Ruth Stone

R
Ruth Stone
Lighter Than Air
The fat girl next door would give us a nickel
to walk to the old man's store
and get her an ice-cream cone,
vanilla, of course, the only flavor then.
On Powotan Avenue, Aunt Harriet and I would take
turns licking it all the way back.
It was hot that summer and we longed
to go to Virginia Beach and put our toes in the tide.
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The Mother
Here where the rooms are dryly still
Who is this dustily asleep
While juicy children run the field?

Where is her ever deepening well
Whose buckets to a fullness dip
For needs compassion must fulfill?

Like freshets they themselves may yield
A little to the turned up cup,
But death is in the long dry spell.

Run children, run, the light grows dull,
And she who keeps the well must sleep,
And rain is unpredictable.
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The Pear
There hangs this bellied pear, let no rake doubt,
Meat for the tongue and febrile to the skin,
Wasting for the mildew and the rot,
A tallow rump slow rounded, a pelt thin
And for the quickest bite; so, orchard bred,
Heaviest downward from the shaking stem.
Whose fingers curve around the ripened head
Lust to split so fine a diadem.

There is the picker, stretches for the knife,
There are the ravening who claw the fruit,
More, those adjuring wax that lasts a life,
And foxes, freak for cunning, after loot.
For that sweet suck the hornet whines his wits,
But husbandman will dry her for the pits.
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Another Feeling
Once you saw a drove of young pigs
crossing the highway. One of them
pulling his body by the front feet,
the hind legs dragging flat.
Without thinking,
you called the Humane Society.
They came with a net and went for him.
They were matter of fact, uniformed;
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1941
I wore a large brim hat
like the women in the ads.
How thin I was: such skin.
Yes. It was Indianapolis;
a taste of sin.

You had a natural Afro;
no money for a haircut.
We were in the seedy part;
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At Eighty-three She Lives Alone
Enclosure, steam-heated; a trial casket.
You are here; your name on a postal box;
entrance into another place like vapor.
No one knows you. No one speaks to you.
All of their cocks stare down their pant legs
at the ground. Their cunts are blind. They
barely let you through the check-out line.
Have a nice day. Plastic or paper?
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Eden, Then and Now
In ’29 before the dust storms
sandblasted Indianapolis,
we believed in the milk company.
Milk came in glass bottles.
We spread dye-colored butter,
now connected to cancer.
We worked seven to seven
with no overtime pay;
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Genesis
Cylinder sacks of water filling the oceans,
endless bullets of water,
skins full of water rolling and tumbling
as we came together.
As though light broke us apart.
As though light came with the rubble of words,
though we die among the husks of remembering.
It is as we knew it would be
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It Follows
If you had a lot of money
(by some coincidence
you’re at the Nassau Inn in Princeton
getting a whiff of class)
and you just noticed two days ago
that your face has fallen,
but you don’t believe it,
so every time you look in the glass
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Look to the Future
To you born into violence,
the wars of the red ant are nothing;
you, in the heart of the eruption.

I am speaking from immeasurable grass blades.
You, there on the rubble,
what is the river of vapor to you?

You who are helpless as small birds
downed on the ice pack.
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OVERNIGHT GUEST
Waiting for your ride in front of the house
where you spent the night,
where, as a third ear
during their endless intimate,
important, and kinky phone calls,
you pretended to rinse glassware;
you were a dog from the pound,
grateful, sniffing the upholstery.
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Peripheries
This circle holding the afternoon sky is a lake
For summer business measured in stacked pairs
Of peeling oars whose dinghies all ship water.
Beside it on the trampled grass a carrousel shakes
And turns on an Old World instrument
The plink and plank and tinkle of a tune
Of plunging horses in fresh habiliment.
We catch the reins of enamel Pegasus
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The Question
While needles of the evergreen
practice a windy chaos,
heads of snarled hair;
something in the tree
longs for old age;
bald brown knobs of skull
without subterfuge;
but it continues with its greedy
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Romance
I went back, as to my relatives.
When I arrived, the elms had been shaved.
But you were all the same.
The buildings, the dry classrooms.
I embraced your eyes, your avenues.
You were fixed in the same expressions.
Your flat voices, your dental work,
like your lips, slipping over words already said.
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Shapes
In the longer view it doesn’t matter.
However, it’s that having lived, it matters.
So that every death breaks you apart.
You find yourself weeping at the door
of your own kitchen, overwhelmed
by loss. And you find yourself weeping
as you pass the homeless person
head in hands resigned on a cement
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Speculation
In the coolness here I care
Not for the down-pressed noises overhead,
I hear in my pearly bone the wear
Of marble under the rain; nothing is truly dead,
There is only the wearing away,
The changing of means. Nor eyes I have
To tell how in the summer the mourning dove
Rocks on the hemlock’s arm, nor ears to rend
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The Wound
The shock comes slowly
as an afterthought.

First you hear the words
and they are like all other words,

ordinary, breathing out of lips,
moving toward you in a straight line.

Later they shatter
and rearrange themselves. They spell
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