Ruth Nolan


I began toying with sonnets in graduate school. It emerged as the perfect vehicle for embodying the intriguing maelstrom that marked my life in those years, the result of single parenting a young daughter while also studying poetry, composition theory, and rhetoric. With its wavelike iambic verse, tidy end rhyme, and dramatically intoned final two end lines, the sonnet form has continued to carry me since then through the rather tempestuous experiences of dangerous love, domestic violence, and my daughter's teenage years, all which have helped design and enlighten my life as a poet.



To the Arsonist

If I could sweep these smoke rings from my thighs
I might surmise a glare, a bite of lip.
Your smile would imitate the pink sunrise,
eyes of ochre, a painter’s fingertips.

If I could brush aside these clouds instead
perhaps a fire would be stopped red-flare,
a short-lived pause of light at mountain’s head,
we might between us ignite without care.

But flames invite, they curl me to your side.
You pause to glisten, ignorant of homes,
coiled snakes that will be casualties: I hide
behind a smolder quiet-lied as stones.

The hills will burn tonight, I’ll spring with love
You'll torch a cigarette with blue flamed stove


Stretch Throat Sonnet

In dreams, as I fondle virile lovers,
the child gags on wads of milky vomit,
sleepwalks out of bed, peels off the covers
and flings her flat chest and skinny armpit
upon swollen breasts. Her acid breath lands
on mouths of callous mothers in the gloom,
kisses too hungry. Men fade in my hands
as her damp lips seek mine-- a rancid bloom
in these sweet arms, reeking of infant bile.
She grabs me and cries as I edge away.
The pink cat and mouse jammies are vile.
I tell her to wash her sticky hair, stay
out of my bed, off the down comforter.
I want lovers. I do not comfort her.




RNOLAN.JPGRuth Nolan, a former wildland firefighter, is Associate Professor of English at College of the Desert, where she teaches poetry, creative writing, desert and Native American literature. She is also founder and advisor of the COD literary and visual arts magazine, Solstice. She has published poetry in Pacific Review, Mosaic, and Women's Studies Quarterly, academic articles in journals such as American Indian Review and Journal of Excellence in Higher Education, has twice been recipient of a Vermont Studio Fellowship, and has recently published poetry in Inlandia, an anthology chronicling southern California’s Inland Empire and desert regions (Heyday Books, Berkeley, 2006.) She is currently editing a collection of literature focusing on California desert literature for a new anthology to be published by Heyday Books and co-authoring a bird-guide book to the California’s Palm Springs and nearby desert areas.