Give Me Love Or Nothing

muriel-rukeyser
Muriel Rukeyser (1913 – 1980)

Islands

O for God’s sake
they are connected
underneath

They look at each other
across the glittering sea
some keep a low profile

Some are cliffs
The Bathers think
islands are separate like them

-Muriel Rukeyser

I’m Really Very Fond of You

by Alice Walker

I’m really very fond of you,
he said.

I don’t like fond.
It sounds like something
you would tell a dog.

Give me love,
or nothing.

Throw your fond in a pond,
I said.

But what I felt for him
was also warm, frisky,
moist-mouthed,
eager,
and could swim away.

if forced to do so.


Give me love or nothing; there’s a sentiment I can agree with.   Muriel Rukeyser was a professor at Sarah Lawrence College and a mentor of Alice Walker.  I also agree with Walker, Rukeyser is an under appreciated poet of the 20th Century.  Sometimes greatness is not in what we produce as art.  Rukeyser produced lots of great art, but she also produced greatness by her  example, by her teaching or by her encouragement. Alice Walker was deeply inspired by Rukeyser as a mentor, feminist, thinker and artist.  As Black History Month comes to a close on this leap year day February 29th, take a leap backwards with me from Walker to Rukeyser.  Walker, who is by her very nature well spoken, has some profound insights into poetry in the video below.  I highly recommend taking a few minutes and watching it.


Song, The World is Full of Loss

by Muriel Rukeyser

The world is full of loss; bring, wind, my love,
   .            ,  my home is where we make our meeting-place,
        .       .  and love whatever I shall touch and read
     .         .  within that face.

Lift, wind, my exile from my eyes;
 .        .  peace to look, life to listen and confess,
       .      freedom to find to find to find
     .       . that nakedness.

Sistered Wishes Beat These Walls

Rekeyeser
Muriel Rukeyser (1913 – 1980)

If there were no poetry on any day in the world, poetry would be invented on that day….For there would be an intolerable hunger.

Muriel Rukeyser

Sonnet

by Muriel Rukeyser

My thoughts through yours refracted into speech
transmute this room musically tonight,
the notes of contact flowing, rhythmic, bright
with an informal art beyond my single reach.

Outside, dark birds fly in a greening time :
wings of our sistered wishes beat these walls :
and words afflict our minds in near footfalls
approaching with latening hour’s chime.

And if an essential thing has flown between us,
rare intellectual bird of communication,
let us seize it quickly : let our preference
choose it instead of softer things to screen us
each from the other’s self : muteness or hesitation,
nor petrify live miracle by our indifference.


Intolerable hungers pervade us and we somehow are surprised that this is so?   Look around at nature, intolerable hungers are everywhere, we intellectualize them as instinct but tell that to the salmon spawning upstream, returning from the deep ocean to the very river of their creation.  It is an intolerable hunger that propels them up water falls.

Intolerable hunger comes in all shapes and sizes, as many different kinds as there are people and species on the planet.   There are the common everyday hungers of sustenance, sex, vocation, communion and connection.   Then there are the uniquely personal intolerant foibles that define ourselves as a unique human being, a subset of one, on a planet of 7 billion.

What intolerable hunger propels you?   How will you feed and nurture your hunger today?  What will bring you satisfaction and temporarily silence the ache for more?


Twenty One Love Poems

XIII

by Adrienne Rich

The rules break like a thermometer,
quicksilver spills across the charted systems,
we’re out in a country that has no language
no laws, we’re chasing the raven and the wren
through gorges unexplored since dawn
whatever we do together is pure invention
the maps they gave us were out of date
by years… we’re driving through the desert
wondering if the water will hold out
the hallucinations turn to simple villages
the music on the radio comes clear—
neither Rosenkavalier nor Götterdämmerung
but a woman’s voice singing old songs
with new words, with a quiet bass, a flute
plucked and fingered by women outside the law.