Chanson de la Vie
Daily Maroon - Jan 17, 1929

It is a crowded, smoke filled obscenity wherein the song opens. Boths line the wall of the room. Seated in a corner is a man in the uniform of a common soldier.

"Gotta new bayybee
Gotta noo gal..."
The sweating negroes sway
And the blare of the saxophone
Pricks dormant sex instincts
To false life...
Girls giggle nervously
And press closer
To their sleek, greasy escorts.
The drum throb in their minds
Pulsing ... pulsing ... pulsing
A man's whining voice
Cuts through the din.
"Seats friends. 'Find seats!"
The dirty pine floor is cleared
The drums beat again ..
A slower -- atavistic time ...


Black Bottom ...
Black bottom!"

A girl whirls out on the floor
To the invitation of the drums ...
She poises a moment
Slim and supple ...
And then -- dances!
Alluring -- an invitation
To conquest.
She slaps her curved thigh
In time to the music
The denizens of the smoke
Sir -- and their nostrils twitch.

The soldier did not see --
the babble of the music and
voices beat about his aloofness
like filthy water about
a tall column ...
Suddenly he sees her eyes
and old dreams come upon him.
He thinks --

The brazen gongs of Buddah
And the arms of a high priestess.
I saw those eyes .. off Naipore ...
I have thought of them
In the white dusty barracks square

Of Sidi-bel-Abbes,
Singapore, Saigon, Samar
Dapuwalaat ...
All have seen me in the quest
For the cool, green rest
Of her eyes --
Eyes like a jade sword hilt
Or a high pool
In the hills.
The more fool I!

Where is my vaunted stocism?
I feel as I felt that day
When the tribesmen
Bound me for the torture--
The caress of her smile--
The scent of her white wonder--
Her eyes--
Those narrowing, marvelous eyes.

"Would you care to dance?"
"Why ... yes!"
He speaks to her ..
She --
Modes of phrases
Arranged for us by the Ancients
Can the exquisite agony of desire
Be bound by words?,

I have her in my arms
The entire caressing beauty of her!
What matter then the presence
Of others make--
In the burning flame of this delight?
What matter is it if I am to suffer
For the happiness of this moment?
Long nights, tossing on hard couches
Thinking of the pillow of her breast
Long days--
When I shall move as an automan
Dreaming of that which
I may not have!
That which I may only dream of,
The delight of long nights--
The ... I wonder ...
In what Hell would I suffer
If I should kiss her?
The warmth of her breath--
On my cheek--
Her long eyes, close to mine,
And then -- her hot panting mouth
"Please don't break me!"

He apologizes, and natters
blank, meaningless little platitudes.

"A nice night--
Quite a crowd--
Have you been here often?
Nice music--"
She thinks
There is strength
In that arm-- There is strength in that mind--
If he should kiss me
Would I hate it?
Would I struggle?
Would there be any use in struggling
If he really 'wanted me?

The soldier takes her to
her seat and sits beside her
to the disgust of three or
four small, carefully shaven men.

Days pass and the soldier
is obsessed with his vision.
They meet again, and he,
the drifter, the wanderer,
find a new content in her eyes.
He tells her strange, bitter
tales -- and -- knows her mouth.

She speaks
"Quite -- a -- boy -- aint ya?
Betcha gots lottsa gurls
The dark squadroom
Reeked with the smell
Of sleeping men .. snoring,
Of quicklime and dirt.
A clatter at the arm rack
And a tall figure
Crosses the darkness
Bearing a rifle,
His shoe drops to the floor.
With a little cold thump.
Click - click - click - click - -
Slim, shapely golden cartridges

The soldier crosses to where
his tunic is hung on the wall.
He removes a few bits of bright
ribbon which he tosses into the
barrack stove.

Dropping into the cool chamber
Of the rifle.
He steps out into the quiet.

A curious continued sound
Makes the sleepers stir.

The Saturnine Seaman

'N that'll be all.

Biographies Mother His Father
Favorite Poems Courting Mother His Mother
Photographs Love Letters His Grandfather


site map
Site Map

IME logo Copyright © 2001, Mary S. Van Deusen