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  • Inscription for a Mirror in a Deserted Dwelling
    William Rose Benet
    6 Jun 2004

    Set silver cone to tulip flame!
    The mantel mirror floats with night
    Reflecting still green watery light.
    The sconces glimmer. If she came
    Like silence through the shadowy wall
    Where walls are wading in the moon
    The dark would tremble back to June.
    So faintly now the moonbeams fall,
    So soft this silence, that the verge
    Of speech is reached. Remote and pale
    As through some faint viridian veil
    The lovely lineaments emerge,
    The clearly amber eyes, the tint
    Of pearl and faintest rose, the hair
    To lacquered light a silken snare
    Of devious bronze, the tiny dint
    With which her maker mocked the years
    Beneath her lip imprinting praise.
    Dim flower of desecrating days,
    The old reflection, strange with tears,
    Is gazing out upon the gloom,
    Is widening eyes to find the light
    In reminiscence, in the night
    Of this foregone, forgotten room.

    And you, the watcher, with your eyes
    As wide as hers in dark distress,
    Who never knew her loveliness
    But guess through glass her shadowy guise,
    For you around the glass I trace
    This secret writing, that will burn
    Like witch-fire should her shade return
    To haunt you with that wistful face.

    At least no gesturing figures pass;
    Here is no tragic immanence
    Of all the scenes of small events
    That pantomimed before the glass.
    No bliss, no passion, no despair,
    No other actor lingers now;
    The moonlight on a lifted brow
    Is all--the eyes so wide aware
    Of clouds that pass with stars, and suns,
    Of mystery that pales the cheek,
    Of all the heart could never speak,
    Of joy and pain so vivid once,
    That ceased with music and the lights,
    Dimming to darkness and repose....
    Lean then and kiss that ghostly rose
    That was her face, this night of nights--
    And know the vision fled indeed,
    The mirror's surface smooth and cold,
    The words unbreathed, the tale untold,
    The past unpiteous to your need!