In Harness

A poem by Lola Ridge

I

The foreman's head
slowly circling...
White rims
under yellow disks of eyes....
Gold hairs
starting out of a blond scowl...
Hovering... disappearing... recurring...
the foreman's head.

Droning of power-machines...
droning of girl with adenoids...
Arms flapping with a fin-like motion
under sun burning down through a sky-light like a glass lid.
Light skating on the rims of wheels...
boring in gimlet points.
Needles flickering
fierce white threads of light
fine as a wasp's sting.
Light in sweat-drops brighter than eyes
and calico-pallid faces
and bodies throwing off smells -
and the air a bloated presence pressing on the walls
and the silence a compressed scream.

Allons enfants de la patrie -
Electric... piercing... shrill as a fife
the voice of a little Russian
breaks out of the shivered circle.
Another voice rises... another and another
leaps like flame to flame.
And life - surging, clamorous, swarming like a rabble
crazily fluttering ragged petticoats -
comes rushing back into torpid eyes
like suddenly yielded gates.

The girl with adenoids
rocks on her hams.
A torrent of song
strains at her throat,
gurgles, rushes, gouges her blocked pipes.
Her feet beat a wild tattoo -
head flung back and pelvis lifting
to the white body of the sun.
Mates now, these two -
goddess and god....
Marchons!

Only the power machines drone
with metallic docility
under the flaxen head of the foreman
poised like an amazed gull.

II

To-day
little French merchant men
with pointed beards
and fat American merchant men
without any beards
drive to a feast of buttered squabs.
The band... accoutered and neatly caparisoned...
plays the Marseillaise....
And I think of a wild stallion... newly caught...
flanks yet taut and nostrils spread
to the smell of a racing mare,
hitched to a grocer's cart.

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