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Thursday, May 26, 2011

Poem: The Arrival

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The Arrival

On a smooth spring day
    they alighted
    like the wispy feet of a wren
    hugging the twig of my upper lip —

the descent of my mother’s pout-wrinkles
    there in the rear view mirror
    on me.

I thought perhaps I could perpetuate
    a smile
    from then
      on

spreading them
    as beautifully as a bird’s wing in flight
    across my face
    and no one
    would be the wiser.

Then it came to me

that we are given every feather
    for flight

though we tuck them in
    so deftly
       satinly
          shiningly

All the feathers
    there at birth!
    Even in the lentil bean
    in the womb
    all the feathers

for flying arcs
    across the face of the sun
    setting as he does
    taking with him
    the rays of our young smile

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47 comments:

The Bug said...

Absolutely lovely :) I think that I shall look at my mother's fingers (inexplicably at the ends of my own hands) a little more kindly now.

Evelyn said...

what a journey this is...
you love birds lol

The Solitary Walker said...

Perfectly lovely!

Brendan said...

What a lovely frame for the appearance of age. Beauty is permanent in our mind's eye--where our eternal spirits reside -- but the body obeys this world's rule and is a creation of time. And you're right -- the body is given its age as a gift, to temper the spirit's wings, enhance the imagination, the mind's eye, to see things more brightly from within. "All the feathers / there at birth!" And a life needing every one of them, spindly, brilliant and grey, to achieve the full flight. I think I'm more in love with my wife than ever, for the evidence on her body of having been so present for so long in my life. - Brendan

missing moments said...

Each wrinkle, blemish and scar all ensure a journey of wonder. So beautifully expressed Ruth.

Lorenzo — Alchemist's Pillow said...

A fine feathered smile you bring to me today ... and every day.

We'll keep our heart's eye on the lentil bean sun rising in the east, even as smiles set in the west :)

hedgewitch said...

The rear view mirror--what a perfect touch. A subtle and beautiful poem about aging that leaves me with a heart lighter than it probably ought to be at my own matriarchal reproductions (which often make me worry I may be a living 'picture of Dorian Gray') Enjoyed it very much.

erin said...

as i drove home tonight i heard about a man who is about to turn 104. they interviewed he and his two brothers, his youngest brother being 100. the youngest sang happy birthday to him. i laughed. he sounded like such a boy. yes, we are born bound and free at the same time, bound tight like the lentil bean, like the feathered bird in the shell, and yet with the potential. it is all there in our beginning.

i like to think these wrinkles grant freedom. it is all freedom, isn't it, an unfurling of us as we live? i try to train myself to teach my children now to not be restrained, to not wait for the wrinkles to know this freedom that i know. there is nothing to lose in life. there is only more to gain.

now what of those pesky hairs from the chin? how might we swing those to the positive?

xo
erin

Barb said...

Everything we need indeed! I was reminded by your poem of seeing myself sometimes when I'm unguarded and thinking - "sit up straight" and "get that duh-look off your face!" I like many of the references and illusions here, but this is my favorite: "the lentil bean in the womb"

Maureen said...

A wonderful poem, Ruth. Your "twig of my upper lip", "my mother's pout-wrinkles", "lentil bean in the womb" are standout images.

I also like your plays with words such as wiser, which we naturally associate with age.

VioletSky said...

I have been trying to smile more - to spread them out beautifully like a bird's wind in flight - of course, I wasn't thinking of it quite like that, but now I smile automatically as remember these words.

steven said...

ruth- the softening of our relationship with mother and father seems to arrive first through the recognition of their presence in our selves as parents and then physically and then in the larger arc of our becoming. i see my hands gently wrinkling and i feel certain no one else sees them as clearly as the hair falling from my head which leaves a space as clear as an atoll on the ocean of my scalp. i thankyou for your kindness in sharing this beautiful writing. steven

Pat said...

First off, I love the photo. Just gorgeous.

The poem made me smile. We should wear our wrinkles proudly - they are our medals for growing older. And isn't it amazing how we take on features and idiosyncrasies of our parents as we get older?

rosaria said...

Your choice of imagery wraps everything in love, a beautiful declaration.

Terresa said...

The entire poem sings, especially the last 2 stanzas, Ruth! You are a prolific poet these days (and it's wonderful, wonderful to me!).

Louise Gallagher said...

I took my mother to a concert a few weeks ago put on by a group of seniors. I sat beside her (she's 87) and noticed we both tap our hands in time to the music in the same manor.

There's so much we share with our mothers, and fathers, and then forward with our children. Like a bird's wings unfolding.

Love the imagery of this poem and the magical way you've woven time past and future into its unfolding.

Ruth said...

Oh Dana, the hands. These are where I really see my age. Why do I see aged hands as one of the great beauties of our world, yet I shrink a bit from my own?

Susan said...

Smiling is the best cure for lip feathering...now if only it cured marionette lines and the little pouches that develop along the jaw line...that would make me smile all the time. :)

The imagery in your poetry just astounds me. I keep seeing you catching a glimpse of yourself in the rear-view mirror and being surprised by what you saw there. Isn't it interesting that what we imagine ourselves to look like and what we actually do at any given moment are sometimes far apart.

We've all earned the honor of wearing those hallmarks of our parents and our age and experience. I try to wear mine with pride...most days anyway. :)

Ruth said...

Evelyn, haHA! I laughed when I read your comment. Yes! I love birds and identify with them non-stop.

Do you think I'll ever run out of ways to say so?

:D

Ruth said...

Robert, maybe if I keep identifying with birds as I age I'll manage to feel light about it. Thank you!

Ruth said...

Brendan, age as a gift . . . to see things more brightly from within . . . how do you do that? I am utterly delighted by your insights, words, and oh so much by your being more in love with your wife as you age together. Truly, to appreciate another's beauty, not in spite of the signs of age, but partly because of them, is to recognize what a privilege it is to witness another person's life, all of it.

Ruth said...

Reena, Oscar Wilde said:

“The soul is born old but grows young. That is the comedy of life. And the body is born young and grows old. That is life's tragedy.”

In some sense, I suppose it is tragic, but there's a lot that is advantageous about getting older. One of my challenges as I grow older is to see myself as beautiful the way I see others as beautiful with their lines and scars.

Ruth said...

Lorenzo, you have the supreme advantage of being an elephant, who even when newborn, had a wrinkled trunk, ears, knees and body. No wonder elephants are a symbol of wisdom. You demonstrate this to me continually, my true blue friend.

Ruth said...

Hedgewitch, thanks so much. It astonishes me how variant attitudes are about aging, from culture to culture, from family to family, person to person. Even I feel differently toward my own than I do to that of others. My mother was a gift to us for her embrace of her age, though she did have her aches and wobbles every morning.

Ruth said...

Erin, you are right, with age comes freedom. As you said in your current looking for the zipper post, in your comment to me, it takes bravery to be oneself, humbly. Once that stepping out happens, we are free (until the next time we fall).

I have to think that your children are privileged to have you, and that they will also find in their lives what will constrain them, what they will have to climb over. But I think they will learn it quicker and perhaps get farther along than someone like me who took a long, long time learning to be OK with myself, be brave, be free.

As for the chin hairs, ha, I'll ponder that in my wizened freedom and get back to you!

Ruth said...

Barb, thank you. What strikes me in your comment is how we keep getting hooked by how we appear, but what really matters is inside the lentil bean in the womb. If we can just keep going back in there, to that original and ever-flowing spring that waters us, if only we let it.

Ruth said...

Maureen, thank you, my poet-friend, for noticing these things. I am honored by your attentions, always.

Ruth said...

Violetski, I know that smile of yours, and it makes me smile, all the way across my face!

Ruth said...

Steven, there's nothing like experiencing what our parents experienced for gaining understanding. Maybe this is the built in kind of walking in another's shoes, footsteps, that we are privileged to live. I love the phrase softening of our relationship with mother and father and I feel it also with my own children as time goes by. Thank you.

Ruth said...

Pat, thanks. The photo is from a few years ago, on my road to work. I love this road, and this tree, one of my many old friends. I just looked at redwoods at Barb's post from the California coast, so old, so majestic, so gnarled!

It's funny, I seem to notice my parents' features in my siblings before I notice them in myself. They are all older than I am, and maybe that's why. My brother Jim has my dad's hands!

Ruth said...

Rosaria, maybe it's almost a mantra for myself, to believe that I am beautiful, to love myself this way. Thank you.

Ruth said...

Terresa, abundant thanks, my wonderful, wonderful friend!

Ruth said...

Louise, thank you for your lovely comment, and that image of you and your mother sitting at the concert, tapping your hands to the music.

If only we can see time as a friend joining us with all who have lived.

Ruth said...

Susie, I suppose the irony is that we got the feathers from smiling, all that stretching. Like the stretch marks on a mom's tummy from pregnancy, we can embrace them joyfully.

When I see myself in photos this year I see how much I've changed. I have moments when I understand why women (and men) seek cosmetic surgery to make them look young again, for there is a certain small grief seeing youth flee from one's face. But I pray that as more of us resist this meme that only youth is beautiful, our cultural ideas of beauty will shift.

Grandmother said...

The first time I noticed mine I cried: "But my mother smoked and I don't!". My current approach is to make friends with my body which serves me so well and with my face which I've earned from smiling at folks on my journey.

Jeanie said...

This actually makes me feel a good deal better as I recently discovered one line so deep I could feel it with my fingers, even though I was smiling and it was as blended as it could be!

Brendan said...

Ditto Terresa ... Back to your comment on mine, age is a gift, I think, because if it wasn't we'd be a buncha sorry campers, looking in the mirror and going who IS that old person? Maybe it's only because I'm out of the looks game that I don't care to make those comparisons any more, but I like to think that the eyes mature and see character more than appearance. That surface stuff was only important during the mating dance, which usually is completed soon enough. (Though there are many adult juveniles I know who are addicted to the beginning stuff, life as Harlequin romance, bodice ripping passions til death do us part. That's a form a hell, if you ask me. Nothing uglier than someone who scars themselves up and down to keep looking like that surface. No wonder our culture can't grow up. - Brendan

Ruth said...

Mary, it's not fair! But you are living so beautifully, so fully, and pulling life toward you. I just loved your list of 'things learned while living in Italy' and come alive just thinking about it, through your experience. Smiles spread and spread. Sometimes I wonder if I smile too much. But what is 'too much'?

Ruth said...

Jeanie :D Whenever I think of you, you are smiling that gorgeous smile, and it spreads to my face!

Ruth said...

Brendan . . . looking, and being looked at. Seeing and being seen. I guess they both mellow and evolve as you say. My ego used to be attached to being looked at. But was I being seen?

And yes, not only does that passionate Harlequin stuff calm with deeper waters, as I get older I am also discovering other forms of love that I never knew or differentiated. We tend to define love in limited relationship types in this country these days, but there are so many ways to love a person.

Brendan said...

Yes, that widening horizon. Earlier, it was ONLY the Beloved, and ONLY her (this and that). Laser focus, singularity. Then love widens to include all of the Beloved -- the person as well as the imago. Then widens again to world as Beloved. Married to life's fullness, including its death. it does increase the crop of potential raptures. All it takes is a Yes . B

Miss Jane said...

This is wonderful. I don't know if I can add anything that hasn't been expressed in these comments. All the feathers there at birth. I think I enjoyed that line the most. We come complete, we just need to stretch out and fly.

Oliag said...

I needed this today!

Lilith said...

Beautiful, truly beautiful.

ashirwaad-holiday-apts-goa said...

Nice one!
Beach resort Colva

Mark Kerstetter said...

Gorgeous poem - great line about "none the wiser". The people that I find beautiful radiate that beauty from within. The sexiest people in their youth own their sexuality with confidence. Once that time has passed a different kind of beauty presents itself, but it still depends on owning it with confidence, beginning with being comfortable in one's own skin.

ds said...

Soar on, my wise winged friend! (yours are the wings of Daedelus, which saved him; not Icarus, too young to understand) When I look back through my own rearview mirror--inspired touch, that--I see three generations of women who aged, in one sense, well before their time. I tried to fight it, but in truth I never felt more honest or more free than when I stopped. Had to give my age the other day and proudly announced that at last I'm playing with a full deck ;)
You are one who has helped me with this liberation, Ruth. Thank you.