24 August 2005

Muriel Rukeyser

Here's a poet I find difficult to quote. For one thing, she wrote many long poems. She also wrote sequences of related poems, e.g., "The Book of the Dead" in U. S. 1 (1938). Here are two poems from The Speed of Darkness (1968):

A Little Stone in the Middle of the Road, in Florida

My son as child saying
is anything, even a little stone in the middle of the road, in Florida.
Nancy, my friend, after long illness:
You know what can lift me up, take me right out of despair?
No, what?

From Word of Mouth

                      Sex of cactus and cypresses.
Tile-orange, green;      olive;      black.      The sea.
One man.      Beethoven radio.      War.
Threat of all life.      Within my belief's body.
Within my morning, music.      High colored mountain
along the seacoast
                                    where the swallows fly. . . .

Speeding back from the border.
                                    A rock came spinning up
cast from the wheels of a car.
                               Crackled the windshield glass.
Glitter before my eyes like a man made of snow
lying over the hood, blind white except for glints
an inch of sight where Languedoc shines through.

You on my one side, you on the other!
What I have is dazzle.      My son; my friend;
tell me this side and tell me that side,
news of the road near Agde.

Word from this side, word from the tree-side—
Spain at our back : agony : before me, glitter,
blinding my eyes, blind diamonds, one clear wound.

Something is flying out of the sky behind me.

Turning, stirring of dream, something is speeding,
something is overtaking.

Stirrings in prisons, on beds, the mouths of the young,
resist, dance, love.      It drives through the back of my head,
through my eyes and breasts and mouth.
I know a harvest : mass in the wine country.
A lifetime after, and still alive.

Something out of Spain, into the general light!
I drive blind white, trusting news of this side,
news of that side, all the time the line of the poem:
Amor, pena, desig, somni, dolor.
The grapes have become wine by the hand of man.
Sea risen from the sea, a bearded king.

The seaward cemetery risen from the sea
like a woman rising.


                                    Phases of sun.
The wine declared god by the hand of man.
                A rumor given me by this side and that side.
We drive in brilliant glitter, in jungle night, in distant war,
in all our cities, in a word, overtaking.


A cry received, gone past me into all men,
speaking, into all women.
           A man goes into the sea,
bearded fire and all things rise from this blaze of eyes,
living, it speaks, driving forth from Spain,

                                              somni, dolor,

These cliffs, these years.      Do we drive into light?
Driven, live, overtaken?

                               Amor, pena, desig.

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