Home > Uncategorized > International Women’s Day and Muriel Rukeyser 3/8/10

International Women’s Day and Muriel Rukeyser 3/8/10

Although little celebrated in the United States, March 8 is International Women’s Day (IWD). IWD is a celebration of the economic, political, and social achievements of women. The founders of IWD wanted a celebration of working women of all countries, including support for the right of women to vote. That was not accomplished then in some countries.

The holiday has been celebrated for 99 years. It started in 1911 as a Socialist holiday. Over the years, its appeal broadened and it is widely celebrated around the world. In 1975, the U.N. officially recognized IWD. Next year will be the IWD centennial.

In recognition of IWD, I wanted to highlight the poetry of the feminist and leftist poet, Muriel Rukeyser.  Rukeyser was a particular favorite of my sister Lisa. Many moons ago, we went to see Rukeyser read. I still remember her wonderful reading of her poem “Ballad of Orange and Grape”.

It is absurd that a great poet like Rukeyser is a mass culture unknown. We are surrounded by dreck. Rukeyser should be widely known. She has a large body of work and it is hard for me to decide on a favorite poem to cite. My sister loved “Effort At Speech Between Two People” and she read it to me many times. Since I can’t decide, I will include two poems, “Coney Island” and “Yes”.

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 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.

Coney Island

Coney Island, Coney island,
No need to let me know,
No need to tell me so
I need you now to show me…

Some.   Show me what’s under the counter,
           Show me what’s under your skin,
           Show me the way to get out
           And I’ll show you the way to get in.

Others. Show me life, show me lives, people in dives,
           Show me yells, show me smells, and grimy hotels,
           Clams, yams, lobster and shrimps,
           Sand, candy, panders and pimps,
           Show me bim, show me bam, bamboozle me,
           Booze me and use me and foozle me,
           Show me rides, show me slides, people in tides,
           Show me money, show me funny, show me the sea,
                                                             You, show, me.

Houdini and Beatrice. Let me see,
                              Let me feel,
                              Let me know what is real,
                              Let me bel-


It’s like a tap-dance
Or a new pink dress,
A shit-naive feeling
Saying Yes

Some say Good morning
Say say God bless–
Some say Possibly
Some say Yes.

Some say Never
Some say Unless
It’s stupid and lovely
To rush into Yes.

What can it mean?
It’s just like life,
One thing to you
One to your wife.

Some go local
Some go express
Some can’t wait
To answer Yes.

Some complain
Of strain and stress
Their answer may be
No for Yes.

Some like failure
Some like success
Some like Yes Yes
Yes Yes Yes.

Open your eyes,
Dream but don’t guess.
Your biggest surprise
Comes after Yes.

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