Sweeney Among the Nightingales


       [Greek text inserted here]
     Apeneck Sweeney spreads his knees
     Letting his arms hang down to laugh,
     The zebra stripes along his jaw
     Swelling to maculate giraffe.

     The circles of the stormy moon
     Slide westward toward the River Plate,
     Death and the Raven drift above
     And Sweeney guards the hornèd gate.

     Gloomy Orion and the Dog
     Are veiled; and hushed the shrunken seas;
     The person in the Spanish cape
     Tries to sit on Sweeney's knees

     Slips and pulls the table cloth
     Overturns a coffee-cup,
     Reorganized upon the floor
     She yawns and draws a stocking up;

     The silent man in mocha brown
     Sprawls at the window-sill and gapes;
     The waiter brings in oranges
     Bananas figs and hothouse grapes;

     The silent vertebrate in brown
     Contracts and concentrates, withdraws;
     Rachel née Rabinovitch
     Tears at the grapes with murderous paws;

     She and the lady in the cape
     Are suspect, thought to be in league;
     Therefore the man with heavy eyes
     Declines the gambit, shows fatigue,

     Leaves the room and reappears
     Outside the window, leaning in,
     Branches of wisteria
     Circumscribe a golden grin;

     The host with someone indistinct
     Converses at the door apart,
     The nightingales are singing near
     The Convent of the Sacred Heart,

     And sang within the bloody wood
     When Agamemnon cried aloud,
     And let their liquid droppings fall
     To stain the stiff dishonoured shroud.


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