Poems by Robert Ronnow

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Pic by Steve Johnson

 

 

Home Schooling

November and April
when the trees are first bare and last naked
have become my favorite months. All the food eaten
except last rose hips and earliest leeks.
Leaves innocent
as dying men and infants.

Study one plant or animal each morning
before writing anything. All reading–
poetry or prose, truth or fiction–
classified the same, the distinguishing
characteristics being helpful or boring,
beautifully or indifferently written. Then

practice trumpet worried not at all about
my sound or perfection. Afternoon, my sons
return from school, math and (again)
reading, piano. Wednesdays we walk
observe plants and animals and record
our observations to identify and classify

later in the week. Nothing else special
need be done but stay alive.


 

All Soft Feathers and Flight Muscles

In the intermediate zone between heaven and hell
opinions and complaints, after much moaning, may
come to be held in common.

The way a flock of chickadees
moves through the woods, cheerfully,
each bird taking a turn on point.

All meaning must be found, here, in the middle zone,
notwithstanding fears that rend and own us,
of dying unknown.

A Spring day
the flycatcher broke its neck against our bay window
nothing changed.

I buried it, somewhat reverently, in a shallow grave.
No differently, really, than I would a man
who’d died suddenly.

Who’d left footprints in the snow
which became wild lily-of-the-valley, running pine
then snow again in time.

After long enmity
Sally hugs me, asks if I’ve been happy.
A moment in a year.

February, the light is long, more direct.
It’s meaningless, repetitious
but held dear.


 

Election Day

This autumn morning with the birds waking up
and the leaves changing is Election Day. I meet
Jane Trichter on the downtown train and discuss
Henry’s upset. Her skin is soft especially her cheeks
and she is intelligent and sensitive. The subway riders
do not recognize their representative.

All day, at the office. I accomplish nothing substantive
but I keep the aides and interns working
and cheerful. On Tuesdays there is always a wave
of constituent complaints, by telephone. One woman’s
Volkswagen is towed and the police break in
to get it out of gear. Do they have that right,
can they tow even though no sign said Tow Away Zone?

It is an interesting question but I try to avoid
answering it. The woman persists and succeeds
in committing me.

The people at the office want to bomb Iran. A few Americans
held hostage and therefore many innocent women and children
pay the postage. It may be good classical logic to hold responsible
the whole society for the acts of a few, however, then
I must begin to expect the bomb and the white cloud that waits.
Apocalyptic visions are popular again
but we are more likely to thrash the earth to within an inch of its life
than scorch it to charred rock.

Corner of Church and Chambers,
German tourist’s language, accent repels me
although I wasn’t alive 45 years ago
and many sweet, great Germans opposed the crazy Nazis
but lately I’ve read Primo Levi’s If Not Now, When?,
seen William Holden in “The Counterfeit Traitor”,
have followed the argument started by revisionists
who say the Nazi atrocities never happened.

War brought many shopkeepers, bookkeepers close to their earth,
weather, seasons, death.
I see daily life as low-intensity warfare
as my father, the World War II vet, did.
Off to work we go. What is war?
Population control, mother of invention, diversion
from the work of making life permanent.

Today is Election Day and because it’s a day off
for most municipal employees, the City Hall area
has been quiet and easy to work in. Henry and Jane
hold a press conference on teenage alcoholism.
Leslie, the other aide, who I’d like to draw
the stockings and clothes off of and feel her whole body
with mine, goes home with her mother, leaving me
standing by my desk with my briefcase at the end
of Election Day.


 

About the Author

Robert Ronnow’s most recent poetry collections are New & Selected Poems: 1975-2005 (Barnwood Press, 2007) and Communicating the Bird (Broken Publications, 2012). Visit his web site at www.ronnowpoetry.com