“Mason Street, 11 P. M.,” from A City of Caprice, by Neill Wilson

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Mason Street, Eleven P. M.

Spangles flashing, slippers twinkling.
Round and round she goes.
To the mad piano’s tinkling.
On her tippy-toes.
Waiter! Has the girl no inkling
Of the word repose?

Flagellate ’em! Fast, Professor,
Beat the ivories hard!
Never pace a minute lesser.
While the night is starred.
Waiter! Who’s the giddy dresser
Glancing hitherward?

Cheek allures and lips abet it.
Mistress with the eyes.
Speak then: do we pirouette it
Where the sachet flies?
Ah, the prospect dazzles? Let it!
Evening star, arise!

Psyche’s nearest rival, spritely
Condiment of art.
Hug, oh hug me not so tightly.
Let me breathe, dear heart.
Less inured am I to nightly
Passion a la carte.

Listen, Circe’s little sister.
Once embraced, endeared:
You have scorched my soul; I blister.
Even as I feared.
Waiter! Chasers two! I kissed her.
And it tasted weird.

Pound the box. Professor! Shocking
Though the modern Eve,
And a lady’s lost her stocking,
I decline to leave.
What, the hour so soon for locking?
Halts all make-believe?

Gently, waiter. Friend, confessor,
Where’s the sidewalk, please?
Hail, the honest milkman! Yessir,
Morning air agrees.
Man! but couldn’t that professor
Castigate those keys?


The mix of traditionally poetic language and then-contemporary slang in this poem–and in most of those in this collection–is awkward and unstable. On its own, the whole book could easily remain forgotten. I just featured it as an excuse to post a few of the dozen or so photographs that appear ahead of the poems. Look closely at the last: you can see the reflections of the two women in the store window they are passing. I always like old photos that remind us that a photograph only captures an instant. Most of the picture is filled with things that are fixed–for years at least. But here we also catch the women a moment before they turn the corner and disappear.

from A City of Caprice, by Neill Compton Wilson
San Francisco: Overland Press, 1920

Available on the Internet Archive (Link).

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

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