Muriel Rukeyser

M
Muriel Rukeyser
from The Book of the Dead: Absalom
I first discovered what was killing these men.
I had three sons who worked with their father in the tunnel:
Cecil, aged 23, Owen, aged 21, Shirley, aged 17.
They used to work in a coal mine, not steady work
for the mines were not going much of the time.
A power Co. foreman learned that we made home brew,
he formed a habit of dropping in evenings to drink,
persuading the boys and my husband —
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from The Book of the Dead: George Robinson: Blues
Gauley Bridge is a good town for Negroes, they let us stand around, they let us stand
around on the sidewalks if we’re black or brown.
Vanetta’s over the trestle, and that’s our town.

The hill makes breathing slow, slow breathing after your row the river,
and the graveyard’s on the hill, cold in the springtime blow,
the graveyard’s up on high, and the town is down below.

Did you ever bury thirty-five men in a place in back of your house,
thirty-five tunnel workers the doctors didn’t attend,
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from The Book of the Dead: The Book of the Dead
These roads will take you into your own country.
Seasons and maps coming where this road comes
into a landscape mirrored in these men.

Past all your influences, your home river,
constellations of cities, mottoes of childhood,
parents and easy cures, war, all evasion’s wishes.

What one word must never be said?
Dead, and these men fight off our dying,
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from The Book of the Dead: The Dam
All power is saved, having no end. Rises
in the green season, in the sudden season
the white the budded
and the lost.
Water celebrates, yielding continually
sheeted and fast in its overfall
slips down the rock, evades the pillars
building its colonnades, repairs
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from The Book of the Dead: Praise of the Committee
These are the lines on which a committee is formed.
Almost as soon as work was begun in the tunnel
men began to die among dry drills. No masks.
Most of them were not from this valley.
The freights brought many every day from States
all up and down the Atlantic seaboard
and as far inland as Kentucky, Ohio.
After the work the camps were closed or burned.
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Käthe Kollwitz
1
Held between wars
my lifetime
among wars, the big hands of the world of death
my lifetime
listens to yours.

The faces of the sufferers
in the street, in dailiness,
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Ballad of Orange and Grape
After you finish your work
after you do your day
after you've read your reading
after you've written your say –
you go down the street to the hot dog stand,
one block down and across the way.
On a blistering afternoon in East Harlem in the twentieth
century.
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Desdichada
I.

For that you never acknowledged me, I acknowledge
the spring’s yellow detail, the every drop of rain,
the anonymous unacknowledged men and women.
The shine as it glitters in our child’s wild eyes,
one o’clock at night. This river, this city,
the years of the shadow on the delicate skin
of my hand, moving in time.
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Effort at Speech Between Two People

: Speak to me. Take my hand. What are you now?
I will tell you all. I will conceal nothing.
When I was three, a little child read a story about a rabbit
who died, in the story, and I crawled under a chair :
a pink rabbit : it was my birthday, and a candle
burnt a sore spot on my finger, and I was told to be happy.

: Oh, grow to know me. I am not happy. I will be open:
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The Speed of Darkness
I

Whoever despises the clitoris despises the penis
Whoever despises the penis despises the cunt
Whoever despises the cunt despises the life of the child.

Resurrection music, silence, and surf.


II

No longer speaking
Listening with the whole body
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Song (“The world is full of loss ... ”)
The world is full of loss; bring, wind, my love,
my home is where we make our meeting-place,
and love whatever I shall touch and read
within that face.

Lift, wind, my exile from my eyes;
peace to look, life to listen and confess,
freedom to find to find to find
that nakedness.
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Song
Make and be eaten, the poet says,
Lie in the arms of nightlong fire,
To celebrate the waking, wake.
Burn in the daylong light; and praise
Even the mother unappeased,
Even the fathers of desire.

Blind go the days, but joy will see
Agreements of music; they will wind
The shaking of your dance; no more
Will the ambiguous arm-waves spell
Confusion of the blessing given.

Only and finally declare
Among the purest shapes of grace
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Song for Dead Children
We set great wreaths of brightness on the graves of the passionate
who required tribute of hot July flowers—
for you, O brittle-hearted, we bring offering
remembering how your wrists were thin and your delicate bones
not yet braced for conquering.

The sharp cries of ghost-boys are keen above the meadows,
and little girls continue graceful and wondering.
Flickering evening on the lakes recalls those young
heirs whose developing years have sunk to earth,
their strength not tested, their praise unsung.

Weave grasses for their childhood—who will never see
love or disaster or take sides against decay
balancing the choices of maturity.
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Akiba
THE WAY OUT

The night is covered with signs. The body and face of man,
with signs, and his journeys. Where the rock is split
and speaks to the water; the flame speaks to the cloud;
the red splatter, abstraction, on the door
speaks to the angel and the constellations.
The grains of sand on the sea-floor speak at last to the noon.
And the loud hammering of the land behind
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Murmurs from the earth of this land
Murmurs from the earth of this land, from the caves and craters,
from the bowl of darkness. Down watercourses of our
dragon childhood, where we ran barefoot.
We stand as growing women and men. Murmurs come down
where water has not run for sixty years.
Murmurs from the tulip tree and the catalpa, from the ax of
the stars, from the house on fire, ringing of glass; from
the abandoned iron-black mill.
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Night Feeding
Deeper than sleep but not so deep as death
I lay there dreaming and my magic head
remembered and forgot. On first cry I
remembered and forgot and did believe.
I knew love and I knew evil:
woke to the burning song and the tree burning blind,
despair of our days and the calm milk-giver who
knows sleep, knows growth, the sex of fire and grass,
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The Speaking Tree
for Robert Payne Great Alexander sailing was from his true course turned
By a young wind from a cloud in Asia moving
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Waterlily Fire
for Richard Griffith 1 THE BURNING

Girl grown woman fire mother of fire
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Poem (I lived in the first century of world wars)
I lived in the first century of world wars.
Most mornings I would be more or less insane,
The newspapers would arrive with their careless stories,
The news would pour out of various devices
Interrupted by attempts to sell products to the unseen.
I would call my friends on other devices;
They would be more or less mad for similar reasons.
Slowly I would get to pen and paper,
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