alskuefhaih
asoiefh

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Poem: The earth's economy

-
-

The earth's economy

Just when I thought the day
had nothing left to give,
when heat was ladled across
the shallow dry plate

of the nation, working or not, alive
or not, my country
road home from work
an affair of sour radio news and roadkill —

the furred skunk, possum, cat,
squirrel, raccoon, in the
special economy of the outward-
facing nose, lost in final scent,

the surrendered open mouth,
forehead pressed back in frozen
tragedy, tension gone, time done,
appetite dissolving into skull —

I find myself at the kitchen counter
in a different Americana, tearing
kale ruffles from their spines
for a chilled supper of greens with lemon

and oil, Dijon, garlic, cucumber —
live, wet and impossibly cool from the
earth garden just outside the door,
where the farmer’s wife one hundred

years ago also opened her apron
like a cradle, gingerly receiving
into thin billowing cotton pockets
as much as she could carry

as much as she could carry




Listen to a podcast of this poem here.
-
-

48 comments:

The Solitary Walker said...

Wow, Ruth, now this is inspired. I'll be rereading many times. Much depth in this, and resonant layers of meaning. Economy - in so many senses! I like the heat being 'ladled across / the shallow dry plate / of the nation ...' - this tying up with the 'kitchen counter' - stacked, no doubt, with a different kind of plate. Lowell's dead skunk seems apposite here - even Loudon Wainwright's. The momentary topical and the unchanging continuum together - typical of your writing. Much Americana crowds brilliantly into this succinct poem, Ruth - which will reverberate in my mind for a long time, I'm sure.

Stratoz said...

sounds like you could use a news break, I once gave up news for Lent. Yes, it matters most what is happening just outside or inside the doors to our house. Yesterday I stood on our street and gave a welcome back present to a couple affected by a fire, then harvested tomatoes and peppers for our dinner. To me this is where I connect with the world the most and always will.

George said...

Tremendous, Ruth! Like Robert, I feel the need to come back and read this poem several more times, even though I have already read it several times. It's rich, wonderfully layered, and deeply insightful. Perhaps most important, it's divinely reassuring in a world that often seems so terribly broken. In the midst of so much craziness, I love the imagery of the farmer's wife opening "her apron like a cradle" and gingerly receiving . . . as much as she could carry — as much as she could carry. Bravo!

California Girl said...

interesting juxtaposition of images, the road kill and the farmer's wife.

your last stanza brought to mind Dorthea Lange photographs of the Dust Bowl.

steven said...

your voice holds the whole of this beautiful writing like rilke's silver thread over the great space that opens around each of these conjoined scenes. steven

Brendan said...

Hope indeed. You contrasted the bum news of the state and worse state of roadkill (heavens, "appetite dissolving into skull") with such a miraculous salad, as if to say, here, here, here. Giving us as much as we could carry. I wasn't sure you were going to be able to clear the dead weight (ha) of the first four stanzas, but you -- or the earth -- repaid us generously for the grief. I've got my fork out ... Brendan

missing moments said...

traveling the roads with you Ruth are always a treat

EcoGrrl said...

i'll be simpler in my comment...i *totally* dig that picture :)

hedgewitch said...

A very evocative selection of contrasting symbols try to bring the discordant and even cacophonic in as contrapuntal in the divine symphony, and the music soars and takes it all on, giving back all the ear and heart can carry. It's taken me years to not be filled with pain and sorrow passing roadkill and accept it; not sure I can do the same with the bad news radio, but I try to let the garden always have the last word, as you do here. Lovely, Ruth. Thank you for passing on your understanding to us.

Loring Wirbel said...

"an affair of sour radio news and roadkill" is one of my favorite lines of the year. Wonderful poem.

Babs-beetle said...

Lovely photo. We're growing our own tomatoes, beans and potatoes this year for our earths economy ;)

Terresa said...

Ruth, you transport me.

jen revved said...

A gorgeous poem, Ruth... beautifully crafted, heart luminous in the center. xxxj

Maureen said...

Truly a beautifully realized poem, Ruth. The juxtaposition of images of roadkill with the evening's dinner is inspired and deeply affecting. The picture of the wife with her apron open and "gingerly receiving" is so moving. I love the repetition of that final line; it is like a prayer we have to say once again.

Margaret said...

At the end of the day,wherever our paths take us, home is grounding, is comforting - as is the earth. It amazes me how relaxing puttering around in the garden is, caring for the tender plant so it can take care of us, nurture us at some later date. ...how many of us try to carry more than we can handle?. We should all just "fill our apron" and be thankful...

sonia a. mascaro said...

Very beautiful poem, Ruth!

Love the photo too.

Barb said...

Such a lovely cadence - I like reading it aloud. Again, you travel far in the poem - from here to there and back.

Amy@Souldipper said...

The trek home - through the valley of the shadow to the abundance of freshness.

(I spiked kale tonight for dinner. I keep promising to make a good pot of soup stock with those spikes.)

Ruth said...

Robert, you are awfully generous with me, and I appreciate it (abundantly).

Oh it's been so long since I read Robert Lowell's 'Skunk Hour,' a wonderful night, love on the radio, and potential for the rich aroma of skunks. And written for our beloved Elizabeth Bishop to boot.

I'm quite honored by your enthusiasm for this poem. Thank you.

hames1977 said...

dear ruth,

you had this unique way to express an inspiration, something that, for me is a yardstick on how poems should be written. my mind is filled with images of the dusty life of the Americana period, of the Midwest's humble beginnings to become an industrial nation. the many complimenting elements, sceneries, montages etc. completes the whole picture for me. you write a history here. a very clear poem.

Ruth said...

Stratoz, thank you for your good comment. Nine times out of ten driving in the car I don't turn on the radio but listen to music or the silence instead. I'm torn between wanting to stay informed, trying to understand, and being overwhelmed. Human connections, as with your poor neighbors affected by a fire, is what matters in the big arena of world affairs.

Ruth said...

George, thank you so much for reading and rereading. What could be better?

In this blinding heat and economic brokenness, in the craziness, I have hymns as Rilke says today, hymns that praise the things of the world. It's the only way I know to survive emotionally. To see, and re-see, that there are things of the earth that I connect with humanly, as other humans have done before, is immensely reassuring to me. I feel it in my soul, in spite of all that is falling apart around us. Well, sometimes even because of it.

Ruth said...

Thanks, California Girl. You're right, things have been bad before, very bad. Lange's iconic photos help us not to forget.

Ruth said...

Steven, thanks very much for that. If it weren't for writing, I'm not sure I could make sense of anything.

Susan said...

On my evening walks out to the garden, I usually forget to bring a bowl or a basket with me, and so I use the bottom of my shirt as my apron, gathering a few cucumbers or tomatoes, bringing in the last of the eggs from the hens' nest boxes. On a truly bountiful day, the stretch of my shirt is tested. I'm grateful for the bounty, as my mother was with her apron/basket.

I like that we're keeping those traditions going.

I'm always sad when I see roadkill, even though they're mostly thought of as varmints.

erin said...

you have me
utterly

and i laugh to think what i just posted, how my son and i picked and spoke last night.

i'm so glad the aproned woman was here waiting for me at the end of the poem for i thought of her as i read. even in the dust bowl, i thought. i could see her dirty face and hair loosened. even in the dust bowl, i thought, there was in one form or another, at one time or another, bounty.

gorgeous! (i am saying this so loudly and intently.)

xo
erin

Deborah said...

Ruth, I just wanted to say that I do come here to read your poems but prefer to just read them without commenting, in a similar way that seeing something beautiful in nature is a complete experience in iteself, without having to describe it.
I find your poetry lovely, evocative, full of gorgeous imagery and with a fine use of language and for some of those reasons, it just leaves me mute. I want to just leave the page with the taste of it still lingering, not spoiling it with my own words.

Ruth said...

Brendan, my soil, your water, the places we keep digging for healing. I'm amazed that the writing keeps me getting up in the morning, in spite of the state of things. Thanks so much for reading.

Ruth said...

Thanks a bunch, Reena. It's nice to have you along!

Ruth said...

Hey there, EcoGrrl, thanks. This was a couple of summers ago, when my husband had laid the first produce from his first year garden on that chair. It was a special day.

Ruth said...

Hedge, thanks so much for reading and for your kind words. I have friends who are terribly depressed about the state of things, yet they can't stop engaging with the news. I admire them. Myself, I stop listening some days, at least as closely. But always, the writing and the garden pull me back up.

Ruth said...

Thanks, Loring, it's great to see you and know you like that line and the poem. Thanks. Don't let the sour news get you down, my friend.

Ruth said...

Babs, thanks. Good for you and Mo! It helps the personal economy too.

Ruth said...

Thanks, Terresa, you are too kind.

Ruth said...

Thanks, Jenne', I appreciate you reading and your kind words.

Ruth said...

Maureen, thank you a lot. I always appreciate your consistent and close reading here.

Ruth said...

Margaret, thanks. There is a lot in your comment (as always). I feel that this earth, this property, is our caretaker, not the other way around. But my husband does do a lot of work to tenderly care for those plants.

Ruth said...

sa.m, muito obrigada!

Ruth said...

Barb, thank you. I'm glad you didn't think I traveled too far. It is quite a leap from the road to the kitchen.

Ruth said...

Thanks for reading, Amy, and thank you for teaching me a new term 'spiking kale'! Brilliant to keep the spikes. I have been remiss about storing veggie bits in the freezer bag for soup! I think the heat has pushed all soup-making from my mind.

Ruth said...

Marvin, you've honored me with very kind and attentive visits here in my space, and I really appreciate it. I'm quite glad you saw those visions of the deep drought and hunger of the Depression, a terrible time that is written on the heart of us collectively in this country. It's easy to forget though, even so, how terrible it was, how many died from heat and hunger.

Ruth said...

Dear Susie, it's a long walk to your garden and coop from the house, so you need that cradling apron so as not to go back for a basket. It's such a great image — skirt as basket, and one I have done too (nightgown sometimes).

Stay cool, my dear.

Ruth said...

erin, I love the wonder of our juxtapositioned posts, and you knowing the weary woman was here. The bounty is in us, in people. On we go in our blue world, our roundness, rolling on.

Thank you for your abundant word gorgeous.

Love.

Ruth said...

Dear Deborah! How kind of you to let me know that you read here. (I know that poetry is not your first preference for reading, so that means a lot.) You know that I find your writing incredibly compelling, some of the finest in our blog world.

Marcie said...

I love how you titled this. So perfect with your description of harvesting from your garden..and the bountiful meal it produces. Lots to think about here.

Andressa said...

I loved!

Ginnie said...

Sometimes I feel just like Deborah...just read and say nothing! But I always want you to know I have been here.

Oliag said...

I have never been good at critical discussion or writing about poems or literature...but I do know when I love somehthing. So I may not have many words but this poem has really spoken to me....

xoxo