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Ruth L. Schwartz: Love Letters from the Late Edge

Sometimes what’s born transcends the vessel
it was carried by,

like children on regal camels deserting their fucked-up parents
with all the water they’ll ever need

in silver-flecked embroidered saddlebags
beneath their naked legs.

Of course, it doesn’t really happen like that.
One night, it looked more like this:
two women, neither of us young, one of us frankly old, 
walking our joy like a large animal

around a city lake, 
strolling among the other couples, Hindi, Mexican, mostly women with men,

and giddy teens on scooters careening,
and little knots of drinkers – one of them, grizzled but gallant, held out

his cheap bottle: Hello, ladies, would you like a drink?
And after our No thank you, called, 

Have a wonderful night. 
We did, because we kept stopping to kiss.   

The rats, nocturnal citizens, were not yet out, 
but from the street someone’s rap music blared

My lady Virginia has the finest vagina – 
it landed as acknowledgment, 
lewd benediction. 
As the sky turned softly from blue to black,

we passed through classical columns and arches, 
a wall where someone had sprayed Fuck me, I’ll pay you, 

piss-scented corners, little nests 
of sleeping bags and shopping bags, 

all the kinds of beauty and damage
mixed and mashed together like tubes

of every color of paint – 
because the heart of the world’s art

is very large, defies distinctions, 
and we wanted that to be our heart. 

And it was now our heart. 

Decades ago, in a dream, you had a machine gun
and were ready to use it – until a voice said inside you, 
Make art instead. 
You made yourself. It took a long time. 

All the damage threaded through us, 
all the colors of paint mixed together – 

We’re built for tragedy, malevolence, says my friend
the painter, who was sold and tortured as a child. 

Maybe it’s true. There’s evidence.  
Yet also, it appears, we’re made for this:  

the way the lake keeps shimmering, 
the lake of us, the shimmering of us.

Resplendent camels of love disguised as our feet,
on which we walk.

Sharing the perfect summer peach,
we pass its stone, still marked by sweetness,

back and forth between our mouths,
then rub it on each other’s skin

so we can taste it everywhere – 
then you touch between my legs,

then bring your fingers to your face,
stroke them down your nose, your lips,

because the fruits of the world and the body
are given to us in holy glory

and therefore it is only holy
to say Yes to them – 

I love you I love you sings everything,
even the singer who shouts about

Virginia’s vagina. 
We are the sum of what was done to us.   
We are, as Emilie said, the movement of love in the world. 
We are the peach pit with its scars

which are not really scars, but tunnels formed by life,
to which cling flesh and sweetness,

and which make more life.

That night in our fifth and seventh decades, 
we brushed our teeth as shyly as children – 

it was our very first night together,
all the beauty we’d ever yearned for 

found in a queen-sized bed in Oakland, California. 
We didn’t sleep until 6 a.m.

when your head finally drooped against mine
in such a way that all the hardness

of skull and bone seemed to ebb. 
And when I woke and you still slept,

I gazed at your face – opened mouth, magnificent jaw,
furrowed eyelids, the wrinkles of you, 

and felt how love unhid us,
made the choice of us.

Too simple to say it redeemed every loss,
every brutal hour, although perhaps it did. 

Too facile to say that splendid flare
re-made us in its image, though we wanted that.   

Too easy to say the worlds of us
were saved by that, although they might have been.   

But love is larger than that.

Sometimes what’s born transcends the vessel
it was carried by,  

as when the furrowed peach-pit sprouts, 
implausibly grows trunk and branches, 

tenderly makes leaves – one by one at first, then 
an entire explosion of green,  

then knobby little twigs astonished
by bright shocks of buds, 

then an entire world of petals, 
all the sudden truths, all blossoming. 

We sit by the late edge to watch
the clouds ignite, 

shattered by so much pink, such spines of fire,
dappled, stippled, overcome by gold.

Beneath us, the city turns itself on: 
all the little lights. 

Right now, in a Walmart parking lot, 
my father keeps asking strangers for change. 

If your mother were still alive
she’d attack you viciously, but only sometimes. 

At the lake, a man wearing a blanket mutters
I’m gonna kill you all, motherfuckers.

My sister mostly does what she’s told
by the mocking voices in her head. 

Also: at dusk the ridges of rooftops 
look edible to us, a kind of gingerbread.

The art of the world is very large, 
because the dream of salvation is simple

but the place where fruit begins
is made by love, undone by it

in equal and transforming measure; 
harder, denser, more unknowable.

When we stop to kiss, 
we kiss the mystery:

source code that wrote us and rewrites us,
light that stumbles us and guides us, 

doomed, essential, threatened, infinite. 
Because the end of human time is near,  

because it is already here, because we do not know what we are,
nor how far we can carry it, it can carry us – 

Copyright 2022 Ruth L. Schwartz

Ruth L. Schwartz

Ruth L. Schwartz‘s books include Dear Good Naked Morning and Miraculum (Autumn House Press, 2005, 2008). The San Francisco Bay Area has been Ruth’s chosen home since 1985; she has also traveled extensively in Latin America and speaks fluent Spanish.

7 comments on “Ruth L. Schwartz: Love Letters from the Late Edge

  1. Lisa Zimmerman
    June 15, 2022

    “I love you I love you sings everything”–what a gorgeous poem! ❤️

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Eva Simms
    June 13, 2022

    Wow. Beautiful, touching, large and so true. Thank you, Ruth!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. rickcam21
    June 13, 2022



    Liked by 1 person

  4. Sean Sexton
    June 13, 2022

    Ruth: I am astonished by these great “movements” of your symphonic love poem. They waken me today to true unknowingness. Your words are as surprising as life, or perhaps they are one and the same as to me just now.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Vox Populi
      June 13, 2022

      I love Ruth’s work. When I was running Autumn House, we published two brilliant books of hers.

      Liked by 1 person

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