The Poem as Mask

Muriel Rukeyser - 1913-1980

Orpheus

When I wrote of the women in their dances and 
      wildness, it was a mask,
on their mountain, god-hunting, singing, in orgy,
it was a mask; when I wrote of the god,
fragmented, exiled from himself, his life, the love gone
      down with song,
it was myself, split open, unable to speak, in exile from
      myself.
	  
There is no mountain, there is no god, there is memory
of my torn life, myself split open in sleep, the rescued
      child
beside me among the doctors, and a word
of rescue from the great eyes.

No more masks! No more mythologies!

Now, for the first time, the god lifts his hand,
the fragments join in me with their own music.

More by Muriel Rukeyser

The Conjugation of the Paramecium

This has nothing
to do with
propagating

The species
is continued
as so many are
(among the smaller creatures)
by fission

(and this species
is very small
next in order to
the amoeba, the beginning one)

The paramecium
achieves, then,
immortality
by dividing

But when
the paramecium
desires renewal
strength another joy
this is what 
the paramecium does:

The paramecium
lies down beside
another paramecium

Slowly inexplicably
the exchange
takes place
in which
some bits
of the nucleus of each
are exchanged

for some bits 
of the nucleus
of the other

This is called
the conjugation of the paramecium.

Painters

In the cave with a long-ago flare
a woman stands, her arms up. Red twig, black twig, brown twig.
A wall of leaping darkness over her.
The men are out hunting in the early light
But here in this flicker, one or two men, painting
and a woman among them.
Great living animals grow on the stone walls,
their pelts, their eyes, their sex, their hearts,
and the cave-painters touch them with life, red, brown, black,
a woman among them, painting.