Aniseed has a sinful taste;
at your elbow a woman’s voice
like I imagine the voice of ghosts,
demanding food. She has no grace
but, diseased and blind of an eye
and heavy with habitual dolour
listlessly finds you and I
and the table, are the same colour.
The music, the harsh talk, the fine
clash of the drinkseller’s tray
are the same to her as her own whine,
she knows no variety.
And in fifteen years of living
found nothing different from death
but the difference of moving
and the nuisance of breath.
A disguise of ordure can’t hide
her beauty, succumbing in a cloud
of disease, disease, apathy. My God,
the king of this country must be proud.
[Written in 1942, while Douglas was in a military hospital]
Author: Keith Douglas
Keith Douglas died, at age 24, in Normandy in June of 1944. Several editions of his work are available, most recently "Simplify Me When I am Dead."