One Hundred Parties for Mary Ruefle

Michael Dickman

Winter 2018

I would like to throw her a party. Her. Mary Ruefle! One hundred parties.

Well, don’t overstay your welcome.

Mary Ruefle says, “Lectures, for me, are bad dreams.” Me too. Bad dreams littered with disappointed nuns and playground equipment. I couldn’t run fast enough away from any lecture you could name. I’m confused, in fact, that you’re still here. There are trees outside! It’s almost spring!

It’s more fun, I think, to have a party: some music in the leaves, perhaps some light refreshment. Gin. Raspberry sherbet. Chinese lanterns. A punch bowl. A swimming pool.

All lecture-parties should be BYOB.

Did you bring yours?

I brought mine.

The first Mary Ruefle poem I read was in Skid, a book of poems by Dean Young. The poem was called “A Poem by Dean Young.” Mary Ruefle doing drag? I love that about language. It can sneak up on you in someone else’s togs. It doesn’t even belong to whom you thought it did.

Of course I have written a poem by Dean Young!
More than once I have written a poem by Dean Young. 

The relationship between the poet and the reader is always slippery, and Ruefle often seems to be in two places at once. Singing and listening. She is herself, in Dean Young’s clothes, clothes she let him borrow.

I, I mean you, I mean the shadow
of your shadow

Li Po said writing poetry was like being alive twice. Lightning Hopkins said playing the blues in the old days was like being black twice.

Bring your own beatifics. Mary Reufle always does. They include: pot holders, berries, apples, my cracked heart.

Mary Ruefle lived in my hometown of Portland, Oregon, for a short period of time a long time ago. I like to think we lived on the same block, but I don’t think that could have been true. But I want it to be true. Reading is such an intimate experience. Left alone with a hundred pages or so of Ruefle’s perfectly tuned and dazzlingly open poems, and suddenly it’s as if we know everything about each other.

More than once I have stuffed the eucalyptus leaves
in your mouth.

I’m realizing now that all the trees in Mary’s poems I had imagined to be in Portland, Oregon, most likely took place in Vermont, where she’s lived most of her life. If a tree can be said to take place.

Michael Dickman was born and raised in the Pacific Northwest. His latest book, Green Migraine, is out from Copper Canyon Press.

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