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Ronald Koertge - 3 Poems
Ronald Koertge lives in South Pasadena, California, where he is professor of English at Pasadena City College. Koertge has written a novel, The Boogeyman, a lot of young adult novels, including Arizona Kid, Mariposa Blues, Tiger, Tiger, Burning Bright, and Confess-O-Rama, as well as poetry collections like Dairy Cows, Life on the Edge of the Continent: Selected Poems, and Making Love to Roget’s Wife (University of Arkansas Press).
Three Poems

Roget! Questions & Answers

1: Q and A             2: Coloring               3: Lazarus

Q and A

What exactly is a thesaurus?
              A thesaurus is like a thousand
              reunions, all in the same hotel, but each
              one in a separate ballroom. A dictionary,
              on the other hand, is like the Army where
              everyone lines up for roll call.

Do words have feelings?

              Because of one picture, a thousand words
              are burdened with low self-esteem.

How can I have a large vocabulary?

              Exercise. Start with air, leaf, inch; then
              increase slowly. Be patient and careful.
              The first time you try incarnadine,
              have someone spot you.

Do words die?

              Absolutely. I remember the funeral
              of a go-go. She looked completely natural
              in her black boots, mini-skirt, and fringed

How can I remember the parts of speech?

              Picture a fancy restaurant: an adjective
              lights the cigarette of a noun. Two adverbs
              accompany a verb to the rest room. An
              article holds the door; a preposition hands
              the verb a warm hand-towel.


crayons crayons


Here is the handyman with black legs
whistling in spite of gangrene. There
are some smiling cows, red as sores.
A jaundiced mare is chewing peacefully.
Two pea-green farmers chat about nausea.

Cute, but no real grasp of the agricultural
situation. And ending mysteriously
around twelve or thirteen with only
the white crayola intact, used for the silly
sheep, a snowman, or the rare Klan meeting.

And no wonder! Whoever heard of The Nobel
Coloring Prize. Who says, "This is my son.
He has a Ph.D. in Coloring"? Certainly
no one ever grows up and gets a job
in the Arco Plaza - "The Chairman can’t see
you now he’s coloring can’t see you now
he’s in a crayon seminar can’t see you
now he’s about to do the barn."

Perhaps some gland does it. Subdued
by greasier hormones, it atrophies or sleeps
as we crouch at the window on rainy days
every new hair on our new bodies standing
on end as the pillows become the kids
at school we want to kiss as we
move out of childhood outside the lines
into the real where the sun is not a perfect
cookie in the sky but a big hot thing
like us threatening to destroy the world.


After Jesus raised him from the dead
and everyone was impressed, He went on
His way while Lazarus stayed home with Mary
and Martha who put together a little party,
just family and friends, but nice, with plenty
of wine and colored lanterns in the trees.

"Don’t shake hands," advised one guest,
"he’s colder that a well-digger’s ass."
"Lazarus is pale as hell," whispered Uncle Enoch.
A niece added, "Lazarus stinks."

Pretty soon they had him sitting nine yards
away from the table, wrapped in a blanket,
discreetly downwind.

Finally he moved back to the tomb,
going out only in the evening to follow
the sun into the West,

God’s name in vain on his cracked and loamy lips.

©  Ronald Koertge

This electronic version of "Q and A," "Coloring," and "Lazarus" is published by The Barcelona Review by arrangement with the author. These poems may not be archived or distributed further without the author's express permission. Please see our conditions of use.

These three poems were first published in the author’s poetry collection Making Love to Roget’s Wife, published by the University of Arkansas Press, 1997. Book ordering: Amazon.com

"Q and A" also appears in Gargoyle #41 (see BR review).

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