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In These Latitudes: Ten Contemporary Poets

In These Latitudes: Ten Contemporary Poets

by Robert Bonazzi

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A unique collection of diverse voices, this collection of 10 contemporary poets represents a wide swath of the American South—from Virginia to Texas. In this small anthology, each poet gives voice to the struggles and humors of enduring their middle ages. Poets include Assef Al-Jundi, Nancy Kenney Connelly, H. C. Nash, and Tony Zurio, among others.


A unique collection of diverse voices, this collection of 10 contemporary poets represents a wide swath of the American South—from Virginia to Texas. In this small anthology, each poet gives voice to the struggles and humors of enduring their middle ages. Poets include Assef Al-Jundi, Nancy Kenney Connelly, H. C. Nash, and Tony Zurio, among others.

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In These Latitudes

Ten Contemporary Poets Volume One

By Robert Bonazzi

Wings Press

Copyright © 2009 Wings Press
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-60940-092-7


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

    your dream

    spectators indifferent
    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
    scatter innocence
    in the wind
    set the door
    ajar, let
    a stranger in

    if you would offer gifts
    give me the pause
    between two thoughts
    the moment in
    Monet's shimmering lines
    when dragonflies
    from lily pads

    amaze me with un-
    for no good reason

    No Rest

    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 -
    and yet
    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.

    Before nails
    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

    thatched roofs,
    a jackal sulking in the jungle. I was
    white with desire. I will go back, breathe again

    saffron dust,
    orbit that far nebula,
    a honeybee sipping its first nectar.

    Intimate Illusions

    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
    and roar
    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
    aurora borealis,

    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 -

    all bravura,
    a mockingbird

    in the acoustic architecture
    of live oak arches.
    You get only
    so many Sundays -

    for whom
    do you vacuum the Venetian blinds?

    Reclining Woman

    Fernand Léger, 1922
    Et alii. Et alii.

    Promiscuous being!
    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.

    - Herodotus

    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,
    iridescent, translucent,
    a shiver -

    then warthogs
    the laden vines,
    a crown
    of thorns crushes
    loaves and fishes -

    and the bee-buzzed meadow
    is kindling
    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,
    slowly unfolds

    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,
    sipping Shiraz,
    the high-noon gleam
    of a life's minor medals
    gathering dust
    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,
    but now
    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.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Robert Bonazzi is a columnist for the San Antonio-Express News. He is the author of Fictive Music, Living the Borrowed Life, and the critically acclaimed biography of author John Howard Griffin, Man in the Mirror. He lives in San Antonio, Texas.

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