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May 15 · 371
Robert Ronnow May 15
I have a special interest in telling about my colonoscopy.
The doc cheerful, secure in his specialty, colon cancer being
the second leading cause of cancer death after lung tumors.
They can snip the precancerous polyps right out of you during the test.
At first the doc gave me the statistics but having paid 25 bucks for this
I decided to make him explain the science. He was most comfortable
describing the physical architecture of adenomatous v. hyperplastic
but what about cell structure I said. He was vague about genes and
I could have been chatting with an Electrolux salesman.
I wasn’t worried although my *** was burning.
Everybody dies, everybody, even Whitman and Emerson, so I browse
      models for dying—
mine are middlebrow, saddlebow—John Wayne in The Shootist, Paul
      Newman in Hombre—or hagiography
Plath her head stuck in an oven, Hemingway who ate his shotgun.
Anyway I was upbeat flirting with the nurse, a muse who has seen it all
acting tough, which isn’t actually an act
you do your prep and say your prayers.
I thought I’d be in and out **** as you probably already know
the prep for this procedure is worthy of Gandhi. A day of fasting,
clear fluids only, and constant voiding.
You arrive at the hospital one spiritual chicken.
I reflected it can’t hurt, lose a little weight, remember who you are
without so much **** and flesh between you and the natural world.
Snipping polyps is like taking electrons to a lower quantum energy level,
      nearer the nucleus, with fasting and ****** abstinence.
The art of total presence and abstinence, dependence on the Other for
      future existence.
Mar 19 · 673
Gotta Go
Robert Ronnow Mar 19
Books to the library
photos to family.
Paint cans and lumber
from renovations years ago.
Most of the furniture
including the piano.
Fastest way to do this
is rent a dumpster.

On the internet
nothing’s permanent.
I like that.
Photosynthesis, evaporation
as if your spirit disappears
when the sun appears.
It’s a burden lifted
not to have to persevere.

for clarity
and brevity.
One owes the reader
a respite from
the tonnage of
fructifying English.
To drown one’s book is devoutly to be wished.

Coupla trumpets,
big comfy couch,
four beds and dressers
and the contents of closets.
Tools we don’t use,
surge protectors and chargers,
lawn and patio accoutrements,
table settings for ten.

Lamplit underground,
the stray branch,
synchronized chaos,
a red fez.
One canary,
map of Antarctica,
three deaf little otoliths,
six or seven sybils.

Extra salt and pepper shakers,
sharpies and crayons,
a printer and a scanner,
the Bible and Koran.
Kaput calculators and computers,
subscriptions and prescriptions,
a host of vitamins
and the ghosts of ancestors.

Time itself
but not nature.
and most of culture
but not my health.
That I’ll keep,
and sleep—practice
for perfect rest.
Feb 13 · 592
Types of Joy
Robert Ronnow Feb 13
There are 12 types of joy:
simple joy
almost joy
systemic joy
Saturday joy
expressing joy
knowing joy
all joy
max joy
constant inputs of joy
single greatest joy
sacrifice or joy
the face of joy
at the periapsis of earth’s orbit.
Jan 16 · 1.4k
Nicky's Road Kill
Robert Ronnow Jan 16
Nicky, the neighbor’s dog, drags a road **** home.
A beautiful pelt like those fox shoulder garments women wore in the
But the head is crushed beyond recognition—maybe it’s a fox and that’s
      why Nicky, a canine, is conducting this wake on our front lawn.

Loretta, my wife’s mother, is in the hospital again. Forty years of Crohn’s
      disease has finally broken her.
It may take some time but she won’t bounce back from this episode.
None of us are sorry to see her die, not even Loretta. There will be a
      thunderous downpour during her last hour.

I like the story about the nuns hitting Peg in school–contumacy is a sin.
Emile and Loretta considered it an inappropriate punishment for their
      cherished adopted daughter.
So they pulled her out of Catholic for public school. They did their own
      thinking about discipline.

Early Spring, peepers all night, then the birds take over at dawn.
      Soothing—the mourning doves.
During this half of the year, May through October, we live in a green
We turn the house inside out, move into the mountains.

In their annual order, flowers appear in the understory: coltsfoot, hepatica
      and trillium through to the end, late purple aster, spotted joe pye and
      pearly everlasting.
We let Nicky nurse her road ****, watch over it, roll around on it.
Don’t let go of the steering wheel while driving fast in the passing lane.
Robert Ronnow Nov 2023
Black lives matter. Me too.
Not my president. Give peace a chance.
Luck runs out. I like immigrants.
Power must be challenged by power.

Equal and opposite reactions.
God is the answer. Love is the answer.
Walk on the sunny side of the street. Meat feet.
Learn to drive. Wait for the train in the rain.

A girl gets sick of a rose. Mock orange.
Mediocre presidents, unnecessary wars.
Triumph and humiliation. Meditation.
Sometimes I’m tired of being me. Therefore.

Subaru. Suduko. Haiku. Hulu.
Stop on red, go on green. Orderly neighborhood.
Too tired to be angry. Too tired to do homework.
Tolstoy is the Tolstoy of the Zulus.

College campus. Saguaro, cactus.
Million dollar movie. Aliens in the bleachers.
Full length feature. TED talk, lecture.
Breathe in experience. Bring sentience into an expressible state.

Events pile up with or without an identity willing to organize them.
Events in their mere chronology make no sense.
Inability to transcend own interests. Inability to find one’s way.
Vacations and accomplishments accumulate late in life and early on.

Late in life I struggle against my insignificance.
The straight way lost. Concentrate on this: Thy will be done.
The straight way misplaced. Get over it. Someone tell a joke.
Love. Vote. Join a committee or a party.

MLK made the jump from race to class, dreamed of a brotherly nation.
Is this feeling nostalgia for the past or occipital neuralgia?
Knee surgery, plywood factory. Lost lover, lost city.
Old friends who are dead to me but still here.

Somewhere there are flowers among railroad ties.
True love between ****** partners. Dusty villages and vast cities.
Popper v. Niebuhr, impeachment inquiry.
Hassid and Muslim dress codes. French fashions.

Watch for war, **** and shower. Do the limbo.
Pay bills. The very thought of the rosy dawn makes Jack ill.
Big comfy couch, a nocturnal upon St. Lucy’s Day.
A long day’s journey into night. Truckin’.

Death comes for the archbishop. Private Ryan and Big Red One.
Absence of knowledge and intelligent beings who make things happen.
Life’s brevity and the time taken to carve the canyon.
Decibel level and ambient noise. Captain Carpenter and Mr. Flood.

Nothing but ocean, self-aware organisms and the longing they provoke.
Unit, corps, God, country. Zip code. The clocks and the docks gone and       no smoke.
Achilles and Hector. Wills and losses.
Continued existence and most of history.

A holy condition. A warrior’s position.
Walk with a limp. Don’t complain about pain.
Truth may be ascertained by considering your uncertainty.
If everyone votes and every vote’s counted, time is the mercy of eternity.
Sep 2023 · 2.2k
Robert Ronnow Sep 2023
On one of the myriad bays
along the Maine coast. Keep the holocaust
at bay I said to Dave because
you’ll spend all day gathering
2,000 calories and still be miserable hungry.
An undiminished population of humans is risible.

Black spruce and balsam fir,
you can eat the inner bark
in a starvation emergency.
There’s plenty of Cornus—bunchberry—
each orange pith around the stone
worth maybe a quarter calorie.

Lots of sarsparilla but the fruits
not out yet and to date I have not
savored one. Let’s see—dandelion
of course and huckleberry but
the most important source of sustenance
would be seaweed.

Learn your mushrooms! for the protein.
Accept the situation
come the apocalypse.
I struggle against my insignificance
but it would be better to struggle
against my ignorance.

Less effortlessness, more fishermanliness.
That’s the lesson of this Maine vacation
there’s a lot you can eat when in need—
the hips of roses and the pips of grasses.
And an endless supply of seaweed—
bladderwrack, dulse, kelp and thin green lettuce.
Jul 2023 · 1.7k
Robert Ronnow Jul 2023
--slightly out of tune

Am I right to hedge my bets on being famous, ply my arts all day alone,
silence, no tv? Mark said, the difference is people are actually listening
to **** Jagger, but I thought that’s not so big a difference.

When Dad died it only reinforced the futility of our daily efforts
notwithstanding my hopeful eulogy about our responsibilities to each

People listened then, and closely, searching for an echo
from the abyss. What is this abyss and how do I know
it’s there?
Jun 2023 · 2.3k
The Pity of Things
Robert Ronnow Jun 2023
Part of me says stay small, part go big
Part says eat your fill, part don’t pig

Kenko says: long life brings many shames
I say the gray sky brings winter, no blame

The impassable mountains we revere
Moderate the force of wind and water

Get the cement truck into the refrigerator
We shall honor all of life sooner or later

Anything can happen if you don’t resist
To get lucky you gotta be careful first

You discover dying’s much like living
Who should I thank for the pity of things?

O to have the smile of a lover
Who wouldn’t rather be elsewhere!
Apr 2023 · 156
Robert Ronnow Apr 2023
“There’s nothing you wish for that won’t be yours
        if you stay alive.”  --Beowulf

Winter has arrived and the wind cuts through
the parking lot under the el in the Bronx,
streets stretch out in their directions, events
in their mere chronology have no relation.
Old friends face certain dissolution
with perplexity, comity and humor,
look with gay eyes on their future
in a forest or a city, someplace.
Snow outside, despair inside. Homelessness.
Raccoon tracks cross the soul. Prostatectomy.
Winter mix. Don’t relax. The difficult
dangerous season when weak creatures die
and the strong barely survive. Leave me alone
with autumn, an autumn like last autumn.
Don’t stand around my bed, I won’t be in it.

Jack’s in jail. His panic attacks are like
an AI on automatic pilot
who wants to live, just like the rest of us
under the eye of eternity or
running in new snow, loving that feeling.
Some people go dancing in fishnet stockings.
Effortless mastery, success without practice.
Fractals without chemistry. Do the small
things first, clean the house and bless the guests.
Sick of Krshna, sick of salad, sick of self.
Sick of meditation. As I lay dying
the full moon’s rising. My existence
is indivisible from the wry Creator’s.
I like the old Rhymer, his smile resplendent.
It’s Death, not the Jewish king, in your rose garden.

I ply my arts all day alone. All I have
is all I do not know. The past isn’t dead
it never even happened. Learn the changes
then forget them. Keep on learning and re-
learning them. Down the steep and icy trail
through hail and storm. Take into eternity
my hail and farewell. We’re living in the
Anthropocene. Indestructible garbage.
Bulldozed landscape. Big Brother, dead father.
***** of the tiger.  Getting thought to twitch
the prosthetic. Mischievous, malevolent,
militant thistles. Or just plain polite
Americans, afraid to get shot.
Bump bump bump down the igneous rocks of life,
take the boulders two at a time down.

Old-timers bagging groceries, low social
security for the security guard.
Situps, pushups, fix yr brakes, fix yr leaks.
I know what’s gonna happen before it happens.
Polar bear mugs wino exhausted by that earlier,
irritating, constant need to survive.
Surrounded by history, neither seen nor heard
from again. And a deaf mute in a pear tree.
If it’s human, nothing’s wasted. Pasted
into a big wet kiss or posted
on the internet. Stolen from the pockets
of the dead, burgled from living memory.
Most art is dispensable, ***** and *****,
vaginal lubrication, prostate enlargement,
the unknown, anonymous man named me.

I’ve been wrong before and I may be wrong now.
Things fall apart. Or maybe not. Maybe
it’ll all hold together 10,000 years more
after all we’ve observed a galaxy born
13 billion years ago, a faint red blur,
and microbe partnerships on the ocean floor.
The good life’s all around us smiling
girls on bicycles, dogs on leashes,
equality is mandatory.
Sweet solitude and privacy, quiet
sitting spot, write a little, read a lot.
Tip generously, gratuitously,
like good luck. Haircut, cabride, dinnerout,
to eat a continent is not so strange.
Does Jack even exist? I doubt it but

the class of transformations that could happen
spontaneously in the absence of knowledge
is negligibly small compared with the class
that could be effected artificially by
intelligent beings, aliens in the bleachers.
Japanese knotweed also known as kudzu.
The Chinese navy also known as t’ai chi.
Water shortages. War and wildfire.
What you’re scared of and what you love. Contracts
and deliverables. Hate speech, fate.
Humor or ardor, I can’t decide.
Dad’s steel-toed boots. Leaves, flowers, fruits.
Things are said, mistakes are made. I’m driving
pontificating on geopolitics
when an archangel flies into the windshield!

Lost my timepiece, lost my metronome.
Well, music is a manufactured crisis.
Caloric restrictions, control your addictions,
desire to be famous, propensity for violence.
The profusion of species contents me.
Wilderness comes back strong as cactuses,
chestnuts, coral. No more missile crises.
Eat less, an empty belly’s holy.
Horselum, bridelum, ridelum,
into the fray! World order—not my problem.
Only meditation can save your soul,
should there be such a thing. There are actual people
half woman half man running past me
and dream people in movies half language
half light. Or they lie under polished stones
embossed with actual photos of themselves.

Learning who you actually are is difficult
as sitting still 10 minutes w/o a thought or want.
To get lucky you gotta be careful first.
Knowledge of death without dying =
early retirement. Counting your blessings,
a healthy activity. No solution
to death’s finality, and such a blessing
awaits me, too. If you’re suicidal
they call the cops. The audience is full of glee.
Watres pypyng hoot. Chinese characters. Quantum guesses.
Most failures, and most successes, are in our future.
I embrace wild roots and run through streets
with arm around my girl. Inmate #427443.
Poetry and surgery—they go together
like a horse and buggy. Cheerful as a flock
of chickadees. Looking for a lost horse,
I hear Appalachian Spring!

Look one way, from another come the heart’s
missed beats. Much better to look slowly,
labor for the success and happiness
of others, even the old and frayed.
Look it up. There is no death, just perfect rest.
Look more closely. It will be gone in a few days!
First entertain, then enlighten if you can.
Is it stress? Yes. Tired of death? It’s what it is.
Let’s play sports, have ***, live a wonderful life,
give generously. 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, alone.
No body, no soul. No mirror, no black hole.
No mission, no hero. No applause, no noise.
No experience, no nonsense. If words can
be arranged in any order can they be
of any use in foreign policy?

Disappointed, didn’t get what was wanted.
Forget me not, is that all I want?
A catbird account, a mockingbird account
and an owl account. Then, and only then,
nothing’s missing and nothing’s left over.
Jail or zen mountain monastery
hiphop artist hypnotist bebop trumpeter
unknown soldier black bear bad bladder
ice cold beer poker player wry Creator.
If not one way, then another. Otherwise
give me your 5-10 best hiphop artists. Can
they take the sting out of life like bluegrass, jazz?
Mimics, woodpeckers, sing-songers, hawks,
chippers and trillers, whistlers, name-sayers,
thrushes, owls and a dove, high pitchers,
wood warblers and a word-warbling wren.
Unusual vocalizations.

We have hope that everyone alive is
essential, consequential. The commonplace
and everyday is sanctified. Nothing else
special need be done but stay alive.
Don’t lose passport, don’t be late to airport.
Insects are pollinators, insects are us.
Romance without finance is a nuisance.
November, however, is sweet, sunshine
through bare trees, dry brown leaves companionably
visiting among the dead. When middle school lets out
at the periapsis of Earth’s orbit
that’s the face of joy. Each leaf out and Jack
in his boxers. If you run over a chipmunk,
a groundhog or a skunk, say a short prayer.
One can’t help being here, queynt.

I live in a state so blue there’s nothing I can do
to change man’s trajectory and if I could
what angle of re-entry or ascent
would I choose? Grace is what we get
no matter what. Come the tired end of day
Jack thinks why not waste time watching tv
but the next day he has a hangover
like Ernest Hemingway or **** Jagger.
Your soul is immortal. It exists outside
of time. It has no beginning and no end.
If you cannot accept this, forget it all,
do not even begin. It all goes into
the same church service and comes out babbling
for God to appear. The shorter the service
the better, less passion, more resistance. Joy
may outlast the holocaust. Get it while it lasts.

The material world is reality, my friend.
Reality is not always what we’re after.
I like Jack’s confidence, that working the problem
will result in better outcomes than guessing.
Confidence is the feeling you have
before you understand the situation.
A hawk hunting or just floating waiting
for inspiration, a heron rowing east,
an owl’s quiet hoot even simpler than
the pentatonic bamboo flute.
What’s not to like? Ice cream, yogurt, profit, tofu.
Mosquitoes this summer are relentless,
heat and humidity, merciless.
Ice will ice those little *******.
Killing time before it kills me. Ha ha.

Whatever forever. Poetry is plumbing
your unhappiness habit until you reach joy.
As I think of things to do I do them.
Thing by thing I get things done. I think
that’s how my father and his father did things, too.
“Away up high in the Sierry Petes
where the yeller pines grow tall, Ol’ Sandy Bob
an’ Buster Jig had a rodeer camp last fall.”
It is the older man’s responsibility
to protect, not as a hard-charging archangel,
Jack’s joints couldn’t stand it, or hero
but as a rational participant,
cool, caring and completely zeroed in.
Culture or religion is an answer to
the problem of what to do and why do it
when your cancer makes poetry from
losing the argument with yourself.

To die spiritually in the hot sun
and the body go on climbing, haunted,
hunted, nature’s intelligent partner.
People are the element I live in, or else.
Call for the elevator. Wait for the el.
Snow on the Sonoran, each saguaro
wearing a white yarmulke. Creosote
smell as snow melts, ocotillo buds out.
Man needs help from every creature born.
The blackbird contains death but it’s bigger than death.
It’s more like God but an ironical god.
Smaller and funnier than God, impossible
to regard directly, gotta look sideways,
aim binoculars left, right, up, down—
missing every time. There’s nothing you wish for
that won’t be yours if you stay alive.
Mar 2023 · 152
Robert Ronnow Mar 2023
I, too, dislike poems.
I’ve tried runes (and rampikes)
but that’s affected
rather than merely effete.
So I call them
When people query
What do you write?
at a barbecue or birthday party
I say soliloquies,

sculptures (scriptures), geometric shapes and series,
three dimensional triangles, spheres
and differential equations,
fractured fairy tales,
Rocky and Bullwinkle,
****** impactions.

On the other hand,
bits, bots, bytes
remnants, scrap, earth
gobs of phlegm in grains of sand,
shards of glass in a slice of hell,
hunks and clumps, curds and whey, sleet and pain, slap in the face
sub-atomic particles, cell organelles,
chunks of energy, cookie crumbs,
rusty trucks stuck in mud, dustings for ghosts,
just plain dumb luck, rocks, concrete, but not tweets.
Feb 2023 · 2.8k
That Was Random
Robert Ronnow Feb 2023
There are actual people
half woman half man
running mornings and
dream people in movies
half language half light.
Tomorrow is John’s funeral.

* * *

This is my minute
my moment
Oops, gone!

Anything can happen
if you don’t resist

* * *

But who am I? You think bullets won’t
****? I’m the guy they put before a
wall and shoot then eat lunch.

* * *

Long as yr livin
yr havin that dream in
which yr killin the villains
w/o even needin a weapon.

* * *

If it was fun, they wouldn't call it work,
but it is fun. It's what we do, a bird
sings, dogs bark. We work. Sing bark work.
Honey, put on your shorts, it's gonna be 90 today.

* * *

How right is the rabbi!
"What a good and bright world this is if we do not lose our hearts to it,
But what a dark world if we do!"

* * *

We saw a barred owl
camouflaged in winter branches.
Bird of death (in myth), hunts down the dark,
floats to a farther tree, turns its back, and naps.

* * *

The sadness of summer, the silence of winter
you can’t sum it up in one more metaphor.
So don’t complain about the epoch you live in.
Go to Big Hidden Lake and jump in!

* * *

Down to negative calories, in deep snow
we find soft wintering rose hips, gobble them down.
First time for me a wild edible made a difference,
not just a delicacy. Then we snowshoe out.

* * *

Spring morning
flycatchers, jays, thrushes, a woodpecker’s loony cry.
A toilet flushes.

* * *

awoke from a scary dream
I kissed him back to bed

He asked
are all the doors locked?
I said yes knowing they would not hold

* * *

The republic may expire
but birds go on traveling, singing
in their best attire.

* * *

My plump cashier
has a new love.
Her skin is clear
and her line moves.

* * *

Desafinado means slightly out of tune which is not a problem.
It’s a fortunate condition. Zach just called from school sounding clear
and happy to say there’s floor hockey this afternoon. For me, another       cold,
slow Spring. How lucky!

* * *

At basketball I was reminded
the better players in their private moments
think on the ultimate reward. Perfect rest.

* * *

You come in our backyard, we go in yours.
That about sums it up. Assuming there are definable, accepted backyards.
Suppose it’s all one backyard and time is all one sheet of ice?

* * *

My son Zach said as a toddler he liked the old house
and he’s having a good time now at the new house.
We were lying together in the window seat passing the early morning       time,
late September and happy as I was I thought what’s running out is time.

* * *

The young women’s bodies were awesome. I appreciated
the couple of Muslim women who kept their bodies
covered. That was easier on an old man’s eyes.

Not that I wanted to change the American girls’ ways.
They seemed comfortable wearing underwear outdoors
and unaware, more or less, of the longing it provoked.

* * *

To invade a clean house
searching for weapons or insurgents, I agree
with the enemy, that is a sacrilege.
Not that I accept their god, and there could be,
hiding, a mouse.

* * *

I tell my sons
If some man tries to pull you into his car, fight
kick bite yell run punch curse scratch knife
make him **** you right there in the street
use your feet your fear your hate.

* * *

If everything seems under control, you’re not going fast enough.
—Mario Andretti

* * *

The river in its muddy symmetry
high water mark in Spring
is a god to me
in a way that I can be to a dog while thinking
or the sky is to the hanging apple.

* * *

A day, a new day, starts at 5:00.
Earlier than that it’s still yesterday,
the rags and dreams, the sweat and worry, the *** and laughter
of that day. The alcohol and aspirin, the sunset and machinery, the dinner       and toothache
of that day. The germs and friends, the sports and editorial, the gleam and
of that day.

* * *

The key to success is cross out, delete, compress,
rub out, expunge, black out scratch out blot out,
censor, crop, shorten and silence.
Clip, cut, erase and eradicate.
Hate everything you write.

* * *

I will be saved
and spanked too.

* * *

Phil is on a movie diet. Bad movies in which the logic switch is turned off. Jumps from scene to scene like a cat.
Most ******* is hilariously obscene. Genitals like little animals. Snowplows hit potholes sending up sparks.

* * *

Make way for a future that’s irresistible!
Dust. Rest. Mist. Rust.
One day follows another until the last day.
And on that day, there will be weather.

* * *

Driving in traffic
80 mph, 80 y/o.
Turkey vultures shrug shoulders.

* * *

When an archangel
flies into your windshield
sing cuckoo!
Jan 2023 · 2.2k
Robert Ronnow Jan 2023
I’m busy as a bus.
Ten hours on the telephone, research resources,
school staff, counsel clients.
Some sleep.
Then invite Lorraine downtown, the lovely loyal
secretary, to hear jammin jazz crew. By taxi tonight,
sans subway.
I’ve never been to this joint before
but admire the women in their dresses and makeup.
In New York, they smell wild. Elsewhere
women are ranchers and gardeners.
We find a small table in the crowd,
order drinks. The band is four young black men.
Lorraine is black too, by the by.
We get up to dance and I leave my cowboy boots
under the table. I’ve always enjoyed
the way Lorraine puts her arms around me.
I’m the oldest cat in the club
which is frightening
since just fifteen years ago I was the youngest.
I wink at the trumpet player with my fairly abandoned mien
who comes over to our table between sets.
He likes Lorraine. They jukebox it.
She falls in love.
--title from a tune by Thelonius Monk
Dec 2022 · 1.9k
New Haven Terminal
Robert Ronnow Dec 2022
Across the track, a rail yard worker
big innocent bear of a guy, beer
belly, embraces his girl. She’s
a conductor, comes up to that belly,
reaches arms not quite around
his back. They separate and embrace
three times while the train prepares
for departure.
                           Across the aisle,
a mother and son. Lights out, change engines,
they play Mercy. Squeeze fingers until one
cries mercy. The son still too small
to seriously challenge his young, athletic
mother. Ask and answer questions, laugh
and cry mercy, she draws and he colors
the features.
                         Unless a society
expects its fate to be better than its past,
it will strive to make its present
immutable as possible.
Optimism is a way of exploring failure.
It says there is no law of nature
or supernatural decree preventing progress.
Nearly all failures, and all successes, are in
our future.
—Deutsch, David, The Beginning of Infinity, Viking Press, 2011.
Nov 2022 · 6.0k
A Good Day to Die
Robert Ronnow Nov 2022
I’ve seen it myself sometimes.
Shooting pool with a Marine I liked, a buddy.
He’s drunk. Always had a ***** problem
and women had disappointed him,
no more than any other man.
Anyway, the only gal in the unit, honest, hard working,
blonde comes into the room. We all
wanted her
I’d shown her my poems, which she’d taken a pass on.

Joe starts teasing her about her tiny ****,
touching them with his cue.
She’s scared. So am I.
Joe’s stronger, faster than me, by a lot, and when he’s drunk
he knows no friend.
How long can I stay silent, I calculate.
What does he have to do before I speak. Speech, none.
If I don’t put him down with the first crack of my cue, I’m done.

Lucky for me she gets away
unharmed, goes back to her room.
I think Joe assumed me and the other guys, by our nervous smiles,
would enjoy a **** tonight.
Men are such chickens,
I can’t speak for women.
You basically hold your breath
your whole life.
Live in a zoo
**** and *****.
And if it comes to that, you’ll ****
on orders, from who?
Another swinging ****
who fears his death.
You’ve got to make every day a good day to die.
Oct 2022 · 137
At a Party
Robert Ronnow Oct 2022
I spoke with two people at the party Saturday.
A young police officer, short-haired, fit,
chiseled face who had two young children.
He felt constrained by the law, without discretion
to question mopes (perps) aggressively
or to let go those who were obviously no threat.
Even at a family function he seemed straight-backed, correct,
devoted to his role as our protector (and his children’s)
yet I thought perhaps too deeply in debt, indentured
to the rules and laws of legislators and destined
to be disappointed (or worse). I thought his courage
and devotion (to whom or what?) would surely
be poorly repaid and that this lesson
was necessary to ready him with wisdom
for death or further living. I worried like a brother
about the unpredictable dangers, even terrors,
he must daily face, and the pleasure he takes in facing them.
How will he return to the fragility of family,
of the soul alone, after wielding the force
of the state, the blind, combined will of us all?

Next a business exec, retired from a well known
global investment firm. At first we talked about
the lush beauty of the northeast compared to the arid west
(although he loves every inch of the west, too).
Then somehow we got beyond light conversation
when he complained about the perceived decline in values
for instance how the Ten Commandments can’t be publicly
displayed. He said we can all agree on God
but I said I have a mechanistic view of the universe
(although the unknowable always sits just out of reach
of the known). I told him my dad’s theory of reincarnation,
a good man and a corporate seeker of God also, whose shoes
I could never fill unless I swore belief in a supreme being.
No hard feelings. Then he told me the story
of his dying friend, an atheist, not even a deist
like the founding fathers, who opened his eyes for the last time
to correct the exec’s misperception that now he’d meet his maker.
Having exceeded the bounds of acceptable conversation
I went looking for my children. Nothing more to question.
Sep 2022 · 2.4k
Come What May
Robert Ronnow Sep 2022
Come May. Come what may.
The most significant thing today
first Monday in May
my wife six months pregnant with twins
says she’s scared what we’re getting ourselves into.
Like the time I moved into an apartment uptown
I mean way uptown, Bronx uptown, uptown
where I’d never been
bomba echoing in the airshaft
painted the walls banana yellow and moved out the next day.
Lost the deposit.
A few months later moved back to the same neighborhood,
stayed a decade.
I’m not—scared, that is—but they’re not kicking my insides out, either.
Aug 2022 · 1.7k
Building Fence
Robert Ronnow Aug 2022
Sometimes we like to do something for the story
we’ll tell afterwards. Buy a ’58 Pontiac, climb
a mountain in the dark. Lamar tells ***** jokes
with class, knows how to wait awhile, bend
a syllable and savor the laughter. We go on

with our absurd work, building a fence miles long
waste of steel and strong straight lodgepole pine
but even I don’t opine against it anymore. We’re
self-acknowledged children, fence is play and
livelihood also, but something cheerful as sunshine

for all the death it costs. There is so much life
a little death doesn’t matter. We stretch our muscles
the men feel like men, the women feel good too.
We stand around, watch a young rabbit one morning.
Jul 2022 · 2.6k
Life Out of Balance
Robert Ronnow Jul 2022
Tonight I stayed at work until 7:00.
It was dark when I locked the front doors.
Winter approaches again, soon the great coat
huddled like a rug around me. The streets
were active as usual, block residents
hanging out front steps. I said goodnight
to Nydian Figueroa, after school counselor.
I bought a beer at the deli on Third Ave.
from the Arab owner. He’s a bit upset about
the bottle bill.
                          Collecting bottles from small groceries
could be a useful youth employment enterprise.
I walked down Fifth along the park in the dark
drinking my beer and looking at women. I need
a good **** badly. I tried to decide whether
to go to the movies, a Hopi film Howard recommended,
or just go home, watch tv and light a candle.
Maybe I’d meet someone at the film.
                                                                  Can I handle
the malady of going home tonight? If I die,
I die alone.
                      I turned west toward the subway
past the museum, through the park.
I can’t look at the myriad lights in buildings
large enough to hold a small town. It increases
my anxiety and anonymity to the breaking point.
I hoped to be mugged, for the human contact.
Two big guys looked me over, but I lowered
my center of gravity and they passed quietly. Survival
feels fine, proves I am alive.
                                                   The white pines
in this corner of the park hold a cool, earthy air
reminding me of coming winter, that mortality is
restful, of the black bear and swollen river I saw
500 miles away and only one day ago.
May 2022 · 2.5k
Million Dollar Movie
Robert Ronnow May 2022
Late April and only
coltsfoot—Tussilago farfara—breaking leaf litter.
Our daffodils, peonies and crocuses
are also making signs.

April is the cruelest month, I forget why.
A sweet slow Spring
no sudden changes
each leg and leaf unfolds deliberately. You can't miss it.

New York City's spring rushes like a yellow cab
into summer. One day leaves are wet,
next they’re leather. I prefer this slow dance,
birds mating on the sky, peepers evolving into frogs.

Repairs take weeks or months. Septic,
garage door, cracked windshield, clean windows,
build bridge, buy land, rake leaves off erosion control,
cut wood, prune lilac, paint lawn chairs.

More carefully inspect, identify, the insect
of the week, a fly with an ant’s body
that skirts the grass and falls in drinks.
Look more closely! It will be gone in a few days!

Then it will be the time of moths or fireflies,
mosquitoes and wasps. Mud road,
red-winged blackbird. The slashing stream
topples old trees. My legs hurt.
Robert Ronnow Apr 2022
You can acknowledge the emptiness at the core of your being
or go crazy when the world goes crazy.
The numbers of us overwhelm,
an impending tsunami,
my hopeful eulogy about our responsibilities to each other,
2 jobs 2 hobbies,
the biomass in the crosswalks,
fears that rend and own us,
the Muslim-Judeo-Christian condition.
Your soul is immortal,
it exists outside of politics and poker. Just kidding.
Forgotten, forgiven and foregone.
A man’s ego needs no encouragement.
“I’m gonna be huge when I’m dead,” John said
last time we spoke.

Life is fine!
the reward for our colossal imperfections
a back and forth game
the rivers and selfies of an empire
daily low intensity warfare
a gift
not a curse
new, so let go
a veil, thin if one doesn’t believe in mystery
like all things that are forever changing but always remain the same
enjoying the passage of time
or will be good
but a dream
okey doke, short, a lazy-eyed tiger
Mar 2022 · 1.7k
Middle School Math Teacher
Robert Ronnow Mar 2022
Should I become a middle school math or English teacher?
Leave my bed early in the morning and return with test papers to grade.
With what authority will I persuade those kids to sit still and perform
      calculations and interpretations.
I won’t be allowed to teach A Good Man Is Hard To Find. Nope, it’ll be
      Catcher in the Rye, Lord of the Flies and Slaughterhouse Five. Novels
      that annoy.
Poems and math are magic. Words and numbers are things no one has
      ever seen or heard or touched.
But the administration keeps them separate. The curriculum’s
The kids are beautiful but combustible. When middle school lets out at
      the periapsis of Earth’s orbit, that’s the face of joy.

The purpose of school is to introduce us to the world’s innumerable
      wonders. The periodic table, World Wars I and II, Huckleberry Finn
      and Jim.
Once a gaggle of teenage girls bet whether I wore boxers or jockeys. I felt
      ambushed and unlucky. Also a bit afraid.
There’s little love lost between the students and the teachers. Expect to
      forget and be forgotten. Information.
I remember Mr. Killian my chemistry teacher. So boring about something
      I now find so interesting and important. He wasn’t boring; I was
I remember Mr. Christensen my history teacher. He was fat and funny but
      taught as little as possible. I was known to laugh so hard I cried.
I remember Mr. T my calculus teacher. He dressed everyday exactly like
      Gene Kranz in mission control. I was confused past help so he didn’t
I remember Tone Kwas my music teacher. He said I was the worst
      trumpet player he’d ever tried to teach and switched me to
      sousaphone. He was right but so what! Playing badly is the best
Jan 2022 · 2.2k
Long Story Short
Robert Ronnow Jan 2022
A walk around the block in my parents’ neighborhood at dawn
wearing mom’s sweater and pop's sneakers with a clown hole cut out for  
      toe infection
I was stopped by a cop in a cruiser
this was during the Vietnam War long hair ago
he was angry at everyone I was offended by everything
he said which way are you going I said which way are you going
so he socked me in the mouth and handcuffed me
I was arraigned on disorderly conduct and resisting arrest
my good parents came down and stood beside me before the judge
I wrote to the police department internal affairs
not for retribution but to start a paper trail
in case this cop someday bopped one of my brothers
a few months later I’m back at work in NYC
two detectives come into the city to question me
one good cop one bad cop we park in the park me in the back seat
they wanna know was I mouthy to the cop who punched me in the mouth
long story short
they leave me on a bench to eat my lunch and the charges are dropped
Robert Ronnow Dec 2021
I’ve written enough small poetry
to start a nuclear war.
Do you want to die in traffic
behind the wheel of your car? Or in yr rodeer camp next fall.

Control eludes us. The hero
loses urinary control, the unified nation
loses missile control, lost my timepiece, lost my metronome,
now my music is ethereal as an archangel’s.

No owl hoots or duck quacks
or squirrels *******
or spiders spanning rampikes.
The floccinaucinihilipilification of nature.

No greater tragedy than a tipping
point that tests the hero’s gullibility, complicity,
self-control, comity, sense of humor
which is the only remedy not to hate those in authority.

Them guys with guns at the Michigan state house,
fat bearded tattooed ******* white bros.
Norsemen, Crusaders, Vikings, Britons.
For despair there is no forgiveness. Peace out.

Humor is the only remedy, or is ardor the best way forward.
We’ll see how things work out in the next generation.
The same diverse, spoiled, unpatriotic revolutionaries as at the nation’s
trying to reverse the future, making phone calls to get out the vote in
      Georgia, hating the desert for having no water.

Nuclear mischief, mad Man’s most incandescent bloom
and the devil who exists to carry the load
when we misbehave and fight among ourselves.
I wake up to my skin boiling off my bones.

Events keep piling up,
the future depends on ourselves.
Conflict is inevitable and in this conflict power must be challenged by
so err on the side of patience, perseverance and impermanence.
Oct 2021 · 1.1k
On the Avenue
Robert Ronnow Oct 2021
From marble and granite to steel and glass,
we were discussing Rhina Espaillat’s On the Avenue in class,
was it 1950s or 1980s NYC and were the fifties
the city’s halcyon days or is it now, the 2020s,
the boroughs teeming with immigrants
from the round earth’s imagined corners,
Hasidim and Muslim, Haitian and Russian, as we
Italians and Irish in an earlier era were. Everything will
be ok or not, the recombinations which make
prediction and intuition fortunately hopeless
and each individual an experiment gone well or wrong.
On the avenue God speaks by spewing
toy and clothing stores, breakdancers and ice skaters,
the Brooklyn Navy Yard seen from the Brooklyn Bridge,
the skyline admired when my car broke down on the Triborough Bridge.
The numbers of us overwhelm, there exist powers
overwhelming for the human body and mind.
I don’t mind but I can’t make sense of it.
Gandhi said What you do may not seem important
but it is very important that you do it. By that what is meant?
Linda said Why does God always have to be a man?
I said He could be a she but She’s probably really
a Tyrannosaurus rex. I like to be in America!
—Espaillat, Rhina, “On the Avenue”, Playing at Stillness, Truman State University Press, 2005.
—Donne, John, “At the round earth’s imagined corners”.
Sep 2021 · 991
Covid Cashier
Robert Ronnow Sep 2021
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.
Jun 2021 · 1.1k
Start Knowing Joy
Robert Ronnow Jun 2021
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.
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.
Robert Ronnow Mar 2021
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 a 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

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
      your 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 2021 · 741
Who's Got Trouble?
Robert Ronnow Jan 2021
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
compact and contiguous Congressional districts that represent actual
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
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
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
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  
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 · 422
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 sitting 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 · 890
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
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 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 · 381
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 · 429
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 · 3.4k
Robert Ronnow Feb 2020
While I pretty much opined 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, ursexual, ultrasexual, undersexual, vicesexual,
weresexual, wikisexual, zoosexual.
When I did that I had to pay the rent and get a job, too.
Jan 2020 · 1.6k
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."

--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 · 766
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, 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 anyone 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
Oct 2019 · 404
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.

--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.

is its own predicament.
Cast a cold eye and guess.
The clouds go, nevertheless,
in their direction.
—ending with a line by Wallace Stevens
Jul 2019 · 1.1k
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.

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.
The poem has gone to glitten.
Teacher, teacher—tiger!
--with a line by Etheridge Knight
May 2019 · 767
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
in fishnet stockings 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.

--title from a tune by Billy Strayhorn
Feb 2019 · 3.5k
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
Jan 2019 · 1.4k
On Suffering
Robert Ronnow Jan 2019
I waited too long
to mow my lawn
biopsy my lung
yet lived long enough, anon,
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 spurns
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.

I'll be undone
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.
are more disposed to suffer, while Evils are sufferable, than
to right themselves by abolishing the Evils to which they are        

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. Amen. A million

years hence
human sense
has so modified and mutated under
other moons
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 fusion.
About suffering, religion
was right (and wrong) all along.

--U.S. Declaration of Independence
Sep 2018 · 1.6k
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 chimneys 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.
Aug 2018 · 665
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 · 508
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.

--title from a recording by Ornette Coleman
May 2018 · 1.0k
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!
Apr 2018 · 9.6k
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.

--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 · 858
Lonely Bagel
Robert Ronnow Mar 2018
Lonely bagel
Loneliness bagel
The bagel of loneliness

Togetherness bagel
The bagel of being together
Bagel of belonging
Feb 2018 · 537
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 · 621
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 are warned against the shock of fast change,
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.
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