"Though I forbade desire in me to live,
Yet soon it found its way into my breath.
Forgive my love, as I myself forgive
It for its finding of itself in flesh.
Love has for me been compound of forsaking,
Of gifts to the ungenerous and rich,
Mastering of heart, submitting to its breaking,
Weeping sick for souls or bodies which
Were alien or unattainable,
Or lost before their time.
My heart was sick,
Was hurt with a deep wound I tried to fill
With tears, then words–yet still the blood ran quick
What was foresworn I seized; what was denied
I knew, till longing changed to memory.
I wished but to sleep gently at your side,
And then, perhaps, to take as gently unto me
All the substantial symbols of your soul
That you out of your quietness and pity,
Or your shame, might tenderly bestow–
Assuming for yourself the sorrow of my body.
Thus, when you solaced me in my desire,
I held your body, lay beside it sleeping,
Feeling the pain of your own inward fire,
Weeping myself to hear your silent weeping.
I sought you bringing my heart’s sadness
At knowing your despair, for I had heard
You crying in the night in the strange madness
Long growing in your soul. I knew the word
Of your hallucinated heart. And while
My body is for me as well my soul,
I did not come of sensual desire,
But brought you my half heart to make yours whole.
I hope you sensed our equal misery,
The bitter heritage of our disaster.
Thus, when you touched my hand, consoling me
I felt our single spirit cleaving faster.
That night I knew the consummation of
My old desires and my former love.
I sensed the feat of spirit in your flesh,
And felt in frank delight the sensual mesh
That cages us within our hearts. And beating
Newly in my body was the fleeting
And abundant ecstasy of love
That is accepted, which I knew nothing of.
And I was then much satisfied by deep
Compassion. I lay awake with you,
In quietness, with gratitude. My sleep
Was the most sweet and heart-full that I knew.
Did you shrink, inwardly, upon my touch?
What is it you would keep that I must ask?
Know that I seek of you only such
Substance as is given without loss.
Know that love takes only, to bestow,
That mine is a desire to be bereft
Of a soul that’s isolate. And know
That love is my offering, and my heart’s gift.
If I have robbed you by my giving, or have
Imposed upon you pain; if I have taken
And would take again what you would save;
If I have seized what you would have forsaken,
Do not deny me thinking me a thief,
Nor yet reject me out of needless shame.
Do not deny the sharing of my grief
For prides or sorrows that you will not name.
Forgive this love, my desire to be whole,
And, if you can, allow the pleasure of my soul.”
October 1944, revised 1951