Three Poems

by John J. Ronan

The Hollins College Reunion

In the ceremonial closing parade, the frail
Are first, hobbling or caned, in carts –
A dowager in black’s returned for her 70th,
Twelve for 65, more
At 60, up to dozens for the half
Century mark, sensibly dressed
Grandmothers suddenly young.
The women witness and wave, pride
In their class banners, fundraising feats:
We’re ’95, ’05 –
A language lab, a tower clock,
Computers, lacrosse field sod…
Old, a certain, and middle age
Moving to youth, grads back
For a first reunion – new mothers,
And singles, high hemlines, tats.
Decades file by the august administration
To the steady cadence of trumpets and drums.
Husbands applaud from the gallery porch.
A summer event, so the band’s borrowed
From Northside High, the youngest set
Cornering a green quad, oblivious,
Brio – Saints Marching In,
Sampled Pomp, the Hollins Hymn.

Suspect Sought in Abuse of Elderly Nun

The boy lifted my tunic over shoes
And ankles, thin calves. He moved
Earnestly. He did not speak.
Both of us embarrassed and afraid, so like
That confused too-early afternoon,
So like Billy, the shy, naive sin
Leveraged to enlistment, unexpected vespers.
I closed my eyes in ardent prayer:
Thy will be done, Sweet Jesus.
Followed by alarms and sirens, police
Cars arriving, in pursuit, a polite
Detective asking me to describe the crime:
The wine-dyed cheeks, complexion,
Hair, the blue eyes moistened
By a chafing mix of cigarettes and incense,
Leaving out my prayer, penance,
Leaving out explicit tattoos,
Language I would never bring myself to use.
As the papers said: “The elderly nun
Is now recovering,” identity hidden.
Sister Magdalene. Tess. A week’s
Care and counsel, well-meaning priests.

Dives: On the Gender Lens

There was a certain rich man who was clothed
in purple and fine linen… Luke 16:19

Women are in their bodies even as men in our own
bodies, normal and non-exotic, not as appetite eyes
their bodies, odd bodies to men, but comfortably
themselves and quite unaffected in doing so, not posed.
Exactly what priests, pageants, the Pentagon, pols
And others who don’t get it, don’t get – not objects
On display, not ornament, nor in any way default,
The stew or masseuse, realtor and maid, people.
And yet, the opposite body’s meant to beckon –
Hips and lipstick, hair, the intentional breasts.
The mind’s eye imagines mixed use,
Vessels made of clay, angels, Magdalen.
Women are embodied even as men are embodied, flesh
Become self and insistently so, as usual, as true.


John J. Ronan is NEA Fellow, Breadloaf Scholar, former Poet Laureate of Gloucester, MA, and just came out with a new book in January, Taking the Train of Singularity South from Midtown.
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