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Donkey On - Poem by Mary Ruefle

Mary Ruefle's poem, "Donkey On" inspired a novel by Sarah Ladipo Manyika. Like a Mule Bringing Ice Cream to the Sun was shortlisted for the Goldsmiths Prize, The California Book Award, and The Northern California Book Awards. A review of Manyika's book will follow tomorrow in this blog.

Ruefle's poetry genius is found in lyrical moments and sometimes quirky use of images, which have been likened to found objects - a photograph book or a package wrapped in plastic.

I enjoy her description of a Creator who sounds like a helicopter receding and shouts out "I am the Peppermint King".

Most of all, I feel this poem's brilliance lies in its invitation to consider with some urgency what we would do with a present of a private year knowing that it is on our back like a mule bringing ice cream to the sun.



Donkey On by Mary Ruefle

When I am alone I make a sound

the lord does not understand.

Then he makes the sound of a helicopter receding.

Then my sound goes after his sound.

My sound sounds like an ordinary bowl of oatmeal

that can sometimes be almost liquidand sometimes effect a crust.

His sound is small and bitter,

capable of great strength

and universal flowering,

as if the world will never stop expanding

once helicopters are gone.

Of course, I can only make one sound a year

so sometimes it sounds like

Please guess what I want to tell you

And he says

Without a mother it would be good to know English?

And I press this question into a photograph album

without a comma,

which is severely inadequate to the task of

reconstructing a life.

So I say

Perhaps I am too handmade?

And he says

It is spring, I am the peppermint king!

And then he does something generous:

he drops me a private year

wrapped in plastic,

tied up with string.

The only question is how to spend it,

so I carry it on my back

like a mule bringing ice cream

to the sun.

*(This poem can be found in Trances of the Blast. Published by Wave Books)

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