new zealand electronic poetry centre


Robin Hyde

Persephone in Winter

Old Woman
Last night against the black road
With moon and rain in doubt
I watched her set ajar her door
And thrust her candle out;

Leaning, a little anxious,
Thick shadow-swathes between,
As if beside the bluegums
Might linger one unseen.

Her house stood dark behind her,
Dark her clay chimney stood,
And dark her patient patrons,
Spider and stone and wood.

None other kept her crony,
Or shared from deal-board shelf
New milk in blue-bead covers
And rounded sides of delft.

Cicada broke the stillness
Sharp by a glistening tree.
I heard her heart beat in her breast
And her clock sound three times three.

For the clocks of eld are wary,
And their hearts beat loud for danger,
Lest one against the latchet stand,
Robber, or ghost, or stranger.

Anon she held the candle high,
Her old face caught its gleams,
Her cheeks were runnelled with their years
Like hillsides with their streams.Brown patient soil, deep-furrowed
By ploughs of eighty years,
Found none to glean the harvest now
Whose bitter sap was tears.

But an old hand that trembled,
A flame like panting breath
Lit up the black and lonely road,
The angel eyes of Death.


Last updated 24 September, 2003