by: Ralph Monday
At the heart of these two poems by Ralph Monday is the notion that while we are in and of the natural world, its ultimate meaning escapes us. The weakened winter sun “is a prophet speaking with gas & atoms” but “no one hears/ the fiery sermon” because our desired sense of connection to ourselves, others, and the world so often fails to “fill [our] mouth with eternity’s/ dream.”
Winter Solstice, 2017
One could tear the pages from a book,
nature’s psyche and read the frozen
pumpkins, still in the fields, as moons circling far planets,
the treeline black & white undeveloped sticks
calling for the sun’s return that prefers to remain
anonymous where its thin heat does nothing to the cold
traveling from the moon. Bent as it is in solar improvisations
forced upon it by the texts of men, its light sweeps
through the long dark in asymmetrical lances in courtship
for three months until crossing the equator’s threshold.
Then, as now, it is a prophet speaking with gas & atoms
to London, Athens, Istanbul, Jerusalem where no one hears
the fiery sermon: only the cold dark among the trees,
chittering wide-eyed animals, the rock, the root, the rooster
waiting at dawn.
What Would I Say?
If I could talk to you like the wind
speaks to the tree, truly sit down
over tea, if I could unlock my tongue
as deciphered cuneiform tablets
pulled from Sumerian sands, or understand
like I did when the teacher wrote the lesson on the
board, what would I say?
I would utter out poor words & think of rose
petals, of fine antique china brought out for
special occasions, of 1950s sitcoms
composed of innocent laughter, of spring without
winter, autumn without summer, of
music & poetry & Dickinson’s sad
white dress, of all these things—and more.
I would say that you are of those who
walk on still waters, those who speak in spiritual
whispers, of women walking through
shadowed primal forests with
delicate fingers knowing the meaning of bark
that shapes the boat for the journey.
I would say to you come sit in the
Joshua tree & I will dress you in Methuselah’s
wisdom. Sew a skirt from Joseph’s many
colors & like a ballerina make
pure Salome’s dance. I would
bring a platter of figs, dates,
crimson pomegranates to drip
salvation’s ambrosia juice upon your
lips & make a tunnel from one point
to another—from the heavens stitched
to Earth’s bounty—but leave the swollen
apple, the unturned leaf.
I would say West is the land of
shade, east where your eyes turn to a
mounting promise known only to
you. I would say lie down in a
field of stone, take the grass as a
groom & fill your mouth with eternity’s
I would say I have said
enough. What is it
that you say.
Ralph Monday is Professor of English at Roane State Community College in Harriman, TN., and has published hundreds of poems in over 100 journals. A chapbook, All American Girl and Other Poems, was published in July 2014. A book Empty Houses and American Renditions was published May 2015 by Aldrich Press. A Kindle chapbook Narcissus the Sorcerer was published June 2015 by Odin Hill Press. An e-book, Bergman’s Island & Other Poems was published by Poetry Repairs in March of 2017, and a humanities text is scheduled for publication by Kendall/Hunt in 2018.
I sense a kindred spirit here. These poems are delicately muscular, sinuous and profound, rhythmically interesting and just plain beautiful.
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