Ruth in Ward 3A Imagines Herself as a Tree

by Brenda Levy Tate
Pen Shells
First Place, December 2007
Judged by E. Ethelbert Miller


Before first light, I slip into a spruce—
its roots (and mine) old ropes that tie the clay
to bind me gently, while the stars infuse
me with a balm of resin, salt and spray.

My blood is balsam now, and moves as slow
as sunrise. With a prickling in my chest,
the alto sap upwells and spreads; its low
ring-singing stirs the shorebirds from their rest.

Below me wheel the herring gulls and hawks
that drift toward my cliff. A willet cries
above the pearling tide, and on the rocks
a stranger’s cat holds morning in her eyes.

I shed my bark as dawn releases me.
Tomorrow, I shall dream myself the sea.


I like the title of this poem and how it works with the sonnet structure. One is pulled into the world of mental illness and it's the world of nature as well as imagination. This is a poem of transformation and a rejection of restrictions. Ruth is able to escape the hospital ward. The closing couplet makes this poem a winner. I want Ruth to believe she is the sea tomorrow. --E. Ethelbert Miller

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