Celia

- 1873-
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.

More by Lola Ridge

Wall Street at Night

Long vast shapes... cooled and flushed through with darkness...
Lidless windows
Glazed with a flashy luster
From some little pert café chirping up like a sparrow.
And down among iron guts
Piled silver
Throwing gray spatter of light... pale without heat...
Like the pallor of dead bodies.

Sun-Up

(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...,
Shadows
settling over a cradle...
two hands
and a fire.)

Mother

Your love was like moonlight
turning harsh things to beauty,
so that little wry souls
reflecting each other obliquely
as in cracked mirrors . . .
beheld in your luminous spirit
their own reflection,
transfigured as in a shining stream,
and loved you for what they are not.

You are less an image in my mind
than a luster
I see you in gleams
pale as star-light on a gray wall . . .
evanescent as the reflection of a white swan
shimmering in broken water.

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Troncated juvenility	
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Union in severity	
Modulation	
Intimidation	
Pride of misapprehended preparation	
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Anæmic jawed	
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Here am I in lilac print	        
Preposterously no less than the world flesh and devil	
Having no more idea what those are	
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Parallel lines	
An old man	
Eyeing a white muslin girl's school	
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I am for ever bewildered	
Old men are often grown greedy—	
What nonsense	
It is noon	        
And salvation's seedlings	
Are headed off for the refectory.