how we met :: mary ruefle

I very much dislike being at a buffet

The first time I saw
the little man in the radish swing
swinging out over the vegetable tray
was himself a radish,
I was happy

I would be happiest if there were
a whole village of radish people,
as many radish people
as there are buffet people
I hope for each radish person
a ‘sister person’ in the room

I am half radish myself

Some say the best thing you can do
is carry a pair of little scissors,
snip small pieces of the world
and take them home with you

These scissors have cut hair
The scissors have cut string
From these scissors come my fragments

You can cut a rose from a radish
or little people who are happy swinging
in a room of bigger people, the excited throng
cut from cloth

At the banquet I stood next to him
When I pushed the swing he smiled at me
Fast friend are the best
It is good to have a bunch of them

We each chose a piece of
preposterous melon and
for the sake of a little quiet
removed the seeds

You see?
From radishes come joy

to a magazine :: mary ruefle

I am rejecting your request for a letter of rejection. One must reject everything in order to live. That may be true, but the rejected know another knowledge—that if they were not rejected, heaven would descend upon the earth in earthly dreams and an infinite flowering of all living forms would form a silveresque film over our sordid history, which has adventitiously progressed through violent upheavals in reaction to rejection; without rejection there would be no as-we-know-it Earth. What is our ball but a rejected stone flung from the mother lode? The rejected know that if they were nonrejected a clear cerulean blue would be the result, an endless love ever dissolving in more endless love. This is their secret, and none share it save them. They remain, therefore, the unbelieved, they remain the embodiment of heaven herself. Let others perpetuate life as we know it—that admixture, that amalgam, the happy, the sad, the profusion of all things under the sunny moon existing in a delicate balance, such as it is. Alone, the rejected walk a straight path, they enter a straight gate, they see in their dreams what no one else can see—an end to all confusion, an end to all suffering, an elysian mist of eternally good vapor. Forgive me if I have put your thoughts into words. It was the least I could do for such a comrade, whose orphaned sighs reach me in my squat hut.

super bowl :: mary ruefle

Who won? I said.
The game’s tomorrow, he said.
And I became the snail I always was,
crossing the field in my helmet.
But I’d given it my all,
while the plane arced on its way
to a landing, when I overheard
the woman behind us say
I was gathering wildflowers to make a wreath
to lay on my mother’s grave when my son
fell off a mountain in Italy

and I felt such joy over the unknown
outcome of her words
I was not ashamed,
for I can feign interest
in the world, just as she
in that great green meadow
must have.

the bunny gives us a lesson in eternity :: mary ruefle

We are a sad people, without hats.
The history of our nation is tragically benign.
We like to watch the rabbits screwing in the graveyard.
We are fond of the little bunny with the bent ear
who stands alone in the moonlight
reading what little text there is on the graves.
He looks quite desirable like that.
He looks like the center of the universe.
Look how his mouth moves mouthing the words
while the others are busy making more of him.
Soon the more will ask of him to write their love
letters and he will oblige, using the language
of our ancestors, those poor clouds in the ground,
beloved by us who have been standing here for hours,
a proud people after all.

perpetually attempting to soar :: mary ruefle

A boy from Brooklyn used to cruise on summer nights.
As soon as he’d hit sixty he’d hold his hand out the window,
cupping it around the wind. He’d been assured
this is exactly how a woman’s breast feels when you put
your hand around it and apply a little pressure. Now he knew,
and he loved it. Night after night, again and again, until
the weather grew cold and he had to roll the window up.
For many years afterwards he was perpetually attempting
to soar. One winter’s night, holding his wife’s breast
in his hand, he closed his eyes and wanted to weep.
He loved her, but it was the wind he imagined now.
As he grew older, he loved the word etcetera and refused
to abbreviate it. He loved sweet white butter. He often
pretended to be playing the organ. On one of his last mornings,
he noticed the shape of his face molded in the pillow.
He shook it out, but the next morning it reappeared.

shalimar :: mary ruefle

God put his finger on my sacrum
and he lifted me, he set me
in the center of the universe,
the curious desire
of my chronically lonely life.

It was cold and dark and lonely
and I was scared.

There were no accessories.
I burst into tears over nothing.

What would Jimmy Schuyler do?

And as quietly as the sound of Kleenex
being pulled from a box,
I sneezed.

And morning, that goddess,
as if she were slightly deaf,
barely lifted her head off the horizon
before laying back down.

And a rose opened her portals
and the scent ran up an elephant’s trunk,
or tried to.

Such a long way for everything to travel!

From here I look like a front moving in

An icy purple light
a poet would say belonged to a perfume stopper
belonging to his mother.
When it was her nipple.

You know, neither in the past
or in the future.

the hand :: mary ruefle

The teacher asks a question.
You know the answer, you suspect
you are the only one in the classroom
who knows the answer, because the person
in question is yourself, and on that
you are the greatest living authority,
but you don’t raise your hand.
You raise the top of your desk
and take out an apple.
You look out the window.
You don’t raise your hand and there is
some essential beauty in your fingers,
which aren’t even drumming, but lie
flat and peaceful.
The teacher repeats the question.
Outside the window, on an overhanging branch,
a robin is ruffling its feathers
and spring is in the air.

rain effect :: mary ruefle

A bride and a groom sitting in an open buggy
in the rain, holding hands but not looking
at each other, waiting for the rain to stop,
waiting for the marriage to begin, embarrassed
by the rain, the effect of the rain on the bridal
veil, the wet horse with his mane in his eyes,
the rain cold as the sea, the sea deep as love,
big drops of rain falling on the leather seat,
the rain beaded on a rose pinned to the groom’s
lapel, the rain on the bride’s bouquet,
on the baby’s breath there, the sound of the rain
hitting the driver’s top hat, the rain
shining like satin on the black street,
on the tips of patent leather shoes, Hokusai’s
father who polished mirrors for a living, Hokusai’s
father watching the sky for clouds, Hokusai’s father’s son
drawing rain over a bridge and over the people crossing
the bridge, Hokusai’s father’s son drawing the rain
for hours, Hokusai’s father rubbing a mirror, the rain
cold as the sea, the sea cold as love, the sea swelling
to a tidal wave, at the tip of the wave white.