Ruth – a poem by Stapleton Nash

Ruth

She is singing the songs of her childhood
While she hangs out the laundry.
The sheets will gather red dust,
They will smell of the sweet browning grass.
The song jogs something in you–
These songs are not sung very much anymore
In this part of the country.
She wears no shoes.

Parasites that would bore into her feet
Live inside the dirt.
It does not matter.
When her husband has fallen asleep,
And she steps outside to feel
The touch of the night air on her skin,
A touch that does not hurt,
The earth itself rises to kiss her feet.
She is nothing if not this body.

A body exists in time; this is true and inescapable.
But a body does not feel in time.
She is now, but she is feeling then.
She feels herself still in the years
When those songs were last played,
She feels herself still in your hands,
Which are now her hands,
And in the voice of the sea,
Which was then your voice.

You stand by the side of the road and listen
Before walking on. There is no point
In bringing her into the now of you,
Into the now of her.
You could make love to her desperately in the barn,
You could remind her of what she used to live for,
And then you could refuse to steal her away from her life.
Or you can do what you do: you can walk away.

When the locusts came, her husband burned the corn.
The smell stung your eyes and made the sheets grey.
You hid a chocolate bar for her tiny son
Behind the well. She found it there and thought, for a second,
That her nose was remembering– but no.
It is only the burning fields. The acridness spreads and binds you both
In the same diaphanous eternity.
She is still singing the songs of her childhood.
That childhood is also yours.

 

Stapleton Nash  was born and raised on Vancouver Island, where she grew up swimming, beach-combing, and writing letters to imaginary mermaid friends. Since then, she has lived in Montreal, where she studied literature, and more recently has been teaching English to children just outside of Taipei. She has had poems published in NewMag and The Mark.

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