Knut Hamsun’s Night of Fire

Afterwards the maid came in with new sheets,
Her face smooth and polished as a moon:
As the pewter mirror of a pewter jug.
She knew everything and understood nothing.
Fru Janson sent up a beaker of water; I
Threw it out the window for ice.
The curtains were so beautiful, my God; it was
Like being enveloped in velvet and rocked
To sleep. It flowered like a lady’s hair, like the sigh
Of coming-undone, all arms, white thighs—
And the lily-throats of angels, tiny, rising,
Invisible, no voice, all mind, shining.
Nowadays they tamp out my light
With their little silver thimbles, it fizzles
To nothingness. I wanted to swallow the whole
Vial of genius because I was dying slowly
Of their snuffers. Do you know how that feels?
Like a moth blurring in a bowl of milk, stirring
Fainter, fainter—fainter—becoming whiteness.
They thought they’d tame me, top-hat, three-piece
Suit, the life of significant fruit. But I am
A wound, blooming red through everything, like the curse
Of the jar in the disturbed mummy’s-tomb: I am desire
And desire’s matchstick. I will do it again, you know.

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