Muriel Rukeyser – Song for Dead Children

Song for Dead Children
By Muriel Rukeyser
We set great wreaths of brightness on the graves of the passionate
who required tribute of hot July flowers—
for you, O brittle-hearted, we bring offering
remembering how your wrists were thin and your delicate bones
not yet braced for conquering.

The sharp cries of ghost-boys are keen above the meadows,
and little girls continue graceful and wondering.
Flickering evening on the lakes recalls those young
heirs whose developing years have sunk to earth,
their strength not tested, their praise unsung.

Weave grasses for their childhood—who will never see
love or disaster or take sides against decay
balancing the choices of maturity.
Silent and coffined in silence while we pass
loud in defiance of death, the helpless lie.

October 1935

  • Muriel Rukeyser – Born on Dec 15 1913

    Kenneth Rexroth said that she was the greatest poet of her “exact generation”.
    Muriel Rukeyser was an American poet and political activist, best known for her poems about equality, feminism, social justice, and Judaism.

    (Photo via)

  • Portrait of Muriel by Richard Avedon

  • The violence and injustice she saw, in the United States and abroad, led her poetry to function as a mode of social protest. She felt a deep responsibility to comment on human issues and was particularly concerned with inequalities of sex, race and class. With her poems, she frequently documented her own emotional experiences within the context of a greater political or social event. She was a powerful visionary and her work reflects her wish for a greater world community united by love.

    A model of the poet as social activist – Muriel Rukeyser

    Hand of Muriel Rukeyser Photo by Berenice Abott
    (See Sylvia Beach by Berenice Abott)


    All the voices of the wood called “Muriel!”
    but it was soon solved; it was nothing, it was not for me.
    The words were a little like Mortal and More and Endure
    And a world like Real , a sound like Health or Hell.
    Then I saw what the calling was : it was the road I traveled,
    the clear
    time and these colors of orchards, gold behind gold and the full
    shadow begin each tree and behind each slope. Not to me
    the calling, but to anyone and at last I saw : where
    the road lay through sunlight and many voices and the marvel
    orchards, not for me, not for me, not for me.
    I cam into my clear being; uncalled, alive, and sure.
    Nothing was speaking to me, but I offered and all was well.

    And I arrived at the powerful green hill.