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April 08, 2024

Chinese Sonnets

By Robert Ronnow

Chinese Sonnets


These days I forgive myself everything. After all
I'm alone and unhappy so I give myself a little treat
whenever possible. On summer nights I remember
the good women who loved me but live with their husbands now.

This is not an easy life but I'm not afraid. Despair
leads me to talk too much about myself rather than
be transcendent. I trade push for shove with the world
and sitting above the river feel I could move the globe.

If I could stay out here on the roof all day,
get stoned and read the I Ching, write a few lines
and forget my troubles, I could be happy
today. Then I would go to work tomorrow.

But I rise at dawn and drink some orange juice.
It is good with ice. Buy a newspaper going to the train.


In this lousy life we work five days a week.
An Indian could gather a week's food in three days
and go swimming in the hot afternoon. The pleasure
civilization offers is a drive past fast food joints
on Merrick Avenue to a sea food restaurant in Freeport.

Almost everyone I know is dissatisfied with life
as we have been pressed into it. The system gives us
cancer and heart attacks and repressed sexuality when
I was born to be sensuous and enjoy another's body.
Instead I slug the world and the world slugs back.

I have five minutes to finish this poem. I remember
the smooth women I have known, remaining in bed
all morning. Our big ambitions are our curse.
We uphold our end of the society.


While it's true that I'm not happy, I'm very amused
at the craziness I have let myself in for.
Hopefully it's only one year of sleeping in my clothes
without a woman and drinking plenty of wine after work.

I listen to someone start a car downstairs, but that
is not my world, nor do I know any of these eight million
I live beside in the crotch of many waters. Above
Broadway Saturday, the geese fly south for winter.

This morning, in twenty minutes, I will go downstairs wearing
a shirt and tie and jacket and carrying a briefcase.
I will tear myself from the pleasures of tea and breakfast
to arrive at the office where each day my happiness is challenged.

I accepted humanity as a natural part of nature. When
I did that I had to pay the rent and get a job, too.


A famous samurai crosses a plain in winter
looking for work. He comes to a farm community
but the farmers have no use for his skills. So
he removes his swordbelt and sets to work digging.

It is temporary employment while the seasons change.
The sky is gray and all of the women are occupied
warming their homes. None look up from their work
except to glance at the strong samurai digging.

Why is he digging in the frozen ground? The poet
knows little about farming and less about fighting.
He has put the samurai to work at a pointless task.
It is too early in the year to begin digging.

Nobody pities the pointless samurai or gives him food.
He ties on his sword and starts chopping wood.


These bird songs, this January morning, I look
for a way out of life. The Texas woman tells Marc
stories about the football players she's fucked.

Although I complain like a blue jay about it, life
has accepted me. Walking uptown with Stephanie it's clear
how much the Empire State Building I've become.

Nevertheless, we make our own decisions. To fight war
or not. They are all my friends, I work for their success,
but choose my poison independently. For me, laziness
and anonymity when I could have been a star.

Newspapers indicate there is much to discuss besides myself
but the Muse seems to disagree. My few friends and the age
will look quaint as a daguerreotype in the light
of the holocaust. I kiss the girl of my dreams.


Again it is almost Spring. It gives me only pain
to think back on past Springs when I seem to have been
someone else. The people who lived then live today
in the same bodies but changed in every other way.

Of course I must continue, with or without good humor.
What was amusing in my youth, that God's finger
could move me to another square, now makes me fear
old friends who are dead to me and yet still here.

The veil of life is thin if one doesn't believe in mystery.
Frequently it blows and reveals the thickening body,
alone, without a soul. One hopes for a consort who
through her own pain has become gentle and simple too.

If only I could share this life with a good wife.
But she would only be unhappy and bring me grief.

Article © Robert Ronnow. All rights reserved.
Published on 2020-12-28
Image(s) © Alexandra Queen. All rights reserved.
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