The art of Ruth Stone
“…that day in Chicago…”
a day to remember…
Since then we’ve gone around the sun fifty times.
The sun itself has rushed on.
All the cells of my skin that you loved to touch
have flaked away and been renewed.
I am an epidermal stranger.
Even enormous factories. So much.
Even the railway station —
Now the dead may be pelletized,
disgorged as wafers in space.
Some may be sent to the sun in casks,
as if to Osiris.
Where is that day in Chicago
when we stood on a cement platform,
and I held your hand against my face,
waiting for a train in the warm light?
That given moment-by-moment light,
which, in a matter of hours from then,
had already traveled out of the solar system.
Ruth Stone (1915–2011)
Poet and teacher, 2009 Pulitzer Prize finalist
Like all of us, Ruth Stone had memories, including bittersweet memories that hurt a little when they make us smile. In this poem, her invocation of the industrial, and, indeed, cosmic frames of reference establishes an expansive reality that, nevertheless, leaves untouched the intimacy of her long-ago moments with him, and with the moment-by-moment light.
I hope you’ve seen such light at least a couple times…
In Stone’s Wikipedia bio, you can find an anecdote from Elizabeth Gilbert, a contemporary writer (Eat Pray Love). She talked with Ruth Stone and recalled this story:
“As [Stone] was growing up in rural Virginia, she would be out, working in the fields and she would feel and hear a poem coming at her from over the landscape. It was like a thunderous train of air and it would come barrelling down at her over the landscape. And when she felt it coming…cause it would shake the earth under her feet, she knew she had only one thing to do at that point. That was to, in her words, ‘run like hell’ to the house as she would be chased by this poem.
The whole deal was that she had to get to a piece of paper fast enough so that when it thundered through her, she could collect it and grab it on the page. Other times she wouldn’t be fast enough, so she would be running and running, and she wouldn’t get to the house, and the poem would barrel through her and she would miss it, and it would ‘continue on across the landscape looking for another poet.’
And then there were these times, there were moments where she would almost miss it. She is running to the house and is looking for the paper and the poem passes through her. She grabs a pencil just as it’s going through her and she would reach out with her other hand and she would catch it. She would catch the poem by its tail and she would pull it backwards into her body as she was transcribing on the page. In those instances, the poem would come up on the page perfect and intact, but backwards, from the last word to the first.”
Oh my, this is a quaint and wonderful story. Of course I think it’s mostly a tall tale, but I absolutely positively believe every word of the last sentence. That could happen! Oh yeah.
* * * * * *
It’s easy to remember the sauce
(my new poem)
Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2017 All rights reserved.
My first book of poems, Writing Rainbows: Poems for Grown-Ups with 59 new poems, is for sale on Amazon (paperback and Kindle), or free in Kindle Unlimited, click here
On this website you can read: my poetry in free verse and 5–7–5 format — nature poems, love poems, poems about grandchildren, and a spectrum of other topics — written in a way that makes it possible for you to know, as precisely as possible, what’s going on in my mind and in my imagination; thoughtful book reviews that offer some exceptional critique of the book instead of a simple book summary; examinations of history that did and didn’t happen; examples of my love affair with words; reflections on the quotations, art, and wisdom of famous and not-so-famous people, and occasional comments on politics and human nature.
Your comments on my poems, book reviews and other posts are welcome.
Book review: How to Tell A Story
by Mark Twain, some of his tall tales…
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Originally published at Richard Subber.