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Lola Ridge (Лола Ридж)

Frank Little at Calvary


He walked under the shadow of the Hill
Where men are fed into the fires
And walled apart...
Unarmed and alone,
He summoned his mates from the pit's mouth
Where tools rested on the floors
And great cranes swung
Unemptied, on the iron girders.
And they, who were the Lords of the Hill,
Were seized with a great fear,
When they heard out of the silence of wheels
The answer ringing
In endless reverberations
Under the mountain...

So they covered up their faces
And crept upon him as he slept...
Out of eye-holes in black cloth
They looked upon him who had flung
Between them and their ancient prey
The frail barricade of his life...
And when night--that has connived at so much--
Was heavy with the unborn day,
They haled him from his bed...

Who might know of that wild ride?
Only the bleak Hill--
The red Hill, vigilant,
Like a blood-shot eye
In the black mask of night--
Dared watch them as they raced
By each blind-folded street
Godiva might have ridden down...
But when they stopped beside the Place,
I know he turned his face
Wistfully to the accessory night...

And when he saw--against the sky,
Sagged like a silken net
Under its load of stars--
The black bridge poised
Like a gigantic spider motionless...
I know there was a silence in his heart,
As of a frozen sea,
Where some half lifted arm, mid-way
Wavers, and drops heavily...

I know he waved to life,
And that life signaled back, transcending space,
To each high-powered sense,
So that he missed no gesture of the wind
Drawing the shut leaves close...
So that he saw the light on comrades' faces
Of camp fires out of sight...
And the savor of meat and bread
Blew in his nostrils... and the breath
Of unrailed spaces
Where shut wild clover smelled as sweet
As a virgin in her bed.

I know he looked once at America,
Quiescent, with her great flanks on the globe,
And once at the skies whirling above him...
Then all that he had spoken against
And struck against and thrust against
Over the frail barricade of his life
Rushed between him and the stars...


Life thunders on...
Over the black bridge
The line of lighted cars
Creeps like a monstrous serpent
Spooring gold...

Watchman, what of the track?

Night... silence... stars...
All's Well!


(Breaking mists...
Hills gliding like hands out of a slipping hold...)
Light over the pit mouths,
Streaming in tenuous rays down the black gullets of the Hill...
(The copper, insensate, sleeping in the buried lode.)
Forcing the clogged windows of arsenals...
Probing with long sentient fingers in the copper chips...
Gleaming metallic and cold
In numberless slivers of steel...
Light over the trestles and the iron clips
Of the black bridge--poised like a gigantic spider motionless--
Sweet inquisition of light, like a child's wonder...
Intrusive, innocently staring light
That nothing appals...

Light in the slow fumbling summer leaves,
Cooing and calling
All winged and avid things
Waking the early flies, keen to the scent...
Green-jeweled iridescent flies
Unerringly steering--
Swarming over the blackened lips,
The young day sprays with indiscriminate gold...

Watchman, what of the Hill?

Wheels turn;
The laden cars
Go rumbling to the mill,
And Labor walks beside the mules...
All's Well with the Hill!

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

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