Conrad Potter Aiken

Conrad Aiken] (5 August 1889 – 17 August 1973 / Savannah, Georgia

Haunted Chambers

The lamp-lit page is turned, the dream forgotten;
The music changes tone, you wake, remember
Deep worlds you lived before, deep worlds hereafter
Of leaf on falling leaf, music on music,
Rain and sorrow and wind and dust and laughter.

Helen was late, and Miriam came too soon;
Joseph was dead, his wife and children starving;
Elaine was married and soon to have a child.
You dreamed last night of fiddler crabs with fiddles.
They played a buzzing melody, and you smiled.

Tomorrow—what ? And what of yesterday ?
Through soundless labyrinths of dream you pass,
Through many doors to the one door of all.
Soon as it's opened we shall hear a music:
Or see a skeleton fall.

We walk with you. Where is it that you lead us ?
We climbed the muffled stairs beneath high lanterns.
We descend again. We grope through darkened cells.
You say: 'This darkness, here, 'will slowly kill me—
It creeps and weighs upon me .... is full of bells.

'This is the thing remembered I would forget:
No matter where I go, how soft I tread,
This windy gesture menaces me with death.
'Fatigue!' it says—and points its finger at me;
Touches my throat and stops my breath.

'My fans, my jewels, the portrait of my husband,
The torn certificate for my daughter's grave—
These are but mortal seconds in immortal time.
They brush me, fade away—like drops of water.
They signify no crime.

'Let us retrace our steps: I have deceived you!
Nothing is here I could not frankly tell you—
No hint of guilt, or faithlessness, or threat.
Dreams—they are madness; staring eyes—illusion.
Let us return, hear music, and forget.'
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