Saturday, May 13, 2017

The Sunday Poet: Scott Ruescher

Scoott Ruescher
(photo by Bridget Ganske)
Scott Ruescher won the 2013 Erika Mumford Prize for poetry about travel and international culture from the New England Poetry Club for “Looking for Lorca”—one of the eleven poems in his chapbook Perfect Memory (Finishing Line Press, 2015). Some of the other poems have appeared in Tower Journal, Naugatuck River Review, In My Bed, Harvard Educational Review, and the Larcom Review. His chapbook Sidewalk Tectonics was released by Pudding House Publications in 2009. Ruescher coordinates the Arts in Education program at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and teaches in the Boston University Prison Education program. He writes of his poem,

" Like William Butler Yeats in the opening lines of "The Circus Animal's Desertion,"I sought a theme and sought for it in vain,/I sought it daily for six weeks or so." Only for me it took ten years or more to figure out a fresh approach to the notorious and troubling Charles Stuart case that tragically confirmed again the legacy of blatant racism in Boston. It was remembering a friend at work running to tell me that Stuart had jumped from the Tobin Bridge that gave me the poem. This originally appeared online in The Tower Journal--and it also appears in my full-length collection, 'Waiting for the Light to Change' (Prolific Press, 2017), along with many other poems on similar themes."

Beneath the Tobin Bridge

Now I close my eyes and see my friend Regina running,
Not from her parents’ Victorian house near Franklin Park
In the Dorchester section of Boston, not from the starting line
On the track in the stadium behind the suburban high school
She attended on the METCO program—for disadvantaged
But aspiring kids from the city—and not from the bus stop
At Mass. Ave. and Tremont to the Josiah Quincy Middle School
On the border of Chinatown and the South End,
As husband Melvin used to do, racing the school bus
With his friends and closest cousins every morning—
But from one polished end of the hallway to the other
On the second floor of Longfellow Hall, where we used
To work together, at the Harvard Graduate
School of Education, on this, the fourth of January, 1990,
At the beginning of the all-too-ordinary workday,
When everything is quiet, the students all gone
On winter vacation, and the professors home in their sweaters;

Running, that is, to tell me the news that she has just heard
On the radio in her office—that they have just dredged the body
Of Charles Stuart up from the green tidal waters
Of the misnamed Mystic River, beneath the Tobin Bridge
That spans Boston Harbor from Charlestown to the North Shore,
The cover of the psychopath who blamed the murder of his wife
On some anonymous black guy blown at last, his dream
Of living with the rich blonde he worked with at the fur store
On chic-chic Newbury Street now just a nightmare,
His brother Matthew having confessed this morning
That it wasn’t, after all, some desperate black junkie
Who killed Chuck’s wife, the lovely Carol DiMaiti,
In a botched armed robbery after their weekly birthing class
At Brigham and Women’s Hospital on Huntington Ave.,
In an alley across the street on Mission Hill in Roxbury,
But Chuck himself, who hoped to get the insurance money
And run off with that goddess from horsey Dover-Sherborn—

News good enough, after years of wondering why the tide
Of racism in Boston has not yet receded, to break Regina,
Against the better judgment of her Christian education,
Into a fit of giggles that keeps her from crying
In moral indignation at how the Boston cops, believing
Every word Stuart said, contrary, apparently,
To the intuition of the nurses in the emergency room
Where they sewed up the wound Stuart had made
By shooting himself in the leg to make his story plausible,
Went right ahead and conducted that month-long investigation
For the criminal in question, bringing every black man
On Mission Hill with a record in for questioning,
Even booking on suspicion one repeat offender
Named Willie Bennett who’d been in and out of prison—

News that cracks Regina’s composure open in a carefree chuckle,
Speeding her down the hall, even while her plaid skirt
Restricts her strides, while her brown feet in black flats slap
The shiny hallway tiles, and while the matching unbuttoned lapels
Of her red cardigan sweater open to the white blouse,
Itself unbuttoned at the throat to reveal the gold cross
Against the rich brown skin, which somehow sets off
The red clip in her pressed hair, above the left brow,
And the ornery and elated smile on her broad brown face.

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