Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Poem: Little stints


Little stints

Under white cloud mountains as stiff as meringue
the shore pulled away, me in a daze
of life. The windowed, curving mansion on the dune
emptied itself onto the air.

Two little stints ran and stopped, ran
and stopped, in the thin shine at the water’s edge,
their bills the gauge of what is well,
what is continuous, their black feet whirring
in the same motion of the paddleboat
thumping by with tourists,
whose wind-distant voices tipped
the horizon like sails flitting
in a sudden, subtle flap.
The sandpipers must have found
their bugs, or maybe tiny shelled
beings that I take for quartz.
Ahead of me they darted, then bowed
in a moment’s snowy bite, and again
the quick black feet motored along.

I felt blind
to everything but feeling, a human without
the sense of a beast, loping into nothing,
out of nothing, chasing shore birds
in a slow wade, my legs an ache
of sand-walking, my body fresh but tired
from swimming, where something had washed
away, and something had returned,
though I could not say what it was.

Of a sudden, they flew up and arced
behind me, to where we had already walked,
to the somethings I had not seen, the things
I had forced them to pass over too quickly,
but in all their lightness, they knew
awaited them in their brief and patient life.

Listen to a podcast of this poem here.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons
Photographer: Andreas Trepte, more beautiful bird photos


erin said...

I felt blind
to everything but feeling, a human without
the sense of a beast, loping into nothing

jezuzgod, how thankful i am for these moments of transcending the beast. your words, your recognition, a mirror to the experience which prolongs absolution for us all. sweet, so sweet, ruth.

the other day we were up the tote road, a dirt road that leaves this town and goes up and through the woods to who knows where. sadly, it is a logging road in actuality, but for me it is a route to where i need to be. we stopped in the middle of the road before an immense swamp and sat and listened and watched. for how long? well, time, you know... i was watching the treeline so very far off, beyond a mountain ridge. and then i became overcome. i said, you know, sometimes it is just too hard to see something like this, and i wept. i could not escape the lumbering beast of my being, and yet the beauty existed.


The Solitary Walker said...

Ruth, there are so many brilliances of expression in this poem: 'stiff as meringue', 'thin shine at the water;s edge', 'loping into nothing', 'sand-walking', etc. i think you must be aware that I think you're one of the finest poets i have ever read on the Internet. Can I email you for some more analytical and detailed (even critical) discussion?

Louise Gallagher said...

There are many 'brilliances of expression' in this poem -- and like Erin, this phrase:
I felt blind
to everything but feeling, a human without
the sense of a beast, loping into nothing


The sense of a beast, lumbering, solid, I sometimes wander, caught in the heaviness of this physical being called life on earth.

YOu have captured it well, the transcendence of the moment, the fluttering disruptions, the settling back again. The knowing all is as all is.

Beautiful, provocative, soothing.

Ruth said...

erin, thank you for reading and feeling here.

Returning to that place you found/find, returning to yourself, replenishing what is beast, and not beast, the who we are (like Hopkins), it is constant motion, and need.

Ruth said...

Robert, thank you so much for such kind words.

Yes, please email me, it sounds great. I miss this sort of thing, and I'd love it. ( I'm a little nervous of the critical, but I welcome it too. :-) I must not take myself too seriously, and of course there is always room for improvement . . .

Ruth said...

Louise, thank you for reading and finding those connections and resonances here.

Stratoz said...

I am taking these words: I had forced them to pass over too quickly,
but in all their lightness, they knew
awaited them in their brief and patient life.... with me on my retreat.

Ruth said...

Oh Stratoz, blessed retreat. Be well, be very well. Your word-carrying honors this work. Thank you.

steven said...

"in all their lightness, they knew". sometimes the skies draw me back, sometimes a bird, sometimes flowers. there is always something to pull me gently back from the brink of the washing away and the washing ashore. i am compelled without entirely knowing why to shy away from obliviousness until it's all too much and then i welcome it as respite from the overwhelming beauty and love of this place. steven

Maureen said...

Always a delight to read your poems, Ruth. You have a marvelous way of drawing on nature - and with deep but controlled feeling - to make large statements about life. Lovely.

Nelson said...

I wonder about our memories, should we revisit them, what awaits us that we have passed over too quickly - can I be patient enough in my return to find what is well?

Grandmother Mary said...

"arced behind me"- I will steal that word, arced. It says something quick and lovely and aware of things outside our ken. This poem is gorgeous!

Anonymous said...

So nice,sweet.

Jenne' R. Andrews said...

An exquisite poem in ardent attunement with the sensory world-- it is that attunement I believe that sustains our souls. I love these lines especially:

I felt blind
to everything but feeling, a human without
the sense of a beast, loping into nothing,
out of nothing, chasing shore birds
in a slow wade, my legs an ache
of sand-walking...


GailO said...

A walk along your muse Lake Michigan sounds so like a walk along my RI beach. I am often overwhelmed there as well. This is so beautiful Ruth!

who said...

Excellent poem Ruthi, but be careful around those quick whirring running birds that appear to frequent bodyies of water.

Before you know it you maight find yourself among those dove-looking ducks, the Pie-billed grebe. They might come off as sweet nice little birds, but rest assured, they just want to bury their bill against your skin and make you quack until you quake, those dirty minded rotten waterfowl

Mark Kerstetter said...

Are the "somethings" in the great "I felt blind" stanza the same somethings in the final stanza? Whether yes or no the phrase "where something had washed
away, and something had returned" captures my interest - it's the not-knowing, the almost losing of self that happens sometimes at the beach. I sometimes wonder how the creatures see us, who don't even have natural clothing.

J.G. said...

Such a beautiful contrast between the complexity of human thought and feeling and the simple confidence of the birds who can just be.

Unknown said...

I always love reading your poetry, Ruth. You see nature with a unique eye.

Ruth said...

Steven, it's mysterious that it can work this way, that without words, or contemplation, some healing takes place, a balancing out, a spreading out, a restoration. Even just your blog header these days, of the tree's reflection in water, that looks like burnished bronze or brass, replaces something in me that is needful.

Ruth said...

Thanks, Maureen. I was thinking yesterday that I don't really do much out there, besides observe, and feel. It is enough for me, but sometimes I feel a little guilty about it.

Ruth said...

Nelson, it's a great question, and deep and provocative. And hey! we are doing this, with our family memories, at Blue Star Highway. :-)

Ruth said...

Thank you, Mary. And well, I don't own the word or image "arced" — or maybe I do, maybe we all do, own everything. Or else we own nothing.

Ruth said...

Thanks, Me.

Ruth said...

Thanks for reading and for your lovely words, Jen. The word "attunement" is perfect here, for the balancing we need, and get, from nature, if we will only slow enough to receive it. It's like tuning an instrument, and I never thought of it that way before. I need to go outside and get tuned! I love it.

Ruth said...

Oliag, our shorelines! The "sea" restores like no other place, doesn't it? It is so good to be muted by it.

Ruth said...

Thanks, Dusti, I'll be careful.


Ruth said...

Mark, it's possible they are the same somethings. But who knows? And you're right, it's the lack of need to answer the question with my mind or words that is so restorative, I think. The answer is everywhere, and the little stints know it. They reassure me with their perseverance and constancy.

Ruth said...

Thanks, J.G., I am humbled by that contrast, and I need to let all my suppositions out into the air, often.

Ruth said...

Thanks, Reena. As do you! :-) That bald-headed blue jay for instance . . . !

Brendan said...

Yes, to have a "brief and patient life," while we tarry and hurry ... Interesting contrasts between sharply visible and prescient details and that confession of blindness -- I'm not sure the latter worked, inserted late in the poem (it seemed jarring, off-kilter from the rapturous flow which preceded it). Some smoothing there I think would enhance the rhetorical flow of an otherwise fine mediation. Maybe some of the details of emerging from the swim in the first stanza would help the meditations which occur in the third. But really, it's on the way to becoming another gem from Ruth. -- Brendan

Ruth said...

Thanks, Brendan, I think those are very good suggestions. You're the first to say this, but I wonder if Robert might be thinking something like it. ('Course most people might not feel free to say so, and I appreciate your openness to do it.) I'll make some stabs at it, and maybe you'd be willing to read another draft?

Unknown said...

I feel washed clean after reading this magnificent piece. I think it's my favorite of all.

Ruth said...

Oh I'm glad, Susie, so glad.

Shari said...

I don't think my comment took so I will risk saying it twice.

"something had washed
away, and something had returned,
though I could not say what it was."

This was my favorite part. I have seen and felt what you describe. I listened to the podcast but I longed to hear the sound of the sea and calling sea birds in the background.

hedgewitch said...

Sorry to be so late getting to this Ruth. The last two stanzas here are incredible--full of that echo within one gets when a piece resonates deeply. The descriptive introductory passages were lyrical, and full of image, but not so direct as the last two. Regardless, the point is made and made well, and there is a sense of place and purpose here that overrides the uneven bits for me. (I like the way the birds lift and jump back behind you also-- perfect and subtle .)

Jeanie said...

I can see it and feel it -- the energy and sense of place you bring to your work never ceases to dazzle me.

Loring Wirbel said...

Shorebirds at Saugatuck, you got a perfect day and poem out of that birthday!