Saturday, September 18, 2010

Ramapo Mountain Poem (for Jim Ruggia)

Ramapo Mountain Poem

(for Jim Ruggia)

a bitter string we pulled taut
& snapped awhile ago, I'm still
holding my end of it.

the buildings had mirrors
for windows, the dumb birds
flew into them & fell
dead on the grass,
we learned something.

the sense of the greenness
of the place, & us
like two young banjos
smoking homegrown
& praising the hills
as all hills should be praised.
it left a good taste
on my heart.

This is one of my more competent  earlier poems, won a  statewide prize in 1976. It's about Ramapo College, the  brand new state college where I met Jim. There was no "bitter string," & "young banjos" is a goofy reference to the semi-rural location - its small arts dept. may have been  the most sophisticated in New Jersey during the early Seventies. I knew this stripped down "model" of poem would always work for me. I remained ambivalent toward capitalization  & punctuation, depending on circumstances,  & adopted the ampersand because it is a beautiful & sensible character that poet Joel Oppenheimer demonstrated could be used without preciosity if you weren't imitating e.e. cummings.  Jim has remained a presence, friend & trusted ally  all these years even when we weren't in touch.


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