Poetry Monday : Train Ride by Ruth Stone

Ruth Stone was a poet and professor of English who was born in Virginia and lived most of her life in Vermont. Her life was marked with great difficulty, in large part due to the suicide of her husband and the struggle of raising their three children alone. She humbly and graciously spoke of her poetry as a force that flowed through her and not as being of her own creation, but rather simply something she tried to write down. Ruth Stone died in 2011. You can read more about her on her Poetry Foundation webpage. This poem is one I posted on my Facebook several years ago in memory of my late father. He was greatly on my mind this past weekend as I ran my first half-marathon, so I am sharing this poem here as well. 

Train Ride

All things come to an end;
small calves in Arkansas,
the bend of the muddy river.
Do all things come to an end?
No, they go on forever.
They go on forever, the swamp,
the vine-choked cypress, the oaks
rattling last year’s leaves,
the thump of the rails, the kite
the still white stilted heron.
All things come to an end.
The red clay bank, the spread hawk,
the bodies riding this train,
the stalled struck, pale sunlight, the talk;
the talk goes on forever,
the wide dry field of geese,
a man stopped near his porch
to watch. Release, release;
between cold death and a fever,
send what you will, I will listen.
All things come to an end.
No, they go on forever.

— Ruth Stone


Poetry Monday : Now Blue October by Robert Nathan

Robert Nathan was a novelist, screenwriter, and poet who produced over fifty books in his lifetime. He was born just before the turn of the nineteenth century in New York City. He died at ninety-one years of age in Los Angeles, where he resided for much of his adult life. You can read more about him in his New York Times obituary here. This poem is another that I discovered in the marvelous anthology Fifty Years of American Poetry. I shared this poem with my husband, David, early in our friendship, and it has held a special significance for us ever since.

Now Blue October

Now blue October, smoky in the sun,
Must end the long, sweet summer of the heart.
The last brief visit of the birds is done;
They sing the autumn songs before they part.
Listen, how lovely — there’s the thrush we heard
When June was small with roses, and the bending
Blossom of branches covered nest and bird,
Singing the summer in, summer unending —
Give me your hand once more before the night;
See how the meadows darken with the frost,
How fades the green that was the summer’s light.
Beauty is only altered, never lost,
And love, before the cold November rain,
Will make its summer in the heart again.

— Robert Nathan



Poetry Monday : Celebrating Childhood by Adonis

These past several weeks we have all been confronted in a more personal and tender way than usual by the plight of those fleeing Syria. Aylan Kurdi, a three-year-old boy, drowned in the Mediterranean Ocean while his family tried to make it to Greece. In response, the topic of Syrian refugees has been reenergized in our media. To acknowledge this situation, I have chosen to share a poem today by the well-known Syrian poet, literary critic, and activity Ali Ahmad Said Esber, who publishes his work under the pen-name Adonis. He is 85 years old and lives in Paris, France. You can learn more about him here and read an interview with him in which he discusses this poem here. This poem is from his Selected Poems, and was translated by Khaled Mattawa. 

Celebrating Childhood

Even the wind wants
to become a cart
pulled by butterflies.

I remember madness
leaning for the first time
on the mind’s pillow.
I was talking to my body then
and my body was an idea
I wrote in red.

Red is the sun’s most beautiful throne
and all the other colors
worship on red rugs.

Night is another candle.
In every branch, an arm,
a message carried in space
echoed by the body of the wind.

The sun insists on dressing itself in fog
when it meets me:
Am I being scolded by the light?

Oh, my past days–
they used to walk in their sleep
and I used to lean on them.

Love and dreams are two parentheses.
Between them I place my body
and discover the world.

Many times
I saw the air fly with two grass feet
and the road dance with feet made of air.

My wishes are flowers
staining my days.

I was wounded early,
and early I learned
that wounds made me.

I still follow the child
who still walks inside me.

Now he stands at a staircase made of light
searching for a corner to rest in
and to read the face of night again.

If the moon were a house,
my feet would refuse to touch its doorstep.

They are taken by dust
carrying me to the air of seasons.

I walk,
one hand in the air,
the other caressing tresses
that I imagine.

A star is also
a pebble in the field of space.

He alone
who is joined to the horizon
can build new roads.

A moon, an old man,
his seat is night
and light is his walking stick.

What shall I say to the body I abandoned
in the rubble of the house
in which I was born?
No one can narrate my childhood
except those stars that flicker above it
and that leave footprints
on the evening’s path.

My childhood is still
being born in the palms of a light
whose name I do not know
and who names me.

Out of that river he made a mirror
and asked it about his sorrow.
He made rain out of his grief
and imitated the clouds.

Your childhood is a village.
You will never cross its boundaries
no matter how far you go.

His days are lakes,
his memories floating bodies.

You who are descending
from the mountains of the past,
how can you climb them again,
and why?

Time is a door
I cannot open.
My magic is worn,
my chants asleep.

I was born in a village,
small and secretive like a womb.
I never left it.
I love the ocean not the shores.

— Adonis


There are many organizations that could use financial support in order to help those suffering in Syria as well as refugees leaving the country. Two of note are Migrant Offshore Aid Station, an organization that completes search and rescue operations for refugees attempting to cross the Mediterranean, and Hand in Hand for Syria, which provides humanitarian aid on the ground in Syria.


Poetry Monday : The Two-Headed Calf by Laura Gilpin

What better way to start the week (and this blog) than with poetry? When I was fifteen, my mother’s best friend took me to a bookstore and let me select any book I wanted as a gift, and I had the good fortune to come across the humble and little-known anthology Fifty Years of American Poetry. I found this poem in that book, and it became a favorite of mine and of my father’s. It took a bit of digging to learn more about the poet, Laura Crafton Gilpin. She was a nurse, patient advocate, and poet who published two books, the first of which won a Walt Whitman Award. She was one of the first staff members of Planetree, an organization that helps hospitals implement patient-centered care models. She died of brain cancer in 2007 at the age of fifty-six. 

The Two-Headed Calf

Tomorrow when the farm boys find this
freak of nature, they will wrap his body
in newspaper and carry him to the museum.

But tonight he is alive and in the north
field with his mother. It is a perfect
summer evening: the moon rising over
the orchard, the wind in the grass. And
as he stares into the sky, there are
twice as many stars as usual.

— Laura Gilpin