Recorded for Poem-a-Day, June 26, 2018.
About this Poem 

“Lately I have been unable to separate private from public agitation—my own agitation and erupting allergies from the distress around me, increasing homelessness, tents under freeways. I obsess over broken systems, cities, bodies, poetic forms. All of us wrapped in similar skin. Years ago, I read a comparison between early Greek restlessness and American restlessness and began thinking about the ways such restlessness is spread across cultures and historical eras, as well as across our current landscape and individual bodies.”
Martha Ronk

Greek phrenitikós, frantic

Silence isn’t stillness, agitation has me in its grip

remember reading       Greeks were like us

restless            underneath and again underneath

water wearing away               crevices          the itch

of canyons             skin I didn’t outgrow as

the doctor promised     burns hot and stinging

allergic to what I bring to it            allergic to

what I’m thinking     how much older 

the underpass is     filled to overflowing

blue-tented absence                corners with the leftover

plastic and cardboard     happens so fast        it isn’t

even my heart that’s              broken, 

time stealing               & leaking the blue cold

what it would have been to be        Greek

no cortisone     a body       historians

also thought women leaky        restless        for  what

out of one’s own        skin      a future they never

knew  who’d have thought        a daily  underpass 

so many leftovers     pizza  fries           near the  parking

what skin did we come wrapped in

Copyright © 2018 by Martha Ronk. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on June 26, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

Copyright © 2018 by Martha Ronk. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on June 26, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

Martha Ronk

Martha Ronk

Born in 1940, Martha Ronk is the author of several collections of poetry, including Vertigo (Coffee House Press, 2007), which was selected by C. D. Wright as a part of the National Poetry Series.

by this poet

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Why knowing is a quality out of fashion and no one can decide to
but slips into it or ends up with a painting one has never
seen that quality of light before even before having seen it
in between pages of another book and not
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The tree azalea overwhelms the evening with its scent,
defining everything and the endless fields.

Walking away, suddenly, it slices off and is gone.

The visible object blurs open in front of you,
the outline of a branch folds back into itself, then clarifies—just as you turn away—

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Does staring into the black and white contours of a photo
enable a rapprochement with the unreality of one’s own life,
a way to see peculiarity as a back staircase in an old house in a city
so memorably far, dark but navigable, the stairs lacking undulation,
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