She wrote, “What would happen if one woman told the truth about he life?/ The world would split open.” Well, we are telling the truth, and the world is splitting open. The title of the all-time most popular anthology of women’s poetry, No More Masks, also comes form Muriel. For me, she is awesome as a poet of social conscience because she lived her radical political convictions, and was ready to go to jail for them, as well as writing about sex, pregnancy , nursing—all those taboo subjects. Here is a poem of hopeful idealism and the fear that it is never enough. A devastating poem for our time.
I lived in the first century of world wars.
Most mornings I would be more or less insane.
The news would pour out of various devices
The newspapers would arrive with their careless stories,
Interrupted by attempts to sell products to the unseen.
I would call my friends on other devices;
They would be more or less mad for similar reasons.
Slowly I would get to pen and paper,
Make my poems for others unseen and unborn.
In the day I would be reminded of those men and women,
Brave, setting up signals across vast distances,
Considering a nameless way of living, of almost unimagined values.
As the lights darkened, as the lights of night brightened,
We would try to imagine them, try to find each other,
To construct peace, to make love, to reconcile
Waking with sleeping, ourselves with each other,
Ourselves with ourselves. We would try by any means
To reach the limits of ourselves, to reach beyond ourselves,
To let go the means, to wake.
I lived in the first century of these wars.