alskuefhaih
asoiefh

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Poem: Argument

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Argument

My flesh and blood argue
with my breath. The orchid
on the sill, whose velvet-violet heads
turn away, pressed against the window,
gazing out at the natural world
in psychic intercourse, transmutes
energy as to a distant tribe.

The barn there
with its doors open, darkness
inside, like a drum’s, light streaming
between the boards

in discourse, the way the mind speaks
through the body, or the soul through
the seam with the mind, where wind
rushes through and stirs these witnesses—
the vocabulary of dust.





Note: "Psychic intercourse" is a phrase I borrow
from Susan Sontag, from her book On Photography
when she writes about Walt Whitman:
"Whitman preached empathy, concord in discord,
oneness in diversity. Psychic intercourse with 
everything, everybody . . ." (p. 31)

On Photography, Picador Press, 1973

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52 comments:

steven said...

ruth - a beautiful image coupled in every sense with the words. i greatly admire walt whitman's writing. i had overlooked it until two summers ago when i bought his work and what wasn't available, i dug up on-line. i felt i had found someone who knew and could share that knowing in words that connected with common experience. the layering of rilke through your gracious efforts has not so much displaced whitman as enhanced and brought the nature of essence to my thinking. so thankyou. steven

Julie-ann Bowden said...

Loving th image that goes with this poem. Powerful!

Montag said...

Rural barns reminisce about the Civil War'
havens in the storm where Whitman nursed the wounded-
to heal secession between the mind and body:
Souls flying on the light.

Louise Gallagher said...

The image speaks and through your words comes alive.

Beautiful.

Marcie said...

Love that term 'psychic intercourse'..it speaks to such thought and depth in image making. And - the light in this image is absolutely magical. Beautiful!!!

George said...

Wonderful, Ruth! First, I have always loved this photo of yours. It's just stunning! I also love your imagery here, and what it suggests, and love those last two lines with the final punch, "the vocabulary of dust." That's brilliant. There must be millions of stories hidden in the vocabulary of dust.

Lorenzo — Alchemist's Pillow said...

The darkness of the barn, like a drum's, is a captivating image. I can almost feel a drum beat (or is it a heart?) as I contemplate the stillness of the light streaming in through the boards... to identify this with the way the mind speaks through the body and the soul through the seam with the mind is a gentle breath-stopper. And the ending "vocabulary of dust" is a keeper. You know how much dust has been on mind and on my brows of late on the Rocío pilgrimage. This poem is one more jewelled tool for sifting through all I have felt and long to learn there.

Brendan said...

In the psychic intercourse of the world - one that we can't stay out of, no matter how chastely our dry brains refuse-- love knows no bounds. A wonderful liaison here with that "distant tribe." - Brendan

Pat said...

First off, as an amateur photographer I must say that I am blown away by your photo. That takes a lot of skill to pull off that photo with the lighting involved. What a stunning photo.

As always, I am awed by your poetry.

hedgewitch said...

I love your work, Ruth. The ideas and language here are so perfectly mated that they lodge their message not just cognitively, but intuitively and also deep in the senses. The image of the orchid is evocative--one of mine this winter poked its bloom stalk through the narrow spaces in the window blind, and did indeed open and press its face toward that vast intercourse on the other side of the pane, so that the blinds remained open all January. A reminder, or so I like to think.

Nelson said...

re: "the vocabulary of dust"

As a child, when I was sent to my bed as a consequence for some infraction, during daylight hours, I was drawn to the dust particles dancing in the sunbeams....I don't know what they said to me, except that once in a while I'd have nightmares where these particles became boulder-sized....

Your "light streaming....in discourse" speaks even through the dust. We know that things are dusty because of the light.

A most thought-provoking image here....

Ruth said...

Steven, I was intrigued reading Sontag on the weekend, and her perceptions of Whitman's place in literary history, along with the sad recognition that the poem of America he envisioned did not come. I think it is alive in some of us still, but it is not the driving force of this land as he hoped it would be.

Your perceptive comment about Rilke astounds me, because I had a draft of this poem I'd been working on for a couple of days, then with this morning's Rilke reading, "A Bowl of Roses" (III) I found the syntax, and I was able to complete it. Thank you for your kind attention and comments.

Ruth said...

Thank you so much, and welcome, Julie-Ann. Your folk angels are glorious, and I think I can see one just coming through that barn window . . .

Ruth said...

Montag, your inspired piece really rings, bringing into starker relief the divisions of North and South, and the divisions between father and son in Billy Elliot, and so much more. Thank you.

Ruth said...

Louise, there are moments when we meet something through the senses that speaks to our soul. This light was that for me.

Thank you.

Ruth said...

Marcie, I agree, 'psychic intercourse' is an evocative phrase, and in the context of what I read in Sontag, I loved where it took me. We can be one with everything, and everyone this way, and we are just beginning. Thank you.

Ruth said...

George, thanks so much! Almost exactly two years ago I was driving off to work in the early morning, and I saw this sight. Stunned, I snapped it. It is a constant reminder on my sidebar of where we come from, and where we're going, and where our words go too, though they feel as if they come from an eternal place and will last forever.

Ruth said...

Lorenzo, there is no better gift than to hear you say my words enter your heart-mind, like dust, and help you tinker with your excavations from the Rocío pilgrimage. In fact, I wonder if some of the gold dust from the trail to Sevilla might have blown down El Quema, then across the Atlantic and drifted into our barn . . . and into my poem!

Ruth said...

Brendan, thanks.

"Happiness, not in another place but this place...not for another hour, but this hour."

rosaria said...

That last stanza is a poem all by itself, a bower of portents.

Ruth said...

Dear Pat, I so appreciate your response to this photo and poem.

I wish I could claim the prize and say it took skill. Two years ago I was leaving for work and looked up to see this light pouring into the barn. I grabbed the camera, I pointed, I shot, that is it. No manual settings adjusting for light. Nada. It was there in the air, and it was there on the camera's sensor, and I'm grateful.

Ruth said...

Hedgewitch, your thoughts about my poem are so welcome and appreciated. The added image of your orchid nudging herself through the slats of your blinds echoes here with wonder. My orchid, a gift on Mother's Day from my kids in 2010, had dropped all its blossoms, then budded and bloomed again this spring. My five blooms don't have blinds to nudge through, but they are leaning against the window. Yes, a reminder, just how I see it. I forget how much I need it out there.

Ruth said...

Nelson, oh the pictures of you in your room, by day gazing at the floating dust, and by night at dust boulders, are full and rich. And guess what, you just reminded me of a childhood dream in which the moon was within arm's reach.

Do you think maybe we need to start a new discussion about this at Blue Star Highway?

Ruth said...

Rosaria, I think we can never run out of stories. As George says, there must be millions.

Thank you.

Mark Kerstetter said...

An argument with self becomes, naturally, an argument with world: the orchid seeming to turn to the world but also away from the discordant human element.

What you say about the unrealized world Whitman envisioned could also be said about the love envisioned in the Rumi poem you posted. How many people love like that?

And it may not have taken any particular skill to snap that picture, but what an eye you have! It's rare to see someone so strong in both verbal and visual skills.

Sylvia Winters said...

This poem is simply breathtaking, as is the accompanying photograph. Every image is beautiful, and each metaphor seems almost effortlessly natural, but still draws a comparison that leaves me thinking about the themes of this piece from a different perspective. I read this earlier, and it's stayed with me all day. Just stunning.

Your blog is a joy to read.

missing moments said...

Ruth, I love that image and the words you have used to illustrate. Powerful!

Barb said...

This paints an image for me - I love the line: "the soul through the seam with the mind"

Oliag said...

I love the vocabulary of dust as spoken by those dust motes in the blue barn....lovely image!

Vagabonde said...

That is one powerful photo – the light coming freely through the little barn opening. I also like your words connecting the sunlight in the darkened barn and the mind speaking through the darkness of the body.

Dan Gurney said...

An arresting poem, Ruth. I was transported immediately with the image of the orchid gazing out the window in psychic intercourse. That's a lovely phrase and one that describes the feeling of being intimately interconnected with the whole web of life. Sometimes I feel so sad, ashamed sometimes, for us humans; with our heads, hands, fear and greed—we've torn so many holes in the web of life. The orchid would rather talk to his tribe outside....

And the drum, the barn, the heart. The all tell us of the value of emptiness, don't they?

Ginnie said...

I'm glad Nelson brought me here before I would normally come. :) We were both on the same page yesterday about "the vocabulary of dust." My SC image was about literal dust on the church pulpit...and I couldn't help but think about the symbolism!

Terresa said...

Sontag is brilliant, isn't she? Such a mind that woman had!

Loved your verse, especially "velvet-violet heads" and the last line "the vocabulary of dust" - packed with meaning.

*No mention no photo credit, did you take the picture?

freefalling said...

I can't keep up (I never can with you) my head is still on the baby post.
When is the baby due?
Is it going to be a Scorpio baby?!

Julie-ann Bowden said...

Thank you Ruth so much for visiting my blog and leaving a lovely message. So nice to read!
Hugs!

Ruth said...

Mark, I appreciate your astute observation comparing the unrealized world Whitman envisioned with the love Rumi set out in the poem "Beyond Love Stories." His was another way of losing divisions, between life and death, between lover and beloved, ocean and shore.

Thank you for your keen attention here to the poem, and to the photo. Interesting what you said, because a few years ago I felt a crisis within, a tension over wanting to give time to photography, but also writing, thinking they needed to be separate visions. Then I realized I could write from the images, and all was well. How firmly my mind has been trained (from where?) to think in dualities like that, but with practice, boundaries can be dissolved, polarities can meet in the middle, and the energy dances!

Ruth said...

Hello and welcome, Sylvia. I appreciate your kind comment very much, and I smile at the word "breathtaking" thinking of what gives breath, and what takes it away. The poem is about breath — what comes out of me/us—in words. When words seem natural, trying to express the complications of experience, it's a very good thing. Thank you.

Ruth said...

Thanks, Reena, I've had this photo a couple of years, and it only occurred to me at the end of writing the poem to pair it here.

Ruth said...

Barb, I had been having a conversation with a friend about the edges of the world, and how much life is there. Funny what percolates into our daily writes.

Ruth said...

Oliag, thanks, my friend.

Ruth said...

Vagabonde, it was an astonishing sight when I saw the light that day two years ago.

Thanks for your comment. I find that poetic perspectives help me understand the facts of life.

Ruth said...

Thanks, Dan. After reading your good comment I see the orchid here in my house in Michigan as an artifice (though lovely), and not unlike the beauty we as a culture try to create, that doesn't satisfy. I seek to understand the natural order, and follow it, but it is an uphill battle, in society and in myself.

Oh yes, the value of emptiness. Thank you for seeing that. The space for dust to speak.

Ruth said...

Boots, I remember you writing about that dust recently in In Soul and seeing your photos. So many European churches like that, aren't there? I do feel that the barn is a cathedral when I go in there . . .

Ruth said...

Terresa, Sontag is a great intellect with beautiful insights. I love to read a couple of pages and feel inspired for weeks or months.

Thanks for reading and for your attentions to my poem.

Yes, I took the photo two years ago, on my way to work, when I looked up, still in the driveway. I was stunned by the light and grateful I could preserve it in a photograph. By the way, I almost always post my own photos, and if I don't, I give credit. Thanks for asking.

Ruth said...

Letty, I know. I sometimes feel that I should slow down, for readers' sake. But I just give here what comes out, and sometimes it comes fast. Sorry about that. :-)

Baby poppy seed is due in January. I had to look up the signs of the Zodiac to answer you, and it's good because I hadn't thought about this yet. S/he will likely be either a Capricorn or an Aquarius (due Jan. 20). We are still early yet, s/he turned 9 weeks yesterday. S/he is now the size of a grape. They might be able to hear her heartbeat next week.

Ruth said...

Julie-ann, it was my pleasure.

erin said...

oh, i'm in love with you. what else can i say? i stood on this poem and then fell into you.

xo
erin

erin said...

and how is it that this is so?
and why? and why is why even a question as it is entirely irrelevant and yet it rises in me so naturally.

xo
erin

Ruth said...

Erin . . . Sheer abundance of being
floods my heart.
(RMR, and me)

Jeanie said...

Golly, if my mind speaks through my body, my mind must be a frightful mess!

I do love this, and your invoking Sontag -- who better?

Susan said...

I know this is a SERIOUS poem. :) But I have to laugh at "the vocabulary of dust". It reminds me of two things: 1) how I long for the sunshine, but as soon as it streams through the windows, it shows up all the dust on the furniture. 2) "wash me" written on a car. My mind works in weird and mysterious ways. ;-)

Thank You Flowers Delivered said...

Love this...really makes you think!