Originally published in Beast in View (1944)
Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision!
Joel III : 14
His life is in the body of the living.
When they hanged him the first time, his image leaped
into the blackened air. His grave was the floating faces
of the crowd, and he refusing them release
rose open-eyed to autumn, a fanatic
beacon of fierceness leaping to meet them there,
match the white prophets of the storm,
the streaming meteors of the war.
Dreaming Ezekiel, threaten me alive!
Voices: Why don’t you rip up that guitar?
Or must we listen to those blistering strings?
The trial of heroes follows their execution. The striding
wind of nations with new rain, new lightning,
destroyed in magnificent noon shining straight down
the fiery pines. Brown wanted freedom. Could not himself be free
until more grace reached a corroded world. Our guilt his own.
Under the hooded century drops the trap—
There in October’s fruition-fire three
tall images of him, Brown as he stood on the ground,
Brown as he stood on sudden air, Brown
standing to our fatal topmost hills
faded through dying altitudes, and low
through faces living under the dregs of the air,
deprived childhood and thwarted youth and change:
fantastic sweetness gone to rags
and incorruptible anger blurred by age.
Compel the steps of lovers, watch them lie silvery
attractive in naked embrace over the brilliant gorge,
and open them to love: enlarge their welcome
to sharp-faced countrysides, vicious familiar windows
whose lopped-off worlds say I am promise, holding
stopgap slogans of a thin season’s offering,
false initials, blind address, dummy name—
enemies who reply in smiles; mild slavers; moderate whores.
There is another gorge to remember, where soldiers give
terrible answers of lechery after death.
Brown said at last, with a living look,
“I designed to have done the same thing
again on a larger scale.” Brown sees his tree
grow in the land to lead these mountains.
Not mountains, but men and women sleeping.
O my scene! My mother!
America who offers many births.
Over the tier of barriers, compel the connected steps
past the attacks of sympathy, past black capitals,
to arrive with horizon sharpness, marching
in quick embrace toward people
faltering among hills among the symptoms of ice,
small lights of the shifting winter, the rapid snow-blue stars.
This must be done by armies. Nothing is free.
Brown refuses to speak direct again,
“If I tell them the truth,
they will say I speak in symbols.”
White landscapes emphasize his nakedness
reflected in counties of naked who shiver at fires,
their backs to the hands that unroll worlds around them.
They go down the valleys. They shamble in the streets,
Blind to the sun-storming image in their eyes.
They dread the surface of their victim life,
lying helpless and savage in shade parks,
asking the towers only what beggars dare:
food, fire, water, and air.
Spring: the great hieroglyph : the mighty, whose first hour
collects the winter invalids, whose cloudless
pastures train swarms of mutable apple-trees
to blond delusions of light, the touch of whiter
more memorable breasts each evening, the resistant
male shoulders riding under sold terrible eyes.
The soldier-face persists, the victorious head
asks, kissing those breasts, more miracles—
Untarnished hair! Set them free! “Without the snap of a gun—”
More failures—but the season is a garden after sickness;
Then the song begins,
“The clearing of the sky
brings fulness to heroes—
Call Death out of the city
and ring the summer in.”
Whether they sleep alone. Whether they understand darkness
of mine or tunnel or store. Whether they lay branches
with skill to entice their visions out of fire.
Whether she lie awake, whether he walk in guilt
down padded corridors, leaving no fingerprints.
Whether he weaken searching for power in papers,
or shut out every fantasy but the fragile eyelid to
They believe in their dreams.
They more and more, secretly, tell their dreams.
They listen oftener for certain words, look deeper
in faces for features of one remembered image.
They almost forget the face. They cannot miss the look.
It waits until faces have gathered darkness,
and country guitars a wide and subtle music.
It rouses love. It has mastered its origin:
Death was its method. It will surpass its
furious birth when it is known again.
Dreaming Ezekiel, threaten me alive!
Greengrown with sun on it. All the living summer.
They tell their dreams on the cool hill reclining
after a twilight daytime painting machines on the sky,
the spite of tractors and the toothless cannon.
Slaves under factories deal out identical
gestures of reaching—cathedral-color-rose
resumes the bricks as the brick walls lean
away from the windows, blank in bellwavering air,
a slave’s mechanical cat’s-claw reaping sky.
The cities of horror are down. These are called born,
and Hungry Hill is a farm again.
I know your face, deepdrowned
prophet, and seablown eyes.
Darkflowing peoples. A tall tree, prophet, fallen,
your arms in their flesh laid on the mountains, all
your branches in the scattered valleys down.
Your boughs lie broken in channels of the land,
dim anniversaries written on many clouds.
There is no partial help. Lost in the face of a child,
lost in the factory repetitions, lost
on the steel plateaus, in a ghost distorted.
Calling More Life. In all the harm calling.
Pointing disaster of death and lifting up the bone,
heroic drug and the intoxication gone.
I see your mouth calling
before the words arrive.
Buzz of guitars repeat it in streamy
summernoon song, the whitelight of the meaning
changed to demand. More life, challenging
this hatred, this Hallelloo—risk it upon yourselves.
Free all the dangers of promise, clear the image
of freedom for the body of the world.
After the tree is fallen and has become the land,
when the hand in the earth declined rises and touches and
after the walls go down and all the faces turn,
the diamond shoals of eyes demanding life
deep in the prophet eyes, a wish to be again
threatened alive, in agonies of decision
part of our nation of our fanatic sun.
© Muriel Rukeyser