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5d · 74
Covid Cashier
Quiet, dawn, Covid.
Biggest accomplishment yesterday: buying toilet paper.
Thanking the young cashier for doing her job.
Feeling a little sick, wearing my mask and gloves,
Spring oblivious to the virus, an idiot like Millay said.
At least we’re not beheading each other—yet.

Symptoms mild so far. Today rest,
no long walk, no knee bends.
I think I’ve watched every possible movie and tv show
and nothing’s left that doesn’t bore me.
I could learn the calculus, chemistry or physics
but will I and what for?

Most poetry is chopped up prose. That’s harsh
but true. But that’s because most days
are prose or yesterday’s news. Win or lose
sumthins gonna getcha. Drug cartel assassin, the blues.
If not now, when? Some other Wednesday. Why wait?
I wish I had some wisdom to translate.

It’s living and helping others to live
that counts, I guess. Cast a cold eye and guess,
walk the extra mile, report from the besieged city, be wise or a ****.
I hope to get the antibodies the easy way,
mild symptoms, no brush with death, don’t intubate.
An existential bessemer process, strange quark,

chances are I won’t be able to organize this day into an expressible state.
A daily exchange with nature’s enough
to alleviate my fear.
When I thanked the cashier
her smile was like the sun coming out from behind clouds
or the end of the pandemic, as if I had not wasted my life.
Start now knowing joy,
that’s an order,
overcome a deepening solitude.

Like a bee at a bugle
or me at the deli
on Third Avenue.

I said to Joe when do you think this weather will break?
He jokes, April.
That’s no joke. Weak creatures die and the strong barely survive.

Half a year goes by
another cancer checkup.
Cheer up. Any weather’s

better than no weather at all
and there’s always governance
even when there is no government.

My candidate drops out
after Iowa. Why do I always lose
at politics and poker?

Peace at last!
No lawnmowers, no leafblowers.
Big comfy couch.

Meditate on this: Do what has to be done.
Find your lover gazing at the moon
and take your garbage to the dump.

Your web site evaporates
and your possessions are thrown in the dumpster
except your trumpet which finds its way to a future trumpeter.
Carrying a sleeping baby.
Cleaning after a successful party.

Camping beyond mountains more mountains.
Playing trumpet on the streets of New York City.

Eating although the food supply is deeply compromised.
Flying with Democrats and Republicans, evangelicals and atheists.

Flying like a fruit fly that won’t quit mating.
Cool as a hummingbird in the stream’s wet spray.

Abstaining wholly, absent from worldly life.
Two dogs fighting but not biting hard.

Chanting as if the planet were mending.
Gourmet dining, devout prayer, loving Mary.

Evenings watching tv. Scotch and Star Trek.
Taking off Emily Dickinson’s clothes.

Meeting in the meeting house, arguing and praying.
Planning a legacy as if you knew enough to control events.

Pursuing happiness as a naturalist or humanist.
Spinning with the planet, performing the history that surrounds us.

Killing many Germans, saving many Jews.
Doing less until one thing’s done well.

Fainting from staring at candles through stained glass windows.
Morning, a billion trillion nuclear detonations per second warming your
        bones.

Manipulating symbols, solving equations.
Disregarding tweets and facebook persuasions.

Sitting with a tiny Buddha near a rushing stream cutting a gorge.
Running, disciplining myself, making myself healthy.

Ingesting drugs, throwing die, drinking sludge.
Growing varicolored corn.

Participating in the cause because it’s impossible not to participate in
      the effect.
Running over a chipmunk, groundhog or a skunk.

Lying face down in the emergency room facing doom.
Waking up Monday thinking Sweet Saturday! but soon remembering my
      trick knee.

Turning the towering young thunder of my anger against my sons.
Regretting the callow dispassion with which I met my parents’ quietus.

Lawn mowing, leaf blowing, yapping dogs, napping old people.
No jets but a rooster mornings, cows and goats.

Al is painting an apartment. Sirma is cleaning the floors. Felix is taking
      out the garbage.
Deciding tentatively I slightly prefer Heifetz’ to Oistrakh’s Sibelius.

No cedar waxwings, no chickadees, but beautiful moon!
If you’re alone as you get, why are you crying?
—Collins, Billy, “Taking Off Emily Dickinson’s Clothes”, Sailing Alone Around the Room: New and Selected Poems, Random House, 2002.
Jan 4 · 405
Who's Got Trouble?
I’ve never put a candidate’s bumper sticker on my car before—
why not take sides—what are you waiting for?
Death puts a stop to daily low intensity warfare but in the meantime—
      fight on!
What are we fighting for? Let’s see—
clean air and water and room to walk around in cities and deserts
America the seeing eye dog not America the junkyard dog—
collective deliberation among nations, clear passage through seas and
      borders
compact and contiguous Congressional districts that represent actual
      communities
education and health care for everyone who wants it—worldwide
good food too, affordable shelter and a living wage
a say in governance—local and global—free from fear of violence

Should you be subsumed by a cause bigger than the self?
unlike Rick in Casablanca who keeps to himself
I’m advertising my loyalties with bumper stickers on rickshaw and kayak
every time I come and go
it’s a free country—or maybe I’m so low profile no one notices or
      cares to take revenge
so small time I have time and no enemies or friends
What about Whitman and his love for Lincoln
he found a way to participate in the war that satisfied his muse, as a
      nurse
oh, I want to add space exploration and no nuclear war
plus basic science and ancient arts, black lives matter

Here are some things you have to put up with or out of mind
while enjoying the beautiful black and white photography and rousing
      Marseillaise:
that Sam, played by Dooley Wilson in worshipful subservience to “Mr.
      Rick,” endures his lonely abnegation and abstinence in Paris while
      Rick savors the nordically white, luscious Ilsa;
that Ilsa, on the lam across the wide world from pursuing Nazis, is
      apparently transporting an extensive, elegant, perfectly manicured
      wardrobe;
that Rick, in wartime Casablanca, has managed to hire a full 20-piece  
      jazz orchestra for which we willingly suspend disbelief since it’s  
      essential for singing the Marseillaise which never fails to bring tears
      of pride to Yvonne’s eyes;
I guess that’s about it except why would you spend a minute in Sydney
      Greenstreet’s fly-infested café when Rick’s air-conditioned
      establishment is right across the street, an overnice contrast to
      Maghreb culture;
otherwise, I’m in complete accord with IMDb’s 8.5 rating.

On the news last night the president changed the trajectory of a  
      category 4 hurricane. He can’t do that! Not my president! They’re  
      laughing at us!
Who’s got trouble? We've got trouble. How much trouble? Too much  
      trouble.
After Casablanca, it's headed for South Carolina.
--Jerome, M.K. and Scholl, Jack, “Knock on Wood”, as performed by Dooley Wilson in the film Casablanca, 1942.
Oct 2020 · 438
Got Sleep?
Robert Ronnow Oct 2020
Nothing more intimate than sleep
wake before dawn, go downtown
prepare for tomorrow, come home from work late.

Most cities prosper undisturbed
sleeping peacefully
while the tide goes out.

Are we asleep or are we dancing,
surrounded by buildings,
a primitive fertility dance in the forest?

Sleeping in my clothes,
sleeping in my underwear,
two dead leaves, then a breeze!

Fall asleep by the river,
in front of tv,
soon I will know who I am.

In the last days you may be found sleeping in the laundry mornings,
or in the holy spot
gazing at a crescent moon.

Get up early but gotta nap,
winter afternoons or summer heat
Thanatopsis, Big Comfy Couch.

Sleep in the bed next to your wife
that way when life ends
someone misses you.

That sounds harsh but we’re matter of fact
about the fact of death.
Death is most of all like sleep.

Doctor, engineer, lawyer, soldier,
writer, poet, that’s the pecking order,
get some sleep, get over it.

Not the kind of gal who’ll have *** twice
on the first date. When that happens
marriage, babies, graduations, tragedies, sleep.

Headache, surgery, through it all
there’s sleep, a haven, heaven, hovel, cave, raven,
a place to be with eyes wide open.

Don’t have a hissy fit
or case of colon cancer, get 8 hours
shuteye in contiguous array.

If not, listen to a TED talk, they like explaining things
Selected Shorts solves insomnia,
The Moth Hour, the peaceful father, mother.

Sweet pleasing Sleep!
in Hades
where the lights are always blue, gentian actually.

Every third thought doesn’t have to be about death.
Sleep together, get laid.
Sleep. How memories are made.
Sleep. In the palm at the end of the mind or on another plane.
Jul 2020 · 338
Stop & Shop Strike
Robert Ronnow Jul 2020
The Stop & Shop strike v. Game of Thrones.
In Game what’s not made plain
is the condition of the people
compared with warriors and queens.
There’s no mention of land-clearance, tree-felling,
pruning, chopping, digging, hoeing,
weeding, branding, gelding, slaughtering,
salting, tanning, brewing, boiling,
smelting, forging, milling, thatching,
fencing and hurdle-making, hedging, road-mending and haulage.

As for the strike, most of us
supported the cashiers and clerks—
cutting benefits and pensions
when CEOs make millions.
A few pennies more
for ice cream and tofu
a leg up for our neighbors
and comrades in labor. But
don’t get greedy, power-hungry—
we don’t want the supermarket to go out of business
or the Army of the Dead to extinguish us.

A red-tailed hawk observes what small mammals, birds are in the
     clearcut,
awaits the moment to strike.
Three *****, two strikes, full count. Aaron pitched carefully, slow
     strikes and the opposing team scored.
Transit strike. Part-time tutor,
food deliverer, illegal immigrant,
school bus driver, supermarket bagger.
Let labor flow like capital! Full tank of gas!
In your dreams, you kick ***.
In your daydream, you’re breaking bones, killing mean dogs with bare
     hands .
In my childhood dreams, I fought side by side with my best buddies
against the Army of the Dead.
I wake up to a lightning strike and my dream incinerates.

The strike is over, like a thunderstorm.
Still a half dozen or so episodes of Thrones
before it sinks into the past.
Will women save the world?
Anything’s possible.
Nothing changes in Williamstown, Willie, except the seasons.
The wee hours, the bored minutes, the second guesses,
the town sewer department, the collector of taxes.
Pitcher’s elbow, runner’s knee, reader’s eye,
you live until you die.
That’s no answer.
Without the Mexican and Canadian borders
the White Walkers would dissolve like an aspirin in seltzer water.

The sun is up, the strike is over
next episode of Game is Sunday
the White Walkers attack
some of our favorite characters croak
but I guess humanity survives
though the weather is ominous.
The habitable zone around the sun
is moving outward as the orb expands
getting hotter as it grows older.
Earth a billion years ago
was smack in the middle of the turf
but we’re now half-in, half-out
exposed to the sun’s ardor, agony.
The sun a dragon eating its babies, torching cities
we’re gonna hafta outsmart it
hold Labor Day barbecues on Mars.
Turner, James, The Politics of Landscape: Rural Scenery and Society in English Poetry, 1630-1660, Harvard University Press, 1979.
May 2020 · 328
Contingency
Robert Ronnow May 2020
The moon gazes
through April’s silver maple.

To work, to drive,
to drive to work.

Earth's half-in, half-out
of the sun’s habitable zone.

The rushing stream topples old trees;
the peaceful father, mother.

Powerful with eternity,
blinding with intensity.

Zazen position,
necking in the front seat.

Lazy, happy,
mirror, desert.

Moderation, persuasion, elections.
Way stations, stopgaps, safe havens.

Cheap jewelry can be ****;
stop fixing things with duct tape!

Humor is the only remedy,
not to hate those in authority.

And ritual is remedy,
a death song.

Nothing but matter matters,
chipmunk, groundhog, skunk.

Do not provoke
an angry baboon.

Why care about the future,
the dead don’t live to see it.

I’ve come to see
if this is true.
"Events will still pile up, with or without an identity willing to organize them.”  --Rachel Cusk
Apr 2020 · 629
Valetudinarian
Robert Ronnow Apr 2020
One will not live to see the end
of the geopolitical drama,
the existential dilemma—

the small choices people make that change their lives.
They ought to be terrified but they’re blithe
because you can’t know what you’re doing until it’s done.

Acting silly, solving problems.
Scientific method, situation comedy.
Dinosaurs. Sore losers.

Kayak on the Hackensack.
Malebolge. Hoboken.
It was dark in there! It was dark!

You can’t say to people I think I’m dying
because we all have that feeling,
it’s so ubiquitous it’s not worth mentioning.

For your given name
take Destiny.
But survive.

Saturday’s the sweetest
day. You’re off the clock.
Participation’s optional

weedsmoking, videogameplaying,
tvwatching, anonymouslawnmowing,
whatif whatnot oldtimer.

Pass the ******* ball!
I say to Ray who never passes.
The past isn’t dead, it never even passes.

Short sleeves today?
Prepare for a powerful anesthesia.
The afterlife is now.
Feb 2020 · 2.7k
Asexual
Robert Ronnow Feb 2020
While I pretty much pined for this impeachment
my fellow Americans voted for this guy and they could be right
I’ve been wrong before, stuck as we are with a system
that generates some perplexful leaders, democracy being the worst form
      of government—
except for all the others.
Anyone can be president, that’s been proven time and time again.
Wars can start for no discernible reason other than
radical purity, avarice, cupidity, gluttony, rapacity, even affluenza—
meanwhile life goes on outside all around you
perhaps you identify as Jewish, Latino, Muslim, Indian or Filipino
asexual, cybersexual, somasexual, hypersexual, homosexual, pentasexual
it doesn’t really matter, nothing **** matter matters, matter
content of life (serious, love it) hate death for the hell of it
to see what it’s like inside the heart of darkness.
Not that I accept their god, their void, I accepted humanity as a natural
      part of nature
demisexual, downsexual, ecosexual, Eurosexual, eversexual, exsexual,
extrasexual, femtosexual, Francosexual, geosexual, gigasexual,
Grecosexual, Indosexual, intersexual, kilosexual, macrosexual,
malsexual, megasexual, metasexual, microsexual, missexual,
medisexual, mocksexual, monosexual, muchsexual, multisexual,
mustsexual, nearsexual, neosexual, nonsexual, oftsexual,
omnisexual, oversexual, pansexual, parasexual, partsexual,
photosexual, polysexual, postsexual, presexual, pseudosexual,
psychosexual, quasisexual, rentasexual, selfsexual, semisexual,
Sinosexual, subsexual, supersexual, telesexual, terrasexual,
ubersexual, unisexual, ultrasexual, undersexual, vicesexual,
weresexual, wikisexual, zoosexual.
When I did that I had to pay the rent and get a job, too.
Jan 2020 · 1.3k
Number and Verse
Robert Ronnow Jan 2020
"The question should not be in what ways writing and utterance trope each other, but how both are involved with number. Without relating the technology of writing to number (as opposed to sound or drawing), it is impossible to discuss it meaningfully as an aspect of versecraft."

          Courage to write and courage to not write. Read
          The great poets and highly accomplished letters
          Of leaders. Yet the war and the book have lives
          Of their own. Vacuum house, analyze mankind.
          His idea of himself. Ideas subsumed
          By better ones unite people into one people.
          I watch from my little bowl of nuts. Watch
          The one red squirrel and the many gray.
          Watch the nuthatch pair, platoon of chickadees.
          Here is what I say: When we can go
          From planet to planet on nothing but air,
          Leaving behind a drop of water,
          No burger bags blowin’ in the sun,
          I’ll love my children, my dogs and be happy.

"What is needed is a way to pry apart the polar, mimetic fiction that undergirds discussions (even sympathetic ones) of writing and versification, and see how we can relate writing to measure. Roy Harris’ investigations into the origin of writing make this connection possible."

          Electronic millennium. A long silence
          Wouldn’t hurt. Not that the national debate
          Should cease, it should proceed, passionate
          And furious. Those who have studied the matter
          And have something to say should write cogent
          Opinion pieces on the totalitarian
          Tendencies of minaret Islamists,
          The terminal contradiction of advancing
          Democracy with the unitary military.
          George Washington would not have approved
          And even Lincoln vacillated between
          The practicalities of preserving union
          And the ideal of freeing slaves. The president
          Carries his burden of matter, the physics
          Of existence cannot change our aloneness
          Or the butterfly’s importance, the very
          Last insects at the screens of August.
          It is life we face and death we meet.

"He argues that the origin of writing did not lie in the drawing of figures, or attempts to imitate speech, but in the recording of number. According to Harris, the oldest ‘writing’ that we have, like that on the 11, 000-year-old Ishango bone, is in ‘lines.’ The surface is scored with rows of short, parallel strokes, which probably served a numerical function. We still use such scoring systems today on occasion."

          OK, different strokes. But reading North’s poems
          And his predecessors’ in which noun and verb
          Are so far separated by modifiers,
          Post-positioned prepositions, diversions
          Into ditches, gardens, heavens, I don’t know
          What to do laugh or put the book down and eat
          Several cookies. In other words, anything goes,
          There truth resides. 1/3 life in suburbs,
          1/3 on the subway, and the last third
          On the mountain. A fourth hallucinating
          In heaven. That’s how it goes. You get what you believe.
          Bones in mud. It’s always possible I suppose
          That for nine months analogous or symmetrical
          With gestation our souls wander call it limbo,
          Doing the limbo and harassing the living
          With unanswerable questions, finally accepting
          Free molecular rent in a cubic meter
          Of interstellar space, a rose hip.
         
"Harris speculates about counting by scoring:"
'What is relevant for our present purposes is the fact that counting is associated in many cultures with primitive forms of recording which have a graphically isomorphic basis... The iconic origin of such recording systems is hardly open to doubt: the notch or stroke corresponds to the human finger...'

          Partridgeberry, mugwort, mats of raspberry,
          Cranberry, bearberry, autumn eleagnus,
          Autumn Nocturne, Autumn Leaves, the changes
          To the tunes and the scientific names.
          When it doesn’t matter what you do
          You’re probably doing something new.
          That’s a woodpecker. That’s a moth. I’m bounded
          By my surroundings, I feel at home.
          Could be Schenectady. Could be Troy.
          One of many small cities in which to while
          Away my anonymity. Be specific.
          Not asphalt but impermeable surface.
          Not trees but mature stems. Quercus rubrus—
          Quality veneer. Into such a garden
          Have a victor and a fool penetrated.

'In short, the rows of strokes are graphically isomorphic with just that subpart of the recorder’s oral language which comprises the corresponding words used for counting. It makes no difference whether we ‘read’ the sign pictorially as standing for so many fingers held up, or scriptorially as standing for a certain numeral.'

          In a crowded world every action results
          In an equal and overwrought reaction.
          Yet, all the energy recycles
          And there is not one thermal unit more or less
          When all is said and won. Even when the tribes
          Were isolated behind mountain ranges
          And rushing rivers, they sought each other out
          For trading and for taking. Humanity
          Is lonely. Humor is the only remedy
          And going to your daily discipline
          The only way past Monday. Join the torrential
          Flow of words, emotion, wit and erudition.
          It is embarrassing to see a good writer
          Work himself into a lather, having
          Something to say. A system of beliefs
          To illustrate, characters dressed accordingly.
          Gardens and wilderness in which to wander.
          A cave with a view. The plumbing problem never
          Resolves. Fax your results. We’ll be working late.

"Along with other evidence, this leads him to argue that the invention of writing–or the division of writing and drawing into separate functions–occurred when the graphic representation of number shifted from the token-iterative system that appears on the Ishango bone, to type-slotting."

          Electricity is occult enough for me.
          Excessive classifying could be fascist!
          Yet how else can one organize people
          Into contexts. By their associations.
          Family, work, habits, each assigned
          A day of the week, moon of the month.
          Poets rhyme, jazz musicians count time.
          There is more than one way to make war. By
          Declaration, by punishing offenses
          Against the law of nations, by granting letters
          Of mark and reprisal, by making rules
          Concerning captures on land and water, by
          Suppressing insurrections and repelling invasions,
          Erecting forts, magazines, arsenals,
          Dock yards and other needful buildings. Today
          I face the blank page between the finished pages.

"Harris gives the following example of what he means:"
'The progression from recording sixty sheep by means of one ‘sheep’ sign followed by sixty strokes to recording the same information by means of one ‘sheep’ sign followed by a second sign indicating ‘sixty’ is a progression which has already crossed the boundary between pictorial and scriptorial signs.'

          When my grandmother considered it favorable
          That I would be a writer, she had in mind
          Clear commentary from which many people
          Would derive meaning. No such luck. My writings
          Are like the flicking tail of that flycatcher,
          And I am the flycatcher, weighing but an ounce.
          My grandfather’s rough-hewn peasant chairs
          Are well known by my sons though they never knew him
          And the chairs were not hewn, just owned by him.
          One is in a corner of the room and two
          Are scrimmaged around a computer screen.
          Computers post-date him and cars post-date
          His father and so on. If the grid collapses,
          The crops fail and the roads close, some will be forced
          Across boundaries among boulders, naming snakes
          And stars according to memory.
          They will be hungry, mortal and strong.

'A token-iterative sign-system is in effect equivalent to a verbal sublanguage which is restricted to messages of the form ‘sheep, sheep, sheep, sheep...’, or ‘sheep, another, another, another...’, whereas an emblem-slotting system is equivalent to a sublanguage which can handle messages of the form ‘sheep, sixty’.Token-iterative lists are, in principle, lists as long as the number of individual items recorded. With a slot list, on the other hand, we get no information simply by counting the number of marks it contains.'
"When this change occurred it opened ‘a gap between the pictorial and scriptorial function of the emblematic sign’, which had been previously inseparable in the counting represented by rows of slashes."

          No book I know tells if blue cohosh
          Caulophyllum thalictroides—a barberry—
          Is edible. Other barberries are
          But that blue berry looks risky to me.
          And May-apple—Podophyllum—other
          Than the fruit itself which is definitely
          Sweet. So I read, not sure of myself.
          There is a patience with which to wait out anger,
          And a patience with which to endure ignorance.
          The job is everything. It is freedom
          And purpose and religion. It is acceptance
          And shelter and sustenance. Last night
          We were watching Tweet’s show: groveling before
          The rich pharisee’s judgements. I said no
          Amount of money could make me grovel
          Before that guy. His toupe’s gayer than his lisp.
          But who am I? You think bullets won’t ****?
          I’m the guy they put before a wall and shoot
          Then eat lunch. But that feeling passed quickly.

"This semiological gap, made writing possible because it meant that signs could be manipulated to ‘slot’, or identify, anything whatsoever. The open-ended quality of the scriptorial sign was a necessary precondition for the development of writing systems."

          Lately I’ve been copying wholesale
          From the great poems, lines and ideas not my own
          Or owned by all? It’s ok, I can be ignored
          Or appreciated in a future city,
          By a future shore. The honest man can
          Only recognize what he loves and point to it.
          That Borges poem called In Praise of Darkness.
          Emerson and snow. A meditation
          That bumps serenely, with acceptance,
          Between things and thoughts. It is said one should
          Know for whom, to whom one is writing.
          These are letters to those who love letter writing.

"As Harris points out, no writing system is accurately phonetic. Even the alphabet only highlights certain phenomena in the speech stream. The reason for this is that alphabetic writing did not begin as a simpler or more accurate way to record speech than other writing systems, but as an easier way to write."

          A possible cancer had taken me
          To the edge of my endurance. Pokeweed,
          Poisonous, became attractive. Red stems
          And juicy black berries. I had packed warm clothes
          And pain killers. Why the warm clothes if this
          Was to be my last walk? To die in comfort
          Without a fly’s buzz. Overlooking a ravine,
          Sea of mountains, dawn. But it proved a false alarm.
          Now Sunday will be a holy day of plant
          Identification. Nothing better
          Than lying in leaf litter, skin drying
          To a taut drum. Ravens stay away!
          Until cougar’s had his fill! Instead
          I showed the boys pokeweed growing among blackberries
          And taught them the differences and uses.

"Through a radical reduction in the number of signs, the alphabet simplified the scriptorial system in and of itself. The evolution of writing therefore may look like this: simple forms of counting preceded the complications of pictorial representation, which in turn led to simplification of the writing system in cultures that adopted the alphabet."

          I was running uphill, parallel to
          The Taconics extending northward into
          Vermont (I find Vermonters in their jalopies
          Annoying but admire them for planning
          To arrest the president for war crimes) when
          I happened upon a flock of cedar waxwings—
          Said to be a gentle and politic bird—
          Sharing—very orderly—dried frozen grapes
          On the vine. (Rose hips, buckthorn, ash, pokeweed.)
          I tried one, too, the two seeds in my mouth
          Keeping me company down the mountain.
          I see no downside whatsoever
          To compensating for global warming,
          Constructing the green energy economy.
          New inventions may facilitate
          Our transportation to other planets.
          Yesterday a young man, Barack Obama,
          Won Iowa. I’m hopeful he will
          Articulate an international vision,
          A world order in which each neighborhood’s
          Good as another. I have no particular
          Love for writers; they’re a dime a dozen.
          But so are chickadees and I love them!

"Discussing the power of inscriptions of number, Harris points out:"
'Counting is in its very essence magical, if any human practice at all is. For numbers are things no one has ever seen or heard or touched. Yet somehow they exist, and their existence can be confirmed in quite everyday terms by all kinds of humdrum procedures which allow mere mortals to agree beyond any shadow of a doubt as to ‘how many’ eggs there are in a basket or ‘how many’ loaves of bread on the table.'

          True, nature would be a stern, unforgiving
          Mistress too, and man is but her right hand
          Acting on her command. How cold! How hot!
          The individual doing what he loves or not.
          Trees and cities. Herons, hawks. What we fail
          To govern in ourselves, nature will.
          We caught the killer and his gorillas,
          Now let’s go home, let the “innocent” choose
          Up sides. A good thing was done but the tyrant
          Should’ve been undone through global governance.
          Writing is divination using rhymes
          And estimations. Words like mammals
          Come near your sleeping head. Last night I emerged
          From the hum of our refrigerator
          Under a hazy, phaseless moon. The peepers
          Were an exact expression of my happiness.

"Or, one might add, for how many stanzas there are in a poem, or lines in a stanza, or stresses, feet, or syllables in a line, or occurrences of particular syntactical or grammatical patterns, and so on. As every serious student of versification has always understood, versification is about counting language."

          5:30-6 write poetry,
          6-7 ****, shave and shower, stretch
          Then get dressed, 7-7:30
          Clean house, 7:30-8 drive to work
          8-6 work (except Monday and Friday
          Work 8-4, basketball 4-6)
          6-7 drive home, shop, help make dinner
          7-8 eat dinner, read paper,
          Watch McNeil-Lehrer News Hour,
          8-9 play trumpet, study plants, type poems
          9-10 watch TV Mon: Murphy, Cybil,
          Tues: Frazier, Grace, Wed: Roseanne, Ellen,
          Thurs: Seinfeld, Friends, Fri: go out to dinner,
          10-11 read, except Tues watch
          NYPD Blue, Fri: Friday Night Lights,
          11 sleep. I could send this to the networks,
          Get a gizmo in my box. I hope my
          Schedule won't be interrupted for war.
          My dentist asked had I seen this morning’s
          Press conference, didn’t it just scare the ****
          Out of you. I said your bill is what scares
          The **** out of me. But here I am, writing
          And the sphere’s still turning. Or should I say
          Burning. As long as you write one poem per day
          You’ve left a little litter in the world.

"The reason to write verse is less to score the voice than to imbue words with the magical quality of counting. That is why meter, or measure, is at the heart of debates over all verse forms, including free verse."

          Vigorous wind, voracious ocean,
          Many merciless hard frosts, hurricanes.
          The bed of a human, its smell and warmth
          36 teeth, 46 chromosomes, 2 feet, a loose dime,
          61 summers, some soot, some sand,
          Thunderstorms. I wake up to a lightning strike
          And my dream incinerates. When they say
          Life is but a dream, that’s what they mean.
          The writer working hard, telling the story
          Of what happened yesterday or yesteryear,
          A man’s born to a country not his choosing,
          Let labor flow like capital, of mere being!
          Pomegranate juice, broccoli, arugula,
          Brussel sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower,
          Collard greens, kale, radishes, turnips,
          Garlic, leeks, scallions, onions, 2 lbs
          Swordfish, tomatoes (8 medium),
          3 cups almonds, carrots, a sweet potato,
          Winter squash, cantaloupe, mangoes, watermelon.
          2 daily writing exercises,
          50 words on any subject: complaint, headache.
          The imagination applies a
          Countervailing pressure to reality.
          Writing badly is the best revenge.

"Number is one of the creative grounds of poetry, and the idea that writing grew out of counting is the missing link in studies of the graphic in versification. It is almost uncanny that lines of verse look exactly like the most primitive ways of counting–parallel scorings that can be numbered."

          What you do to one side of the equation
          You gotta do to the other. Isolate
          The variable. Combine like terms. Metaphors
          And analogs are reduced to least common
          Denominators. Multiply through (parentheses).
          Write a new equation after each operation.
          Inscribe neatly. Check your work. Imagine
          That if you’re wrong, the astronauts burn.
          Change the signs which will avoid going
          The wrong way down the number line. Zero
          Is the middle of your universe.
          There it is, calm, comfortable as an egg
          On a spoon. That is, before possibilities
          Become probabilities. This is just
          Another equation manipulated
          With opposable digits. For at the ends
          Of your guns is the earliest calculator
          A magical machine which converts
          Numbers to words and words to numbers,
          Measures the mists, frequency and wavelength,
          Of the material penumbra.

"Verses are countable in exactly the way that token-iterative digits are countable, from either end of the sequence. Each one indicates only its singularity, not a number. Every poem in lines effaces, or predates, the distinction between writing and drawing in the same way as the lines on the Ishango bone."
www.ronnowpoetry.com

--Rothman, David, "Verse, Prose, Speech, Counting, and the Problem of Graphic Order," Versification, Vol. 1, No. 1, March 21, 1997
--Harris, Roy, The Origin of Writing, Open Court Publishing Co., 1986.
Dec 2019 · 586
My Giant
Robert Ronnow Dec 2019
Summer rain, melting Arctics
and the lipids lining the nerves
in your brain. These are the metrics
of our times. Mere resolve

is not enough to take care
along the highway—you need wheels and prayer.
When you realize there’s no there there
that’s a scary day. End there.

August, the extinction is terrifying.
Quiet, too quiet. 100% humidity but not a single insect flying.
Summer morning, summer evening, sighing
the sighs of purgatory—grief without pain, death without dying.

I’ve chosen the safety of these mountains
and the beauty of their mists—such perfection
which any man can have for the asking.
All you need to know is the names of things.

Conflict, coercion, war, strife.
Flying high in April, shot down over Germany.
Have a good day. That’s life. Fix yr brakes.
When I hit a pothole my fillings sing.

Anything’s possible, it’s impossible
to know what will happen until it’s happened.
You can’t know what you’re doing until it’s done
and even then you stare in wonder

unmoved yet moved by the stillness
a pure goodness, bone stillness, potential energy. You can practice it
in the city or the desert.
The wilderness or the mirror over your dresser.
“Travelling is a fool’s paradise. . . . My Giant goes with me wherever I go.”  --Emerson
Nov 2019 · 709
Empires and Rivers
Robert Ronnow Nov 2019
Empires and rivers, time and space, man and nature.
Yet nothing, nothing satisfies like clear sinuses and arteries.
The struggle to express and understand is seemingly futile.
Pope’s Iliad, Milton’s Paradise, Armand Schwerner’s Dante.

Chemotherapy, quatrains, everything rhymes with comedy.
Good luck saying anything useful. Solutions to the equations
Are called wave functions or orbitals. Armpits and genitals.
Three *****, two strikes, full count. First and goal. Global

Warning.
So far, a few pages into his tome, Easterbrook has one useful
Idea:  "In almost every ecological category, nature for millions of centuries has been generating worse problems than any created by people. U.S. factories, power plants and vehicles emit about 19 million tons per year of sulfur dioxide, the chief cause of acid rain. Yet in 1991, the Mount Pinatubo eruption in the Philippines emitted an estimated 30 million tons of sulfur dioxide in just a few hours. Ongoing natural processes such as volcanic outgassing and ocean chemistry put about 100 million tons of sulfur dioxide into the atmosphere annually. Nature has spent vast spans of time learning to cope with acid rain, greenhouse gases, climate change, deforestation, radiation, species loss, waste, and other problems we humans so quaintly believe ourselves hurling at the environment for the first time."
One of nature’s coping mechanisms is species extinction. As for the
      individual,

Being good or bad, rational or instinctual, violent or compassionate
Are survival strategies. The economist in you wonders
Why care about the future, the dead don’t live to see it.
Life is a river and the self is an empire. Read their poems.

Or any other mountain with a fiery *****.
Am I the only one here who is sexually aroused by certain landscapes,
      ridges like *****, gorgeous vaginas.
He wanted to get the world into his poem so he did. She wanted to know
      one person or place intimately
so she did. The substance of Easterbrook’s argument: what doesn’t **** the
      biome makes it stronger.

Being good is its own reward, but what’s good!
I can take you and you and you and you and win.
That tiny Buddha, intricately carved, among the hemlocks, near the
      stream cutting the gorge, a parallelogram of white birch bark for
      a prayer mat,
Is gone.

Did a selfish traveler or the original owner take him far?
Although he had reorganized the woods around him like Stevens’ jar
I find the woods remain organized and orderly without him.
I go home and the naming of things goes on.

"Each of the planet’s cultures is a unique answer to the question of what it means to be human. And together they make up our repertoire for dealing with the challenges that will confront our species in the millennia to come. Consider the achievements of the Polynesians. Ten centuries before Christ—at a time when European sailors, incapable of measuring longitude and fearful of the open ocean, hugged the shores of continents—the Polynesians set sail across the Pacific, a diaspora that would eventually bring them to every island from Hawaii to Rapa Nui, the Marquesas to New Zealand. They had no written word. They only knew where they were by remembering how they got there. Over the length of a long voyage the navigator had to remember every shift of wind, every change of current and speed, every impression from sea, sky and cloud. Even today Polynesian sailors, with whom I have voyaged, readily name 250 stars in the night sky. Their navigators can sense the presence of distant atolls of islands beyond the visible horizon by watching the reverberation of waves across the hull of their vessels, knowing that every island group has its own reflective pattern that can be read with the ease with which a forensic scientist reads a fingerprint. In the darkness they can discern five distinct ocean swells, distinguishing those caused by local weather disturbances from the deep currents that pulsate across the Pacific and can be followed as readily as a terrestrial explorer would follow a river to the sea."
Easterbrook, Gregg, A Moment on the Earth: The Coming Age of Environmental Optimism, Penguin Books, 1996.
--Davis, Wade, “Last of Their Kind: What Is Lost When Cultures Die?”,
Scientific American, September 2010.
Oct 2019 · 343
Soot
Robert Ronnow Oct 2019
Soot on LA highway signs. Billboard of you,
a real estate agent. All endeavor slides
toward inertia, extinction, forgetfulness.

It’s very tropical. Vegetation invades
the house unless constant inputs of joy
apply. The scientist in you feels the

great ape in you. The great ape feels
death growing wide. What about work?
I devote my present to my future existence.

In what way, in what sense
does one continue to resist. As
a dessicated cell, a mole of elements,

an ancient’s aura, a daguerreotype-like
shadow on a sidewalk, persistent headache,
paleolithic herbivore, potential energy, will.

Some wake up and pray, say thanks for
another day. Others curse their luck, stale breath,
the very thought of the rosy dawn makes them ill.

Lonely as leaf fall.
Nature knows no pity or self-pity
according to antiquity, the roof soot of the city.

I admire fire, tools and ore. Agriculture.
Cities, empire. Trading and taking (war).
Numbers, counting, writing. Libraries, discoveries, zero.

And the single-minded universe
that’s only a paper moon
without your love.
www.ronnowpoetry.com

--Harburg, Yip and Rose, Billy, "It's Only a Paper Moon", as performed by Nat King Cole, The King Cole Trio Vol 1, 1943.
Robert Ronnow Aug 2019
5 a.m. Souls ascend
from earth’s vale
of fears. Others wait
don’t give up yet.
Nothing I can do about that.

Not is my name known
but am I a good man.
That goes for John, too
a man of faith
who wants what God wants.

What about hate
in the streets. What do white
people want?
I see no need
to pull down statues of General Lee

instead put him side by side
and head to head
with Martin Luther King,
Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Gandhi.
Also kids who cops shot dead.

Meanwhile on the macro
economic and political scale
leviathans (peoples, nations)
drift toward perpetual
armageddon or peaceful solutions.

We don’t know which
and John will be gone
before it matters
except to his children
and, of course, ours.

What I have done
to change man’s trajectory,
for better or worse, remains
anonymous. Every action
meets an equal and impassable mountain.

Passion
is its own predicament.
Cast a cold eye and guess.
The clouds go, nevertheless,
in their direction.
—ending with a line by Wallace Stevens

www.ronnowpoetry.com
Jul 2019 · 926
Atman. Atman.
Robert Ronnow Jul 2019
I have no clue what Krshna taught Arjuna
but I like the name Atman a lot.
Atman. Atman. Where a man is at.
At all times. No matter what.
Gita, get in the action, gorgeous girl,
god is the answer, keep the meter.

Wisdom, none.
What Krshna tells Arjuna makes no sense.
I prefer mathematics.
Knowledge of how things are made and done
more than meditation on the Self
as a manifestation of the One.

And the poem? The poem has gone to glitten.
Only engineers it is written
can solve problems and build bridges.
I can’t fix a 2-stroke engine.
I carried four dead etheridges by handtruck
to the other end of the religion.

I’ll never have to leave this comfortable planet.
We have this asset but can we sell it?
In Paradise Lost, Satan executes his plan
but God already knows all about it.
Still, whether it succeeds or fails is up to Man.
Same here, when it comes to nuclear armaments,
a distraction from the work of making life permanent.

It is all premised on the mystery
of invisible but sentient particles—
little Krshnas and Kachinas
nesting inside one another.
Meanwhile life goes on outside all around you—
WWII, the Napoleonic wars,
the Civil War which we’re still fighting.

Krshna says behead your brothers without prejudice or justice.
So it transpires in the nuclear fire.
Whatever forever.
Is school a prison or a blessing?
Regimentation, mission. I’d like to be part of that tradition
if only as a tutor. Teacher, teacher—tiger!
--with a line by Etheridge Knight
May 2019 · 721
It’s A Bear!
Robert Ronnow May 2019
Bear’s certain
it’s a bear
alone with salmon
it’s a bear
on the mountain
it’s a bear
up a canyon
it’s a bear
eating berries
it’s a bear
sedated, carried
it’s a bear
answer, query
it’s a bear
clown or faery
it’s a bear
Robert Ronnow Mar 2019
Off the train I hit the streets
and start laughing. This is ridiculous,
incomprehensible. How can innumerable bipeds
have individual inner lives. Why are they doing
what they’re doing? I have no answer
New York City but to also go about my business
in this case prepare for surgery, survival.

But why survive with so many exact replicas
to replace me? A swarm of ants or hive of bees,
social organisms they’re called, climbing
over each other, avoiding bumping and amazingly
making way, anticipating the sudden turns
and straight paths of others, strangers but brothers,
sisters incubating, the cells of a small
*****, nodes of a single semi-conscious organism.

The concept of a higher power that cares
for me is also risible yet how else
can I explain the surgeon and his team,
robots and magnetic resonance imaging machines,
all primed and trained to save my life.
They are not particularly interested in what
I do with my time. I am immediately
in love with the Irish brogue of the head nurse,

the Indian skin of the physician’s assistant.
The long extraordinarily thin
fingers of the famous surgeon. All
mine to savor (and the other cancer patients).
Back on the streets, rush to the train.
So many women to choose from! One Asian-American,
a dancer I imagine, stands out, tall
calm, still, graceful. No cell, no hair, no hurry.

Yesterday’s suicidal thoughts: the mind
is a clever servant, insufferable master. Therefore,
meditate on this: absolute need, dependence on the Other.
I still like Hombre, The Shootist and Ulzana’s Raid
but realize those dead heroes
were subordinate to society: the gun manufacturers who armed them.
Thus, I go for cancer tests, accepting, not predicting results.
Hero accepting help.

A torrential rain following five days of flooding,
tornadoes out west busting up wooden towns
all because too many of us are hoarding plastic, herding electrons.
None of us know how it will end, what the outcome will be
(of our surgery). The best that can be said
is Don’t forget to breathe. And you might
as well believe in that higher power.
www.ronnowpoetry.com

--title from a tune by Billy Strayhorn
Feb 2019 · 3.8k
TED Talk
Robert Ronnow Feb 2019
Biology TED talk, Ken Burns WWII
Multiple choice plus open response =
Teacher cares, out there among the English
Mathematics, fractions to imaginary i

Anything can happen any time, I mean
Mass killing--public school, movie theater,
Post office when every mother wears a gun
Yet happiness permeates like CO2 + sunlight

Photosynthesis + electricity = burning bush
Hot tea, hot shower pleasure perfect rest
Early to bed, no more lies, complexity
Poetry about history, i.e. Wolfowitz

As for non-fiction, most things qualify to know
Astrobiology, search for LUCA, FLO
Minerals on Titan, organisms on Enceladus
Divination on Iapetus, peace on Earth and Tethys

Volcanoes and tsunamis, Big Red One and Private Ryan
Don't stay up late, take your vitamins
Sin and crime being nothing more than
Mental malaise, imbalance. Love and compromise

Tolerance, practice worksheets, brilliance
Prejudice and superstition, Tha's a wrap
Nothin doin, ain't gonna happen, freedom's when
Yes is mostly a blessing and No is always an option
www.ronnowpoetry.com
Jan 2019 · 1.6k
On Suffering
Robert Ronnow Jan 2019
I waited too long
to mow my lawn
biopsy my lung
yet lived long enough
however long is long.
Whatever. It's not wrong
to count along
while busy living. Sing
and stay strong
absorb the sun's photons
and store them in your bones.

Those bones
outlast slights and wrongs
are white as lightning and strong
as sticks and stones.
Inside is one's
spirit, soul, the nameless one
the one that's never known.
It has no cell phone
can't communicate or even moan.
Therefore. Why complain?
Have some fun.

Soon
I'll be undone
underground
my garden burned down.
So what. John Donne
died and so did Milton.
Emerson too, and Whitman.
Get over it. Vote. Love. When
the train comes in the station
whistle with it, wish on
stars with passion
or careful hesitation.
Anything's fine, within reason.

Season by season
things get done.
Algebra and calculus, Malcolm X, George Washington.
No taxation
without representation.
A gun
in every den.
People will be governed
one way or another, by a king
or trusted friend. Corporation.
Men
are more disposed to suffer, while Evils are sufferable,
than to right themselves by abolishing the Evils to which they are accustomed.

I'm too young
to die! I cry. My generation
cannot outrun the sun
but I want to see what happens
next, a tsunami or tornado, rain
and wind beyond our comprehension
hit in the head by speeding debris, irony
of ironies! plastic contraptions,
rotting computers and yogurt cups,
pain in the baby! Moment's
notice. None,
I notice,
live long
enough to see the end. A billion

years hence
human sense
has so modified and mutated under
some other sun
we share one mind
and everything's remembered by everyone.
Look it up. There is no death, just perfect rest. A perfect tan
is possible, and work is fun.
I'm going there when I pass on
because souls will travel at warp speeds, using nuclear fission.
About suffering, superstition
was right (and wrong) all along.
www.ronnowpoetry.com

--U.S. Declaration of Independence
Sep 2018 · 911
Wetland Song
Robert Ronnow Sep 2018
The April morning's quiet
and so is the November.
Wherever people outnumber trees
or the dominant cover type
is unquiet. Nothing wrong with that.
Walt got it right, and Jane Jacobs:
the city is an experienced,
used beauty. Her toes are long,
nails thick and hair thin. Yet
her kisses can be sweet; or
smell of ****. All my life I've tried to point my window toward
some narrow wedge of nature.
On ****** Ave., over the roof
beyond the chimney to the park
where every dog was walked.
Could I survive soot and an air shaft now, pigeons and cats,
or even a desk in the legislature for my lot in life. How about
prison like Etheridge Knight,
Nazim Hikmet?
I've gotten soft.
When he builds that house in the pocket
wetland my window now looks out on,
the developer will have given me what I need.
Amphibian mortality,
gravel, fill,
oak, ash and maples felled. Good
to the last drop is our bitterness, our love.
www.ronnowpoetry.com
Aug 2018 · 580
Rules for Old Men Waiting
Robert Ronnow Aug 2018
Jack awoke in his usual pain, un-
daunted by it. We're all gonna die
someday is his morning mantra these days.
Isolate the variable, anything
you do to one side of the equation
you gotta do to the other. Practice
zen, eat less, an empty belly's holy.
These are the rules for old men waiting.

On the other hand, attachment to self
and to things to do. Clean the house, watch for war.
Count syllables, teach English to immigrants
from Slovakia or Syria.
Advocate vocational education
in the schools. Jack has much to do, a new
administration, low social security.
He goes slow as the day will allow.
--title from a novel by Peter Pouncey
Jun 2018 · 456
The Shape of Jazz to Come
Robert Ronnow Jun 2018
Is war coming? Are we headed for another crazy cataclysm?
My sons, draft age. Only now can I appreciate the pain
so sharp it drains the color from one's eyes, your reason
for living gone in a spasm of violence to be forgotten
never by survivors. This fear could become real as no movie
is surreal enough to distract attention from the certainty
you did not do enough to deflect man's trajectory.

All could be well in the end but history portends
a periodic bloodletting followed by a quietus
without mercy. What's the best that can be said:
he died beside his friends and buddies. Steady
on to your own inquest and rest. A perfect rest
that improves upon the inadequacy of your efforts.
What solace can be found in the remains of marriage.

So you better fight back now even if that means
war comes sooner. At least you're fighting back, but how?
Take a minute to meditate on purpose. Science
cannot save you, neither can religion. Abstaining
from violence with love, letting prisoners go, detaining
no one at the border, inviting Chinese and Russian
scientists to our shores, defusing your own anger before it detonates,

none may be enough to save your sons.
A war president needs war, whatever. A trained
and deadly warfighter. You become what history wants
you to become. You survive if you're lucky, if not
so what, your old parents will be alive only briefly to mourn.
Then they too go to their good graves and the pain dies down.
In the meantime a new generation builds a new space station.

Since the vortex will be ******* up the poor,
let's not let the rich escape untouched. All go down
together, no one hoards gold or gets away with fiction.
If we have to fight let's make sure we fight as one,
the sons of the rich side by side with the poor's sons
and their daughters. You want slaughter? Then
let every city and back road know the new order.

I would rather watch Lalaland ten times over than have
to write this poem. I can leave home and live
in a tent or bunkhouse, eat dinner out of a tin cup
and drink water from a wooden bowl, give up
music and most of my memories to save my sons,
to save the world and avoid this war.
But that rarely happens. One is lost and found in what happens.
www.ronnowpoetry.com

--title from a recording by Ornette Coleman
May 2018 · 917
Chainsaw Certified
Robert Ronnow May 2018
I'm dead. Unlike Frost and Yeats
nothing I've said will be remembered.
Unlike Roosevelt and Lincoln
nothing I'm thinking will win the war.

I'm going to go to my grave unsung
like almost everyone. These mountains
are my grave. A good grave
to go to. There's no such thing

as being saved. When you're gone
you're done. At least 60 million
people don't believe it, don't believe
in evolution. Man, that ape,

can heap a peck of hurt posthaste
with earth movers and machine guns.
Information technology
cannot save your soul, heck,

I've tried. Every morning
I total the polloi
coming to my site for wisdom.
The number's usually zero.

A good number to know.
When my heart fibrillates
I lay my head
against my sleeping wife.

Solace, comfort. She says,
Take your pill, fool.
In an hour at most
I'm feeling great again!
www.ronnowpoetry.com
Apr 2018 · 10.2k
City of Hope
Robert Ronnow Apr 2018
What a city I murmur to myself looking at its map.
We approached the city known as Dis,
with its vast army and its burdened citizens.
At last we reached the moats
dug deep around the dismal city.
What destroys the poetry of a city?
Automobiles destroy it,
and they destroy more than the poetry.
Dante and Virgil chased by 7 or 8 dangerous devils
Grumpy, Happy, Sneezy, Sleepy, ***** . . .
Our heroes reduced from metaphysical philosophers
interested in god and what man has done to man
to improvising primitive tools for survival.
Hope abandoned, we rate our chances of expiring
in the nuclear fire – excellent –
during the decline of western civilization.

On the other hand, I hope
our current problems are only temporary
and it’s just a matter of time before
the public ignores the 24-hour news cycle.
Bad news sells but the good life’s all around us.
One feels love and devotion
even for the 60 million who voted for our opponent.
Vaclav Havel said with a wisdom well beyond brilliance:
“Either we have hope within us or we don’t.
It is a dimension of the soul, and it’s not dependent
on some particular observation of the world or estimate of the situation.
It is an orientation of the spirit, an orientation of the heart
that transcends the world as it’s immediately experienced.
It is not the conviction that something will turn out well,
but the certainty that something makes sense
no matter how it turns out.”

It resembles grief. But it's not quite grief. I'll give you grief.
Certain days planned to be eventful I look forward to for weeks.
Let the peaceful transfer of power proceed. The sorrow and the pity.
Never may the anarchic man find rest at my hearth.
When the laws are kept, how proudly the city stands!
When the laws are broken, what of the city then?
We are moving through some allegory between a City of Hope,
where history has been abolished, and a City of History,
where hope can be slipped in only as contraband.
Failing to achieve understanding, we're searching
outer space for an entity to unite us as humanity.
That person, or city, is consciousness.
Two ancient female poets are a revelation,
the clarity of their complaints: lost lover, lost city.
Our enemy eventually becomes our brother,
his misery lifted by coming to her city.
www.ronnowpoetry.com

--Dante Alighieri, The Divine Comedy, The Inferno, Canto VIII, Italian, trans. Robert Hollander & Jean Hollander, Anchor Books, 2000.
--Ferlinghetti, Lawrence, Poetry Flash, November 1998
--Havel, Vaclav, Disturbing the Peace: A Conversation with Karel Huizdala, Vintage Books, 1991.
--Iyer, Pico, The Man Within My Head, Vintage Books, 2013
--Sophocles, Antigone, Greek, trans. Dudley Fitts & Robert Fitzgerald from The Oedipus Cycle: An English Version, Harcourt Brace & Co., 1939.
Mar 2018 · 730
Lonely Bagel
Robert Ronnow Mar 2018
Lonely bagel
Loneliness bagel
The bagel of loneliness

Togetherness bagel
The bagel of being together
Bagel of belonging
www.ronnowpoetry.com
Feb 2018 · 457
Numerous Blue Notes
Robert Ronnow Feb 2018
Sitting, trying to write, nothing
comes to me. Nothing is what it'll have to be.
Over the weekend and immediately
following the election demonstrations in the streets,
Not my president! But today is Monday
back to work and the business of business in America.
Never have we been fierce warriors.
Rhett Butler got that right: in any confrontation
with the state a platoon of new recruits
with automatic weapons outguns the stately
samurai. Ken and I were eating veggie
burgers and drinking local beers over worries
our fellow Americans will soon start shooting
Jews and Asians, lesbians and disabled veterans
whoever's recommended on the news.
There's a learning curve to disregarding tweets
and the remedies offered on facebook. Our refusal
to be more than the sum of ourselves
is our saving grace. Therefore, let
the peaceful transfer of power proceed.
Democracy doesn't guarantee smart choices,
just a chance to correct the mistakes we'll make.
Jan 2018 · 577
Motel Room
Robert Ronnow Jan 2018
Motel room, U.S. map made of license plates
everything I need for a week is here, king-
size bed, microwave, fridge, tv, hot plate
the carpet's pretty clean, the bathroom baptized
and there are two mirrors in which to imagine
myself, to analyze and idolize.
WiFi, no Elizabethan inn,
in a century when we fear nuclear war
and we're warned against the shock of fast changes,
the door sports three locks though nothing dangerous
could happen in a town like this, named for spring
water found by thirsty desert travelers.
My home for a week living alone, contained
safe from the elements, roar of airplanes.
Dec 2017 · 570
Insignificance
Robert Ronnow Dec 2017
Late in life I struggle against my insignificance
When I should enjoy the freedom from performance before an audience.
Applause is happiness but if they withhold applause, embarrassment.
When Da Liu put me to work crunching hexagrams and spreadsheet
      numerology
Instead of ghost writing his books about T'ai Chi for longevity
I was humiliated but freed. No need to interpret
The Chinese master's wisdom or endure his disapproval.
All this happened in an apartment on 110th St. when I lived on 111th.
I wonder if Da Liu lived to 100 like he predicted. Pop Pop
Didn't make it. So be it. Ken got me that job, old friend Ken
Who goes back all the way past high school to Thompson Junior High.
Tomorrow we're eating pizza together in Troy.
We'll remember Da Liu and also the painter and sculptor who had a
      room
In our apartment on 111th and a dog so intelligent it could walk off the
      leash
On the crowded streets of New York without an altercation, and Zach
      Sklar
Of course, journalist, communist and jazz afficionado
Who listened to Jo Jones and Paul Quinichette, Count Basie's men,
Often as possible at the West End.
Back then I was playing the streets for quarters, not much more
Than that sculptor's dog, the sculptor's name I wanna say
Was Mike Johnson and he was a man of few words and many women.
We had a major cockroach problem in that apartment on 111th St.
And I also remember the ceiling leaked in Ken's room and he
Did battle against the landlord, helped form a tenant's association.
We were young and blind as newborn mice, puppies or roaches
We went to our daily disciplines like children of paradise or Da Liu who
      was already old.

When we meet for pizza and talk it will be hard to hear now that I'm deaf
In one ear. Ken, whose name means knowledge, has trouble seeing
      faces.
To want to be famous is a silly goal for a man almost old as Da Liu.
Not the right motivation. Much better to look slowly, labor
For the success and happiness of others.
I'm still avoiding the deeper question. Which is what? Cultivate
An acceptance of nature (including the biomass in the crosswalks)
And know the names of all the grasses. Much to learn about molecules,
Still trying to make sense on the trumpet. What's Ken doing lately?
He's retired from teaching. Is he spending his time reading?
So today I ordered Da Liu's books, maybe the ones I worked on,
Because they offer assistance to others for further living.
Service to others, that's the key, or conversely,
I pleasure in and treasure my insignificance, the autumn I
Realized my insignificance, it ought to be a great comfort
To be so insignificant, being knowledgeable is the best defense against
Your insignificance, it does not put me in mind of the species'
      insignificance,
Exiled or sidelined to an insignificant role, a valued
Member of our community or so insignificant no one notices
Or cares, insignificant and mighty happenings
Seem the same from my vantage aging gratefully, inexorably,
A way to learn your insignificance, freedom to have never been.
www.ronnowpoetry.com
Nov 2017 · 21.1k
Jack's Time Out
Robert Ronnow Nov 2017
What luxury to get mad
about last night's basketball loss
and watch the full moon descending
at the speed the earth turns.

Things could get worse
personally and for the community.
Bombings, killings, anomie
boiling frogs and witches cursing.

The changing climate,
typhoons in the Philippines,
volcanoes and tsunamis, WWII which I missed,
Thanksgiving nor'easter, Easter twister.

What abundance to fast or feast,
your choice, stay inside by the stove
or go outside, climb the mountainside.
Live in a city or small town.

So I raged at the coaches
for their lazy zone defense
like an alien in the bleachers
unable to affect the outcome.

When my sons came home
I yelled at them too. What opulence
to be angry about nothing of consequence
neither stopped by the cops nor slipped on the ice.
www.ronnowpoetry.com
Oct 2017 · 591
I can clean. I can drive.
Robert Ronnow Oct 2017
Plenty of sleep, no more tv, the wars in the Middle East
are resource wars, disguised as religious debates.
So Dad would say.

A beautiful winter day, hunting
season. A Gun In Every Home, in light of U.S. mass shootings
seems an irresponsible poem. 10K clicks

most popular poem on line, NRA enthusiasts and conservative
talk show hosts quoting it. Not really, no worries, poetry
makes nothing happen. Which is something, magic.

               *                     *                     *

I wonder if I'll have to someday defend that poem,
as in a Russian or Chinese show trial, Salem witch trial,
McCarthy anti-American committee or a college
political correctness safety hearing. Oh well.

What does it mean? Doc Wiseman says that's not how we decide
things in this country, lynching and chasing people with dogs.
You'd think twice about bombing Iran if Iran had the bomb.
Assume a defensive posture.

I've been reading Walzer's
Just and Unjust Wars, much like explaining how to tie your shoes,
or teaching an artificial intelligence to walk, talk
and think about God.

               *                     *                     *

The citizenry doesn't need weaponry sufficient to win a war,
just enough to give pause during its normal pursuit of pleasure
(hunting deer on a beautiful, clear winter morning).

Hunting and gathering and agriculture, local and small
or these almonds I'm eating from California's Imperial
Valley and all the water it took to grow 'em.

Slowly
          drip irrigation
                               takes hold.

Technologies
such as the Anasazi and other aborigines used are uploaded
for sustainable survival.

Much good goes with the bad,
school shootings with school science shows, art shows and
      Shakespeare's plays.
How to stop the unhappiness of ISIS

those lonesome souls from interfering with the evolution
of the species? With love. What did Christ mean
(and what did Wallace Stevens mean by imagination)?

               *                     *                     *

Accept (but contain).
Trust (but verify). Ha ha! Reagan was a pretty funny guy.
It must bother a president, a regular fellow who'll pack his suitcase and
      go back
to Iowa when his term is up, to know he's ordered the death
of a janitor on the night shift at a nuclear reprocessing plant
in a proportional response to a mullah's anger. Jurors

in the trial of Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev
have sentenced him to death. For his role in killing four people
and wounding hundreds more. There was no visible reaction
from Tsarnaev, 21, in the quiet courtroom.
Justice. In his own words "an eye for an eye."
Survivor Jared Clowery said he was happy not to have had to make the
      choice between life and death himself but he stands behind the jury's
      decision.

"There's nothing happy about having to take someone's life."
Good people without guilt or gloating. Yet
my thought was now we must forego the possibility of knowing
this young man's mind. There's still time to ask him questions
as in Dead Man Walking. To understand is to love
requiring the patience of the scientific method.

               *                     *                     *

Yesterday's single greatest joy
was solving the equation
T = 2π(r3/GMe)½
for Haley's comet orbiting
the sun.

And sitting in the sun
on a winter day.
Sep 2017 · 745
Homework
Robert Ronnow Sep 2017
Moby ****, geometry, physics.
Study every subject everyday.
Homework is an indicator of future success.
Success is not necessarily happiness but it helps.
Freedom is to formulate your own definition of success.
Happiness is an imaginary tree, its own reward, and a fact.
Facts and fiction may be memorialized in memos or found in dreams.
The story starts thus: Each summer the honeysuckles and the
      huckleberries . . .
The web is that extra brain we've all been dreaming of having.
Like jumping 4 meters or flying without a plane.
To fly like that must one first have homework?
Some say yes, some say don't. It depends on how you vote.
Happiness is what happens when everything that happens
Fits the time perfectly and it's all out of your hands.
Not exactly. You don't let go of the steering wheel while driving fast in
      the passing lane.
You look left and right and check your blind spots.
Homework is an introduction to everything you're not
And all you do not know. It's supposed to help you learn to know where
      you want to go before going where you have to go.
Otherwise you end up on Ulzana's raid
Bleeding, without a bandaid.
All the achievement in the world won't relieve your loneliness
Or satisfy your ****** longing. What girls are like behind their eyes.
Survival, procreation. That's all there is to love.
But the loved one is the one who can be trusted with your life.
Whether Christ or your wife. The Muslim moms.
On my walk in the woods I come to a sitting spot
Above a small gorge cut by a stream through hemlocks.
Here someone has left a statuette of the Buddha and the flags you see
Flapping in the wind at sky funerals.
This is a pretty good place to sit quietly and think about homework.
Aug 2017 · 538
Blue Grama Grass
Robert Ronnow Aug 2017
How to break an addiction. Decide to live.
What can I learn from my pain. Danger.
And friends are merely friendly, live on independent
of your injury. You will not be missed in church on Sunday.

Grass. ****, broccoli, burrito, stink, ***, skunk.
I'm talking blue grama, upland bent, smooth brome,
riverside panic, wild rye, fowl meadow, spike muhly,
sweet vernal, salt marsh, bristly foxtail, little bluestem.

****** is unhealthy, opens lesions in the brain,
wormholes into hell, yet should be legal. I'll vote that way.
It may ease the pathos into non-existence
well as meditation, bird watching, last will and testament.

Each joint hurts, rib joints, spine joints, skull plate joints.
The head and hip and heart will hurt, all three.
Insomniac I like the way bones crack and clack like
wooden wind chimes, an untuned piano, a tree rack of wornout
      shoes.

Never forget, the mind is the body paying attention
to what it does. Without that connection, each finger bent
or toe smashed is just added to the collection
of anonymous body parts of holocaust victims

in their mass graves. Better when every life saved
or lost is a front page story, an illusion of shared
sacrifice or joy, but that expresses only the surface
of our emotions. I'm mostly relieved to have survived.
www.ronnowpoetry.com
Jul 2017 · 769
In the Singularity
Robert Ronnow Jul 2017
In the singularity
perfectly good poems
are being written by laughing
and crying machines
washing machines and dryers
about their daily tasks
and ambivalences
which will be indistinguishable
from those of future
farmers and philosophers.

In the singularity
evolution can be said
to be the master sorter of data
as in the factories
of the suns
where protons are smashed together
and unusual weather patterns
make consciousness a candidate
interesting for its complete dependence
on the substrate of the brain and body.

In the singularity
everything anyone once did
always remains current
as if invented yesterday
for an immediate purpose
such as curing cancer
although that may be unnecessary
to achieving immortality
i.e. the happiness one feels
the day before thanksgiving.
www.ronnowpoetry.com
Jul 2017 · 475
To Go On
Robert Ronnow Jul 2017
If you see a hawk
on a bough at field's edge
beyond the corner you should have turned
maybe it's a sign to go on.

Such as during an improvisation on
Flamingo or I've Got You Under My Skin
you play in the wrong key or mode completely
maybe it's a sign to go on, in the wrong key.

Or when my sons cry not wanting
to be alone, I'm upstairs writing
or just enjoying trees in every direction
it too may be a sign to go on alone.
www.ronnowpoetry.com
Jun 2017 · 956
The Master Algorithm
Robert Ronnow Jun 2017
.
                              Some say the scientific method
                              Is the ultimate algorithm and others
                              Prefer prayer.

For symbolists, all intelligence can be reduced to manipulating symbols, in the same way that a mathematician solves equations by replacing expressions by other expressions. Symbolists understand that you can't learn from scratch: you need some initial knowledge to go with the data. They've figured out how to incorporate pre-existing knowledge into learning, and how to combine different pieces of knowledge on the fly in order to solve new problems. Their master algorithm is inverse deduction, which figures out what knowledge is missing in order to make a deduction go through, and then makes it as general as possible.

                              Tea
                    ­          In its simplicity
                              Can sustain concentration

For connectionists, learning is what the brain does, and so what we need to do is reverse engineer it. The brain learns by adjusting the strengths of connections between neurons, and the crucial problem is figuring out which connections are to blame for which errors and changing them accordingly. The connectionists' master algorithm is back propagation, which compares a system's outputs with the desired one and then successively changes the connections in layer after layer of neurons so as to bring the output closer to what it should be.

                              Hungry and cold
                              A holy condition
                              A warrior's position in the world
                              
Evolutionaries believe that the mother of all learning is natural selection. If it made us, it can make anything, and all we need to do is simulate it on the computer. The key problem that evolutionaries solve is learning structure: not just adjusting parameters, like back propagation does, but creating the brain that these adjustments can then fine-tune. The evolutionaries' master algorithm is genetic programming, which mates and evolves computer programs in the same way that nature mates and evolves organisms.

                              Arithmetic
            ­                  A good ****'s the metric
                              Of a dying man

Bayesians are concerned above all with uncertainty. All learned knowledge is uncertain, and learning itself is a form of uncertain inference. The problem then becomes how to deal with noisy, incomplete, and even contradictory information without falling apart. The solution is probabilistic inference, and the master algorithm is Bayes' theorem and its derivatives. Bayes' theorem tell us how to incorporate new evidence into our beliefs, and probabilistic inference algorithms do that as efficiently as possible.

                              I can't believe
                              I won't live forever, therefore,
                              I invented an afterlife to supplement reincarnation

For analogizers, the key to learning is recognizing similarities between situations and thereby inferring other similarities. If two patients have similar symptoms, perhaps they have the same disease. The key problem is judging how similar two things are. The analogizers' master algorithm is the support vector machine, which figures out which experiences to remember and how to combine them to make new predictions.

                              Prepare for a powerful anesthesia
                              Chemical processes irresistible
                              A good and perfect rest
www.ronnowpoetry.com

--Domingos, Pedro, The Master Algorithm: How the Quest for the Ultimate Learning Machine Will Remake Our World, Basic Books, 2015.
May 2017 · 3.5k
Out of Emptiness
Robert Ronnow May 2017
Out of emptiness comes this:
Purposes as incomprehensible and wonderful as these purposes
Either you had no purpose or the purpose is beyond the end

Because the timepiece not only serves a purpose, it is adapted to that
      purpose
Except it was a secret purpose
The world is a mental activity, a dream of souls, without foundation,
      purpose, weight or shape

People in collective idleness are even more repellent than when
      purpose motivates them
God, glass, my townspeople! For what purpose?
His purpose and mine is to catch photons and store them in our
      bones

Lately I have thought about our war and its purpose
To have a season for every purpose, Ecclesiastes was right about
      that
Languages of mammals, purposes of insects, placement of rocks

They purpose nothing but to multiply and die urgently beating east to
      sunrise and the sea
Having died, as such, I find I do not mind quiet living with the
      purpose of a cell
Stately purposes, valor in battle, glorious annals of army and fleet,
      death for the right cause

My friend who is counselor to kings and presidents doesn't worry
      about purpose
To what purpose, April, do you return again?
Not to say there is no purpose necessarily, just I don't immediately
      get it

The purpose of sitting is not to be satisfied or satiated
Use of violence by the local militia for a limited purpose, protect the
      young from the janjaweed, the crop from the ****
The knight, the penitent misses last assessment of life's purpose,
      babbling for God to appear

I mean your entire purpose should be living. You must take living
      seriously.
Sleep with a purpose
Lose all purpose beyond ******, child *** and food hording

Proof that there's a purpose set before the secret working mind
Having purposefully expunged from it every trace of emotion
What is relevant for our present purpose is counting is associated
      with primitive forms of writing

Unable to assess the purpose of the battle
Desperate for new fetuses to teach purposeful workmanlike killing
He will live with the question What was our purpose?

Organize the unemployed, the welfare mothers and alcoholics into a
      flying chevron of purposeful explorers
If we are not at home in the world, contributing purpose, we lose our
      desire to stay here--and we die
Their corners sharp, their lines exact, as if their purpose was to show
      the plane geometry of snow

That's when everything becomes clear. Purpose v. purposelessness
      matters less.
My strong heart I abandon to its own purpose
Lonely physics, national purpose

This then is the purpose of purposelessness (and of eating less)!
A shape less recognizable each week, a purpose more obscure
That is the purpose of poetry. Gargoyle twice.

For the distant purposes of Henry Ford
The purpose of school is to introduce us to the world's innumerable
      wonders
The men who left the machine have started their own business, a
      new endeavor by which they will keep warm and purposeful

The purpose of poetry is to remind us how difficult it is to remain just
      one person
Let Greece then know my purpose I retain, nor vex with new treaties
      my peace in vain,
And shake the purpose of my soul no more
www.ronnowpoetry.com

--Eliot, T.S., "Little Gidding", Four Quartets, 1942
--Deutsch, David, The Beginning of Infinity, Viking Press, 2011
--Chasar, Mike, "Conches on Christmas", Poetry, The Poetry Foundation, September, 2005.
--Borges, Jorge Luis, "Break of Day", Spanish, trans. Stephen Kessler, Selected Poems, ed. Alexander Coleman, Viking Penguin, 1999.
--Petri, Gyorgy, "Gratitude", Hungarian, trans. Clive Wilmer & George Gomori, Eternal Monday: New and Selected Poems, Bloodaxe Books, 2000.
--Williams, William Carlos, "Tract", The Collected Poems of William Carlos Williams, New Directions Publishing, 1938.
--Amichai, Yehuda, "A Man in His Life", Hebrew, trans. Chana Bloch, The Selected Poetry of Yehuda Amichai, Newly Revised and Expanded Edition, University of California Press, 1996.
--Lowell, Robert, "Mr. Edwards and the Spider", Collected Poems, Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2007.
--Tennyson, Alfred, Lord , "Vastness".
--Millay, Edna St. Vincent, "Spring", Collected Poems Edna St. Vincent Millay, Harper & Row, 1956.
--Hikmet, Nazim, "On Living", Turkish, trans. Deniz Perin, The Ecco Anthology of International Poetry, Ecco Books, 2010.
--Matthews, William, "Homer's Seeing-Eye Dog", Selected Poems and Translations: 1969-1991, Mariner Books, 1992.
--Yeats, William Butler, "Under Ben Bulben", The Collected Poems of W.B. Yeats, The Macmillan Company, 1956.
--Borges, Jorge Luis, "Everything and Nothing", Spanish, trans. Kenneth Krabbenhoft, Selected Poems, ed. Alexander Coleman, Viking Penguin, 1999.
--Harris, Roy, The Origin of Writing, Open Court Publishing Co., 1986.
--Zukav, Gary, The Seat of the Soul, Free Press, 1990.
--Francis, Robert, "Old Roofs", Robert Francis: Collected Poems, 1936-1976, University of Massachusetts Press, 1985.
--Olds, Sharon, "The Race", Strike Sparks, Alfred A. Knopf, 2004.
--Larkin, Philip, "Church Going", Collected Poems, Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2004.
--Levine, Philip, "You Can Have It", New Selected Poems, Alfred A. Knopf, 1994.
--Milosz, Czeslaw, "Ars Poetica?", Polish, trans. Czeslaw Milosz & Lillian Vallee, New and Collected Poems, The Ecco Press, 2003.
--Homer, The Iliad, IX & XIV, Greek, trans. Alexander Pope, Penguin Books, 1996.
Apr 2017 · 977
Antifragility
Robert Ronnow Apr 2017
In last night's movie, a young writer
and an older, married with children French woman
fall in love. They did not meet during a village massacre
and money is no object, Manhattan
the place I was priced out of. But after everything has happened
she cannot leave her children, not even for love, because of love,
the love that brooks no serendipity.

Here, in my family, love is taken for granted
except when it's withdrawn and then even the trees lose all meaning,
familiarity. Now it is almost dawn:
this and that must get done in committee or alone.
Don't reach, go slow as the day will allow.
But that's not what I came to say.
Perfect rest v. having a destiny.

A complete breakdown in self-discipline.
It begins by saying nothing I do matters under the eye of eternity.
Hamlet x 5 centuries.
Add to that all the science--chemistry, physics--calculus and music
I don't know. I have sat next to, at weddings,
brain surgeons and robot engineers. I hit the street
choosing a church on Fifth Ave. or Trinity Cemetery, walking the
      heartless city.

In the subsequent late night movie, a wealthy
altruistic doctor arranges for the ******
of his neurotic concubine. His guilt provides us
with an opportunity to consider
the concepts of faith and forgiveness, that all will be well in the end
after a period of meaningless suffering.
In this way the seasons have been circulating for eons via convexity.

I don't know what I'm doing but I'm doing it anyway.
You trust in genetics, God, prosthetics or prayer, whatever
gets you to the morning. That's when the sun,
a billion trillion nuclear detonations per second
warms your bones.
You may remember an old lover who's gone before
or continues to exist on another plane, in another ecstasy.

Having installed a new toilet seat
and made a few philanthropic donations
I can kick back tonight and watch movies, right?
Not. I'm ridding myself of another addiction
like illegal drugs via caloric restrictions
getting enough sleep for two people or more
and reading none of the dry words in books from the library.

When there's nothing to do, when I'm bored or dreary
I'll sit still and watch from the window, I'll wait
for the weather to change, which it will.
"The relation between fragility, convexity, and sensitivity to disorder is mathematical."  --Nassim Nicholas Taleb, Antifragile: Things That Gain From Disorder, Random House, 2012.

www.ronnowpoetry.com
Robert Ronnow Mar 2017
Beautiful summer day. You know you're gonna die
that's why you know no joy.
Obsessed with self, there is no answer
unless religion, tv, stories, sports matter.
So what if nothing rhymes and I don't
bring my life into an expressible state
or fight purposelessness, anomie. No one writes.
Running the gauntlet alone. A good day to die, the Apaches say.

For men like us dying's easy, it's living that's hard.
And since dying's much like living, that's hard too.
There's some contentment in letting community decide
your place in it. We're not talking to you.
Really, it's a perfect day. Every leaf is out
that's coming out. The grass is high
and unidentified yet another year. Being knowledgeable
is the best defense against your insignificance.

Can't stop the quince from blossoming
or my sons from smoking, speeding.
The best that can be done or said's a blessing.
Less tv, less guessing
about the effects of your anger unless
you want to be an angry man forever.
Coming from the funeral with friends,
talking on the telephone. OK about being alone.

Alive, almost sure of it. Whether I'm a visitor
to my life or the actual owner.
Mature poets steal, most are masturbators.
This house could use a good cleaning,
dusting for ghosts. I should subscribe
to the local newspaper, do my job well,
do less until one thing's done well.
What would that be? Old, and yet so young.

There are a million poets, I'm poet #500K.
Plenty of mysteries, infinite philosophies,
prayers, laws and unwritten rules.
That's why we go to school, life's complicated.
All I do not know: ATP, probabilities,
the glorious revolution, meiosis and mitosis
and all I'll never see, the bottom of the ocean,
the palm at the end of the mind, a wolverine.

There are certain indicators, undeniable,
inexorable. Forget-me-not, is that all I want?
To get lucky, you gotta be careful first.
To be great, you gotta be willing to sound BAD.
Although we cannot make the sun stand still
yet will we make him run. Brave revelers.
Signed engagement letter attached.
Attachment to self and to things to do.
--with a line by Andrew Marvell

www.ronnowpoetry.com
Feb 2017 · 612
Exponential Decay Function
Robert Ronnow Feb 2017
Spring is in its prime again
each leaf beautiful
much is edible
birds and peepers are musical at dawn.

The days walk slowly
toward Utah and Italy.
My left nut hurts.
Joy overwrites death.

Well, well. You're well
alone in your brain
only a negligible fraction
escaping as words and actions.

Every leaf that's coming out
is out. Including the self
to the west and south
a golem, mandragon, an elf.

Aaron was stacking
the last of last year's
firewood. He found
a spotted salamander--

Ambystoma maculatum--
Big mouth--hidden
under the final log
with a worm and centipede for a meal.

I exclaimed Rare species!
but it's common, fossorial
lives in moist woods
under cemetery stones and memorials.

Eats earthworms,
snails, slugs
insect larvae
and adult beetles.

One more season and one more after that.
Your last words will be reticent or reckless
as your earliest efforts
at divination and the scientific method.
www.ronnowpoetry.com
Jan 2017 · 4.1k
Long As You're Living
Robert Ronnow Jan 2017
Quiet morning.
Successful surgery.

No tv!
Watch weather.

Do nothing.
Be nameless.

Suppose cows.
Scare crows.

Harmless habits.
Armless robot.

Like a delusion.
A late night movie.

Expect to forget
and be forgotten. Information.

Interstate.
Toilet seat.

How soon after cryogenesis
can one cry or *******?
www.ronnowpoetry.com

--title from a tune by Tommy Turrentine
May 2016 · 941
A Job in the Garden of Eden
Robert Ronnow May 2016
In a strong marriage, a long marriage
much cannot be said, should not be said.
The spots on one's skin will be wisely ignored.
Differences of opinion are tolerated, not debated.

Your memories may disappoint your partner
as not those she has selected, refracted.
Over dinner for two at the Mill on the Floss
it could be dangerous to compare wills, losses.

Or it might result in belly laughs, Shakespearean
revelations, the night he got us lost in the woods
or she peed her pants at a party. The marriage was Faustian,
in a good way, like going to a job in the Garden of Eden.

Having survived 25 years, knowing 50's impossible,
what else do we know? Raised 2 boys, painted 3 houses.
www.ronnowpoetry.com

--for Peg on our 25th
Robert Ronnow Apr 2016
Which is it: you can't get started unless
you're riding some current bigger than your reporting voice
or the best time to write is when you don't have much to say
and without plenty to say about everything you'll get better right
      away.

Form is very often a betrayal of reality.
Although we are initially drawn to poems by their passion and
      urgency,
we are convinced by the formal means invented
for their impelling motives. Every accidental crack or dent.


Not just mildly disquieted but actively repelled,
running for the River Styx, the doors of Hell pell mell,
there must be a crack, deep and unmendable, in the poet
that the poet must forever try to mend. Or not.

While mortal poets imitate, immortal poets steal.
That's plagiarism. Fortunately the public feels
less strongly about poetry than television,
communism and aging gracefully through meditation.

Now I'm being silly. My silly indefatigable lusting,
silly sadness, silly arguing and silly trusting.
All I do not know about our nation's history, wars
and what showering the people you love with love does.

Ransacking apothegms, algorithms
and selling the loot as memes,
dissemblings. Bearing fardels
with the warrior's skull.
www.ronnnowpoetry.com

--with lines by Heaney, Collins, Milosz, Yeats, Eliot, James Taylor, Helen Vendler, Kay Ryan & Avedis Donabedian

-- Heaney,Seamus, RTE Radio 1, September 1997
--Collins, Billy, The Exeter News, 6 May 2005
--Milosz, Czeslaw, Partisan Review, Summer 1996
--Yeats, William Butler, "Lapis Lazuli," The Collected Poems of W.B. Yeats, The Macmillan Co., 1940.
--Eliot, T.S., The Sacred Wood: Essays on Poetry and Criticism, 1950
--Taylor, James, "Shower the People"
--Vendler, Helen, The Breaking of Style, Harvard University Press, 1995
--Ryan, Kay, The Yale Review, April 2004
--Donabedian, Avedis, interviewed by Fitzhugh Mullan, A Founder of Quality Assessment Encounters A Troubled System Firsthand, Health Affairs, January 2001, vol. 20, no. 1, 137-141.
Mar 2016 · 826
Derivatives with Limits
Robert Ronnow Mar 2016
Working over Birk's Works and other tunes my saxophonist admires--
Cheesecake, Blackbird--for the theoretical, applied mathematics inside
or alternately an abstract audial harmonization of the Big Bang and
      The Fall.

Would you rather have the fever break or something great happen
      to you?
The young senator or never ******* glass again.
Look one way, from another come the heart's missed beats.

                                               ________

Can I call you back? We're trying to get my truck out of the mud.
Who does he think he is, Nelson Mandela?
"Lieutenant, this corpse will not stop burning!"

Writing cannot save you but can it ease the way?
What does Tagore say?
More movies about dying men.

                                              
________

Will my letter to the editor be in the funny pages?
Will I even be able to read it?
Did I send it to the wrong address? I've seen my death face and it's not
      pretty.

Maybe I can watch your varsity games from a viewfinder in the
      afterlife.
If I don't finish The Iliad, maybe there's a library there.
Maybe. Maybe is a long, long time.

                                               ________

Notwithstanding an impending tsunami
we must figure out why there's water in the basement.
I never had anything wise or gentle to say to my parents.

About bladder function. They got the same treatment
as every other soldier. Which systems shut down first
and how. The mail keeps coming even after you've stopped barking.

                                              
________

Homer tries several ways to explain the slaughter:
by describing how a spear pierces a warrior's jawbone or armor,
how Achilles' and Agamemnon's hissy fits contribute to the pain of being
      a soldier

and how the gods, esp. Zeus, are passionate, confused, obtuse.
A callow youth even as a man. He was afraid and therefore could not
      comfort or help.
Perhaps he has a question he'd like to ask but isn't sure what it is or how
      to ask it.

                                               _________

The hero loses urinary control.
The virtuoso loses interest in her bow.
The expert forgets to do the research.

How do cancer cells and bacteria cooperate to ****
the host (you). The way yr mum & pop
******* up. It's unavoidable and it's not your fault.
www.ronnowpoetry.com

--with lines by Galway Kinnell, Billy Strayhorn, Philip Larkin
Feb 2016 · 947
Aaron's Coconut
Robert Ronnow Feb 2016
Start the day. In what way
was the cold spring, last wet summer a
global warning, indicator. Says

one commentator on the op-ed page, the
dislocations, wars, famines will tax humanity's
technology, philosophy, even religion's ability

to see past daily survival to
the music in the rock. I've doubted the taboos
one frog among many in the slow-heating beauty

of the world we knew. Aaron's coconut.
Peepers peeping in the heavy rains, wet
with joy. Hawks and crows thrive below the jet

stream, noise, perhaps our fears
are overdrawn, we'll get along, it'll all hold together 10,000 years more,
the Holocaust will never be repeated, lush mountain and sere

desert equally appreciated, baseball
lazily paced summer evenings, the harvest in the fall
a sure thing, and the dying back a blessing come to all.
www.ronnowpoetry.com
Feb 2016 · 1.9k
Morsel of Biomass
Robert Ronnow Feb 2016
Negligible morsel of biomass
my fat belly, formerly abs
insignificant yet it occupies me
hourly while bored or hungry.

Fat is what? a picture
of despair, giving up caring
or man out of balance, other
side of the world's starving

mass, case of the soul's malnutrition
industrial agriculture, television
supermarkets, vacations, hydrocarbons
and the grid. Electricity, urban

traffic jams, photons at final
rest. Sugars synthesized, abundant
plastics to carry them home in.
Into your house and into your mirror.

Memorizing the periodic table
and learning the calculus makes one
no thinner. Walking the mountain
in heat and cold and rain, alone

or in fire crews should do it. And a
healthy fear of death. A laugh
a day at *** and pain and fate
which renews the biomass I hate.
www.ronnowpoetry.com
Jan 2016 · 621
Problems
Robert Ronnow Jan 2016
Problems many of which are not getting solved
not because I'm not resolved but because I delay
to savor the day, the moon and the season
which is why I'm a non-person under the eye of eternity.

Except for my unpaid bills. And iambic pentameter.
Aaron fails English. Is there summer school?
What an *******! I want to slug him, but also
his teacher, Mr. Fisher, who's probably

a nice guy, just doing his job and raising a family.
Then there's the catheter from my last surgery
I was so sick I thought I was dying. The out of network
pathologist and radiologist have declined my insurance

and charged me to the hilt. Like I had a choice
face up in the emergency room. Facing doom, you don't ask questions.
Now that I've rejoined the living I've got to raise a million bucks
to save organic farms and endangered species I'll never see.

Perhaps none of this matters and chanting's the answer, Buddhist
      precepts,
or as Dad would say This too shall pass.
Life is a back and forth game but baseball is zen meditation,
you're in right field, nothing's happening, nothing's gonna happen,

but you can't let your attention wander for one second.
I should clean and oil my trumpet for Saturday's gig
or the valves will stick. And leave early enough
not to get stuck in traffic. Other lives, other quilts.

A guy who takes the subway to a dead metal desk
and the boss who fires him with the cold hard eyes
of one who accepts the rules entirely. Actually
we're fortunate to have rules because otherwise

child soldiers armed with AK-47s would be shooting up
the village and setting fire to our thatched roofs.
Instead, under the rule of law, when snow falls
even old roofs look like problems with proofs.
www.ronnowpoetry.com

--Francis, Robert, "Old Roofs", Collected Poems: 1936-1976, University of Massachusetts Press, 1985.
Dec 2015 · 2.3k
Netflix, Hulu
Robert Ronnow Dec 2015
Neftlix, Hulu, autumn elaeagnus
thorns, small hairy buds, twigs hyper-lenticelled
fruits supposedly edible, leaves elongated, oblong
xerophytic but found in wetland
introduced species, some say invasive

Xbox is invasive
Hulu is the best source of foreign films
and foreign films represent reality better than American
although reality is not always what we're after
silliness, silly sadness, and relentless laughter

letting my web site go to seed
writing badly is the best revenge
eventually your doctors find something in you they can't cure
causes some fear, gives some certainty
you're required to tell your sons and brothers about it so they can make
      informed medical decisions going forward

let's posit the dead, like the dream-lover or -killer
is you in disguise, a facsimile or factotum
stand-in, an actor or actress remembering lines
which are your memories, or if you're not in movies
divinations of things to come, earthquakes and volcanoes

life goes on without a hiccup
you saddle up with the three gentlemen to the River Friday
where a new life begins without sleep as a soul, at least that's the story
      they tell
in these scientific times we apply Ockham's razor, i.e. the afterlife
will most likely be most like the life before life

when it gets too late to exercise
ignore time, learn slowly to go slowly
through life, rise
early, there is no time only change
an empty belly's holy

and a ***** willow's so alive its buds want to burst
in mid-February when the sun stays up in the sky more than January
this is what I write about, not Tolstoi, nor war
not one conversation or love scene between a man and woman
or illustration of what man has done to man

cars pass I never wave
so many guys are belly fat, women **** fat and they want to sit right
      behind you in the bleachers eating fried foods and wearing
      allergenic perfumes
I like the motionless perfection of autumn elaeagnus
wind in white pines
crows do not annoy but dogs do

a porcupine or coyote is a lucky sight
barred owl or pileated woodpecker
and a black bear is quiet reality itself
I said to the doctors 54 or 84 you always seem to want more when they
      said I'm too young to die
I said dying chooses you you don't choose dying, so it's not my fault

yesterday's walk, today's work
there's no percentage in searching for significance, wanting meaning
and no percentage in respecting death unless it's imminent
I admire the writer who writes 10,000 words per day no matter what
who's got plot

a plague or fire, a spider or a tiger in a boat
stolen Louisiana votes or endangered alligators
in my case common pipewort or pickerelweed floating in a northern
      lake
egrets, loons and hawks
on your winter walk cedar waxwings foraging for soft rose hips

and talking like people talk
about this and that, work and child rearing, not religion or politics
keeping it light and friendly
eating chili and chocolate chip cookies
passing time watching a football game, the superbowl or a movie
      usually a romantic comedy
www.ronnowpoetry.com
Nov 2015 · 1.4k
What Have I Seen?
Robert Ronnow Nov 2015
1

Sunrise, late winter
skunk smell
turkey flock
playful otter, too.

The white heron
a great blue,
white phase,
in the abandoned ****** pond.

Purple clematis
its long-awned achenes
in globose heads
spidery, fiery, extravagant fruit!

To identify or classify
birds by
the complexity or beauty
of their songs.

And so
what is over that
ridge or hill
a sink-hole, a sand dune, a steep bluff.

2

What must I do. Organize
the heretofore unorganized. The rabble
of unemployed child abusers.
Molesters of their intimates.

Are there dysfunctional bird families?
Simply put, they do not survive.
We have hope
that everyone alive is essential,

consequential. We classify
and specify.
The commonplace and everyday
is sanctified.

What happens everyday?
Morning is quiet, everyone at work.
Home writing, watching birds.
Afternoon, kids come back from school.

Evening, watch tv.
Scotch and Star Trek.
Captain Picard's problems eclipse
ours who stayed behind.

3

Pray to Allah
and maybe he will spare you
when he sets the world
on fire.

Where or with who
will I be on that day?
And how many people and adventures
will I find in the wind storm and rubble?

I may live, but will it matter
whether or not I help anyone else to live?
This is no Last Judgement.
Those who have learned or who still know how to live

will survive.
Nobody will go to hell, they will just die.
There is no limbo either.
Anyone who didn't find a way to be immortal is just dead.

So, what am I trying to do.
Organize the unemployed, the welfare mothers
and alcoholics
into a flying chevron of purposeful explorers?

4

The doctor's conscious, organized,
naive attempt to do good,
his legacy, versus the randomness
of the road and the war zone.

There his legacy is his rectitude and natural
rough compassion for the damaged people
he encounters. The difference
between planning a legacy

as if you knew enough to control events
and letting the legacy arise
from events themselves, controlling,
insofar as you are able, only

your own actions and reactions.
The doctor's leadership role such as it was
grew out of not his material possessions
like the car

but his mission, his personal quest
to find the young doctors he had naively trained
and sent into the war zone
where all died.

5

July-a cold city
not as great or as gritty
as I thought, summer theater left
the shoe shine bereft of customers

eyes cold as a bureaucrat's
except for our soles
and their leather. Sweat-soaked
girls, the beautiful ones left town.

Emotionless as a bus.
Sparrows, no chickadees.
All that's important happens indoors.
Exercise to philosophies.

You get what you see.
The panhandlers ask
just once, won't risk
friendship, justice.

No sale today
in the finite city
where, for the shoe shine,
pedestrians are infinite, times two shoes.

6

Faith = wait + trust.
But don't anticipate.
Popper prohibits prediction.
Niebuhr expects destruction.

I believe in God
doesn't mean there's a sketch
of a man in my head. It must mean
all will be well in the end.

Satisfied with snow
or summer. And now
with dying old or younger.
Gold or paper clips. Gulps or sips.

In the final resting place
in the city of the dead
are there all night card games
and sometimes open swims?

Each inch, square, or cube of Earth
brim with grasses and sedges, dragonflies and spiders, sparrows and
      eagles.
The tiger lily and the water lily and the lily of the valley, the calla lily.
When a ******* a bicycle smiles, that is a smile.
www.ronnowpoetry.com
Nov 2015 · 1.1k
While Sleeping
Robert Ronnow Nov 2015
Spring peepers
stop peeping. A satellite
crosses sky. One peeper keeps peeping
in time to the satellite blinking, an eye.
Deep thinking.
www.ronnowpoetry.com
Robert Ronnow Oct 2015
To read or watch movies, that is the question.
When tired at workday's end, depressed about death's
certainty and my recent surgery
unable to contribute purpose
i.e., figure out whether to bomb Iran
or worship Krshna
and other gods such as Homer gives us in the Iliad
I lack vision therefore I choose television.
Chemistry text, bifurcated plant key
esp. grasses, intro to calculus, physics
unopened time slides by inexorably.
That's the dilemma with no resolution,
drooping rachis, striations on the lemma.
Dying chooses you. You don't choose dying.
So go slow as the day will allow.
The cancer patient's real work is facing
harsh realities and making adjustments:
getting the most out of life, considering
what his children will need after he's gone,
preparing his wife, parents, colleagues and friends,
and completing important professional tasks.
Get the most out of life. That's all God asks.
In Life of Pi the tiger is tiresome, short-sighted
eating everything in sight today, no plan for tomorrow.
The boy, however, is beautiful, reading
the lifeboat manual, building a resting place on the ocean
from oars and life vests, writing about his emotions,
loneliness and observations. The tiger's obsession
with killing keeps our boy alive with fear,
an aphrodisiac, a distraction from any hint
of hopelessness. And then there is the ultimate unknown,
the boy's conversations with Krshna which explain
the innumerable stars and their gentle glow.
www.ronnowpoetry.com
--Heifetz, Ronald, Leadership Without Easy Answers, Harvard University Press, 1994.
--Martel, Yann, Life of Pi, Mariner Books, 2003, as visualized in the film by Ang Lee.
--Shakespeare, William, Hamlet, III, i, 55-87.
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