Maxwell Bodenheim

To a Revolutionary Girl

Published: The New Masses, April 23, 1934.
Transcribed: Sally Ryan for in 2001.

Violets peer out in streaks
On the covered ribs
Of hills, and meet the air
In a million trembling
Lips on fields throughout the world:
Stretch along the highways,
Small and mighty in the drip of rain:
Dot the base of mountains,
Equal purpose in disguise:
Signal friendship
To the rocks,
Take the darkness
From cave-outlets
And ravines –

You are a girl,
A revolutionist, a worker
Sworn to give the last, undaunted jerk
Of your body and every atom
Of your mind and heart
To every other worker
In the slow, hard fight
That leads to barricade, to victory
Against the ruling swine.
Yet, in the softer regions of your heart,
The shut-off, personal, illogical
Disturbance of your mind,
You long for crumpled 'kerchiefs, notes
Of nonsense understood
Only by a lover.
Long for colors on your dresses,
Ribboned sleeves, unnecessary buttons:
Bits of laughter chased and never
Dying: challenge of a hat
Buoyant over hair.
Youth and sex, distinctions
Still unmarred by centuries of pain,
Will not be downed, survive
In spite of hunger, strikes, and riot-guns,
Sternness in the ranks.
We frown upon your sensitive demands:

We do not like romance
In our present time – to us
It reeks of flowered screens
Over garbage-cans, of pretty words
Bringing hollowness, not flesh,
To every skeleton.
It stamps the living death of Hollywood,
The tactics of a factory
Shipped in boxes round, price-marked
With lying sweetness, trivial
Melodrama doping eyes and ears.
And yet romance, expelled from actual life,
Sneak back in middle age,
Impossible in groan and taunt.
Their gilt on top, mould underneath, Revolt us –

But you are a girl.
Your problem cannot be denied.
In the Russia of the past
Women once pinned flowers
To their shoulders, chained to lovers
Flogged by snarling guards
In the exile of Siberia,
And in the Russia of today
Men and women, proud of working-hours,
Sturdy, far from blood-steeped tinsel,
Take their summer vacations
On the steppes, in cleaner games,
In flowers, pledgers, loyalties,
Clear-growing, inevitable,
Deepening in their youth.
Steal, for an hour, now and then,
To your time of violets, the hope
Of less impeded tenderness
In a freedom yet to come,
Then fold it in your heart for unapparent,
Secretly unyielding strength
On every picket-line throughout the world,
Revolutionary girl.