by: Mary Aldis

      watch the Eastern sky
      For a sign of dawn
      Long delayed.
      Such stillness is around
      That every separate sense
      Is twice-attuned, twice powerful,
      And loneliness enwraps me like a sea
      Into whose unplumbed depths I must go down:
      A sea unsatisfied
      Where drifting shapes, wan-eyed,
      Reach forth wan arms
      Towards them who pause to look at their own souls
      Mirrored upon the sea.

      Somewhere a loon
      Sends forth its weary cry across the dark.
      Oh, wailing bird, I know, I know!
      I think tonight the soul of the world is desolate
      And you and I its watchers.

      Yet cease! oh cease!
      The night air quivers and resounds
      To bear your cry across the sleeping lake,
      And I would have your silence
      While I make
      My own complaint.

      For I would ask why we who have so little space
      To live and love and wonder
      Must go down into eternal mystery
      And I would know
      Why, since that awful loneliness must be,
      We go about as strangers here on earth
      And meet and laugh and mock and part again
      With never a look into each other's eyes,
      With never a question of each others' pain.

      So, even as I hear your melancholy plaint
      Across the sleeping lake,
      I send my questing cry across the world--
      And as I watch and listen,
      Through the stillness
      There comes to me an echoing and a far reverberation
      Of the many who have gone
      Into the limitless mystery,
      And thus they speak--

      "We too have known your questing,
      We too have stretched our arms forth to the night
      And clasped its nothingness,
      We too have lived and loved and wondered
      For a little space
      And then gone onward,
      And we seek across the silence
      To send our voices
      Out, out, across the dark."

      Is it your voice I hear, oh far, strange bird,
      Or is it theirs--
      Theirs who have gone onward
      Alone and unafraid?
      Is there an answer I may sometime find,
      Or is it that our lips are dumb,
      Our eyes are blind,
      When love would come?
      * * *
      Now faint light comes upon the shadowy sky,
      The East is waking and the day begins.
      You send your cry across the quivering lake,
      I send my question out across the world,
      We watch, we two,

"Watchers" is reprinted from Flashlights. Mary Aldis. New York: Duffield & Company, 1916.




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