ronald baatz | only for the old and the fragile | breakfast with the sheep

14 01 2008


Poetry Dispatch No. 104 | September 26, 2006

Feature Poet of the Week: Ronald Baatz

“Poetry Dispatch” will occasionally feature a particular poet more than once in the course of a week. Usually a very active poet (prolific writing /publication). Always a poet whose work speaks to the reader immediately, honestly, in a real way.

I’ve been reading Ronald Baatz since the early numbers of one of the best, liveliest little mag publications in the country, Marvin Malone’s WORMWOOD REVIEW. Which was also one of the first publications to feature the poetry of Charles Bukowski — before he became Bukowski, Buk, and Chinaski. (The WORMWOOD REVIEW ceased publication some years ago upon the death of Malone. There’s been nothing like it before –or since.)

Here are two poems by Ronald Baatz for today, the first of this offering. One old (WORMWOOD REVIEW, 1995) and one brand new, which he’s generously offered to “Poetry Dispatch:”

It’s difficult to get any bio out of Baatz. The quote below, about as close as he comes: Norbert Blei




I don’t know why i want to live to be an old man,
but i find that i do. It seems odd to me, when i
really think about it. There isn’t much that
i want to accomplish. No major goals have made
themselves known to me. I can’t see my lazy self
solving any of the serious problems facing this race
of humans i’ve somehow become part of.
That sounds condescending, and i am sorry.
I want to love another woman, create more of
these poems, and like some other poets i know
drink many more glasses of wine.
At the end of it all, dying a gracious death
might prove to be a worthwhile act.
And just once i would like to be able to
charm the birds out of the trees.
I’ve heard it said that certain people can do this,
and these people are spoken of with very
noticeable envy. It’d be nice to convince
a good number of birds to come down
and land on my shoulders. If i were an
old man i would be thin and light
and these birds could pick me up and
carry me away. They would also be kind
enough to pick my wife up also.
We would float comfortably about in
the air like people in a painting
by Chagall. This would be something
to live to be an old man for.
I have no desire to accumulate
wealth; fame is completely out
of the question.
Just to be held aloft
by the birds would be plenty.
Birds only do this
for the old
and the fragile.

from Wormwood Review, #140, 1995




On my way back from the supermarket, where i picked up
a coffee and hard roll, i drove up Cold Mountain Road, and
when i came to the Greek Orthodox community i stopped
the car to do some sheep gazing. It was obvious they were
newly shorn, in the cold morning air gathered tightly
around the one large tree that’s close to the barn. They
looked so skinny and as though they were shivering too.
But then i remembered it was only the cold of a June morning
and that just because i’d be shivering under that tree, if
i were standing there nude, it doesn’t mean a sheep would be.
Any sheep in decent health should be able to stay warm.
Maybe some old sheep would be shivering. But, what
do i know about sheep. Nothing. I can only stare at them
in wonderment. And they stare back at me, at least
the young ones do. Apparently the older ones can’t be bothered.
They took one look at me, saw me drinking coffee and
eating a hard roll, and they knew i was harmless. They know
i am alone, living alone, that i am lonely. They know
i am not one of those dumb poets who likes guns. They know
i’m one of those dumb poets who doesn’t like guns, who
played with them as a kid and then lost interest. Poets
are dumb like sheep. Why are we dumb like sheep?
Certainly not because we would go off to the slaughterhouse
as quietly and meekly as sheep. We would go kicking
and screaming like pigs. We want more time to remain alive,
to drink wine and muse about life, to write more poems, perhaps
that one poem bringing comfort and peace and a light to the world,
that one poem that is like a great undying prayer. And we
want to remain alive to experience more of the dumb silence of sheep.
Just to be dumb in silence and to look out the back door at night.
Look at the stars as though for the first time and experience the
profound dumbness they inspire. I like having breakfast with the sheep,
engine turned off as i sip and nibble, huddled against the steering wheel,
looking up at the sky when not at the sheep. Looking for that
omen bearing cloud telling me when i will have a woman again in my life.
The last woman. The one who will stand naked with me under the tree,
finally embracing one another in that dumb silence, each of us shivering
a little bit less.

for Poetry Dispatch # 1o4, first printing


mark weber & ronald baatz | 1 + 1

11 11 2007



Poetry Dispatch No.179 | August 4, 2007


1 + 1 | Mark Weber & Ronald Baatz

This is a chapbook featuring two separate books in one, which you don’t realize till you flip the cover and discover a different title, different cover, different writer.

Mark Weber, whom I do not know and have not read before, hosts a jazz program on KUNM 89.9 FM in Albuquerque, New Mexico, writes a good, honest poem not without music of his own and considerable wisdom. The writing world can use more Mark Webers – even though he claims in one poem, “The Heat: “there are too many gawd damn’d Mark Webers in the world.”

ZERXPRESS, 725 Van Buren Place SE, Albuquerque NM 87108 and will no doubt put you in touch with him. 400 copies of this chapbook (#59) were printed in June, 2007 No cover price. Whatever he’s asking, it’s worth it.

Sharing the same staple binding (flipping it over) I discover a writer I do know and much admire: Ronald Baatz. There are 16 poems in “his book” called OUT OF CHILDHOOD (in this book)…all of them winners. Baatz always writes a beautiful poem.

I remain a firm believer and true lover of the unpretentious, common chapbook such as this, held together by two staples and a simple cover. Though most writers seek (demand) a more professional “perfect-bound” production of their work, there is a long, literary history to the common chapbook. Almost every writer of note has found comfort and small fame in the pages of a chap. Some outgrow the format in time. While others remain at home there forever. Norbert Blei


I was telling Bradford that
I prefer my jazz musicians to be
a little beat up, have an eyeball gouged out
a few scars, a couple divorces, to know
what it’s like to stand on a freeway berm
with a broken-down jalopy in the middle
of the night, to have had some life
happen to them —
I’m not interested in listening to
what they have to say otherwise —
I know it’s a prejudice, but I can’t
help my prejudices, they exist outside
my control, maybe that’s why
black men make some of the most interesting
jazz music? to be a black man in America
is an extreme outsider position to find oneself—
you know, why do I
care what a milktoast chubby mama’s boy
in a cardigan has to say? there’s nothing
about that, black or white, that
interests me —
which begs the question: are not the
vicissitudes that visit upon every life
of some meaning? even if
they’ve never stood in a welfare line before?
certainly, everybody has a soul
and each individual is important
this poem is about prejudice
mine, in particular

Mark Weber from POEMS & DOODLES


I can see it up ahead, not
far distant. A kingdom, and
something written upon the gate.
A person who spends their entire
life scribbling poems is
known as a poet. Poets are
vastly over-rated. They are good,
honest, slightly
naive people who write these poems,
for­ever holding the candle
of idealism. But, mostly, say
98% of those who (proudly) call
themselves Poets, are, in reality, idiots.
And they run all over town
putting up posters for
their next public readings.
They have things
they want to rant about, certain
things, maybe
they’re indignant somebody pissed
on the flowers?
Even though, I have written 10,143 poems,
and am in fact writing one right now, I do
not allow myself to be called a poet, capital P
or otherwise. It is
too embarrassing. One can’t help
wonder if one is also an idiot? or
am I a member of the 2% who
bring some dignity to the craft?
(Even if it was me
who pissed on the .flowers.)
(Hard to see in the dark.)
Nevertheless, up
is that kingdom and as the years
clear away the fog
it is for me to
walk through that gate marked:

Mark Weber from POEMS & DOODLES


Mark Weber | Photo by Janet Simon on the Acoma-Zuni Trail 28may07 – The Malpais



I find it is a good time in my life to be reading
the autobiography of Gabriel Garcia Marquez.
When Marquez was a child he was able to gain
and hold the attention of adults by telling stories
in which he had greatly magnified details.
As an adult he carried this tendency into the writing
of his books, even when it came time to tell the story
of his life. I find the many magical occurrences,
that take place in this telling, make it much easier
for me to accept what my father is going through: the
unbelievable distortion of his memories, hallucinations
that plague him night and day. Unfortunately,
Marquez is of no help to my mother whatsoever.
Right now it seems as though his disease will be
the death of her before it is the death of him.
The amount of patience and understanding required
other is almost too much to ask of one person.
Besides, she tells me, it is all so incredibly boring. Yesterday
when she left him at home for a short period of time,
in order to run into town, she found herself
sitting in the bank crying to the teller. This crying
in public for her is becoming more and more frequent.
When I call her at night I am almost afraid to hear
what the news of the day is. It’s questionable
whether we will have a birthday party for him in June.
Would he recognize anyone who has come to
wish him a happy birthday? Would everyone
appear to him as being a frightening stranger?
Would the gathering throw him into further sorrow?
He has always said that he wanted to live to be
a hundred, and now it does look as though he’ll
do exactly that, if only because he thinks in June
he will be a hundred. And if he recognizes no one
at the party, then I’m sure it will indeed feel to him
as though he has lived “a hundred years of solitude.”



APRIL BEGINS by Ronald Baatz

I took my mother to the lawyer’s office
to see about having some papers signed.
It’s been decided I should be given “Power of Attorney”
and the right to determine what will happen to my father
when it’s a matter of keeping him alive by medications
or other artificial means. Before approaching my father
my mother and I thought it best to talk a few things over
with the lawyer, without my father being present.
The lawyer turned out to be rather a decent guy.
So did one of his secretaries, the older one.
The younger one seemed obsessed with making sure
that she was able to have her breakfast at her desk,
undisturbed. We were there maybe half an hour,
charged a hundred dollars which I thought cheap.
Afterwards I suggested my mother and I have coffee, but
my mother said she had to get back to my father since
my father was being watched by a neighbor.
So, crossing a busy street, I walked her to her car.
She took my hand. It felt so diminished and bony, and
never had I felt a woman’s hand hold my hand so firmly.
I felt like weeping right there in the street, stopping traffic
and just weeping, but of course that didn’t happen.
She got into her car, made a u-turn and drove off.
I stood there, rooted in front of a closed movie theater
in a decaying town in Upstate New York, on a morning
April had begun. I was well aware that
the horrors of Alzheimer’s required many of its victims
to enter a nursing home. I dreaded the day when, after
their sixty years of marriage, I’d have to separate them.
It’ll be like tearing the wings off a homing pigeon and
throwing the parts up into the air and expecting them to fly.



ronald baatz | three more poems

29 10 2007


Poetry Dispatch No. 122 | November 13, 2006

3 More by Ronald Baatz


here is a poem
I wrote for you
last year and

which I never
got around to
giving you

I hope it still
has some life
left to it although

I don’t
see why
it shouldn’t since
I try my best

to construct these
things with such
care that they

should last many years
without coming to
any reasonable ruin

just as a potter might
form a bowl
from clay or a

sculptor might chip
away at a hefty
block of marble

knowing their sweaty
toil will bring forth
objects possessing

the qualities necessary
to leap through
the ages

with a truth
always known



the same orange
has been on the
table for over

a week now
and every so often
i’ll notice it there

and i am tempted
to it eat but
the idea of it

being gone for
some reason does
not sit with me too

so it continues to
remain there

day after day
as though it were
an astray

and naturally I
know that some
day soon this

orange is going to
start going bad
and it’ll end up

simply being thrown
out and I’ll never
know what it would’ve

been like to eat
and i’ll have to
forgive myself this



please let me get
up from this bed
I have an early

day tomorrow and
I must get home
to sleep

and stop trying to pin
me down I know just
how much stronger you

are than I am
and stop trying to put
my penis back in you

can’t you see how limp
and exhausted it is
and it has been informed

of my need to rise at
dawn so it is just as
anxious as I am to be

out the door and down
the road so please
stop sitting on me with your

godforsaken heavy ass
which probably doesn’t have to
get up until noon

from WORMWOOD REVIEW, #137, 1995

ronald baatz | the last april

24 10 2007



Poetry Dispatch No. 105| September 28, 2006

THE LAST APRIL by Ronald Baatz

i put myself in her and i remained there
and for a moment all i could hear was a bird
outside the open window letting out with
a solitary cry. it was a sunday morning and
the last day in april, and for the most part
for me it had been a sleepless night after
a very lengthy dinner, a wild lovemaking
session and a walk downstairs alone
to take a peek at the end of a ball game
while sipping cognac. it was Sunday morning,
as i said before, and i remained still,
actually listening closely to the bird,
wondering exactly what kind of bird it was,
suspecting that she knew i was wondering
what kind of bird it was. but
i also could not believe the quiet thrill
of lying there inside of her.
my penis was painfully rigid, and i
listened to the bird, the one of
a sunday morning, the morning of the last
day, the day that came at the final
moments of april. it wasn’t
the crow outside, this much
i knew. the crow had its own sound
which i could not confuse with
another kind of sound.
it drove her out of her mind
with pleasure, my not moving.
we have this strong and silent
rapport which manifests itself
sometimes in such unhurried moments.
especially on a day
which was the last day,
of an april which was
the last april
of all known aprils.

from The Wormwood Review, #144, 1997


a spark plug
held tight in my father’s old fist
as he approaches the shed

ah! to be drunk and to lasso an alien
from the land
of short skirts

the landlord
swimming naked in the pond
forgets his battle with cancer

from a chapbook (undated), at herring cove, by Ronald Baatz


FAREWELL by Ronald Baatz

a light frosting of snow
this morning. threw some
apples out for the deer, not
from the kindness of my heart,
but because I didn’t care
to eat them myself. actually
i haven’t seen a deer out back
since late autumn, some
three weeks ago, a gnawing
sensation of depression
in my gut. don’t want to
push off for work this morning.
i feel like a child being
sent to school, and this
child does not want to go there.
this child wants nothing more
than just to remain home
and play with his tin castle
and tiny knights. to
this day I can remember
the last day I did play
with them. the sad
realization that
i was getting too old.
i can still feel it.
this I can never see
happening with poetry,
since the writing
of poetry has
always been, for me,
the simple rehearsal
of writing
that last note
of farewell,
on my

from The Wormwood Review, #144, 1997

ronald baatz | thoughts on a snowy afternoon in february

20 10 2007


Poetry Dispatch No.71 | May 22, 2006

I’ve written about Ronald Baatz before. I’ve published Ronald Baatz before. It’s my intention to continue doing both. He is one of America’s finest poets, and a charter member of The Invisible Poets, Writers and Artists Society, an underground, unheralded group of mostly accomplished little mag and small press writers and artists (some unpublished as well, unaffiliated with major galleries, agents, and publishers) founded in the 1960’s by me, dedicated to the preservation of integrity and openness n the arts (no American marketing bullshit), publishers operating on a shoestring, writers and artists who mostly give their work away (because they have to), and the common community of men and women who live their lives solely to make something of them in words and images for their own good, and possibly the good of others.

The membership of the society is secret and will remain so. Only we know who we are. Recognize this instantly. And recognize and support each other accordingly. Occasionally our identity may be revealed publicly, but we are not comfortable in the light (having been denied it for so long), and return anxiously to our shadowed home of anonymity. Enough said for now.

This is the first public statement about this group, and though it has been on my mind for sometime to acknowledge its existence, publishing Ronald Baatz this morning inspired me to finally say something about working in the dark. Norbert Blei



I watch a woman walking her dog at the park.
I’m sure i have never seen her here before.
It could be this is the first time she has visited
this park, or perhaps she has been here at times
when i was not. No doubt i appear a stranger
to her too. Perhaps to her i look as though i live
in some other town, and i was just out for a drive
and in my travels just wandered upon this park.
She doesn’t know i come here daily to watch
trees blossoming in fog, women in bathing suits
down by the lake, men fishing through ice, leaves
beautifully rotting. But since i am a stranger
i’m sure she has few thoughts about me, if any.
The only reason i am thinking about her is because
i’m sitting in front of this blank page and i need
something to write on these endless blue lines.
I’m tired of writing haiku about birds. I picture her
home with her dog. I suspect she is not married
and she sleeps with it. I see the dog patiently
sitting by the side of the bathtub as she soaks herself.
I see her nipples floating on the water, slightly hidden
by soap bubbles. Her nipples have a warm familiarity
to me. Could it be the case that in a another life
i was her dog, and that i stopped living that life
only yesterday and at that point started living this life.
I am not on any kind of drug, it’s just that it’s freezing out,
and i am sitting in this car with the engine idling
and i am writing on this piece of paper and so there must be
these thoughts. Yes, there must be these thoughts
or tomorrow i might return to being her dog all over again.
If i have these thoughts i will remain this person in this life
and, well, at least tomorrow i won’t be out there in the cold
on a leash shitting in the snow.

ronald baatz | sometimes I’m a happy poet

14 10 2007


Poetry Dispatch No. 46 | January 4, 2006


Sometimes i am a happy poet.
Sometimes in my heart a lost and homeless bum.

Sometimes i can see my life as a clear, beautiful
crystal-cold stream, and at other times as
a distorted circle of foul-smelling mud.

Sometimes the joy of my life is unmistakable
and overwhelming, and at other times it is
the sadness and disappointment of a life
unlived and wasted, dark and empty.

Sometimes there is the love of family,
the warmth of friends, the embrace
of a passionate woman.
Sometimes there is nothing
but anxiety and fear and loneliness.

Sometimes there is God.
Sometimes not.

Sometimes i want to live forever.
Sometimes the thought of another day
is intolerable.

Sometimes i wake refreshed from dreams.
Sometimes i wake terrified from what i’ve seen.

Sometimes there are birds.
Sometimes not a wing
is left in the world.