Carmela Ruby

Carmela Ruby

Carmela Marie Ruby is a native of Sausalito, California, on the San Francisco Bay. She now lives in the Capital, and formerly in places like Santa Fe, the Puget Sound, Mexico City and Nubia.

I have crossed the Mediterranean, north and south, quite a bit, sometimes as a tourist, or student, and volunteer. Of course the countries are foreign, but also familiar, as California is Mediterranean in climate, food, cultures, languages, families. So we are never homesick! These experiences inform my relationships and writing.

I love storytelling, so often I start writing with narrative and see what caravan I join or what boat picks me up until the poem swells and subsides. I like what a good friend and local Poet Laureate Julia Connor has said: “Relax, I tell them. You are inside poetry now.” Inside. Yes.

As a longtime member of the California Friends of the Bibliotheca Alexandrina (& we are members of the International Friends of the Bibalex), I rejoice in joining my interest and support about poetry and poetics with that of the Bibalex with its strong resources (growing all the time) of international poetry, and above all with its emphasis on Arabic poetry and poetics. The Library of Alexandria, with its ancient history and its current revitalization, has given me a lot. My profession is as an International Library Consultant so this is naturally an open door of opportunity.

I have published modestly, in periodicals and anthologies, no monographs, and have received some prizes. A “New Works” grant from the Sacramento Metropolitan Arts Commission enabled me to produce a traveling exhibit “Sacramento Streets by Streetpeople”, which emerged from workshops I had with the homeless, who wrote poems off my photos of our streets, alleys, abandoned buildings which they knew well. It seems that I balance writing with a real delight in stimulating (not teaching!) inmates in prisons, children in Jamaica, people in Central America, et al. Those activities in addition to being active in the Sacramento Poetry Center and Alexandria please me.

 
LYING WITHOUT SLEEPING
IN THE DARK OF AN OLD CITY

Above its transparent bay
I listen to everything
My ears
Are animals moving
Cautiously into corners,
Down stairs,
In the time, however long it is,
Between the last honking bus
And the first cart of fruit.

Under the single sheet
I am buoyant,
Knowing exactly where
Everything is:
Orange peel, guidebook,
Glass of water,
Sunken boats and stone horses
Behind the sea-wall,
Broom waiting by the door.

Animals, tethered to the one
Remaining column,
Tamp their hooves
On earth which is dense
With bones and necklaces.

No one can tell me why I left
Before the city burned,
Squeezing a scroll
Of family names
Under my coat, my husband’s ring
Thrown to a beggar.

Alexandria, 1994

 
HIGH TIDE

I held its dainty tail
Bit off its head –
Unwinking button eye –
Dipped in sauce
Ate it down
To the last crunching bone
Reached for another

At the beach, like an ardent
Diner in a henhouse,
Loving the equation:
One fish
Equals one bite
One after another

Off the oily platter, still salty
From the sea rushing under.
What is more, lemon made it better,
Squeezed alike over fish
And slugs of white asparagus.

The home sea, chill and swollen,
Came looking every few seconds
Among rocks and wood
For the kidnapper.

On the porch above her roil
I and my platter of tiny
Inconsequents the net snared –
Mere by-blows of the hunt
For hake and cod –
Confident in my place
Under blue sky
That the moon will surely
Twitch her reins
And bring the sea low.

Sitges, Spain

 
A CALIFORNIA SMARTY,

while we wait in line for our plane, says:
“ Italy is overrated.
LAX is where the action is.”

At the same hour from street to street
the sound of metal rumble,
followed by a slam, locks shops, bars,
café’s, grocers, restorers …

the sound echoes through Italy
and across the Mediterranean…

We go to our food.

Dogs nap like ancient stones
in their ochre and cream coats

While the exquisite song of cutlery on platters
is played in shuttered rooms above the shops.

At a restaurant
in shade from the hot light,
anticipation, lazy and alert, moistens
the mouth that knows about
settling in for a long performance
of wine and food.

Changes? of course.
There was no LAX in 1955.
Still … I am washing my jeans again,
stamping on them in the shower, my feet
gleeful curling
as if the clothes were cool sand by the sea,
Or grapes.

 
All poems on this post: © Carmela Ruby
Published with the permission of Carmela Ruby