I keep this advice from Ruth Stone on my desk:
"You have to take comfort where you can – in the nuthatches coming to the feeder, in the warmth of the woodstove, in the voices of your lovely grandchildren. You have to allow yourself to take joy. Otherwise, you are no good to anyone.”
Ruth Stone, Vermont Writers: A State of Mind, by Yvonne Daley.
Ruth Stone lived in Vermont for much of her life. In 2008 she was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.
The poems below are from What Love Comes To: New and Selected Poems, published by Copper Canyon Press in 2008. In her introduction to this volume, Sharon Olds writes: “Ruth Stone’s poems, in their originality and radiance, their intelligence and music and intense personal politics, shine in their place within her generation, among the pioneering women (Bishop, Brooks, Rukeyser). Her unusual lack of self-promotion has resulted in her work being slow to find its readers. But her readers are passionate in their respect and love and amazement over her poems – the poems’ energy, freshness, and spunk, their speaking to our lives.”
Can it be that
memory is useless,
like a torn web
hanging in the wind?
Sometimes it billows
out, a full high gauze –
like a canopy.
But the air passes
through the rents
and it falls again and flaps
like the ghost rag that it is –
hanging at the window
of an empty room.
For fifteen years I have lived in a house
without running water or furnace.
In and out the front door
with my buckets and armloads of wood.
This is the mountain.
This is the fortress of ice.
This is the stray cat skulking in the barn.
This is the barn with vacant windows
that lifts like a thin balsa kite
in the northeasters,
These are winter birds
that wait in the bushes.
This is my measuring rod.
This is why I get up in the morning.
This is how I know where I am going.