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Ridge, Lola

· The Fog by Lola Ridge · Time-Stone by Lola Ridge · The Song by Lola Ridge · Lola Ridge: The Legion of Iron · Lola Ridge: Mother · Lola Ridge: Jaguar · Lola Ridge: Emma Goldman · Lola Ridge: The Woman with Jewels · LOLA RIDGE: After storm · LOLA RIDGE: Reveille · LOLA RIDGE: The Ghetto · Lola RIDGE: Accidentals

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The Fog by Lola Ridge


The Fog

Out of the lamp-bestarred and clouded dusk –
Snaring, illuding, concealing,
Magically conjuring –
Turning to fairy-coaches
Beetle-backed limousines
Scampering under the great Arch –
Making a decoy of blue overalls
And mystery of a scarlet shawl –
Indolently –
Knowing no impediment of its sure advance –
Descends the fog.

Lola Ridge
The Fog
• magazine

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Time-Stone by Lola Ridge



Hallo, Metropolitan –
Ubiquitous windows staring all ways,
Red eye notching the darkness.
No use to ogle that slip of a moon.
This midnight the moon,
Playing virgin after all her encounters,
Will break another date with you.
You fuss an awful lot,
You flight of ledger books,
Overrun with multiple ant-black figures
Dancing on spindle legs
An interminable can-can.
But I’d rather… like the cats in the alley… count time
By the silver whistle of a moonbeam
Falling between my stoop-shouldered walls,
Than all your tally of the sunsets,
Metropolitan, ticking among stars.

Lola Ridge
• magazine

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The Song by Lola Ridge


The Song

That day, in the slipping of torsos and straining flanks on the bloodied ooze of fields plowed by the iron,
And the smoke bluish near earth and bronze in the sunshine floating like cotton-down,
And the harsh and terrible screaming,
And that strange vibration at the roots of us…
Desire, fierce, like a song…
And we heard
(Do you remember?)
All the Red Cross bands on Fifth avenue
And bugles in little home towns
And children’s harmonicas bleating


And after…
(Do you remember?)
The drollery of the wind on our faces,
And horizons reeling,
And the terror of the plain
Heaving like a gaunt pelvis to the sun…
Under us – threshing and twanging
Torn-up roots of the Song…

Lola Ridge
The Song
• magazine

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Lola Ridge: The Legion of Iron

Lola Ridge



The Legion of Iron

They pass through the great iron gates–

Men with eyes gravely discerning,

Skilled to appraise the tunnage of cranes

Or split an inch into thousandths–

Men tempered by fire as the ore is

And planned to resistance

Like steel that has cooled in the trough;

Silent of purpose, inflexible, set to fulfilment–

To conquer, withstand, overthrow …

Men mannered to large undertakings,

Knowing force as a brother

And power as something to play with,

Seeing blood as a slip of the iron,

To be wiped from the tools

Lest they rust.


But what if they stood aside,

Who hold the earth so careless in the crook of their arms?


What of the flamboyant cities

And the lights guttering out like candles in a wind …

And the armies halted …

And the train mid-way on the mountain

And idle men chaffing across the trenches …

And the cursing and lamentation

And the clamor for grain shut in the mills of the world?

What if they stayed apart,

Inscrutably smiling,

Leaving the ground encumbered with dead wire

And the sea to row-boats

And the lands marooned–

Till Time should like a paralytic sit,

A mildewed hulk above the nations squatting?


Lola Ridge poetry poetry magazine

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Lola Ridge: Mother

Lola Ridge




Your love was like moonlight

turning harsh things to beauty,

so that little wry souls

reflecting each other obliquely

as in cracked mirrors …

beheld in your luminous spirit

their own reflection,

transfigured as in a shining stream,

and loved you for what they are not.


You are less an image in my mind

than a luster

I see you in gleams

pale as star-light on a gray wall …

evanescent as the reflection of a white swan

shimmering in broken water.


Lola Ridge poetry poetry magazine

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Lola Ridge: Jaguar

Lola Ridge




Nasal intonations of light

and clicking tongues …

publicity of windows

stoning me with pent-up cries …

smells of abattoirs …

smells of long-dead meat.


Some day-end–

while the sand is yet cozy as a blanket

off the warm body of a squaw,

and the jaguars are out to kill …

with a blue-black night coming on

and a painted cloud

stalking the first star–

I shall go alone into the Silence …

the coiled Silence …

where a cry can run only a little way

and waver and dwindle

and be lost.


And there …

where tiny antlers clinch and strain

as life grapples in a million avid points,

and threshing things,

strike and die,

letting their hate live on

in the spreading purple of a wound …

I too

will make covert of a crevice in the night,

and turn and watch …

nose at the cleft’s edge.


Lola Ridge poetry poetry magazine

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Lola Ridge: Emma Goldman

Lola Ridge



Emma Goldman

How should they appraise you,

who walk up close to you

as to a mountain,

each proclaiming his own eyeful

against the other’s eyeful.


Only time

standing well off

shall measure your circumference and height.


Lola Ridge poetry poetry magazine

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Lola Ridge: The Woman with Jewels

Lola Ridge



The Woman with Jewels

The woman with jewels sits in the café,
Spraying light like a fountain.
Diamonds glitter on her bulbous fingers
And on her arms, great as thighs,
Diamonds gush from her ear-lobes over the goitrous throat.
She is obesely beautiful.
Her eyes are full of bleared lights,
Like little pools of tar, spilled by a sailor in mad haste for shore …
And her mouth is scarlet and full–only a little crumpled–like a flower that has been pressed apart …

Why does she come alone to this obscure basement–
She who should have a litter and hand-maidens to support her on either side?

She ascends the stairway, and the waiters turn to look at her, spilling the soup.
The black satin dress is a little lifted, showing the dropsical legs in their silken fleshlings …
The mountainous breasts tremble …
There is an agitation in her gems,
That quiver incessantly, emitting trillions of fiery rays …

She erupts explosive breaths …
Every step is an adventure
From this …
The serpent’s tooth
Saved Cleopatra.


Lola Ridge poetry poetry magazine

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LOLA RIDGE: After storm

Lola Ridge



  Was there a wind?
  Tap… tap…
  Night pads upon the snow
  with moccasined feet…
  and it is still… so still…
  an eagle’s feather
  might fall like a stone.
  Could there have been a storm…
  mad-tossing golden mane on the neck of the wind…
  tearing up the sky…
  loose-flapping like a tent
  about the ice-capped stars?

  Cool, sheer and motionless
  the frosted pines
  are jeweled with a million flaming points
  that fling their beauty up in long white sheaves
  till they catch hands with stars.
  Could there have been a wind
  that haled them by the hair….
  and blinding
  flowers of the lightning
  in their leaves?
  Tap… tap…
  slow-ticking centuries…
  Soft as bare feet upon the snow…
  faint… lulling as heard rain
  upon heaped leaves….
  builds her wall
  about a dream impaled.


LOLA RIDGE POETRY poetry magazine

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LOLA RIDGE: Reveille

Lola Ridge



  Come forth, you workers!
  Let the fires go cold–
  Let the iron spill out, out of the troughs–
  Let the iron run wild
  Like a red bramble on the floors–
  Leave the mill and the foundry and the mine
  And the shrapnel lying on the wharves–
  Leave the desk and the shuttle and the loom–
  With your ashen lives,
  Your lives like dust in your hands.

  I call upon you, workers.
  It is not yet light
  But I beat upon your doors.
  You say you await the Dawn
  But I say you are the Dawn.
  Come, in your irresistible unspent force
  And make new light upon the mountains.

  You have turned deaf ears to others–
  Me you shall hear.
  Out of the mouths of turbines,
  Out of the turgid throats of engines,
  Over the whistling steam,
  You shall hear me shrilly piping.
  Your mills I shall enter like the wind,
  And blow upon your hearts,
  Kindling the slow fire.

  They think they have tamed you, workers–
  Beaten you to a tool
  To scoop up hot honor
  Till it be cool–
  But out of the passion of the red frontiers
  A great flower trembles and burns and glows
  And each of its petals is a people.

  Come forth, you workers–
  Clinging to your stable
  And your wisp of warm straw–
  Let the fires grow cold,
  Let the iron spill out of the troughs,
  Let the iron run wild
  Like a red bramble on the floors….

  As our forefathers stood on the prairies
  So let us stand in a ring,
  Let us tear up their prisons like grass
  And beat them to barricades–
  Let us meet the fire of their guns
  With a greater fire,
  Till the birds shall fly to the mountains
  For one safe bough.


LOLA RIDGE POETRY poetry magazine

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LOLA RIDGE: The Ghetto

Lola Ridge




  Cool, inaccessible air
  Is floating in velvety blackness shot with steel-blue lights,
  But no breath stirs the heat
  Leaning its ponderous bulk upon the Ghetto
  And most on Hester street…

  The heat…
  Nosing in the body’s overflow,
  Like a beast pressing its great steaming belly close,
  Covering all avenues of air…

  The heat in Hester street,
  Heaped like a dray
  With the garbage of the world.

  Bodies dangle from the fire escapes
  Or sprawl over the stoops…
  Upturned faces glimmer pallidly–
  Herring-yellow faces, spotted as with a mold,
  And moist faces of girls
  Like dank white lilies,
  And infants’ faces with open parched mouths that suck at the air
       as at empty teats.

  Young women pass in groups,
  Converging to the forums and meeting halls,
  Surging indomitable, slow
  Through the gross underbrush of heat.
  Their heads are uncovered to the stars,
  And they call to the young men and to one another
  With a free camaraderie.
  Only their eyes are ancient and alone…

  The street crawls undulant,
  Like a river addled
  With its hot tide of flesh
  That ever thickens.
  Heavy surges of flesh
  Break over the pavements,
  Clavering like a surf–
  Flesh of this abiding
  Brood of those ancient mothers who saw the dawn break over Egypt…
  And turned their cakes upon the dry hot stones
  And went on
  Till the gold of the Egyptians fell down off their arms…
  Fasting and athirst…
  And yet on…

  Did they vision–with those eyes darkly clear,
  That looked the sun in the face and were not blinded–
  Across the centuries
  The march of their enduring flesh?
  Did they hear–
  Under the molten silence
  Of the desert like a stopped wheel–
  (And the scorpions tick-ticking on the sand…)
  The infinite procession of those feet?


  I room at Sodos’–in the little green room that was Bennie’s–
  With Sadie
  And her old father and her mother,
  Who is not so old and wears her own hair.

  Old Sodos no longer makes saddles.
  He has forgotten how.
  He has forgotten most things–even Bennie who stays away
       and sends wine on holidays–
  And he does not like Sadie’s mother
  Who hides God’s candles,
  Nor Sadie
  Whose young pagan breath puts out the light–
  That should burn always,
  Like Aaron’s before the Lord.

  Time spins like a crazy dial in his brain,
  And night by night
  I see the love-gesture of his arm
  In its green-greasy coat-sleeve
  Circling the Book,
  And the candles gleaming starkly
  On the blotched-paper whiteness of his face,
  Like a miswritten psalm…
  Night by night
  I hear his lifted praise,
  Like a broken whinnying
  Before the Lord’s shut gate.

  Sadie dresses in black.
  She has black-wet hair full of cold lights
  And a fine-drawn face, too white.
  All day the power machines
  Drone in her ears…
  All day the fine dust flies
  Till throats are parched and itch
  And the heat–like a kept corpse–
  Fouls to the last corner.

  Then–when needles move more slowly on the cloth
  And sweaty fingers slacken
  And hair falls in damp wisps over the eyes–
  Sped by some power within,
  Sadie quivers like a rod…
  A thin black piston flying,
  One with her machine.

  She–who stabs the piece-work with her bitter eye
  And bids the girls: "Slow down–
  You’ll have him cutting us again!"
  She–fiery static atom,
  Held in place by the fierce pressure all about–
  Speeds up the driven wheels
  And biting steel–that twice
  Has nipped her to the bone.

  Nights, she reads
  Those books that have most unset thought,
  New-poured and malleable,
  To which her thought
  Leaps fusing at white heat,
  Or spits her fire out in some dim manger of a hall,
  Or at a protest meeting on the Square,
  Her lit eyes kindling the mob…
  Or dances madly at a festival.
  Each dawn finds her a little whiter,
  Though up and keyed to the long day,
  Alert, yet weary… like a bird
  That all night long has beat about a light.

  The Gentile lover, that she charms and shrews,
  Is one more pebble in the pack
  For Sadie’s mother,
  Who greets him with her narrowed eyes
  That hold some welcome back.
  "What’s to be done?" she’ll say,
  "When Sadie wants she takes…
  Better than Bennie with his Christian woman…
  A man is not so like,
  If they should fight,
  To call her Jew…"

  Yet when she lies in bed
  And the soft babble of their talk comes to her
  And the silences…
  I know she never sleeps
  Till the keen draught blowing up the empty hall
  Edges through her transom
  And she hears his foot on the first stairs.

  Sarah and Anna live on the floor above.
  Sarah is swarthy and ill-dressed.
  Life for her has no ritual.
  She would break an ideal like an egg for the winged thing at the core.
  Her mind is hard and brilliant and cutting like an acetylene torch.
  If any impurities drift there, they must be burnt up as in a clear flame.
  It is droll that she should work in a pants factory.
  –Yet where else… tousled and collar awry at her olive throat.
  Besides her hands are unkempt.
  With English… and everything… there is so little time.
  She reads without bias–
  Doubting clamorously–
  Psychology, plays, science, philosophies–
  Those giant flowers that have bloomed and withered, scattering their seed…
  –And out of this young forcing soil what growth may come–
       what amazing blossomings.

  Anna is different.
  One is always aware of Anna, and the young men turn their heads
       to look at her.
  She has the appeal of a folk-song
  And her cheap clothes are always in rhythm.
  When the strike was on she gave half her pay.
  She would give anything–save the praise that is hers
  And the love of her lyric body.

  But Sarah’s desire covets nothing apart.
  She would share all things…
  Even her lover.


  The sturdy Ghetto children
  March by the parade,
  Waving their toy flags,
  Prancing to the bugles–
  Lusty, unafraid…
  Shaking little fire sticks
  At the night–
  The old blinking night–
  Swerving out of the way,
  Wrapped in her darkness like a shawl.

  But a small girl
  Cowers apart.
  Her braided head,
  Shiny as a black-bird’s
  In the gleam of the torch-light,
  Is poised as for flight.
  Her eyes have the glow
  Of darkened lights.

  She stammers in Yiddish,
  But I do not understand,
  And there flits across her face
  A shadow
  As of a drawn blind.
  I give her an orange,
  Large and golden,
  And she looks at it blankly.
  I take her little cold hand and try to draw her to me,
  But she is stiff…
  Like a doll…

  Suddenly she darts through the crowd
  Like a little white panic
  Blown along the night–
  Away from the terror of oncoming feet…
  And drums rattling like curses in red roaring mouths…
  And torches spluttering silver fire
  And lights that nose out hiding-places…
  To the night–
  Squatting like a hunchback
  Under the curved stoop–
  The old mammy-night
  That has outlived beauty and knows the ways of fear–
  The night–wide-opening crooked and comforting arms,
  Hiding her as in a voluminous skirt.

  The sturdy Ghetto children
  March by the parade,
  Waving their toy flags,
  Prancing to the bugles,
  Lusty, unafraid.
  But I see a white frock
  And eyes like hooded lights
  Out of the shadow of pogroms
  Watching… watching…


  Calicoes and furs,
  Pocket-books and scarfs,
  Razor strops and knives
  (Patterns in check…)

  Olive hands and russet head,
  Pickles red and coppery,
  Green pickles, brown pickles,
  (Patterns in tapestry…)

  Coral beads, blue beads,
  Beads of pearl and amber,
  Gewgaws, beauty pins–
  Bijoutry for chits–
  Darting rays of violet,
  Amethyst and jade…
  All the colors out to play,
  Jumbled iridescently…
  (Patterns in stained glass
  Shivered into bits!)

  Nooses of gay ribbon
  Tugging at one’s sleeve,
  Dainty little garters
  Hanging out their sign…
  Here a pout of frilly things–
  There a sonsy feather…
  (White beards, black beards
  Like knots in the weave…)

  And ah, the little babies–
  Shiny black-eyed babies–
  (Half a million pink toes
  Wriggling altogether.)
  Baskets full of babies
  Like grapes on a vine.

  Mothers waddling in and out,
  Making all things right–
  Picking up the slipped threads
  In Grand street at night–
  Grand street like a great bazaar,
  Crowded like a float,
  Bulging like a crazy quilt
  Stretched on a line.

  But nearer seen
  This litter of the East
  Takes on a garbled majesty.

  The herded stalls
  In dissolute array…
  The glitter and the jumbled finery
  And strangely juxtaposed
  Cans, paper, rags
  And colors decomposing,
  Faded like old hair,
  With flashes of barbaric hues
  And eyes of mystery…
  Like an ancient tapestry of motley weave
  Upon the open wall of this new land.

  Here, a tawny-headed girl…
  Lemons in a greenish broth
  And a huge earthen bowl
  By a bronzed merchant
  With a tall black lamb’s wool cap upon his head…
  He has no glance for her.
  His thrifty eyes
  Bend–glittering, intent
  Their hoarded looks
  Upon his merchandise,
  As though it were some splendid cloth
  Or sumptuous raiment
  Stitched in gold and red…

  He seldom talks
  Save of the goods he spreads–
  The meager cotton with its dismal flower–
  But with his skinny hands
  That hover like two hawks
  Above some luscious meat,
  He fingers lovingly each calico,
  As though it were a gorgeous shawl,
  Or costly vesture
  Wrought in silken thread,
  Or strange bright carpet
  Made for sandaled feet…

  Here an old grey scholar stands.
  His brooding eyes–
  That hold long vistas without end
  Of caravans and trees and roads,
  And cities dwindling in remembrance–
  Bend mostly on his tapes and thread.

  What if they tweak his beard–
  These raw young seed of Israel
  Who have no backward vision in their eyes–
  And mock him as he sways
  Above the sunken arches of his feet–
  They find no peg to hang their taunts upon.
  His soul is like a rock
  That bears a front worn smooth
  By the coarse friction of the sea,
  And, unperturbed, he keeps his bitter peace.

  What if a rigid arm and stuffed blue shape,
  Backed by a nickel star
  Does prod him on,
  Taking his proud patience for humility…
  All gutters are as one
  To that old race that has been thrust
  From off the curbstones of the world…
  And he smiles with the pale irony
  Of one who holds
  The wisdom of the Talmud stored away
  In his mind’s lavender.

  But this young trader,
  Born to trade as to a caul,
  Peddles the notions of the hour.
  The gestures of the craft are his
  And all the lore
  As when to hold, withdraw, persuade, advance…
  And be it gum or flags,
  Or clean-all or the newest thing in tags,
  Demand goes to him as the bee to flower.
  And he–appraising
  All who come and go
  With his amazing
  Slight-of-mind and glance
  And nimble thought
  And nature balanced like the scales at nought–
  Looks Westward where the trade-lights glow,
  And sees his vision rise–
  A tape-ruled vision,
  Circumscribed in stone–
  Some fifty stories to the skies.


  As I sit in my little fifth-floor room–
  Save for bed and chair,
  And coppery stains
  Left by seeping rains
  On the low ceiling
  And green plaster walls,
  Where when night falls
  Golden lady-bugs
  Come out of their holes,
  And roaches, sepia-brown, consort…
  I hear bells pealing
  Out of the gray church at Rutgers street,
  Holding its high-flung cross above the Ghetto,
  And, one floor down across the court,
  The parrot screaming:
  Vorwaerts… Vorwaerts…

  The parrot frowsy-white,
  Everlastingly swinging
  On its iron bar.

  A little old woman,
  With a wig of smooth black hair
  Gummed about her shrunken brows,
  Comes sometimes on the fire escape.
  An old stooped mother,
  The left shoulder low
  With that uneven droopiness that women know
  Who have suckled many young…
  Yet I have seen no other than the parrot there.

  I watch her mornings as she shakes her rugs
  Feebly, with futile reach
  And fingers without clutch.
  Her thews are slack
  And curved the ruined back
  And flesh empurpled like old meat,
  Yet each conspires
  To feed those guttering fires
  With which her eyes are quick.

  On Friday nights
  Her candles signal
  Infinite fine rays
  To other windows,
  Coupling other lights,
  Linking the tenements
  Like an endless prayer.

  She seems less lonely than the bird
  That day by day about the dismal house
  Screams out his frenzied word…
  That night by night–
  If a dog yelps
  Or a cat yawls
  Or a sick child whines,
  Or a door screaks on its hinges,
  Or a man and woman fight–
  Sends his cry above the huddled roofs:
  Vorwaerts… Vorwaerts…


  In this dingy cafe
  The old men sit muffled in woollens.
  Everything is faded, shabby, colorless, old…
  The chairs, loose-jointed,
  Creaking like old bones–
  The tables, the waiters, the walls,
  Whose mottled plaster
  Blends in one tone with the old flesh.

  Young life and young thought are alike barred,
  And no unheralded noises jolt old nerves,
  And old wheezy breaths
  Pass around old thoughts, dry as snuff,
  And there is no divergence and no friction
  Because life is flattened and ground as by many mills.

  And it is here the Committee–
  Sweet-breathed and smooth of skin
  And supple of spine and knee,
  With shining unpouched eyes
  And the blood, high-powered,
  Leaping in flexible arteries–
  The insolent, young, enthusiastic, undiscriminating Committee,
  Who would placard tombstones
  And scatter leaflets even in graves,
  Comes trampling with sacrilegious feet!

  The old men turn stiffly,
  Mumbling to each other.
  They are gentle and torpid and busy with eating.
  But one lifts a face of clayish pallor,
  There is a dull fury in his eyes, like little rusty grates.
  He rises slowly,
  Trembling in his many swathings like an awakened mummy,
  Ridiculous yet terrible.
  –And the Committee flings him a waste glance,
  Dropping a leaflet by his plate.

  A lone fire flickers in the dusty eyes.
  The lips chant inaudibly.
  The warped shrunken body straightens like a tree.
  And he curses…
  With uplifted arms and perished fingers,
  Claw-like, clutching…
  So centuries ago
  The old men cursed Acosta,
  When they, prophetic, heard upon their sepulchres
  Those feet that may not halt nor turn aside for ancient things.


  Here in this room, bare like a barn,
  Egos gesture one to the other–
  Naked, unformed, unwinged
  Egos out of the shell,
  Examining, searching, devouring–
  Avid alike for the flower or the dung…
  (Having no dainty antennae for the touch and withdrawal–
  Only the open maw…)

  Egos cawing,
  Expanding in the mean egg…
  Little squat tailors with unkempt faces,
  Pale as lard,
  Fur-makers, factory-hands, shop-workers,
  News-boys with battling eyes
  And bodies yet vibrant with the momentum of long runs,
  Here and there a woman…

  Words, words, words,
  Pattering like hail,
  Like hail falling without aim…
  Egos rampant,
  Screaming each other down.
  One motions perpetually,
  Waving arms like overgrowths.
  He has burning eyes and a cough
  And a thin voice piping
  Like a flute among trombones.

  One, red-bearded, rearing
  A welter of maimed face bashed in from some old wound,
  Garbles Max Stirner.
  His words knock each other like little wooden blocks.
  No one heeds him,
  And a lank boy with hair over his eyes
  Pounds upon the table.
  –He is chairman.

  Egos yet in the primer,
  Hearing world-voices
  Chanting grand arias…
  Majors resonant,
  Stunning with sound…
  Baffling minors
  Half-heard like rain on pools…
  Majestic discordances
  Greater than harmonies…
  –Gleaning out of it all
  Passion, bewilderment, pain…

  Egos yearning with the world-old want in their eyes–
  Hurt hot eyes that do not sleep enough…
  Striving with infinite effort,
  Frustrate yet ever pursuing
  The great white Liberty,
  Trailing her dissolving glory over each hard-won barricade–
  Only to fade anew…

  Egos crying out of unkempt deeps
  And waving their dreams like flags–
  Multi-colored dreams,
  Winged and glorious…

  A gas jet throws a stunted flame,
  Vaguely illumining the groping faces.
  And through the uncurtained window
  Falls the waste light of stars,
  As cold as wise men’s eyes…
  Indifferent great stars,
  Fortuitously glancing
  At the secret meeting in this shut-in room,
  Bare as a manger.


  Lights go out
  And the stark trunks of the factories
  Melt into the drawn darkness,
  Sheathing like a seamless garment.

  And mothers take home their babies,
  Waxen and delicately curled,
  Like little potted flowers closed under the stars.

  Lights go out
  And the young men shut their eyes,
  But life turns in them…

  Life in the cramped ova
  Tearing and rending asunder its living cells…
  Wars, arts, discoveries, rebellions, travails, immolations,
       cataclysms, hates…
  Pent in the shut flesh.
  And the young men twist on their beds in languor and dizziness
  Their eyes–heavy and dimmed
  With dust of long oblivions in the gray pulp behind–
  Staring as through a choked glass.
  And they gaze at the moon–throwing off a faint heat–
  The moon, blond and burning, creeping to their cots
  Softly, as on naked feet…
  Lolling on the coverlet… like a woman offering her white body.

  Nude glory of the moon!
  That leaps like an athlete on the bosoms of the young girls stripped
       of their linens;
  Stroking their breasts that are smooth and cool as mother-of-pearl
  Till the nipples tingle and burn as though little lips plucked at them.
  They shudder and grow faint.
  And their ears are filled as with a delirious rhapsody,
  That Life, like a drunken player,
  Strikes out of their clear white bodies
  As out of ivory keys.

  Lights go out…
  And the great lovers linger in little groups, still passionately debating,
  Or one may walk in silence, listening only to the still summons of Life–
  Life making the great Demand…
  Calling its new Christs…
  Till tears come, blurring the stars
  That grow tender and comforting like the eyes of comrades;
  And the moon rolls behind the Battery
  Like a word molten out of the mouth of God.

  Lights go out…
  And colors rush together,
  Fusing and floating away…
  Pale worn gold like the settings of old jewels…
  Mauves, exquisite, tremulous, and luminous purples
  And burning spires in aureoles of light
  Like shimmering auras.

  They are covering up the pushcarts…
  Now all have gone save an old man with mirrors–
  Little oval mirrors like tiny pools.
  He shuffles up a darkened street
  And the moon burnishes his mirrors till they shine like phosphorus…
  The moon like a skull,
  Staring out of eyeless sockets at the old men trundling home the pushcarts.


  A sallow dawn is in the sky
  As I enter my little green room.
  Sadie’s light is still burning…
  Without, the frail moon
  Worn to a silvery tissue,
  Throws a faint glamour on the roofs,
  And down the shadowy spires
  Lights tip-toe out…
  Softly as when lovers close street doors.

  Out of the Battery
  A little wind
  Stirs idly–as an arm
  Trails over a boat’s side in dalliance–
  Rippling the smooth dead surface of the heat,
  And Hester street,
  Like a forlorn woman over-born
  By many babies at her teats,
  Turns on her trampled bed to meet the day.

  Startling, vigorous life,
  That squirms under my touch,
  And baffles me when I try to examine it,
  Or hurls me back without apology.
  Leaving my ego ruffled and preening itself.

  Articulate, shrill,
  Screaming in provocative assertion,
  Or out of the black and clotted gutters,
  Piping in silvery thin
  Sweet staccato
  Of children’s laughter,

  Or clinging over the pushcarts
  Like a litter of tiny bells
  Or the jingle of silver coins,
  Perpetually changing hands,
  Or like the Jordan somberly
  Swirling in tumultuous uncharted tides,

  Electric currents of life,
  Throwing off thoughts like sparks,
  Glittering, disappearing,
  Making unknown circuits,
  Or out of spent particles stirring
  Feeble contortions in old faiths
  Passing before the new.

  Long nights argued away
  In meeting halls
  Back of interminable stairways–
  In Roumanian wine-shops
  And little Russian tea-rooms…

  Feet echoing through deserted streets
  In the soft darkness before dawn…
  Brows aching, throbbing, burning–
  Life leaping in the shaken flesh
  Like flame at an asbestos curtain.

  Pent, overflowing
  Stoops and facades,
  Jostling, pushing, contriving,
  Seething as in a great vat…

  Bartering, changing, extorting,
  Dreaming, debating, aspiring,
  Astounding, indestructible
  Life of the Ghetto…

  Strong flux of life,
  Like a bitter wine
  Out of the bloody stills of the world…
  Out of the Passion eternal.


LOLA RIDGE POETRY poetry magazine


More in: Ridge, Lola

Lola RIDGE: Accidentals

Lola Ridge




  It is dark… so dark, I remember the sun on Chios…
  It is still… so still, I hear the beat of our paddles on the Aegean…

  Ten times we had watched the moon
  Rise like a thin white virgin out of the waters
  And round into a full maternity…
  For thrice ten moons we had touched no flesh
  Save the man flesh on either hand
  That was black and bitter and salt and scaled by the sea.

  The Athenian boy sat on my left…
  His hair was yellow as corn steeped in wine…
  And on my right was Phildar the Carthaginian,
  Grinning Phildar
  With his mouth pulled taut as by reins from his black gapped teeth.
  Many a whip had coiled about him
  And his shoulders were rutted deep as wet ground under chariot wheels,
  And his skin was red and tough as a bull’s hide cured in the sun.
  He did not sing like the other slaves,
  But when a big wind came up he screamed with it.
  And always he looked out to sea,
  Save when he tore at his fish ends
  Or spat across me at the Greek boy, whose mouth was red and apart
   like an opened fruit.

  We had rowed from dawn and the green galley hard at our stern.
  She was green and squat and skulked close to the sea.
  All day the tish of their paddles had tickled our ears,
  And when night came on
  And little naked stars dabbled in the water
  And half the crouching moon
  Slid over the silver belly of the sea thick-scaled with light,
  We heard them singing at their oars…
  We who had no breath for song.

  There was no sound in our boat
  Save the clingle of wrist chains
  And the sobbing of the young Greek.
  I cursed him that his hair blew in my mouth, tasting salt of the sea…
  I cursed him that his oar kept ill time…
  When he looked at me I cursed him again,
  That his eyes were soft as a woman’s.

  How long… since their last shell gouged our batteries?
  How long… since we rose at aim with a sleuth moon astern?
  (It was the damned green moon that nosed us out…
  The moon that flushed our periscope till it shone like a silver flame…)

  They loosed each man’s right hand
  As the galley spent on our decks…
  And amazed and bloodied we reared half up
  And fought askew with the left hand shackled…
  But a zigzag fire leapt in our sockets
  And knotted our thews like string…
  Our thews grown stiff as a crooked spine that would not straighten…

  How long… since our gauges fell
  And the sea shoved us under?
  It is dark… so dark…
  Darkness presses hairy-hot
  Where three make crowded company…
  And the rank steel smells….
  It is still… so still…
  I seem to hear the wind
  On the dimpled face of the water fathoms above…

  It was still… so still… we three that were left alive
  Stared in each other’s faces…
  But three make bitter company at one man’s bread…
  And our hate grew sharp and bright as the moon’s edge in the water.

  One grinned with his mouth awry from the long gapped teeth…
  And one shivered and whined like a gull as the waves pawed us over…
  But one struck with his hate in his hand…

  After that I remember
  Only the dead men’s oars that flapped in the sea…
  The dead men’s oars that rattled and clicked like idiots’ tongues.

  It is still… so still, with the jargon of engines quiet.
  We three awaiting the crunch of the sea
  Reach our hands in the dark and touch each other’s faces…
  We three sheathing hate in our hearts…
  But when hate shall have made its circuit,
  Our bones will be loving company
  Here in the sea’s den…
  And one whimpers and cries on his God
  And one sits sullenly
  But both draw away from me…
  For I am the pyre their memories burn on…
  Like black flames leaping
  Our fiery gestures light the walled-in darkness of the sea…
  The sea that kneels above us…
  And makes no sign.

LOLA RIDGE POETRY poetry magazine

More in: Ridge, Lola

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