There are Roads to Take

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 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 againsta 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.    First my mind in your hand.       What are
      you now?
   When I was fourteen, I had a dreams of suicide,
   and I stood at a steep window, at sunset, hoping toward
      death   :
   if the light had not melted clouds and pains 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, from Theory of Flight (1935)

The Book of the Dead: The Road

These are roads to take when you think of your country
and interested bring down the maps again,
phoning the statistician, asking the dear friend,

reading the papers with morning inquiry.
Or when you sit at the wheel and your small light
chooses gas gauge and clock; and the headlights

indicate future of road, your wish pursuing 
past the junction, the fork, the suburban station,
well-travelled six-lane highway planned for safety.

Past your tall central city's influence,
outside its body: traffic, penumbral crowds,
are centers removed and strong, fighting for good reason.

These roads will take you into your own country.
Select the mountains, follow rivers back,
travel the passes. Touch West Virginia where

the Midland Trail leaves the Virginia furnace,
iron Clifton Forge, Covington iron, goes down
into the wealthy valley, resorts, the chalk hotel.

Pillars and fairway; spa; White Sulphur Springs.
Airport. Gay blank rich faces wishing to add
history to ballrooms, tradition to the first tee.

The simple mountains, sheer, dark-graded with pine
in the sudden weather, wet outbreak of spring,
crosscut by snow, wind at the hill's shoulder.

The land is fierce here, steep, braced against snow,
rivers and spring. KING COAL HOTEL, Lookout,
and swinging the vicious bend, New River Gorge.

Now the photographer unpacks camera and case,
surveying the deep country, follows discovery
viewing on groundglass an inverted image.

John Marshall named the rock (steep pines, a drop
he reckoned in 1812, called) Marshall's Pillar,
but later, Hawk's Nest. Here is your road, tying

you to its meanings: gorge, boulder, precipice.
Telescoped down, the hard and stone-green river
cutting fast and direct into the town.

-Muriel Rukeyser, from U.S. 1 (1938)
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