Published on Academy of American Poets (

I Cannot Be Quiet an Hour

I begin
to talk to violets.
Tears fall into my soup
and I drink them.
Sooner or later
everyone donates something.
I carry wood, stone, and
hay in my head.
The eyes of the violets
grow very wide.
At the end of the day
I reglue the broken foot
of the china shepherd
who has put up with me.
Next door, in the house
of the clock-repairer,
a hundred clocks tick
at once. He and his wife
go about their business
sleeping peacefully at night.


Copyright © 2018 by Mary Ruefle. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 31, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

About this Poem

“Regarding this poem, I have very little to say. I tend to forget my poems as soon as they are written, but I am very happy while writing them. I do love how things we saw many, many years ago can suddenly crop up in a poem we wrote yesterday, and that happened here. I was once in the house of a clock-repairer and asked him how he could sleep with all that ticking—there were hundreds of working clocks on the walls—and he told me he was so used to it he had no problem at all. Me, I bury my alarm clock every night, as I cannot bear to hear the ticking!”
—Mary Ruefle


Mary Ruefle

Mary Ruefle is the author of many books of poetry, including including Dunce (Wave Books, 2019), finalist for the 2020 Pulitzer Prize and longlister for the 2019 National Book Award in Poetry. The recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, and a Whiting Award. She lives in Bennington, Vermont, and teaches in the MFA program at Vermont College. Ruefle is the poet laureate of Vermont.

Date Published: 2018-01-31

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