“In Sleep,” by Robert Kotlowitz (1954)

Man Sleeping in Car - Vivian Maier -VM1955W02739 – New York, NY, 1955
Man Sleeping in Car — Vivian Maier, New York City, 1955

In Sleep

What do I see in my sleep?
A steady seepage of life
in dreams
that are of no use
to a practical body.

I awake like you,
sapped by a watchful reality,
defined by a soft-boiled egg.
Today’s newspaper
tucked under my arm,
swats invisible enemies on the fleeing subway.

Time, then, is transformed
from uptown to downtown,
and through its metamorphosis
I move into the material of life.
It catches fast,
holding in its swell
the sweating molecules of the morning,
the darting enzymes of eternity.

I watch, I wonder,
and wondering,
am caught in perpetual bombardments
of anxious demands, urgent moments,
that, like dreams after all,
streak the illumined air
with startling beauty:
the heart’s silhouette
of desire, sorrow and eager mortality.

This poem comes from Discovery no. 3, the third of the brief run of Discovery, a paperback magazine edited by Vance Bourjaily and published by Pocket Books between 1953 and 1955. Although Kotlowitz was, at the time, trying to write a novel, he ended up going into editing and, later and somewhat by accident, public broadcasting. He did, however, write four novels, beginning with Somewhere Else in 1972. His memoir of combat as a U.S. Army rifleman in World War Two, including the skirmish following the D-Day invasion in which virtually his entire platoon was killed—Before Their Time—was published in 1999 and is still in print. His son, Alex, is a journalist who wrote the award-winning account of life in the Chicago projects, There Are No Children Here (1992).

Four Poems by Eithne Wilkins

Spoken Through Glass

Here the big stars roll down
like tears
all down your face;
darkness that has no walls, the empty night
that fingers grope for and are lost,
is nightfall in your face.

The big stars roll,
the glittering railway-line unwinds into the constellations.

Over and under you the dark,
in you the rocking night without a foothold,
and no walls, no ceiling,

the parallels that never meet, the pulses winding out to the
stars.

Night has no end.
Light travelling from the stars is out
before you ride along it
with the black tears falling,
falling,

all fall down.

 

Passage of an August (1938)

In solitary august, like a story
he met grief’s lassie with the quartz-bright hands;
and she became his darling,
who was young, was sorry
there among the grasses blowing over pit and brands.

She walked beside him back the way he came,
into the whitening hills, and cut his throat.
Although she called him by another name,
she was no stranger, love. And none
can drive her out.

 

barbedwire

Barbed Wire (1940)

The silence, with its ragged edge of lost communication,
silence at the latter end,
is now a spiked north wind.

Last words
toss about me in the streets, waste paper
or a cigarette butt in some gutter stream
that overflows
from crumpled darkness.
“Look, I am plunged in the midst of them, a dagger
in their midst.”

and over the edge
the nightmares peer, with their tall stories
and the day’s unheard-of cry.

 

Failure

What can forgive us for
the clothes left lying and the rocking journey,
flashing poles and pylons standing into fields of air,
in flooded fields?

Something flew out of our hands,
the cup incomplete,
air of invasions and land of defeat.
There was the tree felled in another valley,
behind the flown carpet
and nothing left to remember, all to forgive.

Nothing to remember but
the windows slammed against the cold,
the helmet crushed down on the eyes.

And who, beside the darkened station lamp,
remembering, started back.


These are stark, grim poems, very much in the spirit of their time, when there was little good news and a great deal of bad, and no one knew how far away better days might be. But there is an underlying toughness and realism that reflects the attitude of a survivor, of someone who wasn’t going to give up in the face of loss. I would have included more such poems had discretion not held me back. Sadly, Eithne Wilkins never published a collection of her poems, so one has to root through the pages of long-defunct little magazines to find them.

She attended Oxford in the early 1930s, then moved to London, where she worked as a translator and reader for various publishers. Her poems began to be published in British literary journals around 1937, and in 1949, a selection of them were included in The New British Poets, a collection edited by Kenneth Rexroth and published by James Laughlin’s just-founded New Directions Press. That same year, she married the Austrian writer and translater, Ernst Kaiser. Although she worked on English translations of a number of well-regarded books, including Musil’s The Man Without Qualities, she appears to have stopped submitting her poems for publication sometime after the New Directions collection was published, and her one book, The Rose-Garden Game (1969), was a popular history about the origins of rosary beads as an accessory to Catholic worship.

from The New British Poets, edited by Kenneth Rexroth
New London, Connecticut: New Directions Press, 1949

Available on the Internet Archive: Link.

This is one in a series of neglected poems from the Internet Archive.

“Jerked Heartstrings in Town,” by E. B. C. Jones (1918)

oxfordstreet

Jerked Heartstrings in Town

I have heard echoes and seen visions of you
Often of late. Once yawning at a play
A sad keen rapture suddenly pierced me through
Because one puppet moved and sighed your way;

An omnibus’conductor fixed your glance
— Intense, preoccupied — upon my fare ;
I saw your stooping shoulders, at a dance,
Lean by a doorway: but you were not there.

Down Oxford Street, in the slow shopping crowd,
Hearing your very voice, ” Ah, that’s superb ”
I turned, — a tawdry simpering little dowd
Passed by, and left me trembling on the kerb.

from Songs for sale, an anthology of recent poetry, edited by Emily Beatrix Coursolles (E. B. C.) Jones
Oxford: B. H. Blackwell; New York, Longmans, Green & Co., 1918

Available on the Internet Archive: Link.

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“To a Poet Yet Unborn,” from Collected Poems, by Abbie Huston Evans

leap

To a Poet Yet Unborn

Attempt what’s perpendicular. Scale what’s impossible.
Try the knife edge between two voids; look into both abysses.
Bring back some word of wordlessness if strength enough is in you.
Write doggedly of dizzying things; with small implacable digits
Delimit space to fit the brain, that it may bulk and be.

No one but you can help us much. Subdue what blasts. Dare do it.
Ride formlessness, word wordlessness. Be not aghast. Be poet.

from Collected Poems, by Abbie Huston Evans
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1970

“West End Life,” from Revolving Lights, by Dorothy Richardson

westendstreet

Within the stillness she heard the jingling of hansoms,
swinging in morning sunlight
along the wide thoroughfares of the West End;
saw the wide leisurely shop-fronts
displaying in a restrained profusion,
comfortably within reach of the experienced eye
half turned to glance from a passing vehicle,
all the belongings of West End life;
on the pavements,
the trooping succession of masked life-moulded forms,
their unobservant eyes,
aware of the resources all about them,
at gaze upon their continuous adventure,
yesterday still with them as they came out,
in high morning light,
into the adventure of to-day.
Campaigners,
sure of their weapons in the gaily decked mélée,
and sure every day
of the blissful solitude of the interim times.

When I first read this in Revolving Lights, I immediately marked it and wrote in the margin, “poetry.” Certainly, it wasn’t written as poetry, but I think it works better as a poem than the few genuine poems (example) she wrote.

From Revolving Lights, by Dorothy Richardson
London: Duckworth, 1923

“Open Air Concert, Ohio,” from Poems, 1947-1961, by Elizabeth Sewell

openairconcert

Open Air Concert, Ohio

We sit by stone and ivy leaves
For flute and oboe’s disquisition;
The evening, after heat, receives
This gentle Middle West rendition.

The foursquare walls of courtyard cup
Two funnels at their intersection,
The music running down and up
On lukewarm currents of convection,

So that the twin parabola
Of clarinettists’ conversation
May tunnel for mandragora
Or plummet to a constellation.

The body may be earthed or skied,
But mind, extrinsic to seduction,
Spreads out into a thin glass slide,
Incising music’s cones of suction.

Leave those twinkling points to pair
With ground bass in a Bach Invention
Cry me not up to meet them there —
I balance on my disc of air —
In a glass darkly I shall stare
At inklings of a fourth dimension.

from Poems, 1947-1961, by Elizabeth Sewell
Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 1962

Available on the Internet Archive Link.

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“Negative Entropy,” from The Lightning-Struck Tower, by Sheila Shannon (1947)

cells

Negative Entropy
or
The Third Law of Thermodynamics
or
How It is We Keep Alive

We feed on crystals, feast on minerals,
Batten, upon the moon, consume the stars
And through the channels of our love drain off
The sun’s heat and the whole world’s energy.

The crocus and the oak, the elephant,
The long-tailed tit, the taxidermist’s owl,
Our eyes, our hair, our nails, all, all the same
Millions of indistinguishable atoms
Chaos in single numbers, order in milliards.

Only the passionate indestructible pattern
Of the all-but-eternal molecule, carries the key.
Locked in its heart lies the secret
To grow from the acorn the oak,
From the corm the year’s yellow crocus,
From the fertilised cell the elephant,
From the egg the tit or the owl,
From eyes our children’s eyes, from hair their hair
And from our nails their same peculiar nails.

Each greedy of life resists death,
Sucks sustenance from the desert;
Devours the rock and the ruby.
Until we cool to our end
And dying provide new fires
For love and fresh generation.

from The Lightning Struck Tower, by Sheila Shannon
London: Frederick Muller Ltd., 1947

Available on the Internet Archive Link.

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“Light in Dark,” by Josephine Preston Peabody from Fortune and Men’s Eyes (1911)

lightindark

Light in Dark

It was the twilight made you look
So kindly and so far.
It was the twilight gave your eyes
A shadow, and a star.

For loveliness is not to keep
Unto the skies alone;
And though the glories may be gone,
The heart will have its own.

Some likeness of a dream is shed
From all fair things, too far;
And so your eyes have left to me
A shadow and a star.

from Fortune and Men’s Eyes, by Josephine Preston Peabody
Boston and New York: Houghton, Mifflin Company, 1911

Available on the Internet Archive Link.

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“Never,” by Bernice Kenyon, from Night Sky (1951)

blankgravestone

Never

I will not come today–
I cannot come tomorrow.
I am gone far away
Beyond the realm of sorrow;
Beyond the reach of sleep,
And past the firmament
I am gone. No word is sent.
I am submerged, sunk deep
In the black basalt of eternity.
So call no name–you will call hopelessly.
But let the turning sky be fair and blue,
With what I loved the most: the eternal hue
Of hope and wonder, that is always you.

from Night Sky, by Bernice Kenyon
New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1951

In memory of Bill Andrews, August 29, 1955 – October 3, 2014

“When You Go Away,” by Sally Kinsolving from David and Bath-sheba (1922)

emptybedroom

When You Go Away

When you go away
Then I enter your room,
And suddenly
A faint and lingering scent
Of cigarettes
Stabs me,
Like the perfume of bruised violets
In the quiet gloom
Of twilight, and I begin to look
Around me and I see
A book
That is open on its face
In the place
Where you laid it.
And I find ashes still scattered on the floor.
And my heart beats faster when I remember
That before you left
I loved to kneel and brush them out of the way.
Because I knew that you had spilled them
And would spill more. . . .
And then I look into the mirror until it seems
As empty as a house of dreams.
Or the white-pillowed bed where recently you lay,
And I shut the door
Quietly —
And go away.

from David and Bath-sheba, and other poems, by Sally Kinsolving
Baltimore: The Norman, Remington Company, 1922

Available on the Internet Archive Link.

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“In Time of Swallows,” from In Time of Swallows, by Mae Winkler Goodman (1951)

intimeofswallows
 

In Time of Swallows

The pear is weighted now with more than fruit–
In hordes they come, a winged avalanche,
Descending on the tree from tip to root,
Shaking the leaves, bending each silver branch.
They overflow the meadows for miles around
In multitudes, spilling their liquid song;
This is the time of swallows; along the ground,
On fence posts, bushes, these living beads are strung.
And then, in thousands, they reclaim the sky,
Sailing across the soft blue sea of air,
A bright, light-winged armada; we watch them fly
To what far destination; suddenly aware
Of the year’s waning, as the quick eye follows
The end of summer in the flight of swallows.

from In Time of Swallows: 52 American Birds, by Mae Winkler Goodman, illustrated by William E. Scheele
New York: The Devin-Adair Company, 1951

Available on the Internet Archive: Link

This is one in a series of neglected poems taken from the Internet Archive.

“The Incendiary,” by Nina Frances Layard, from Poems (1890)

beerdrinker

The Incendiary

Pull down the stars;
Here let us have a game
Of patent pattern;
You bowl with Mars,
And I will take an aim
With belted Saturn.

Come, lend a hand;
The bright thing there is wasting,
Not serving Hodges;
Well make a stand,
And give the star a basting:
Till it dislodges.

Well sink the scale
And light the rich man’s winders:
I’ve tar and matches.
When we turn tail,
And all the house in cinders,
Hindmost he catches.

How now, you dolts?
Why tremble in your boots.
My sucking Platos,
At thunder-bolts,
Or little star that shoots,
Or — hot potatoes?

We have no fear;
And if you talk of reverence,
And all that twaddle.
We love our beer,
And hope to see no severance
‘Twixt screw and paddle.

Who cares for caste
In these new days of level?
We didn’t make it.
As for the past.
It may go to the devil
An’ he will take it.

Hold!— there is God?
I almost had forgotten
The Book–His letter–
But paths are trod,
And the old ways get rotten
And we want better;

And, as I say,
The old road is too straight,
We’d have it wider.
There’s room to pray,
But to be mad and hate.
Or drunk on cider.

There’s hardly space.
Or so our mother taught us
When she lay dying.
I see her face,
And how her look besought us
For some replying.

My mother! — yes!
All right, my lads. I’11 come;
You needn’t doubt it;
But I confess
Just now I’m flummoxed some;
I’ll—think about it.

from Poems, by Nina Frances Layard
London and New York: Longmans, Green and Company, 1890

Available on the Internet Archive: Link

This is one in a series of neglected poems taken from the Internet Archive.


“Low Tide,” by Lynette Roberts, from The New British Poets

lowtide

Low Tide

Every waiting moment is a fold of sorrow
Pierced within the heart.
Pieces of mind get torn off emotionally
In large wisps.

Like a waif I lie, stillbound to action:
Each waiting hour I stare and see not,
Hum and hear not, nor care I how long
The lode mood lasts.

My eyes are raw and wide apart
Stiffened by the salt bar
That separates us.

You so far;
I at ease at the hearth
Glowing for a welcome
From your heart.

Each beating moment crosses my dream
So that wise things cannot pass
As we had planned.

Woe for all of us : supporting those
Who like us fail to steel their hearts,
But keep them wound in clocktight rooms,
Ill found. Unused. Obsessed by time.

Each beating hour
Rings false.

from The New British Poets: An Anthology, edited by Kenneth Rexroth
New York City: New Directions, 1948

Available on the Internet Archive: Link

This is one in a series of neglected poems taken from the Internet Archive.

“Knowledge,” from The Shoes that Danced, and Other Poems, by Anna Hempstead Branch

Liceu_Pedro_Nunes

Knowledge

Once I thought that healing came
From the angels wings.

Now the bruised hands of men
Seem the kindest things.

Once I thought to pluck and eat

The fruit of Paradise.
Now I break with these their bread

With unsaddened eyes.

Once I thought to find on earth
Love, perfect and complete.

Now I know it carries wounds
In its hands and feet.

from The Shoes that Danced, and Other Poems, by Anna Hempstead Branch
Boston and New York: Houghton, Mifflin and Company, 1905

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This is one in a series of neglected poems taken from the Internet Archive.

“Afternoon Tea,” from Some Poems, by Clara Louise Lawrence (1914)

afternoontea

Afternoon Tea

An attractive table, round and neat.
Presided over by faces sweet;
Wafers and candy by fair hands passed.
And I’m having my afternoon tea, at last.

Luxurious pillows, an easy chair;
Odors of violets filling the air.
The mingling voices of women and men.
Discussing events that are and have been.

My thoughts are dreamily lifting to things
More ideal than commonplace brings.
When a bit of gossip commands my ear.
Wafted from someone to someone near.

Touching lightly a woman’s name;
Adding a thoughtless word of blame.
Oh, why could they not let that scandal rest.
Who welcomed her once as an honored guest?

My illusion is ended; no longer the light
Of the sweet-scented room is delicious and bright;
For gossip, that poison, has sifted, I see.
To the very dregs of the afternoon tea.

from Some Poems, by Clara Louise Lawrence
Carlton, Pennsylvania: Publisher unknown, 1914

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“To Myself,” from Spicewood, by Lizette Woodworth Reese

tomyself

To Myself

Girl, I am tired of blowing hot and cold;
Of being that with that, and this with this;
A loosened leaf no bough would ever miss,
At the wind’s whim betwixt the sky and mould.
Of wearing masks. Oh, I would rend them all
Into the dust that by my door is blown;
Of my old secret bare me to the bone.
Myself at last, none other! I would call:——
“I had a lover once. This is the face
He lauded April-high and April-deep,
As fair a flower as hers of Camelot;
And yet he loved it but an April’s space.
This is myself indeed. Now hear me weep.
I had a lover once, but he forgot.”

from Spicewood, by Lizette Woodworth Reese
Baltimore : Norman, Remington Company, 1920

Available on the Internet Archive: Link

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“The Palace-Burner,” from Poems by Sarah Morgan Bryan Piatt

communefire

The Palace-Burner

[Paris, 1871]
A Picture in a Newspaper.

She has been burning palaces. “To see
The sparks look pretty in the wind!” Well, yes
And something more. But women brave as she
Leave much for cowards, such as I, to guess.

But this is old, so old that everything
Is ashes here, the woman and the rest.
Two years are oh! so long. Now you may bring
Some newer pictures. You like this one best?

You wish that you had lived in Paris then?
You would have loved to bum a palace, too?
But they had guns in France, and Christian men
Shot wicked little Communists like you.

You would have burned the palace? — Just because
You did not live in it yourself! Oh! why
Have I not taught you to respect the laws?
You would have burned the palace would not I?

Would I? … Go to your play. . . . Would I, indeed?
I? Does the boy not know my soul to be
Languid and worldly, with a dainty need
For light and music? Yet he questions me.

Can he have seen my soul more near than I?
Ah! in the dusk and distance sweet she seems,
With lips to kiss away a baby’s cry,
Hands fit for flowers, and eyes for tears and dreams.

Can he have seen my soul? And could she wear
Such utter life upon a dying face:
Such unappealing, beautiful despair:
Such garments soon to be a shroud with grace?

Would I burn palaces? The child has seen
In this fierce creature of the Commune here,
So bright with bitterness and so serene,
A being finer than my soul, I fear.

from Poems, by Sarah Morgan Bryan Piatt
London: Longmans, Green and Company, 1894

Available on the Internet Archive: Link

Most of the poems in this two-volume collection, taken from over a half-dozen previous books by Sarah Morgan Bryan Piatt, a Kentucky-born poet who lived from 1836 to 1919, fall into the same category of delicate, decorative, and deadly-dull poetry that American and British men and women of the Victorian era produced in brain-numbing quantities. Romantic poetry utterly devoid of passion and utterly unworthy of rediscovery.

And then there are a few like this, in which the poet acknowledges that the firebrand Communiste is “a bring finer than my soul,” suggesting that a life spent writing delicate, decorative poems is not perhaps the fullest realization of her potential. They’re like little whispers of sedition — whispers it might have taken another hundred years for anyone to really hear.

This is one in a series of neglected poems taken from the Internet Archive.

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“The Hotel,” from You and I, by Harriet Monroe (1914)

chicagohotel

The Hotel

The long resounding marble corridors, the shining parlors with shining women in them.

The French room, with its gilt and garlands under plump little tumbling painted loves.

The Turkish room, with its jumble of many carpets and its stiffly squared un-Turkish chairs.

The English room, all heavy crimson and gold, with spreading palms lifted high in round green tubs.

The electric lights in twos and threes and hundreds, made into festoons and spirals and arabesques, a maze and magic of bright persistent radiance.

The people sitting in corners by twos and threes, and cooing together under the glare.

The long rows of silent people In chairs, watching with eyes that see not while the patient band tangles the air with music.

The bell-boys marching in with cards, and shouting names over and over into ears that do not heed.

The stout and gorgeous dowagers In lacy white and lilac, bedizened with many jewels, with smart little scarlet or azure hats on their gray-streaked hair.

The business men in trim and spotless suits, who walk In and out with eager steps, or sit at the desks and tables, or watch the shining women.

The telephone girls forever listening to far voices, with the silver band over their hair and the little black caps obliterating their ears.

The telegraph tickers sounding their perpetual chit-chit-chit from the uttermost ends of the earth.

The waiters. In black swallow-tails and white aprons, passing here and there with trays of bottles and glasses.

The quiet and sumptuous bar-room, with purplish men softly drinking in little alcoves, while the bar-keeper, mixing bright liquors, is rapidly plying his bottles.

The great bedecked and gilded cafe, with its glitter of a thousand mirrors, with its little white tables bearing gluttonous dishes whereto bright forks, held by pampered hands, flicker daintily back and forth.

The white-tiled, immaculate kitchen, with many little round blue fires, where white-clad cooks are making spiced and flavored dishes.

The cool cellars filled with meats and fruits, or layered with sealed and bottled wines mellowing softly in the darkness.

The invisible stories of furnaces and machines, burrowing deep down into the earth, where grimy workmen are heavily laboring.

The many-windowed stories of little homes and shelters and sleeping-places, reaching up into the night like some miraculous, high-piled honeycomb of wax-white cells.

The clothes inside of the cells — the stuffs, the silks, the laces; the elaborate delicate disguises that wait in trunks and drawers and closets, or bedrape and conceal human flesh.

The people inside of the clothes, the bodies white and young, bodies fat and bulging, bodies wrinkled and wan, all alike veiled by fine fabrics, sheltered by walls and roofs, shut in from the sun and stars.

The souls inside of the bodies — the naked souls; souls weazened and weak, or proud and brave; all imprisoned in flesh, wrapped in woven stuffs, enclosed in thick and painted masonry, shut away with many shadows from the shining truth.

God inside of the souls, God veiled and wrapped and imprisoned and shadowed in fold on fold of flesh and fabrics and mockeries; but ever alive, struggling and rising again, seeking the light, freeing the world.

from You and I, by Harriet Monroe
New York: The Macmillian Company, 1914

This poem is Arnold Bennett’s The Grand Babylon Hotel in miniature, with all the glittering details of a big city hotel in an era when they were the great crossroads of social and business life for those who could afford the price of entry. And I love that last line, which to me captures what is going on in most of us every day, whatever name or spirit we associate with God.

Available on the Internet Archive: Link

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“Train Window,” from Sun-Up and Other Poems, by Lola Ridge (1920)

trainwindow

Train Window

Small towns
Crawling out of their green shirts …
Tubercular towns
Coughing a little in the dawn …
And the church …
There is always a church
With its natty spire
And the vestibule–
That’s where they whisper:
Tzz-tzz . . . tzz-tzz . . . tzz-tzz . . .
How many codes for a wireless whisper
And corn flatter than it should be
And those chits of leaves
Gadding with every wind?
Small towns
From Connecticut to Maine:
Tzz-tzz . . . tzz-tzz . . . tzz-tzz. .

from Sun-Up and Other Poems, by Lola Ridge
New York: B. W. Huebsch, 1920

Available on the Internet Archive: Link

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“How Like a Woman,” from Poems, by Alice and Caroline Duer (1896)

Women in tea-room

How Like a Woman

I wanted you to come to-day —
Or so I told you in my letter —
And yet, if you had stayed away,
I should have liked you so much better.
I should have sipped my tea unseen,
And thrilled at every door-bell’s pealing,
And thought how nice I could have been
Had you evinced a little feeling.

I should have guessed you drinking tea
With someone whom you loved to madness;
I should have thought you cold to me,
And reveled in a depth of sadness.
But, no! you came without delay
I could not feel myself neglected:
You said the things you always say,
In ways not wholly unexpected.

If you had let me wait in vain,
We should, in my imagination,
Have held, what we did not attain,
A most dramatic conversation.
Had you not come, I should have known
At least a vague anticipation,
Instead of which, I grieve to own,
You did not give me one sensation.

from Poems, by Alice and Caroline Duer
New York: George H. Richmond & Co., 1896

Available on the Internet Archive: Link

Alice Duer married Henry Wise Miller a few years after publishing this book of poems with her sister Caroline, and became Alice Duer Miller, who wrote “Forsaking All Others,” a verse short novel featured here recently (post).

This is one in a series of neglected poems taken from the Internet Archive.