Video: Muriel Rukeyser reads “The Speed of Darkness”
Don Yorty says about this post:
I had never heard Muriel Rukeyser’s voice before I began to make a vimeo of her reading her poem The Speed of Darkness, a Caedmon recording. I had heard Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s voice, however, and while I edited the poem, listening to it over and over, I kept thinking it was Justice Sotomayor who was reading to me and not Muriel Rukeyser. I checked and found that both women were born and reared in the Bronx, although forty years apart, Rukeyser born in 1913 and Sotomayor in 1954; and though one came from Puerto Rican Catholic stock and one from European Jews, none of that makes any difference: it’s the Bronx that rules. Ah, the human voice and its locales. I hope you enjoy Muriel Rukeyser’s gentle Bronx prod as she reads her poem to you and takes you along.
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The Speed of Darkness
Whoever despises the clitoris despises the penis
Whoever despises the penis despises the cunt
Whoever despises the cunt despises the life of the child.
Resurrection music, silence, and surf.
No longer speaking
Listening with the whole body
And with every drop of blood
Overtaken by silence
But this same silence is become speech
With the speed of darkness.
Stillness during war, the lake.
The unmoving spruces.
Glints over the water.
Faces, voices. You are far away.
A tree that trembles.
I am the tree that trembles and trembles.
After the lifting of the mist
after the lift of the heavy rains
the sky stands clear
and the cries of the city risen in day
I remember the buildings are space
walled, to let space be used for living
I mind this room is space
this drinking glass is space
whose boundary of glass
lets me give you drink and space to drink
your hand, my hand being space
containing skies and constellations
carries the reaches of air
I know I am space
my words are air.
the man : act exact
woman : in curve senses in their maze
frail orbits, green tries, games of stars
shape of the body speaking its evidence
I look across at the real
vulnerable involved naked
devoted to the present of all I care for
the world of its history leading to this moment.
Life the announcer.
I assure you
there are many ways to have a child.
I bastard mother
there are many ways to be born.
They all come forth
in their own grace.
Ends of the earth join tonight
with blazing stars upon their meeting.
These sons, these sons
fall burning into Asia.
Time comes into it.
Say it. Say it.
The universe is made of stories,
not of atoms.
blazing beside me
you rear beautifully and up—
your thinking face—
erotic body reaching
in all its colors and lights—
your erotic face
colored and lit—
not colored body-and-face
but now entire,
colors lights the world thinking and reaching.
The river flows past the city.
Water goes down to tomorrow
making its children I hear their unborn voices
I am working out the vocabulary of my silence.
Big-boned man young and of my dream
Struggles to get the live bird out of his throat.
I am he am I? Dreaming?
I am the bird am I? I am the throat?
A bird with a curved beak.
It could slit anything, the throat-bird.
Drawn up slowly. The curved blades, not large.
Bird emerges wet being born
Begins to sing.
My night awake
staring at the broad rough jewel
the copper roof across the way
thinking of the poet
yet unborn in this dark
who will be the throat of these hours.
No. Of those hours.
Who will speak these days,
if not I,
if not you?
Muriel Rukeyser (1913-1980)