List Of Contents | Contents of Sun-Up and Other Poems, by Lola Ridge
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I might fathom
your golden delirium
with throttle of finger and thumb
shutting valve of bright song.


But if... away off... on a fork of grassed earth
socketing an inlet reach of blue water...
if canaries (do they sing out of cages?)
flung such luminous notes,
they would sink in the spirit...
lie germinal...
housed in the soul as a seed in the earth...
to break forth at spring with the crocuses into young smiles
     on the mouth.
Or glancing off buoyantly,
radiate notes in one key
with the sparkle of rain-drops
on the petal of a cactus flower
focusing the just-out sun.

Cactus... why cactus?
God... God...
somewhere... away off...
cactus flowers, star-yellow
ray out of spiked green,
and empties of sky
roll you over and over
like a mother her baby in long grass.
And only the wind scandal-mongers with gum trees,
pricking multiple leaves
at his amazing story.



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.


Small towns
Crawling out of their green shirts...
Tubercular towns
Coughing a little in the dawn...
And the church...
There is always a church
With its natty spire
And the vestibule--
That's where they whisper:
Tzz-tzz... tzz-tzz... tzz-tzz...
How many codes for a wireless whisper--
And corn flatter than it should be
And those chits of leaves
Gadding with every wind?
Small towns
From Connecticut to Maine:
Tzz-tzz... tzz-tzz...tzz-tzz...


Aren't there bigger things to talk about
Than a window in Greenwich Village
And hyacinths sprouting
Like little puce poems out of a sick soul?
Some cosmic hearsay--
As to whom--it can't be Mars! put the moon--that way....
Or what winds do to canyons
Under the tall stars...
Or even
How that old roué, Neptune,
Cranes over his bald-head moons
At the twinkling heel of a sky-scraper.


Out of fiery contacts...
Rushing auras of steel
Touching and whirled apart...
Out of the charged phallases
Of iron leaping
Female and male,
Complete, indivisible, one,
Fused into light.


Skyscrapers... remote, unpartisan...
Turning neither to the right nor left
Your imperturbable fronts....
Austerely greeting the sun
With one chilly finger of stone....
I know your secrets... better than all the policemen
     like fat blue mullet along the avenues.


Long vast shapes... cooled and flushed through with darkness....
Lidless windows
Glazed with a flashy luster
From some little pert cafe chirping up like a sparrow.
And down among iron guts
Piled silver
Throwing gray spatter of light... pale without heat...
Like the pallor of dead bodies.


Dour river
Jaded with monotony of lights
Diving off mast heads....
Lights mad with creating in a river... turning its sullen back...
Heave up, river...
Vomit back into the darkness your spawn of light....
The night will gut what you give her.



The earth is motionless
And poised in space...
A great bird resting in its flight
Between the alleys of the stars.
It is the wind's hour off....
The wind has nestled down among the corn....
The two speak privately together,
Awaiting the whirr of wings.


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.


infesting my half-sleep...
did you enter my wound from another wound
brushing mine in a crowd...
or did I snare you on my sharper edges
as a bird flying through cobwebbed trees at sun-up
carries off spiders on its wings?

running over my soul without sound,
only when dawn comes tip-toeing
ushered by a suave wind,
and dreams disintegrate
like breath shapes in frosty air,
I shall overhear you, bare-foot,
scatting off into the darkness....
I shall know you, secrets
by the litter you have left
and by your bloody foot-prints.


Do you remember
Honey-melon moon
Dripping thick sweet light
Where Canal Street saunters off by herself among quiet trees?
And the faint decayed patchouli--
Fragrance of New Orleans
Like a dead tube rose
Upheld in the warm air...
Miraculously whole.


Blow through me wind
As you blow through apple blossoms....
Scatter me in shining petals over the passers-by....
Joyously I reunite... sway and gather to myself....
Sedately I walk by the dancing feet of children--
Not knowing I too dance over the cobbled spring.
O, but they laugh back at me,
(Eyes like daisies smiling wide open),
And we both look askance at the snowed-in people
Thinking me one of them.





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.


(To E. S.)

You inevitable,
Unwieldy with enormous births,
Lying on your back, eyes open, sucking down stars,
Or you kissing and picking over fresh deaths...
Filth... worms... flowers...
Green and succulent pods...
Tremulous gestation
Of dark water germinal with lilies...
All in you from the beginning...
Nothing buried or thrown away...
Only the moon like a white sheet
Spread over the dead you carry.


(To H.)

Speeding gull
Passing under a cloud
Caught on his white back
You... drop of crystal rain.
Now you gleam softly triumphant
Folding immensities of light.


(To O. F. T.)

You have always gotten up after blows
And smiled... and shaken off the dust...
Only you could not shake the darkness
From off the bruised brown of your eyes.


(To E. A. R.)

Centuries shall not deflect
nor many suns
absorb your stream,
flowing immune and cold
between the banks of snow.
Nor any wind
carry the dust of cities
to your high waters
that arise out of the peaks
and return again into the mountain
and never descend.



We are old,
Old as song.
Before Rome was
Or Cyrene.
Mad nights knew us
And old men's wives.
We knew who spilled the sacred oil
For young-gold harlots of the town....
We knew where the peacocks went
And the white doe for sacrifice.


We were the Sons of Belial.
One black night
Centuries ago
We beat at a door
In Gilead....
We took the Levite's concubine
We plucked her hands from off the door....
We choked the cry into her throat
And stuck the stars among her hair....
We glimpsed the madly swaying stars
Between the rhythms of her hair
And all our mute and separate strings
Swelled in a raging symphony....
Our blood sang paeans
All that night
Till dawn fell like a wounded swan
Upon the fields of Gilead.


We are old....
Old as song....
We are dumb song.
(Epics tingled
In our blood
When we haled Hypatia
Over the stones
In Alexandria.)

Could we loose
The wild rhythms clinched in us....
March in bands of troubadours....
We would be of gentle mood.
When Christ healed us
Who were dumb--
When he freed our shut-in song--
We strewed green palms
At his pale feet...
We sang hosannas
In Jerusalem.
And all our fumbling voices blent
In a brief white harmony.
(But a mightier song
Was in us pent
When we nailed Christ
To a four-armed tree.)


We are young.
When we rise up with singing roots,
(Warm rains washing
Gutters of Berlin
Where we stamped Rosa... Luxemburg
On a night in spring.)
Rhythms skurry in our blood.
Little nimble rats of song
In our feet run crazily
And all is dust... we trample... on.

Mad nights when we make ritual
(Feet running before the sleuth-light...
And the smell of burnt flesh
By a flame-ringed hut
In Missouri,
Sweet as on Rome's pyre....)
We make ropes do rigadoons
With copper feet that jig on air....
We are the Mob....
Old as song.
Tyre knew us
And Israel.




The foreman's head
slowly circling...
White rims
under yellow disks of eyes....
Gold hairs
starting out of a blond scowl...
Hovering... disappearing... recurring...
the foreman's head.

Droning of power-machines...
droning of girl with adenoids...
Arms flapping with a fin-like motion
under sun burning down through a sky-light like a glass lid.
Light skating on the rims of wheels...
boring in gimlet points.
Needles flickering
fierce white threads of light
fine as a wasp's sting.
Light in sweat-drops brighter than eyes
and calico-pallid faces
and bodies throwing off smells--
and the air a bloated presence pressing on the walls
and the silence a compressed scream.

Allons enfants de la patrie--
Electric... piercing... shrill as a fife
the voice of a little Russian
breaks out of the shivered circle.
Another voice rises... another and another
leaps like flame to flame.
And life--surging, clamorous, swarming like a rabble
     crazily fluttering ragged petticoats--
comes rushing back into torpid eyes
like suddenly yielded gates.

The girl with adenoids
rocks on her hams.
A torrent of song
strains at her throat,
gurgles, rushes, gouges her blocked pipes.
Her feet beat a wild tattoo--
head flung back and pelvis lifting
to the white body of the sun.
Mates now, these two--
goddess and god....

Only the power machines drone
with metallic docility
under the flaxen head of the foreman
poised like an amazed gull.


little French merchant men
with pointed beards
and fat American merchant men
without any beards
drive to a feast of buttered squabs.
The band... accoutered and neatly caparisoned...
     plays the Marseillaise....
And I think of a wild stallion... newly caught...
flanks yet taut and nostrils spread
to the smell of a racing mare,
hitched to a grocer's cart.


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.


Can you see me, Sasha?
I can see you....
A tentacle of the vast dawn is resting on your face
that floats as though detached
in a sultry and greenish vapor.
I cannot reach my hands to you...
would not if I could,
though I know how warmly yours would close about them.
I do not know...
I have a sense of shame.
Your eyes hurt me... mysterious openings in the gray stone of your face
through which your spirit streams out taut as a flag
bearing strange symbols to the new dawn.

If I stay... projected, trembling against these bars filtering
     emaciated light...
will your eyes... that bore their lonely way through mine...
stop as at a friendly gate...
grow warm... and luminous?
... but I cannot stay... for the smell...
I know... how the days pass...
The prison squats
with granite haunches
on the young spring,
battened under with its twisting green...
and you... socket for every bolt
piercing like a driven nail.
Eyes stare you through the bars...
eyes blank as a graveled yard...
and the silence shuffles heavy dice of feet in iron corridors...
until the day... that has soiled herself in this black hole
to caress the pale mask of your face...
withdraws the last wizened ray
to wash in the infinite
her discolored hands.
Can you hear me, Sasha,
in your surrounded darkness?


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.


Warped... gland-dry...
With spine askew
And body shrunken into half its space...
Well-used as some cracked paving-stone...
Bearing on his grimed and pitted front
A stamp... as of innumerable feet.


Is it you I see go by the window, Jim Larkin--you not looking
     at me nor any one,
And your shadow swaying from East to West?
Strange that you should be walking free--you shut down without light,
And your legs tied up with a knot of iron.

One hundred million men and women go inevitably about their affairs,
In the somnolent way
Of men before a great drunkenness....
They do not see you go by their windows, Jim Larkin,
With your eyes bloody as the sunset
And your shadow gaunt upon the sky...
You, and the like of you, that life
Is crushing for their frantic wines.


Wind rising in the alleys
My spirit lifts in you like a banner streaming free of hot walls.
You are full of unspent dreams....
You are laden with beginnings....
There is hope in you... not sweet... acrid as blood in the mouth.
Come into my tossing dust
Scattering the peace of old deaths,
Wind rising in the alleys,
Carrying stuff of flame.

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