South Bronx


While I'm reading a poem about it on the previous page
the girls come over to visit their boyfriends and dance
in high shoes and perfume. Their legs are strong and their voices high.
And the guys get high and hard thinking about what the girls are like behind their eyes.

That says more about me than reality. And it's exactly four lines.
Ken Patchen would say his angel smells sweet and sassy.
I feel the bony fingers of mine who has been working to stay alive.

Enough small poetry. One must conceive of a project–
say a poem about a bridge–or stop writing
and instead walk over the bridge at sunset and see the city in a nuclear war
the clocks, the Watchtower and the docks gone and no smoke.

I still exist but I'm late for my job. I'm dressed well
in honor of true love and Spring which both outlast the holocaust.
The manager cans me with the cold hard eyes of one who accepts the rules entirely.

Goodbye to the rows of dead metal desks and goodbye
to those who can take it longer than I.

The guys downstairs do not read poetry and very little prose.
The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money does not occupy their
      minds.
The sex pistils of the mountain daisy is no concern of theirs
and the man upstairs who plays the horn is less than a curiosity but makes more noise.

When I feel like this nothing matters and this is good–
get warm with wine, turn out the lights and turn up the radio–
if only there were a woman who liked the down and out life too.

In the end someone sticks a gun in my face in the South Bronx.
How I got among the fire escapes in the sooty alley I cannot say
but it is one of my earliest memories. Perhaps it is my grandmother holding my hand
or one of the clowns. I say Drop that goddamn gun and he blows me away.


Copyright 1985 & 2007 by Robert Ronnow.