Strange Girl

Clark Ashton Smith

What bond was this, of life or doom,
That swiftly drew your eyes to mine
Beyond the drinkers and the wine,
Across the crowded, garish room?

Beauty was yours, but beauty lost,
Bringing to that familiar bar
The lustre of a fallen star
On strands of night and chaos tossed.

O yours were soft, unhappy lips,
O yours were hard, unhappy eyes
Like agates under glacial skies
Laden with tempest and eclipse.

Upon the delicate chin you turned
Venus had set her cloven sign.
Like embers seen through darkest wine
Your unextinguished tresses burned.

Your gown revealed that gracious form
Tanagra's sculptors loved to mould
In day immortal from of old,
With limbs for ever sweet and warm.

Of what we spoke, it matters not:
For in your wistful voice I heard
What hidden things that found no word—
Broken, half-dreamed or half-forgot.

Girlishly, half maternally,
You chid me for the fault we shared:
Your voice was sweet. . . your eyes despaired. . .
It was your eyes that wounded me,

So bleak they were, so wan and chill,
Like eyes that meet the Gorgon's gaze
Amid the untraversable maze
Of all-reverting shame and ill.

But when you leaned to kiss me there,
It seemed some fragile moth of night
Had softly touched my lips in flight,
Swerving athwart the untroubled air.

Sister you seemed to all the woe
My heart has known but never sung. . . .
Was it for this your fingers clung
To mine, as loath to let me go?

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