Four Poems

by John J. Ronan  

On Language

In our clear bell of English, the words
‘No’ and ‘understand,’ ‘lovers,’ ‘once,’
Add to the exotic polyglot of Paris,
Polish, German, Japanese, even French
Co-clamoring in the café without interference –
Different frequencies, bandwiths, biotas.
Over my shoulder, her view’s the Pont Neuf,
Oldest standing bridge on the Seine.
Mine’s the entrance, a dessert counter:
Ciastro, kuchen, keki, cake…
In my best reflexive I command for us gateaux.
A man’s Chinese makes his wife,
Look-alike for Bingbing, blush.
Someone’s Slavic ends in grunts.
An American ‘Awesome!’ jumps out,
Normal note in a sea of secrets.
‘Understand,’ she says again, stabbing the cake,
Sound heard not as sound but immediate sense.


Thin fingers of exosphere
Lap the capsule, and the bone-
Rattle brake begins
As heat shield resin,
Protecting a delicate payload,
Sublimes and melts away
In slow ablative erosion.

For the rocketeer, strapped
On top of hubris and fuel,
Lift-off means
Freedom of flight and once
Shed of the booster units,
Weightless escape – that lie.
The truth: you’re always falling.

Reentry’s the loss of speed
That kept illusion up:
Orbital decay, the pitch
And roll of capsule attitude,
Final descent by parachute
Prayer and pills down
To the one, leveling g.

The Temper of Presence, Ft. Kent

Over-connected and thoughtless, lost,
You turn of course to Ft. Kent
Because no one knows where the hell’s
Ft. Kent, anyway? Even Mainers,
And if they do, don’t care, never visit.
From Boston, eight mortal hours,
Same as south to D.C.,
But opposite sprawl, metro traffic,
Noise and people thinning before Portland.
At a log cabin tourist booth
You lock phones in the trunk of the car,
Unfold a map, light a cigar.
Beyond Augusta, signs for kindling, bait,
Wooden wishing wells and lookouts,
The Birthplace of Ed Muskie, mulch…
At a blueberry stand you buy blueberries.
Beyond Bangor, along the Penobscot, pine
Horizons and town after isolated town
The sole center of this or that –
Moose safaris! Arrowheads! Canoes!
In Aroostook County, at Houlton, you leave
The highway and head for Mars Hill,
Homing in on Presque Isle, Caribou –
And Ft. Kent, which is crucial, too:
The blockhouse, fishing derbies, ploye,
And, ending or begun, Route 1.
Ample parking. You park. And on a bench
Above the St. John, break out
The blueberries, listen to the peaceable
Stream fed by Canada, the Allagash,
Here and now trending again.

The Big Game

During the big game, the big
play, someone’s walking away.
In wide aerials, hurried traffic
Fills highways, vacationing, late.

As in town under a tarred roof,
A couple makes love. Or regardless
Sun reaches a waiting room’s
Glamour and People, Time, address

Labels protectively inked out.
Lovers come. Linemen collide.
A doctor distinguishes chronic, acute.
And the coincident, necessarily blind survive.


John J Ronan is a National Endowment for the Arts Fellow in Poetry, a former Ucross Fellow, Bread Loaf Scholar, and Poet Laureate of Gloucester, MA.  His book Marrowbone Lane, appeared in 2010 and was a Highly Recommended selection of the Boston Authors Club; Linda Pastan has called his work “Very good indeed: original, assured, just a touch sardonic.”  A new volume, Taking the Train of Singularity South from Midtown, appeared in January. His poems have appeared in Confrontation, Folio, Threepenny Review, The Recorder, Hollins Critic, New England Review, Southern Poetry Review, Louisville Review, Greensboro Review, Notre Dame Review, NYQ, et. al.

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