Monday, October 31, 2011

Poem: Under an autumn night sky


With a broken-down hot tub, last winter’s night sky had to shine without us. We think of the hot tub as a vacation, spread out through the year. Even on the coldest nights (0º F, -18º C), we don stocking caps and soak for thirty minutes, groaning out the stresses of the workday, our heads laid back, eyes closed, then opened to behold the velvet sky-field with its distant lighted windows. So it was sublime when Don made a trade deal with our neighbor Bill across the road: Don’s 1974 International Harvester lawn tractor and trailer (we still have a John Deere for mowing) for a five-year-old hot tub and a face cord of cherry firewood. The hot tub needs a new pump, and then with a little Sawzall action to cut up our kaput twenty-five-year-old hot tub and get it off the deck, we’ll be back under the starry dome where the International Space Station blinks at us now and then, just after the gasp of a falling star.

Under an autumn night sky

Tree toads and crickets
have cupboarded up their cheer
for another year
while the wood stove commences
his chirp-and-clicky blaze.
Leaves of poplars
have waved farewell, tumbling
off like pilgrims down the windy road
to their southland. Above us
bony maple and locust branches 
point toward the baptismal
pool of midnight.
The milk-blue moon
rolls over the barn
like a sacred rock of Sisyphus,
lifting to her white breast
the burdens of our day.
The Seven Sisters blink
twittery poems for the man
across the hot tub. Orion unhooks
a notch in his belt, beguiling me
with his bright torch. Then suddenly
the clattering season of O Henry,
Dickens and Thomas
hoofs up the fern-lined stony hill
in her shiny black Goodwill shoes
and we are children again, sitting
in this farm nave of holy velvet,
saintly candles lit on all sides
while we congregants listen quietly
for praise from the overturned font
above the meadow, and hum along.

Poetry should be heard.
Photo of Pleides: NASA



Margaret said...

Sigh. I can close my eyes and I am with you! Almost... I've always wanted a hot tub, but John hates them.

baptismal pool of midnight - tumbling off like pilgrims down the windy road to their southland - and - cupboarded up cheer ...

so many wonderfully beautiful imaginative phrases in this poem. They seem to be just rolling off your pen.

erin said...

ohhhhh. this is experience. and how your language pleases me.


Grandmother said...

Good trade, especially as you describe the contentment you derive from the hot tub. As for the poem, it's so rich in images, my favorite: "the baptismal pool of midnight." In conjunction with the photo it washes over me just as a baptismal pool should and I love that bony branches point toward it.

Ruth said...

Margaret, you may join us any time. We will make John jealous, and convince him of hot tub ecstasies.

Our friend thought he did not like them, too. Then he sat out every night of vacation in Montana and changed his mind!

Thank you for your kind words about the poem.

Ruth said...

Thanks, erin. Hot tubs are heaven, and I have conjured up [too many] divine raptures in this here praise, methinks!

Ruth said...

Thank you, Mary! I am almost as eager to have the hot tub (back) as I am to have my grandson here! Almost.

Ginnie said...

I'm so happy for you, sister, to have this nocturnal delight at your feet once again. Anything that brings forth the poem in you has got to be...good! Thank Don, from me for you. :)

Ruth said...

Thank you, Boots. Won't you and Astrid join us in May, in the hot tub? Bring your swim suits (or not ...).

rosaria said...

A perfect symphony of sights and feelings.

ds said...

Ahhh...the music of the spheres. Wicked good ; )

Maureen said...

Wonderful imagery!

Mimmu said...

Hot tube ? I went to Google and yes of course, it was not just tube - my imagination was already running, you inside some kind of tube :)
Beautiful think that star sky, I am happy for you and that you can see stars, light of cities are so unfriendly to stars.
I can relax by hearing your pleasant voice, thank you so much!

Oliag said...

By reading this I know exactly what it feels like to look up at those winter stars from the steamy luxury of a hot tub! Heavenly!

The Solitary Walker said...

Yes, some lovely stuff in this, Ruth. Particularly the chirpy way it bowls along, referencing gaily. A little Dylan Thomas goes a long way? But you deconstruct him with your twitterings and your chirp-and-clicky blazes so that it's light and fun, and the 'baptismal pool of midnight' and 'the milk-blue moon' are ok expressions after all. Love it. And love 'cupboarded'!

George said...

Such a fine poem, Ruth — so rich in word magic and imagery — that i want to walk outside at this moment and look up at my own autumn night sky. I can only hope that I will see as much as you have seen.

Pat said...

I love that you bartered for your new hot tub! That's great.

This poem is so lovely. Your beautiful words are strung together like fine pearls on a necklace.

I so enjoyed this!

Barb said...

I like your background explanation to the poem. I can also imagine an inky night, the moon, and those pin prick stars - all putting on a show as you relax. I love this line: "bony maple and locust branches
point toward the baptismal
pool of midnight."

Ruth said...

Thanks, Rosaria, symphony is a perfect word.

Ruth said...

Thank you, ds. Whatever do you mean? :-)

Ruth said...

Thank you, Maureen!

Ruth said...

Mimmu, and to think that poreallas originated in Finland! :-) I wonder if you have one at the lake. And do you roll around in the snow first? Peter and his friend did that one year. I think they sat in it too long and had to cool down.

Even in my small hometown, we did not see many stars, with the street lights. We just had the northern lights in Michigan last week, though we didn't see them . . . no hot tub yet! :(

Ruth said...

Oliag, I never ever wanted a hot tub (not having tried it), and I never would have spent money for one. Then this house came with one, and I was utterly hooked. Every night. Then it broke, irreparably. This trade fell like a shooting star out of the sky, because our neighbor had an extra hot tub, payment someone had given them in another deal!

Ruth said...

Thank you, Robert! I am impressed that you can hear that I have been reading Dylan Thomas! :-) I have been wanting to get into the mood of the holidays, so I decided to read some holiday cheer. I'm rereading A Christmas Carol and just read A Child's Christmas in Wales which is just too much fun! "Gift of the Magi" is next . . . Now if that story doesn't get you in a preemptively happy holiday mood . . .

Ruth said...

Thank you, George! :-)

I have so missed spending the 30 minutes under the night sky every night. Don and I have seen some extraordinary things, like the night the whole sky lit up above a layer of clouds as if a fluorescent light had flickered on, and there was no lightning storm! We still have no idea what that was.

I imagine that you will see incredible skies on your camino next year, both in the light of day, and the dark of night. I wonder what stars will guide your pilgrim feet.

Ruth said...

Thank you, Pat! You make me wonder if there are any necklace constellations. . . .

Ruth said...

Thanks, Barb! I'm glad you like those bony branches. I like them too. I stare and stare at them. I envy you your stars at 10,000 feet! I never saw stardust until I was at 7,000 in Oregon in 1976. Holy Milky Way!

Heather said...

I love all the sounds in this poem! Yesterday, with my 4th graders in Detroit, I was encouraging them to come up with sounds associated with their names. There is nothing quite like a cool fall evening in the hot tub! I hope you get it up and working soon.

Brendan said...

So many and cognitions wound up in the charm of this Octoberal poem, bathed in water and starlight, the transforming landscape and the rabble of songs in the ear. Here is Wendell Berry's "The Peace of Wild Things" in one's own back yard, close enough to wilderness to sufffice once the mind becomes its own forest. Loved it loved it.- Brendan

margie said...

we have an "old" hot tub up at the lake. it sits on a wood platform overlooking the water and at night, without any light pollution, lying in it looking up at the stars is a piece of heaven. unfortunately this summer it gave up the ghost, we have to start looking for an economical replacement. enjoy! who needs a lawn tractor anyway, certainly not me and i suspect not you.

hedgewitch said...

Just peeking in on your wonderful life through your poems is such a comfort, Ruth. Beautiful language(Orion unhooking his belt a notch) and image make the stars shine brighter, and the old childhood happinesses come closer. (How much fun we could have in a bathtub with a rubber duck and a wooden spoon.)

Ruth said...

Heather, thanks! And I love what you are doing with those 4th graders in Detroit! I am so excited. You are growing poets, planting seeds now . . .

See you Friday!

Ruth said...

Oh, Brendan, mind as forest! And the mind of winter fills it with snow, and I am happy! Thank you.

Ruth said...

Oh dear, Margie, I hope you will find a hot tub in your lap to replace the dead one ASAP! I do not know when I have agonized more over the loss of any material object. And no, I will not miss the lawn tractor (as long as the man who mows has another . . .)

Ruth said...

Hedge, water, water, such a balm, inside and out. Thank you for your kind words, and I'm quite happy that you find something of comfort when you come by my place. Happy All Soul's Day!

Lorenzo — Alchemist's Pillow said...

This is a gorgeous poem to be bathed in again and again. My love of astronomy has me luxuriating in your description of the constellations and moon, a powerful reminder that perhaps the only temple we will ever really need is a meadow under a clear night sky, experienced with a seeing heart and sentient eye.

Ruth said...

Thanks, Lorenzo. It's awfully nice to have you in the congregation, under this seemingly infinite ceiling/dome. And your words a seeing heart and sentient eye remind me of words of William Blake:

He whose face gives no light, shall never become a star.