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Monday, July 11, 2011

Poem: Morning praise

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Morning praise
“You see someone on the street, and essentially what you notice about them is the flaw.”
     ~ Diane Arbus

I drive onto campus where trees, shrubs and curvaceous
roads, easing through roundabouts, soften the hard and fast
boxes, wings, rises, windows and corners of university halls.
I’m grateful these mornings for the continual parade

of flowery trims and perpetual grooming the horticulture
students slavishly maintain so that I can find relief
from steel, chrome, glass and brick hardnesses.
My small car follows the same route like a silvery beetle

who knows the way, and I casually eye students up and down,
admiring bodies, remembering my own smooth
skin and streaming hair. We who are not students now
laugh at the changing uniforms students don — one year it’s plunging

necklines, another, skintight leggings and flowing blouses, this
year hip-high shorts and skirts, and my imagination curls
into the non-academic rhetoric these long legs create.
A beautiful student walks the sidewalk, her long billowing hair

the color of the Red Cedar River, and shining that way,
rippling as if over rocks, with the cadence of feathered
wings flapping up behind. I see that her hair jerks
up and down more than it should, more violently than a breeze

on such a sultry summer day would blow it, and in my momentary
and casual passing, in my need to balance the ugly structures
of the world with something lovely of visual or philosophical
pleasure, I recognize that one of her legs is much shorter

than the other, in movements that cause her to travel nearly as far
between ground and sky as she does on her horizontal path, her
left shoulder diving down toward the sidewalk when her left foot
steps, and swinging back up with the right leg’s rise. The effect

mesmerizes me as her hair sweeps the air like the rhythmic
motion of a broom reaching down from the sky to brush
the sidewalk, but never getting close enough to touch it.
Almost hypnotized, I follow her dancing hair.

She slips into my rearview mirror, and I know what I want
to believe: that there is purpose in beauty, a cleansing of the
air, or the path, the way raking the stones of a Zen garden gives peace
to the soul, organizing them in gestures that are steady, meandering,

repeated, in parallel lines, drawing me forward where I ride
and rest in their mindless destinations, somewhere between
heaven, and earth, with here and there a rock, a bench, a stream,
or an oscillating wing, surprising me with spontaneous irregularity.





Listen to a podcast of this poem here.
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51 comments:

annell said...

I enjoyed reading your post.

missing moments said...

You bring the meaning of beauty into the ordinariness of our lives.

OceanoAzul.Sonhos said...

Ruth, so good read you, your poetry involves our minds.
Congratulations!

Lovely photo.
oa.s

Maureen said...

How lovely to see the beauty in the flaw.

erin said...

oh ruth!

"and I know what I want to believe: that there is purpose in beauty, a cleansing of the air, or the path, the way raking the stones of a Zen garden gives peace to the soul, organizing them in gestures that are steady, meandering, repeated, in parallel lines, drawing me forward where I ride and rest in their mindless destinations, somewhere between
heaven, and earth, with here and there a rock, a bench, a stream,
or an oscillating wing, surprising me with spontaneous irregularity."
first off, gorgeous! i'd touch you upon your neck or your cheek just now to let you know.

and then, secondly, do you hear yourself? know this of yourself, ruth. let every question go and know this of yourself. i laugh with, I know what I want to believe. belief is that one thing with which we have control. believe it, you beautifully flawed woman you.

you gently touch my heart this morning with how you see. here is the broom, the light whisk that makes contact.

xo
erin

rosaria said...

May all your rides be so illuminating.
Beauty, youth, imperfections, contrast of the softness of natural things versus steel and hard concrete. A beautiful meditation here.

The Bug said...

I love how you see the lovely river of hair and THEN notice the irregularity. It echoes what I always try to do - finding a good thing at all times. Some days are harder than others, but this day is fabulous!

Vagabonde said...

Looking at the beauty, forgetting the ugliness – sometime it is easy and sometime it is hard – it all depends where you are at the moment. Right now, after having said it, I was thinking about places where I saw the ugly and it is hard to remember – maybe a back alley in Gabon, West Africa or a dirty stream in Indonesia? It’s hard to remember the ugly as our brain erases it from our memory. May your memories always be about the beautiful parts of life.

Lorenzo — Alchemist's Pillow said...

I feel deeply grateful for the way you take us along on this ride, one that starts and ends in routine, on the way to work, but in your inimitablly mesmerizing ways brings us face to face with a belief to be cherished and shared, a core conviction that we must never relinquish: that there be purpose in beauty. Wonderful.

Loring Wirbel said...

There's some kind of Nadja line about "beauty must be convulsive" - and irregular too! Great work.

Oliag said...

How beautiful this is! There is a lovely cadence to it when listening to your recording...listening is a must for this one.

Love the line "I know what I want to believe: that there is purpose in beauty..." Love the image of your small car as a silvery beetle...Love watching the young and remembering...

hedgewitch said...

Lovely images, Ruth--beauty and idiosyncrasy and meaning tending the road to peace. A former horticultural student-slave salutes your appreciation. Thanks for sharing it.

Friko said...

Glorious language.

One thing though: how fast or slow were you driving to be able to observe as closely as this?

Only asking . . . . . .

Babs-beetle said...

This is exactly why we should try to go through life slowly, whenever possible. We often miss the beauty.

steven said...

ruth the film of this played in my mind and i noticed it speeding up and then just as suddenly slowing as it rose above and looked back at itself filming the film. i'm interested in the perfection of chance, the integrity of flaws, and especially by the purposeful presence of accident. steven

ds said...

Mesmerizing. How many drove along that hard road and passed that young woman seeing not a rippling river of hair, or a rocking cadence, but "a cripple" or just another student? But you, whose silver trail is that of a Zen garden, you make the ordinary extraordinary and the extraordinary graspable: there is purpose in beauty and sometimes beauty resides in places of "spontaneous irregularity." The single flaw is more beautiful than the symmetrical roundabout.

Barb said...

How can beauty be appreciated if there is not some imperfection with which to compare it? To have both in one stunning example is mesmerizing. I really loved this poem, Ruth - so vivid in its descriptions.

Ruth said...

I'm glad, Annell. Thanks.

Ruth said...

Thanks, Reena. I need beauty the way I need food and sleep. If I don't find it, I have to create it. Sometimes I wonder if that is artificial. But regardless, I need it for survival.

Ruth said...

Obrigada, OA.S. I wish I could read Portuguese so I could read your poems. :(

Ruth said...

Thanks, Maureen.

Ruth said...

Thank you, erin. I touch you back.

I've let my mind-heart contemplate your question, and observation that, yes! I did not write I believe . . . Extraordinary. Somehow it reminds me of decades-ago writing when I would write I think . . . and a teacher instructed me to leave that off, since it is obviously what I think. :-)

More than that, I still observe this, and yes, here it implies that I don't know, and that I lack conviction about this. I'm still thinking about it. So far though, I am unwilling to lose I know what I want to believe because something remains in it that is true. I guess it gets at not only believing, but wanting, choosing to believe it.

I hope you realize that you and your expressions inform this path for me/in me.

Ruth said...

Rosaria, thank you for your attention to this piece. Slowing down, really looking, it's always possible, and there is so much more to be discovered.

Ruth said...

Dana, thanks for reading. I'm sure the sequence here is in such slo mo that it almost can't be deciphered which happened first. Yes, finding good, finding beauty, is my survival.

Ruth said...

Vagabonde, thanks for helping me reflect more on the process of observation, and looking for, and at, beauty. Inge and I often talk about memory, and why is it that we remember certain things, and not others. I do believe that ugliness is necessary, if it is real. We would not know beauty without it. It is also relative, of course. Don told me about a food show he watched when Gordon Ramsay goes to India and asks his guide where the best food in India can be found. She takes him to the slums of Mumbai (where Slum Dog Millionaire was filmed), and when he tastes the curry dish (after helping the cook prepare it) he truly agrees with her that it's maybe the best thing he's ever tasted. That's one example of beauty in ugliness.

Ruth said...

Thank you, Lorenzo. I so appreciate you slowing down with me here, attending to what I see. And truly you have taught, and are teaching me, many objects of beauty along my way, before unseen.

Ruth said...

Loring, thanks for ever opening new wonders to me.

Ruth said...

Oliag, thank you for loving this. And thanks so much for listening. Poetry comes alive with reading, it really should be heard. When I read poems by my favorite writers, including here at the blogs, I read their work aloud and find that it opens up a lot.

Ruth said...

Thanks, Hedgewitch, for reading and for your attention to the piece. And thank you for your slave years as a hort student.

Ruth said...

Thanks, Friko. Truthfully, I drove the permissable speed, about 25 mph. The slo mo happened in my mind.

Ruth said...

Thanks, Babs. It's not always easy to find the time. I try to slow down over something, in the writing. But I have to choose what to look at, and the rest slips by.

Ruth said...

Thanks, Steven. The episode lasted a few seconds. But the attention was paid later, in the writing, and it slowed down, frame by frame.

I really like your phrases:

perfection of chance
integrity of flaws
purposeful presence of accident

YES.

Ruth said...

ds, thank you for your time and effort here, your love.

Truly, I see flaws and ugliness and turn away, just like anyone. I take this time, here, as practice, as mantra, as a choice to believe it. But there is a lot of ugliness I don't choose to do this with. Some of it just is, and I live with it. But I find the hunger for beauty needs to be appeased, regularly, and I am sometimes more inclined to seek it out it where it is not as obvious these days.

Ruth said...

Thanks, Barb. There are constant presentations of the yin and yang of existence, yet I still forget that both are necessary.

Brendan said...

Yes -- It reminds me of those Navaho rugs that have an intentional flaw in the weave to the soul in the design has a way out. Perfection is eternity's trap: A person loses their unique identity striving for it. By our flaws we are human, and humane. I imagine our Lady of Chocolate Chip Waffles has hair of that burning hue. - Brendan

Ruth said...

Thanks for reading, Brendan. Yeah, those rugs, and also the Amish quilts designed with a flaw. Their reasoning is that nothing is perfect but God. But having grown up with ideas of God and what 'perfection' meant, I think of it so differently now. I think the original Hebrew/Greek was more about wholeness than flawlessness.

Grandmother said...

I love the slowing down and noticing that this poem suggests. It acknowledges being drawn to the flaw but looks though and sees the beauty or, better, knows the essential irregularity of the natural. Your reading of this poem is itself mesmerizing.

Terresa said...

"I’m grateful these mornings for the continual parade

of flowery trims and perpetual grooming the horticulture
students slavishly maintain so that I can find relief
from steel, chrome, glass and brick hardnesses.
My small car follows the same route like a silvery beetle

who knows the way..."

Ruth, your line breaks, imagery, where is your chapbook on my nightstand when I need it?? :)

Your uncanny observations, eye for life and the bursting forth of it through your tongue's window, thank you for this.

Amy@Souldipper said...

I do hope the Red Cedar River-haired student realizes the impact her beauty has had on a responsive poet.

Jeanie said...

You may well know that some quilters put an intentional flaw into their work to remind us that nothing is perfect. I always look for the flaws in my quilt collection. Not just the ones made by time and wear, but the intentional flaw.

As always, Ruth, your words move across the page like a paintbrush and even if I didn't drive those same routes, see those same students, I would know precisely what you see, how it feels and how the echoes of time change the styles, the look, but never the constancy of energy.

The Solitary Walker said...

Beautiful. And I love the flow of your routine car trip bound up with the intelligent and creative flow of your thought in this poem. Form and content are one here, Ruth. So well done.

I have always believed the flawed to be the most beautiful, the imperfect to be real thing and therefore the most noble and authentic, the cracked and scarred to have the most humanity and the most potential. Wabi-sabi I think we may be talking about here.

Ruth said...

Mary, thank you for reading, and thank you for listening too. I am forever trying to speed myself up, while overlaying it with slo mo. It's a trick, sometimes it works.

Ruth said...

Dear Terresa, I very much appreciate your time spent here with this piece. I am working on a self published book, hopefully it will be done by fall. It's for me to hold, and for my friends who ask.

Ruth said...

Thanks, Amy, maybe she does know. I hope she feels it too.

Ruth said...

Jeanie, yes, I know Amish quilters do that. Now you've made me think that I will do this for the baby quilt I'll be making for future grandbaby.

Thank you for your kind attentions and enthusiasm for my work, my friend.

Ruth said...

Thanks so much, Robert. As a poet, you know how forms change with the piece, and so I welcome your words about that. There are so many aspects that work in layerings, many of which I'm sure I'm not even conscious of and need to learn yet.

Don't you feel that the wabi-sabi world view takes constant circumspection and effort against the current of homogenization? I delight in the effort, and I also have to check myself against desiring perfection. Once again, as I said to Brendan, there is more than one definition of perfection, and wholeness is the one I prefer, which brings with it yin-yang, life-death, impermanence and permanence.

The Solitary Walker said...

'Don't you feel that the wabi-sabi world view takes constant circumspection and effort against the current of homogenization?'

Yes, indeed. I could go on about this at length but I won't. Suffice to say, in my experience perfectionism brings neurosis. I want the failed, the unremarked, the hidden. This is the stuff of 99% of life. I want that life, to hear about that life, in all its imperfect, tragic glory. That's why I like Beckett, Pinter, Tennessee Williams, and many others. And Rilke too, of course. (What empathy for the outsider - because he was one such himself.)

So where does art come into all of this? Well, real art ain't homogeneous, that's for sure.

Ruth said...

Robert, one reason I would love to join you, and George, and other friends on a long trek (Hadrian's Wall, for instance) would be to partake of the 'at length' discourse we could have. As I've said before, I might do more listening than speaking in such cases, no doubt reveling with delight.

The Solitary Walker said...

I think you may be disappointed how mundane my quotidian discourse actually is, Ruth! And, as for speaking and listening, you may find me more of a listener than a speaker too - though a good conversation is to be revelled in, I grant you. Especially with sympathetic friends.

Miss Jane said...

"somewhere between heaven, and earth," indeed. I loved how this closed.

In my biz, I seem to see the flaws that no one else does. Endlessly the perfectionist, I almost always see the line of frosting that isn't quite even, or a stray crumb. I hardly ever see the big picture.

Ruth said...

Miss Jane, in your business, perfection is important in somethings so small. Thanks for your visits.