The Annotated “Songs to Joannes,” by Mina Loy (1917)

Songs to Joannes, by Mina Loy


Spawn   of    Fantasies
Silting the appraisable
Pig Cupid    his rosy snout
Rooting erotic garbage
“Once upon a time”
Pulls a weed white and star-topped
Among wild oats   sewn in mucous-membrane

I would    an    eye in a Bengal light
Eternity in a sky rocket
Constellations in an ocean
Whose rivers run no fresher
Than a trickle of saliva

These  are suspect places

I must live in my lantern
Trimming subliminal flicker
Virginal    to the bellows
Of Experience
Coloured    glass


The skin-sack
In which a wanton duality
All the completions of my infructous impulses
Something the shape of a man
To the casual vulgarity of the merely observant
More of a clock-work mechanism
Running down against time
To which I am not paced
My finger-tips are numb from fretting your hair
A God’s door-mat
On the threshold of your mind


We might have coupled
In the bed-ridden monopoly of a moment
Or broken flesh with one another
At the profane communion table
Where wine is spill’t on promiscuous lips
We might have given birth to a butterfly
With the daily news
Printed in blood on its wings


Once in a mezzanino
The starry ceiling
Vaulted an unimaginable family
Bird-like abortions
With human throats
A n d Wisdom’s eyes
Who wore lamp-shade red dresses
And woolen hair

One bore a baby
In a padded porte-enfant
Tied with a sarsanet ribbon
To her goose’s wings

But for the abominable shadows
I would have lived
Among their fearful furniture
To teach them to tell me their secrets
Before I guessed
Sweeping the brood clean out


Midnight empties the street
Of all but us
I am undecided which way back
To the left a boy
One wing has been washed in the rain
The other will never be clean any more
Pulling door-bells to remind
Those that are snug
To the right a halœd ascetic
Threading houses
Probes wounds for souls
The poor can’t wash in hot water
And I don’t know which turning to take
Since you got home to yourselffirst


I know the Wire-Puller intimately
And if it were not for the people
On whom you keep one eye
You could look straight at me
And Time would be set back


My pair of feet
Smack the flag-stones
That are something left over from your walking
The wind stuffs the scum of the white street
Into my lungs and my nostrils
Exhilarated birds
Prolonging flight into the night
Never reaching — — — — — — —


I am the jealous store-house of the candle-ends
That lit your adolescent learning
— — — — — — — — — —
Behind God’s eyes
There might
Be other lights


When we lifted
Our eye-lids on Love
A cosmos
Of coloured voices

And laughing honey
And spermatozoa
At the core of Nothing
In the milk of the Moon


Shuttle-cock and battle-door
A little pink-love
And feathers are strewn


Dear one    at your mercy
Our Universe
Is only
A colorless onion
You derobe
Sheath by sheath
A disheartening odour
About your nervy hands


Voices break on the confines of passion
Desire     Suspicion     Man     Woman
Solve in the humid carnage

Flesh  from  flesh
Draws the inseparable delight
Kissing at gasps      to catch it

Is it true
That I have set you apart
Inviolate in an utter crystallization
Of all    the jolting of the crowd
Taught me willingly to live to share

Or are you
Only the other half
Of an ego’s necessity
Scourging pride with compassion
To the shallow sound of dissonance
And boom of escaping breath


Come to me    There is something
I have got to tell you    and I can’t tell
Something taking shape
Something that has a new name
A  new  dimension
A  new  use
A  new  illusion

It is ambient               And it is in your eyes
Something shiny        Something only for you
Something that I must not see

It is in my ears           Something very resonant
Something that you must not hear
Something only for me

Let us be very jealous
Very suspicious
Very conservative
Very cruel
Or we might make an end of the jostling of aspira­tions
Disorb inviolate egos

Where two or three are welded together
They shall become god
— — — — — — —
Oh that’s right
Keep away from me    Please give me a push
Don’t let me understand you    Don’t realise me

Or we might tumble together
Into the terrific Nirvana
Me you  —  you  —  me


Everlasting    passing    apparent    imperceptible
To you
I bring the nascent virginity of
Myself    for the moment

No love or the other thing
Only the impact of lighted bodies
Knocking sparks off each other
In chaos


Seldom    Trying for Love
Fantasy dealt them out as gods
Two or three men    looked only human

But you alone
Superhuman    apparently
I had to be caught in the weak eddy
Of your drivelling humanity
To love you most


We might have lived together
In the lights of the Arno
Or gone apple stealing under the sea
Or played
Hide and seek in love and cob-webs
And a lullaby on a tin-pan

And    talked till there were no more tongues
To talk with
And never have known any better


I don’t care
Where the legs of the legs of the furniture are walk­ing to
Or what is hidden in the shadows they stride
Or what would look at me
If the shutters were not shut

Red    a warm colour on the battle-field
Heavy on my knees as a counterpane
Count counter
I counted    the fringe of the towel
Till two tassels clinging together
Let the square room fall away
From a round vacuum
Dilating with my breath


Out of the severing
Of hill from hill
The interim
Of star from star
The nascent
Of night


Nothing so conserving
As cool cleaving
Note of the Q  H  U
Clear carving
Pollen smelling

White telling
Of slaking
Through fingers
Running water
Grass haulms
Grow to

Leading astray
Of fireflies
Aerial quadrille
Off one another
Again conjoining
In recaptured pulses
Of light

You too
Had something
At that time
Of a green-lit glow-worm
— — — — — — —
Yet slowly drenched
To raylessness
In rain


Let Joy go solace-winged
To flutter whom she may concern


I store up nights against you
Heavy with shut-flower’s nightmares
— — — — — — — — — —
Stack noons
Curled to the solitaire
Core of the


Green things grow
For the cerebral
Forager’s revival

Upon bossed bellies
Of mountains
Rolling in the sun
And flowered flummery
To my silly shoes

In ways without you
I  go
As things go


Laughter in solution
Stars in a stare
Irredeemable pledges
Of pubescent consummations
To the recurrent moon
To the pure white
Wickedness of pain


The procreative truth of Me
Petered out
In pestilent
Tear drops
Little lusts and lucidities
And prayerful lies
Muddled with the heinous acerbity
Of your street-corner smile


Licking the Arno
The little rosy
Tongue of Dawn
Interferes with our eyelashes
— — — — — — — —
We twiddle to it
Round and round
And turn into machines

Till the sun
Subsides in shining
Melts some of us
Into abysmal pigeon-holes
Passion has bored
In warmth

Some few of us
Grow to the level of cool plains
Cutting our foot-hold
With steel eyes


Shedding our petty pruderies
From slit eyes

W sidle up
To Nature
— — — that irate pornographist


Nucleus    Nothing
Inconceivable concept
Insentient repose
The hands of races
Drop off from
Immodifiable plastic

The contents
Of our ephemeral conjunction
In aloofness from Much
Flowed to approachment of — — — —
There was a man and a woman
In the way
While the Irresolvable
Rubbed with our daily deaths
Impossible eyes


The steps go up for ever
And they are white
And the first step is the last white

Coloured    conclusions
Smelt    to synthetic
Of my
And I am burnt quite white
In the climacteric
Withdrawal of your sun
And wills and words all white
Illimitable monotone

White    where there is nothing to see
But a white towel
Wipes the cymophonous sweat
Mist rise of living
From your
Etiolate body
And the white dawn
Of your New Day
Shuts down on me

Unthinkable    that white over there
— — — Is smoke from your house


Evolution    fall foul of
Sexual equality
Prettily miscalculate
Unnatural selection
Breed such sons and daughters
As shall jibber at each other
Uninterpretable cryptonyms
Under the moon

Give them some way of braying brassily
For caressive calling
Or to homophonous hiccoughs
Transpose the laugh
Let them suppose that tears
Are snowdrops or molasses
Or anything
Than human insufficiencies
Begging dorsal vertebræ

Let meeting be the turning
To the antipodean
And Form    a blurr
Than seduce them
To the one
As simple satisfaction
For the other

Let them clash together
From their incognitœs
In seismic orgasm
For far further
Rather than watch
Own-self distortion
Wince in the alien ego


In some
Prenatal plagiarism
foetal buffoons
Caught tricks
— — — — —

From archetypal pantomime
Stringing emotions
Looped aloft
— — — —

For the blind eyes
That Nature knows us with
And the most of Nature    is green
— — — — — — — — — —


Of a busy-body
Longing to interfere so
With the intimacies
Of your insolent isolation

Of an illegal ego’s
On your equilibrium
Caryatid    of an idea

Wracked arms
Index extremities
In vacuum
To the unbroken fall


The moon is cold
Where the Mediterranean — — — — —


The prig of passion — — — —
To your professorial paucity

Proto-plasm was raving mad
Evolving us — — —


Love — — — the preeminent litterateur