Martha Ronk's recent books include Why/Why Not (U. California, 2003) and Place As Purpose: Poetry from the Western States (Sun & Moon, 2002), which she co-edited with Paul Vangelisti.






Defining objects


In the widening circles where I sit reading     

objects from the past float up to be listed. 

Venice made a fortune in seasalt (1530)

the Flemish tapestry-makers were paid in pepper.

Aside from objects, what culture is ours,

which Byzantine velvet and damask cloth,

baggage of books colliding, a throwaway camera,

a photo of The Angel at the Sepulchre, Julia Margaret Cameron. 

A few minutes ago sun in the blue haze of humidity

youíd think impossible to hold like the gauze

tacked across the museum walls. 

I think to anchor mistakenly. 

Time continues vaguely and the pages turn.

The mosquito scab on the left side perhaps, the moth thrown out of the sheets,

the further-out moon is one a Virgin might stand on

with her pointed leather shoes like no other shoes today.








You couldnít read a book about it


The book is a place card telling you where you are.

You can take it with you on the airplane or mark where to fall.

When he goes upstairs he canít find the one he wants.

Havenít you read about him, famous he says,

and I counter, he says, with misery

no one should have so much to do with

he says, you always like the really depressing ones.

Over time meanings get lost like florid from another century.

The idea of isomorphism is ok, but seeing isnít believing

and the part of the white bird that isnít white is throbbing

as you walk under the branch and donít look up to the spot of white

you know is there since yesterday.

You couldnít read a book about it or take binoculars

as you keep meaning to or use the painting of the crow this morning

over the newly mown hay or was it wheat you saw

despite the heavy brush strokes move wings in that slow way.








The approximate form of beauty



The approximate form of beauty where we stood looking out over each other.


Backing off is the only way. 


But I like it too much whoever it was said.


The approximate time is 11:42 and your time is up.


The relative motion of two objects moved.


Proximity is neither like nor not like. 


A camellia in a glass bowl like the one yesterday.


Whoís to say this is like that or I like it or taking it in.


I write to you as an approximation of intimacy.


Doesnít one want to move out over the edge whoever it was said.


You taste like grass he said.


You are instantaneous she said.


The time is precisely 2:35 but the clock is useless.


Every glance at the watch for these nervous types  puts a strain on the nerves.


A quarter of an hour becomes a 90 degree arc, repeated habits, the fixity of fixed ideas.


How odd to have had the thought, Iím going to have a splendid time.








They were talking. Things fell



Each time she refuses to be wily, her silence undoes.


So thereís always something.


So-and-so, a common name. 


At the table she said, then he said, and then it was over.

Out there a sound.

In the midst of coyotes and falling things.


What are the games behind canonical texts.  Not to have to jot down silence.


Nothing in the play or the speech is finished for good (it feels like it, it feels like it)


Doubtful it stood,

                        As two spent swimmers that do cling together

                        And choke their art.


We design a rhetoric even in the way we wanted something we didnít.


What happened to those notes

                        where was the alley didnít we

                        in the store and what year was that anyhow.


Or definition as in sitting at the table where she was wily.

Getting up to get something isnít being like that.


Or suspicion lifts rhetoric out of the realm of shine.

Polarized into positions we take it on like coats.


The film she showed me was about things falling down she had taken it from another movie

of earthquakes and added sound to the things falling down around people out-of-focus.


If we return to it at the table after getting it, whoís a no account.


When we live in the midst of sounds, falling things on tv in the other room.

You organize a powerful silence. I do. 


When it fell and broke into shards we thought of it as archeological not personal.








In the meantime (OutWest)


In the meantime spreads aloft up to and including foothills

over her head she throws a languid arm and gloves did I mention gloves

with long blue fingers into the rock crevices, but quietly,

did I mention quietly, as the air moves without a wind

at the rate of a metronome set just so and slowly by the piano

in a place vaguely familiar in the photos hung in the afterlight

of whatever idea they had with their elegant, did I mention elegant, blue gloves

pushing in the crevices of the foothills right up against where we were thinking

we might get to but in the meantime the light is unchanging as

the air is unchanging and couldnít be anywhere else, did I mention

we couldnít help the blue from some movie we were

caught in nor the fingers pushing into crevices in the rock.