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Terence Winch

Mary Ruefle: Pick of the Week [ed. Terence Winch]

Mary Ruefle  photo by  Hannah Ensor  2017




















Mary Ruefle, photo by Hannah Ensor, 2017


Little Stream


My heart was bright and shining

like a lobster boiling in water.

And then I was just a child

eating the leftover snow.

I’d lost my mittens and my belly button

was as good as gone, meaning

I couldn’t be born again, ever,

so I sat by a little stream

with my eyes closed.

I saw a woman carrying a child’s coffin

on her head. I saw a rat so friendly

he shined my shoes with his tongue.

I saw my mother leave the room, saying

“Now I am going to go drink some vinegar.”

I saw a surfer drink a wuthering wave

and go down gently into that good night.

I saw the daffodils praying together.

I saw a hummingbird cry out

for a comma between decades.

I saw the quick trimming the hair on their necks

and the wicks of their packaged feet.

I saw something small and in constant danger

of being blown away, like pepper.

I saw a monk set an umbrella on fire, for fun.

I saw an old man dwelling in a tiny fishing village

with a tangible vibrancy that was truly inspiring.

I saw a Venus flytrap eat a cheeseburger.

I saw my struggles were coming to a close.

I saw I would grow so old I would stop wondering

what life on Napa Rui was like, and forget

the first apple tree was in Turkey.

I had the constant feeling something of vital importance

had been lost sight of, was perhaps even gone.

It’s hard to say hello to every atom.

I got to know protozoans, though.

It took three days for my umbilical cord

to swim past. At the end,

the tattered carnation of my navel

seemed most like me, so I threw it in

and at once my eyelids opened,

never to close again.


Mary Ruefle is the author of many books, including Dunce (Wave Books, 2019), which was a finalist for the 2020 Pulitzer Prize, longlisted for the National Book Award and the National Book Critics’ Circle Award, as well as a finalist for the LA Times Book Prize. She is also the author of My Private Property (Wave Books, 2016), Trances of the Blast (Wave Books, 2013), Madness, Rack, and Honey: Collected Lectures (Wave Books, 2012), a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award in Criticism, and Selected Poems (Wave Books, 2010), winner of the William Carlos Williams Award from the Poetry Society of America. She has also published a comic book, Go Home and Go to Bed! (Pilot Books/Orange Table Comics, 2007), and is an erasure artist, whose treatments of nineteenth century texts have been exhibited in museums and galleries and published in A Little White Shadow (Wave Books, 2006). Ruefle is the recipient of numerous honors, including the Robert Creeley Award, an Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, a Guggenheim fellowship, a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship, and a Whiting Award. She lives in Bennington, Vermont, where she serves as the state’s poet laureate. [“Little Stream” from Dunce. ©2019. Printed with permission of the author and Wave Books.]


Hieronymus Bosch  The Concert in the Egg  ca. 1475                        Hieronymus Bosch, The Concert in the Egg, ca. 1475

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I left it
on when I
left the house
for the pleasure
of coming back
ten hours later
to the greatness
of Teddy Wilson
"After You've Gone"
on the piano
in the corner
of the bedroom
as I enter
in the dark

from New and Selected Poems by David Lehman

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