Literature 10-22-2007

What Light: This Week’s Poem: Mary Kay Rummel

"What Light: This Week's Poem,” sponsored by Magers and Quinn Booksellers, brings you a poem every week by a Minnesota poet, selected by a panel of writers and publishers. Look for our anthology, “What Light,” at Magers and Quinn in Uptown or on line.


Deciding to Stay

I did not imagine the two wild swans
crossing the sky this morning, clouds so low
it was easy to forget to look up.

How layered the park was,
everything dwarfed by trees.
I thought of how Celtic shamans
could become crows and owls,
how I could not become anything else,
when side by side the two swans rose
over the trees, beating their wings
with effort and purpose, over meadows,
over rocks, between mountains,
heading for a place so elsewhere
no one could follow,
not even the heroes of northern tales.

There was something strange about
the way their rhythm brushed across me,
seemed to include me as I watched
until they skimmed out of view
inside a thick column of cloud
and I snapped back
to the world of unsettled desires
feeling that in some way
I had risen through folds of words into
the clearer air of where I am or will never be,
but where I can be reconciled as if
on those bright transient currents
some unfettered part of me
still shakes out unused wings and flies.


The poem, “Deciding to Stay” is the poem of a moment and a universe. Within it lives one particular moment in nature, as well as the larger story of Sequoia National Park, and beliefs from my own Irish roots as well as Norwegian folk tales I used to tell my students. Poetry is my way of paying attention to this world and my life in it. The older I get the deeper it takes me. I believe a poem or any work of art is a result of a history and an intervention in that history and the larger world.


Mary Kay Rummel’s books of poetry are The Illuminations (from Cherry Grove Collections in 2006), Green Journey Red Bird (Loonfeather Press), The Long Journey Into North (Juniper Press) and This Body She’s Entered, a Minnesota Voices Award winner at New Rivers Press. A new chapbook, Love in the End, won third place in the 2007 Bright Hill Press competition and will be published by the press in 2008. Her poems have appeared in numerous literary journals and anthologies, most recently RUNES, Nimrod, Northeast, Bloomsbury Review, Water-Stone Review, Comstock Review, Askew, Tattoo Highway and To Sing Along the Way, an anthology of Minnesota women poets through history published by New Rivers Press in 2007. She enjoys performing poetry and has collaborated in her work with visual artists, musicians and dancers. A professor emerita from the University of Minnesota, Duluth, she lives in Minneapolis and sometimes in Southern California where she teaches part of the time at California State University at Channel Islands.