Effort at Speech Between Two People

By Muriel Rukeyser 1913–1980 Muriel Rukeyser

:  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 rabbit
   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 happy.

:  Oh, grow to know me.        I am not happy.        I will be open:
   Now I am thinking of white sails against a sky like music,
   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 on 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 days.

:  I am not happy.          I will be open.
   I have liked lamps in evening corners, and quiet poems.
   There has been fear in my life.          Sometimes I speculate
   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 beauty,
   if light had not transformed that day, I would have leapt.
   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.

Muriel Rukeyser, “Effort at Speech Between Two People” from The Collected Poems of Muriel Rukeyser. Copyright © 2006 by Muriel Rukeyser. Reprinted by permission of International Creative Management.

Source: Out of Silence: Selected Poems (TriQuarterly Books, 2006)

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Poet Muriel Rukeyser 1913–1980

Subjects Living, Relationships, Social Commentaries, History & Politics, War & Conflict

Poetic Terms Free Verse

 Muriel  Rukeyser

Biography

Although poet Muriel Rukeyser often provoked a varying critical response to her work, there was never any doubt during her five-decade literary career that a resounding passion was on display. Of her first book, the award-winning collection Theory of Flight, W. R. Benet remarked in the Saturday Review of Literature : "She is a radical politically, but she writes as a poet not a propagandist. When you hold this book in your hand . . .

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SUBJECT Living, Relationships, Social Commentaries, History & Politics, War & Conflict

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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