Five Poems

By Ruth Vinz

Just Imagine
 
“The moon is blue cheese,” my mother says, beams
of moon sharpen her smile as her hand flashes another push of our
granddaughter into the night sky. Who goes for a midnight swing
except a grandmother when a great granddaughter asks?
 
The swing cuts through air, suspended. Glistening against moonlight
our granddaughter’s auburn curls wave in the glow. A tingling hum
of chirping in the distance. Up she goes again. Back and forth, back
and forth, against the creak of swing.
 
At three, she reckons with blue cheese, swirls the idea in her mouth
and frowns. A long silence. “The moon is stone, Nana.” Her voice
cuts through quiet air—gently, without grievance. A faint star
shimmers like jelly. I can almost hear its laughter.
 
“The moon is a rock, Nana,” she thrusts her toes toward the sky
and tips back far enough to see Nana behind her, waits for silence
to cut air illuminated with the full-of-moon sky. Nana moves her lips,
melts explanation into spinning declaration. “I love you.”
 
For a moment nothing matters as her words catch corners of
wind. If you saw them now, the younger flying, the elder feet
planted firmly as she steadies herself for the next push, your eye
might catch the brief touch of hand to hand forming an arc
 
of balance in their banter. You would hear Nana say, “the moon must
be green stone and blue cheese tonight.” You would see the same
crooked curve of smile on each face and be dazzled by a flash of shooting
star. Hear the younger whisper, “Nana, the moon is a stone but
 
it’s import-an-t to imagine” and just then, you might almost see,
from the corner of your mind’s eye, the moon, smiling. Up she goes
again. Back and forth, back and forth, against the steading of feet
and the creak of swing.
 
                                                #
 
 
Nothing Is Hidden Except The Visible
 
       Full Disk Earth, Apollo 17, 1972
 
That photograph of Earth—placid, no beating heart of
yearning, nothing moving on a rubble of continents conquered
and named by those who never had this god’s-eye view. No
signs of borders on the land; the axis of a spinning globe cycling
day into night. Indigo waters roil as islands bob and glaciers melt.
An almost invisible ship struggles through wisps of clouds turned
perfect storm. Its mast splinters as the camera shutters its release.
Forgive me for searching shades of umbre, indigo, the glaucous
mists floating in shadows as if sunken Atlantis might suddenly
appear with its own Crusoe planting foot on stone, as if a pirate
in repose found buried bounty in the hidden made visible, as if
a convergence of obsidian and ice could murmur in the dark, as if
a kingfisher found its way to dip and rise in oceans of sky to cradle
earth against a sudden fall or falter.
 
Full Disk Earth—a reminder of how we miss the curves to focus
on the flatness, not listening to the polar silences, not hearing
whispers of gravity’s edge as we hold tight, astonished by a spinning
vertigo as aperture gives way to bursts of light and momentary blindness
shanks the earth akilter to become a marble hidden in a ball of dust,
encased in fur tangles. Dusted off and gleaming, it hangs suspended
between the thumb and index finger of some imagined god.
 
Once your eyes adjust and clouds of understanding gather, you see
the pretense everywhere. Look closely—a fisherman leans against
his starboard bow, not seeing the cracks-in-wood where water might
seep through. Imagine my two dogs lying, perfectly still looking up at me.
Suddenly, there are three. The absent one from long ago returns for only
a moment. In the silence—a strange humming. How the heart swells
as the secret reveals itself: nothing is hidden except the visible.
 
                                              #
  
The Thought of Wolves
 
Lift me, great Wind, past trees firing
red. Lay me down into the clearing where
I found them, three years ago, wolf pups
curled there blossoming alive
like blood plums, small mouths turned
toward the blue of sky.   A rush of promise,
of hidden pleasure in a grove now filled only
with the thought of wolves.
.
Maybe we are meant to trudge among thoughts
of wolves where no wolves are.  Breathe deep
that forest grove where we might run or stand or
hear birds sing—not in the shadow of madrone;
not where we might build needle beds for rest
but where we spin plums that linger on branches,
looking like the late years of splendid women
before their exquisite designs begin to fall.
Close to the earth, there is never enough time
for words. Not on the forest floor, not
in the clearing, not where we hear the work
of worms so close to Earth.  Only, at the
edge of held breath do words fail. Only
then, are we caught in wonder, Only
then, can we feel the silk fur of imagined
wolves, the precision of their ripe scent upon
the heart.
                                   #
 
Becoming The Meadow
 
My uncle, ninety and a life-time
hiker says on one of our last camping
treks into the Sawtooths that he likes
best the little place in his heart where
he is forever twenty-three and
wandering the woods.
 
The courage of his swagger, with pine
branch improvised into walking stick,
taps into my heart-throat. All morning we
wander over needle beds, toppled trunks,
crouch at the stream, study sockeye
salmon nests. We swim in synch, tiredness
an afterthought. “I think this must be
Heaven,” he says when we come up for air.
 
I watch him doze after. Half a sandwich still
in hand, head against a birch trunk. When he
wakes, I read Robert Lowell aloud and he
whittles. I think it beautiful—this day, this
moment, this astonishing man with delicate
black moss on his boots and his broad hands,
the ones that taught me fly tying, and him leaning
into the warm haze of late afternoon sun.
 
“Look to the meadow,” he says suddenly. All
the hues of the paint box. Twelve minutes
precisely—violet, yellow, golden, green—then
they are gone. We are awash in the geometry
of how good things are
just before they
disappear.             
        
 
Jezebel
 
I’ve always loved the name Jezebel
gently flicking off the tongue—Jezebel
smooth like the oboe’s reed vibrating
B flat against the lower lip. Jezebel rides
where air creaks. A tremolo. Nothing
so beautiful as Jezebel.
 
Jezebel wears linen gloves. Her arms
are cedar limbs where blackbirds wait
not yet aware her hands sprout vines
to grow round hearts—prisoners to
Jezebel. No man buries his beak in her
moonlight.
 
Jezebel. Every woman dreams, half-afraid,
to follow her, to conjure doubling rhythms,
like a trick in scansion, weave siren songs
through branches. Gentle are the harmonies
and yet lightning and thunder roil behind.
Jezebel. Say it before the sound sours.                       
 
 

Ruth Vinz

Ruth Vinz teaches writing, literature, narrative research and is the author of nine books and the recipient of the Richard Meade Book Award. Vinz taught high school and currently is The Morse Endowed Professor at Teachers College, Columbia University. Vinz calculates in her fifty-five years of teaching, she has responded to at least 32,500 students’ poems, essays, stories, research papers and dissertation drafts from which she continues to learn about the relationship of craft and meaning.