Thursday, May 03, 2012




We circle ‘round
a bonfire at midnight.
The fire is warm, and dangerous.
We can’t turn our faces
away from its seductions
yet only get so close.

Next gray morning it feels safe
to poke the nest of ash and char
with a cold black stick,
looking for the truth of fire
in what is left behind.

But, O Soul, don’t hide
your face and wait like that; turn
over the crimson ember-eggs
of desire buried in ash; pile on
dried spikenard and fig,
almond and cherry; smell
as they crackle to life; feel
how voluptuously
your flame-wings rise up!

May 2012

Art notes
Top: Costume Design for The Firebird, by Leon Bakst
Bottom: Cover of the book The Firebird, by Konstantin Somov


Maureen said...

Marvelous Bakst design. Firebird is one of my favorite ballets. Your poem is a lovely celebration of the rising from the ash, the scents in that last stanza wonderful.

Montag said...

Very volup.
The poem and the pix, very volup.
They are, indeed, so voluptuous that we have been forced back to the root of the word of pleasure: volup.

I like it.

Vagabonde said...

Wonderful poem – love it. The choice of illustration by Lev Samoylovich Rosenberg (Baskt) is perfect. I love all the stage designs he did for Sergey Diaghilev’s ballet in Paris. Seductive illustrations giving un brin d’exotisme (translation?) to a bold poem.

steven said...

ruth - such sweet writing . . . to find even in the small warmth of tomorrow's ashes a sense of the passion of yesterday simply waiting for spiced fuel to draw back the flame . . . . i gasp and hold that sharply drawn in breath! . . . steven

hedgewitch said...

They say you can find dragon's eggs in ashes like that. The illustrations dance and the poem sings.

GailO said...

The old customs of having a cleansing bonfire on the eve of May Day is one I love the idea of...A cleansing fire to jump over! Once again your poem has blown me away. I absolutely love these illustrations too. You are so good at finding the perfect image.

Kathleen said...


Anonymous said...

These two images are sumptuous and yes, you said it, voluptuously enticing. Your words expose the hidden beauty of these mythical imageries. I'm just thinking though, how different our contemporary culture has evolved, that being minimal seems to be the trend.

Ruth said...

Maureen, I just read about the Stravinsky ballet yesterday, after finding the costume designs. It sounds like a wonderful tale, and I found this princess by Bakst to be a bit dangerously beautiful and fitting for the poem. Truth is she inspired me also. Thank you.

Montag, I may never say the word all the way through, after you have repeated it abbreviated. I like it. Thanks.

Vagabonde, your knowledge astonishes. But of course you have read thousands of books! Anyway, thank you for your kind response, and for your always exotic perspective.

Ruth said...

steven, thanks so much for your insightful and close response!

Hedge, of course, dragon's eggs in ashes, no wonder they breathe fire. Thank you.

GailO, I have yet to leap over a bonfire in reality, though I've done it many times in my imagination. I'd love it if you'd join me next May Day! Thank you for your enthusiasm for the poem and the images I found, which truly inspired me.

Ruth said...

Thank you, Kathleen!

Arti, I think you are right, that voluptuous art and fashion are not the trend now. Maybe that's why I found these illustrations so appealing and inspiring. Thank you. And thank you for the recommendation at the Lark Rise post for another Colin Firth costume drama!

rosaria williams said...

A beautiful combination of art forms here, a pagan desire to revel in the midnight fire, and a self-conscious look at the power and the destruction awaiting in the fire.
Powerful stuff!

Ginnie said...

I suddenly want to get out my felt pens and start coloring!

The Broad said...

Great imagery all the way to the end. Your chosen illustrations are just perfection!

Ruth said...

rosaria, thank you for reading and for your great response!

Boots, good idea!

The Broad, thanks so much, I'm glad you like these illustrations too!

George said...

A lovely poem, Ruth, well rendered with lovely imagery. I suspect that, as usual, people will interpret the poem through the filter of their own individual experience. Personally, the words that seize me are "looking for the truth of fire in what is left behind." Truth is hot, often too hot to acknowledge, and it can usually be discovered most objectively in experience—"what is left behind"—though there is something to be said for Faulkner's observation that "the past is never dead; it's not even past."

Ruth said...

I love your response, George. That line in the poem that seized you is the pivot of it for me, too. The dangers of the truth to our ego, or status quo, the ways it disturbs us, can dissipate just with acknowledgement, I find. From there, I can move on. Understanding the truth of the soul's desire, and acting on it, takes courage I think. I especially appreciate how you ended your comments, with Faulkner's observation. We are made up of all the human experience, and you never know what might be stirred with a little prodding. It's too easy to conform, get comfortable, and even get a little bored.

Grandmother said...

Resonates in my DNA since my ancestors danced at the Beltane fires. But the message is age old- don't wait, find the ember-egg of my passion- it is the only true source of my voluptuous flame-wings.

Stratoz said...

Heat is a marvelous topic. My students and I have been immersed in it for a few weeks. And that list of ingrdients ~ splendid

Ruth said...

Thank you, Mary. Your simple statement ". . . since my ancestors danced at the Beltane fires. . . " excites me. I want to be connected that way. Thank you.

Stratoz, what a mystery, and no less so through science. In fact science only deepens mystery and makes it more thrilling. Thanks.

ds said...

I've read this several times, and each reading reveals more (such discoveries, turning over those ashes that are not ashes). Thanks to the commenters who pointed out the May Day/Beltane important connection I'd have missed : (
I love this, Ruth. Think it among your best. Thank you.

Ruth said...

ds, you are very generous, and I thank you. As for the May Day/Beltane fires, I had not thought of them myself consciously. I hope that makes you feel better. :)