Lament

by Mary Ruefle

This is the way I usually start,
simply tinted with a margin,
sometimes a subject in the center.
I don’t think I’ve ever actually
stepped foot in the world, and yet
I feel I’ve approached it year after
year in different difficult ways,
from crawling across the linoleum
to climbing a loquat tree only to
hear the sound of adults speaking
below me in a language I couldn’t
quite catch. Once on a ladder when
ice-dams threatened my house I had
a hatchet in my hand and I used it.
Useless. Hopeless in the hospital,
unable to stand, the little checks
by flashlight at night. And the costumes
on Halloween! Mary Shelley in mourning
but nobody caught on, nor did I as
the years turned into ever longer days
and all my approaches felt like swimming
across a claret-colored lake so wide
I could picture in my mind every pair
of shoes I’ve ever worn. Do you want
to hear them? And writing poems –
that was a wash. How do I lament
it forth, this feeling of trying?