Seven Postcards from Dover

By Mary Ruefle b. 1952 Mary Ruefle
The teacher said inner truth
and the chalk said like a fresco inside the earth
that no one has ever seen
and one day decides to be discovered
and begins to breathe—
do you know what that means?
The child broke the chalk.
The mother said be strong.
The child said when I die I want to be a dwarf.
A detective has just drawn a circle
with a piece of chalk, a private circle
from which the victim will eventually look
up, not at random, not at will,
but when it calls to her,
the chalk, the crushed bones
of sea creatures who ringed the earth
when it was under water.
A man sits in the bath house
in a deep tub
of fizzling yellow water
that surrounds every hair on his body
and makes it stand upright.
When the attendant comes, she will
clean the tub by moving her hand
slowly around the ring, like a snail.
An atoll is a ring of coral
protecting a tureen of plankton.
It is easy and Japanese to be sad
knowing something is going to pass.
He put the ring on her chalky finger.
Long after chalk had passed out of use,
carpenters still felt for it in their pockets
and looked aimlessly at the sky.
The cathedral was roofless.
It began to snow inside.
A half broken pillar in the nave
grew taller.

Mary Ruefle, “Seven Postcards from Dover” from Among the Musk OX People: Poems. Copyright © 2002 by Mary Ruefle. Reprinted by permission of Carnegie Mellon University Press.

Source: Among the Musk OX People: Poems (Carnegie Mellon University Press, 2002)

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Poet Mary Ruefle b. 1952

POET’S REGION U.S., New England

Subjects Living, Time & Brevity, Nature, Landscapes & Pastorals

Poetic Terms Free Verse

 Mary  Ruefle


Though poet and essayist Mary Ruefle was born outside Pittsburgh, she spent her youth moving around the United States and Europe with her military family.

She has written numerous books of poetry, including Indeed I Was Pleased with the World (2007) and The Adamant (1989), which won the Iowa Poetry Prize. A Little White Shadow (2006), her book of erasures—found texts in which all but a few words have been erased from the . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Living, Time & Brevity, Nature, Landscapes & Pastorals

POET’S REGION U.S., New England

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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