Ruth Asch – Four Poems


Trees, Late

Autumn tree in the lamp-light.
Not a colour, but a glow –
the ring of a bronze bell shivered,
a thousand pieces hung upon the air:

Autumn tree in the moonlight,
your ghostly presence yearns:
translucent leaves papery-flesh
tremble fading skyward –
soul’s flight.

Autumn tree in the street-light:
fading tapestry grown wild.
Lingered decorum of voices,
cloth-skin, kirtles, lutes and revelries,
staged fight.

Autumn tree in the starlight,
russet pinpoints, jagged dark:
the surface of a mine-face,
dull sparkles tell-taling the ore
of night.

Tree of the lamp, sprinkle seed
in my mind to grow to bells
and sing again.

Tree of the moon, thrill me through,
let beauty raise this parchment
from the earth.

Tree of the roadside, rouse
rebellions and graces –
art’s lawful gain.

Tree of the stars, lead me
down light-years of shadow
to find true worth.


Why do you cast serpents, Willow Tree?
They squirm in the dusk,
each a shaven quill
on the gold-leaf scurf,
barbed, hollow husk,
faint grass and crumbling earth.

Omote in the sky bows, grieved.
Do you sigh, hulking tree?
That the moon, your love,
soars in the blue, alone?
Can these roots claw free?
The pale lady hear your moan?

Moulting, yet sheaves cling firm.
Close-clustered they flow,
sage and silvery scales.
There! where tree touches sky–
waves of bristles glow.
Bound Dragon longs to fly.

By the Sea

Joy-mad at midnight
in the spinning globe of sapphire;
Smacking kisses of the barefoot sand;
Unrolling endlessly:
a dim grey magic-carpet sweeps the land.

Thirsty at daybreak –
for the flooding tide of freshness;
Slaked by coolness of the glimmering deep.
Voice of eternity
bathes the crevices, where shadows creep. .

Drifted by noontide’s
warmly breathing rocking swell;
Grounded, poised upon grey pangs of stone;
Lapped by distant laughs,
know it is not good to be alone.

Yearning at twilight,
on the borderline of substance;
melting, with the sand washed into sky.
Clawed by foaming hands,
long to follow where the ship’s lights fly.

After a Storm

That hour after the storm:
unbound, unfeared, past blight;
new-polished, fluting birdsong;
new-broached, inebriating light.
No stern, metallic beauty –
pre-storm gold, steel and blue –
there’s naïve, primrosy about its
soft-smiling, pale-bright hue.

Perhaps I am a little tipsy:
buoyant and blurred my stride;
all I see, is remarkable,
the world has been re-dyed.
A wet, abandoned playground’s
bright-coloured satin sheen,
grins like a child on sunday,
unheard, but very seen!
Mat-painted, dusty shutters
trail liquid lines and beads,
thirst-quenching: chilled and frosted;
rimmed with mint-like weeds.

The plain old grass is dazzling:
a verdure so intense
that one could stop and dream it
while strange hours would condense.
Chestnut blooms’ cream and corral
frills spin on spangled limbs,
drip crystals: burlesque dancers
with green fan-feather trims.
The sky itself is soaring
to ever bluer height.
All nature vaporizing:
euphoria of light.

Author’s Statement on Beauty

When I was a little girl I loved to see, and wanted to make and to be part of the beautiful. Then, this meant dressing up as princess or gypsy, imagining a life surrounded by human art or nature, riding gorgeous horses, being graceful and spirited. Thinking of what I would be when I grew up three things attracted me: a ballerina, a nurse, or a nun; I think I realised subconsciously that each represented a different kind of beauty. Through teenage years of emotional pain, in an ordinary part of the city, feeling dull and trapped – finding the beauty in things became a lifeline to me: the mix of colours on an old brick wall, a sunset over the rooftops, the sensual and spiritual beauty of dance, were release into a better world. More and more as I grew I saw symbols around me, was intrigued by the curious inconsistency of outer and inner beauty, and discovered the transformative power of love, which makes things lovely. I still enjoy, sometimes crave, whatever is pleasing to the eye; feel commanded by something exquisite in nature to gaze, and absorb; but I also wonder what we would see if we could see the inner person, (as I believe we will in the after-life) – and try always to remember that there may be hidden light beneath any surface. I did not fulfill any one of my first three ambitions, but did find sacrificial love, and in poetry developed an art where, as in all the arts, not only the thing expressed, but the doing can itself be beautiful.


Ruth Asch is a poet when rare moments of quiet and inspiration coincide, the mother of four and sometimes a teacher. She draws strength for the daily mess of life from finding beauty everywhere around her and rejoicing in it.