the hideous glee
Of death!  And so cramped is this place,
 I stifle and pant.  One!  Two!  Three!
 Round and round!  God!  'Tis he throttles me!
He has covered my mouth with his face!

And his blood has dripped into my heart!
 And my heart beats and labours.  One!  Two!
Three!  His dead limbs have coiled every part
 Of my body in tentacles.  Through
 My ears the waltz jangles.  Like glue
His dead body holds me athwart.

One!  Two!  Three!  Give me air!  Oh!  My God!
 One!  Two!  Three!  I am drowning in slime!
One!  Two!  Three!  And his corpse, like a clod,
 Beats me into a jelly!  The chime,
 One!  Two!  Three!  And his dead legs keep time.
Air!  Give me air!  Air!  My God!