Margaret Ronda

Read the introduction by guest editor Gabrielle Calvocoressi.

Book of Months


Uncounted weeks of winter.
If Mars is for planting and aperire for opening.
Named you for a god and the day sprang into belief.
Onrushing defaced the vine.
Hurtled you grassy in crushed rapture.
And Mercury’s mother birthed you from a cloverleaf into the equinox.
Then the poem will steal your features like sleep.
Figs blackening in the abandoned birth canal.
Bartered lambs for your blood.
If harvest wearied you of animal gesture and the rotted sheaves of wheat.
Bones skinnied of their hoard.
Whose arms will grip you furred and suckling good night.


Thirty-Ninth Month


At the cusp of Aquarius & Pisces a young hour steals through the orchard.
A passage under one slowly rotting tree.
One apple tumbles down, an overfed second yawns shut.
& the calendar spreads her legs, tear me open jaw to hip.
Pressing blind now hot unsteady.
O gaudy trespass in the split sky of waiting.
A please, an aching little pastoral unrest.
The future with its seasons still gagged & blindfolded.
O torrential downpour at winter’s edge, green clamors vagrant careless & wildeyed.
Rain destroying the figs, spinach battered to shreds.
Mingling tincture of time, occulted flower, ungrown husk.
Sever & break me blood & leaking hour.
O sweep the leaves into the next storm, dark sodden spots of spring spreading.
Black seeds smashed now into flatfaced joy.




Having traveled so far you can’t sleep
and nor can I such distinctions cast
in future-tense as a song without notes
a steep climb adrift in fog where stairs
peel off into dizzying sky then startled
waves of red through depths of cloud
closer still as likeness in assembly
bred gently then breathless
such kindred premonitions but you may
beg to differ already dreaming where
I no longer sleep as a fold of a rose
breeding new forms of attention
like walking while humming a song
whose words are inward in translation
then cast into a stranger’s cry


Apple Cake


In the story the old woman’s apron is full of plums she trades for feathers, flowers, a gold chain, a stranger’s blessing.

But I’ve lost it now, out the side door or slipped from a moving box. Unseasonable rain collapses every nest and tangle, greens it then turns it black.

The child cries out, adrift in his white sheets. Down in the valley, valley so low, hang your head over, hear the wind blow, her old song. Sometimes I would join in and she would stop short. Sleep now.


Woods right in the center of town. I almost hit a deer one night, driving past. He bounded out of the headlights and I held my breath for miles.

He wanted to keep running off. Apples from the cloth bag thudding onto the pavement. He cried and said, you’re not mine.


In the dream I was in the dining room of the old house, eating soup while outside it snowed. She was asleep in my bed upstairs, under that pink and blue checked blanket, sweaty and sick. Clink clink went the spoon. White ice, filthy pavement. If I went up the stairs, I knew she would be gone. Taking my time, I emptied my bowl.

The name of the story is Apple Cake, and it turns on the question of what you are willing to lose along the way.


Here’s a print of rain in the gutter. Here’s a song I used to sing, the name he spells backward every time. Here’s what needs repair, what’s unraveled, lost its leg or wheel or button. A hand-me-down, an alphabet sung aloud, a shop closed up for the winter.

It’s November, no propane in the tanks, glittery blue paper snowflakes taped in windows. Here’s how you make a snow angel, he said, lying still on the rug.

The little girl on the plane screaming, “I’m here! I’m here!” and the mother murmuring, rocking her, “you’re here.” A child a habit, mother a promise, broken or kept.


Mommy has to work, I say, and he stands at the door each day and says, good luck! There’s this buzzing in my chest, I’m grinding my teeth. Pink and soft with a mineral smell.


Another dream: she was cooking an intricate meal, anise syrup and twenty spices, Schubert on the stereo. The apartment was hers but all the colors were different.

Woke to read of the poet’s death, war’s red line, coffee ground very fine. Child’s hair grown long, brown leaves hanging on.


He hates the winter too. “We don’t say hate,” I murmur. He hurls the plastic boat against the window again and again, and doesn’t remember where he was last spring.

Gathered in surely as breathing, steady warmth at the nape. The same song over and over, every night. She’s just sounds in the mind.


Snow softens the ravine. Longer night, closer stars.

At story’s end, the woman gets her apple cake after trading everything she has. Here’s a lullaby full of doors.

Book of Hours


Shelley read Rousseau in water
gathered flowers for Julie at Saint-Gengoux
floated to sea in a coracle
the last poem on foolscap sheets, stuffed in pockets
stained with salt
Rousseau’s blank-eyed woman offering the cup of knowledge
his brain washed clean as sand, a final vision
Alas I kiss you Jane
her face crumpled in earth with the rest

Margaret Ronda is the author of two poetry books: Personification (2010), which won the 2009 Saturnalia Books Poetry Prize and the forthcoming For Hunger (Saturnalia Books, 2018), as well as a critical study, Remainders: American Poetry at Nature’s End (Stanford UP, 2018). She teaches American poetry and environmental literature and theory at the University of California-Davis.