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Ruth Stone: Online Poems

Up There

Belshazzar saw this blue
as he came into the walled garden,
though outside all was yellow
sunlight striking the fractals of sand,
the wind striating the sand in riffles.

Land changes slowly, the fathoms
overhead accruing particles,
reflecting blue or less blue.

Vapor, a transient thing; a dervish
seen rising in a whirl of wind
or brief cloud casting its changing shadow;
though below, the open-mouthed might stand
transfixed by mirage, a visionary oasis.

Nevertheless, this deep upside down
wash, water color, above planted gardens,
tended pomegranates, rouged soles of the feet
of lovers lounging in an open tent;
the hot blue above; the hareem
tethered and restless as the camels.

This quick vision between walls, event,
freak ball, shook jar of vapor,
all those whose eyes were not gouged out,
have looked up and seen within the cowl
this tenuous wavelength.

Copyright 1997 by Ruth Stone. First published in Prairie Schooner 71: 1 (Spring 1997)
Online Source


Grandma lives in this town;
in fact all over this town.
Granpa's dead.
Uncle Heery's brain-dead,
and them aunts! Well!
It's grandma you have to contend with.
She's here - she's there!
She works in the fast food hangout.
She's doing school lunches.
She's the crossing guard at the school corner.
She's the librarian's assistant.
She's part-time in the real estate office.
She's stuffing envelopes.
She gets up at three A.M.
to go to the screw factory;
and at night she's at the business school
taking a course in computer science.
Now you take this next town.
Grandpa's laid out in the cemetery
and grandma's gone wild and bought a bus ticket
to Disneyland.
Uncle Bimbo's been laid up for ten years
and them aunts
are all cashiers in ladies' clothing
and grandma couldn't stand the sight of them
washing their hands and their hair
and their panty hose.
"It's Marine World for me" grandma says.

Copyright 1997 by Ruth Stone. First published in Prairie Schooner 71:1 (Spring 1997)
Online Source

The Ways of Daughters

My daughters are getting on.
They're in over their hips,
over their stretch marks.
Their debts are rising
and their faces are serious.

There are no great barns
or riding horses.
Only one of them has a washing machine.
Their old cars break
and are never fixed.

So what is this substance
that floods over them,
into which they wade
as if going out
to meet the Phoenicians?

And they have no nets
for those shifty looking sailors.
But when I look again,
my daughters are alone in their kitchens.
Each child sweats in its junior bed.

And my girls are painting their fingernails.
They are rubbing lotions
on their impatient hands. This year
they are staining their hands and feet with henna.
They lie in the sun with henna packs on their hair.

from Painted Bride Quarterly
Copyright 2000 by Ruth Stone.

Male Gorillas

At the doughnut shop
twenty-three silverbacks
are lined up at the bar,
sitting on the stools.
It's morning coffee and trash day.
The waitress has a heavy feeling face,
considerate with carmine lipstick.
She doesn't brown my fries.
I have to stand at the counter
and insist on my order.
I take my cup of coffee to a small
inoffensive table along the wall.
At the counter the male chorus line
is lined up tight.
I look at their almost identical butts;
their buddy hunched shoulders,
the curve of their ancient spines.
They are methodically browsing
in their own territory.
This data goes into that vast
confused library, the female mind.

from Painted Bride Quarterly
Copyright 2000 by Ruth Stone.

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