I kept my answers small and kept them near;
Big questions bruised my mind but still I let
Small answers be a bullwark to my fear.
The huge abstractions I kept from the light;
Small things I handled and caressed and loved.
I let the stars assume the whole of night.
But the big answers clamoured to be moved Into my life. Their great audacity
Shouted to be acknowledged and believed.
Even when all small answers build up to
Protection of my spirit, still I hear
Big answers striving for their overthrow.
And all the great conclusions coming near.
Portrait Of A Barmaid
Metallic waves of people jar
Through crackling green toward the bar
Where on the tables chattering-white
The sharp drinks quarrel with the light.
Those coloured muslin blinds the smiles,
Shroud wooden faces in their wiles —
Sometimes they splash like water (you
Yourself reflected in their hue).
The conversation loud and bright
Seems spinal bars of shunting light
In firework-spurting greenery.
O complicate machinery
For building Babel, iron crane
Beneath your hair, that blue-ribbed mane
In noise and murder like the sea
Without its mutability!
Outside the bar where jangling heat
Seems out of tune and off the beat —
A concertina’s glycerine
Exudes, and mirrors in the green
Your soul: pure glucose edged with hints
Of tentative and half-soiled tints.
Edith Sitwell (7 september 1887 – 9 december 1964)