“She was the sickle. I, poor I, the rake, coming behind her for her pretty sake”

~ by Theodore Roethke

I knew a woman, lovely in her bones,
When small birds sighed, she would sigh back at them.
Ah, when she moved, she moved more ways than one.
The shapes a bright container can contain!
Of her choice virtues only gods should speak,
Or English poets who grew up on Greek
(I’d have them sing in chorus, cheek to cheek.)

How well her wishes went! She stroked my chin,
She taught me Turn, and Counter-turn, and Stand,
She taught me Touch, that undulant white skin.
I nibbled meekly from her proffered hand.
She was the sickle. I, poor I, the rake,
Coming behind her for her pretty sake
(But what prodigious mowing did we make.)

Loves likes a gander, and adores a goose.
Her full lips pursed, the errant note to seize,
She played it quick, she played it light and loose.
My eyes dazzled at her flowing knees.
Her several parts could keep a pure repose,
Or one hip quiver with a mobile nose
(She moved in circles, and those circles moved.)

Let seed be grass, and grass turn into hay.
I’m a martyr to a motion not my own.
What’s freedom for? To know eternity.
I swear she cast a shadow white as stone.
But who would count eternity in days?
These old bones live to learn her wanton ways.
(I measure time by how a body sways.)


Theodore Roethke deftly captures the swift-moving fiddle music of the influential W.B. Yeats for an enriched American lyric poetry. Yeats himself might have wished he had written this and other Roethke works. I am intensely reminded of Yeats’ last stanza in “Among School Children.”


Author: MDM

Michael Dennis Mooney is a student of humor and witticism in verse. At this site he is compiling a selection of the best works using extended metaphor in poetry, with a special interest in satire, parody, and humor. Suggestions are welcome. Send your citations of favorites, by email, to mike.mooney.home@gmail.com He has a site "New Writings" at http://jcbcast.blogspot.com And a site for essays, 'His Epistles To The Philistines" at http://tothephilistines.wordpress.com

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