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I want to find my way back to her,

to help her, to grab her hand, pull her

up from the wooden floor of the stacks

where she’s reading accounts of the hatchet

murders of Lizzie Borden’s harsh parents

as if she could learn something about

life if she knew all the cuts and slashes;

 

her essay on Wordsworth or Keats

only a knot in her belly, a faint pressure

at her temples.  She’s pale, it’s five years

before the first migraine, but the dreamy

flush has already drained from her face.

I want to lead her out of the library,

to sit with her on a bench under a still

 

living elm tree, be one who understands,

but even today I don’t understand,

I want to shake her and want to assure her,

to hold her – but love’s not safe for her,

although she craves what she knows

of it, love’s a snare, a closed door,

a dank cell.  Maybe she should just leave

 

the campus, take a train to Fall River,

inspect Lizzie’s room, the rigid corsets

and buttoned shoes, the horsehair sofas,

the kitchen’s rank stew.  Hell.  Bleak

loyal judgmental journals of a next-door

neighbor – not a friend, Lizzie had no friend.

If only she could follow one trajectory

 

of thought, a plan, invent a journey

out of this place, a vocation –

but without me to guide her, where

would she go?

 

~ From “Girl in a Library” by Gail Mazur (University of Chicago Press, 2005)

 

Frederic Leighton, 1877

Ruminate Magazine is pleased to announce its annual VanderMey Nonfiction Prize and is accepting all forms of creative nonfiction of up to 5,500 words through November 15.  A prize of $1,500 will be awarded to the winner, and both the winning and first runner-up stories will be published in the journal.  The entry fee is $20 and includes a copy of Ruminate.  There is no limit on the number of entries per person.  All entrants will be notified about their submission status in January 2018.

Ruminate is a quarterly Christian literary and arts journal of short stories, poetry, creative nonfiction, and visual art that “speaks to the existence of our daily lives while nudging us toward a greater hope.”  For more information or to submit your work, visit the website at http://www.ruminatemagazine.com.

Good luck!

 

It was the kind of scene in which Lily had often pictured herself as taking the principal part, and on this occasion the fact that she was once more merely a casual spectator, instead of the mystically veiled figure occupying the centre of attention, strengthened her resolve to assume the latter part before the year was over.  The fact that her immediate anxieties were relieved did not blind her to a possibility of their recurrence; it merely gave her enough buoyancy to rise once more above her doubts and feel a renewed faith in her beauty, her power, and her general fitness to attract a brilliant destiny.  It could not be that one conscious of such aptitudes for mastery and enjoyment was doomed to a perpetuity of failure; and her mistakes looked easily reparable in the light of her restored self-confidence.

 

~ From The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton

 

“Edith Wharton” by Edward Harrison May, 1870

Little poppies, little hell flames,

Do you do no harm?

 

You flicker. I cannot touch you.

I put my hands among the flames. Nothing burns.

 

And it exhausts me to watch you

Flickering like that, wrinkly and clear red, like the skin of a mouth.

 

A mouth just bloodied.

Little bloody skirts!

 

There are fumes that I cannot touch.

Where are your opiates, your nauseous capsules?

 

If I could bleed, or sleep!—

If my mouth could marry a hurt like that!

 

Or your liquors seep to me, in this glass capsule,

Dulling and stilling.

 

But colorless. Colorless.

 

~ Sylvia Plath, from Collected Poems (HarperCollins, 1992)

 

“Oriental Poppies” by Laura Muntz Lyall (1860-1930)

I’ve posted this previously in celebration of my successful MFA thesis defense in 2014 and again two years ago after setting a new deadline for completion of my novel.  This past week I’ve been moving into a new house and cannot begin to describe the overwhelming magnitude of the process.  Yesterday I took one look at the two hundred or so boxes that need to be carried inside or upstairs and unpacked and collapsed with a migraine.  This poem (and my mother) reminds me I simply need to tackle the thing—and maybe sing a little while I’m at it.

 

Somebody said that it couldn’t be done

   But he with a chuckle replied

That “maybe it couldn’t,” but he would be one

   Who wouldn’t say so till he’d tried.

So he buckled right in with the trace of a grin

   On his face.  If he worried he hid it.

He started to sing as he tackled the thing

   That couldn’t be done, and he did it!

 

Somebody scoffed: “Oh, you’ll never do that;

   At least no one ever has done it;”

But he took off his coat and he took off his hat

   And the first thing we knew he’d begun it.

With a lift of his chin and a bit of a grin,

   Without any doubting or quiddit,

He started to sing as he tackled the thing

   That couldn’t be done, and he did it.

 

There are thousands to tell you it cannot be done,

   There are thousands to prophesy failure,

There are thousands to point out to you one by one,

   The dangers that wait to assail you.

But just buckle in with a bit of a grin,

   Just take off your coat and go to it;

Just start in to sing as you tackle the thing

   That “cannot be done,” and you’ll do it.

 

                             ~ Edgar Albert Guest

 

“The Matterhorn” by Albert Bierstadt (1830-1902)

Summer

Then followed that beautiful season […]

the Summer of All-Saints!

Filled was the air with a dreamy and magical light; and the landscape

Lay as if new-created in all the freshness of childhood.

Peace seemed to reign upon earth, and the restless heart of the ocean

Was for a moment consoled.  All sounds were in harmony blended.

 

~ Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Evangeline: A Tale of Acadie

 

“Summer Sunlight” by Childe Hassam, 1892

Happiness

Happiness is a butterfly, which, when pursued, is always just beyond your grasp, but which, if you will sit down quietly, may alight upon you.

~ Nathaniel Hawthorne

 

“Beauty and the Butterfly” by Vittorio Matteo Corcos, 1933

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