Wednesday, May 16, 2012



I began this poem by cataloging things that are set away for another time. While writing I became nostalgic and thought of my Uncle Jimmie, and the grief of his life when he lost his wife, my Aunt Ginny, first to mental illness shortly after their daughter, my only cousin, was born, then sometime not too long after, to death. Later he lost their daughter, too, much too young. Then the poem slipped into fiction, as he never lived on a farm that I know of, and he did find love again with a second wife, though he outlived her, too. So this is about a farmer who was not as fortunate as my uncle perhaps, but who I'm sure must have lived like this. I don’t write many rhyming poems, but rhymes seem suited for nostalgia.


Bone plates in the cupboard
for blackberries and pears;
onions in a basket flaking
down the basement stair;

photos crammed in shoeboxes
behind the cabinet’s frieze;
winter boots under winter coats,
and under the lid: piano keys;

clippers in a copper bowl,
mauve eggs in the house of wrens;
golf clubs in the attic next to
the glass ballerina “Madeleine”;

amber rectangle of Chanel
shining at the bottom of a vial,
sleeping eyes and teeth and tongue
in the silent accumulation of bile;

poems in books, bats in the barn,
attar in furrows of unopened roses,
the moon and stars in the light of day,
the sun, after night’s closet closes;

needles and yarn in an old crewel bag,
half-finished sweater, an undarned sock,
piles of cotton, batting and lace,
a refashioned dress just ready to smock;

shovels and rakes hung head up
between the nails of the shed,
firewood honeycombed along a wall,
the axe asleep in its bed

like old Uncle Jim, love-lost and meek
when at last we laid him in earth;
wind in the crotch of the giant oak,
hens lined up on their berth;

his heart in its shell as snug as an egg
dropped warm from its mother hen,
eclipsed by a shroud when Aunt Ginny died
and it never came out again.

May 2012

Poetry should be heard.


Deb Colarossi said...

Sending my heart to your Uncle.

ksam said...

Lovely and so quietly sad..ever so quietly.

Kathleen said...

Indeed sad and nostalgic. I love the variety in the list. You are right: there rhyming somehow seems just right, making things familiar, seen again....

hedgewitch said...

It is unusual to see you rhyming, Ruth, but I agree both subject and approach mesh here--the lists of images are weighty and full of details of the heart, rhyme gives a strong back for carrying that freight--and is just melodious and right here--so much so the sadness is mitigated by the music. So sorrow creeps in and takes possession, softly, replacing everything with its own rhythm.

Louise Gallagher said...

Hello Ruth -- I am not big on rhyming -- but I love how the rhymes bring such sentimental value to your poem.

And how your words bring the sadness to life in the attic filled with forgotten treasures -- like golf clubs never used.

Beautiful write!

missing moments said...

So sad and beautiful! Another wonderful creation!

Margaret said...

Rhyming does work here - somehow adds to the lovely, heartfelt words (a poem lullaby prayer almost) but it is your gifted use of it that works for me as the images and storytelling lull the reader. We all leave things "undone" don't we?

I'm off to clean my closet :)

Maureen said...

What strikes me more than the rhyme is the wonderful list of the familiar and every-day and special-occasion things. . . like having to go through a house after its owner has died.


musicwithinyou said...

A poem that has me thinking about my Uncle I so dearly loved. The title is wonderful and makes me think about how we shelve things. Even our lives all seem to put up on a shelf, waiting for us to pick it up and dust it off.

Arti said...

This is just so sad what you've depicted, Ruth. I'm glad your Uncle did find love again albeit he outlived his second wife also. It's very nice of you to remember him. That's a very beautiful photo, so apt.

Margaret said...

Stopped back by to read this... and I am also struck with the photograph. You are just SO talented.

Rubye Jack said...

Poignant and sad, but so often true.

George said...

Well done, Ruth, but my reaction is much like that of Rubye Jack, "poignant and sad." There's something in this poem that reminds me of how much we invest our souls in things, images, memories, and other people, all to discover in the end that everything is fleeting and that we must find solace, if indeed it is to be found at all, in the spirit of our own heart's solitude.

Friko said...

Shelved in everyone's life, these items. Shelved but not forgotten and one day to be dusted off again.

Even uncle's heart did not stay on it's dusty shelf but in life - so much brighter than in your imaginary fate for him - it found a new use, to love again.

Your poem is too sad for me today, I am glad that I can warm my spirit on the preceding prose.

Shari said...

I like the images here, Ruth. Thinking about all the things that are put away for another day.

Pat said...

I like how you list common, every day things, because, truthfully, isn't death a common thing, even if we don't want to admit it? This is beautiful AND sad.

Ginnie said...

And to think he married again and outlived her, too, Ruth. Suddenly that sweet, gentle face of his seems more like a miracle after reading this poem, rhyme and all.

Vagabonde said...

I like your rhyming poem Shelved. It sounds just right, and then I like rhyming poems anyway. The phrase “amber rectangle of Chanel shining at the bottom of a vial,” is so evocative. I have bottles of perfume like that – one of Guerlain. I wish I could get the last drop.