(Ruth Stone, June 8, 1915 - November 19, 2011) And suddenly, it's today, it's this morning they are putting Ruth into the earth, her breasts going down, under the hill, like the moon and sun going down together. O I know, it's not Ruth—what was Ruth went out, slowly, but this was her form, beautiful and powerful as the old, gorgeous goddesses who were terrible, too, not telling a lie for anyone—and she'd been left here so long, among mortals, by her mate—who could not, one hour, bear to go on being human. And I've gone a little crazy myself with her going, which seems to go against logic, the way she has always been there, with her wonder, and her generousness, her breasts like two voluptuous external hearts. I am so glad she kept them, all her life, and she got to be buried in them— she 96, and they maybe 82, each, which is 164 years of pleasure and longing. And think of all the poets who have suckled at her riskiness, her risque, her body politic, her outlaw grace! What she came into this world with, with a mew and cry, she gave us. In her red sweater and her red hair and her raw melodious Virginia crackle, she emptied herself fully out into her songs and our song-making, we would not have made our songs without her. O dear one, what is this? You are not a child, though you dwindled, you have not retraced your path, but continued to move straight forward to where we will follow you, radiant mother. Red Rover, cross over.
About this Poem
"When Ruth Stone, one of our great American poets, died, I was not able to get to Vermont for her burial. That morning, I sat by the window, over Riverside Drive, in N.Y.C., and let my mind go, took off its collar and leash, and let it run—straight to her. All I asked of my mind was that it report back to me what it saw, what it thought and felt. After the poem was finished (by hand, by ballpoint in grocery-store notebook), and typed, and revised a little, it was ready to go out and seek other lovers of Ruth Stone's poems, with whom to observe and mourn her passing, and to praise her. Later I had the sorrowing joy of reading Toi Derricotte's story of her deep friendship with Ruth and her family, and of the day of the burial in her essay 'Ruth Stone's Funeral' which was published in Water-Stone Review, Volume 15, 2012. Thus do we all keep each other company."
Born on November 19, 1942, in San Francisco, Sharon Olds has served as New York state poet laureate and a Chancellor for the Academy of American Poets.
Date Published: 2013-11-05
Source URL: https://poets.org/poem/suddenly