Thursday, June 6, 2024

GAS Featured Poet: J.R. Solonche


Nominated for the National Book Award, the Eric Hoffer Book Award, and nominated three times for the Pulitzer Prize, J.R. Solonche is the author of 38 books of poetry and coauthor of another. He lives in the Hudson Valley.





I asked the poet what her poem 

was about because at first I thought 

it was about sex, and then I thought it 

was about a nuclear war, and then I thought 

it was about sex again. I thought it was about 

sex because of the lightning and the tides 

ebbing and flowing and the crater and, 

of course, because of the title, “Afterglow,”

but then I changed my mind and thought 

it was about a nuclear war because of 

the lightning and the tides ebbing and 

flowing and the crater and especially because 

the stuff that filled the crater was green 

which I took to be new grass growing

after the nuclear war and semen is yellow, 

not green, and because of the title, “Afterglow,” 

and I changed my mind and thought it was 

really about sex after all because of the ending 

with its Ah and Oh, aftermath and afterglow, 

which so reminded me of the lovely light 

of Edna Millay’s both-ends-burning candle, 

which is about sex. So I asked the poet 

what her poem was about, and she stared 

at me and said, It’s self-evident, and I said, 

You’re right, I said. It is, I said, How

stupid of me to ask, and she stared at me 

and said, That, too, is self-evident, and she 

turned away to talk to someone else, and 

I was left there in the corner, alone in 

the afterglow of the sex of our nuclear war.







Driving in the rain this morning,

I saw just how miraculous a thing


water is, hydrogen and oxygen, neither

of which is liquid at room temperature,


two atoms of one plus one atom of the other,

that’s all it is, that’s all water is, our water,


and here it was streaming down from the sky,

this liquid of liquids, this miracle of miracles,


filling the room of the world from my window

at room temperature, flooding each of those


forty minutes with as much a miracle

as one of forty days and forty nights was,


or one that was a sea parted down the middle

to become a door opened on the opposite side 


to the opposing miracle of forty years

of wandering in a place without water.






It is dusk.

The sun notices you through the branches.


It shows no interest in you beyond

adding your shadow to the shadows.


You water the new plants:

Day lily, spirea, boxwood, knockout rose, barberry, sage.


You hold the garden hose straight up.

The water leaps straight up.


The water is a fountain leaping straight up.

Then the water falls.


The water is cascades of silvery bows.

It is dusk.


You are the god of rain,

pornographer of plenitude.


You are the god of rain,

masturbator of multitudes.


You are fecundity.

You are father of flowers.





Six times I passed the dead skunk on the road.

Six times I thought the same black thoughts.

Six times I thought the same white thoughts.

Six times I felt the breeze through the window.

Six times I wondered what you were doing.

Six times I noticed the reddening of the maples.

Six times I smelled the black smell of skunk.

Six times I smelled the white smell of skunk.

Six times I remembered where I was going.

Six times I decided on cremation.

Six times I turned up the volume of the radio.

Six times I glanced up at the sky to see the gathering clouds.

Six times I reminded myself sixty-one really is not old.

Six times I cursed my stupidity for wasting gas.

Six times I tried to remember the first line of that poem by Lowell.

Six times I wondered if the crows would be first.

Six times I wondered if the vultures would be first.

Six times I scratched the back of my hand.

Six times I said the word skunk six times.





Alexander, do we create

from the little we possess

in order to possess more?


Or do we create from

our overabundance

in order to possess less?


Sometimes you want to lose your balance.

Sometimes you need to lose your mind. Hate

it even. O serene, O silver cloud afloat


in this domed ceiling of sky,

whose body do you balance?

Whose mind are you? Or is this poise


of yours forever nothing more than pose, pure

pose facing one way, then facing another?





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