Tom opened three packets of white sugar
and with the confidence of a conductor
dumped them on his cake.
Phoebe wrapped a towel around her head
and began singing Faulkner.
We didn’t know Joel mowed lawns for a living
so we guessed his paintings were mountains
not gigantic blades of grass.
Eugenia told again the story of being born Eugenia.
Clearly I was in the wrong place,
clearly I did not belong there,
my own complaint being my go was completely gone
plus a condition of the eye in which
water accumulates and tends to run over the margin.
True, I’d tried living among mosses
and their kin, liverwort and earthworms,
but in general I knew how to rotisserate chickens
and purse my thoughts.
I didn’t believe bridges could repair themselves,
I wasn’t born Jack Benny. Poor Eugenia!
There I was, a tiki in the place where products go
to become 75 percent more minty.
For it is lonely to walk through beauty
when you are young, and an earthly failure,
and the imperial sunshine has not yet crowned.
The night before graduation our party
took a short stroll in the moonlight
when Joel began to cry. The grass,
he said, it’s made of catgut.
Tom gave him a packet of sugar.
Pheobe remarked his tears looked like skiers
streaking down the mountainside.
Eugenia told the story of being born Eugenia.
And I, I would not go near the sea for nearly thirty years,
I would not drink tea for another twenty,
I would not undress, use pockets, read Walter Benjamin
or listen to a bumblebee even if he bent
the right wing of my scarlet runner,
modeling myself after a woman
who could only say one thing at a time,
and found herself one day in hell,
where she went casually and without
purpose, having read every poem
ever written, and finding not a single one
even remotely sad enough.
© Mary Ruefle