Thursday, February 02, 2012

No Bloodless Sorrow

Annie Menebroker at the Beat Museum, SF
—Photo by Dave Boles, Grass Valley

—Ruth Stone

Someone in the next apartment
Walks slowly back to a room abutting mine.
I am on this side, sitting.
It is uncomfortable trying to be quiet.
For weeks coming in here to change my clothes,
I think, are my clothes too daring?
And the sound of water rushing in
Filling a tub in the other room
Makes a loud continuity, 
As though many people might be living here,
Twining their arms about me,
Passing me in the hall,
Making tender jokes.
Sunlight enters the room near the ceiling.
And shadows of leaves letting go
Flash in downward slants
Falling inside the room 
To sink through the floor.
And I think
Is this the way it will be?
And I listen
With my ear against the plaster.


—Ruth Stone

We ladies sense it is the cuckoo builds no nest;
To float the flower on the pond and hide the stem,
That's to be as we are. God gives us recompense.
Within the nursery one may smack and kiss
As among giggling nuns. The business is,
Secure the man when young and then repent
Amid his willows and his streams. Sweet lioness,
The sorcerer says in ugly dreams you have
No bloodless sorrow. Whose bones attest to this?
We ache, we grow fat, we are oppressed.
Metamorphosis deceives our innocence.
Morning after morning slips
The spider with her web across our lips.


—Ruth Stone

You intimidated me. I was thrown into hell without a trial.
Guilty by default. It was clear the murdered one was dead.
There were only two of us. But no one came to lead me away.
A hundred eyes looked in and saw me on fire.
We loved him, they said. Then they forgot.
After many years I knew who it was who had died.
Murderer, I whispered, you tricked me.


—Ruth Stone

I crawl up the couch leg feeling
Your blond hair, your bloomy skin.
What do I want from you, giant?
I am afraid. But I laugh; I enjoy.
You fabricate. The words and music tremble
And thunder my thin blood.
The air is heated; odor of indian oil.
Trussed bed where bodies grapple; arms, legs,
Breasts, balls; the giants copulating.
I crawl up a wall and open my wings
And flutter down in borrowed ecstasty.

But then not open ended as it ought to be;
The beer, the refrigerator, the dull
Sequel shrinks to five rooms
In a treeless suburb. And cockroach that I am,
I go behind the baseboard to fornicate and spread
Myself, ancient as the ovulum and sperm.


—Ruth Stone

I am still bitter about the last place we stayed.
The bed was really too small for both of us.
In that same rooming house
Walls were lined with filing cases,
Drawers of bird's eggs packed in cotton.
The landlady described them.
As widow of the ornithologist,
Actually he was a postal clerk,
She was proprietor of the remains.
Had accompanied him on his holidays
Collecting eggs. Yes,
He would send her up the tree
And when she faltered he would shout,
"Put it in your mouth. Put it in your mouth."
It was nasty, she said,
Closing a drawer with her knee.
Faintly blue, freckled, mauve, taupe,
Chalk white eggs.
As we turned the second flight of stairs
Toward a mattress unfit for two,
Her voice would echo up the well,
Something about an electric kettle
At the foot of our bed.
Eggs, eggs, eggs in secret muted shapes in my head;
Hundreds of unborn wizened eggs.
I think about them when I think of you.


Items of note: 

•••TONIGHT at the John Natsoulas Gallery, 521 1st St., Davis, 8pm: The Poetry Night Reading Series begins its fifth year with Alan Williamson. One of the most important poet-critics of his generation, Alan Williamson has received a National Endowment of the Arts fellowship and a Guggenheim fellowship. Williamson has taught for the UC Davis English Department since 1983, having previously taught at the University of Virginia, Harvard University, and Brandeis University.

•••Some of you may be familiar with the online Desolation Poems, a compendium of poetry forms that was put together by Jan Haag ( Sac. Poetry Center will present a reading from Team Haag, participants in Jan Haag's Amherst Writers and Artists (AWA) method writing groups. These spontaneous works originated in group writing sessions—folks gathered in a circle of desks and chairs, chasing words down a page to see what appears. These works are now collected in a 'zine of poetry, short fiction and creative nonfiction for sharing with the public. Hear them at 7pm Sat. at SPC, 25th & R Sts., Sac. Hosted by Jan Haag. Info:; for more about Jan Haag, go to

•••Then, on Monday, SPC presents a reading (including Susan Kelly-DeWitt) from the anthology, What Redwoods Know: Poems from California State Parks, edited and published by Katherine Hastings of WordTemple. Books will be available and proceeds will go to the help the parks. Info: or

•••Taylor Graham writes that the Villanelles anthology edited by Annie Finch and Marie-Elizbeth Mali for Everyman's Library, London, is will be released March 6 on ( TG is in there, as well as Elizabeth Bishop, E.A. Robinson, Roethke, Plath, Heaney...


Today's LittleNip: 

—Muriel Rukeyser

The days grow and the stars cross over
And my wild bed turns slowly among the stars.



Annie Menebroker at The Beat Museum
—Photo by Dave Boles