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The Ghetto and Other Poems   By: (1883-1941)

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The Ghetto

Lola Ridge


Will you feast with me, American People? But what have I that shall seem good to you!

On my board are bitter apples And honey served on thorns, And in my flagons fluid iron, Hot from the crucibles.

How should such fare entice you!


The Ghetto Manhattan Broadway Flotsam Spring Bowery Afternoon Promenade The Fog Faces Debris Dedication The Song of Iron Frank Little at Calvary Spires The Legion of Iron Fuel A Toast "The Everlasting Return," Palestine The Song To the Others Babel The Fiddler Dawn Wind North Wind The Destroyer Lullaby The Foundling The Woman with Jewels Submerged Art and Life Brooklyn Bridge Dreams The Fire A Memory The Edge The Garden Under Song A Worn Rose Iron Wine Dispossessed The Star The Tidings

The larger part of the poem entitled "The Ghetto" appeared originally in THE NEW REPUBLIC and some of poems were printed in THE INTERNATIONAL, OTHERS, POETRY, etc. To the editors who first published the poems the author makes due acknowledgment.



Cool, inaccessible air Is floating in velvety blackness shot with steel blue lights, But no breath stirs the heat Leaning its ponderous bulk upon the Ghetto And most on Hester street...

The heat... Nosing in the body's overflow, Like a beast pressing its great steaming belly close, Covering all avenues of air...

The heat in Hester street, Heaped like a dray With the garbage of the world.

Bodies dangle from the fire escapes Or sprawl over the stoops... Upturned faces glimmer pallidly Herring yellow faces, spotted as with a mold, And moist faces of girls Like dank white lilies, And infants' faces with open parched mouths that suck at the air as at empty teats.

Young women pass in groups, Converging to the forums and meeting halls, Surging indomitable, slow Through the gross underbrush of heat. Their heads are uncovered to the stars, And they call to the young men and to one another With a free camaraderie. Only their eyes are ancient and alone...

The street crawls undulant, Like a river addled With its hot tide of flesh That ever thickens. Heavy surges of flesh Break over the pavements, Clavering like a surf Flesh of this abiding Brood of those ancient mothers who saw the dawn break over Egypt... And turned their cakes upon the dry hot stones And went on Till the gold of the Egyptians fell down off their arms... Fasting and athirst... And yet on...

Did they vision with those eyes darkly clear, That looked the sun in the face and were not blinded Across the centuries The march of their enduring flesh? Did they hear Under the molten silence Of the desert like a stopped wheel (And the scorpions tick ticking on the sand...) The infinite procession of those feet?


I room at Sodos' in the little green room that was Bennie's With Sadie And her old father and her mother, Who is not so old and wears her own hair.

Old Sodos no longer makes saddles. He has forgotten how. He has forgotten most things even Bennie who stays away and sends wine on holidays And he does not like Sadie's mother Who hides God's candles, Nor Sadie Whose young pagan breath puts out the light That should burn always, Like Aaron's before the Lord.

Time spins like a crazy dial in his brain, And night by night I see the love gesture of his arm In its green greasy coat sleeve Circling the Book, And the candles gleaming starkly On the blotched paper whiteness of his face, Like a miswritten psalm... Night by night I hear his lifted praise, Like a broken whinnying Before the Lord's shut gate.

Sadie dresses in black. She has black wet hair full of cold lights And a fine drawn face, too white. All day the power machines Drone in her ears... Continue reading book >>

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