Ruth Miller | Poems


Glacial Galatea knows
Nothing unless she knows
She was herself before Pygmalion’s bold
Stare broke truth from her in a truth as cold.

Though brittle, breaks not.
Though eaten, wastes not.
Though thirsting, slakes not.
I was myself before you touched me. I.


No spider struggles to create
The beautiful. His tensile arc
Knows mathematics in the dark;
A Michael Angelo of air
Who weaves a theory that states
Ultimatums on a hair.

Born to the purple of his need
He has no unsolved problems. He
Suffers no dichotomy,
But wakes to work and works to kill;
Beauty empiric in his greed,
Perfection in a villain’s skill.

Ragblown summit of the ooze
Of soft warm mud that split and stirred-
I hold within my skull the word
Sealed and socketed; yet my hands
Fashion with artifice and ruse
Not wily web, but witless strands.

But when the poor cold corpse of words
Is laid upon its candled bier,
I, vindicate, will shed the tear
That falls like wax, and creep unheard
To weave in silence, grave and bowed,
The pure necessity – a shroud.


Today three years ago, snow fell
In a tropical area, in a season
Of growth, for spring was nearly here.
Uninured to streams of scarlet blossom
Blanketed and cosseted, we stared
In a hush as soundless as our breath
As our cats’ feet, watching the intensity
Of sun on snow as though we could prevent
Slow seep and melting in the gritty glare.
But by midday we were poor again, having spent
Nearly all the silver in the world, though even
The following day we picked up with our eyes
The priceless coinage of a heap, a braid
Of white on a branch, a lump and hillock of ice
On all the verges and the sheltered places.
Now we spoke again with normal voices
Making our steps resound on the unmasked gravel,
All things angular and stark and level.
The pure reflection had vanished from our faces.

In another hemisphere the snow might seem
As known as linen, something white and clean,
But to us it was a miracle, a breath
Of godlings, and all magical. Yet even to those
Clenched in icelandic cold and northern snows
The thaw must seem a time of loss, a death.
Now the coming of summer or of winter
Brings no magic through each tiresome season.
January repeats what is concluded in December.
Of the meagre years of our own snowfall when
We were confronted with the last unreason
Of the last loss; but remember
How, like snow, you reflected and transfigured.

Penguin on the Beach

Stranger in his own element,
Sea-casualty, the castaway manikin
Waddles in his tailored coat-tails. Oil

Has spread a deep commercial stain
Over his downy shirt front. Sleazy, grey,
It clogs the sleekness. Far too well

He must recall the past, to be so cautious:
Watch him step into the waves. He shudders
Under the froth; slides, slips, on the wet sand,

Escaping to dryness, dearth, in a white cascade,
An involuntary shouldering off of gleam.
Hands push him back into the sea. He stands

In pained and silent expostulation.
Once he knew a sunlit, leaping smoothness,
But close with his head’s small knoll, and dark,

He retains the image: Oil on sea,
Green slicks, black lassoos of sludge
Sleeving the breakers in a stain-spread scarf.

He shudders now from the clean flinching wave,
Turns and plods back up the yellow sand,
Ineffably wary, triumphantly sad.

He is immensely wise: he trusts nobody. His senses
Are clogged with experience. He eats
Fish from the Saviour’s hands, and it tastes black.

There are Wounds

Written on wind or water
Word is flesh. Soon or later
Flesh must speak in tones
So dark they pierce the skin.

Stigmata are not revealed
At such times: There are wounds
A Thomas would not dare
To plunge his hand within.


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