Bradley T. Van Deusen

Bradley T. Van Deusen

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Page 24


The gaunt hall was filled with men.

Bright badges of servitude
Glittered on khaki shoulders
As fighting men,
Their dull thoughts groping for utterance
Cursed conversationally
And shifted in their seats.
The lights died
And there was silence.
A whirling lance of golden notes
Stabbed through the air.
The dull curtains swept apart.
The stage glowed llike a soft gold cavern.
And there came a dancer!

Rose pink her dress
Standing stiffly from the ivory white
Of her soft body.
Her hair a tight, tortured mass of molded jet
With little, shining gleams of an old beauty
Bringing a new light to tired eyes.
Like a fresh rose petal
Tossed fluttering down a filthy alley
She danced,
Her incredibly dainty feet
Tapping the beat on men's hearts
And on pine boards.
Another whirl of glorious sound
And she was gone.

In the cast monotony of the barracks
Laid loosely in the rigid conformity of their beds
And dreamed.
Pipe bowls blowed a dancer's rose pink
In the dark.

Page 25


Being a tale of those days when the bronze Eagles
flew from Rimini and the Little Painted People and
the Winged Hats clamored against the Great Wall.

* * * *

The Great Wall
Was a tawny thing streaked by purple shadows.
Beyond the Ditch of Iron
Into the heather-laced
Faintly purple land
Of the Picts, the Little Painted People
Pointed the imperial arm
Of the Goddess
The Dea Roman -

"Ave Imperiatrix! Ave Roma!"

In the tower room
Where the Tyrian purple hangings
Hid the bitterly bleak walls
Where the royal, rich furs
Masked the brutal floors
He lay - Captain of the Wall!
Centurion of the Second Cohort
Of the Sixteenth Legion
Of Imperial Rome!
His bronze corslet lay forgotten
His sword and the great plumed helm
Had long since rung upon the floor.
To him
Captain of the Wall
Officer of the Legions
They brought a prisoner
Taken from the ships of the Winged Hats
A North woman! A white maid with tawny hair
A slender, supple girl
Of white ivory and fire
With cool, unafraid eyes
With fiercely bitter, passionate mouth.
Her hair was glorious against the purple hangings
Glorious as it was reflected
Fom the burnished armor of the Guard.
Her body was white as peeled willow
Her body was cool as pity
Her body was rigid as a white Ionic column
Held between the ruggedf bulwark
Of the Guard.

He dismissed them curtly,
"Leave the woman."
Their shields clashed
But he did not hear.

The light was blinding
Upon the empty helm
But he did not see.
The great wolves howled beyond the Wall.
In the camp a woman screamed.
The clash and hail of the Guard
Echoed along the Wall.

In the tower room there was silence.
In the tower room there was silence.

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