Muriel Rukeyser

(December 15, 1913 – February 12, 1980 / New York City)

Gauley Bridge


Camera at the crossing sees the city
a street of wooden walls and empty windows,
the doors shut handless in the empty street,
and the deserted Negro standing on the corner.

The little boy runs with his dog
up the street to the bridge over the river where
nine men are mending road for the government.
He blurs the camera-glass fixed on the street.

Railway tracks here and many panes of glass
tin under light, the grey shine of towns and forests:
in the commercial hotel (Switzerland of America)
the owner is keeping his books behind the public glass.

Postoffice window, a hove of private boxes,
the hand of the man who withdraws, the woman who
reaches her hand
and the tall coughing man stamping an envelope.

The bus station and the great pale buses stopping for
food;
April-glass-tinted, the yellow-aproned waitress;
coast-to-coast schedule on the plateglass window.

The man on the street and the camera eye:
he leaves the doctor’s office, slammed door, doom,
any town looks like this one-street town.

Glass, wood, and naked eye: the movie-house
closed for the afternoon frames posters streaked with
rain,
advertise “Racing Luck” and “Hitch-Hike Lady”.

Whistling, the train comes from a long way away,
slow, and the Negro watches it grow in the gray air,
the hotel man makes a note behind his potted palm.

Eyes of the tourist house, red-and-white filing station,
the eyes of the Negro, looking down the track,
hotel-man and hotel, cafeteria, camera.

And in the beerplace on the other sidewalk
always one’s harsh night eyes over the beerglass
follow the waitress and the yellow apron.

The road flows over the bridge,
Gamoca pointer at the underpass,
opposite, Alloy, after a block of town.

What do you want – a cliff over a city?
A foreland, sloped to sea and overgrown with roses?
These people live here.

Submitted: Thursday, December 15, 2011

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