Sweeney Erect


And the trees about me,

Let them be dry and leafless; let the rocks

Groan with continual surges; and behind me,

Make all a desolation. Look, look, wenches!


Paint me a cavernous waste shore

Cast in the unstilled Cyclades,

Paint me the bold anfractuous rocks

Faced by the snarled and yelping seas.


Display me Aeolus above

Reviewing the insurgent gales

Which tangle Ariadne’s hair

And swell with haste the perjured sails.


Morning stirs the feet and hands

(Nausicaa and Polypheme),

Gesture of orang-outang

Rises from the sheets in steam.


This withered root of knots of hair

Slitted below and gashed with eyes,

This oval O cropped out with teeth:

The sickle motion from the thighs


Jackknifes upward at the knees

Then straightens out from heel to hip

Pushing the framework of the bed

And clawing at the pillow slip.


Sweeney addressed full length to shave

Broadbottomed, pink from nape to base,

Knows the female temperament

And wipes the suds around his face.


(The lengthened shadow of a man

Is history, said Emerson

Who had not seen the silhouette

Of Sweeney straddled in the sun).


Tests the razor on his leg

Waiting until the shriek subsides.

The epileptic on the bed

Curves backward, clutching at her sides.


The ladies of the corridor

Find themselves involved, disgraced,

Call witness to their principles

And deprecate the lack of taste


Observing that hysteria

Might easily be misunderstood;

Mrs. Turner intimates

It does the house no sort of good.


But Doris, towelled from the bath,

Enters padding on broad feet,

Bringing sal volatile

And a glass of brandy neat.