John J Ronan


John J. Ronan is a poet, playwright, and documentary filmmaker.  His poetry has appeared in many national magazines and reviews, including New England Review, Three Penny Review, Southern Poetry Review, The Hollins Critic, and Notre Dame Review.  Chapbooks include The Catching Self and The Curable Corpse, published in 1996 and 1999, respectively, by Folly Cove Books, and John J. Ronan: Greatest Hits 1975-2000, Pudding House Publications, 2001.  Work was also included in an anthology of prize-winning poetry, Sad Little Breathings, edited by Heather McHugh, PublishingOnline, 2001. A new book of poetry, Marrowbone Lane, appeared in January, 2009, published by the award-winning Backwaters Press.  It is available through Barnes and Noble and Amazon.In 1999, Ronan was named a National Endowment for the Arts Fellow in Literature.  In June of 2008 he was named Poet Laureate of Gloucester, MA. (




It might be anywhere, this dusty

road winding from Ucross to Ulm.

You hike its scrub and shale, later

]carving initials in the soft stone,

lying back to dream under sizable sky –

I’ll be good, I’ll live forever,

bone-buoyant earth stretching off

to Dakota and Montana, a drained

Eocene ocean full of soil-swimmers

shoaled up in mid-life, mid-stroke.

It might be anywhere – a road to Delphi,

or Deadwood, the Via Appia as it nears

the Adriatic at Brundisium, wherever

gravity is the cause of flat water.

But it is the road to Ulm.  Continuing

then through Clearmont and Recluse, and

likewise, all along in there, Wyoming.


John Hews (1685-1793)

“He long wished for death, and would sometimes cry like a child…that God had forgotten him.”  – Babson, History of the Town of Gloucester.


Sun in the trunk!  The days escape!

Odd science, Franklin wouldn’t have it.

The tulips nod like gossips: “Goodies,

listen to Methuselah mutter.” Sawdust falls like sparks of butter.


One hundred and eight years!  Old enough

to reminisce about my own old age.

A Struldbrug discovered by Gulliver,

or a tree,

without the luck to be struck by lightning.


Silence, lackwit!  Rest thy relics

against the fence, count clouds:

Cadiz, Vigo, Virginia…

Cadiz forgets itself, becomes a schooner,

bottom-dark, a ballast of rain.  The boy

in the bow watches flying fish leap

from the Sargasso Sea, arc in air:

kings, colonies, witches, wives…

Christ died

on the Cross.  That’s the New Testament.

I wearied of the need for resurrection,

learned to look at the grave and pray,

“There, but for the Grace of God…”


The corn sways thinly amid the beans.

A shower humbles the tulips.  Ladies,

listen: sixteen of my lives would lap-

strake back to Jesus!  I’m that old!

And green with envy for an apple tree.



Sandy says a centurion worked

this farm, a fundus, booty-bought

after Actium.  And Michelangelo

when the Buonarroti’s owned it.

Sandy, the two boys no longer

boys, and our friends Mitch and Kate.

The chianti’s grown and aged on site

by Signor Buondonno, whose vines

climb the darkening hill, hedged

by fence from Bacchus-minded boars.

Mitchell says, ‘in veritas, wine.’

The farmhouse terrace, thatched

over, opens on groves of holly,

olive and cypress, wind-worried

shapes in the rain.  We’re dry

for the time being.  A cuckoo counts

to some impossible o’clock.