East River

- 1873-1941

Dour river 
Jaded with monotony of lights 
Diving off mast heads….
Lights mad with creating in a river... turning its sullen back.... 
Heave up, river…
Vomit back into the darkness your spawn of light… 
The night will gut what you give her. 

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.)

Celia

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.

Related Poems

Listening in the Dark

Even in this light, I can see
your want. A gulley appears

in the hard bare field between
those fenced brows & opens

into shallow beds tilled from temple
to temple as if the glut of a flood

had been swallowed to reveal
the land’s contour underneath.

Habit—or hurt—has made
your surface smooth (its true

smallholding kept submerged)
& I drink of this drought

like I’m told a new calf gasps
for air when its muzzle is cleaned

of that which had only just
kept it subsisting. Is it still

synesthesia if I have no choice
but to use my eyes as ears? You

laugh then, your teeth fitted
around the steady static grumble

of the sea below us, your eyes
a yes or no question I’ve waited

seasons to seed. Operator, are you
there? My hands have never been

so pleased to be my mouth, so
my mouth can be other things.

The moon is a sickle that swings
despite the plow’s augured return

& in my fingers is your name
I plant again & again in the ground.

The Fish

wade
through black jade.
       Of the crow-blue mussel-shells, one keeps
       adjusting the ash-heaps;
              opening and shutting itself like

an
injured fan.
       The barnacles which encrust the side
       of the wave, cannot hide
              there for the submerged shafts of the

sun,
split like spun
       glass, move themselves with spotlight swiftness
       into the crevices—
              in and out, illuminating

the
turquoise sea
       of bodies. The water drives a wedge
       of iron through the iron edge
              of the cliff; whereupon the stars,

pink
rice-grains, ink-
       bespattered jelly fish, crabs like green
       lilies, and submarine
              toadstools, slide each on the other.

All
external
       marks of abuse are present on this
       defiant edifice—
              all the physical features of

ac-
cident—lack
       of cornice, dynamite grooves, burns, and
       hatchet strokes, these things stand
              out on it; the chasm-side is

dead.
Repeated
       evidence has proved that it can live
       on what can not revive
              its youth. The sea grows old in it.

Searching for Light

translated by Julia Sanches

The light retires to the lamp
and suddenly all is dark again
who out there has caught the night-moth
and instructs it in shadow?

After countless drills
the torn-winged moth
no longer knows how to fly
and trails through the twilight
crawling snail-slow
toward the light.