Naar de monnik verzonden

Nacht valt
en de lege intimiteit van de hele wereld
vult mijn hart met schuim.
Het verleden is tot op deze ene plaats
samen gesukkeld
met een zaklamp in zijn mond
en valt in de stroom.
Oude tranen onder het oppervlak
stijgen en verspreiden zich als karper,
terwijl een ivoren haarspeld wegdrijft
zoals een verloren tand terugkerend in tijd.

Sent to the monk

Night falls
and the empty intimacy of the whole world
fills my heart to frothing.
The past has trudged to this one spot
with a flashlight in its mouth
and falls into the stream.
Ancient tears beneath the surface
rise and scatter like carp,
while an ivory hairpin floats away
like a loose tooth going back in time.

“Sent to the Monk“ from Dunce. Copyright © 2019 by Mary Ruefle.

Geen uur kan ik rustig zijn

Ik begin
te spreken met viooltjes.
Tranen vallen in mijn soep
en ik drink ze.
Vroeger of later
geeft iedereen wel iets.
Ik draag hout, steen en
hooi in mijn hoofd.
De ogen van de viooltjes
worden veel groter.
Bij het einde van de dag
herlijm ik ook de gebroken voet
van de porseleinen herder
die bij mij logeert.
De volgende deur, in het huis
van de klokkenhersteller
tikken er een honderd klokken
tegelijkertijd. Hij en zijn vrouw
als het over hun handel gaat
slapen ’s nachts vredevol.

I cannot be quit 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.

De hand

De leraar stelt een vraag.
Jij kent het antwoord, je vermoedt
dat je de enige bent in de klas
die het antwoord kent, want de persoon
in kwestie ben jijzelf, en daarover
ben jij de grootste levende autoriteit,
maar je steekt je hand niet op.
Je klapt het deksel van je lessenaar open
en neemt er een appel uit.
Je kijkt door het venster.
Je steekt je hand niet op en er is
een essentiële schoonheid in je vingers,
die zelfs niet even tokkelen, maar stil
en vredevol liggen.
De leraar herhaalt de vraag.
Buiten het venster, op een overhangende tak
schudt een roodborstje zijn pluimpjes
en lente hangt in de lucht.

The hand

The teacher asks a question.
You know the answer, you suspect
you are the only one in the classroom
who knows the answer, because the person
in question is yourself, and on that
you are the greatest living authority,
but you don’t raise your hand.
You raise the top of your desk
and take out an apple.
You look out the window.
You don’t raise your hand and there is
some essential beauty in your fingers,
which aren’t even drumming, but lie
flat and peaceful.
The teacher repeats the question.
Outside the window, on an overhanging branch,
a robin is ruffling its feathers
and spring is in the air.

Mary Ruefle was born in Pennsylvania in 1952. Her father was a military officer, and she spent her early life traveling throughout the United States and Europe. She graduated from Bennington College in 1974 with a degree in literature.

Mary Ruefle(1952) is the author of many books, including Dunce (Wave Books, forthcoming 2019), My Private Property (Wave Books, 2016), Trances of the Blast (Wave Books, 2013), Madness, Rack, and Honey: Collected Lectures (Wave Books, 2012), a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award in Criticism, and Selected Poems (Wave Books, 2010), winner of the William Carlos Williams Award from the Poetry Society of America. She has also published a comic book, Go Home and Go to Bed! (Pilot Books/Orange Table Comics, 2007), and is an erasure artist, whose treatments of 19th century texts have been exhibited in museums and galleries and published in A Little White Shadow (Wave Books, 2006). Ruefle is the recipient of numerous honors, including the Robert Creeley Award, an Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, a Guggenheim fellowship, a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship, and a Whiting Award. She lives in Bennington, Vermont.

Writing has been a constant for as long as I can remember. The experience of moving around simply means I have no roots the way others might, I only saw my grandparents and cousins every three or four years, that kind of thing, and I don’t write many poems that are centred on the family; I have friends who have very large, close-knit families and it always amazes me, I can’t imagine what that would be like, despite the fact that I have a formidable imagination.

About Ruefle’s poems, the poet Tony Hoagland has said, “Her work combines the spiritual desperation of Dickinson with the rhetorical virtuosity of Wallace Stevens. The result (for those with ears to hear) is a poetry at once ornate and intense; linguistically marvelous, yes, but also as visceral as anything you are likely to encounter.”

Ruefle’s free-verse poetry is at once funny and dark, domestic and wild. Reviewing Post Meridian (2000), critic Lisa Beskin of the Boston Review observed, “Like John Ashbery and James Tate, Mary Ruefle investigates the multiplicities and frailties of being with an associative inventiveness and a lightness of touch; the purposefulness of her enquiry never eclipses the remarkable beauty of her work.”

I love dolls—the idea of dolls, Rilke’s writing on dolls. They’re little, fake human beings. I’ve seen a picture of the earliest human form made of clay in the British Isles, but I’m thinking now of when they first began as something one gives to a child. They’re essential. They’re there when you’re learning how to relate to one another at a very young age. And when you’re playing, a profoundly important psychological interchange is going on. What’s important—and I write about this in Madness, Rack, and Honey—is not when the child first speaks to the doll but when the doll first speaks back. That’s an enormous leap, when the doll has a voice that answers, when it enters into conversation with the child, and they often do. That’s the great moment. So yes, I love the miniature. I’m not immune to the pleasures of small things and a shrunken world. Now, I’m in the process of moving into a new house, and I’m unpacking, and there are a lot of very, very big things I have to do. I have to put curtains up, I have to hang things, I have to construct shelves—I have to do all of that! And the whole time I’m doing it, what I really want to be doing is opening the boxes with all the tiny, tiny things, putting them out, and spending hours arranging them. That’s my dessert. (The Paris review)

Ritual is repetition, and repetition always results in rhythm. So it has everything in the world to do with poetry. In your own life, you have rituals now. And they will change. Your rituals will change—drastically—when you go from living alone to living with another human being. They will change drastically if you have children. They will change drastically if you have no job and you get a job. My life is full of ritual. It just doesn’t happen to be writing ritual. In your own life, do you brush your teeth or make your coffee first? We create ritual even when it’s unnecessary. So I’m a great believer in ritual. I would fall apart without it.

Metaphor is not, and never has been, a mere literary term. It is an event. A poem must rival a physical experience and metaphor is, simply, an exchange of energy between two things. If you believe that metaphor is an event, and not just a literary term denoting comparison, then you must conclude that a certain philosophy arises: the philosophy that everything in the world is connected. I’ll go slowly here: if metaphor is not idle comparison, but an exchange of energy, an event, then it unites the world by its very premise — that things connect and exchange energy.