The twisty motion of Mary Ruefle’s poetry continues to comfort and amaze. Listening to her work as it moves down the page is like walking beside a delightfully bright, generous, at times cranky aunt with things to say and a surreal tilt of mind. Ruefle’s gaze shifts continually, not from fear but in wonder, drawing the moment into whatever point she is making.
Trances of the Blast was released in early Autumn; here’s a poem from it in honor of those folk returning to school.
I went to Cesare Pavese Middle School.
The gymnasium was a chapel dedicated to loneliness
and no one played games.
There was a stained-glass window over the principal’s desk
and innumerable birds flew against it,
reciting Shelley with all their might,
but it was bulletproof, and besides,
out leaders were never immortal.
The classrooms were modeled after motel rooms,
replete with stains, and in remedial cases
saucers of milk on the floor for innumerable cats,
or kittens, depending on the time of year.
In them we were expected to examine ourselves and pass.
The principal himself once jumped off the roof
at noon, to show us school spirit.
Our mascot was Twist-Tie Man.
Our team the Bitter Herbs.
Our club the Recondsiderers.
It was an honor to have gone,
though a tad strict in retrospect.
You have probably heard that we all became janitors,
sitting in basements next to boilers
reading cheap paperback books of Italian poetry,
and never sweep a thing.
Yet the world runs fine.