Death Ray

by Lola Ridge

Lola Ridge


There is that in the air, an imminence Of things that hold the breath still and
heart pale; Nought that the mind affirms, but a fey sense Illumines, and goes
dark. Can it avail
For men to follow what but dreams have had In high and secret places—the dim
That Zarathustra blew on and went mad.

Was this the gleam that Jesus sought by night, When he walked, veiled . . . in
glamorous dim light Washed, as a white goat before the slaughter . . .
And heard no sound save the soft rhythmic beat Upon the silken silence of his
Beautiful as gulls upon the water.


A joy is in the morning, veiled . . .
a light within a light . . .
now on the brick wall that burns to rose and all but pulsates, now a gleam
as of a white soaring bird
that eyes strain for and lose sight . . .
now in a nimbus as of steam,
surrounding a clear flame,

A joy floats in the morning, veiled . . .
a light within a light
that draws the trembling spirit like a seed . . .
a splendour in the morning, imminent,
a stirring at the quick
of some white palpitating core
of such intensity as might
burn up Manhattan like a reed.


Dawn is like a broken honeycomb
spilling over the waxen edges of the clouds that drip with light . . .
spires, swarming up the mauve mist,
reach those rosy tips
like little pointed tongues
first about a shining platter,
and every window is a brazier
that cups the living gold.

Even the squat chimneys,
rooting heaven,
catch the sun upon their snouts
and keep it balancing.

Only my heart
like a splintered vase
is envious of the light
it cannot hold.


Balance a sunbeam as you would a jar
Filled with clear water where no waters are . . .
Let not slip silently back in the sun, There to be as in a field no more than one Of
many dandelions . . . this nuclear
Period set against the rushing hour
That holds there, motionless, the leaning sheer Stalk of its unfathomable flower.

Let pass into the night its shining band, So that they leave the covenant in your
hand Of lighted water, and the prideful calm
Of hilltops in most high untaken air:
Yet know that there shall cleave forever there A golden nailhead, burning in
your palm.

Last updated February 19, 2023