Voltairine de Cleyre, “Written in Red”

soldaderas

This is U.S. anarchist Voltairine de Cleyre’s final poem (1911), written about the social-revolutionary efforts being prosecuted in Mexico at the end of her life.

WRITTEN—IN—RED

To Our Living Dead in Mexico’s Struggle

Written in red their protest stands,
For the Gods of the World to see;
On the dooming wall their bodiless hands
Have blazoned “Upharsin”; and flaring brands
Illumine the message: “Seize the lands!
Open the prisons and make [people] free!”
Flame out the living words of the dead
Written—in—red.

Gods of the World! Their mouths are dumb!
Your guns have spoken and they are dust.
But the shrouded Living, whose hearts were numb,
Have felt the beat of a wakening drum
Within them sounding–the Dead Men’s tongue—
Calling: “Smite off the ancient rust!”
Have beheld “Resurrexit,” the word of the Dead,
Written—in—red.

Bear it aloft, O roaring flame!
Skyward aloft, where all may see.
Slaves of the World! Our cause is the same;
One is the immemorial shame;
One is the struggle, and in One name—
[Humankind]—we battle to set [humanity] free.
“Uncurse us the Land!” burn the words of the Dead,
Written—in—red.

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