Toads? It's Marian, with the pleasure of having personally challenged Turtle-Memoir Ruth. Ruth's poem is so magnificent, I'll save all the expository stuff for the end. Please read, and ponder, and then read again:
I know you are reading this poem
now because you’ve read hers, because
you recognized the opening line the way you knew
her sun-sourced eyes spelled truth no matter how
or where she placed her words and letters on a page.
I know you’re thinking how she’s passed, you’ve seen the last
of words she penned – there’ll be no new ones. I know
you long to find just one more poem, you dream
I know you are reading this poem because you saw her name
and like a drowning sailor clutching at the broken mast of one
who threaded life for you, who rendered truth in wholesome bites for you,
you hoped this homespun yarn of phrases built upon her words
might buoy you up, a temporary fix to float you into harbor,
to let you face her without tears again.
I know you are reading this poem because you’ve tired of the old,
the gods, the myths you swallowed whole that keep you prisoned
still in someone else’s notion of your place in life, in time. Perhaps
you fear a present without her to ground and guide may mire you
again in past – that hellish-faced familiar holds no comfort
after her, …but who will help you plumb the depths
of future’s sea?
I know you are reading this poem remembering
your years of standing in her vision, and being changed.
I know you are reading this poem now because you know
it’s not enough to let another alter you, because she asked
us to re-write ourselves till we were changed
by our own process.
I know you are reading this poem while waiting
for the impetus to write again, to re-explore the myths again
that foundered you, to re-create the stories that will float
your spirit into change, …to reinvent yourself, thereby
to redefine humanity in ways that, pointing, do not rend
but draw this broad diversity of humans into one, new
Atlas, no longer of the Difficult World.
It happened that I was to challenge Ruth on the day that Adrienne Rich passed, so my challenge for Ruth was to write a poem based on any part of Adrienne Rich's life, her writing, or her being that inspires. I am inspired, impressed... nah, completely blown away by Ruth's response. Here is what she said about her process in addressing her challenge:
I was aiming for a poem that would remind readers of Adrienne and what she stood for, but that would at the same time remind them (us) of our own commitment to affect change in the world perhaps, as she did, through poetry (I'd been reading, among other things, her 2007 essay: Poetry and Commitment). I also wanted my poem to be couched in a form that AR readers would recognize. For this I chose a poem I found online, from An Atlas of the Difficult World: Poems 1988-91.
This poem hits me hard, just as Adrienne's so often did. The second-to-last stanza, about remembering our years of standing in her vision, but changing by our own process? Ruth may as well have written those lines for me. I'm simply blown away. BRAVO, RUTH!