One City Only / Love Me at Last

One City Only / Love Me at Last

One City Only / Love Me at Last Blog
September 18, 2010

Alice Corbin Henderson (1881 – 1949) was an American poet, author and co-editor, with Harriet Monroe, of the influential ‘Poetry Magazine‘ — when it still mattered. She mingled with many of the greatest minds in English literature throughout her life and produced a small, but impressive body of work.

Here are my two favorite pieces by her, both featured in the influential 1917 New Poetry: Anthology, which also included ‘The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock‘ by T.S. Eliot and poems by Ezra Pound:


ONE city only, of all I have lived in,
And one house of that city, belong to me. . .
I remember the mellow light of afternoon
Slanting across brick buildings on the waterfront,
And small boats at rest on the floating tide,
And larger boats at rest in the near-by harbor;
And I know the tidal smell, the smell of mud,
Uncovering oyster flats, and the brown bare toes of small negroes
With the mud oozing between them;
And the little figures leaping from log to log,
And the white children playing among them —
I remember how I played with them.
And I remember the recessed windows of the gloomy halls
In the darkness of decaying grandeur,
The feel of cool linen in the cavernous bed,
And the window curtain swaying gently
In the night air;
All the half-hushed noises of the street
In the southern town,
And the thrill of life —
Like a hand in the dark
With its felt, indeterminate meaning:
I remember that I knew there the stirring of passion,
Fear, and the knowledge of sin,
Tragedy, laughter, death. . .

And I remember, too, on a dead Sunday afternoon
In the twilight,
When there was no one else in the house,
My self suddenly separated itself
And left me alone,
So that the world lay about me, lifeless.
I could not touch it, or feel it, or see it;
Yet I was there.
The sensation lingers:
Only the most vital threads
Hold me at all to living. . .
Yet I only live truly when I think of that house;
Only enter then into being.
One city only of all I have lived in,
And one house of that city, belong to me.


Love me at last, or if you will not,
Leave me;
Hard words could never, as these half words,
Grieve me:
Love me at last — or leave me.

Love me at last, or let the last word uttered
Be but your own;
Love me, or leave me — as a cloud, a vapor,
Or a bird flown.
Love me at last — I am but sliding water
Over a stone.


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