Lola Ridge ( )


When you tell mama
you are going to do something great
she looks at you
as though you were a window
she were trying to see through,
and says she hopes you will be good
instead of great.

When you are five years old
you spend the day in the Gardens.
The grass is greener than cabbages,
and orange lilies
stand up very straight
and will not curtsey to the sun
when the wind tells them.
Only pansies bow down very low.
Pansies make little purple cushions
for queen bees to stand on.
have brown silk hair on their bodies.
If you are careful
they will let you stroke them.

The trees over the marble man
catch up all the sunbeams
so the shadows have it their way
the shadows swallow him up
like a blue shark.
When you scoop a sunbeam up on your palm
and offer it to the marble man,
he does not notice
he looks into his stone beard.
 When you do something great
people give you a stone face,
so you do not care any more
when the sun throws gold on you
through leaf-holes the wind makes
in green bushes.
This thought makes me very sad.

Jude has eyes like tobacco
with yellow specks on it
and his hair is red as a red orange.
Jude and I
have made a garden in the field
that no one knows about.
We creep in and out
through a little place
where the barbed wire is down.
We lie in the long grass
and crush dandelions
between our two cheeks
till the milk comes out on our faces.
We hold each other tight
and the wind tip-toes all over us
and pelts us with thistle-down.

Jude isnt afraid of shadows
not even of the ones that have eyes in them.
And he can look in the face of the sun
without blinking at all.
Hush! dont say sun so loud.
The sun gets angry when you stare at him.
If you peek in his glory-windows
he spreads into a great white flame
like God out of his Burning Bush
till you put your hands up on your face
and tremble like a drop of rain upon a flower
that some one throws into the fire
and then
the sun makes himself small,
the sun swings down out of the sky
littlern a star,
little as a spark
little as a fierce red spider
on a burning thread
and then
the light goes out
shivers into blackened bits.
You hold on to a wall that whirls around
and the gate is a black hole.
You grope your way in like a toad
thats blinded by a stone
and mama puts on cold wet rags
that get hot soon.
Hush! dont lets talk about the sun.

When you pass by the ditch where Janie is
You run very fast
and look at the other side.
Jude says Janie did love me
only she couldnt forgive me,
and that you can love people very much
and never, never, never forgive them.
so we poked a stick in the bottle-green water.
But only weeds came up
and an old top with the paint washed off.

Jude and I
wave to the new moon
curled right up like one gold hair
on the bald-head sandhill.
Mama peeps out the window and smiles.
She thinks
I am playing with myself
Run, Jude, run with the wind
but hold my hand tight
or the wind,
looking for some one to play with,
will take me away from you!
Wind with no one to play with
cooees the orange-trees
stay-at-home orange trees,
have to nurse oranges,
Wind shouts to the grass
tugs at its roots,
but the earth holds tight
and the grass falls down
and wind boos over it.
Wind whistles the bees
bees too busy
with taking home stuff out of flowers
wont look back
bees always going somewhere.
Only Jude and I
heads over shoulders
watching all roads at one time
run with the wind,
going to nowhere.

Jude and I
were weeding our garden
when we heard his whip
must have been a new whip
to cut off dandelion-heads at one swing.
He was the kind of boy you knew when you had Celia.
with nice clothes on and curls
crawling about his collar
like little golden slugs,
and his man was leading his horse.
I wish I hadnt run to meet him.
If you hadnt run to meet him
he mightnt have trod on your garden and said:
Get out of my field you dirty little beggar
he mightnt have struck you with his whip.
How the daisies stared.
I hate daisies
stupid white faces
skinny necks
craning over the grass!
I said It is not your field,
and he struck me again.
But he didnt make me run.
His hand
smelled of sweet soap
he couldnt shake me off,
but his man did.
Funnyhow the sky fell down
and turned over and over
like a blue carpet rolling you up,
and the grass caught at your face
it couldnt have been spiteful
it must have been saving itself.
Hot road silly wind playing with your hair.
The road smelled of horses.
I only got up
when I heard a dray.

Mama has sung ba ba black sheep,
and put a chair with a cloth on it
between me and the light.
But the clock keeps saying:
Dirty little beggar,
dirty little beggar.
Some day
I will get that boy.
I will pull off his arms and legs
and put him in a box
and hide the box
under the bed.
I wonder
will he buzz
when I take him out to look at his body
that will have no arms to whip me?

Mama drew my cot to the window
so I can look at the stars.
I will not look at the stars.
There is a black chimney
throwing up sparks
and one tall flame
like gold hair in a blaze.
I know now
what I shall do.
I will set fire to him
and he will burn up into a tall flame
he will scream into the sky
and sparks will fly out of him
he will burn and burn
and his blazing hair
shall light up the world.

Before he hit me
I knew he was going to
I thought about Jude.
I thought if hed fight
but he shriveled all up
he lay down like a fear.

Mama never knew about Jude.
You always wanted to tell her,
but somehow you never did.
You were afraid shed smile
and say he wasnt real
that he was only a little dream-boy,
because the grass didnt fall down under his feet.
He is fading now.
He is just lines like a drawing.
You can see mama in between.
When she moves
she rubs some of him out.

Lola Ridge's other poems:
  1. Broadway
  2. East River
  3. Flotsam
  4. Brooklyn Bridge
  5. The Everlasting Return

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