How appropriate that Rosanna Warren’s latest book is called Ghost in a Red Hat. She is a deceptively hushed presence, gentle and soft-spoken, self-effacing though sure.  On the page however, she is wide open to the violence and wreckage of relationships, time and love.  Because of that, there is a vividness about her and how she explains loss and the payments that come due simply by virtue of having lived with a commitment to being truly alive.  That vividness is tempered by the employment of a superhuman intelligence disciplined through ancient principles of art and the requirements of the artist.

There are no superlatives too grand for this poet.  There is no mystery that escapes her or her understanding.  We are graced by her gift of poems this week and we recommend you run to any reading of hers within a day’s walk or ride.




For D.


The plane whumps down through rainclouds, streaks

of creamy light through cumulus, and, below,

a ruffled scattering, a mattress’ innards ripped—


friendship is always travel. How to measure

the distance eye to eye, or hand to hand — as our hands age—

or shoulder to shoulder as we stand at the sink


washing grit from beet greens, our palms magenta,

our voices low, steady,  exchanging

gossip and palaver while


water rollicks to a boil

in the large, old, dented pot and aromas sharpen

(thyme, onion, oregano), children’s voices rise and fall,


at the fireplace the fathers argue about the fire,

and two familes will eddy in rising hunger around the oval table

with its blue-checked cloth—


the plane tears through the lowest cloud bank

and again I am making my way toward you

from the far country of my provisional health,


toward you in your new estate of illness, your suddenly acquired,

costly, irradiated expertise.

You have outdistanced me.




So damp the pages of novels curl up like vine leaves,

the stories smear. In the Métro this morning

a man was scraping a poster from the wall:


all the promised felicity hung in shreds.

My eye is swollen, purple. I can’t read, near

or far. My childhood is far.


I slept on a naked mattress the pit bull ripped;

it reeked of smoke, needles littered the floor.

I starved myself, I admired my delicate ribs,


the leaves of a petrified prehistoric fern.

I was prehistoric, my eye teeth turned to fangs.

Day marched in carrying night on his shoulders,


a wizened old man. I preferred night.

Come to me, I said, I’ll kiss you  anyway,

even if you’re ancient and I’m blind and bruised,


we’ll laugh, we’ll be the Book of Revelation,

I’ll wear lingerie from the crypt and we’ll eat at the Loveless Café

where biscuits steam and no one spits in the jam.


That was years ago. Night’s tired now,

we’ve worn each other out. We hardly meet.

But I still have one good eye, and when I squint,


you wouldn’t believe what I see.


“For D.” and “Ocular” reprinted from GHOST IN A RED HAT: Poems by Rosanna Warren. Copyright (c) 2011 by Rosanna Warren. Used with permission of the publisher, W. W. Norton & Company, Inc.

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  • Patricia Spears Jones May 7, 2011 at 11:09 am

    terrific poems from a terrific poet. thanks