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Edgar Lee Masters (1868–1950). Spoon River Anthology. 1916.

20. Benjamin Fraser

THEIR spirits beat upon mine

Like the wings of a thousand butterflies.

I closed my eyes and felt their spirits vibrating.

I closed my eyes, yet I knew when their lashes

Fringed their cheeks from downcast eyes,

And when they turned their heads;

And when their garments clung to them,

Or fell from them, in exquisite draperies.

Their spirits watched my ecstasy

With wide looks at starry unconcern.

Their spirits looked upon my torture;

They drank it as it were the water of life;

With reddened cheeks, brightened eyes

The rising flame of my soul made their spirits gilt,

Like the wings of a butterfly drifting suddenly into sunlight.

And they cried to me for life, life, life.

But in taking life for myself,

In seizing and crushing their souls,

As a child crushes grapes and drinks

From its palms the purple juice,

I came to this wingless void,

Where neither red, nor gold, nor wine,

Nor the rhythm of life is known.