Friday, November 14, 2014

Helen Ruggieri


                        Under dappled willow scattered sundrops
                        the river cuts a deep hole in the bank,
                        appears to crowd out of the flow,
                        to stop flowing southward.

                        The current drags past on the far side
                        hauling leaves and limbs, letters and plastic,
                        my parents in their burial clothes,
                       my children, theirs. . . .

                        I look out over this momentary stillness
                        to where ripples mark the hidden current
                        like dreams under sleeping eyelids.

                        What comes is always coming;
                        it's waiting that's hard to master.



I see men, but they look like trees, walking. Mark 8:23

Not a friend, but related in the way love
sometimes binds you to those you'd
otherwise avoid.  True to an old
truce and your agreement with yourself,
you show up at his funeral, sniffling even,
for his children, for mortality in general.

The altar is carved marble, rococo,
ugly in a way I once took for beautiful,
arcane signs unreadable from lack of practice:
a triangle of skulls around a figure
with a raised hand, angels on either
side, globe, sun, a cross.
The censer swinging, bells, silence,
rise, kneel, sit, stand.

I look for consolation in the worn words
but find only dull resonance, repeated rhythm.
My father's funeral, outside, was better -
­grass, pine, sky, sun.
The reader placed a sprig of pine
on the coffin - all the comfort nature allows.

We caravan to the cemetery,
wipers beating a slow dirge.
Outside with rain falling on our heads,
our feet sinking into the sodden ground,
I feel comforted. This is better.
We should remember what we are.



I flew over three time zones
to get here on time
shedding hours as if I'd
been living beyond my years

they lied
told me this old man
struck cancer dumb
was my father
I stayed
because my mother thought
he was her husband

sheets of newspaper
floated in the duststorm
like prehistoric birds
a dense violet light
ate the mesa
leaving only a great
purple bruise

how fragile each breath
seems when it may be the last
I confess that while I listened
to the falter and catch of each one

I told myself to watch carefully
miss nothing
I knew what I was doing

he waited until
the day I got here
with my impeccable timing
he raised his cool, dry hand
closes it over my own
like a baby might

for months birds
of silence have circled
every time I sat to write
I wait for
plangorous voices
to break from
vacant throats

the grief of orphans
is for themselves
I confess that while
this stranger died
I drew his last breaths into a poem
with every detail
I could salvage from
this barren desert



                                    Under the small mound
                                    on the east bank of the river

                                                and buried with her

                                    combs of antler bone
                                    heron mandible hairpins
                                    freshwater pearls
                                    needles and awls
                                    the carved figure of a bird

                                                and over her

                                    plows rake each spring
                                    corn and winter wheat



                                    How beautiful the serpent's tongue,
                                    she thinks, and judging done-ness,
                                    dishes out the stew.

                                    Late into the evening
                                    she reads their poetries
                                    wrapped in a black robe,
                                    cobwebs traced in silver on the sleeves,
                                    the collar ringed with lilies
                                    stemmed with a fringe of many threads.
                                    She traces each stanza with her finger,
                                    takes scissors from the basket,
                                    makes the cut.

                                    When embroidery is done,
                                    it's done.
                                    No one argues with her logic.
                                    Above, dark wings of kohl
                                    steadfast against titanium;
                                    there is no wavering.

© Helen Ruggieri 

from the new forthcoming: The Kingdom Where No One Keeps Time



  1. I didn't know I was in Truck.


  2. The Kingdom Where No One Keeps Time is now available from Buy a copy, you'll love it.