Ruth Meitin Garbus

Mountain Inspiration

Car climbing, the entire sweep
of the Sierra Madre's tilting toward us
We huddle in our seats
not knowing whether to either cry or cheer
like teapots that boil and whistle.
I want to scream, but
cannot let my hand fly up to my open mouth.
Instead, I bask in the massive glory merging

with my dreams, my fears, and the ever present

loneliness that accompanies my music,
a drone on the bass clef,
no matter what is happening,
repeats its base note,
raking the muck from my
soul's dark well.

The noonday Mexican sun dominates me,
Quetzalcoatl's power sure.
I am limp, voiceless, profoundly aroused
by the Plumed Serpent.
Breath of Death in the tree tops,
breath of Death in the cactus skeletons.
Sex and Death married, as they have ever been.

Our car curves around the mountain:
too soon, a straightaway.
The mountains resume their rightful place,
Death ceases breathing our way.

Conversation restarts, but not for me.
I am still excited
by the tipping mountains.
I want the mountains inside me, the rivers,
the encircling sky, all flowing through time
to flow in me also.

And when I stop, leaving earth's surface
the mountain's momentous silence
will continue without me,
without you, and
within the wounded earth's fate.

We dare discuss Earth's fate.
We, a fighting, complicated species,
recreate again and again the Tower of Babel,
the monument to greed and delusion.
Money mad colonizers mine
our green and ochre earth
until, pocked and sated, circulation
undone, the good earth loses its balance.

The valley is before us,
the fertile plains, the bowl of Guanajuato,
a silver rich empire dominated by colonizers.

All colonizers, even us!
We think we own our children, Mothers, animals.
even our struggling earth.
But, we are custodians
of an unraveling future
unless we subdue our encoding of aggression
and we plant ourselves on earth,
a polite guest, with all the other guests,
sharing our short, miraculous moments.

Back in the car
the girls go back to chatting.

The sky crinkles itself, with grays
teasing the blues into submission,
reminding us of the great stories.
how we live on earth,
what is our work,
and how to join the fiesta
celebrating the rightness of this all.

Stop suffering for only nothing
can be done. With that
said, give a smile like Buddha's,
who learned to be content,
and became enlightened.

The Rake's Progress

In the village no sign of the Rake's Progress.
Weeping women sometimes signal the Rake has gone,
but on this day they weep for starving children;
no milk or eggs; no hens--all slaughtered--the cows, famished;
the cat, lying exhausted by the hearth, meows.

Indeed the Rake is passing by, but no one cares.
The king's tax collectors howl for their bribes,
the people's price for defeating France;
roads and bridges are neglected.

When the debonair Rake passes,
he hears moans and sobs… the market place is silent.
The Rake's carriage clatters and clatters.
The town is mourning; the well is poisoned,
the bobbins quiet…only the charnel house humming.

Stopping in mid-stream by the hill,
the Rake no longer knows himself.
He remembers his lust for women,
gambling, and the sweet pleasures of winning.
Can other's misfortunes affect him?

The Rake reflects, his heart contrite.
"What has happened to us, our country?
Maidens, pretty and witty,
would gather round my horse,
their delicate fingers play with my bridle,
little tugs to get my attention.”

Then flirtation, relaxation, glorious fornication,

How can I carry on in the face of misery,
starvation, the haunted faces of women?

These unaccustomed thoughts prickle.
The Rake snorts, what am I a saint?
No, I'll go to London,
to meet my rightful destiny:

Business, gambling, and the soft downy beds
of wealthy women who desire me,
whose husbands bore them.

I long for curves, to slide in voluminous space,
with soft bodies, fingers extended,
grabbing a hand
grabbing a hand.

Giddyup, I tell you, Giddyup.

Mother's Life Force

Leaning into her walker, Mother shuffles down the hall.
Smiling at me, she shifts the shuffle into a rhumba,
momentarily lifting her hands, sassily moving her shoulders.

The force of her is revealed in every movement.
"See, I can still dance," she gloats.
I smile, wanting to mother her,
the praise the great accomplishments—
the walk down the hall,
the resumption of dressing,
mastering the mysteries of email.

Her body (so long ago it contained me),
the small breasts, the strong shoulders,
and large thighs of an athlete,
strong and resilient,
playing tennis until 90,
exuberant when she won a game.
When no one would play with her,
she noticed how old she was,
and took tennis lessons
until she could not stand up.

Yes, her body, that devoted body,
others must clean, massage and oil.

Age and modesty do not room together.
No, age privileges her into great aplomb.
It doesn't matter who combs, medicates,
crushes the pill into the applesauce,
excercises her, and as long as she can talk
she finds the helper's human story.
Leaning forward, eyes lit with compassion and interest,
she involves herself.
Only days when pain shudders her light,
she does not speak.

She still tells me not to worry.
"I'm going to get better; I just can't talk now."
Dread knots my stomach.

She has become my best friend.

Like skeins of yarn unraveling,
my tangles of resentment have smoothed.
Who else can say to me,
"You have always been sensitive to the light."
or "you must watch what you eat."
I must say this to myself now
as I start to navigate the terrain of older age.

Only music expresses the nature of loss.
I listen to the Verdi Requiem,
its profound tones provide a path
toward transcendence of sorrow.
Who escapes the conditional nature of life?
Not even the tennis players.

About the Author

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