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Monday, July 18, 2011

Poem: In the heat

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no, it's not raining here, this is a memory

In the heat

       I remember
the smother of hot nights,
the dark shiftless touch
of maple leaves palmed against the screen
of my second storey window, the street
light outshining the fingernail moon,

      the whole damp town
a small comfort, clapboard houses
porched and facelit, parked cars
hulking shadows sleeping along
to the church, like everyone
but me

               and falling back onto moist
sheets where I imagined hovering
like a cloud, lit from within
by lightning’s quick but
far-fingering promise,
unafraid of distant thunder,
believing he spoke of rain.


38 comments:

Ginnie said...

With your heat and our rain, we'd make a perfect holiday, Sister!

C.M. Jackson said...

yes, endless hot nights where the slightest breeze could send one into dreamland..excfellent!

erin said...

this could be many stories, ruth. i wonder on the nature of the clouds forming within.

lit from within
by lightning’s quick but
far-fingering promise

promise
makes me believe that the storm is the swelling of your personal identity despite outside influences. of course, i draw into play your last few poems, as well. but this story could be pulled on a like a dress for someone else, other identities, other dreams or personal truths.

i do wonder on the nature of the he in the last line.

holy holy, can you ever create a moment though. i feel about to burst.

xo
erin

Brendan said...

Something about the suspended-animation of a comfortlessly hot night -- about a heat wave -- that seeks words to dampen a hot brow. They're here as the speaker, the poem, becomes the deliverance, the ramping-up of cloud and the sweet long release. Let's do hope your celestial pastor speaks of rain. - Brendan

d smith kaich jones said...

i know this place. i've believed the lightning's promise. and still do. despite its many lies.

Pat said...

So full of imagery....wow!

Maureen said...

This (to me) speaks deeply to the difference between Church and spirituality, and where and how we find what fills our soul's need.

Your final two concluding lines are marvelous.

missing moments said...

I think I have been to this place ... but a fading memory

Dutchbaby said...

I just returned from a long weekend in Texas, where the heat slapped us in the face as we stepped off the airplane.

The smothering hot nights you describe take me back to my childhood on the island of Java. Bless the modern miracle of air conditioning!

I photographed the street light and the fingernail moon in my mind's eye.

The Solitary Walker said...

See this

Barb said...

Sometimes the voice of thunder does hold promise if the day has been unbearably hot. I liked the imagery ("hovering like a cloud"). I can feel the stickiness when reading your poem, Ruth (though thankfully, it's cool here).

hedgewitch said...

You've painted so much about a small town here--I'm from an anonymous huge City originally, but I've seen their organic conformity in action here--and the line that really stood out amidst the heat doldrums and lightning/lightening was "the whole damp town/...sleeping along/to the church, like everyone /but me.." conveying so well the sense of isolation, of occupying, as it were, a contrarian position. A subtle, questioning, yet affirming piece, and a very positive mood left after reading it, for me. Fine writing.

Terresa said...

"Believing he spoke of rain" -- this is a wistful one, Ruth, and I like it for that, all the more. Beautiful imagery evoking a time, a place.

ds said...

Love the fingernail moon, the heaviness of the air, being a cloud, the "believing he spoke of rain."
And think that here is the yellow after the red, and the blue, the path not taken in today's Rilke reading...

Ruth said...

Boots, and your cold! Imagining you in a long sleeve t-shirt and sweatshirt hoodie is almost surreal.

Ruth said...

Thanks, C.M.. Guess you've been there too.

Ruth said...

Thank you, erin. You read this well (and as always give it your full and rich attention). I also enjoy very much your response to it, which I will come over and respond to in turn. You are something else. Truly.

As for that he, Brendan is right that he is some sort of shepherding voice, though just who, or what, I'm not sure of.

Ruth said...

Thanks for reading, Brendan. We had a big tremendous thunderstorm yesterday afternoon with a 30 minute downpour. Great for the garden and surrounding farms. Thunder lasted long into the evening. More heat through the end of the week.

You stay cool.

Ruth said...

d s k jones, and what lies does the lightning tell, I wonder? Thanks for stopping by.

Ruth said...

Thanks, Pat! I had a great hometown growing up.

Ruth said...

Maureen, thank you for seeing that in this poem.

Ruth said...

Reena, in this present heat, I'm grateful for AC.

Ruth said...

Dutchbaby, I feel sorry for us here, and truly it is HOT, but other places it is far hotter. The climate is changing so quickly, it's frightening. I am praying the Gulf Stream is not permanently altered.

Your memories, and the video you sent me of Java are wonderful. That rain! The broth sounded delicious, but also hot! :-)

Ruth said...

Thanks, Robert. I had a wonderful interlude at the office reading Dylan's remarkable poetry. I fought with my twin, that enemy within . . .

Ruth said...

Hedge, thanks for your close reading, as always. And thanks for seeing the subtle noncomformity here, subtle in me then even.

Ruth said...

Thanks for reading, Terresa. I'm still blown away by your ode to your friend Freddy.

Ruth said...

ds, I like your intriguing and colorful take on this. Yeah, that path down to the church. I had not made the connection with the Rilke piece, thank you.

Ruth said...

Barb! Sorry I skipped you!

It's awfully good to know there is someplace in this country that is cool. Seeing the snow at your place is like a shift of seasons. Yesterday I read Wallace Stevens "The Snowman" just to feel a break.

Stratoz said...

we are at the beginning of a long hot and humid spell here in PA. In my youth, it was an oak tree that brought shade to my house.

Lorenzo — Alchemist's Pillow said...

A midsummer gem. Every line of this poem exhales compelling images, and so many meanings and layers and different stories seem to jostle about. Each time I start to comment, a new take on this pops up and momentarily chases the previous ones off the stage of my attention. I like the awareness of the world without that is conveyed here: though the window keeps the maple leaves out, you see them (or their shadow?) on the screen; the streetlight outshines the moon, but you are nevertheless aware that its fingernail of light is there. Despite the hot, humid, sleepless, nearly airless night, the poet, though fallen onto her damp sheets, can nevertheless feel as light as a cloud, lit from within by lightning’s “far-fingering promise” (!!), unafraid and even welcoming of the thunder and its promise of rain.

What age would you place on the Ruth that is recollected in this poem? The beautiful last stanza speaks of the imminence of release … and not just from the heat, but also of a spiritual release, a sexual release, the release of a young girl from the smothering strictures of sleeping shadows all lined up in the same direction. Makes me want to get out my rainstick.

Ruth said...

Lorenzo, your rainstick is the perfect complement for this poem out of the heat. How well I remember your poem, read a hundred times, with its clear and clean and cold refreshment, and at last, / at long last / the rain will come. Talk about release! If only we could shake a stick full of pebbles and seeds whenever we need to be refreshed.

This Ruth would be in junior high school, in those days of adolescence when discovery was both outside and inside the window. Hot nights too long and restless, and nowhere for the mind and heart to rest either.

Always somewhere to the east there was a church, and it was a sort of confinement, one I could not extricate myself from then. Believing 'he' speaks of rain comes only now, after these many years. Imagine. Something hopeful in the thunder.

Thank you for your close attention here.

Ruth said...

Stratoz, it's going to be a long week, here too. Stay cool.

I was hearing the other day that home builders have gotten lazy about ensuring that there are shade trees around to cool the house, relying too heavily on AC.

lw said...

wow ruth, i love that last line, which is my way. it opens a door to a world our wondering can take us

Ruth said...

Thanks, Rick. That line took about 50 years to write.

julie king said...

very touching ruth and the photo is hauntingly lovely.

Loring Wirbel said...

The liquid ending makes it especially rich. You are on a roll with great poems this month.

Amy@Souldipper said...

I remember hot, sticky, damp nights like this in London Ontario. It was a shock to my prairie upbringing. Changing sheets at midnight. Praying fervently for a cool breeze during the second shower. "Fingernail moon" - turning the tables. :D

Susan said...

Oh, WOW, do I remember those hot, muggy, breathless nights in my bedroom with the windows that were nailed and painted shut. Luckily, my BR was by the front door and I would leave it open with a box fan in front of it, drawing in what little bit of cooler air to blow straight on my face. On the really awful, sleepless nights, I would sleep on the front porch in the metal glider to get a little relief. The damp sheets were the worst feeling. Ugh.

Yeah, it's been like that here, too. So grateful we have A/C.