June 28, 2021

J.R. Solonche


Go out and listen to the frogs, he said.
They speak for you.

So I went out to listen to the frogs
as he said, for he was a poet and spoke 

with passion and audacious authority.
And in the moonlight at the pond,

I listened to the frogs speaking to one another,
and after a while I decided that the frogs

were not speaking for me but for themselves,
and after a little while longer, 

I decided that I wanted the moonlight
to speak for me instead of the frogs,

the moonlight, which was so much louder
than the frogs, the moonlight,

which was not confined to seasonal speaking
but which spoke through the year,

the moonlight, which was so much clearer
than the frogs, so much colder and more silver.

So I went out to the moon-pond and listened
to the moonlight speak for me.

And now, when they ask me, I will answer,
with passion of my own, and with my own

audacious authority: Go out and listen to the moon. 
It speaks for you.

from Rattle #71, Spring 2021


J.R. Solonche: “I write poetry because I can’t write music and I have to write something. In my poem ‘Go Out and Listen to the Frogs,’ the ‘he’ who said, ‘Go out and listen to the frogs. They speak for you’ was Galway Kinnell. It was during a Q & A session after he read at the community college where I taught in the Hudson Valley. I didn’t have to take his advice because we hear thousands of frogs in upstate New York whether we want to listen or not. I wrote my poem as an answer both to him and to the frogs.”

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April 11, 2020

J.R. Solonche


The lover of stone must be old,
for there is no such thing as a young stone.

The lover of stone must be strong,
for he must be able to climb up the mountain

and the summit of the mountain
to find the beginning of stone.

And he must be able to climb down
the mountain again to the valley

and to the bottom of the valley
to find the ending of stone.

The lover of stone must be a genius at unrequited love.
He must be a connoisseur of the cold.

The lover of stone must be a saint,
for stone will no more return his love

than does God return that of the saint.
The lover of stone must be jealous.

He must be jealous of the water that loves stone to smooth.
And he must be jealous of the wind that loves stone to death.

from Rattle 29, Summer 2008


J.R. Solonche: “I write poetry because I can’t compose music. That’s the short answer. The long answer involves my 12th grade English teacher at Evander Childs High School in the Bronx, Mr. Feinberg, who dared me to write a poem, which I did. Well, I guess that’s another short answer.”

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March 28, 2012

J.R. Solonche


“The days never end, but people end, right?”
My daughter asks me this today. Dazed
by her question, my mind goes blank. I stare.
Then I say, “Yes, people end. All people end
when they’re old. It’s called death. Days never
end, though, because days are not people

who have blood and bones and skin and…” “Never
mind,” she says, going back to the people
in her dollhouse, bending their arms, the right
leg, the left leg, to seat each one in a chair.
But this explanation will not be the end
of it. I know there will be other days,

tomorrow, perhaps, when she will take me unaware
with “Why do people end? Will Mommy end?
Will you end? Will I end?” So I’ll have to get it right.
I’ll have to clear my throat, sigh as wise people
sigh before I say, “Emily, you must never
doubt that God made people end to fill the endless days

in Heaven.” Then she’ll ask about Heaven, and right
away I’ll be in trouble because I’ll never
be convinced about a place where people
have wings and play harps, a place without days
and nights, or of just one day without end.
Even if satisfied with that, she’ll want to know where

it is and about God and what gives God the right
to make us do anything he pleases, as though people
were dolls and the world a dollhouse. At my wit’s end,
I’ll probably blurt out something I’ll regret for days,
such as, “God’s like a person, but we really can’t compare
God to a person because God, you know, will never

end as people do.” To which she’ll say, “So the days
are like God then because the days don’t end
either, right dad?” I will smile in despair.
I will smile and nod and hope she never
asks again. I will watch her play with her people,
watch her bend their wooden heads to the left and the right.

from Rattle #25, Summer 2006

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