Aerial Dodds, by Conrad Aiken

Aerial Dodds

Ingratitude--the damned ingratitude!
After these years, and all he'd done for him,
To run away like this without a word!
Without so much as thanks, --and still a boy, --
Though he had taken him as a child and trained him!
This moment, he could kill him with his hands,
Wring his young neck.. And worst of all, to think,
After he'd poured out love on him so long,
That he should run off with that rotten girl,
That whore, who couldn't dance, and couldn't sing,
Who only kept her job because, being shameless,
She splashed about in the spotlight like a mermaid!
My God; he'd kill him if he ever found him.
Had he been cruel to him? No, not cruel.
Sure, he had whipped him sometimes, --once in a while, --
Partly for discipline, of course.. But never
More than to make him shrink, or his lips tremble,
His cheeks a little white. Not more than that.
And then, he had loved him so! And given him things,
All the money he needed, and all the clothes..
--And the boy had been a foundling to begin with!   He got up from his chair, groped in the darkness,
And struck a match under the mantelpiece, --
Watching it spurt from blue to yellow flame,
Startling the room with agitated shadows.
And one by one he lifted from the trunk
The clothes the boy had worn: the soft-soled shoes;
The white ones with the sockets in the heels,
For whirling in the swing; the satin tights,
And the broad golden girdle, crystal starred.
He had looked lovely in this sleek white satin--
And he remembered now the day they bought it;
And how he stood up, smiling, by the mirror,
With big blue fearless eyes, and curly hair,
Just as he looked, sitting in his trapeze,
Wiping his hands so calm, and gazing down.
His throat was just like ivory, in this lace..
And he had looked so slim, so like a child,
So white and fragile!   And now, my God, he'd gone.
And he would never touch again that skin,
So young and soft; or have against his mouth
Those curls.. Or feel the long-tongued venomous whip
Curl round those knees, and see the young mouth tremble.

poems.one - Conrad Aiken

Conrad Aiken