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Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Poem, for Susie: The River and the Sea

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The River and the Sea

"The river is within us, the sea is all about us . . ."
— T S Eliot (Four Quartets)

How does the river run within the sea?

Like the coyote, bounding deer-like
in the soy bean field last evening,
and behind him the honeyed sun
a young girl’s hair, cascading among
the trees. He distanced gradually
from the road we cycled, his body
now disappearing beneath
the shrubby, wavy green, now
reappearing in the bob and bounce
of a cork retreating from shore. Like
a dream. Like a secret stone that leaps
as the sun sets, an opal, a tiger’s eye,
to the horizon, until he and the sun are one.

For Susie




Listen to a podcast of this poem here.


59 comments:

Ruth said...

My dear friend Susan has suffered an unspeakable grief this week. This poem is for you, Susie, and for Lauren . . . and David, Jaye, Kelly, Matthew, Nathan, Gaige, Kaitlyn, Josh, all of you.

I love you.

missing moments said...

Ruth, such beautifully words for unspeakable losses.

Brendan said...

You are hitting such sweet marks in these poems, Ruth ... what a magical image, the river in the sea the coyote bounding through a field, backgrounded by honeyed light which is a child's hair, perhaps radiant because there is such bittersweetness in grief ... Life and death are so naturally paired here. You say it like none other, like it couldn't before. Bravo. - Brendan

Judy said...

WOW, Love that poem!

Pauline said...

I read it through three times, liking it better each time for its imagery and references and likening to the sea... beautiful!

hedgewitch said...

Beautiful encapsulation of the wild within and around us that we can never be separated from, only deny futilely. No denial here, however, but a full embracing of the richness of life and the merging of many into one. I used to live where coyote sightings were common, and I've never seen anything run that fast or that easily into cover--they are an incarnation of speed and smarts--as their incorporation into so many Native American myths shows. Lovely poem.

Pat said...

This is such a beautiful poem with wonderful imagery. I read it several times. Then I visited Susie's blog and was devastated to read about her loss. Oh my gosh how horrible. I can't imagine what they are all going through.

Maureen said...

A beautiful poem, Ruth. The imagery is deeply moving.

Your friend's loss is so great. My heart goes out to her and to all of you.

Ann said...

does a soy field look like this? What a big river of green and blue.

Ann said...

I hope Susie's lost is not one of a young person. Over at Blogland , 2 meme's I follow, a young man born in 1960m died. Too young, even young than me. That is terrible.

Miss Jane said...

Ruth, this is perfect.
I read it over on FB without the knowledge that it was, if not exactly an elegy, a memoriam, perhaps, a small gift to salve the wounds of loss, and I felt the beauty of the imagery, the lilt of the language and I thought of how just last night I was watching the sun lower in such a sparkling, flowing way through all the green of the ash and locust and maples. Now to know that you had someone in mind with the bounding of the fox, with the cascades of hair all joining with the setting sun . . . stunning. Thank you for sharing your gift.

Miss Jane said...

Oh dear, coyote, not fox! My apologies.

Louise Gallagher said...

No gift of words can take away the pain, nor change the loss of a loved one. Yet your gift of words soothe troubled souls and ease the burden of grief by immersing broken hearts in a sea of love.

May your friend find solace in your gift. May her tears flow freely Ike a river within the sea.

Nameste

amy@ Souldipper said...

What great imagery, Ruth. May your friend find comfort in its intimate beauty.

When a Sufi master met Rumi, he said, as Rumi walked away, "I've just met a river that contains an ocean." Your poem reminds me of his words.

Ruth said...

Thanks, Reena.

Don and I were riding bikes Monday between 8 and 9pm, and we saw this coyote loping through the soy beans. I've never seen anything like it before. I did not know yet about the accident, which Susie had posted at FB, asking for prayer for her 5-year-old granddaughter who had suffered a traumatic closed head injury. I rarely go into FB, as Susie knows. The image of the coyote leaping like a deer was so striking, I knew I would write a poem about it. I read later that the appearance of a coyote can mean that 'something unexpected and not necessarily welcome is about to happen.' Susie told me the news next morning. I knew the poem I wanted to write would be for her and Lauren.

Ruth said...

Brendan, thanks, I appreciate your kind words and am grateful that you feel the mark is met here, balancing life and death, because this is such a tender, vulnerable time. Everything is hard at the moment, so I guess writing about it is just one way of getting the sadness out.

Ruth said...

Thanks, Judy, for coming by and reading, and for caring for Susie.

Ruth said...

Thanks a lot, Pauline, for reading and rereading. It was quite arresting when we saw the coyote in that field Monday.

Ruth said...

Thanks so much, Hedgewitch.

I discovered, after writing the poem and posting it, in the newspaper article about little Lauren, that she loved animals and wanted to be an 'animal taker carer.' Her dad had stopped for a deer on the road, and the car behind them did not slow, plowing into them. It is devastatingly ironic that Lauren died in the saving of an animal.

Ruth said...

Dear Pat, thank you, for reading and rereading, and for visiting Susie. I'm awfully grateful for how friends (including new ones like you) are surrounding her and her family in these hours. It's too unbearable, but I think it helps her survive this.

Ruth said...

Thank you, Maureen. It means a lot to me, and I know it does to Susie as well.

Ruth said...

Hi, Ann. Yes, the soy beans are just beautiful now. I don't know when they are harvested.

Very, very sadly, Susie lost her 5-year-old granddaughter Monday.

Ruth said...

Oh MJ, I am grateful for your words and connections with this poem and its imagery, especially knowing you watched your own sparkling, flowing sun mingling with the green.

Ruth said...

Louise, it's a strange thing, isn't it, how being loved and surrounded by loved ones eases the weight, as we bear it with and for those who grieve so heavily. I imagine that this poem may even be too difficult for Susie to read or spend much time with now (though she posted a link to it at Facebook), but over time, I pray that the rawness of this wound will begin to heal, yes, as her tears flow. Susie is a beautiful and open soul whose love flows to everyone around her. She takes care of everyone else. I want to take care of her!

Ann said...

Please tell Susie that I feel so sorry for her. 5 years old is just too young.

Ruth said...

That's so great, Amy, thank you. I remember that quote now that you share it. A sea within a river. And what is that like?

Ruth said...

Thanks, Ann, I will Saturday when I see her.

erin said...

ruth, i read the poem yesterday and was astonished by its perfection. and then i thought, what a sad thing of me, to be astonished at the perfection of this, when it is the coyote and all that rests behind it that is perfection and it is that ruth's eye is open to see and receive, string it all out for us in succinct lines. and then i thought of the unmeasurable pain and was sad that i hadn't thought of this first. first the words, then the world, and then our interface with it. it was too cruel to comment and yet i had to come again today and tell the truth. i am out of order.

i am so sorry for your friend and her family. it is all unimaginable, and yet not.

xo
erin

Ruth said...

erin, how beautiful you are.

Are you out of order? Oh isn't that the most interesting phrase? I think of a courtroom, your honor. But how can you be 'out of order' at all? It was what it was, it came to you as it came to you. There isn't a thing you can do about it, so there is no place for an apology, though your tender heart is very special. And knowing Susie as I know her, she too is touched by your heart.

Besides, what is time, and order? Someone said that time is God's way of keeping everything from happening all at once. But who's to say it isn't really happening that way?

Amish Stories said...

I was passing through different blogs and thought id just say hello. Richard from the Amish community of Lebanon,Pa.

Grandmother said...

My granddaughter is also five, her loss unimaginable. My heart goes out to your friend whom I will add to my prayers. Your poem of coyote speaks of primal connections that may strengthen your friend when she seeks messages to help make sense of devastating loss. Bless you for your efforts to give her this gift in her grief.

Friko said...

Your poem moves me, there is something so accepting and almost hopeful about the gradual fading of visible life.
Perhaps it can give solace at a time of great sorrow.

Jeanie said...

I just learned about Susie's loss and came here to read your poem. (I was stopping anyway but...)

This is so deeply beautiful and eloquent. I know she is grateful for your thoughtfulness -- and I am grateful you chose to share it with us.

Lil Coyote said...

argh! i left a long comment and my wifi crashed! ugh
i better go short
im sorry for the pain and anguish that this family must endure, and as a father-it shakes me.
but i dee light and hope in your lovely gift, Ruth
you prove that at a time when words seem without power, maybe they can light a way.
Rick

Barb said...

Wonderful cadence and imagery that in the moment of experiencing (and reading) does seem dream-like. l can visualize movement by reading the poem. One of my favorites, Ruth.

Barb said...

Ruth, I didn't realize when I read the poem that you were honoring Lauren. Now, when I reread it, it takes on new meanings, and I have tears in my eyes for Susan and for Lauren's Family.

Ruth said...

Hi, Richard. Thanks for stopping by.

Ruth said...

Oh Mary, it is unthinkable. And yet it is. It is that tension between the two that makes it seem impossible to reconcile. The truth is there, and nothing to be done. The coyote's visit is a comfort to me, and I think it was to Susie because she told me this morning she is going to read my poem at the graveside service.

Ruth said...

I hope so, Friko. I think at times like this, poems, like nothing else maybe, can be allowed to address our sadness, because they are indirect. This coyote gives me something else to look at, to watch as he fades out of view.

Ruth said...

Jeanie, I'm grateful you connect with the poem. I'm the most grateful that it has met Susie in this moment, and she will read it at today's graveside service. To me, this is proof of what poems can do, providing a way to face unthinkable loss through a lens of metaphor that provides just enough distance.

Ruth said...

Rick, rats, I'm sorry to hear you lost your longer comment. I'd like to read it.

Thank you. I don't understand the mystery of the world, and words, and dreams, and life and death. But I know that within all of it is more life, energy and power than we ever make use of. If we can just begin, just touch it, just get a glimpse of what a life is, and how it's in everything, and how we are connected, maybe all sorrows would cease.

Ruth said...

Thank you, Barb. The coyote appeared, and that was enough. He knew I would see him. And he was at play ! romping through a field of beans.

Ruth said...

. . . and Rick, I would like to hear the story of your pseudonym Lil Coyote sometime . . .

Loring Wirbel said...

Stunning flow to this one, just love it. I'm back in Colorado now, btw, I can probably keep up with syn-xxx, sorta.

ds said...

Oh Ruth, I am glad that you wrote this (have been thinking of Susan all week)--and that you will be there with her, through it.

"until he and the sun are one" You touch the soul with this one. So lovely...

sonia a. mascaro said...

I am so sorry...Very, very sad...
My deep condolences to Susie and her family.

Dear Ruth, so beautiful poem...

Terresa said...

Unspeakable grief and boundless seas, somehow the two go together, don't they?

George said...

I know nothing of Susy's loss and your heartache, Ruth, but your magnificent, life-affirming words are sure to lift the spirits of every weary soul who is going through a difficult transition, "wavering between the profit and the loss in this brief transit where the dreams cross." Yes, the river is within the sea, but it is also inseparable from the Sea, just as the secret stone, opalesque and tiger-eyed, is ultimately absorbed by the sun's radiance. Wonderful, Ruth, one of your best.

George said...

P.S. -- I had to finish my above comment rather hastily because my train had reached London and I needed to disembark. I wanted to add, however, that Robert and I discussed your writing, especially your poetry, on several occasions during the four days that he joined me on the Hadrian's Wall walk. I think it is fair to say that we both greatly admire the work you are doing, and your current offering is just another example of your unstoppable progress as a poet.

Ruth said...

Thanks, Loring. So glad you're back snug and safe from the Galapagos. Can't wait to read all about it, it must have been an amazing experience!

I'll see you . . . sorta . . . :-)

Ruth said...

Thanks, ds. I'm back home from Susie's, where she and David demonstrated grace, strength and wisdom in this time of grief. I guess I am not surprised by that, but I am deeply moved by their fortitude for the whole family, especially Lauren's parents.

Ruth said...

Thanks so much, Sonia. I'm sure Susie will read your comment and share it with her family. Your concern means a lot to me.

Ruth said...

Yes, Terresa. Thank you for reading.

Ruth said...

George, it's so good to hear from you, from across a sea. Your thoughts about the river being inseparable from the sea were in my mind as I contemplated this poem, before, during and after the writing. I thought of my body, containing one and swimming in the other. I couldn't reconcile it somehow, until the appearance of the coyote, and that vision of him run-swimming through the soy beans.

I have "seen" you all week on that Wall, and pictured you and Robert in conversation or silence, enjoying the great, spreading countryside and all of its benefits to your bodies and spirits. To know that you spent some of it talking of my poetry just knocks me out! I'd have loved to be a field-mouse running on the wall next to you . . .

Enjoy your time on the Continent. With relish I am anticipating your reports when you return.

Marcie said...

This is so beautiful. I hope it helps to ease the unspeakable grief that Susie and her loved ones are experiencing.

Ruth said...

Me too, Marcie, me too.

Many thanks.

Ginnie said...

Susie knows your heart is with her and will never forget your coyote. Neither will you. I am so glad you were there for her!

Brian Miller said...

i just wanted to pop in and say Happy Birthday...and i am proud to share the day with you...smiles.

Oliag said...

I read this poem and loved it...then I read about your coyote sighting and really understood it. This is a gift that will be forever cherished.

I rarely go on FB too and I still don't remember the reason I did that day...my heart stopped. As I wrote to Susan I wish I could have been there to offer a hug and probably would have found her making me feel better.