Category Archives: Poems – Ruth Thompson


Reading so many beautiful poems of gratitude and thanks-giving this week, I wanted to share this, from my last book, Crazing:


The storm drives all ashore—thrown stick with dogteeth, twig of twisted pine,

thumbnail jellyfish with dark sails fallen, torn kelp, fouled ballast, soapy olivine foam.

Everyone here has the same story.

We are blown here out of sight of ourselves, staggering and dismayed.

Yet we are perfect — without ladder or pyramid, pinnacle or pietà

perfect, perfect, perfect, perfect—
as one would say this, this, this, this

seeing, in this dire wind, what there is to worship.

Rivendell Residency II

Rivendell Writers’ Colony was magical in October. The main house is set on a bluff looking east over a long, often mist-filled valley.
Each morning from my beautiful room I watched the sun rise
over the valley and the mountains behind.

During long Indian summer days I wrote in a hammock under huge oak trees, watching the changing clouds and light; I walked through the woods to talk with the neighbor’s horses; I sat beside a pond littered with red and gold leaves.

I love that Rivendell was named by a previous owner’s children for the hidden elven refuge in Lord of the Rings. A safe house, a sanctuary. And I love that it once housed a girl’s camp – despite its grace and elegant lines, it still has a bit of that happy camp feel, ghosts of girls’ voices calling, games.

There were five other writers in the main house, all working on major projects, several of us under deadlines. As the lone poet I was the only one without “pages completed” to report – to cheers – as we drank a glass of wine and cooked our dinners together – or celebrated around a campfire down at the pond. I felt honored to be there among them – terrific young writers working on interesting projects – and now, friends.

Rivendell restored my creative energy. I filled a notebook with raw images and lines and ideas for poems. I completed several revisions. I had a major epiphany about how to approach the next phase of Whale Fall. Here’s a poem from the first day:

Noon light clear and diffuse,
sky empty, like the beginning
of a fairy tale. So we set out,
belongings wrapped in a kerchief

of amber leaves. We step
into unbound light, blithe as birds.
Beneath the falling shadow
from straight-boled,

kelp-fingered oaks,
the hammock swings at its mooring,
bow pointing into the risen breeze.
Oak nuts pour like rain.

The light turns gold as field
corn, sharp-edged with autumn.
A bright yellow butterfly
is a leaf charged with intention.

You must empty, strenuously,
if you wish to follow it. You must
rise from dead, dropped, moored:
become that small sun, that fire.


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.)


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 –

filling out

and the skin cracks!

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.