Olsen's "There is a Lesson"
Olsen's "There is a Lesson" is another incendiary poem. First appearing in the Daily Worker (5 March 1934) and reprinted in The Partisan (April 1934), the poem concerns the murdering of Austrian socialists by the fascist Dollfuss government:
Keep the children off the streets,
there is an alphabet written in blood
for them to learn,
there is a lesson thundered by collapsed
books of bodies.
They might be riddled bv the bullets
The deadly gas of revolution might
enter their lungs,
in the streets, the hazardous streets.
In a week, in a month, let them out
of their corners
it will be safe then ... (safe Dollfuss?
safe Bauer and Seitz?
there is a volume written with three
thousand bodies that can never
there is a sentence spelled by the
grim faces of bereaved women,
there is a message, inescapable, that
vibrates the air with voices of
heroes who shouted it to the last:
"Down with Fascism!
Down with Social Democracy!
Long live our Soviets")
Keep them off the streets, Dollfuss,
It will quiver your fat heart with terror
The alphabet written in blood out there
that children are learning.
Return to Tillie Olsen