Thursday, April 30, 2009

Haymarket Lit for May Day (1)

From poet Kenneth Rexroth, this 1942 poem. Chicago's Waldheim Cemetery houses the graves of the Haymarket Martyrs as well as those of Lucy Parsons, who lived on for nearly 60 years after her husband Albert was hanged and never flagged in her revolutionary activism, Emma Goldman, and Elizabeth Gurley Flynn.


"Light upon Waldheim"
--Voltairine de Cleyre on the Haymarket martyrs

How heavy the heart is now, and every heart
Save only the word drunk, power drunk
Hard capsule of the doomed. How distraught
Those things of pride, the wills nourished in the fat
Years, fed in the kindly twilight of the books
In gold and brown, the voices that had little
To live for, crying for something to die for.
The philosophers of history,
Of dim wit and foolish memory,
The giggling concubines of catastrophe —
Who forget so much — Boethius’ calm death,
More’s sweet speech, Rosa’s broken body —
Or you, tough, stubby recalcitrant
Of Fate.

Now in Waldheim where the rain
Has fallen careless and unthinking
For all an evil century’s youth,
Where now the banks of dark roses lie,
What memory lasts, Emma, of you,
Or of the intrepid comrades of your grave,
Of Piotr, of “mutual aid,”
Against the iron clad flame throwing
Course of time?
Your stakes were on the turn
Of a card whose face you knew you would not see.

You knew that nothing could ever be
More desperate than truth; and when every voice
Was cowed, you spoke against the coalitions
For the duration of the emergency —
In the permanent emergency
You spoke for the irrefutable
Coalition of the blood of men.