i m Robert Lowell
The child, lousy, ridden with eczema
and scabrous, red and restless most of the time,
lay near an open window and tried not to itch
or fidget until the Sisters of Mercy came.
Look what happens: they sweep by on cowls
like boats to harbour from the azure blue
off Collioure; all sibilants and vowels
they set to work to make his wish come true.
Even their breathing is like the summer day,
heavy and floral, and he breathes them in
with so much longing that he starts to cry.
But then electric fingers play a tune
through thick hair to shiver inside his skull
from now on, though never better than this
morning when each skittish silver nail
tenderly crucified the little lice.
Langour and excitement alternate
within him: like Sauternes, like love affairs
he’ll grow into and flee from. Sisters wait
for him to thank them, puzzled by his tears.