They are like sense-numbed flagellators
bruising themselves with beauty’s merciless stones,
these youths with their pictures of girls
— sweethearts, sisters, young wives,
pinned on the tent wall
to tear heart and mind with their torturing smiles
(those tenderly-nurtured, cruelly-lovely smiles).
Have they learned in their own way
that anodyne comes at last in repetition,
the rhythm of torture’s renewal and renewal?
As for me—
I have bolted and barred my treacherous heart.
Here, in this womanless land
I walk warily, but freed from want.
The path is jungle-walled;
woman’s dark world, menacing my peace,
shall trap me not with shadowy green arms.
I keep my eyes on the path,
my ears are deaf to the dread sweet sound
which, some unguarded moment, might invade
my poor defence,
as, music on her mouth and in her eyes,
she compasses my ruin with a dream.