Ruth Stone--American


Ruth Stone
(1915-    )


Born in 1915, in Roanoke, Virginia, Ruth Stone is a teacher and writer of poetry.  She was a creative writing teacher at a number of universities.  She won the 2002 National Book Award for In the Next Galaxy.  She has published eight collections of poetry and several chapbooks, and has been included in numerous anthologies and literary journals.  She has been recipient of many awards: Wallace Stevens, two Guggenheim Fellowships, the Bess Hokin award from Poetry magazine, the Shelley Memorial, the Vermont Cerf award for lifetime achievement in the arts, and the National Book Critics Circle Award.

That Other War

A bird sings in the tree you planted

beside your stamped-out storage barn,

plastic barn that fits all over

America in three sizes; the bird does not know

that you have gone away, worker of puzzles,

hero of the Philippines.  You who wanted

no more than flower beds, zoysia grass,

a round of golf.  Years passed

before you told us that after laying down

the communication lines, you returned

to find them all ambushed; torsos

severed.   Some had no faces.

After the war it seemed the war

in the head didn’t end so easily.

In the night you would try to choke

your wife and she would wake you up.

But even that passes.


This bird sings for itself

a soft unconscious mourning.

Your wife hears it but does not

know that she is listening.

Her collection of figurines

still on the shelves you built

for them and she is still

working in this grocery and that,

handing out coupons and samples.


In the Next Galaxy

Things will be different.
No one will lose their sight,
their hearing, their gallbladder.
It will be all Catskills with brand
new wrap-around verandas.
The idea of Hitler will not
have vibrated yet.
While back here,
they are still cleaning out
pockets of wrinkled
Nazis hiding in Argentina.
But in the next galaxy,
certain planets will have true
blue skies and drinking water.