Category Archives: Poems – Ruth Thompson

Crazing

Here’s the title poem from Crazing, which will be coming out at the beginning of August. (My apologies; I am unable to make the software reproduce the formatting of the original poem.)

Crazing

Cracked creek-bed

red clay crackling –

crazed they call it

it’s called crazing

and I am crazing

cracking open like a chick from a shell

or pressing outward
that’s more like it –

stretching
filling out

and the skin cracks!
Crazes!

Look!
these wrinkles
are the stigmata
of transformation!

Or de-formation

growing more and more peculiar
as what is inside squirms
and pushes with its heels –

O lumpy skin-sack!
O my Africa!

mapping yourself outward
in rift-zones, thready tributaries –

See the glaze crack?
And the glazed eyes craze?

Yes.         This.        It’s me.

 

Sudden Oak Death Syndrome

Sudden Oak Death Syndrome

Down the long body of California,
ramalina drapes the dead shoulders of oaks
with her bent hair.

Lace lichen. It’s the color of sadness,
of rain that goes on for a long time,
of things fading into the distance.

Behind its veil ooze black
cankers of phytophthora ramorum.

We are in plague time now,
these dead too many to bury, shrouded
in lace the color of smog, fallen

like kindling over the stucco-colored hills,
behind dry lakebeds
where are tattooed the lost shapes of reeds.

Here I name them, the old friends:
live oak, scrub oak, white oak, black oak,
coffeeberry, huckleberry, buckeye, bay laurel,
rhododendron, manzanita, madrone, sequoia.

In the fires, even their roots will burn.

We leave our children a place with no eyelids.
They will die thirsty,
telling stories of our green shade.

 

 

Crow Teaches the Song of Himself

Crow Teaches the Song of Himself

I walk out into kelp-smell, clouds of swifts rising,
and one fine crow, taking, like me, the air.

Through striped poppies with orange flauntings
sulfur-colored mustard, wild tomatoes –

and here’s that one fine crow,
swanking down the path ahead of me.

Ah, how he is taken with himself!
How he knows he adorns the day!

For the whole sky rides in his blue-black feathers
and the sun of his yellow eye.

And I too swank – I too in his wake
loaf and stroll and glint my shining eyes

at a pack of truant gulls whooping and helling
round a squadron of portly pelican beadles

at leapfrog terns and peregrines
and small black-and-yellow bees in the lupine.

And I nod to right and left over my gleaming
shoulders, fine as this briny day.

 

Grouse Song

In many traditions, the grouse is a symbol of the spiral dance to the heart of mystery. Here she is also an offering to my own limping, arthritic joints.

Grouse spins inward, dances
the one-wing limp-dance –

the hunched, knee-favoring,
stiff-hip-lurching two-step.

Round and round she dances
dragging a wing, a thumb joint,

and the dragged part, flightless,
makes a spiral in the dust –

a whorl, a shell-shape, an ear.
What you must follow

is not the bright chest exposed
to arrows but the dragged

wing, the lurch, the dark thing
hidden, which you thought dead.

There is the pivot, the way in,
the still place where she falls

down and down, until
she touches where flying cannot go.

Snake Swing

Snake Swing

I’m trying to get a little shuteye under this tree
but the snake insists on talking,
hanging from her tail & forking her tongue at me.

Its time to shed that shit, she says.
You’re stuck
& the reason is very simple –

you don’t have the stuff
to just step out of that fakeskin
and slither away.

Remember your old slither sounds?
You were full of them once –
swirl and slake and lithe and unleashable

because whoever saw a snake on a leash!
I suggest you slide on out of yours
and decorate yourself up a lamp post.

Put your tail in your mouth & roll your own.
Go on, rustle up something tasty.
Something with ssss’s in it. Maybe an mmmmm.

Oh, it’s such a catchy tune she sings,
with her little red fangs tickling the ivories,
I say to her,

I’ll give you this tree to live in
& you can help me eat all the apples.
Nope, she says.

I just showed up
to check out this fine garden you inherited.
But remember, honey –

& she does that Lauren Bacall thing with her hips
as she slides out the gate –
It don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing.