Before the Blight by Ruth Stone

Poetry Friday is hosted by Carol at Carol’s Corner



Growing up in upstate New York, my husband Scott always associated scorching hot summers with the cool green shade of towering  Elm trees.  Those trees of his youth are all long gone now; one by one each fell victim to Dutch Elm disease and had to be cut down many years ago.

Still, when the first really hot days of summer arrive, Scott is often given to reminiscing about those summer days and those magnificent trees.

Before the Blight by Ruth Stone

The elms stretched themselves in indolent joy,
arching over the street that lay in green shadow
under their loose tent.
And the roses in Mrs. Mix’s yard pretzeled up her trellis
with pink Limoges cabbage blooms like Rubens’ nudes.
My lips whispered over the names of things
in the meadows, in the orchard, in the woods,
where I sometimes stood for long moments
listening to some bird telling me of the strangeness of myself;
rocked in the sinewy arms of summer.


18 thoughts on “Before the Blight by Ruth Stone

  1. I love the imagery in this poem – the elms stretching in indolent joy, the roses pretzeling up the trellis, and “rocked in the sinewy arms of summer.” It reminds me of long, summer days when I was a child.

  2. Very nice choice of poems, Tara. I saw an elm about 15 years ago. Somehow it managed to miss the blight. I had never seen a tree like it. It was magnificent.

  3. Such strong and lovely imagery. We have lost so many trees to diseases that wipe out entire species. In addition to the loss of elms and American chestnuts (which may experience a comeback if research on cross-breeding continues successfully), we are losing ash trees across the Midwest.

  4. We did lose elms as I grew up, and there are still a few here in Denver, a sad loss. I love hearing about Scott’s memory of them, and then you found a beautiful poem for them. Thanks, Tara.

  5. The poem has such a soothing calmness. It was uplifting after your sad recollection of the lost elm trees. I have a giant elm in my backyard that I adore. I do hope it will grace my yard for many more years to come.

  6. Would so love to sip lemonade under the shade of a gorgeous elm on a hot summer day, Tara. We are blessed with a park filled with massive Copper Beeches, and I often seek refuge beneath them in the summer. Lovely post.

  7. Imagine the devastation in small towns in the dry high plains of Eastern Colorado where they were almost the ONLY trees. Luckily my parents had the foresight to plant a variety of non-elms, so I grew up in the shade of maple, birch, locust, ash, and sycamore, even though our town went bare for awhile.

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