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.
America the seeing-eye dog
Policy or personal
questions? In the poem Two White Wines
a child adopted from Cambodia
is a thing of beauty, and so she is
as she showed herself to be yesterday. Lovely. However
the poet implies market, i.e. economic, forces brought her to America
when, as her parents know, it was war,
the sad Vietnam War or the War with America
as I think the Vietnamese remember it.
Honor and bravery
equal courage. Reed Whittemore’s poem about
a photo of Viet Cong prisoners, stoic, defiant
under an American officer’s boot
expresses admiration for the enemy. Then and now
a dangerous sentiment. Your fellow citizens, denizens
of convenience stores, even your family,
may come to see you as the enemy. Once ostracized, the other,
not belonging to the loved ones, you’re not long for
this world of dew.
Tits and ass
Ken says, describes America’s culture, not its poets
or jazz. What’s worth fighting for?
Your land, your right to be stupid on your land.
Now there is one large land, one people
and many. The vote is a crude, monosyllabic grunt,
no way to express the subtle degrees of experience
our long lives represent. Thus,
it is good, when the family gathers, to talk,
each person speak
of what has been forgotten, forgiven and forgone.
Trading or taking
every family must be tithed or taxed.
Every man who finds his meaning in war
will be pained into wisdom and gentleness.
Who comes home
comes home to a future that bypassed the fighting, or did it?
The oil must be sold,
even Saddam or Osama cannot withhold it.
You can drink your quota of water
and still your heart can ache.
Empire or democracy
of nations? We can choose to be the reigning kings
between the last empire and the next
or we can implement a vision
of collective deliberation.
America the seeing-eye dog,
not America the junkyard dog.
Going question by question
toward predictable, transparent governance.
Example: How can a people become a nation
without resorting to violence or incurring violent reaction?
Geese in Winter
Full of courage, winter,
geese fly north. The car
almost wouldn’t start.
Drive along the Mohawk
flood plain. Cattails, grasses,
no doubt ash and elm.
Restful tans and browns.
Flat, low, but still city.
Arrive at the interview.
Corner of State and Clinton
luminous blue corporate logo
between empty store fronts.
That they might not offer me the job
and they might, make me equally sad.
Fly in formation, life for pay.
Young, my boast had been
distances and heights traveled. Now
any road serves well
as the long narrow road to the north.
The cold, quiet solitude of that road
would serve well too.
The story of Sally, the story of John.
It takes an advanced, healthy economy
to produce science and technology
but aborigines may track animals
and draw symbols in the sand, give
each cloud and bird and tree a personal
secret name. And explain according
to a logic for which we need equations
how geese in winter flow north today.
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