Rings and Whorls

Around the redwood, a fairy ring emerges – 
children of the parent tree, now scorched
to two-hundred feet and still showing sprouts.
Its growth rings will show damaged days.
Like the whorls of my aging fingerprints.

I wrote elsewhere about the similarity of fingerprints and tree rings. They are not really as similar as they might appear. Fingerprints stay very much the same, while trees create a new ring each year and they vary quite a bit, showing fire, drought, competition for sunlight or nutrients, and damage by natural or human causes. But still, looking at them side by side they do seem to have some connection.

I do like the word “whorls” which means a pattern of spirals or concentric circles and is used in describing and identifying fingerprints – and seems like a good word to describe tree rings too.

tree rings — fingerprint

Helen, Frozen in Time

mannequin
Photo: Paul Szlosek


It’s Helen that I dated in college,
but that sexy streak of gray hair
is now fully white but still beautiful.
I want to reach out – touch her –
this cool mannequin in a wig shop.

spotify link
To hear the poem read and get some background on its inspiration, listen to the podcast version on Spotify.

Poem for Petrichor

Photo: Viktorya Sergeeva


After weeks of dry weather, the rain
falls on dry grass, stone, soil, flowers –
sending a fragrance to the playing child
and rising to the gods who once
were the only ones so naturally perfumed.


That pleasant-to-some-of-us smell that can accompany the first rain after a long period of warm, dry weather has been given the name “petrichor” (PET-ri-kuhr). It is a modern word, taken from the Ancient Greek words πέτρα (pétra) ‘rock’ or πέτρος (pétros) ‘stone’, and ἰχώρ (ikhṓr), which was said to be the blood of the gods in Greek mythology. This unique, earthy fragrance comes from rain combined with plant oils, compounds in the dry soil, the ozone in the air, and geosmin from soil that is released into the air.

Listening to Someone Else Reading Your Poem

On another blog of mine, I post occasionally about what I am listening to in the podcast/online/radio world.  One daily podcast I enjoy is The Writer’s Almanac which has been on radio since 1993 and, sadly, it will be ending after May 2022. It ran on public radio through 2017 and those episodes are archived online. Later, the show was available as a podcast and online on the Garrison Keillor’s website.

Garrison Keillor

I had listened to Garrison Keillor starting in 1974 on his radio show A Prairie Home Companion. I loved that voice and his ad-libbed weekly stories of the fictional town of Lake Wobegon.  I went on to read his short stories and novels. You can label him an author, storyteller, humorist, voice actor, and radio personality. He hosted that show through 2016 when he retired and passed the reins over to others.

I was lucky to have four of my poems featured on the Almanac and read by Keillor. I really enjoy hearing other people read my poems and that is not something I get to experience very often. It is interesting to hear the little spins and turns that someone else will take with your words.

I am posting links to those poems here – even though they are not my usual ronka poems. You can read the poems online, but I strongly recommend that you listen to him read the poems. The poems are at the end of the program, so you could fast-forward through the news, but I enjoy the almanac news about the day as much, sometimes even more, as the poem.

This photo shows the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Newark, New Jersey. This Gothic beauty was the original setting and inspiration for my poem, “Shame.”

The Alamanac program featured two of my serious poems – “The Light We Leave Behind,”- and “Shame, They also selected two poems that have the tongue at least partially in the cheek . The first is “Who Shows Up at My Poetry Reading” and the second is titled “Somewhat Optimistic Horoscopes.” I was also asked to record a video of myself reading some of those poems for their YouTube channel.

“Who Shows Up at My Poetry Reading” portrays the kinds of people I actually have had show up at poetry readings. The poem often gets laughs when I read it, though fellow poets may be more likely to just nod in recognition.

My poem, “Somewhat Optimistic Horoscopes,” came from reading my horoscope online. Those short-form horoscopes tend to be pretty positive, though you might get a cautionary prediction once in a while. What I thought was missing were ones that were somewhere in-between.

The Thing with Feathers Flies Away

The bird who recently built its nest
in the drainpipe is either very optimistic –
or foolish. I feel that hopeful optimism
is foolish in these darkly troubling times.
Maybe the thing with feathers is optimism.

bird in pipe

The title and final line here is a nod to Emily Dickinson’s poem in which the thing with feathers is hope in the form of a bird who seems unabashed by any troubles around it.

Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune without the words,
And never stops at all,

And sweetest in the gale is heard;
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little bird
That kept so many warm.

I’ve heard it in the chillest land,
And on the strangest sea;
Yet, never, in extremity,
It asked a crumb of me.