Poetry Niche – June 2023

RON JANOFF began writing performing and publishing poetry in New York in the 1970’s, took a long hiatus as a Director at New York University, earned his Ph.D. there, went on to teach Latin in Brooklyn high schools, served as President of the New York Classical Club, and became a licensed New York City tour guide. He came to Chapala in 2018 with his wife, the artist Diana Leidel, as part of the 360 Xochi Quetzal residency. He takes up writing poems where he left off–sometimes direct, sometimes collage, frequently lyric, often ironic, mercifully brief. He can be reached at chiron.nyc@gmail.com.


After A  Flood

 Fatigue pervades my whole being

I crave some cheap contrivance to restore

My equilibrium before this fragile body

In every point down to the smallest pore

Takes the next voyage on the same tide

We should be free be happy be open

After the deluge we witnessed today

Hasn’t the first moment of a golden age

Arrived with us at this edge of survival

Where time itself enfolds its own divide?

Let no heedless act of absent-minded

Cruelty betray our senses’ dance

Or sting our souls with empty compromise

We must embrace the mystery that lies

Inside the dreamless cruise ahead


After returning from the moon,

an astronaut walks down 73rd Street…..

Music of the ripe moon under my feet

Ten thousand voices rise in unison

From phantom tiers

Carved in a granite crater

What is it they’re singing?

That Japanese folk tune

The one about the man with no space

Between his teeth

“He could not tie his shoes

He could not buckle his belt


I feel no part in the grand design


After Sappho

[…] lying by your side,

my arm rests

on your shoulder

for a moment I believe […]

have I awakened […]

I am […] lost in heavenly […]

Not […] You turn […]

Whether [,,,] but never ….


At Four The Breeze Freshened

 The heat dropped out of the wind

We were cool at last

We ran our hands in cold water

We took off our shades

Silence followed on sundown

A flock of dark birds veered away

Clouds covered, then moon revealed

Somber mountains far off

Doubt threatened us then

Not about food or darkness

But the justice of nature

And the vector of affections

We laughed it off

And the boat shook gently

But later we shivered

Rattled by immensity


Carpe Diem

How open should the passage be

From the beautiful to the brain?

In the sky far and wide as dawn

Presses into the early breeze

So a hint rises into consciousness

We wake like children again

Into the raw excitement of sunlight

Smiling as we entertain the day’s

First best thought: Sublime


Day’s End

 We reach a river bank roughened with scanty grass

Not enough for the animals but fine for a quiet scratchy seat

The sky is closing down; we can’t stay long

a late storm will swell the flood and drive us back

Of two worlds one is myself the other all that is about me

not Paradise by any means but both command sensation

The sound the scent of summer: rain that nourishes the soul

And lo, that rustle in the woods, a goddess hovering near

Some moments seem to count for nothing in the grand design

Yet who knows? In the end it’s light and moves away, the rain,

so we stay for moon-rise and I feel the evening

knit the cosmos and myself together once again


For Neil: Arms-Strong

 Man first went

to the Moon

during the Tang

Dynasty in truth

the first great step

was in reverse:

to bring the moon

to man not with

the naked

but the inner eye

moon in the lake

harvest moon

moon rise at evening

moon of the tropic night

moon glow, moon flow

moonlight in Vermont

full and half

and crescent moon

and man,

man in the moon

in the man

Which one did you

land on? wrong–

which moon

lands within your

face and heart

and soul? the moon

we walk not on

not over

but in the gracious

saving light of


Half-Sonnet: Metamorphosis

 I feed on common cabbage like any caterpillar

Knowing the summons will come for translation

A moment when I will turn inward and depart

Calmly obedient to sweet whispers of nature

I will follow a trail of everlasting summer

Out of my intimate cocoon into glorious air

A better life a higher life fed on milkweed, brief


In Mexico We Learn That Rgb Has Died

as we draw near to our destination
our adventures blur into uncertain outcomes
so now yes at last a door but only
darkness behind it. Should we turn the knob?
what if in a moment there would be some
astonishing transition from comfort
to such distress that all that’s gone before
gets scraped away beyond imagination?

her silent heart does not light up the air

her quick mind slows word by word to a halt

then night falls a stiff wind rises with thunder

a Great One passing – in this storm – has passed

what breaks loose is chaos and distress not

sorrow: for the loss exceeds capacity

as when what was merely difficult becomes

impossible – it wasn’t – now it is



 If the land belongs to me

and the wood belongs to you

who owns the leaves?

And who gave the birds

a lease to weave

those homes each spring?

The children think the shade

is theirs.They sing, they jump,

throw rubber balls, they leap.

For them it’s all a frolic

innocent of the deadly grip

of real estate on games.

O parents of birds and kids

one glance should be enough

to provoke a cautious agitation:

when a wind from out of nowhere

makes the tottering trees–drunk

on air–release their dividends


Mad Love: Yellow

 suffused with sunshine

my kitchen is painted yellow

I find that a lover

who has a short temper

almost always loses it

inside this yellow kitchen

becomes much more wildly

nuts in this house where

golden yellow walls

enclose us both in all


Next Year’s Punctuation

 A ban please on apt remarks well wishes and pertinent observation

And please no names that resemble words or sounds that sound like names

A taboo too: please call it treason to invent new terms that mimic old

I’ve had vocables enough to last a lifetime’s diction, spit, and elocution

Please stop choosing the right word just let that word choose you:

Invention investment inversion invective inane insane insatiable indeed

Just leave your card in the bowl by the door I pick them up at random:

Retired detectives, astonished shepherds, runaway socialites, and you.


For more information about Lake Chapala visit: www.chapala.com

Mel Goldberg
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