On sturdy legs that long have stood,
The tables show their dark old wood.
The chairs were new ten decades since.
The curtains flaunt stiff folds of chintz
That multiplies a purple bird
With crested head and wings absurd,
Entangled in a wreath of vines.
The candlesticks are brass, that shines
Unflecked, unscathed. The candle fires
Burn high, in straight upstanding spires.
Of course the dishes are not mates.
The cups are yellow, and the plates
Are green, like grass; cut lemons gleam
On lacquer-red; the scanty cream
Is in a black jug, squat and droll,
The sugar in an orange bowl.
The narrow spaces of the room
Take shape in patterned light and gloom,
Dusk-mellowed where along the wall
Old mirrors duplicate it all.
The guests sit long and dream and chat,
And stroke the friendly tea-room cat,
While wistful lovers linger here
For tea and toast and atmosphere.
The National Arts Club, 15 Gramercy Park, New York City
AT THE LINEN COUNTER
A girl with hair of copper shimmering
Ponders her list of purchases. A ring
With one bright jewel sparkles on the hand
That waits, we know, another golden band.
She lifts the linen, studying the thread
And woven pattern, while she bends her head
With sober self-importance, and a mien
Which plays the best housewife, sure and keen
To spend with wisdom and save with care.
She chooses slowly, pausing here and there
To question her who serves, or test the strength
Of some white web, or measure off the length.
At last she lifts her wrist-bag, and puts down
The money on the counter, with a frown
Which only hides her triumph. As she turns
We see her eyes. A secret ardor burns
And shows her glimpsing, in a sweet amaze,
The strange new world which opens to her gaze.
New York Sun, – March 21, 19xx
THE BEAUTY SHOP
The window shows a waxen model crowned
With clustered ringlests classically bound
In cloth of gold; and on the other side
A gray head waved and poised in flawless pride.
The two pink dummies with unchanging eye
Stare out upon the world of passerby.
Below are lip sticks, powders, dyes, and creams,
And perfume that in amber flagons gleams;
And little boxes, open to reveal
Their cunning mirrors and their bright vermiel;
And there are cruel tongs, to pinch and twist
Defiant locks; and pads and pins – a list
Of clever artifices, deft and sure,
To strengthen or create a woman’s lure
The lure that Eve in Eden’s garden sought.
Within the doors, what miracles are wrought
On youth ungifted with the charms it craves;
On middle life, exulting when it saves
Some youthful grace; on age that sighs and shrinks
Before its own reflection, and that thinks
To cheat the eyes of others, come what may.
Thus hope and strange presumption have their way
In this white template, where the wise may set,
A shrine and altar vowed to vanity.
New York Sun – January 17, 1923
THE BIRD SHOP
In airy tiers the cages line the wall
Where feathered creatures hop and swing and call,
In narrow space the tiny finches flit,
All shining bronze and gold. The love birds sit
Oblivious, with wing to wing close pressed.
A cockatoo lifts high his rosy crest
And stares upon the small green parakeets.
Here screams a hook billed parrot that repeats
With solemn eagerness his word or two;
In loud accord the pigeons strut and coo.
The orioles and tanagers and jays
Look through the wires in mild or fierce amaze,
While on his perch a great blue winged macaw
Is tethered by a silver shackled claw.
From end to end the long apartment rings
With shrill complaints or dulcet murmurings.
May each bird find, though it be soon or late,
Some sun filled home where kindly children wait!
CAFE IN GREENWICH VILLAGE
Semi-darkness, candles, chintz,
Posters, chromes, sketches, prints,
All of strange futurist hue;
Tables painted peacock blue,
Plates of orange, cups of green;
Greasy cook behind a screen,
Waters gay in cap and sash,
Serving goulash, eggs, and hash;
Draggled parrot, skinny cat;
Woman in a battered hat
Puffing clouds of tainted smoke;
Siren in a velvet cloak;
Would be artist, long of hair,
Sprawling in a yellow chair;
Slim young girl and pink-cheeked lad
Trying to look bold and bad.
National Arts Club, 15 Gramercy Park
IMPRESSIONS IN A TEA ROOM
Three red embers in the grate,
English muffins on a plate
Slightly nicked around the edge
Tulips on the window ledge
Muslin curtains needing soap
Dusty print of Watts’s Hope
Cups with colored rims and spots,
Fresh hot tea in Pudgy pots.
Faded ladies sipping cheer,
Girls with stockings pink and sheer,
Couples talking very low,
One lone man, about to go.
Waitress in a draggled sash
Tired woman counting cash.
LIGHTS IN 5TH AVENUE
The lights have just come on. Deep blue
A haze enwraps the Avenue,
The mist that city twilight brings
To shed romance on common things.
Round orange lamps make moons that glow
From out the dusk in double row,
And up and down, with lambent rays,
The signal tower search-light plays.
Above, beyond, bright windows rise
In rank on rank against the skies,
While farther up, some lifted spire
Shows star-like, tipped with yellow fire.
Strange, lovely lights, their gleam has made
Dream-castles in this world of trade,
An given serried brick and stone
A blazing beauty of their own.