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J.R. Solonche writer


By J.R. Solonche

Options presented.
Benefits and risks
of each explained.

Simply as possible.
Layman’s language.
Doctors’ baby talk.

Diagrams on yellow
legal pad, shadowed
by diagrams in air.

Now I am alone for
two days to figure
out the best way out.

Had they only come
with three straws,
two long, one short.

I look at the pad.
I look at the hasty
oval of heart, at

the arrow arteries,
at pain’s thick mark.
Statistical probability.

X Y Z prophecy for me.
So for two days
I sit by the window above

Seventh Avenue to scan
the sky for flights
of sparrows. To wait

for a cloud shaped
like a helmeted woman.
To stare at the ceiling

tiles and the fly that
must settle on the tile
with the stain. To listen

for nine rings on the nurses’
station telephone. For a
coincidence of coughs

in the corridor. To watch
for the sign in the dream
I will for two nights dream,

above the door of my wife,
that will sing in neon:
“Enter – This Way Life.”


The one says:
I did not know what you knew.

The other says:
What I know I know because of you.

The one says:
Suddenly it has grown cold.

The other says:
What should I remember about you?

The one says:
Nothing has changed.

The other says:
Once you were larger than life.
Now you are loose change in the pocket of my heart.

The one says:
The future had your profile.

The other says:
I will save us.

The one says:
I have already saved us.


In the Chase Manhattan Bank branch
on the corner of 235th Street
and Johnson Avenue, I have changed
my mind about banks. I never used
to like banks. I despised banks. Now
I like banks. I like standing in the cool
lobbies of banks. I like the brass stanchions
and the velvet ropes that are swagged
between them that you must follow
to the tellers’ windows, as though through
a maze. I like the ballpoint pens chained
to the counters where you fill out deposit
slips and withdrawal slips. I like the blue
deposit slips and the pink withdrawal slips.
I like the look on the faces of the tellers,
especially when there are many customers
waiting. They are the concentrated faces
of efficiency. I like to say something
pleasant and polite and civil to the tellers
when it is my turn at the window.
Their gratitude is palpable. It shows on
their efficient faces, and I like that.
I like being a number. I like being several
numbers. I never thought I’d like being
a number, but I do. I like being a number
and a face without a name. It is such
a pleasure not having a name for a little
while during the day. How tiring it is
to answer to a name all the time. I like
the air-conditioned, clean smell of banks.
I like the brand new bills they give me.
I like the way they smell and feel and look.
They remind me of the brand new
books they gave me in school, that I was
the first to use. I like the word. I like
the sound of the word “bank.” It’s the sound
the vault makes when it’s shut and locked.
I like to look at the big vault door. I like
the shiny brushed steel of it. I like
the solidity of it, the indestructibility.
I like the enormous tumblers of the locks.
I like the timing mechanism in its glass
case. I like the handle, big as the handle
on the air-lock of a submarine. The door
looks strong enough to keep out death,
master-thief, genius of safe-crackers.
I do not like death.


Professor Emeritus of English at SUNY Orange, J.R. Solonche has published poetry in more than 400 magazines, journals, and anthologies since the early ’70s. He is the author of Beautiful Day (Deerbrook Editions), Won’t Be Long (Deerbrook Editions), Heart’s Content (Five Oaks Press), Invisible (nominated for the Pulitzer Prize by Five Oaks Press), The Black Birch (Kelsay Books), I, Emily Dickinson & Other Found Poems (Deerbrook Editions), In Short Order (Kelsay Books), Tomorrow, Today and Yesterday (Deerbrook Editions), True Enough  (Dos Madres Press), The Jewish Dancing Master (Ravenna Press), If You Should See Me Walking on the Road (Kelsay Books), In a Public Place (Dos Madres Press), To Say the Least (Dos Madres Press), The Time of Your Life (Adelaide Books), The Porch Poems (Deerbrook Editions , 2020 Shelf Unbound Notable Indie Book), Enjoy Yourself  (Serving House Books), Piano Music (nominated for the Pulitzer Prize by Serving House Books), For All I Know (Kelsay Books), A Guide of the Perplexed (Serving House Books), The Moon Is the Capital of the World (WordTech Communications), Years Later (Adelaide Books), The Dust (Dos Madres Press), Selected Poems 2002-2021 (nominated for the National Book Award by Serving House Books),and coauthor with his wife Joan I. Siegel of Peach Girl:Poems for a Chinese Daughter (Grayson Books). He lives in the Hudson Valley.