Read an Excerpt
In These Latitudes
Ten Contemporary Poets Volume One
By Robert Bonazzi
Wings PressCopyright © 2009 Wings Press
All rights reserved.
Nancy Kenney Connolly
Nancy Kenney Connolly has authored four collections of poems: I Take This World, winner of the Main Street Rag Chapbook Contest; The Color of Dust; 33 Shades of Green (with paintings by Jeannine Sharkey); and Second Wind, the most recent. Connolly "fell in love with India" as a Fulbright Scholar en route to a Ph.D. at Tufts? Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy. With her first husband, father of her three half-Indian children, she spent several years in India before the family resettled in the States. She taught at Michigan State, edited college texts at Scott Foresman, worked as a stockbroker and as non-profit administrator, eventually returning to academia as a research associate in the University of North Carolina's School of Medicine.
The Space Telescope's Song
Mustangs of interstellar plains
we gallop spacescapes unimagined
by the passing specks of carbon chemistry
who see light's spectral sweep
like the man who in a rainbow
beholds one shade alone - let's say pistachio -
while we can picture the entirety
for we screen microwaves, infrared and ultraviolet,
x-rays and gamma rays: We are
both lens and mirror of creation. O, tremble
at such radiance. Galaxies swirl
like snowflakes in a gale.
Vast and vaster nebulae of incandescent hydrogen,
nurseries of newborn stars,
death shrouds of supernovae
in which we paw the dust of fledgling elements.
Who can rove the reaches of this universe
and think god has declared himself
to any chosen molecules of carbon?
Hell flickers as the slimmest candle
beside furnaces of cosmic birth and dying.
Come, ride with us the winds of space
and sing the aching beauty. Sing!
Hours stretch like the Sahara
as, day after day, you craft words,
strain to high C's, land triple axels -
rehearse, refine, rut in the brain -
a self-inflicted anguish
to the twenty thousand hours and more
of sweat and pain and trembling faith -
the building blocks of pyramids
that, from afar, appear to rise with ease
to one crowning speck.
How briskly an arena clears
the last tossed rose swept out
and where a mystic power just reigned, an empty
shell. An empty shell? Is all that practicing
for this performance hour? Or
for the team, the choir?
When did you know it is in practicing itself
that you enter the white villa, an oasis
of green groves and clarifying light
where, absorbed in pirouette or palette,
oblivious to ticking sand,
you become creation?
On the cusp of waking, brown eye lingering
in dream, blue one blinking into dawn,
the still-life irises wilt - so easily one
is seduced by every passing caravan
on the silk road of sensations.
Then comes the startled squint -
too late -
the shape of certainty has sprung.
What seemed enduring
Now, irises take root in clouds, fire
flecks high fescue. A wave
washes out of Turner's Fire at Sea.
I stand knee-deep
in a tumult of light.
if you would pleasure me
color the sky
in the wind
set the door
a stranger in
if you would offer gifts
give me the pause
between two thoughts
the moment in
Monet's shimmering lines
from lily pads
amaze me with un-
for no good reason
Like a crayon corralled
inside straight lines
your soul chafes to kiss off
its black bow tie
and plunge freeform
into vermillion, hot
as mustard, raw as blood
roiling pools of passion
undulating lava flows
Dionysian sweat -
as Apollonian strictures loosen
you seek a floor
a ceiling, structure
as after Scriabin's fumaroles
clear clean strokes of Mozart
Monologue for a Massage
When I lie down
and bare my flesh to the master
I will follow my unruly soul from the room.
I will go
back to Aurangabad,
to an evening emerging like a bud.
were driven through
the feet of music, long before
the fig tree
dropped its fruit. Then,
nothing had been attained. Then, cumin,
ginger, and clove
crossed swords in my throat.
I listened to murmurs seeping through
a jackal sulking in the jungle. I was
white with desire. I will go back, breathe again
orbit that far nebula,
a honeybee sipping its first nectar.
You could live for the fleeting exaltation:
an orange peels
and radiance erupts, a tomato skin splits
and a truth slips through,
a mist of motes scatters and a sunbeam
sears your breast. Be molten in the moment
in your solitary hammock
swinging to the rhythm
of your privileged orgasm.
Or run through sea oats to the edge
of the sand. Dare
join the waves as they flow in
from pregnant deep to cobalt swell.
Flounce abreast of white-feathered crests
flashing, peacock-proud, a milky mustache,
flinging shards of limpet and tentacle -
only to roll over, immersed in debris
of receding illusions, bride of a sea
embracing every errant tide.
As the mind drifts
flutter down from overhanging cottonwoods,
whirl in unexpected eddies
two thousand feet below in a Norwegian gorge
hammering like fear against the ribs,
you halfway across a hallucination
of canyon walls - a swinging rope bridge -
now glancing down at an armada of regrets
swamped by frothing rapids
and yet, somehow
you drift along, clinging to a raft of old rhythms
washing down from lofty stands of bristlecones and bracken -
waves of peace
lapping currents of grief - the breath of a beloved ebbs
as tadpoles and dragonflies emerge
and the pages turn, the river a book of origins,
the word of god shimmering over rapids -
and who thirsts at a waterfall,
or needs a rope?
The river is itself a bridge.
The Sense of Touch
The museum sign says: TOUCH!
This rock is older
than anything you'll ever
touch, older than the solar system,
even than the sun.
I press my finger to the hole
and probe a shard of stellar lust,
potsherd of some chance conjunction
perhaps ten billion years ago.
And not a whisker on it.
I press again. As if a doorbell.
Perhaps someone from Betelgeuse will come.
No. This unresponsive iron and iridium
is chill as whence it fell.
I think of the millennia between us -
that endless rhapsody of rash proliferation,
one thing leading to another. Oh, Apple of My Eye,
beside this, Genesis is artless
and miracle the arc
from callous rock to your shy inner thigh.
All green motion, the
like water reeds
yea-saying overhead -
all acquiescent grace, a coral
reef, crystal jellies glowing,
to-and-fro of clownfish,
tang, and puffer.
Someone stands in the park
pushing an empty swing.
flickering like flames -
in the acoustic architecture
of live oak arches.
You get only
so many Sundays -
do you vacuum the Venetian blinds?
Fernand Léger, 1922
Et alii. Et alii.
You don't say no to any
museum. Doesn't your lumbar region
tire of this position? Clad,
oblivious to fad, in that
timeless milky skin. And
those overripe raspberries!
What are you waiting for?
Orchids? Bonbons? Champagne? Chains?
When you get proportioned
as an ornamental pear, or cubed -
three boobs protruding from an elbow -
you can't expect old gallantries or props.
Do I detect a mandolin, an odor of musk?
Spread your legs, get on with it just once.
The Pieta and the Fig
Like virgin love, the urgency
in the speaker's voice. He lingers
on a rain forest trail, telling of the strangler fig:
its tiny flowers grow within its fruit
dependent on a wasp
to bore inside and fertilize the blooms.
A dance of life and death, poor wasp.
She lays her eggs, then can't get out.
His audience of ecotourists awed,
the speaker squints one-eyed through binoculars:
"The hatchlings do, but see, if they get blitzed
by vandals armed with DDT, the cycle's over.
No wasp, no fig. With nature that's forever,
two for the price of one extinct, and each unique -
unlike the works of man, who can replace
whatever with another."
His beading temples glisten. He
has brought me to my knees. I shut my eyes
to see. Did the vandal who blitzed the Pieta
scar only a marble nose? Sculptors
still chisel and chip, none
Michelangelo. Once, after Alaric,
the record of man's soul
hung on the nibs of Irish monks.
We Need the Stars to Withstand the Suffering
What times are these
When to speak of trees is almost a crime
For it is a kind of silence about injustice.
- Bertold Brecht
And what are trees, Bertold,
but power exercised: their sun-greed
sucks the smaller saplings dry
and leaves the rose bush gasping.
Since the beginning, the gold coin
of this cosmos has been violence -
equity only paper money,
often laundered, never clean. And yet, Bertold,
the greedy trees stand tall, offering
a careless generosity of shade
to half-eaten corpses.
Listen to the music of their leaves
as they drum the wild wind's saraband.
How sweet, the tartness of their harvest.
Gaze long enough at them
and calm takes root, then courage flowers.
This is the second wind.
Athenian Shadow Over the Potomac
It is the gods? custom to bring low
all things of surpassing greatness.
A man of stature,
a crag above all others,
must have raised a fist against the turquoise tides
surging the Aegean coast -
still focusing behind his laurelled brow
on proportioned columns, measured discourse,
the leafy days when civic virtues
walked the streets in sandals, when Socrates
revelled less in scripture
than in questioning -
until reptilian fury drove the greedy seas to crush
like clamshells on the beach
that splendid interlude in Earth's spin,
that city upon a hill
where once had prospered the unfettered mind.
Finger the silk Isfahan, its
filigree of tendrils ripe
with pomegranates - it gleams,
an ode to your exquisite taste -
and the more you try
to bargain down the price, the more
the carpet beckons. Then
a petal blinks -
stroke away the apparition,
but look again, a leaf
is quivering like a lip, there is
a face. Beneath the sheen,
a face. Unlike
the merchant's jowly mask.
He calls for cups of tea.
Dare another glance
and there, between the fibers,
fingers thin as threads.
The Rapture is a Mushroom Cloud
White on white - the breath
the primal canvas,
a shiver -
the laden vines,
of thorns crushes
loaves and fishes -
and the bee-buzzed meadow
for Rapture, moon
sun a crescent of itself -
ash on ash, the breath.
About that Rose, Ms. Stein
Suppose a rose
by the veranda
of a plantation south of Atlanta or
Mombasa, on stage at La Scala,
or shaded by lacy Costa Rican coffee trees,
like fine amontillado
splashed by a dew of molten sun. No one
could summon voice
and only a gasp would testify
to what is in the eye of the beholder - not varieties of
geography but grace that is of a piece. It's the
Fibonacci structure of eye and cell and molecule and
petal, the harmony we share in the arithmetic of
On Hearing Renée Fleming Sing Richard Strauss' Four Last Songs
The day's tasks loaf on the sofa,
the high-noon gleam
of a life's minor medals
on the mind's gray mantel.
The urge to sweat another hill
in a landscape scowling
at the heart's consuming quest
to cultivate like Whitman
Jefferson and Socrates
that flowering of spirit, that blossoming
of precious seeds - the rule of law
and equal rights and reason -
a reach and a fruition
once seemingly ordained,
where can be found
among the husks, a harvest?
Light is loveliest at dusk -
in its consoling radiance
shadows slant at angles of repose,
a final fullness
hanging on the boughs.
The pear tree's white explosion.
Evensong at the Canyon de Chelly
They've gone now. From the canyon floor
the grazing longhorns, the backpackers
with their panoramic film, the blond laughter
that climbed a thousand feet of sheer red rock.
And from this mesa summit, the Navajo vendors
with their unsold turquoise and silver, grandmothers
squatting in specks of juniper shade, raven-haired tots
scampering too close to the edge of ancestral ledges.
We're here alone, my daughter and I, with purple
asters, a mountain bluebird. In sage-scented silence
we stand to watch a setting sun. Sapphire sky
and bleached-bone stone desolate in every direction -
what if our discord stilled like this?
Out of nowhere a stray bitch approaches, attaches
herself to us like a guardian spirit. Nose-bleed dry,
we spill our bottled water for the dog.
Excerpted from In These Latitudes by Robert Bonazzi. Copyright © 2009 Wings Press. Excerpted by permission of Wings Press.
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