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Muriel Rukeyser

(December 15, 1913 – February 12, 1980 / New York City)

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St. Roach


For that I never knew you, I only learned to dread you,
for that I never touched you, they told me you are filth,
they showed me by every action to despise your kind;
for that I saw my people making war on you,
I could not tell you apart, one from another,
for that in childhood I lived in places clear of you,
for that all the people I knew met you by
crushing you, stamping you to death, they poured boiling
water on you, they flushed you down,
for that I could not tell one from another
only that you were dark, fast on your feet, and slender.
Not like me.
For that I did not know your poems
And that I do not know any of your sayings
And that I cannot speak or read your language
And that I do not sing your songs
And that I do not teach our children
to eat your food
or know your poems
or sing your songs
But that we say you are filthing our food
But that we know you not at all.

Yesterday I looked at one of you for the first time.
You were lighter that the others in color, that was
neither good nor bad.
I was really looking for the first time.
You seemed troubled and witty.

Today I touched one of you for the first time.
You were startled, you ran, you fled away
Fast as a dancer, light, strange, and lovely to the touch.
I reach, I touch, I begin to know you.

Submitted: Monday, January 20, 2003

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Read poems about / on: food, childhood, people, today, war, children, water, time, dark, death, light, poem, song, child, running

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Comments about this poem (St. Roach by Muriel Rukeyser )

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  • Rookie - 356 Points Juan Olivarez (1/11/2012 8:13:00 AM)

    Tell me who you associate with, and I will know you. What a dirty woman you must have been Muriel. Creepy poem too advocating Sainthood for a roach, disgusting. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie Carolynn Shaw (11/7/2007 1:30:00 PM)

    Muriel,

    How sad, how shameful we are. Cruel in our habits and traditions. You shame me, you shame us - no, you show us our shame and allow us to breathe. Thank you for this poem.

    Respectfully,
    Carolynn (Report) Reply

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