Mary Ruefle

of Bennington, VT

Winner of the William Carlos Williams Award in 2011



The autumn aster, those lavender ones,
and the dark-blooming sedum
are beginning to bloom in the rainy earth
with the remote intensity of a dream.  These thing
stake over.  I am a glorifier, not very high up
on the vocational chart, and I glorify everything I see,
everything I can think of.  I want ordinary men and women,
brushing their teeth, to feel the ocean in their mouth.
I am going to glorify the sink with toothpaste spat in it.
I am going to say it's a stretch of beach where the foam
rolls back and leaves little shells.  Ordinary people
with a fear of worldly things, illness, pain, accidents,
poverty, of dark, of being alone, of misfortune.
The fears of everyday life.  People who quietly and secretly
bear their dread, who do not speak freely of it to others.
People who have difficulty separating themselves
from the world around them, like a spider hanging
off the spike of a spider mum, in an inland autumn,
away from the sea, away from that most unfortunate nation
where people are butterballs dying of meat and drink.
I want to glorify the even tinier spiders in the belly of the spider
and in the closed knot of the mum's corolla, so this is likely
to go on into winter.  Didn't  I say we were speaking of autumn
with the remote intensity of a dream?  The deckle edge of a cloud:
blood seeping through a bandage.  Three bleached beech leaves
hanging on a twig.  A pair of ruined mushrooms.  The incumbent
snow.  The very air.  The imported light.  All autumn struggling
to be gay, as people do in the midst of their woe.
I met a psychic who told me my position in the universe
but could not find the candy she hid from her grandkids.
The ordinary fear of losing one's mind.  You rinse the sink,
walk out into the October sunshine, and look for it
by beginning to think.  That's when I saw the autumn aster,
the sedum blooming in a purple field.  The psychic said
I must see the word glory emblazoned on my chest.  Secretly
I was hoping for a better word.  I would have chosen for myself
an ordinary one like orchid or paw.
Something that would have no meaning in the astral realm.
One doesn't want to glorify everything.  What might I actually say
when confronted with the view from K2?  I'm not sure
I would say anything?  What's your opinion?
You're a man with a corona in your mouth,
a woman with a cottonball in her purse,
what's your conception of the world?

Rodney Jones on Mary Ruefle

What a civil, undomesticable, and heartening poet is Mary Ruefle:  fond of experiment, but just as pleased to write of tilapia or county fairs; always novel, but never pandering to a mode; refusing neither the absurd nor the sublime.  Any Ruefle poem is an occasion of resonant wit and language, subject to an exacting intelligence.  For more than thirty years, she has freshened American poetry by humbly glorifying both the inner life and the outward experience.  Her Selected Poems, like the work of William Carlos Williams, is a testimony not only to the power of artfulness, but to human empathy.

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