List Of Contents | Contents of Sun-Up and Other Poems, by Lola Ridge
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hot sun
shining on your face--
it must be a new day.
But why aren't you happy
if it's a new day?
Because something has happened...
something sad and terrible....
Now I remember... it's Janie.
I took Janie out
and tied my handkerchief over her face
and put sand in it
and threw her into the ditch
down in the black water
under the dock leaves...
and when mama asked me where Janie was
I said I had lost her.

     :  :

I'm glad it is night-time
so I'll be able to go to sleep
and forget all about it....
But mama looks at my tongue
and says she will give me senna tea.
When you smell the tea
you shut your eyes tight
and pretend not to hear
the soft, cool voice of mama
that goes over your forehead
like a little wind.
And then you lie in the dark
and stare... and stare...
till the faces come...
yellow faces with leering eyes
drifting in a greeny mist....
I wonder
if Janie sees faces
out there... alone in the dark....
I wonder
if she has got the handkerchief off
or if the water has gone in the hole
where the whistle was
at the back of her head
and drowned her...
or if the stars
can see her under the dock leaves?

     :  :

It's smoky-blue and still
over the red road.
Wind must be lying down with its tail under it--
doesn't even flick off the flies.
And you can hear the silence
buzzing in the gum trees,
the way the angels buzzed
when they flew through the cedars of Lebanon
with thin gauze wings
you could see through.
Nice to hear the silence buzzing--
till it comes too close
and booms in your ears
and presses all over you
till you scream....
When you scream at the silence
it goes to jingling pieces
like a silver mirror
broken into tiny bits.
Perhaps its wings are made of glass--
perhaps it lives down in a dark, dark cave
and only comes up
to warm its wings in the sun....
It's cold in the cave--
no matter how you cover yourself up.
Little girls sit there
dressed in white
and the dolls in their arms
all have white handkerchiefs
over their faces.
Their shadows cannot play with them...
their shadows lie down at their feet...
for the little girls sit stiff as stones
with their backs to the mouth of the cave
where a little light falls off
the wings of the silence
when it comes down out of the sun.

     :  :

Moon catches the flying fish
as they dive in the bay.
Flying fish
spin over and over
into the water.
Mom bends over jungles
and touches the foreheads of tigers
as they pass under openings made by dropped leaves.
Tigers stop on the trail of the deer
while the moon is on their foreheads--
they let the stags go by.

Moon is shining strangely
on the white palings of the fence.
Fence keeps very still...
most times it moves a little...
everything moves a little
though you mayn't know it...
but now the little fence
wouldn't change places with the great cross
that stands so stiff and high
with its back to the moon.
Moon shining strangely
on the white palings of the fence,
I am shining too
but my light is shut inside of me
and can't get out.

     :  :

Old house with black windows--
blind house begging moonlight
to put out the shadows--
why do you want so much light?
You creak when the wind steps on you--
you cough up dust
and your beams ache--
you know you will soon fall,
the moon just pities you!
Don't waste yourself moon--
come on my bed and play with me.
Wrap me up in blue light,
you who are cool.
I am too hot,
I am all alive
and the shadows are outside of me.

     :  :

There are different kinds of shadows.
The blind ones
are the shadows of things.
These are the tame shadows--
they love to play on the wall with you
and follow you about like cats and dogs.
they hiss at you softly
like snakes that do not bite,
or swish like women's dresses,
but if you poke a candle at them
they pull in their heads and disappear.

But there is a shadow
that is not the shadow of a thing...
it is a thing itself.
When you meet this shadow
you must not look at it too long...
it grows with your looking at it...
till you are all alone
with nothing around you...
nothing... nothing... nothing...
but a shadow
with its eyes full of black light.

     :  :

There's a shadow in the corner of the shed,
crouching, lying in wait...
a black coiled shadow,
watching... ready to strike...
but I mustn't be afraid of it--
I mustn't be afraid of anything.
Poor evil shadow,
the candle would chase it away
only she can't get at it.
Do you think that every one hates you,
shadow with your back to the wall,
afraid to lie down and sleep?
But I don't hate you.
Even the moon means to be kind.
She just treads on you
as I'd tread on a worm that I didn't see.
Don't be afraid of me, shadow.
See--I've no light in my hand--
nothing to save myself with--
yet I walk right up to you--
if you'll let me
I'll put my arms around you
and stroke you softly.
Are you surprised I'd put my arms around you?
Is it your black black sorrow
that nobody loves you?



When you tell mama
you are going to do something great
she looks at you
as though you were a window
she were trying to see through,
and says she hopes you will be good
instead of great.

     :  :

When you are five years old
you spend the day in the Gardens.
The grass is greener than cabbages,
and orange lilies
stand up very straight
and will not curtsey to the sun
when the wind tells them.
Only pansies bow down very low.
Pansies make little purple cushions
for queen bees to stand on.
have brown silk hair on their bodies.
If you are careful
they will let you stroke them.

The trees over the marble man
catch up all the sunbeams
so the shadows have it their way--
the shadows swallow him up
like a blue shark.
When you scoop a sunbeam up on your palm
and offer it to the marble man,
he does not notice...
he looks into his stone beard.
... When you do something great
people give you a stone face,
so you do not care any more
when the sun throws gold on you
through leaf-holes the wind makes
in green bushes....
This thought makes me very sad.

     :  :

Jude has eyes like tobacco
with yellow specks on it
and his hair is red as a red orange.
Jude and I
have made a garden in the field
that no one knows about.
We creep in and out
through a little place
where the barbed wire is down.
We lie in the long grass
and crush dandelions
between our two cheeks
till the milk comes out on our faces.
We hold each other tight
and the wind tip-toes all over us
and pelts us with thistle-down.

     :  :

Jude isn't afraid of shadows--
not even of the ones that have eyes in them.
And he can look in the face of the sun
without blinking at all.
Hush! don't say sun so loud.
The sun gets angry when you stare at him.
If you peek in his glory-windows
he spreads into a great white flame
like God out of his Burning Bush...
till you put your hands up on your face
and tremble like a drop of rain upon a flower
that some one throws into the fire...
and then
the sun makes himself small,
the sun swings down out of the sky--
littler'n a star,
little as a spark
little as a fierce red spider
on a burning thread...
and then
the light goes out...
shivers into blackened bits....
You hold on to a wall that whirls around
and the gate is a black hole.
You grope your way in like a toad
that's blinded by a stone...
and mama puts on cold wet rags
that get hot soon....
Hush! don't let's talk about the sun.

     :  :

When you pass by the ditch where Janie is
You run very fast
and look at the other side.
Jude says Janie did love me
only she couldn't forgive me,
and that you can love people very much
and never, never, never forgive them....
so we poked a stick in the bottle-green water.
But only weeds came up
and an old top with the paint washed off.

     :  :

Jude and I
wave to the new moon
curled right up like one gold hair
on the bald-head sandhill.
Mama peeps out the window and smiles.
She thinks
I am playing with myself...
Run, Jude, run with the wind--
but hold my hand tight
or the wind,
looking for some one to play with,
will take me away from you!
Wind with no one to play with
cooees the orange-trees--
stay-at-home orange trees,
have to nurse oranges,
Wind shouts to the grass--
tugs at its roots,
but the earth holds tight
and the grass falls down
and wind boos over it.
Wind whistles the bees--
bees too busy
with taking home stuff out of flowers
won't look back--
bees always going somewhere.
Only Jude and I--
heads over shoulders
watching all roads at one time--
run with the wind,
going to nowhere.

     :  :

Jude and I
were weeding our garden
when we heard his whip--
must have been a new whip
to cut off dandelion-heads at one swing....
He was the kind of boy you knew when you had Celia....
with nice clothes on and curls
crawling about his collar
like little golden slugs,
and his man was leading his horse.
I wish I hadn't run to meet him....
If you hadn't run to meet him
he mightn't have trod on your garden and said:
Get out of my field you dirty little beggar...
he mightn't have struck you with his whip....
How the daisies stared....
I hate daisies--
stupid white faces--
skinny necks
craning over the grass!
I said It is not your field,
and he struck me again.
But he didn't make me run.
His hand
smelled of sweet soap...
he couldn't shake me off,
but his man did....
Funny--how the sky fell down
and turned over and over
like a blue carpet rolling you up,
and the grass caught at your face--
it couldn't have been spiteful--
it must have been saving itself.
Hot road... silly wind playing with your hair....
The road smelled of horses.
I only got up
when I heard a dray.

     :  :

Mama has sung ba ba black sheep,
and put a chair with a cloth on it
between me and the light.
But the clock keeps saying:
Dirty little beggar,
dirty little beggar....
Some day
I will get that boy.
I will pull off his arms and legs
and put him in a box
and hide the box
under the bed....
I wonder
will he buzz
when I take him out to look at his body
that will have no arms to whip me?

Mama drew my cot to the window
so I can look at the stars.
I will not look at the stars.
There is a black chimney
throwing up sparks
and one tall flame
like gold hair in a blaze....
I know now
what I shall do....
I will set fire to him
and he will burn up into a tall flame--
he will scream into the sky
and sparks will fly out of him--
he will burn and burn...
and his blazing hair
shall light up the world.

     :  :

Before he hit me--
I knew he was going to--
I thought about Jude....
I thought if he'd fight...
but he shriveled all up...
he lay down like a fear.

Mama never knew about Jude.
You always wanted to tell her,
but somehow you never did.
You were afraid she'd smile
and say he wasn't real--
that he was only a little dream-boy,
because the grass didn't fall down under his feet....
He is fading now....
He is just lines... like a drawing....
You can see mama in between.
When she moves
she rubs some of him out.



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.



That was a great night we spied upon
See-sawing home,
Singing a hot sweet song to the super-stars
Shuffling off behind the smoke-haze...
Fog-horns sentimentalizing on the river...
Lights dwindling to shining slits
In the wet asphalt...
Purring lights... red and green and golden-whiskered...
Digging daintily pointed claws in the soft mud...
... But you did not know...
As the trains made golden augers
Boring in the darkness...
How my heart kept racing out along the rails,
As a spider runs along a thread
And hauls him in again
To some drawing point...
You did not know
How wild ducks' wings
Itch at dawn...
How at dawn the necks of wild ducks
Arch to the sun
And new-mown air
Trickles sweet in their gullets.


As water, cleared of the reflection of a bird
That has lately flown across it,
Yet trembles with the beating of its wings,
So my soul... emptied of the known you... utterly...
Is yet vibrant with the cadence of the song
You might have been....
'Twas a great night...
With never a waste look over a shoulder
Curved to the crook of the wind...
And a great word we threw
For memory to play knuckles with...
A word the waters of the world have washed,
Leaving it stark and without smell...
A world that rattles well in emptiness: Good-by.


I have a dream
to fill the golden sheath
of a remembered day....
heavy and massed and blue
as the vapor of opium...
fired in sulphurous mist...
quiescent as a gray seal...
and the emerging sun
spurting up gold
over Sydney, smoke-pale, rising out of the bay....)
But the day is an up-turned cup
and its sun a junk of red iron
guttering in sluggish-green water--
where shall I pour my dream?


I wonder
how it would be here with you,
where the wind
that has shaken off its dust in low valleys
touches one cleanly,
as with a new-washed hand,
and pain
is as the remote hunger of droning things,
and anger
but a little silence
sinking into the great silence.


You have been good to me....
You have not made yourself too dear
to juggle with.


Indigo bulb of darkness
Punctured by needle lights
Through a fissure of brick canyon shutting out stars,
And a sliver of moon
Spigoting two high windows over the West river....

Boy, I met to-night,
Your eyes are two red-glowing arcs shifting with my vision....
They reflect as in a fading proof
The deadened eyes of a woman,
And your shed virginity,
Light as the withered pod of a sweet pea,
Moist and fragrant
Blows against my soul.
What are you to me, boy,
That I, who have passed so many lights,
Should carry your eyes
Like swinging lanterns?


Radiant notes
piercing my narrow-chested room,
beating down through my ceiling--
smeared with unshapen
belly-prints of dreams
drifted out of old smokes--
trillions of icily
peltering notes
out of just one canary,
all grown to song
as a plant to its stalk,
from too long craning at a sky-light
and a square of second-hand blue.

Silvery-strident throat--
so assiduously serenading my brain,
flinching under
the glittering hail of your notes--
were you not safe behind... rats know what thickness of... plastered wall...

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