Sons Of Belial

Poem By Lola Ridge


We are old,
Old as song.
Before Rome was
Or Cyrene.
Mad nights knew us
And old men's wives.
We knew who spilled the sacred oil
For young-gold harlots of the town….
We knew where the peacocks went
And the white doe for sacrifice.

We were the Sons of Belial.
One black night
Centuries ago
We beat at a door
In Gilead….
We took the Levite's concubine
We plucked her hands from off the door….
We choked the cry into her throat
And stuck the stars among her hair….
We glimpsed the madly swaying stars
Between the rhythms of her hair
And all our mute and separate strings
Swelled in a raging symphony….
Our blood sang paeans
All that night
Till dawn fell like a wounded swan
Upon the fields of Gilead.

We are old….
Old as song….
We are dumb song.
(Epics tingled
In our blood
When we haled Hypatia
Over the stones
In Alexandria.)
Could we loose
The wild rhythms clinched in us….
March in bands of troubadours….
We would be of gentle mood.
When Christ healed us
Who were dumb—
When he freed our shut-in song—
We strewed green palms
At his pale feet…
We sang hosannas
In Jerusalem.
And all our fumbling voices blent
In a brief white harmony.
(But a mightier song
Was in us pent
When we nailed Christ
To a four-armed tree.)

We are young.
When we rise up with singing roots,
(Warm rains washing
Gutters of Berlin
Where we stamped Rosa… Luxemburg
On a night in spring.)
Rhythms skurry in our blood.
Little nimble rats of song
In our feet run crazily
And all is dust… we trample… on.
Mad nights when we make ritual
(Feet running before the sleuth-light…
And the smell of burnt flesh
By a flame-ringed hut
In Missouri,
Sweet as on Rome's pyre….)
We make ropes do rigadoons
With copper feet that jig on air….
We are the Mob….
Old as song.
Tyre knew us
And Israel.

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