by: John Gray

      DREAMED I was a barber; and there went
      Beneath my hand, oh! names extravagant.
      Beneath my trembling fingers, many a mask
      Of many a pleasant girl. It was my task
      To gild their hair, carefully, strand by strand;
      To paint their eyebrows with a timid hand;
      To draw a bodkin, from a vase of kohl,
      Through the closed lashes; pencils from a bowl
      Of Sepia to paint them underneath;
      To blow upon their eyes with a soft breath.
      Then lay them back and watched the leaping bands.
      The dream grew vague. I moulded with my hands
      The mobile breasts, the valley; and the waist
      I touched; and pigments reverently placed
      Upon their thighs in sapient spots and stains,
      Beryls and crysolites and diaphanes,
      And gems whose hot harsh names are never said,
      I was a masseur; and my fingers bled
      With wonder as I touched their awful limbs.
      Suddenly, in the marble trough, there seems
      O, last of my pale mistresses, Sweetness!
      A twy-lipped scarlet pansy. My caress
      Tinge thy steel-gray eyes to violet.
      Adown thy body skips the pit-a-pat
      Of treatment once heard in a hospital
      For plagues that fascinate, but half appal.
      So, at the sound, the blood of one stood cold.
      My chaste hair ripened into sudden gold.
      The throat, the shoulders, swelled and were uncouth
      The breasts rose up and offered each a mouth.
      And on the belly pallid blushes crept,
      That maddened me, until I laughed and wept.

"The Barber" is reprinted from Silverpoints. John Gray. London: Elkin Mathews and John Lane, 1893.




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