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Three Poems, by Martha Ronk


dream: the dead returns

while I waited listening to my own life behind the doorway—
noises from the kitchen, clatter I couldn’t turn back into,
unconstrained, but held by metaphors of magnetism and gravity,
while he stood in the cross-hatched lights of dawn,
in the slow motion focusing of sharper bones and eyes,
saying he wasn’t the messenger bringing news of where you’d gone,
but was, slow and certain, becoming as you would have been,
after so much time, darkness, and that mahogany color,
unable to answer the question of where or how but in the shadow
of the door a visitation come in so ordinary a way,
having grabbed a trenchcoat in case of rain


critical views

written so long ago how can it matter they say and you
say it must be relevant and yet what is that and to whom
and if she is moved by it and yet it’s no good, who’s to say,
and if he hated people of my so-called type, must I hate
what he’s written when it seems so true,
and if anon and s’blood and let me not to the marriage of true minds
seem antiquated and yet have plumbed deep,
must I let go and where to go when words are denied,
when so much else is swept away, and yet how do we
cross over into another’s place in a universe of so many
griefs, frontal lobes, canards



“The voice must belong to someone…”
The Unnamable, Samuel Beckett


The repetitions bring forth the usual phrases useful for forming daylight,
cross-stitched rhetoric and the talking that gets nothing done in the way of
national debt, carbon trades, and reasons for going on best confronted by going on.
When the voice fails (does it alone convince us, walking along, talking to oneself,
naming the varied weeds of the field, birds of the air and clouds taking up the usual skyspace) silence stares us in the face and breathing is what’s advised to fool the brain
into another day. But leaving all that aside, take the voice so marshaled by syntax,
the present progressive and dangling participials and it must belong to someone,
an argument that takes us to the inward voicings hard-wired to the unnamable
out of which one hears oneself saying things, stirring things, evocative things,
things that with practice might suffice. The voice must belong to someone
“in there,” we say, hoping for said homunculus who stirs about among the organs,
a recognizable sort who will wish for things, take up it up again, again.


(Image: Uta Barth’s Field #10 (1995))


  • Martha Ronk is the author of eleven books of poetry and one book of short stories. Her most recent books include The Place One Is, Silences, Transfer of Qualities (longlisted for the National Book Award), and Vertigo (winner of the National Poetry Series). She has had several artist residences at Djerassi and MacDowell, and has won a National Endowment Grant and the Lynda Hull Poetry Award. Her PhD is in Renaissance literature and she has been a faculty member at Occidental College in Los Angeles and during the fall 2015 at Otis College of Art and Design.

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