The School of Not Moving
Hands flat on his greywacke lap,
Pharaoh’s unfazed by city traffic,
Gabby guards, the bell of children
A gallery back as they meet the mummy.
Similar stillness marks the stern
Gravegood gods, the case of cats,
And hard headrests chipped from sycamore
Fig that would surely slow time.
The children charge, scend of the present
In a playful, plaid dash. They fog
And print the glass, they tickle toes,
Cry ‘Cookie!’ at canopic jars.
Only their flight to the future, ancient
Rome restores the ka of calm,
As slow, time-killing tourists,
Stiff as stelae, breathe easy.
In the Basement
On certain isolated, indifferent days
a bright bar of light will strike
clear across the basement.
It’s like Newgrange or Stonehenge, except
the basement’s not aligned with anything.
The light finds something to do.
It probes bundles of books, the white
washing machine, lingers over
Christmas bins, spots the wine
and LP’s, a swing set,
half-empty cans of Artisan Apple
and Pewter Blue, the last happy
décor idea, stored here in the dark.
Turning around, you notice the dull,
narrow window that allows light
to angle in just right, without warning,
an accident really because of how
the house sits oddly on its plot,
because of the drifting position of cloud,
because of sun, the season, and the trees.
On the Oubangui
Guides poled and guests paddled,
The bare-backed crew working currents
As the rest of us stroked slowly,
Wake and water snakes trailing
Our canoe on the broad Oubangui, border
Of Congo and a former French colony,
La Republique de l'Afrique Centrale,
Five desperate degrees above the equator.
The shortwave radio crackled static:
'Snow in the Dakotas,' 'Season's Greetings,'
And on Christmas, 'Dean Martin has Died.'
Tourists toasted with palm wine
The voice, the Rat Pack, Vegas -
A fond belief in booze and crooning,
Remote as we were, on a river in Africa.
The first morning we had pushed into mist,
Splash followed by the splash of crocodiles,
On the tributary Mboumou. Second morning,
A portage past rapids and the start
Of a week on the big river west
Of Kemba, mud and a mile wide.
hours passed without hailing
Another dugout, then suddenly dozens
Would appear near the next village,
Where we'd stock up on water and wine,
Either bank of the bending river -
Or if the radio warned of rebels in Congo,
The next north, hugging the Republic.
A post office and goats, gusts
Of children, chickens, a mosque and mission,
Animated gab in the taverns, our topics
Christmas, Amore, and small arms.
guides would buy cassava bread
And fish and bake the fish on the bank,
Saying grace by day to Le Seigneur,
By night in Sango to mahogany and the moon.
The oldest of the grand houses along Broadway
Dates from ‘84 and is one of our parlors,
A mansion with wraparound porches and bay windows
Built by a magnate, a great man, who may
Himself have been buried from home, in the former custom.
Many evenings there are crowds of people and cars,
So a stranger would think party, again as earlier,
Though absent the orchestra and alcohol - or only
A pint flask pressed in a corner, a cello.
Mornings, the stranger would guess brunch, an
Ceremony for civic pride held in the restored
Structure, the women’s hats and silk bows
Another throwback. Like
the calm, serious conversation,
The white leather guest book, and the garden.
Museum of Modern Art
third floor, the brochure
unfamiliar artists and old
of the liquid labial school –
silver, gelatin silver.
a corner, you’re surprised, stopped
by a Cuvelier: will, in a simple
tree – who knew
were saying everything in 1860?
by Belloc, whose staid sitter, unnamed,
nevertheless with pride and attitude.
’99, Gertrude Kasebier
of attitude and self and hope,
after her White, Modotti, Albers,
Ilse Bing, if you can believe it, in the 30’s.
perspective, the curators include Cygnus
the Henry brothers, Paul and Prospere:
to correct our relentless spin,
sliding lines of time trace
points of light stock still –
like a faint magnesium flash
by someone looking back.
certainly, in Cygnus there are other cities,
afternoons, Modern audiences
in dress and piercings and hair,
with syntaxed awe gasp “Ahhh!”
the early evolution of photography, a process
silver and somewhere else.
Lex Julia de Aldulteriis
Ancient, family-value law damned
sacrifice of lineage to libido, among high born and noble
Angry parents could kill their own
daughter and her peckish patrician.
Cuckolds might kill the man and spare the spouse, but
must as good citizens,
sue for divorce the wench wife or be flogged as pimps in
Usually, a woman forfeited one third
of her domestic portion,
dowry as well, and was banished to one of the farthest
Mr. Promiscuous, lucky to be alive,
lost half his possessions
and was also sent to a distant island, though the text of
imperial law sagely states: not the same island.
the Train of Singularity South from Midtown
the funnel of everyone in Times Square
down the station stairs,
and urgent purpose damming
at turnstiles before cleaving
streams for an 8th or 7th Avenue
an A Train, the Two,
while quick, diverged currents, hot
breathless, pick platforms, stop
listen for slivering steel drums
the wait for translation to work or home,
at the side of a narrow island
feet under ground,
a wind-rush and rattle that drive
agile, enterprising mice,
Tag, Bir Tren,
Treni, Een Trein,
Train, Jeden Trenovat,
the red One Train halts.
A mustered public, potluck, steps
forward, hushed and obscure, hips
at doors in slide-by
witness, separate bodies white
yellow, brown, black and tan,
or whiskery, whiskeyed, wan,
gray, big or bone-house,
meek, mouthy, angry, lost -
tourist who trails maps and binoculars
last onto the crowded car.
and defensive doze,
conventions of eye and elbow
the tribes. A breath brushes
strapping hand. The platform
from the scrum of Penn Station,
handsome hardboy’s followed by nuns,
in their blue loafers, who start
the tame tourist, a fresh mark,
to a laptop on a clenched lap,
plugged hummer, a patient cop,
saints as they panhandle
parish - the buxom beauty who pulls
her purse, continuing slowly
a witness of rapt women as she throws
into the can, clink, clink:
thing of it is, here’s the thing,
reason. The reason being: yes.”
rise to Viva Las Vegas!,
a scratched Cadbury ad:
+ Elvis – together at last.
unfolds. A uniformed girl,
and war-painted, twirls
arrival, greets the hardboy’s attitude
a teasing parade of school plaid,
in sour grape, Tabu,
widely by a man who makes
mute partner blush back,
blonde by the busty mater, opposite
signing hands and the black habits.
gently defined, common commute
Fashion Ave., spelled out
GAP and caps, Jets, Giants,
Nike, in tapestry pants,
the sexy matron, the sibyl, who speaks
weary and resigned, wisecrack sadness:
forsaken. And apart.
a door delay in which a pigeon,
on a serious, moral mission,
onto the car like the pride of Chelsea,
urban bird who avoids the eyes
travelers, they in turn avoiding the bird
pickets of posture and print..
nuns, surrounded by trousers, smile.
bumpkin, gaze behaving, smiles.
practiced pigeon, a positive nodder,
the speechless woman who figures
with a brown bag at her knees,
witness-wise, dim as destiny,
or whatever happens, happens,
seeds from her open hand.
flicker. The train, in fits,
to the Village, St. Vincent’s.
sage woman, staring intensely
at a dark wood of girders and graffiti,
bosom and big rings:
only rebuttal? Love.
cars start. Peeper skews
Viagra, Visit the Brooklyn Zoo,
to chatter blend with brat-
prattle, the porn plot
who giggles like tickling and sways,
to the rock and roll of the train,
with tin clinks of a can’s
coins, the cluck of nuns,
rests from the help-meet
pigeon pecks at sunflower seeds,
fused and Ives-like
for City in Clickety-Clack.
Christopher, a drunk curses Christ,
credit, his mother, the Mets,
of the end of the world and laughs.
one gets on, no one off.
train stops short of Houston, Houston
in the sealed tunnel. Engines
dull lights die
bodies breathe an undivided sigh.
worm the blind silence,
stage stripped to underlying time,
long, long loss of light.
a Zippo’s flicked at the far end
the car, the wise woman sends
a candle, the candle slowly
in grudged transfer, glow
on the row of stoic handlers,
and galoot, gangbanger,
awake in pitch-driven
grace held and given.
hardboy’s forehead flames with lipstick.
blowzy bird runs before the wick.
Jerk of cars. Lurch.
shuffle, buttocks touch,
and elbows, corps de ballet
brave, awkward, standing balance.
the usual shift and witness,
school girl, in gimmick innocence,
with hardboy and his target heart.
and match! Tartan.
bird, confident that symbol solves
self, takes a seat after Canal.
Franklin, it’s good-bye to the bum, who rises
help from the hardy nuns, good-bye
the quiet signers who nod and stand,
their rides ending or begun,
off and on, fungible, one.
with your field glasses and guides,
become everyone too, quietly beside
in witless, wondering joy,
no longer alone, no longer on the way,
available day arrived at last,
myriad, American. The platform passes.
Ett Tag, Bir Tren,
Treni, Een Trein...
in a sphere,
numen or essence and no more.
reason? The reason being: yes,
breath and brush of necessary witness,
of drunk and dove,
oracle, blue loafers, love
in fugitive communion, close
on the warm, coincident cars.
5524 Gloucester, MA 01930
Copyright (c) 2014 by John J. Ronan