Quotations from Muriel Rukeyser

Muriel Rukeyser (1913-1980)

The books I am quoting from are both paper backs, published by McGraw-Hill and I assume NYC, but they list multiple cities.

1. The Gates; Poems by Muriel Rukeyser, divided into two sections; section one includes poems and section two, The Gates, a long poem subtitled Scaffolding, with 15 poems, using the first line as the title on the contents page. Copyright 1976, 1975, 1974 by Muriel Rukeyser, no specific publishing date.

2. The Collected Poems of Muriel Rukeyser, first published in 1978, paperback edition, 1982

Quotations from poems:

“She said, ‘When the door opens, of sensuality,
then you will understand it, too. The struggle begins.
Never again to be free of it,
often you will feel it to be your enemy.
you will almost suffocate,
such joy it brings.'”
From Kathe Kollwitz by Muriel Rukeyser
Book #2, page 481

(Originally appeared in The Speed of Darkness, 1968, and is part of the fourth section titled Lives.)

“Give us ourselves and we risk everything,
Walking into our life.”
From The Wards; St. George’s Hospital, Hyde Park Corner
Book #1, page 39

“Never mind, Muriel.
Life will come will come again
knocking and coughing and farting at your door.”

From The Gates, #11 Long ago, soon after my son’s birth.
Book #1, p. 105



I braced the drum to my arm, a flat drum, and began to
He heard me and she heard me. I had never seen this
drum before.
As I played, weakness went through me; weakness left me.
I held my arms high, the drum and the soft-headed
long stick
I drummed past my tiredness vibrating weakness, past
it into music,
As in ragas past exhaustion into the country of all music.

Held my arms high, became that vibration, drummed the
sacrifice of my belly.
He heard me, she heard me,
I turned into the infinity figure, reaching down into
the earth of music with my legs at last, Reaching up from the two circles, my pelvic sea,
mountains and air of breast, with my arms up into
At last turned into music, drumming on that possessed
Drumming my dream.

Book #1, p.5


O for God’s sake
they are connected

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

Book #1, p.17


My large back tooth, without a mate for years,
At last has been given one. The dentist ground her down
A bit. She had been growing wild, nothing to meet her,
Keep her sane.
Now she fits the new one, they work together, sleep together,
She is a little diminished by functioning, all night all day.

Book #1, p.65

A note about Muriel:
Now I realize that my format for the bubble blower drawings was related to her poetry organization. She grouped them under titles within titles and some had no title except the first line. She used quotes from friends and other people in her poetry. Her directness and modesty was such an influence on me in the 70’s. She also wrote several childrens’ books includingBubbles. I wasn’t aware of it until the 1990’s.