In the Next Galaxy
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.
In the government offices the rules and regulations
regarding 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 lifted 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.
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.
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.
Points of Vision
In February the hills of Niguel flush green,
a rush of new grass fine as baby hair.
Shizu drives out with her easel.
The red-tailed hawks are working
the folds and wrinkles where
the ground squirrels hide.
Tormented by crows, three hawks
spiral up and drift under and over,
becoming small as sparrows.
Above them a jet streaks in the cumulus.
Frenetic ground squirrels
pop in and out of their burrows.
Now they're motionless.
Now the enlarged shadow
of a descending hawk
sweeps over the hummocks,
like a blind hand feeling its way.
Shizu prepares her watercolors.
Ruth Stone won the
2002 National Book Award for In the Next Galaxy (Copper Canyon Press 2002).
She also won the Wallace Stevens Award (The Academy of American Poets) for In the Next
Galaxy. Born in Virginia in 1915, she is the author of eight books of poetry, several
chapbooks, and is the recipient of many honors, including a National Book Critics Circle
Award, a Whiting Award, two Guggenheim Fellowships, the Delmore Schwartz Award, the Cerf
Lifetime Achievement Award from the state of Vermont, the Bess Hokin Prize from Poetry
magazine, and the Shelley Memorial Award. She raised three daughters alone while
teaching creative writing at many universiteies, including the University of Illinois,
University of Wisconsin, Indiana University, UC Davis, Brandeis, and finally settling at
SUNY Binghamton. She lives in Vermont.