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Sunday, June 26, 2011

Sonnet: Praise for ordinary wonder

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Killdeer, by John James Audubon
from the book The Birds of America


“The passage into mystery always refreshes. If, when we work,
we can look once a day upon the face of mystery, then our labor satisfies."

Lewis Hyde, The Gift, p. 25

Praise for ordinary wonder

The linen of a killdeer’s breast below
his throated rings flies suddenly before
the car and dips beneath a corn row.
Mundane the days can stretch, an endless floor
of samenesses, the tapering of leaves
of each and every fern, the ottoman
with piled familiar books, where villainies
and graces eternally have fallen.
But always I will honor the counting
of ten toes, digging into the blanket
in the burial of the day, not mourning
next day’s clone of this one with regret.
For in between the copies of each day’s
roads and words, a bird flies, and I'm amazed.



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49 comments:

Stratoz said...

loved the final line, but it was the line about counting toes that leaped out at me. Nightly ritual?

Killdeers are hip!

Brendan said...

O sweet indeed. As Jack Gilbert wrote, "our lives happen between the memorable." A marriage is composed of a million ordinary, forgettable moments, or, as you say, the "counting of ten toes." It is the forgettable moment, pressed in the pages of "each day's / roads and words," that "a bird flies," and, yes, we are amazed. Another wonder-filled poem that requires only its small wings. - Brendan

Maureen said...

Beautifully written from first line to last. I, too, cite the wonderful line about counting ten toes, which keeps the poem so well-grounded and controlled. And, as the others mention, the concluding lines are lovely. You may be our own Mary Oliver.

Louise Gallagher said...

Oooohhh.... I agree with what everyone wrote.

The rhythm is enticing and the imagery of the bird weaving wonder through each line kept me entranced.

Lovely.

And there is such wonder in every day!

Lilith said...

Lovely, especially the last line. Thank you.

ds said...

Oh, my wonderful friend, how beautifully you turned this sonnet!
"The linen of a killdeer's breast"; those same ten toes digging into the "burial of the day", and that final couplet.

Between the pages of every day a bird flies and you notice, you attend, and by attending teach.
Thank you. (watch out Mary Oliver; back off, Jane Kenyon--here is Ruth Mowry. Mind her!)

Marcie said...

Beautiful!!! A wonderful ode to such extraordinarily ordinary everyday beauty!!!

Vagabonde said...

I always like to look at one of Audubon’s drawings. We should thank his father though – I think the reason Audubon left France was because his father pushed him to go to the US to avoid Napoleon’s draft into the French Army. His father obtained a false passport for him too – so I guess Audubon was an illegal immigrant? Interesting… lovely poem Ruth.

Pat said...

The words are all familiar in our every day language, yet when YOU put them together, they just sing! So beautiful!

Grandmother said...

Ordinary wonder- count ten toes, watch a bird's flight, be amazed. Thanks for the reminder.

Miss Jane said...

I can only echo what others have written. The linen of a killdeer's breast is indeed a lovely turn of phrase and beautiful beginning to this sonnet. Loved the ottoman, too, and how this turned from the corn field to the forest (or lawn) to the books and blankets and back to the lovely flying bird.

California Girl said...

lovely imagery you string together poetically.

hedgewitch said...

Beautiful work with the sonnet form, the measured language and delicate paintbrush of imagery all building up a moment in time and making it real. Lovely piece, Ruth.

Ginnie said...

It's the 'linen' that grabbed me, Ruth. On my walks here in Holland I often see a bird (I forget it's name and Astrid isn't here to ask) that is black and white. When I see it fly, I just stare at it. It still takes me by surprise. Your poem reminded me of that...the surprise of ordinary wonder!

Deslilas said...

Amazing bird a fine tactician when it tries to protect its children.

Susan said...

The ordinariness of each and every day broken by the unexpected bird crossing one's path...it doesn't take any more than that to make me happy.

Yes, watch out world! Ruth Mowry is waiting for you to discover her! We here are so incredibly lucky to have found you first!

Your ottoman sounds exactly like mine, but I never thought about counting my toes at the end of the day...now I'll never think of ending it any other way! :)

Ruth said...

Thanks, Stratoz. Counting toes before sleep was not a ritual before now. Two things: I'm thinking a lot about an approaching grandbaby these days. And I had just been reading and rereading a poem by Mary Oliver called "Poem" and the opening stanza is . . .

The spirit
likes to dress up like this:
ten fingers,
ten toes, . . .


It seemed perfect for thinking about the 'ordinary' things we look for devoutly to be reassured all is well.

Ruth said...

Thanks, Brendan. Funny the things that arrest us. Most often it's something in nature that does this for me. But the other day I stopped at the little general store in our four-corner town. It was closed for at least a year when the last owner's came upon hard times. It sat empty until someone bought it and spruced it up. I had been inside a couple of times for this and that. But the other day I stopped for something, and a man was getting a sandwich made by the one counter attendant. I waited about 5 minutes to pay for my item. As I waited I noticed, for the first time, how sweetly the new owners had restored features of the place to make it seem like an old timey mercantile, and in the most tasteful and subtle ways. I stood there in admiration, finally slowing down long enough to see it. It was a lesson.

Ruth said...

Thank you, Maureen. In one way it seems apt that you notice Mary Oliver here, because I borrowed 'ten toes' from her poem "Poem" (first stanza in my comment to Stratoz). But other than that, I am so touched by your super kind comparison with her. I do feel I am in her same school. However she is the professor of highest honor, and I am her student. What she accomplishes in her poems is deceptively simple, but twists you around so that you don't know if you are inside out, or outside in. I admire her mind, her world view and her craft so very, very much.

Ruth said...

Thanks, Louise. I'm glad you like this. The rhythm is odd for a sonnet. I never seem to be able to write one (not that I've written that many) without enjambing the lines and moving the pace off into the middle of lines rather than falling gracefully on the end-rhyme.

Surprises are one way to maintain a sense of wonder. Surprised by joy!

Ruth said...

Thanks a bunch, Lilith.

Ruth said...

Dear ds, what can I say in response to your comparison. I say thank you.

And . . . I do claim Mary Oliver and Jane Kenyon in my same life . . . domain . . .kingdom . . . phylum . . . class . . . order . . . family . . . genus . . . and species. However I am a subspecies of them, for they will always be of a higher order. "Peonies at Dusk" is a perfect example of the sight I can only admire and be inspired by, with astonishment.

Ruth said...

Marcie, oh thank you. The gift of flight is something I watch with complete bliss. If I can't fly myself, which I would love to be able to do, I can at least watch these others.

Ruth said...

Thank you, Vagabonde. I didn't know that about Audubon's father. I'm interested especially as I am reading War and Peace. I did a post on Audubon a while back, which can be linked in the 'Audubon' tag. I was sad when I realized he had to shoot and kill the birds so that he could paint them. Too bad the birds' fathers couldn't save them from their sacrifice.

Ruth said...

Thank you, Pat. You're so good and kind to me. I do like ordinary words as much as ordinary things, very much.

Ruth said...

Thanks, Mary. It takes slowing down. I needed slowing down. It's what writing does for me.

Ruth said...

Thanks, Miss Jane. I appreciate your kind words so much.

Not sure what draws me about sonnets and other forms. I'm still working it out. I do like the limitation and constraint of it, and the puzzle that must be fit just so. I admire those who manage them with a more pleasing rhythm-rhyme than this.

Ruth said...

Thanks, California Girl. It's a good challenge to try to see these ordinary things that I see every day with new eyes.

Ruth said...

Thanks so much, Hedgewitch. I'm glad you found it 'delicate' since it felt so clunky while writing. I wonder if I can get past that feeling in the process of writing a sonnet.

Ruth said...

Thanks, Boots. Don't you wonder how birds avoid collisions more often? Their flying and dodging abilities are a constant source of jaw-dropping amazement to me.

Ruth said...

Thanks, Daniel. I don't know much about killdeer and had to ask Don what it was when we were driving. Now you have me wanting to know more.

Ruth said...

My dear Susie, I bet you can imagine why I'm thinking about counting toes. :-) I think it's not a bad idea to start practicing on my own, n'est-ce pas?

You think too highly of my poems, but I appreciate it more than I can say. You inspire me always to do better, to live up to your enthusiasm. Thank you, my friend.

Mary ♥ Mur said...


oh.. so nice post.)
Love your blog.))

I now spend a survey of bloggers with such questions.
1. Why did you create a blog?
2. For whom you taking him? Want to be popular?
3. How long will it keep going?

Oliag said...

It really is those simple mysteries that make the day complete...finding them in the flight of a bird is something you do so beautifully well...This is a poem I am going to copy an cherish:)

Loring Wirbel said...

Honor the everyday, honor the ordinary, absolutely.

Amy@Souldipper said...

And with awe, I live.

Gwei Mui said...

I always love visiting your blog. It's like throwing the door open to a warm cosy study...

"the ottoman
with piled familiar books, where villainies
and graces eternally have fallen."

Such a rich mixture of visual,emotional and tactile memories

"not mourning
next day’s clone of this one with regret.
For in between the copies of each day’s
roads and words, a bird flies, and I'm amazed. "

Yes I am amazed - these lines take my breath away

Margaret said...

The simplicity and wonder of the mundane and ordinary... I need to keep that in mind this summer as some days just feel full of cleaning and kids and... loudness (not much time for my "self"). But then, I have to laugh as I KNOW one day I will look back and wish for all of THIS back. :)

I think I'm like that with deer and horses. I see them almost every day where I live, but the wonder of them always thrills me.

Beautiful poem. So... summery "lazy" and sweet with its rhythm.

Terresa said...

This feels Mary Oliver-ish to me (that is a compliment!).

:)
:)
:)

C.M. Jackson said...

"But always I will honor the counting
of ten toes, digging into the blanket
in the burial of the day, not mourning
next day’s clone of this one with regret."

Stunning--Mary Oliver and May Sarton would sing your praises at such an image---you are on a roll, my dear, keep it coming--c

Ruth said...

Thanks and welcome, Mary ♥ Mur.

Ruth said...

Oliag, my dear, thank you for that. :-)

Ruth said...

Thanks, Loring. Maybe there is nothing more absolute than the parade of our ordinary lives.

Ruth said...

Thanks, Amy. Yes, you do watch and keep the wonder. So good.

Ruth said...

Oh Gwei Mui, it's great to see you. Thank you for such kind words.

Ruth said...

Thanks, Margaret. Wow. I hope you can carve out 'self' time this summer. I bet you can. You talked about painting. As you say though, our children seem to vanish in a flash. Then they are adults, settling into their own routines.

I feel that way about deer and horses too. We ride our bikes by many horses in the evening. And the other day driving to work there was a doe with three fawns on our road.

Ruth said...

Terresa, oh thank you, my friend. How could it be otherwise than a compliment? MO is most definitely my teacher, and if I can open even a sliver of the light she does, I can rejoice.

Ruth said...

Thank you, C.M.. I so appreciate the thought that two of my favorite poets would praise something I wrote. Wouldn't that be miraculous? I aspire to nothing more than being in their classroom, and so your comment blesses me very much.

erin said...

you took your arms and held your day, didn't you? oh yes you did, sister to my soul. yes, you do.

xo
erin