William Ruleman is Professor of English at Tennessee Wesleyan College, where he teaches a wide range of courses, including creative writing and literature, with a specialization in modern poetry in English, including that of Yeats, whose hometown of Sligo he will be visiting on May 2013. His poems have appeared most recently in Open Writing and Poetry Salzburg Review, but also in many other journals, while his first two books of poetry were published by Feather Books of Shrewsbury, England, and his translations of Stefan Zweig’s early novellas and stories appeared in 2011 from Ariadne Press. Currently he has several other books of poems and translations in progress.
(13 May 2013)
To my maternal grandmother
“She needs you more than ever now, Bill.”
Why do these words you wrote to me
Back when my Betty was big with bairn
Return as I climb toward Queen Mab’s cairn?
Do they still shape my destiny—
Still work to weaken my self-will
Though spoken thirty years ago?
For Betty little needs me now:
She leads the way; I lag behind.
Yet though I truly had no mind
To make this climb (my morning’s vow),
I do. Perhaps the view might show
Some reason why I thought of you,
Why I am here. Perhaps the climb
Might stimulate my intellect,
Let me pause, review, reflect,
Then ration out in measured rhyme
Glib wisdom sans too much ado.
Yet blurred, all sense of time and season
On that god-forsaken knoll:
Heat, rain, icy winds all mesh;
Hailstones pelt me in the flesh;
The blinding sun, too, takes its toll,
Robbing me of wit and reason.
And am I stunned in the presence of
Some spirit and some force that spurred
Me to these hellish heights up here?
I falter, seized by sudden fear:
For was that Queen Mab’s voice I heard?
Or am I struck by the strange ways of love?
For having said what he, at moments, meant
About the status quo, that sacrosanct set
Had snubbed him. Now, no matter where he sent
His supplications, they could not forget
His slight to the one thing they deemed absolute:
Their sanctity. No, this they could not forgive.
He now could purify his lone pursuit
Of beauty and truth, yes, now was free to live.
And he gave solace to some who still had a chance
For acceptance, not from lingering hopes he had
For favor and fame: let them take up the lance.
And, though some would later bite his hand,
He simply smiled, for he could understand.
He lived his days uncompromised and glad.
The poet, like the wanderer, has no home
Save for the earth itself, the errant air.
A fair-weather friend he often tends to be,
Stirred by the murmurs the Muses send his way
To go whenever the mood in a house gets too
Confused and warm with unvoiced hurts and fears
That may live nowhere but his own dark mind.
And so he moves out into the world to find
It more bewildering than in earlier years . . .
Hold fast, my friend, to dreams that alone seem true,
If blurred they be in the blare of a business day!
Bird, beast, tree hint at realities
You know lurk hidden yet still present there
Beneath the heavens’ still-caressing dome.