What We Have

-by Ruth Stone

On the mountain,

The neighbor’s dog, put out in the cold,

Comes to my house for the night.

He quivers with gratitude.

His short-haired small stout body

settles near the stove.

He snores.

Out there in the dark, snow falls.

The birch trees are wrapped in their white bandages.

Recently in the surgical theater,

I looked in the mirror at the doctors’ hands

As he repaired my ancient frescoes.

When I was ten

we lived in a bungalow in Indianapolis.

My sister and brother, my mother and father,

all living then.

We were like rabbits

In the breast fur of a soft lined nest.

I know now that we were desperately poor.

But it was spring:

The field, a botanist’s mirage of wild flowers.

The house centered between two railroad tracks.

The tracks split at the orchard end of the street

And spread in a dangerous angle down either side.

Long lines of freight for half an hour clicking by;

or a passenger train,

with a small balcony at the end of the last car

where someone always stood and waved to us.

At night the wrenching scream and Doppler whistle

of the two AM express.

From my window I could see a fireman stoking

The open fire, the red glow reflected in the black smoke

belching from the boiler.

Once I got up and went outside.

The trees-of-heaven along the track swam in white mist.

The sky arched with sickle pears.

Lilacs had just opened.

I pulled the heavy clusters to my face

and breathed them in,

suffused with a strange excitement

That I think, when looking back, was happiness.




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