Sep. 18, 2007

Highway Five Love Poem

by Ruth L. Schwartz

Listen (RealAudio) | How to listen

Poem: "Highway Five Love Poem" by Ruth L. Schwartz, from Dear Good Naked Morning. © Autumn House Press, 2005. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

Highway Five Love Poem
for Anna

This is a love poem for all the tomatoes
spread out in the fields along Highway Five,
their gleaming green and ruddy faces like a thousand
moons prostrate in praise of sun.
And for every curd of cloud,
clotted cream of cloud spooned briskly
by an unseen hand into the great blue bowl,
then out again, into a greedy mouth.
Cotton baled up beside the road,
altars to the patron saint of dryer lint.
Moist fudge of freshly-planted dirt.
Shaggy neglected savage grasses
bent into the wind's designs.
Sheep scattered over the landscape like fuzzy confetti,
or herded into stubbled funnels, moving like rough water
toward its secret source.
Egrets praying in the fields like
white-cloaked priests.
A dozen wise and ponderous cows
suddenly spurred to run, to gallop, even,
down a flank of hill.
Horses for sale, goats for sale, nopales for sale, orange groves for sale,
topless trailers carrying horses,
manes as loose and lovely as tomorrow in our mouths,
and now a giant pig, jostling majestic in the open
bed of a red pickup,
and now a fawn-colored coyote
framed between the startled fruit trees
who looks directly at me before loping back
into the world he owns.
Even the bits of trash are alive,
and chase each other in the wind, and show their underwear.
Even the sparrows hop like the spirit,
sustain themselves on invisible specks,
flutter and plummet, rise straight up like God.

Literary and Historical Notes:

It was on this day in 1851 that the first edition of The New York Times was published in a dirty, candlelit office just off Wall Street by Henry J. Raymond. Raymond had been fired by Horace Greeley at the New York Tribune, and he intended The New York Times to put the Tribune out of business, which it did, but not in Raymond's lifetime. Raymond decided to model his paper on the London Times, which was known for its integrity and lack of sensationalism. They put out 5,000 copies, which were sold for a cent apiece. The Times soon had a circulation of 10,000, did well among the educated and affluent, but it fell on hard times in the 1890s and was bought on the cheap by Adolph Ochs who turned it into the most influential paper in the country, though it remained conservative in style, rarely using big headlines. It only began to use color photographs in the last decade.

It was on this day in 1793 that President George Washington laid the cornerstone of the United States Capitol building. It was designed as a much smaller building than the one we know because the senators and representatives had no offices, they simply worked at their desks on the floor of the House or Senate, and the public area under the dome was a flea market, where people sold everything from silk to light machinery. The wings were later extended, and then a larger dome was installed in proportion to the wings. The building as we know it was finished in the middle of the Civil War. Some people opposed spending money on a construction project in the middle of a war, but Abraham Lincoln thought the Capitol was a symbol that the Union would be preserved.

It's the birthday of Samuel Johnson, (books by this author) born in Lichfield, England (1709), who wrote a dictionary of the English language that was more comprehensive than rival dictionaries and also more interesting to read. It included 114,000 quotations to illustrate word usage, including quotations from Samuel Johnson himself.

Samuel Johnson said, "The true measure of a man is how he treats someone who can do him absolutely no good."

Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®




  • “Writers end up writing stories—or rather, stories' shadows—and they're grateful if they can, but it is not enough. Nothing the writer can do is ever enough” —Joy Williams
  • “I want to live other lives. I've never quite believed that one chance is all I get. Writing is my way of making other chances.” —Anne Tyler
  • “Writing is a performance, like singing an aria or dancing a jig” —Stephen Greenblatt
  • “All good writing is swimming under water and holding your breath.” —F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • “Good writing is always about things that are important to you, things that are scary to you, things that eat you up.” —John Edgar Wideman
  • “In certain ways writing is a form of prayer.” —Denise Levertov
  • “Writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia.” —E.L. Doctorow
  • “Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” —E.L. Doctorow
  • “Let's face it, writing is hell.” —William Styron
  • “A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.” —Thomas Mann
  • “Writing is 90 percent procrastination: reading magazines, eating cereal out of the box, watching infomercials.” —Paul Rudnick
  • “Writing is a failure. Writing is not only useless, it's spoiled paper.” —Padget Powell
  • “Writing is very hard work and knowing what you're doing the whole time.” —Shelby Foote
  • “I think all writing is a disease. You can't stop it.” —William Carlos Williams
  • “Writing is like getting married. One should never commit oneself until one is amazed at one's luck.” —Iris Murdoch
  • “The less conscious one is of being ‘a writer,’ the better the writing.” —Pico Iyer
  • “Writing is…that oddest of anomalies: an intimate letter to a stranger.” —Pico Iyer
  • “Writing is my dharma.” —Raja Rao
  • “Writing is a combination of intangible creative fantasy and appallingly hard work.” —Anthony Powell
  • “I think writing is, by definition, an optimistic act.” —Michael Cunningham
The Writer's Almanac on Facebook

The Writer's Almanac on Twitter

Subscribe to our daily newsletter for poems, prose and literary history every morning
An interview with Jeffrey Harrison at The Writer's Almanac Bookshelf
Current Faves - Learn more about poets featured frequently on the show
O, What a Luxury

Although he has edited several anthologies of his favorite poems, O, What a Luxury: Verses Lyrical, Vulgar, Pathetic & Profound forges a new path for Garrison Keillor, as a poet of light verse. Purchase O, What a Luxury »