MARY RUDGE (1928-2014)
She who was luminous…
I met Mary years back—but our initial meeting was on the phone. Her light voice, slight Texan accent, and her laughter—and the considerable intelligence back of everything—impressed me immediately. In 1987 Mother’s Hen Press published a book of hers (Going to China and Other Places) along with one by me (Letters/Lights—Words for Adelle), one by John Curl (Decade: The 1990s), and one by H.D. Moe (Jazz Pajamas). I felt that I was in good company. (Mary was there for H.D. Moe’s last reading—2013.) In the early 1990s, Adelle and I worked on her television show, Star Rover, doing camera. It was always fun. When I think of Mary, I think of how often warm laughter came issuing forth from her.
She was, as she wrote, “for poetry—always.” Her book, Water Planet, had appeared in 1986. I thought it was a wonderful book, full of interesting turns and surprises. People speak, accurately, of how much Mary did for others; they should speak as well of how extraordinary a poet she could be. I always wondered whether Mary herself rated her poetry high enough. In her zeal for the art and for the work of others, perhaps she failed to notice that she was a much finer poet than many of the people she promoted:
SHE FELT HER THOUGHTS AS ROCKS
She felt her thoughts
as rocks, their textures, against swell of water,
its weight and massive strength.
Shapes of them surfacing
coming from caves in dim light,
knew rock as she knew hand-clasp
felt rock press on her breast-bone,
her each word weighed
rocking her stillness
her shores awash with silence
on those unmoving rocks.
Her gardens always rock, the pebble flowers
planted on sands
grew like Magritte landscapes
like tombstones to the past
like monuments and milestones
to the future
She was a wonder, a tender explosion of energy, a sweet and loving hurricane. Someone on Facebook wrote, “R.I.P.”—Rest in Peace. I amended it to R.I.P.—Rest in Poetry. Love you, Mary.
Post Script: This is a poem Mary Rudge wrote about my work: “the multiple cells of the mind…can’t keep that in / a casket-music box.”
Written by Mary Rudge as Excerpt from Will and Testament of Jack Foley
I will the nimble footed tap dance
choreograph of complicated overlay of lines,
meanings compounded, confounding
(how you found that
universal weaving in and out of words.
You, two-voiced, multi-sound,
voluptuous images unbound
I will the heritage “aptness of mind”
as if elusiveness of passionate spontaneity
is willed. I will the strobe-light vision, the light
that pierces through stone, metal, flesh
the multiple cells of the mind,
to see it all. In the dark the film flash
that is life going past fast, seen
in many-scenic script-writes on the wing.
(Star-sparks fly from the metal taps
of your dancing shoes as you tap tap tap
tap tap across sky. Worlds fly
in the swirl
of undulating sound rhythms rap rapping
around you, can’t keep that in
a casket-music box.)
Yes, I will the word swirl
undulating rhythms rap rapping around
sound wrap around sound warp, this
woven sound. Yes, I have found and willed
the everlasting speed of sound.
child of verse
how did the curtain fall?
With laurel crown
on haloed hair
and loving faces gathered around.
brittle bones and heart.
with a problem shoe
fed her kids and filled the cupboard.
full of grace
the Lord is with thee.
from earth to heaven
for the wee lamb blithe and spry.
For Mary Rudge
Came out of Texas
Scars of the great depression
Made you strong and sweet
You taught children art
Marched for peace and for justice
Traveled round the world
You published our poems
Taught us to work the camera
And roll the credits
At last we were stars.
Our 1990 feature
Is there on YouTube
We’ll miss those evenings
Driving from San Francisco
Trading bits of news,
Plans, shared memories, gossip
Rolling through the fog
Dancing in our dreams
You are forever our
She is Luminous
For Mary Rudge
Now Mary steps out into the great adventure
radiant with passport
passing into the universes’ total imagination
Pattern dance of fireflies
Lines on the transit map of conversation
She is the poet
dropping her crust of seasons
she used to wear around her spirited antique frame
assured that her poetry brought about safety
and joy, curiosity and potions
from writing rich spices and riding camels so far—
a goddess watering the flowers of the world
one spout at a time. O there she goes sashaying,
her eyes wide behind her glasses, the world is imagination!
She is glad to have squeezed your hand,
glad she could be of help. She must be going,
poet of peace in a fiery fusion, traveling beyond creation.
For Mary Rudge
Mary—can scarcely believe it.
Just back from LA—would have liked to have told you about it.
I lost my Catholicism so many years back,
will never regain it
but I would have gone to church with you.
If anyone had power to bless…
But you would not receive such praise
We who are luminous
I loved the hum of your voice
the sweetness of your consciousness
that found good in everyone
And you were Irish
named for the mother of heaven
Stella maris, star of the sea,
are 90 % light,
how you loved ritual, color, dance
how your words
moved to the movement
in homage to spirit inhabiting everything
(as Pagan a thing as Christian)
Flames loop and leap the arteries
There is a core of ember in the womb
—Can scarcely believe your vanishing
beyond our brightness
beyond anything I can know
I remember your sweetness
your love of art
your passion for justice
in the bodies of strong women
reality and dream and memory
with hard and thudding rhythms of our love
my love for you remains
here, on this earth,
under the deep sky of california
passionate and lasting as the redwoods
(like the one planted in 1980 by William Everson!)
and wishing that I am terribly wrong
about the afterlife
so that you
in all your dearness
in a house
that is on no corner
of any earthly city—
that you might have
[lines in italics from Mary Rudge’s book, Water Planet]
For Mary Rudge
The last time I saw her,
she was dressed in red.
With her white hair
she looked like a valentine.
Sitting in the front row
with her daughter, she
smiled as I read my poem.
I’d arrived too late to hear
her read hers. Later she
hugged me. Her daughter
had recovered from leukemia
six years ago, she said. I said
that was good. We talked
about blonds, how we were
both blond as children
and three of my grandchildren
are blond now. Mary said
her hair had been ash blond
when she started teaching,
but blonds were supposed
to be dumb, so she was
told to dye it because
children wouldn’t listen
to a teacher if they thought
she was dumb. “People
looked at me strangely,”
she said, “like I was wearing
the wrong thing. I don’t
know what they thought
I looked like.” I told her,
“You looked like a poet.”
—Lucille Lang Day