Ruth Thompson’s second book, Woman with Crows, was a finalist for the AROHO Foundation’s To the Lighthouse Poetry Prize. It was published by Word Press in August 2012. She lives in Colden, New York and Hilo, Hawai’i with her partner, writer-anthropologist Don Mitchell. She received a BA from Stanford and a PhD from Indiana University, and was an English professor, librarian, editor, college dean, and yoga teacher in Los Angeles. Her poems have won several awards, including the New Millennium Writings Poetry Award and the Harpur Palate Milton Kessler Prize. Her chapbook Here Along Cazenovia Creek was performed with the celebrated Japanese dancer Shizuno Nasu in February 2012.


Three poems from Women with Crows:

Sudden Oak Death Syndrome

Down the long body of California,
ramalina drapes the dead shoulders of oaks
with her bent hair.

Lace lichen. It’s the color of sadness,
of rain that goes on for a long time,
of things fading into the distance.

Behind its veil ooze black
cankers of phytophthora ramorum.

We are in plague time now,
these dead too many to bury, shrouded
in lace the color of smog, fallen

like kindling over the stucco-colored hills,
behind dry lakebeds
where are tattooed the lost shapes of reeds.

Here I name them, the old friends:
live oak, scrub oak, white oak, black oak,
coffeeberry, huckleberry, buckeye, bay laurel,
rhododendron, manzanita, madrone, sequoia.

In the fires, even their roots will burn.

We leave our children a place with no eyelids.
They will die thirsty,
telling stories of our green shade.


The Owl

The owl
flying from dark woods
on wide eyes of wings
carries out from shadow
the lank beast of our secret    
in her moon-   
curved beak

beats behind us                      
as we run panting
takes us          
our small bones
takes the nape
in her black hands

the owl comes sailing
out of the place we cannot look at
on easy wings
on currents of ice.


Why Hungry Ghosts Must Keep Flying

Because they cannot rest

cannot dance strong fishbodies
through long brown kelp
or seep like sun through the tufted fingers of redwoods

cannot breathe through their feet
or sprawl in hot sweet grass sated as seeds  

cannot flicker out and in through their fingertips
making cloud-to-cloud lightning along the edges of the world.

And in this place where throats are bells
clamoring the great sounding universe back to itself

they fly with throats clutched close
they drag empty dirigible bellies
their ears are filled with their own keening.



Ruth Thompson



Copyright © Ruth Thompson

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