by Ruth Stone

If an ant, crossing on the clothesline

from apple tree to apple tree,

would think and think,

it probably could not dream up Albert Einstein.

Or even his sloppy moustache;

or the wrinkled skin bags under his eyes

that puffed out years later,

after he dreamed up that maddening relativity.

Even laundry is three-dimensional.

The ants cross its great fibrous forests
from clothespin to clothespin

carrying the very heart of life in their sacs or mandibles,

the very heart of the universe in their formic acid molecules.

And how refreshing the linens are,

lying in the clean sheets at night,

when you seem to be the only one on the mountain,

and your body feels the smooth touch of the bed
like love against your skin;

and the heavy sac of yourself relaxes into its embrace.

When you turn out the light,

you are blind in the dark

as perhaps the ants are blind,

with the same abstract leap out of this limiting dimension.

So that the very curve of light,

as it is pulled in the dimple of space,

is relative to your own blind pathway across the abyss.

And there in the dark is Albert Einstein

with his clever formula that looks like little mandibles

digging tunnels into the earth

and bringing it up, grain by grain,

the crystals of sand exploding
into white-hot radiant turbulence,

smiling at you, his shy bushy smile,

along an imaginary line from here to there.

“Things I Say to Myself While Hanging Laundry” appears in Ruth Stone’s collection Simplicity (Paris Press, 1996), available at

Photo: “Our Clothesline Is the Favorite Place for Ants” by  *katherine*photo*, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Ruth Stone was born on June 8, 1915, in Roanoke, Virginia. Her books of poetry include What Love Comes To: New and Selected Poems (Copper Canyon Press, 2008), a finalist for the 2009 Pulitzer Prize; In the Dark (2004); In the Next Galaxy (2002) which received the 2010 National Book Award; Ordinary Words (Paris Press, 1999), which received the National Book Critics Circle Award; Simplicity (1996); Who Is the Widow’s Muse (1991); Second Hand Coat (1987); Cheap (1975); Topography (1971); In an Iridescent Time (1959). Stone was the recipient of the 2002 Wallace Stevens Award and received two Guggenheim Fellowships, The Bess Hokin Award from Poetry magazine, the Shelley Memorial Award, and the Vermont Cerf Award for lifetime achievement in the arts. She taught creative writing at several universities, including the State University of New York in Binghamton. A Vermont resident since 1957, she died at her home in Ripton, Vermont, on November 19, 2011. She was 96 years old. (Source: