Once I called you a dirty—whatever.
Now it does not matter
because your clothes have become
a bundle of rags.
Then I wanted to see what it felt like.
I paid with my life for that.
It went behind your skull.
My middle-class beauty, testing itself,
discovered the dull dregs of ordinary marriage.
Thick lackluster spread between our legs.
We used the poor lovers to death.
Like an ancient reed,
three notes in the early morning,
in the mountains
where I have never traveled,
the blind bird remembers its sorrow.
Winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award for Poetry; Recipient of The Academy of American Poets Eric Mathieu King Award
6 x 9, 96 pp
"In direct, plain language, Stone fashions a poetry that is neither encumbered by decorative artifice nor burdened by the obscurity so often cited as a complaint against contemporary poetry. Stone's tone is rarely ironic, her diction never flat. She balances the formal aspects of her poems with the necessity of her subject matter: observations of everyday life, the pain of lost love, the passing of generations of relations, and the peregrinations of an octogenarian at century's end…In a world so desperate for voices to instruct troubled souls, Ruth Stone's poetry is a reminder of the beauty in pain and loss, and the extraordinary in ordinary words...Readers of good, straightforward poetry are missing out if they have not yet come across the work of Ruth Stone." — The Philadelphia Inquirer
"Call her brilliant, call her prolific — just don't call her 'octogenarian'. 'That's a put-down' in this culture, says poet Ruth Stone of press coverage that typically led with her age (84) in trumpeting her latest professional achievement — winning the respected National Book Critics Circle Award for her 11th book, Ordinary Words (paperback, Paris Press, 1999)…. There is a place for poetry in our hurry-up, dot.com world, says Stone, a professor of English at the State University of New York at Binghamton. 'I speak to my students about this universe we carry around on our shoulders — this head, which has in it everything we've ever seen or read or experienced,' says Stone. 'When you allow your mind to speak to you [through writing], it is one of the greatest things human beings do." — AARP Bulletin
Audio & Interviews
Listen to author Ruth Stone read personal selections from Ordinary Words