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Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Poem: Summer labor

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Summer labor

I walked to the house
from the laundry line, the heat
already steamrolling fringes of color out
of the air at nine in the morning.

I was wearing the frumpy
loose dress I fell in love with on the
mannequin but which seemed to olden
on me the first time I wore it.

There I was, shuffling
past the pitiable lavender bed
clutched by weeds and grass,
with here and there pincushion heads

of powdery purple trying
to be charming, reaching out to me,
as if I were the woman
to free them into their full sun

potential. Had they been words
to be weeded into poems, I’d have sat
with them in the latitude of the morning,
yanking away grasses of the outer

world, spreading apart their leggy stems, reaching
in for heads, coaxing them into the bright air
to breathe their wild and dusty breath,
fighting for their very life from within.




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43 comments:

Maureen said...

Your "heat / already steamrolling fringes of color out/ of the air" must be as heavy as ours; nothing much moves. Weeding words is a nice image, particularly when it allows them "to breath their wild and dusty breath".

Keep cool.

steven said...

my garden is largely pinks and purples that bravely wait for me to reach the end of the academic year at which time i can talk to them and care for them and allow their full selves to peak out from the fog of growth and moisture laden air that characterizes summertime. it's so much like teaching children. steven

missing moments said...

so lovely
"words weeded into poems"
magic you spread
when you write

Pauline said...

well, and you did make them into poetic words! How cool is that?

The Solitary Walker said...

Oh, wow! This is fantastic. Making the extraordinary out of the ordinary. How such creative productivity arrives at your door, at your weed patch, I've no idea - but long may it continue.

hedgewitch said...

Yes, word play and soil play offer much the same satisfaction, but one comes much easier to the aching, aging body than the other. The mind seems to retain an energy, even in the enervating heat, that the body lacks--obviously, since it produced this lovely piece. If it lessens your pain at the situation, my lavender bed is choked with wandering jew and crabgrass at the moment, and so it will sit til a crisp morning chases away the triple digit heat. I console myself that the lavender's pleasure and relief will be that much greater. ;_)

Patricia said...

Interesting to think what our priorities are...the daily triage. Living things in my yard beckon also, but I feel like Sisyphus...all that time and back the growth comes. I like the idea that you spend your time grooming words.

Amy@Souldipper said...

Don't you grace and honour the English language?! You do prune and expose it to the sun. Enticingly.

Terresa said...

Leggy stems -- this is lush, every word.

jen revved said...

A beautiful, moving lyric-- your work shows great tenderness for both outer and inner worlds-- xxxj

Ruth said...

Thanks, Maureen. The morning, here in the dark is cool, and it will only get into the 70s today, so thankfully. But there is another heat wave coming. In the South it's terrible. One city, I don't remember which one, had a heat index of 123 yesterday.

You stay cool too.

Ruth said...

Steven, love is attention. I'm afraid I don't love our flower beds enough. Not nearly as much as writing. I hope you enjoy your garden, before your big ride coming up soon.

Ruth said...

Thanks so much, Reena. I appreciate your reading a lot.

Ruth said...

Pauline, thanks for reading and for your kindness.

Ruth said...

Robert, thanks so much. Your response means a great deal to me.

I can't account for what is happening myself. Somewhere along the line there must have been a tipping point. I'm grateful for it, and for friends like you who care to read, find something worthwhile, and hopefully feel inspired in your own creative expressions, as I do from yours.

Ruth said...

Hedgewitch, thanks for relieving my guilt by showing me your pitiable lavender bed. And thanks for reading with your always conscious tending. I wish you cool, crisp days soon.

Ruth said...

Thanks for reading, Patricia. Yes, the quotidian beating back of nature and piles and all that never ceases can be quite daunting. I remind myself that there can be satisfaction in labor, even enjoyment.

Ruth said...

Thanks a bunch, Amy, for such a kind comment! So glad you enjoyed.

Ruth said...

Terresa, thanks for reading and I'm glad you like it, really glad.

Ruth said...

Thanks, Jen. I do feel that tenderness. I also need to feel a little more responsibility with the outer world. :-)

Brendan said...

Ah, that inexorable clothesline with its profane distraction of daily duties, flapping rows of sheets and towels in a hot breeze ... Always one has to leave the page to log in there, pulled away from the wilderness of the word. Luckily there is a garden between that proletarian place and writing-desk, and it is somehow neither and both, in need of revision, perfect as it is. The Maker's hand is required in so many cramped quarters ... Brendan

Jeanie said...

I SO know what you mean about the frumpy dress and the mannequin. The other night a guy came to my door -- a neighbor of Rick's -- and said "Do you need any yard word done? I need twenty dollars?" He's already been back, turning scary-looking overgrown bushes into something tidy and pulling out thistles and weeds as tall as I am. I hope he needs more than the thirty I've already paid him...!

annell said...

So beautifully done, right from the first, to the last word!

erin said...

i see you so neatly about your work, hands and clothes, stems and words. is one different than the other? only by a beat.

i find you exceedingly clever in your approach to life. isn't that a funny thing to think? i don't think you're ever a steamroller. i see you careful and sure footed. i see you able to coax the word, the images, concisely from the bramble.

xo
erin

ellen abbott said...

Summer chores on a summer day. Lovely

Ruth said...

Thanks for your attentions here, Brendan. I appreciate very well how you integrate and synthesize the universe of oneself in the various quarters, here, and in general in your writing and reading where I witness you. 'The wilderness of the word' (love that) is where I want to be, but I've no doubt that if there were only that, I would soon long for the 'profane distractions' back.

Ruth said...

Jeanie, thanks, friend, for reading.

I wonder if Rick's friend could come all the way out to us . . .

I'm half serious. One nice thing about living on a hobby farm is that there's no neighborhood association with flower bed expectations. From a distance they don't look too bad . . .

(See how I weasel out of work?)

Ruth said...

Annell, thank you for being so kind and enthusiastic. I really appreciate it.

Ruth said...

erin :-)

My world is so small. I find it quite easy to be clever in such a small world, where you see me, and all looks neat and trim. My physical world is rather small too, and my husband looks after the bigger periphery of it. He wants me to write and be in my small space. It is a privilege. But I do wonder about it, and my sedentariness. Discipline for doing other than what I want to do (write, read, draw, photograph) has been ebbing the last few months. I wonder, does it matter?

Thank you for thinking of me.

Ruth said...

Hi, Ellen. I know you have it much hotter down there. Hopefully you can be inside with your magic etchings most of the time. Thanks for stopping by and leaving your nice comment.

Mark Kerstetter said...

I would ask if you live in Florida, since the summer here can be so oppressive, but then I just read on another blog that it's 100 degrees in Baltimore.

I feel sorry for those poor blossoms, but if anyone could coax their beauty out, it's you.

Grandmother said...

When I saw the title, I jumped into the poem given that other life event going on for you. But you are talking about another kind of fecundity. It's all kinds of life fighting for its very life and us feeling called on to respond.

Ruth said...

Mark, Michigan. It's cool today, lovely, but the heat will be back they say. I don't know how you live in Florida. I don't know if I could.

Thank you much for your affirmation.

Ruth said...

Mary, thank you for seeing the baby in the 'labor.' I'm hard pressed to pull away from anything fecund these days.

Our grand baby is in fact due in January.

George said...

Wonderful, Ruth, and the line that sums up your experience, at least for me, is "the latitude of the morning." When I read that line, I said to myself, "Yes, that's what we all need — more latitude in our mornings, perhaps our days, our lives — latitude to see and feel and touch and experience everything.

Ruth said...

Thanks, George. I'm glad you liked that word and phrase. As I think you know, 'freedom' is one of my favorite words. In this sense of latitude, freedom seems to join with my other favorite word yes. I need to open more to what does not immediately draw me. This reminds me of the Rilke reading today, Some Generous Place.

Shari Sunday said...

Waves of heat waft up from your words. I can feel it since I live with it every day down here in Florida. I would love a 70 degree day! Enjoyed your post.

ds said...

Oh, Ruth, you are a master gardener of words, allowing each to breathe in its own meaning(s); the perfect latitude, heat, breath. And the flapping of the laundry becomes not a distraction, but the background noise of life.
Thank you.

Friko said...

perhaps weeding weeds in the heat of high summer is a little too enervating but I find that lots of words sort themselves out in my head wile my fingers busily yank away at unwanted greenery.

it is easier to create poetry when the climate is less unforgiving, as it is here, both in the garden and on the page. Your temperatures would leave me in a little puddle on the ground.

erin said...

of course it matters!

and then again, of course it does not.:)

what matters most is - ha, nothing really. what matters most is that you breathe this moment and that your eyes are open and that your neck is warm and oh, look! there is a silly little bird on the lawn. and your husband walks down the hallway toward you easily.

(but i sure would not want to lose you or your words or thoughts. but i don't even matter.)

xo
erin

Susan said...

I love what ds said....you are the "master gardener of words". I think maybe your flowers wouldn't mind being weedy, if they could read the words you write so cleverly and soulfully on these pages.

Miss Jane said...

Oh, Ruth! This makes me smile! As soon as I saw the lavender, actually. My poor garden! My poor lavender! I had prickly pear cactus entwined with my lavender. Cactus! and Mint! Who would be so foolish as to plant these all together (not to mention the Lemon Balm). I did manage to extricate the cactus (which the dogs seem to have no trouble marching through, but both I and and lavender were not really as comfy/cozy with) and moved it to a previous firepit--which the cactus is thriving in.
Gardening this year is hit or miss to say the least. It was almost going to be the summer that wasn't. I've had to let a lot of my own expectations of my backyard paradise go, and just be content with the little things that are--the surprise return of a few moss roses, one brave leaf of borage (how come I can't grow borage? In my Mother's garden, it grew like a weed.), a fantastic year for the Westerland rose, a bad year (so far) for the Bonica, a blessedly late start for the Japanese Beetles, etc.
Loved what Hedge had to say about gardening and writing.
And, oh dear, the frumpy dress. Say there is still some beauty in it and you in it. Hard to be fashionable whilst doing chores in the summer in the hot and humid Midwest.

Ginnie said...

Our summer, dear Ruth, has thus far been autumn, with the chill of winter cracking through whenever it can. Today I sit here wearing a long-sleeved t-shirt and a hoody sweatshirt...and am still shivering. Oh, and gloves on my hands. At 58F I refuse to turn the heat on. I'd rather go take a brisk walk first!

But I know the heat whereof you speak. My 25 years in Hotlanta would give even you pause, for sure! To be honest, I'd rather be cold and shivering, so in that regard, I'm a happy camper. :)