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Friday, July 08, 2011

Nouvelle 55: Vulnerability

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Vulnerability

The world is not delicate
on the whole. I feel it here
in my sternum, my ribs,
lying on my back under you,
stars distant, tree immense.
The world is not delicate
and the plum leaf is strong,
even when the beetle nibbles
her into lace, making room
for more stars to be
strung between her veins.





Painting: Georgia O'Keeffe's 'The Lawrence Tree,' painted on her first visit to New Mexico, when she visited D.H. Lawrence's ranch. This tree was in front of his house, with a bench under it, and she lay back on the bench to paint the tree. 

Nouvelle 55 is a flash fiction or poem in 55 words based upon a work of art.
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74 comments:

erin said...

i know this place exactly. i know it exactly. ha. i laugh. or at least, i am able to take this poem by the fistful and make it mine. i don't believe it though. which i mean to say, it is a stubborn state of mind to say the plum leaf is strong exactly when the beetle consumes it. i am not beneath the plum leaf. i am the plum leaf. and i am not delicate.

astounding poem, ruth. astounding, wild, defiant and
delicate.

xo
erin

Brendan said...

Great paradox, the utter vulnerability of life in tandem with its tenacity and ferocity and strength. Like a grandmother-to-be, say. You remind me of May Sarton, though the conceits, the gorgeous weave of words, are wholly your own. -- Brendan

missing moments said...

Once again, beautiful words Ruth. So eloquently matched with O'Keeffe's painting.

Pauline said...

"The world is not delicate..."

What a fabulous lead in!

steven said...

the great strength of the world rests in its organization of smaller strengths into one whole. i am absorbed by this poem ruth. steven

The Solitary Walker said...

Much appreciation coming your way for this astonishingly lovely poem, Ruth. When are you going to get them all published in book form?

ellen abbott said...

I like this one. no, the world is not delicate but neither is it indestructible.

hedgewitch said...

That's a marvelous O'Keefe, which I don't remember seeing before. And the poem is so true and real. Life is ongoing, tough as nails, frequently relinquishing a unit, but never giving up a whole. And when the plum leaf falls, it feeds yet more life. Beautiful, affirmative work here, Ruth. Thank you for the lift this morning.

Jane Lancaster said...

I love this.. and it also pleases me so much that I visited this very tree at DH Lawrence ranch and lay under this tree like Georgia did just so I could live the whole thing. It is truly wonderful there..thanks from bringing the memory back Ruth! xo

Bruce Barone said...

Beautiful!

Maureen said...

Gorgeous poem, Ruth, and a marvelous selection of artwork.

rosaria said...

The poem captures both the toughness and the vulnerability of each element, including the speaker, under a big weight and still able to see up above.

This is a wondrous poem, Ruth, full of light and shadow, assertions and contradictions. Powerful imagery.

ds said...

Oh, I hear O'Keeffe. Oh, I hear Ruth. Oh, I hear the beetle crunching on the plum leaf, which nonetheless will withstand its advances. Such personal imagery here. The world is not delicate
Powerful assertion, with your delicate touch. Thank you.

Jen said...

Such beauty in the strength of the breath of the earth. May it's exhales be simultaneous with mans. That we may grow together and understand the grandness of our maker. ~ Jen

Dan Gurney said...

Invulnerability

Even the most solid things
we think we know
are almost pure space,
not there except in imagination.
Hard headed me—
I am fooled
by my skull bones
not yet dust
I will not see how my skull
resembles a fist,
or a penis, only
hard a few moments.
Black holes, even,
are delicate, changeable.

Grandmother said...

We're all of that aren't we? Not delicate and strong with stars strung between our veins. Thanks for this- substantial and important.

George said...

So lovely, Ruth, that I find myself echoing Robert. When will thou get thyself to a publisher or become one yourself? Your work cries out for broader readership, but only, of course, if you can do that and still listen to your muses. One of the things I discovered in painting is that success has its distractions, especially for creative people.

Louise Gallagher said...

I like what Steven wrote -- and everyone else too. And yes? When are you going to get them published in a body of work we can all savour as a poetic feast of your words?

Stratoz said...

I try to convey this strength to my students, while at the same time stressing how we should not push the world too hard.

Gwei Mui said...

Once again Ruth you blow we away -
Such simoplicity, such strength, such delicate imtamacy and yet uncompplicated and there in lies the beauty. There is something so serence and Zen like about much of your work of late. Every time I wander by I find encouragement and wonder an inspiration
Thank you GM

The Solitary Walker said...

Dan, your own Nouvelle 55 was such a brilliant response, and I liked it a lot.

Arti said...

What an interesting perspective to view and paint a tree. But of course, from the artist's POV, the beetle-nibbled leaves are laces allowing her to see through all the way to the stars. What a positive notion, what a beautiful poem. Thank you Ruth for the visual and the words.

Miss Jane said...

I love what Erin wrote and I feel it, although I did not know this until I read your poem. The strong femininity of being nibbled into lace in order to reveal more.
Plum, you write, plum!
I wonder at that word choice because it resonates so with me.
The tree in the painting is a pine, but you make it your own plum being et by a beetle.
Blown away, I say.
Wow.

Marja said...

Very original, wise and powerful. The picture goes well with it and I can relate to it in many ways.
I have laid under the starry skies in NZ a couple of times and we have here one of the most beautiful skies that lifts up every spirit.

who said...

It's awesome Ruth, the poem and the painting. It is also kind of crazy the way it coincides with the subjects and information I had been obsessively researching.

I had been gathering information on anatomy and specifically the names assigned as words to body parts and they way I thought I was seeing strong patterns in the perfect way words fit together like the master piece crafted by some superior human.

obsessing (like I do with words and language and communication) over the strange child-like fairy tale view of anatomy, word-names and the human body. The miracle of how it all works together as one larger body, the idea flashed in my mind as I was thinking about our souls as being the aspect that holds the miracle of our physical bodies alive. And the strange web-like network that connects nearly every cell of our bodies so that they can cooperate through communicate. How it is only possible because of the nerve "wiring" of our Nervous System. Seeing it visibly represented blew me away because as I said, I was imagining a soul and Holy Spirit and my belief that life is orchestrated by them and then to see a picture of the web or nerves that connected everything. To see how odd and unrelated our many organs and other body parts looked so out of place and born of different places like if they were parts to a machine they were not manufactured in the same place.

And I thought of the Nerves, to be the actual spiritual or soul. It looks as if this soul had picked out a dozen unrelated "parts" that were of this world and brought all these best parts together to house ourselves.

Your poem and the tree's trunk in the painting, as if right in synchronous time spoke out and proclaimed that, Yes, look, can you see the nerves that you think are soul, we are these connections you are thinking of.

just more weirdness, but in a good way :-) loved the post Ruth

Marcie said...

Love the O'Keeffe painting. It's one I haven't seen before. And - your words surely do it justice!!!

Ruth said...

Erin, I believe the statement is a mantra to remind myself/ourselves that we are the leaf, strong. It is true, whether we feel it or not.

Thank you.

Pat said...

I recognized the painting IMMEDIATELY - it is one of my FAVORITE of Georgia O'Keeffe's. And your poem matches along with it BEAUTIFULLY!

Ruth said...

Brendan, wow, thanks for that, so much. I am reading more and more of her. I appreciate her simplicity and honesty.

Ruth said...

Thanks a bunch, Reena.

Ruth said...

Thanks, Pauline. The statement has been doing laps in my head for a week.

Ruth said...

Thanks, Steven. You are a grand singer of the small.

Ruth said...

Robert, that's so kind, thank you! I am working on gathering poem into a book I hope to self publish this fall. I'll let you know.

Ruth said...

Good point, Ellen.

Ruth said...

Thank you, Hedgewitch. I need to remember that I am tough, even when I don't feel that I am.

Tess Kincaid said...

I am soft, but not delicate, an iron fist in a velvet glove. I love this piece, Ruth. My favorite of yours to date.

Ruth said...

Jane, knowing you were there, and lay under the tree, and that it was wonderful, makes me want to go and do the same more than I already did. I'm glad you saw this and remembered.

Thank you.

Ruth said...

Thanks, Bruce!

Ruth said...

Thanks, Maureen. I was browsing around DH Lawrence stuff, and there was this painting, which I'd never seen before. And then the story, and well, that must be some tree.

Ruth said...

Rosaria, thanks so much. It has been this kind of week, with weakness and strength, woven together like the branches in this painting.

Barb said...

Stunning imagery and so uplifting to think of "more stars to be strung between her veins."

Poetic Soul said...

Great picture and yup, you know your way around words

Amy@Souldipper said...

I believe Georgia O'Keefe would be very pleased, Ruth!

Oh said...

Aha! So The Solitary Walker (commentor above) also has asked you: when will all your pieces (or the chosen pieces anyway) be published in book form, eh?

Oh, yes we believe you can have that happen!

Ginnie said...

Georgia O'Keeffe would be honored, Ruth!

Ruth said...

Thank you, dear ds. O'Keeffe is inspiring to me, in her great sense of place.

Ruth said...

Jen, thanks for your beautiful prayer.

Ruth said...

Dan! What a wonderful, balancing nouvelle 55 you wrote, complementing my poem's power of the feminine with yours and its pitfalls of strength. Very well done. Thank you.

Ruth said...

Mary, thanks so much for reading and finding connection.

Ruth said...

George, thank you for your affirming response to my poem, and my work continually. I rarely entertain the notion of submitting my work after doing so very briefly decades ago, resulting in a few poems being published. Given the nature of the drastically changing world of publishing, and the prolificness of creative writers, without, perhaps, a readership to match, I question spending much time and money sending a manuscript out. I do have a self publishing project in process, which I hope to have done in the fall. This is mainly because a) nice people like you have asked for it and b) I'd like to hold a volume of my poems myself. I'll keep you posted.

I'd like to hear about your experience with success sometime.

Ruth said...

Louise, thank you for your enthusiasm and question about a book. I see that you are like me, and that you like holding a 'real' book in your hands. Because I want to do that and see my own poems on a clean white page, I am working on a self published volume.

Ruth said...

Stratoz, your students are fortunate to have you. Find what is essential in my weakness, and let it pull me toward strength.

Ruth said...

Gwei Mui, thank you for reading. I am most pleased and touched that you are finding those qualities in my poems.

Ruth said...

Robert, total agreement here.

João said...

Just beautiful. Thank you.

Susan said...

I feel as if I have been peeking through that lace curtain of nibbled leaves. Whew!

Ruth said...

Thanks, Arti, for your close attention here. This painting is often displayed upside down, because people don't realize the correct orientation of the original. It feels more comfortable to flip it vertically.

Ruth said...

Miss Jane, thank you for noticing and noting the difference in trees, and for your kind enthusiasm.

When I saw the tree as covering the stars, I began to think of our little wedding plum tree, planted almost two years ago now, during Lesley & Brian's wedding. Last summer the leaves were laced by Japanese beetles, for Don didn't spray it. It all came together in these moments of writing.

Ruth said...

Marja, how beautiful that sounds! Starry skies in New Zealand, lying back under that mantle, oh it's breathtaking. Thank you.

Ruth said...

Dusti, thank you. I absolutely love your idea of the soul being what holds our bodies in life. Seeing it as a web, a system, connected with all of our physical being. Thank you for seeing the web of the branches, which I think look very much like a sternum and ribs.

Ruth said...

Thanks so much, Marcie. This painting is recently new to me as well.

Ruth said...

Oh, Pat, thank you ever so much for your enthusiastic welcome of my poetic pairing with one of your favorite paintings! It is new to me, and I'm so glad I found it.

Ruth said...

That's wonderful, Tess. Thank you very much.

Ruth said...

Thanks for reading, Barb, and for your kind words.

Ruth said...

Poetic Soul, thanks for your encouraging visit.

Ruth said...

Amy, oh thank you. Imagine if we could sit and converse with those who inspire us with their art.

Ruth said...

Oh! So encouraging you are, thank you. I am working on a book to self publish. I will like having it, and since some nice friends like you have asked, I will keep you posted when it's ready, hopefully this fall.

Ruth said...

Boots, I'm awfully glad you think so. Thank you!

Ruth said...

Obrigada, João.

Ruth said...

Susie, lying back, looking at the stars? And without mosquitoes, I hope! Thank you, my friend.

Montag said...

Trees are like galaxies and stars, and like dust between the stars wherein even more stars are born.

Loring Wirbel said...

We describe our interactions with delicate webs and talk about the damage humans can do, which is true, but we forget about the underlying resilience. Mother Nature can shake us off like fleas.

Oliag said...

Georgia O'Keefe somehow always found the essense of each living thing in her paintings didn't she...and I think you have found the essense of her painting in your poem. These are both beautiful!
xoxo

Dan Gurney said...

Hi, Ruth!

As you know, your Nouvelle 55 really impressed me. It seemed to me the only proper response was another poem. It was the first time in a long while my Muse spoke to me. For that I thank you!!

Would you be willing to grant me permission to feature your poem presented with mine on A Mindful Heart?

Dan