A Poem For Saturday


From Dish poetry editor Alice Quinn:

I am not a poet but reading certain poems gives me a feeling which I like to believe tells me something of what it might feel like to be a poet, one who makes the compositions that bear that sacred name. That’s how I feel when I read the work of Mary Ruefle. Her poems are sweetly mysterious and captivating, with a decisive momentum like tobaggans swiftly barreling to their last lines—sometimes holding on for dear life, sometimes fairly squealing with abandon. And thus my love of tobogganing has been restored to me.

Mary read at the 92nd Street Y in New York City this week with Christian Wiman, another illustrious contemporary poet, chief editor of Poetry Magazine from 2003-2013 and currently on the faculty at the Yale Institute of Sacred Music and Yale Divinity School.

We plan on posting poems by Christian Wiman soon in the new year, and this week we’ll feature three of Mary’s. Others of hers from The Dish can be found here, here, and here, all from the same book from which these three are drawn, Trances of the Blast, published by Wave Books in 2013.

“Platonic” by Mary Ruefle:

Did it mean anything? The stone, the rose,
darkness, wood, wind, flame, the violin.
The practical man, the visible world,
the painted ponies, the sea, the wilderness
of cellophane, my last word, my crumpled message
to my friend? Was I in search of something,
tools maybe, or seeds, for many odd things
are stowed under the overthinking.
Let’s begin to talk about things,
and what they should be named,
and whether it will be necessary
to draw any of them.
The sound of the teakettle—
it was the most terrible thing in the world.
Sometimes it was a wolf, and sometimes
a man or a woman, whatever it felt like,
even falling cherry blossoms, and always
it could take you out, and then it did,
leaving the whole room as impressive
as an unexplored cave.

(From Trances of the Blast © 2013 by Mary Ruefle. Used by permission of Wave Books. Photo by Jim Devleer)