These Men are Revolution

By Edwin Rolfe, c. 1936*

These men are revolution, who move
in spreading hosts across the globe
(this part which is America), who love
fellow men, earth, children, labor
of hands, and lands fragrant under the sun
and rain, and fruit of man’s machinery.

These men are revolution even as
trees are wind and leaves upon them
trembling in a pattern which was
quiet a minute past, silent on stem,
immovable; just as all still things
grow animate like bow-stirred violin strings.

The power in men and leaves and all
things changeable is not within themselves
but in their million counterparts–the full
accumulation. These the world resolves
into men moving, becoming revolution
surely as blown seed takes root, flowers in sun.

These men are millions and their numbers
grow in milltowns, flow from coastlines,
buzz with the saws in lumber forests, rise
in cities, fields, to set the signal blaze.

Boys fresh from classrooms, their professors,
bid farewell to books read well and loved,
join the hard climb, pick up friend on the way,
to a rarer earth attuned to a newer day.

And soldiers down rifles as workingmen gather
in cities, on squares, at the most dismal corners;
no mourners, but grim with the task of the hour,
the conquest of industry, Soviet power!

Come brother–millhand–miner–friend–
we’re off! and we’ll see the thing through to the end.
Nothing can stop us, not cannon not dungeon
nor blustering bosses, their foremen and gunmen.

We will return to our books some day,
to sweetheart and friend, new kinship and love,
to our tools, to the lathe and tractor and plow
when the battle is over–but there’s fighting on now!

The tidal wave flowed first against the coast,
swept the Pacific, burst on Louisiana’s gulf
bordering Mexico, and workmen’s hearts glowed
with the fire of the fight.

The news spread eastward, dinned in Minnesota;
men wanted bread who strode across wheat fields.
Hands left the steering wheel, vehicle stalled
before filled granaries.

And southward: dusk-skinned men in Alabama
paralyzed plantation, joined with white brother,
emptied the mine shaft, silenced the clang
of pickaxe probing for ore.

Montana miners remembering Dunne
struck Anaconda, Rockefeller, copper;
and Foster’s spirit in Pittsburgh, Gary, Youngstown,
swooped over steel mill.

Soon there will be no line on any map
nor color to mark procession, mean “Mine, stay off.”
Brother, friend–and you, boss!–the tidal wave
sweeps coast to awakened coast.

You who would move, live freely among men,
regain lost grandeur, dignity and all
the varied riches of your worried toil;
observe America today: its fields
plowed under, trampled underfoot; its wide
avenues blistered by sun and poison gas,
its men grown reckless of bayonet and gun.
Regard the legion in your midst who hide,
hands twitching and empty, in hovels and see
their eyes grown dry, impotent of tears…

Charter the next airplane, cross the continent,
see under you the colors of the map changing
as rivers crack the earth and bleak hills bulge,
their shadows darkening unlovely barren fields.

Heavy dust hugs the dry exhausted pastures;
chimney smoke rising from factory bears
the agonized sweat of driven men, it carries
the poison gas, it grasps their coughed-up lungs.
Their blood is dust now borne into the air–
the huge dark menacing cloud above our land.

Circling the tall peaks I dreamed I saw
your face, beloved, turned on levelled plains.
Clouds burst about you, fresh rain streamed
down mountainside, fed parched earth, bore
strength to shrivelled root, food to burned tree,
swept drought of midsummer sun and autumn rot away.
Fields ripened to fragrance and the world’s wealth
turned soil aside, gleamed in the new kernel
till kinder sun speared cloud and earth returned
to joy, florescence in the harvest-dawn.

The plane zoomed under dust-cloud and I knew
this was mere mirage, saw dream as dream
but in it prophecy. Turned toward the real:
men fallen on field and wharf, shot down
at mine gate, trodden under horse’s hoof.
Bullet in back, betrayer, jowled misleader
dealt death and sorrow, mangled limbs and tears
at empty chairs at frugal empty tables;
in a hundred beds the warm comforting body
sweet at your side at midnight, gone…

O you who would live, revive the natural love
of man for fellow man for earth for toil;
commemorate these fallen men anonymous;
retrieve from rigid hands their strength, desire,
their vision from glazed eye, from dying brain their fire.
Mark the compass-toe–their last footprint–
and follow through! Precision now is needed
in limb, in sight, certainty in the heart.
Give meaning to these slain! Call no halt, sound
the siren for a new striving, now clear, defined.

The line leaps forward on a hundred fields,
like molten steel to momentary molds
throughout America. The multimass learns
how desperate and doomed the enemy is,
how sure its own ascendant growing power.
Clear-eyed, alert, the stalwart legion grows
to recognize the imminent bright hour,
inevitable now. And time can but delay–
never impede–the winning of the world
by men for mankind. See approach the day
when millions merge and banner is unfurled!

Now the army moves, marks time, gives blow
for blow, sustains slain, shivers in retreat;
advances, counters thrust–and now moves… slow…
with lives, encounters lost. But never defeat.

*Red Patriot Editor’s Note: This poem was written in the 1930s, regarding the terminology “These Men are Revolution,” which today applies to every one, gender-neutral.