19 April 2012

Muriel Rukeyser -- Effort at Speech Between Two People

I am not sure how I first discovered the work of Muriel Rukeyser - probably through her wonderful Life of Poetry (which reminds me - it's time to re-read that...again), and then to the poetry. The best place to start looking at her poetic work is probably the Adrienne Rich-edited Selected Poems from the Library of America's American Poets Project Series. It's also difficult not to think about Rich herself as she speaks about Rukeyser's "claiming her right to intellect and sexuality, poetry and science, Marxism and myth, activism and motherhood, theory and vision..."

Muriel Rukeyser (1913-1980)

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
   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 

:   Oh, grow to know me.    I am not happy.    I will be
   Now I am thinking of white sails against a sky like
   like glad horns blowing, and birds tilting, and an arm
         about me. 
   There was one I loved, who wanted to live, sailing.

 :  Speak to me.   Take my hand.   What are you now? 
   When I was nine, I was fruitily sentimental, 
   fluid   :    and my widowed aunt played Chopin, 
   and I bent my head to the painted woodwork, and wept. 
   I want now to be close to you.   I would 
   link the minutes of my days close, somehow, to your

 :  I am not happy.   I will be open. 
    I have liked lamps in evening corners, and quiet
   There has been fear in my life.   Sometimes I
   On what a tragedy his life was, really.

 :  Take my hand.    Fist my mind in your hand.   What
         are you now? 
   When I was fourteen, I had dreams of suicide, 
   and I stood at a steep window, at sunset, hoping
         toward death    :
   if the light had not melted clouds and plains to
   if light had not transformed that day, I would have
   I am unhappy. I am lonely. Speak to me.

 :  I will be open.    I think he never loved me: 
   he loved the bright beaches, the little lips of foam 
   that ride small waves, he loved the veer of gulls: 
   he said with a gay mouth: I love you.   Grow to
         know me.

 :  What are you now?   If we could touch one another, 
     if these our separate entities could come to grips, 
   clenched like a Chinese puzzle . . . yesterday 
   I stood in a crowded street that was live with people, 
   and no one spoke a word, and the morning shone. 
   Everyone silent, moving . . . Take my hand.
         Speak to me.


John K said...

A remarkable poem; how she manages the dialogic form, the shifts in registers, that "openness" that she refers to, without losing control, makes me marvel. She has so many great ones. One of the US's best, most original and daring, and sadly underrated poets.

Anonymous said...

This is THE POEM. So much in my blood. I made of a CENTO of it. http://lhdwriter.wordpress.com/2012/05/15/pressing-the-rabbit/
LOVE this poem.