detail from Labels for Hair Ribbons by Manuel Ocampo a delectable selection of oriental appetizers
Saturday, November 23, 2002

: . 'Mother Poet':

Ruth Stone's latest book of poems, In the Next Galaxy, was named the winner of this year's National Book Award for Poetry only a few hours after I checked it out of the library, read it, and posted a few poems from it for everyone to enjoy. Here are three more poems from the same book:

    In the government offices the rules and regulations
    regarding the erosion of beaches move from one file to another.
    The sand whispers back into the undertow.
    At the South Pole, part of the frozen continent splits
    and melts, eating into the ice pack.
    Along the Eastern Seaboard a house on the ocean
    is liften on stilts. It walks into the water.
    The piles driven deep into the sand are at last exposed,
    their thin bones fragile as tiny starfish.
    The windows, blank eyes of dead seagulls,
    catch the phosphorescence in the choppy waves.
    The waves are as even as furrows in a cornfield.
    But the house is moving in the opposite direction.
    How mild the evening is. No one would suppose
    that the house is going out with the tide.


    When you come back to me
    it will be crow time
    and flycatcher time,
    with rising spirals of gnats
    between apple trees.
    Every weed will be quadrupled,
    coarse, welcoming
    and spine-tipped.
    The crows, their black flapping
    bodies, their long calling
    toward the mountain;
    relatives, like mine,
    ambivalent, eye-hooded;
    hooting and tearing.
    And you will take me in
    to your fractal meaningless
    babble; the quick of my mouth,
    the madness of my tongue.

    The Poem

    Exactly at three PM
    it came walking in
    with blocks of wood in its arms.
    I was building a table on the patio.
    Could I refuse?
    The wood smelled of mold,
    old saw cuts, sawdust.
    It began in the arteries, rushing.
    Words without words.
    Looking down I saw last year's leaves
    in pockets and nests of humus
    between the flagstones.
    The warblers and thrushes sang
    clear of the maggots.
    Everything knew
    it was too soon to die.
    Even the old maple
    that had been struck by lightning.
    Then it passed by
    like a cold breath.

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