Letter to the Front: Calling on Muriel Rukeyser

I just returned from my communities gathering for women on my town square. I carried the Collected Poems of Muriel Rukeyser with me as I walked around the square. I am calling on the spirit of Rukeyser. I am claiming her as my ancestor. I am asking her to help us battle the war on meaning that is being waged.

Dear Ancestor Muriel,

I am calling on you to help us hold space for carrying meaning. The powers that be want meaning to have no one willing to carry it. As brother William Stafford says, they want: "the parade of our mutual life get lost in the dark." But, You Muriel have a fierceness held by spirit, matter, sex, voice, words, life, that carries with a power that is not afraid of that darkness. Be with us now Muriel. Help us find that underground river. Help us wrestle for places in our communites.

Thank you,

Andrew, The American Death Party





Women and poets see the truth arrive.

Then it is acted out,

The lives are lost, and all the newsboys shout.


Horror of cities follows, and the maze

Of compromise and grief.

The feeble cry Defeat be my belief.


All the strong agonized men

Wear the hard clothes of war,

Try to remember what they are fighting for.


But in the dark weeping helpless moments of peace

Women and poets believe and resist forever:

The blind inventor finds the underground river.



Even during the war, moments of delicate peace

Arrive; ceaseless the water ripples, love

Speaks through the river in its human voices.

Through every power to affirm and heal

The unknown world suggests the air and golden

Familiar flowers, and the brief glitter of waves,

And dreams, and leads me always to the real.

Even among these calendars of fire.

Sings: There is much to fear, but not our power.

The stars turn over us; let us not fear the many.

All mortal intricacies tremble upon this flower.

Let us not fear the hidden.  Or each other.

We are alive in an hour whose burning face

Looks into our death, death of our dear wish.

And time that will be eating away our flesh

Gives us this moment when blue settles on rose

And evening suddenly seems limitless silver.

The cold wind streaming over the cold hill-grasses

Remembers and remembers.  Mountains lift into night.

And I am remembering the face of peace.


I have seen a ship lying upon the water

Rise like a great bird, like a lifted promise.



They called us to a change of heart

But it was not enough.

Not half enough, not half enough

For all their bargaining and their art.


After the change of heart there comes

The savage waste of battlefield;

The flame of that wild battlefield

Rushes in fire through our rooms.


The heart that comes to know its war

When gambling powers try for place

Must live to wrestle for a place

For every burning human care:


To know a war begins the day

Ideas of peace are bargained for.

Surrender and death are bargained for-

Peace and belief must fight their way.


Begin the day we change and so

Open the spirit to the world.

Wars of the spirit in the world

Make us continually know

We fight continually to grow.



-Muriel Rukeyser