Poems by Ruth Stone
In the Next Galaxy
In the Next Galaxy
Things will be different.
No one will lose their sight,
their hearing, their gallbladder.
It will be all Catskills with brand
new wrap-around verandas.
The idea of Hitler will not have vibrated yet.
While back here,
they are still cleaning out
pockets of wrinkled
Nazis hiding in Argentina.
But in the next galaxy,
certain planets will have true
blue skies and drinking water.
For me the great truths are laced with hysteria.
How many Einsteins can we tolerate?
I leap into the uncertainty principle.
After so many smears, you want to wash it off with a laugh.
Ha ha, you say. So what if it's a meltdown?
Last lines to poems I will write immediately.
Words make the thoughts.
Severe tyrants, like the scrubbers
and guardians of your cells.
They herd your visions
down the ramp to nexus
waiting with sledge hammer
to knock what is the knowing
without knowing into knowledge.
Yes, the tight bag of grammar,
syntax, the clever sidestep
from babble, is a comfortable
prison. A mirror of the mirror.
And all that is uttered in its chains
is locked out from the secret.
Wallace Stevens says,
"A poet looks at the world
as a man looks at a woman."
I can never know what a man sees
when he looks at a woman.
That is a sealed universe.
On the outside of the bubble
everything is stretched to infinity.
Along the blacktop, trees are bearded as old men,
like rows of nodding gray-bearded mandarins.
Their secondhand beards were spun by female gypsy moths.
All mandarins are trapped in their images.
A poet looks at the world
as a woman looks at a man.
It is spring when the storks return.
They rise from storied roofs.
In the quick winter afternoon
you lie on your bed
with a library book close to your face,
your body on a single bed,
and the storks rise
with the sound of a lifted sash.
You know without looking
that a servant girl
is leaning out in the soft foreign air.
A slow spiral of smoke
from green firewood
is reflected in her eyes.
She moves down an outside stair
absently driving the poultry.
The storks are standing on the roof.
The girl wraps her hands in her apron.
Small yellow flowers
have clumped among the tussocks
of coarse grass.
She listens with her mouth open
to something you cannot hear.
Your body is asleep.
She does not know a cavalry is coming
on a mud-rutted road,
and men with minds like ferrets
are stamping their heavy boots
along the pages.
NOT EXPECTING AN ANSWER
This tedious letter to you,
what is one Life to another?
We walk around inside our bags,
sucking it in, spewing it out.
Then the insects, swarms heavier
than all the animals of the world.
Then the flycatchers on the clothesline,
like seiners leaning from Flemish boats
when the seas were roiled with herring.
This long letter in my mind,
calligraphy, feathery asparagus.
Here is not exactly here
because it passed by there
two seconds ago;
where it will not come back.
Although you adjust to this-
it's nothing, you say,
just the way it is.
How poor we are,
with all this running
through our fingers.
"Here," says the Devil,
"Eat. It's Paradise."
Always on the Train
Writing poems about writing poems
is like rolling bales of hay in Texas.
Nothing but the horizon to stop you.
But consider the railroad's edge of metal trash;
bird perches, miles of telephone wires.
What is so innocent as grazing cattle?
If you think about it, it turns into words.
Trash is so cheerful; flying up
like grasshoppers in front of the reaper.
The dust devil whirls it aloft; bronze candy wrappers,
squares of clear plastic--windows on a house of air.
Below the weedy edge in last year's mat,
red and silver beer cans.
In bits blown equally everywhere,
the gaiety of flying paper
and the black high flung patterns of flocking birds.
The abandoned campus,
empty brick buildings and early June
when you came to visit me;
crossing the states midway,
the straggled belts of little roads;
hitchhiking with your portable typewriter.
The campus, an academy of trees,
under which some hand, the wind's I guess,
had scattered the pale light
of thousands of spring beauties,
petals stained with pink veins;
secret, blooming for themselves.
We sat among them.
Your long fingers, thin body,
and long bones of improbable genius;
some scattered gene as Kafka must have had.
Your deep voice, this passing dust of miracles.
That simple that was myself, half conscious,
as though each moment was a page
where words appeared; the bent hammer of the type
struck against the moving ribbon.
The light air, the restless leaves;
the ripple of time warped by our longing.
There, as if we were painted
by some unknown impressionist.
This Strangeness in My Life
It is so hard to see where it is,
but it is there even in the morning
when the miracle of shapes
assemble and become familiar,
but not quite; and the echo
of a voice, now changed,
utterly dissociated, as though
all warmth and shared sweetness
had never been. It is this alien
space, not stark as the moon,
but lush and almost identical
to the space that was. But it is not.
It is another place and you are not
what you were but as though emerging
from the air, you slowly show yourself
as someone else, not ever remembered.
Repetition of Words and Weather
A basket of dirty clothes
spills all day long
down the mountain
beating the rocks
with a horrible washer-woman's cry.
Now two riders go by
horseback on the dirt road.
Young women talking of antique latches,
blind to the dirty linen,
smells of urine, bedsores,
bowels of old women
left on their backs,
fat and lye,
lies of doctoring men.
Strange weather mid-summer
is summer spent.
I open a book of poems.
All lies on the psalter, I say,
the dead are silent.
The riders come back
chatting like birds.
What would I not give
to return that way.
Their horses trot in a break
of sunlight over the road.
And I think, what's done is done.
It won't be changed with words.
When you come back to me
it will be crow time
and flycatcher time,
with rising spirals of gnats
between the apple trees.
Every weed will be quadrupled,
The crows, their black flapping
bodies, their long calling
toward the mountain;
relatives, like mine,
hooting and tearing.
And you will take me in
to your fractal meaningless
babble; the quick of my mouth,
the madness of my tongue.