Maestro of Solitude

Maestro of Solitude

by Robert Bonazzi

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Highlighting work from the 1990s into the new millennium, Robert Bonazzi’s fifth book of poems—his first in 20 years—draws upon the slow-gathering wisdom of late middle age. These poems are dialogues between the clockwork of ego and timeless solitude and between earthly intimacy and the death of loved ones; lucid discourses on global politics and


Highlighting work from the 1990s into the new millennium, Robert Bonazzi’s fifth book of poems—his first in 20 years—draws upon the slow-gathering wisdom of late middle age. These poems are dialogues between the clockwork of ego and timeless solitude and between earthly intimacy and the death of loved ones; lucid discourses on global politics and besieged communities; and witty takes on poetics and the arts. Often considered one of the unsung heroes of modern American poetry, Bonazzi has elicited praise from such contemporaries as Mark Van Doren, Thomas Merton, Guy Davenport, Robert Peters, and Naomi Shihab Nye.

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From the Publisher
“[Bonazzi] has taken poetry to its limits of subtlety, where sense nearly but not quite gives out into silence and awe.”  —Paul Christensen, literary critic, West of the American Dream

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Maestro of Solitude

Poems & Poetics

By Robert Bonazzi

Wings Press

Copyright © 2007 Robert Bonazzi
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-60940-086-6


From A Low Promontory

Human consciousness is in perpetual pursuit of a language and a style. To assume consciousness is at once to assume form. Even at levels far below the zone of definition and clarity, forms, measures and relationships exist. The chief characteristic of the mind is to be constantly describing itself.

— Henri Focillon


    Waves of momentary flourish
    spew frothy signatures
    each new wave erases

    Endlessly emptied manuscript
    inscribing a vulnerable shore —

    We project title and frame

    On the Verandah


    Astride a ragged rug
    it glides on subtle dawn

    Central — unlettered — muted
    shape between glaring windows

    Oak sacrificed to a smooth surface
    pine floor upholds this chairless form —

    Alas, thou hermetic Solitary mesa


    Tutors a parrot in the art of imitation

    Cat exposes clumsy
    gestures in our wandering

    Infinite birdsong
    on flight of shadows

    Inhabited by echoes


    Natives cast green shadows
    for the sun god, upraising
    delicate needles of blood

    No matter how I rearrange
    these cheap clay pots
    light breaks through

    Now to praise the palette
    without bringing it
    down to earth


    Chewed to perfect symmetry
    by anonymous insects

    Painted clouds glide unnoticed
    above our fall from grace

    A leaf raises questions
    descends with every answer
    to a horizon of worms —

    Or, must one be above
    grace to know?

    Concerning Angels

    All her notes were beyond the margin
    never on the page — always out of reach
    yet legible on clouds and shadows.

    However, I had saved no space for angels
    since devils draped capes over moonlight
    while her breeze scattered liberated letters.

    This angel cannot be a muse,
    I decided, for she was pure love
    without extending circumstances — no organs or lips, just all soul,
    which did not fit in neat columns.

    Her absolute innocence was touching,
    untouchable auras neither white nor pink,
    but a fluid transparency.

    "My angel, my angel," I pleaded,
    "I cannot believe in angels."

    "My human, my human," she whispered,
    "I cannot doubt."

    Contemplating Photography

    Reading pictures of the unknowable
    over coffee warming a cold cafe

    Viewing images from Mars, you saw
    them as familiar rather than alien

    Walking a fine sight line between light
    and shadow, simplicity becomes humility

    Lighting a world lost for not seeing
    your vision beyond perception —

    Lucid now in steam rising over black coffee.

    Shooting Star

    It is written that you were born
    on a night of shooting stars
    tracing arcs across a clear sky

    One was a learning curve
    for your journey where
    deserts blow away

    Yet water lights the way
    across oceans to a green
    place to plant seeds

    From A to Z you were named with
    a humble blinking eye dotted
    by a precise grain of sand

    Upon which was inscribed:
    We must go on.

    Can't Say Otherwise

    Can't say I committed suicide, yet
    I can brood over the style of my note.

    Or I can write it as religious fantasy —
    an invention of former and future lives.

    Many lives but only one time-frame.

    Peaceful versions of dying versus
    dreadful torturous extinctions

    yet just one death.

    Syrian Siren

    You are a Goddess
    who does not know it

    I love your beautiful imperfections
    textured then erased by
    brushes with life

    You are a lover on paper
    rushing toward publication
    lingering between lines
    lushly welling forth
    in puns to die for

    Do not stumble into prose
    but allow for spaces that
    obscure a plenum

    Never listen to declarations of the gods
    who are profuse and noisy
    yet ungodly in character
    and intention.

    Innocent Beauty

    Possessed of grace and naturalness
    with a devastating bottom lip —

    Beauty must be an innocent victim
    or devised of a naïve disguise.

    Now you see old ethics transformed
    once again into a voyeur's aesthetic
    yet she's perfectly safe from being
    crushed as a passive love object.

    There's a series of lines taking on
    no new meaning for the reader
    except this solitary one's
    naked notebook-to-be:

    Abandoned at the bedside of
    one who died for Beauty!

    Angel Eyes

    You observed a new world
    through a magnifying glass
    deciphering words glancing off meanings
    under a porch light switched on late.

    I descended the balcony into sú cochina
    to borrow a corkscrew for a vintage label
    sharing Haut Meduc and turning slowly
    to contemplate such wide-open eyes:

    One dark pupil set higher to measure
    discretion or doubt obscuring a
    curvature while the other
    pours forth light.

    Loving our graceful falling-away
    from youthful beauty I leapt
    off this low promontory
    into dark angel eyes.

    Point, Counterpoint

    Repetition of silences when
    hunger counterpoints fugue
    yet sounds no reprise

    Eye reinvents form
    as tongue caresses taste

    Scent's sensation a wordless wonder
    awash in Mediterranean spices

    Because her deep wounds are fragile
    my love shall always be beautiful

A Gadfly

To be a gadfly on your wall

Who sees hope sail
wooden wings as fan
in flight to nowhere

Subtlest intimacies loved
face to face who desired
to recapture beauty

Observing a smeared line
between humility/humiliation
an old ladder painted with words

Without a step to suggest
pursuit of scale
at this height

Spirit a calcium deposit
that lost the way of

Being suspended

Counting Grains of Sand

Everyone loves beginnings even
those who savor goodbyes
individuals itching to
experience it as one
raging instant
slippage to
turn over
to hide coarse
hairs in secret slit
aging hourglass emptied
conceals self-contained fragment
now with a one percent margin for
error when turning sands beyond time

    Cat Language

    Complacent cat knows his name
    wails and warbles to get outside

    Bookmark tail extends from the door
    of his seven syllable book.

    Alley tom scratches to get in —
    short black grunt counter
    points long white purr
    of street thesaurus

    Left eye slightly damaged
    set firmly in a stare.

    From this low promontory
    silent felinity on the prowl
    disappears beneath
    a steep flight of stairs.


Clockwork of Ego

Who shall say I am not the happy genius of my household?

— William Carlos Williams from "Danse Russe"

    The Cruising Ego


    Perhaps I made the mistake of misreading
    the face floating among other naked faces
    as I shaved off today's dead skin

    I know who I am
    have been or
    will be yet I
    hasten to
    establish personae

    Unfortunately in the same body!


    Ego will not love
    the body anymore

    Hopes intellect has ripened
    while emotions ran
    wild or sat silently
    going mad

    Goads me to imagine new
    forms for this aging body.

Cantos of Particles and Waves

Only the ego is lonely
because it has no body or place.

— Paul Christensen


in perpetual thesis
anti-thesis expanding endlessly outside parentheses marking past
horizon eternally afloat
in a circular wordplay
inscribed on a page or merely functional
speech bled silently
to oneself

centric city
grand gated prison
spreading concentric
circles around itself
center piece of void
mirrored wilderness
herded round scenery
fallen on deaf


Being illuminates becoming
why time ticks art
curves wave shapes change
exists arguing
mind over matter

fragment of
unknowable whole
infinite source eternal
within spirit essence
cycle of spring flowering
swarming insects take wing
over orange grove on
palette of shifting
colors seen as
windy light

true solitude pure
exists not except as
modal consciousness
explicating obscure
lowercase depths
punctuated space


mother of pity
self-pity father of ego
imperfection of non-
violence renders violence
anonymous genocide

of non-violence
absolute humility
facing murderous rapist
lost in contemplating
my perfect


yond senses
stars orbit word
foreplay no hands
counter clockwise

Tao was then — Zen is now!
milk or sugar
in the tea)


    A misnomer to be
    corrected as ego-pity
    since Ego blames the Other
    for its despair

    When we reach the conscious threshold:
    Ego denies the Self, fearing
    unconscious muck

    Ego despite holding every key
    to its own imprisonment
    cries out to be free
    (yet its ultimate concept
    remains closure)

    we pass through
    the light that dances
    under every prisoner's door.

    Questions of Critical Mass


    Charm once the weapon of choice —

    Ego now dons a primal disguise, sticking
    its little prick outside columns and boxes
    as the last cell of survival in a society
    bent on destruction never expects
    individuals of consumption
    to choose austerity.

    Does fundamentalism speak
    the last word of avenging gods
    or were all these deities
    poorly translated?

    No way to enlightenment with
    plunder plotting the path.


    Weapons of mass destruction shaped
    by contractors on a victory hotline
    to demand all embrace their theory
    of trickle-down equality.

    A teenage suicide bomber explodes her life
    in the service of whom or what?

    And where to hide all those pesky
    collateral bodies?


    Inclusion attempted to remove
    the Other from academia and art —
    never from reality.

    How do we forget those unwashed hordes
    scaling the Great Wall or those blood-
    thirsty barbarians at the gates of Rome?

    Have the Philistines moved
    from the Middle East to the Mid-West?

    Please may we have fresh stereotypes next time?
    Zero tolerance means no tolerance at all.

    Fear created prejudice but prejudice got bored
    without Others to torture.


    Slip under the radar of this extinct
    whitewashed species killing a colorful world
    making all accomplices in apocalypse.

    I pray for a critical Mass to serve
    by waking up in time
    not eternity!

    Without these stereotypes
    we can begin to live.

    A Lucid Truthfulness

    Begin with every word chiseled
    to our obsessive limitations

    Patriotic bravado hauled from the closet
    madly waves a tattered flag

    The middle range bears no truth
    only consequences ravaged
    by occupational hazards

    We stand for not knowing which way
    to avoid land mines or slimy puddles

    We never listen to the voices saying
    No to torture or yes to survival

    Swear no one to these state secrets while
    every official lie offers a press conference

    — Exit with a carnival strategy —

    Jesus Wept

    Something I remember from a night of anger —

    When Jesus wept and I used a period
    to seek my own closure.

    Are such full stops a balance of attention
    or an absolutism of dead things?

    We are surrounded by sensitive creatures
    except those who give rats a bad name

    Prowling these ruins — squealing
    about their inarticulate empire!

    Every Tribe

    Every tribe demands a hero,
    a voluntary victim and at least one trickster —
    though not always in the same person.

    Someday a prince or princess will come —
    or you might decide that the king and queen
    are not too feeble for your humble attentions.

    All cherish our fictions, tracing new
    trajectories on mood stabilizers.

    Not I, says the court jester, being
    neither an immortal hero nor
    a user of legal drugs.

    The voyeur shall always be a joker,
    observing his follies so often
    he cannot miss yours.

    Ego recognizes itself —
    but too late.


Excerpted from Maestro of Solitude by Robert Bonazzi. Copyright © 2007 Robert Bonazzi. 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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