Thursday, August 28, 2014


 Fragment of a Centipede-related work in progress...

From the Private Journal of Sidney Pallatine, Hollywood Agent
As told to Chuck Miller


Hollywood, 1933

"Listen to me," said Lancelot Cromwell, troubled movie star. "If that Black Centipede fellow can do it, anybody can do it."

"I don't think so," said Sidney Pallatine, shaking his head. "That stuff's dangerous."

"No, no," Cromwell replied, sipping his drink. "It's just like the movies-- all fake. Trust me on this, Sidney."

"Are you sure you need to be drinking brandy at 9 in the morning?" Pallatine asked, wondering why he even bothered.

"Of course not! Brandy is an after-five drink. But I'm out of bourbon, old sport, so I must make do. Your concern is appreciated, but I come from hearty pioneer stock-- I'm accustomed to privation." 

Pallatine shook his head. He'd been an agent to movie actors for almost as long as there had been movies for them to act in. And in that time, he had seen some wild and wooly behavior from his clients. But Lancelot Cromwell took the cake. Not yet 35, Cromwell had already managed to bottom out. His career had been declared dead a couple years back after an unspeakable stunt he'd pulled on the lot at Paramount, involving a famous director, two aspiring starlets, a hooker, a llama, and 500 pounds of figs.

It was a miracle, Pallatine reflected, that nobody had pressed charges. The head of the studio made the decision to hush the whole thing up to avoid unfavorable publicity. But the incident had been been the proverbial last straw. Cromwell had been heading for a fall almost since the day his career began, and it was with undisguised glee that Will Hays stomped on him with both feet in the wake of the Paramount debacle. The public had never learned about the appalling incident, but it was common knowledge in certain circles. And Cromwell had more than enough bad behavior that was a matter of public record to justify the heavy censure.

But now, thanks to Irving Thalberg and the Black Centipede, the unexpected-- hell, the impossible-- had happened. Lancelot Cromwell was back. He had starred in "Blood of the Centipede," a quicky action picture that had become a huge hit. Why this had come about, Sidney had no clue. Maybe Lance had some compromising photos of Thalberg.

It was with no little trepidation that Pallatine had responded to a slurred summons from Cromwell. He had driven out to the mansion Lance had rented with the pay he had received for essaying the title role in "Blood of the Centipede." There was enough money for even the most energetic libertine to live on for at least a year. Pallatine fully expected Cromwell to burn through it in a month.

He had found his client propped up in bed, clad in a suit of purple silk pajamas, sipping his morning libation from a fine crystal goblet. Cromwell had been uncharacteristically swift in getting to the point-- such as it was.

"Listen, Lance," Pallatine said, striving to sound as reasonable as he possibly could, "somebody just handed you a miracle and got your career back from the outer darkness. It looks like you'd be content with that and at least make a couple more movies, anyhow, before you pull some of your crazy bullshit."

He was interrupted by the emergence from the bathroom of a young lady who had obviously just finished dressing.

"I gotta run, Lance," she said with a giggle, shaking her head and letting her blonde tresses bounce around. "See you later, huh?"

"Sure thing, honey," Cromwell chirped.

As he watched her exit the bedroom and head down the hall, Pallatine leaned toward his client and asked, "Is that girl over 18?"

"I have reason to suspect that she is. If you'd like, I could try to find out her name so you can check on it."

"Never mind," Pallatine said wearily. "One thing at a time. Tell me more about this new crazy bullshit."

Cromwell was indignant. "Sidney, I'm not talking about crazy bullshit, I'm talking about becoming a masked hero!"

Pallatine sighed. He could see the headlines now. It would be the Paramount incident squared.

"Why are you telling me all of this?" the agent asked. "I thought these masked men were supposed to be mysterious. Nobody knows who they really are. That's the whole point of putting on a mask, right?"

"I have it on good authority," Cromwell said, "that most of these chaps have a confidante of some sort; a faithful retainer, a gentleman's gentleman, a dusky-skinned servitor from the Orient or some such place. It is absolutely de rigueur, I am told."

"Okay, but why me? I'm an agent. Not a secret agent, a motion picture actors' agent. I have other clients besides you, you know. I don't have the time or the inclination to play faithful dusky servitor."

"Yes, well, it isn't a full-time slot, old sport. Think of it as a more or less honorary position. Who knows, as my career evolves, various ways for you to make yourself useful may present themselves. Wouldn't you rather be a part of something larger and more noble than the tawdry business of celluloid make-believe?"

Pallatine fell silent, pondering. After a minute or so he said, "Nobody else you know will have anything to do with you, will they?"

"Not a single goddamn one of them," Cromwell said glumly. "Evidently, none of my so-called 'old friends' have any use for the Christian ideals of forgiveness and redemption. It is a sad commentary on the moral condition of the human race that people hold grudges so tenaciously. Since Roscoe Arbuckle had the poor grace to die, I am alone and friendless, in spite of my recent spectacular success. A poor creature sundered from the society of his fellows by petty spite and hypocrisy! Why, I'm no worse than anyone else in this profession, and a damn sight better than most."

"Really? Name one actor you're better than. Morally, I mean."

"I can't think of anybody just off the top of my head, but that isn't the point."

Pallatine pondered some more, while Cromwell made do with the remainder of the brandy.

"Okay," said the agent. "I'll make you a deal. I'll think about this thing if you will pay some serious attention to your movie career. I mean that. The Hearst people are already talking sequel as far as the Black Centipede thing is concerned, and that will be a gold mine. We can get you a better deal this time. But you've got other commitments before we even start negotiating. If you'll recall, before the bottom dropped out, you still had one picture to go on your contract with PPC. They let it slide when you turned into poison, but now they're demanding that you honor it. In fact, I heard from their legal department last night."

Cromwell rolled his eyes. "Come now, Sidney, you cannot be serious! PPC? That's Poverty Row! Surely I'm above all that now."

"No, you are not. If you don't do the picture, they'll sue. If they sue, it'll get into the papers, and everything you've ever done will be brought up again. Hell, somebody might leak the skinny on your Paramount stunt. You don't need that, I don't need that, nobody needs that. Get it? Tell me you get it."

The actor sighed heavily, clapped his hands over his face, and slumped down into his pillows.

"I get it," he said mournfully. "How far along is this? Do they have a screenplay?"

"More or less. It's gonna be a horror picture, and you'll play second fiddle-- and like it. No haggling about that. You'll get second billing, ahead of the leading lady, but Belis Karlosi is the star. And that is written in stone. If you agree-- which you are goddamn well going to-- filming starts next week."

"Yes, yes," Cromwell said testily. "I've grown accustomed to martyrdom by now, and will bear my cross stoically. It is important to maintain one's dignity in the face of humiliation and persecution. I suffer this now, comforted by the knowledge that my reward is at hand."

"You getting religious now, Lance?"

"Don't be absurd. I just heard a car come up the drive. It must be the delivery from my bootlegger. It appears that I shall have a proper breakfast after all, old sport!"

For the backstory, I recommend Blood of the Centipede, available now and forever from Amazon:

Monday, August 18, 2014


I have no idea why this is happening or where it's heading. It's just one of those ideas that went so far and no further-- yet. I'll jam it into something eventually.

ONE: The Rock

"Who the hell are you?" Al Capone asked me.

"Never mind," I said. "Are you ready to escape from this escape-proof hoosegow?"

"What the hell for?" Capone said. "It can't be done. Tell me who you are!"

The date was September 8, 1934. The time was 3 a.m. The place was Alcatraz Island, in San Francisco Bay, a mile and a half from shore. The dramatis personae were Alphonse Gabriel Capone and yours truly, the astonishing Black Centipede. I had made my way onto the "Rock" to free the erstwhile king of the Chicago mob. It may strike you as odd that an upright, universally-idolized crime buster was springing one of the most notorious criminals in history from his much-deserved durance vile, but possess your soul in patience, dear reader-- all will be explained shortly.

"I'm the guy," I said, "who made that hole in the wall. You and I are going to use it to get out of this building and off this island."

The mobster gave me a skeptical look. I returned it. His was not a physically imposing presence. In fact, he struck me as a doughy little schlub, and I had a hard time reconciling that with his fearsome reputation. But appearances can be deceiving, I reminded myself.

Take mine, for example.

Knowing that this caper would most likely not go as smoothly as I wanted it to, I had taken steps to ensure that the good name of the Black Centipede would not be sullied. I was dressed as a deceased costumed criminal known as the Purple Shocker. It was good cover, since I was the only one who knew he was deceased-- not to mention how he got that way and where the body was buried. I'll say nothing more about that, though the reader is, of course, free to put two and two together.      

Capone was being intransigent. He just stood there in the middle of his solitary cell, looking askance at his would-be rescuer. This did not sit well with me, since it had taken me almost 14 hours to get into the building from below and work my way up through the walls and ventilation shafts and quietly make a hole in the wall of Chez Alphonse as the lord of the five by nine foot manor slumbered. It would take less than ten minutes to get back down, but only if this dolt would get a move on.

"I know Frank Nitti," I said, which was true, as far as it went. And that was exactly as far as it went, and no further.

"Frank sent you to spring me?" Capone said, jumping to the erroneous conclusion. "What the hell for? Is he nuts? I could get in all kinds of trouble over an attempted jailbreak! Anyhow, it really ain't so bad in here. I can play my banjo all I want, and..."

I grabbed a handful of his prison grays and pulled his face close to mine.

"Listen, Snorky," I snarled through the unfamiliar purple mask, "I have neither the time nor the patience for this bullshit. You're coming with me!"

"Who the hell are you?" he squealed. Then he started bellowing: "Guard! Help, guard! Murder! Some mug's in here trying to kill me!!"

I clamped a hand over his mouth, but it was too late. I could hear shouting and pounding footsteps coming down the corridor in our direction. I tried to drag him into the hole, but he grabbed the edge of his bunk, went limp, and started kicking his feet, screaming bloody murder at the top of his lungs.

Two guards, a big one and a little one, appeared in the hallway outside the barred door of the cell.

"What in hell?" the little one exclaimed, flipping through his ring of keys and jamming one into the lock.

"I don't know what this is," said the big one, raising a pistol to point in our direction. "But you just freeze! Don't move!"

Little Man got the door open and the pair rushed inside. I raised a foot and brought it down on Capone's bunk-gripping hand. He yowled and let go, and I flung him at Little Man. The collision put them both on the floor in a heap. Little Man's head hit the concrete floor hard enough to put him into a sort of daze.

That left me and Big Man.

"Settle down," I said to him. "Everything's fine. I'm a doctor. The deputy warden sent me up here to examine Mister Capone."

"Bullshit," the guard said emphatically, not taken in at all by my threadbare ruse. "You didn't pass the guard station in the hall, it's three ayem in the goddamn morning, the deputy warden ain't here, and what kind of doctor wears a goddamn getup like that? What's with that mask?"

"Well, it conceals my identity, for one thing," I said in a friendly manner. "But it has other uses. For example, it can filter out any insalubrious substances that might be floating around in the air. Like the knockout gas I released in your direction seven seconds ago. It usually takes about ten seconds to work."

This time it took eleven. Acceptable, given the guard's body weight. Stepping gingerly over the unconscious Big Man, I hauled Capone to his feet and gave Little Man a shot of the gas. I got his key ring and locked the cell door.

Then I stepped back and picked up Big Man's gun. Capone seemed a little stunned, which was good. I pressed the gun into his right hand, making sure his index finger touched the trigger, while the other fingers went around the grip. Then I jerked it away from him and pointed it at the unconscious guards, being careful not to smudge Capone's prints with my purple glove.

"Either you get your ass into that hole," I said, "or I'm gonna shoot these guards, toss this heater out of the cell, and take a powder myself. If you're confident in your ability to make the authorities believe a mysterious purple man came out of the wall, killed these two, and forced you to put your fingerprints on the weapon, then just stay put. You can also explain how you didn't know anything about this escape tunnel, and how you didn't kill those guards when they caught you trying to use it. I may come to your murder trial just to hear that."

Of course, the Black Centipede would never shoot a pair of innocent, unconscious men, but who the hell knew what the Purple Shocker might do?

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Meeting Mary Jane

In this unpublished fragment, Dana Unknown's pal, Jack Christian, meets Mary Jane Gallows:

"And Professor Moriarty," Vionna went on. "What happened to him, do you think?"

"I don't know. And then there's the Clay Man. I know he gives most people the creeps, but he's very useful, as you know from experience. Not to mention the fact that he cost Dana's dad 3.4 million dollars, and that was back in 1950. It would run you about thirty-three million today. Doc Unknown commissioned some freaky Kabbalist wizard with tax problems and a coke habit of biblical proportions to create the thing and imbue it with whatever it was imbued with."

"I wish I could afford expensive stuff like that," Vionna said wistfully.

"You're fine with what you have," said Mary Kelly.

At exactly three o'clock there was a knock at the door. The new client. Vionna went and answered the door, then escorted the client into the office. It was a woman-- very young, late teens, probably.

She looked familiar, but I couldn't place her. I knew she wasn't anybody I had ever met in any ordinary, everyday context. If I had seen that face before, it would have been in a photograph. And I had the impression that it must have been a very old one, in spite of the fact that she looked like a teenager. In my minds eye, I removed the color from her face, leaving only shades of black, white and gray. Yes, that looked better. I was on the right track. I tweaked my imaginary portrait further, adding a film grain effect and a bit of sepia tone. Better still. I almost had it now.

"I need help," she said, after Vionna had shown her to a chair, "much as it pains me to admit it. I am absolutely perplexed and I have heard a great many good things about your agency. This is exactly the sort of case where your talents will shine most brightly. Also, you have a sort of connection to this affair. That's why I requested that Mr. Christian be present."

"I know you," said Mary Kelly. "Forgive my impertinence, but I find it difficult to believe that your name is really Veronika QuiBono. The name is utterly absurd. And I have seen you before. A very long time ago."

"Yes," said the visitor, " that is true. We have brushed up against one another, so to speak, on two occasions; once in 1892, and again in 1933. This, however, is our first face-to-face meeting in the real word. I'm very sorry about what my father did to you. Though I disavowed him decades ago, I still feel a certain amount of responsibility. So I am pleased to find you doing so well."

"Okay, wait a second," I said. "Before this goes any further, let's clarify a couple of things that are bothering me." I made eye contact with our guest. "First off, 1892? Did I hear that right? And 1933 as well?"

She nodded. "That's right."

This gave me more fodder for my mental Photoshop. I deleted the clothes she was wearing and replaced them with something from the early 20th Century. Yes, I was getting there. The memory swam closer to the surface of my mind.

"You don't look like you're more than 18 years old," I went on. "How is it that you were in a position to be brushing up against people a hundred and twenty years ago? Are you some kind of time traveler or something?"

"Yes, I am. But I only travel forward, and it takes me approximately 365 days to advance one year into the future."

"That's cute," I said. "So, you're more than a hundred and twenty years old? You're very well preserved." I wasn't as skeptical as you might think, but I was wary, of course.

"Thank you," she said. "Yes, I just turned 121 last month."

"Okay, I've seen stranger things. Now, what's this about your father?

"Jack," Vionna piped up, "she came here to hire me and Mary, not you. Quit monotonizing her."

"Monopolizing, dear," Mary corrected her.

"Actually," said the prospective client, "I believe Miss Valis was correct. This young man is incredibly monotonous, and it's beginning to try my patience. Over the years I have managed to develop enough self-restraint to suffer fools like him without resorting to violence, but only up to a point. In fact, that's part of why I'm here."

"Now, look, Miss Whoever," I said with some indignation, "I don't know who you think..."

"Jack!" Mary Kelly interrupted me. "You have no idea who you're talking to, do you?"

"That's what I'm trying to find out," I said irritably. 

"No," said the visitor, "you're just fumbling. You wanted to know who my father was. Even I do not know his real name, but he called himself Jack the Ripper. It might also interest you to know that my mother was Lizzie Borden. Quite a pedigree, is it not? So. Knowing what you now know about my antecedents-- even if you know nothing at all of me-- you might naturally assume that I am one of the very last people on earth that you would want to screw with in any way, shape or form. Have you indeed made that assumption, young sir?"

I just nodded. She was extremely convincing. Her eyes were boring into mine, and I felt light-headed-- almost giddy-- and seemed to have momentarily forgotten how to communicate verbally. I have gazed into many an abyss in my day-- both literal and figurative-- and had never really understood Nietzsche's old saw about the abyss gazing also into you. It just didn't seem like anything to be alarmed about. I mean, who cares? Be my guest! Gaze all you want, even take a few Polaroids if you feel inclined. It seemed pretty passive.

But this woman's eyes were an abyss unlike any other. What I saw in them was just a hint of deep strangeness and great danger. I knew there were things in there that I could never fathom. I also knew at that moment that she did not have the same trouble with me. To her, I wasn't an abyss-- I was a shallow wading pool, barely worth the handful of seconds it took her to compile a complete inventory of my soul. And, somehow, I got the impression that she was unimpressed with what she found.

She stood up and moved toward me, extending her hand. I rose from my chair, and we shook. Her hand was cool and dry, while my own had generated some unpleasant perspiration. I knew who she was. She was practically a clone of Lizzie Borden, whose likeness I had seen countless times. But there were no surviving photographs of Lizzie as a teenager. That was what had thrown the monkey wrench into my supposedly-eidetic memory. Our visitor was an anachronism in more ways than one.

"My name," she said, "is Mary Jane Gallows, and I have come to hire your sister and Miss Kelly to do a job for me. And I also have business with you, which I will explain in detail later on."

You can meet her too, if you're feeling brave. Just go here and plunk down 99 cents:

Friday, July 25, 2014

Let us go then

From the private journal of the Black Centipede:

After a few more drinks, I made my weary way back to the upper reaches of the Benway Building, my sanctum in downtown Zenith. It was the tallest building in the city and it belonged to me. I inhabited the top six floors and rented out the rest.

At a reception desk in the center of the lobby sat a man. He was no longer young and not yet old, dressed in his morning coat, his collar mounting firmly to his chin. He wore a rich and modest necktie, asserted by a simple pin.

"Mister Centipede!" the man exclaimed-- not too loudly, though. His manner always seemed self-consciously subdued, as though he were afraid he might somehow disturb the universe if he accidentally became too raucous. "Good to see you, sir!"

Lately, the Unlimited Advantage Worldwide Company had diversified. Formerly an on-paper-only business entity, my corporation had recently made the jump into the real world. With the assistance of Doctor Unknown-- who was a CPA in addition to being a wizard-- I had transformed the empty shell of the UAWC into a valid business entity, with financial interests in a dozen or so enterprises. It soon became more than I could handle by myself.

What with my expansion, I had to have some sort of a staff at "corporate headquarters." At this particular time, I had two employees. One-- the man at the reception desk-- was J. Alfred Prufrock, a clerkish, expatriate Briton who had arrived at the threshold of middle age without ever having accomplished anything. That's how he saw it, anyhow, and, after reviewing his curriculum vitae, I was forced to agree.

My friend Amelia Earhart, who had recently taken it upon herself to oversee certain aspects of my life, had encountered Prufrock on one of her sojourns abroad, and had recommended him for the position of office manager. She had caught him late one night, apparently making a halfhearted attempt to jump from a bridge into the Thames. She subdued him; some mild violence was involved, she gave me to understand.

When Prufrock came to, Amelia-- remembering something she had read about a certain party who makes his home in New York City-- had informed him that she had saved his miserable life, so from that point on, he was beholden to her. She offered him a purposeful life of mystery and adventure as an agent of the awesome Black Centipede. (This was many years before the word "awesome" started making such a nuisance of itself.) Prufrock denied that he was suicidal, claiming he had only been trying to "hear a mermaid sing." However, he had heard of the Black Centipede, and he rather liked the idea of a purposeful life-- but he wondered if perhaps there were some position open that didn't involve quite so much in the way of mystery and adventure.

As an office manager, Prufrock was politic, cautious, and meticulous. On a personal level, he was deferential and glad to be of use.

J. Alfred Prufrock was created by T.S. Eliot, and appears in the poem "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" (1915), a work in the Public Domain. Look for him in BLACK CENTIPEDE CONFIDENTIAL, coming your way soon. Relatively. Meanwhile, buy everything else I've written, from Amazon:

The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock

by T.S. Eliot (1915)

  S'io credesse che mia risposta fosse
  A persona che mai tornasse al mondo,
  Questa fiamma staria senza piu scosse.
  Ma perciocche giammai di questo fondo
  Non torno vivo alcun, s'i'odo il vero,
  Senza tema d'infamia ti rispondo.
Let us go then, you and I,
When the evening is spread out against the sky
Like a patient etherised upon a table;
Let us go, through certain half-deserted streets,
The muttering retreats
Of restless nights in one-night cheap hotels
And sawdust restaurants with oyster-shells:
Streets that follow like a tedious argument
Of insidious intent
To lead you to an overwhelming question...
Oh, do not ask, "What is it?"
Let us go and make our visit.

In the room the women come and go
Talking of Michelangelo.

The yellow fog that rubs its back upon the windowpanes,
The yellow smoke that rubs its muzzle on the windowpanes
Licked its tongue into the corners of the evening,
Lingered upon the pools that stand in drains,
Let fall upon its back the soot that falls from chimneys,
Slipped by the terrace, made a sudden leap,
And seeing that it was a soft October night,
Curled once about the house, and fell asleep.

And indeed there will be time
For the yellow smoke that slides along the street
Rubbing its back upon the window-panes;
There will be time, there will be time
To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet;
There will be time to murder and create,
And time for all the works and days of hands
That lift and drop a question on your plate;
Time for you and time for me,
And time yet for a hundred indecisions,
And for a hundred visions and revisions,
Before the taking of a toast and tea.

In the room the women come and go
Talking of Michelangelo.

And indeed there will be time
To wonder, "Do I dare?" and, "Do I dare?"
Time to turn back and descend the stair,
With a bald spot in the middle of my hair--
(They will say: "How his hair is growing thin!")
My morning coat, my collar mounting firmly to the chin,
My necktie rich and modest, but asserted by a simple pin--
(They will say: "But how his arms and legs are thin!")
Do I dare
Disturb the universe?
In a minute there is time
For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse.

For I have known them all already, known them all--
Have known the evenings, mornings, afternoons,
I have measured out my life with coffee spoons;
I know the voices dying with a dying fall
Beneath the music from a farther room.
So how should I presume?

And I have known the eyes already, known them all--
The eyes that fix you in a formulated phrase,
And when I am formulated, sprawling on a pin,
When I am pinned and wriggling on the wall,
Then how should I begin
To spit out all the butt-ends of my days and ways?
And how should I presume?

And I have known the arms already, known them all--
Arms that are braceleted and white and bare
(But in the lamplight, downed with light brown hair!)
Is it perfume from a dress
That makes me so digress?
Arms that lie along a table, or wrap about a shawl.
And should I then presume?
And how should I begin?

. . . . .

Shall I say, I have gone at dusk through narrow streets
And watched the smoke that rises from the pipes
Of lonely men in shirt-sleeves, leaning out of windows?. . .

I should have been a pair of ragged claws
Scuttling across the floors of silent seas.

. . . . .

And the afternoon, the evening, sleeps so peacefully!
Smoothed by long fingers,
Asleep . . . tired . . . or it malingers,
Stretched on the floor, here beside you and me.
Should I, after tea and cakes and ices,
Have the strength to force the moment to its crisis?
But though I have wept and fasted, wept and prayed,
Though I have seen my head (grown slightly bald) brought in 
upon a platter,
I am no prophet--and here's no great matter;
I have seen the moment of my greatness flicker,
And I have seen the eternal Footman hold my coat, and snicker,
And in short, I was afraid.

And would it have been worth it, after all,
After the cups, the marmalade, the tea,
Among the porcelain, among some talk of you and me,
Would it have been worth while,
To have bitten off the matter with a smile,
To have squeezed the universe into a ball
To roll it towards some overwhelming question,
To say: "I am Lazarus, come from the dead,
Come back to tell you all, I shall tell you all"--
If one, settling a pillow by her head,
Should say: "That is not what I meant at all.
That is not it, at all."

And would it have been worth it, after all,
Would it have been worth while,
After the sunsets and the dooryards and the sprinkled streets,
After the novels, after the teacups, after the skirts that trail along the 

And this, and so much more?--
It is impossible to say just what I mean!
But as if a magic lantern threw the nerves in patterns on a screen:
Would it have been worth while
If one, settling a pillow or throwing off a shawl,
And turning toward the window, should say:
"That is not it at all,
That is not what I meant, at all."

. . . . .

No!I am not Prince Hamlet, nor was meant to be;
Am an attendant lord, one that will do
To swell a progress, start a scene or two,
Advise the prince; no doubt, an easy tool,
Deferential, glad to be of use,
Politic, cautious, and meticulous;
Full of high sentence, but a bit obtuse;
At times, indeed, almost ridiculous--
Almost, at times, the Fool.

I grow old . . . I grow old . . .
I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.

Shall I part my hair behind? Do I dare to eat a peach?
I shall wear white flannel trousers, and walk upon the beach.
I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.

I do not think that they will sing to me.

I have seen them riding seaward on the waves
Combing the white hair of the waves blown back
When the wind blows the water white and black.

We have lingered in the chambers of the sea
By sea-girls wreathed with seaweed red and brown
Till human voices wake us, and we drown.