The Eyes of a Vertical Cut
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The Eyes of a Vertical Cut, by Ronald Wardall
What (Wardall) does so well is to restore the past of his childhood and of a time and place in America—but what often is so singular about these poems, is the edgy marriage of very private moments with nature, music, and sex. He brings his powers of reflective and historical intelligence and imaginative daring to a beautiful fruition again and again.
—Jason Shinder

The Eyes of a Vertical Cut Copyright 2001 by Ronald Wardall

Poet Bio
Ronald Wardall

by Ralph Haselmann Jr., Lucid Moon Poetry Magazine

Sample Poems
Wapato Avenue
A Writer's Death
A Brief History of the Xenospeckii
Patsy Cline

Poet Bio

Ronald Wardall photo by Ed Druck

Ronald Wardall was educated at the University of Washington and the New School for Social Research. He had been a farmer, custodian, security guard, desk clerk, carpenter, bridge builder, salesman, agent for the Army Security Agency, lighting technician, travel agent, publicity agent, fund raiser, actor, educator, administrator, union leader, lobbyist, and editor. His chapbook, The Presence of a Weight, was published as part of the New School Series. He won a New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship in 2001. Wardall lived in Brooklyn Heights, NY. He passed away on January 21, 2006.

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Wapato Avenue

I lay in the summer grass
near the murmurs of the men on the porch as,
drugged on beef and stars, they told stories
of Jack’s place, Walla Walla Sweets,
snow slides on Snoquamee Pass
that buried standing men, deer-hunting with bows,
how Shorty Prescott drank a half gallon of milk
on one breath for a dollar.

Tink tink,
the kicked can skipped down the sidewalk.
Cousins scattered like BBs, and I hid under the cherry tree,
even from the moon, to see how much night
I could hold, breathing grass, being quiet,
a sudden panting and sniffing, the wet tongue,
Prince giving me away with a whimper.

And Jenny whooped, "Stop it, Bob!"
from the bright-as-a-gym kitchen window.
The screen door squeaked open, banged shut,
a tidy cough into his fist, and the red glow
of Uncle Bob’s cigar floated down the back walk
between the grapevines, big as a tail light.

And there was nothing for me to do in the world
but hide with the ants and crickets in the grass,
the sprinkler whispering.

The next spring Bob died in the upstairs bed.
But once I saw him sit up and, with his good arm pointing
towards the empty chair where his client sat,
address the jury.

Copyright ©2001 Ronald Wardall

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A Writer's Death

He had reasons for putting the shotgun in his mouth
(not the same twelve-gauge his father had used
the same way), so the wall looked like
a still-fresh Jackson Pollock.

Even sitting with Hadley who he loved then, at the cafe
on the Place Sainte Michel, eating oysters
and sharing the good cheap red wine,
he still knew he was alone.

He seems now to have been working on his death a long time,
back to the hundreds of pieces of shrapnel
and three bullet holes in his legs, back
to the extra weight he carried

from betraying each of his first three wives with the one
who would come next and the three sons
he left like droppings, the fifty stitches
in his head from the car crash,

the broken back, dislocated shoulder, ruptured spleen and right kidney,
paralyzed sphincter from the compressed vertebrae
on the sciatic nerve,
the burned arms, face and head,

vision and hearing impaired, the fractured skull from butting his way
through the door of the flaming plane,
so he wasn’t able to fish or hunt
or make love,

paranoid, depressed, not allowed to get drunk, not able to think clearly
for long because the shock treatments
destroyed his memory
and he knew it was no good

to stand and paw the ground, or wait to be healed; no writer anymore,
the one thing left,
to be both
bull and matador.

Copyright ©2001 Ronald Wardall

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A Brief History of the Xenospeckii

Blind, wingless, silent, leading a contemplative life, stoic enough
to make Marcus Aurelius look like an hysterical Christmas shopper
the female Xenospeckii sits at home inside her food
in the limitless darkness of a wasp’s guts.

There, manners intact (without hurry, void of unseemly celebration),
she eats her host, leaving nothing on her plate, chewing slowly
the way her mother taught her, and dreams her dreams,
also in black, dreams of a thousand sons.

Each son will have wings and a hundred eyes and like all his fathers
and all his mothers, a limitless faith and no fear.
When he knows he’s reached manhood, he’ll fly out
of the darkness and into the world’s colors.

He will fly into the sunlight he’s never known, and he’ll look hard
with every one of his eyes for another wasp where
his blind Penelope waits. He may touch her
in the dark and make more Xenospeckii, before, in six hours, he dies.

If his luck is right, he’ll find her and fall as only the lucky heroes do,
a moment after his deed. No old Xenospeckii males are found
playing dominoes, boring the young with myths
of sunlight and daring, only new sons growing wings.

Copyright ©2001 Ronald Wardall

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Patsy Cline

On the radio Patsy Cline forgives her man again
for all the good it’ll do.
The gas is low and the light on the speedometer
a long time dead.

I’m following the curve of the white line
between columns of ghost trees,
the headlights brush against them
like the sudden intrusion of indecent hands,
all windows open, sailing the night
over mile upon mile of dead rabbits like soft stones.

I’m thinking of the nights at home, of symphonies of croaking frogs
and swimming past the white rope
where Peggy drowned.
She was so good in the water, even with a cramp
she must have fought for a long time in the dark.

Winters I expect to hit ice
hidden in the shadow of a curve,
or on a perfect summer night
meet a drunk head-on.

Last fall at the bottom of the arroyo, we found Elizabeth, the lost bride,
her head all alone in the Buick’s back seat,
her little blue cap still pinned in place, her face doll perfect.

No one ever found the guy who’d taken off
with the stop sign.

I had this taste on my lips,
like rust.

Copyright ©2001 Ronald Wardall

"The Eyes of a Vertical Cut"
Review by Ralph Haselmann Jr.,
Lucid Moon Poetry Magazine, Book Reviews, August 11, 2001

Ronald Wardall has written a fine chapbook with taut imagery and plainspoken detail. He captures the moment in beautifully wrought details. You Sat Under An Elm reads: "You sat under an elm writing in your diary with a stub of pencil. "June 3, Cold Harbor, I was killed." The smoke still drifted across the field, and the elm, bewildered, every leaf shot off. You were the kind of boy who before battle, given the chance, would have pinned your name on scraps of paper inside your shirt, on your cartridge belt, under your bed roll, inside the sweatband of your cap, so unless a shell made you into birdseed, your mother would know. Waiting under the Virginia sun, you watched the blades of wild grass flick from green to silver, back to green, and that afternoon in the breeze coming across the grass from the hills, you became plain as the sole of a shoe, your last breath as durable as dirt." Wardall is excellent at bringing up memories of a distant past. He plays with the sunlight and shapes it into a defining light and a defining moment. This is a classy looking and reading chapbook, highly recommended.

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