Lola Ridge 1873 – 1941

(Shadows over a cradle…
  fire-light craning….
  A hand
  throws something in the fire
  and a smaller hand
  runs into the flame and out again,
  singed and empty….
  settling over a cradle…
  two hands
  and a fire.)



Cherry, cherry, glowing on the hearth, bright red cherry…. When you try to pick up cherry Celia's shriek sticks in you like a pin.

When God throws hailstones you cuddle in Celia's shawl and press your feet on her belly high up like a stool. When Celia makes umbrella of her hand. Rain falls through big pink spokes of her fingers. When wind blows Celia's gown up off her legs she runs under pillars of the bank— great round pillars of the bank have on white stockings too.

  Celia says my father
  will bring me a golden bowl.
  When I think of my father
  I cannot see him
  for the big yellow bowl
  like the moon with two handles
  he carries in front of him.

  Grandpa, grandpa…
  (Light all about you…
  ginger… pouring out of green jars…)
  You don't believe he has gone away and left his great coat…
  so you pretend… you see his face up in the ceiling.
  When you clap your hands and cry, grandpa, grandpa, grandpa,
  Celia crosses herself.

It isn't a dream…. It comes again and again…. You hear ivy crying on steeples the flames haven't caught yet and images screaming when they see red light on the lilies on the stained glass window of St. Joseph. The girl with the black eyes holds you tight, and you run… and run past the wild, wild towers… and trees in the gardens tugging at their feet and little frightened dolls shut up in the shops crying… and crying… because no one stops… you spin like a penny thrown out in the street. Then the man clutches her by the hair…. He always clutches her by the hair…. His eyes stick out like spears. You see her pulled-back face and her black, black eyes lit up by the glare…. Then everything goes out. Please God, don't let me dream any more of the girl with the black, black eyes.

Celia's shadow rocks and rocks… and mama's eyes stare out of the pillow as though she had gone away and the night had come in her place as it comes in empty rooms… you can't bear it— the night threshing about and lashing its tail on its sides as bold as a wolf that isn't afraid— and you scream at her face, that is white as a stone on a grave and pull it around to the light, till the night draws backward… the night that walks alone and goes away without end. Mama says, I am cold, Betty, and shivers. Celia tucks the quilt about her feet, but I run for my little red cloak because red is hot like fire.

  I wish Celia
  could see the sea climb up on the sky
  and slide off again…
  …Celia saying
  I'd beg the world with you….
  Celia… holding on to the cab…
  hands wrenched away…
  wind in the masts… like Celia crying….
  Celia never minded if you slapped her
  when the comb made your hairs ache,
  but though you rub your cheek against mama's hand
  she has not said darling since….
  Now I will slap her again….
  I will bite her hand till it bleeds.
  It is cool by the port hole.
  The wet rags of the wind
  flap in your face.



  Because you are four years old
  the candle is all dressed up in a new frill.
  And stars nod to you through the hole in the curtain,
  (except the big stiff planets
  too fat to move about much,)
  and you curtsey back to the stars
  when no one is looking.
  You feel sorry for the poor wooden chair
  that knows it isn't nice to sit on,
  and no one is sad but mama.
  You don't like mama to be sad
  when you are four years old,
  so you pretend
  you like the bitter gold-pale tea—
  you pretend
  if you don't drink it up pretty quick
  a little gold-fish
  will think it is a pond
  and come and get born in it.

It's hot in our street and the breeze is a dirty little broom that sweeps dust into our room and bits of paper out of the alley. You are not let to play with the children in the alley But you must be very polite— so you pass them and say good day and when they fling banana skins you fling them back again.

There is no one to play with and the flies on the window buzz and buzz… …you can pull out their legs and stick pins in their bodies but still they buzz… and mama says: When Nero was a little boy he caught flies on his mama's window and pulled out their legs and stuck pins in their bodies and nobody loved him. Buzz, blue-bellied flies— buzz, nasty black wheel of mama's machine— you are the biggest fly of all— you have the loudest buzz. I hear you at daw
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Submitted on May 13, 2011


Lola Ridge

Lola Ridge was an anarchist poet and an influential editor of avant-garde feminist and Marxist publications best remembered for her long poems and poetic sequences She along with other political poets of the early Modernist period has been coming under increasing critical scrutiny at the beginning of the twenty-first century more…

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