The poems below have been previously published in different versions and in various publications.


Ruth Daigon can be reached at .

THE YOUNG DEAD                          
(in memoriam to all the young victims of war

in the blue fires of midnight  
we weep for the children 
we will never meet 

little naked ghosts 
that will not know warmth  
or filaments of memory 

there is no loneliness like theirs 
nothing for them to do but 
circle the long days 
in the green countries of the mind 
still visible but forever out of reach. 

we sense the air blowing through cracks in our lives 
each night dreams tilt the ancient light of stars 
and shift positions toward the young dead 
never changing or aging 
now perfect in their absence  

we watch the young asleep in a universe 
just outside our arms 
and if they dream a moment 
they will see us there 
smiling in an older language 
waving them on with casual  hands and shuttered hearts 

and when we step out of our bodies 
our spirits will stand guard 
until  the moon opens her white lips  
and welcomes us.


And the blind whisper to each other in thin voices.  
They ask me to describe darkness.  
I begin with the charted edge of the sea, 
winds trapped in caves, a wheel turning  
away from itself.

I have gone into the hollow place  
behind my eyes, the outer edge  
of sight moving on white lizard feet.  
No longer blinded by the visible,  
the world is nearer in the dark.


In a world half remembered 
a woman scrubbed sheets in the Monday washtub. 
A man hammered shingles in the leaky roof. 
A girl washed her hair in the kitchen sink 
careful not to clog the drain. 
While in rooms of broken English, 
people hummed songs from another country, 
a music loneliness might sing to itself. 

The old drowsed and dreamed:  
their blood circulating through used hearts,  
hands marinating the past,  
cracked voices recalling  
how simple and warm it was, 
timeless and good however bitter the brew 
and warnings passed on from father to child  
became wisdom.   

When time was forever now, we  
listened to their stories 
waiting for the oven to heat,  
the bread to bake, 
with no future to frighten us  
or break our hearts 
and no one to warn us  
that freshly baked bread  
would not keep us safe forever. 

Even in the warmth of the wood-burning stove  
with Father dozing over his Daily News  
while Mother stitched darkness into worn shirt collars. 
Restless, we longed for their permission to leave. 
But in a small glass ball on the kitchen table  
where it's always snowing 
some part of us remains  
in a dream of lost and secret storms 
listening to the stillness of snow.


Bench sitters on upper Broadway 
count passing cars and  
pavement cracks spilling over  
into empty lots  
gone wild. 

Store fronts tilt, weather-scoured,  
like old customers  
leaning on carts in Safeway aisles 
waiting for the round-up  
back to one-room lives. 

Light dies out. 
The street steps into darkness. 
They stand on sidewalks 
as the past leaks in. 

Then, like a slow coming-out of sleep, they 
shuffle back,  
cook the same soup bone  
down to stock and vapor,  
empty the pot,  
and wait for a surprise. 

They didn't plan it this way. 
Nothing for the ears.  
Nothing for the eyes. 
And night tapering off to a shirt  
hanging on a nail and a saucer  
filled with all the cold mornings ahead. 

(to an immigrant's name change by border guards

He stood before the mirror trying it on 
like a new silk suit. Although he  
buttoned and unbuttoned it with care, it   
never felt right, this new name. 
But his children slipped into it 
like worms in wet earth. 

One day, he took it to the tailor 
had it nipped in the waist, trousers cuffed  
and when he came home from the shop   
suspended it from a padded hanger 
brushed the insults mouthed by strangers 
still clinging like lint. 

After supper he practiced writing  
until his signature raised its head in greeting. 
Then he tongued new words clinging to his lips  
like steamed milk scalding him a little  
while the young spread sweet swarms of language  
over mother's fresh baked bread. 

When the children grew into their lives 
they looked for gifts hidden in mirrors  
reached into closets for his whole cloth suits 
studied old photographs for the perfect fit 
while parents lodged deep in seams  
stitched them together. 

Memory's tidal flow 
lifts them into its dark arms. 
Again, they see their father 
at the kitchen table, sipping tea  
through a sugar cube, smiling  
If I could change us now we'd never change.  

The past relived and almost understood 
the children listen for his echoes calling  
Back there, the family lay dreaming 
of somewhere in another country. 
This is the country  
and now is where the moment begins. 

     Simone de Beauvoir 

The compulsive universe hoards another day 
being-for-itself, being-in-itself 
the sweet swindle of spring 
summer's hazy veil 
autumn' s vermilion and ash 
and the secret cave she hid in 
full of waiting 
lodged in the stillness of an earth 
lying stunned under some strange heaven. 

She will ask her breath 
what it is to be human, 
how it feels to be. 
She will trace it to its roots, 
hers the choice, the act,  
irrational or wise. 

In the universe of lost things 
or the midnight mind's wild schemes, 
she knows there is only now 
and the desert stillness 
is the silence of her heart. 

Even if nothing is her only something 
she is and is 
not like a stone, a tree, a tiger 
with their fixed essence, 
what they do and who they are. 
But she, thrown into the vast,  
has the power of rejecting. 

She hears a hairline crack before the rubble, 
listens for thunder in the afternoon 
and as she walks the narrow paths of thoughts, 
hers the choice, 
the move that opens wide. 
Between the known and the unknown, 
all names are but one name 
and the power to name is finally hers. 

Copyright © 2007 Ruth Daigon