Losing the Words


I was surprised by joy this morning to discover that Verse Daily had featured my poem “Losing the Words” late last year! Somehow I missed it — and today was the perfect day to discover it!

Here’s the link:

And here’s the poem:

Losing the Words

Wantons, they’d give themselves to anyone!

See how they slip in and out of one another’s clothes?

How – dressed in zinnia-colored feathers, giggling –
they settle to the lip like birds, then flicker away?

Oh, they hide behind the roof of my mouth with flashlights,
cast firefly shadows on my stuttering tongue –

dash onto the stage and off, grinning madly —
but above them that terrible sign: Exeunt Omnes.

For one day all of them –
all the thousand thousand names of God –

will fall in love. Conjoin. Merge
into the unkempt darkness behind the stars.

They will be gone forever. Then silence
will enter the echoing chambers of my mind.

It will speak its name at last.
I will say Yes.


R solstice croppedWelcome, everyone! I’ve changed the website a bit because I’ve been seeing lots of visitors, yay! and would like to make it easier to use.

Probably the best introduction to me and my work is this short video that was made on the winter solstice in 2014. So I’ll repost it here, and keep this post on the front page for a while.

“Ruth Thompson Talks About Her Work”

Also I want to make sure everyone knows that the way to “follow” my new posts and poems is to sign up where it says “subscribe to get updates.” It’s at the top right of the site on a computer, and at the very bottom — you have to scroll down — on a phone. (Let me know if it’s in some other obscure place on an iPad.)

Thank you all for hanging out long enough to read this!


New Body Speaking workshop series in Hilo

ruth in circle 02

Writing practice with Ruth Thompson

Our bodies are the keepers of our stories. In this monthly series, writers and yogis of all levels will gather to explore movement, breath, meditation, and inner listening as a way to generate writing from the body.

Each 90 minute class will include an eclectic blend of asana, energy work, dance and pranayama. Guided loving-kindness meditations will lead into deep listening to the stories our bodies hold, and flow naturally into writing.

Ruth Thompson is the author of three books of poetry. She has a PhD in English and now teaches creative writing. She received her yoga teacher certification through the Sivananda organization in 2007 and since then has studied intensively with Angela Farmer.

Learn more about Ruth at www.ruththompson.net Contact her at wailuku.ruth@gmail.com

Cost per class: $25 ($20 for “40 Days” students) Meets one Sunday a month for four months from 1:30 to 3:00 PM
Feb 28th / March 27 / April 24 / May 22

Yoga Centered Studio 37 Waianuenue Ave, Hilo

Why Hungry Ghosts Must Keep Flying


In Tibetan paintings, the realm of the hungry ghosts coexists with this one. They fly around and around us, wailing their lack, screaming to be filled. They are pictured with long constricted necks and vast, flapping, empty bellies. There is no way to unknot the neck and receive nourishment, no matter how much – or who – they eat.

Nor can they love another, their hearts being locked around their own need.

Often, in the folk stories, people are reborn as hungry ghosts because of their greed and selfishness. It’s a punishment. But in more sophisticated philosophies of rebirth, the dead are drawn to a way of being that matches their existing energy, that feels familiar to them. This is also another way of understanding karma.

Hungry ghosts flew into my poems because they look like the Birdwoman, a figure who haunted my dreams. For me they have less connection with Chinese and Tibetan Buddhism than with my own syncretic mythology. They are the excluded fairy at Talia’s feast; they are the harpies at the throat; they are the mother whose emptiness is a hole in the world.

Hungry ghosts believe that others have what they do not, and that what they need must come from outside themselves. Their lives are always conditional on others, and thus they can never be happy. Nor do the astonishing joys of the earth speak to them.

Hungry ghosts are my black beasts. From my poor starving mother to the cult leader who ate my life – they keep coming back. I was destroyed, and I escaped and made myself anew, but they smell me out, they circle – I want, I want – and it takes so much energy to fight them, over and over to say No.

I would free them if I could. If unconditionality were a magic potion, if it could fall from the skies like sweet rain.

But I know it doesn’t work like that.

May all beings be happy. I say. May all beings be free.

But we choose who we are. Every day, we choose.

We grow roots deep within ourselves, and day by day, joy by joy, gratitude by gratitude, we grow ourselves human.

Or we don’t.

Here is a poem for the hungry ghosts, from Woman With Crows, where they had their own story to tell.

Why Hungry Ghosts Must Keep Flying

Because they cannot rest

cannot dance strong fishbodies
through long brown kelp

or seep like sun through the tufted fingers of redwoods

cannot breathe through their feet
or sprawl in hot sweet grass sated as seeds

cannot flicker out and in through their fingertips
making cloud-to-cloud lightning along the edges of the world.

And in this place where throats are bells
clamoring the great sounding universe back to itself

they fly with throats clutched close
they drag empty dirigible bellies
their ears are filled with their own keening.


Winter Solstice, 2015

Again, our winter solstice ritual: up at 4 am to drive out to Hilina Pali in the dark pre-dawn. Here in Hawai’i, there is hardly a twilight: it is dark and then one blinks and the sun has risen.

The island permits only amber street lights, so as not to interfere with the deep space telescopes. So it’s very dark.

And this morning it was blackness thick with rain. Lightning flashed across the southeastern sky over the ocean. Then we turned onto a tiny road winding south across the lava and the rain gentled.

At the end of the road we clambered out, Don laden with camera bag and tripod, I clutching my notebook under a giant red rain cape. The sweet smell of molasses grass filled the wet air. In darkness, sitting on a boulder, I breathed sweetness and listened to the rain on my hood and thought about the year that has ended.

So much to regret, so much grief and anger, so much learned the hard way – oh, the hard way, still, after all these years!

Release, release, release. Bless the immense and tolerant and sweet-smelling earth, who takes it all in without judgment and turns it into compost.

I thought of how I want to grow in the new year, intentions and choices and commitments, and planted the seeds in the compost of the letting go.

And then the rain stopped and light broke through. Solstice morning! Light returns! Birds rose and sang and skimmed above the grasses.

I thought of Machado’s lines about “golden bees … making honey from my old failures.” When I got home I read again the whole poem. So today instead of my own poetry, you get pure gold:

Last Night As I Was Sleeping
Antonio Machado, translated by Robert Bly

Last night as I was sleeping,
I dreamt—marvelous error!—
that a spring was breaking
out in my heart.
I said: Along which secret aqueduct,
Oh water, are you coming to me,
water of a new life
that I have never drunk?

Last night as I was sleeping,
I dreamt—marvelous error!—
that I had a beehive
here inside my heart.
And the golden bees
were making white combs
and sweet honey
from my old failures.

Last night as I was sleeping,
I dreamt—marvelous error!—
that a fiery sun was giving
light inside my heart.
It was fiery because I felt
warmth as from a hearth,
and sun because it gave light
and brought tears to my eyes.

Last night as I slept,
I dreamt—marvelous error!—
that it was God I had
here inside my heart.

Joyous solstice!