The River Wye

Your stroll beside the stream has stayed with me,
Has left me in my loneliness with strength
Enough to face the world, to somehow see
Within its depth and width and wandering length
The Truth that Keats and Coleridge saw with eyes
Romantic yet as real as river stones
That roll the water, washing clean the lies
That cling like greed to human flesh and bones.
Your words, worth all the days and nights I spend
In contemplation seeking my own worth,
Are currents catching me each time I bend
My back to labor, sifting through the Earth
You sorted for me walking by the Wye,
In lines admiring how instead of why.

 

The Greatest Wall of China

When commerce comes before the human soul,
And speech is caged and liberty’s confined,
While privacy’s imprisoned by a goal
That values money more than any mind
Where freedom is the currency of choice,
Then more is ruined than the land and air—
Pollution stains the hopeful heart and voice
That speaks against oppression everywhere;
It stains the fabric stitched by brotherhood
And builds the kind of thick restrictive wall
That harbors hate, restraining all the good
We’d have to share if only walls could fall.
When politics make bricks of helping hands,
The worst and highest wall of all still stands.

 

Nuclear Thinking

Explain this lie if you can
To Ukraine and to Japan
How “safe” and “cheap” are terms that fit
Between the gap when atoms split,
The long-term wasteland left behind
By the plans of a short-term mind,
The daft irradiated leap
That’s in fact neither safe nor cheap.

 

Interpretation

One night I and a thinking friend
Walked out to the beach’s end.
The moonlit shore on which we walked
Inspired us as we talked,
Expressing our philosophies
About mountains, moons, and seas.
We were not so different in our views,
But it’s human nature to refuse
To accept an object that we see
As being what another claims it to be.
So the mountain remained a mountain still,
Though he insisted it was a hill.
And still the waves were constant in motion
As I argued sea and he argued ocean.
So we walked back resolved to naught,
Still thinking but with no change of thought.
He never listened but his verse flowed fine,
And while he spoke his, I heard mine.

 

Mike Ruskovich lives in Grangeville, Idaho. He taught high school English for thirty-six years. He and his wife have four children.

Featured Image: “The River Wye at Tintern Abbey,” 1805, by Philip James de Loutherbourg.

 

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21 Responses

  1. Jerilyn Nash

    “Interpretation” really hit home with me! Eloquently put! Thank you for posting the poems you did – but especially that one! 🙂

    Reply
  2. Daniel

    Great work on “The River Wye” — this one really resonated with me. Nice use of rhyme and diction.

    Reply
  3. Elizabeth Greywolf

    Beautifully done — lovely, thoughtfully executed. I hope your students appreciated you!

    Reply
  4. Lily Mitchell

    Some of the most beautiful poetry I have read in a long time. I love those words as “river stones” rolling on the water. A perfect tribute to the great poets. You must have been a fantastic teacher.

    Reply
    • Mike Ruskovich

      Thank you so much. Teaching “Tintern Abbey” was one of the great joys of my career, as was teaching students how to write English sonnets. So this sonnet came quite naturally to me. I appreciate your response. –Mike

      Reply
  5. Sam McPhee

    I can’t get enough of The River Wye. I’ve read it maybe ten times now. Thinking of another person’s stroll as a possession of yours is at once intriguing and deeply moving. Different than taking another’s story and making it yours simply by loving it. I like that the object of love and fascination here is simply a stroll. I think I do this too–I hold onto the actions of others (esp. those of my parents) as if they were possessions; or it’s as if by holding onto certain actions, by simply thinking of them, I somehow turn them into possessions. But I didn’t know this was a thing I did until I read your poem.

    Reply
    • Mike Ruskovich

      Thank you. As you may recall, Wordsworth not only directed his poem to the river but also to his sister. He, like you, had made a stroll his own, had held on to a journey made five years earlier and wanted to share the experience with Dorothy. He could see in her eyes and face that she was embracing the tour, even as he was making her experience his own in the poem. I am glad you felt that way about mine. –Mike

      Reply
  6. Mardell Williams

    You have such a wonderful gift of being able to communicate so effectively with beautiful poetry! I’m glad you entered this contest so more people could appreciate your work.

    Reply
  7. Cat Seaton

    The last two lines of the final poem were the most impactful for me, I think. Great to read your poetry. 🙂

    P.S. If you are the Mike Ruskovich who was my former IB senior English teacher, I have been trying to get in contact with you. The phone number my dad has is wrong. If not–your poetry is still lovely, and I’m glad I was able to read it while reminiscing about an old, favorite teacher. Thank you.

    Reply
    • Mike Ruskovich

      Cat–I am indeed that teacher. So good to hear from you, and thanks for reading and liking my poems. I do not wish to put my email address or phone number here, but I know where to contact your mother and will give it to her. Thanks again.

      Reply
  8. Emily Ruskovich

    I have learned so much about writing from you, and am deeply grateful that I was lucky enough to spend my childhood reading the poems you wrote, poems like these which “sorted the Earth” for me, and made it a place I could write about too. Thank you so much. I’m excited to see more.

    Reply
  9. Diane Sheridan

    Was thinking about my “old” English teacher today and decided to search your name. Came upon this site. “Interpretation” speaks to me!! So glad to “see” you again, Mr. Ruskovich!!

    Reply
    • John Michael Ruskovich

      Thanks Diane. I am living on the wide open Camas Prairie now, as far from the four walls of a classroom as I can get. I stay busy writing, but not as busy as my daughter Emily, whose novel “Idaho” is due to come out on January 3rd from Random House. As you can tell, I am a proud dad. Hope all is well in your life. So good to know one of my “old” students was thinking of me. Take care.

      Reply
    • Mike Ruskovich

      Thank You, Kris. I will try to figure out a way to contact you, but I am not very adept at the Internet, and I am not wanting to put my private information in this space. I have a book your mother Kay loaned me almost fifty years ago, and I suppose it’s time to return it. If you get this, let me know; perhaps you are better at reaching me than I am at reaching you. If not, hello from the past that doesn’t know how to reach the present.–Mike

      Reply

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