Now You See It

Ron Wallace

“He said, ‘No thank you.’/Life wasn’t going to jilt him now…” Part nervous laughter, part numb disbelief, part where-do-we-go-from-here, these poems try on catchy rejoinders to the “sick joke” of prostate cancer. Ron Wallace writes with wry edginess of how obituaries ought to drop the “heroic struggle” lingo and simply acknowledge “Rolled over. Bailed out.” How the doctors’ recommendation for treatment (“just cut it out“) was what he kept telling his brimming tears. These are poems of tenacity rather than submission, simultaneously laughing and crying and holding on with all you’ve got.

Ron Wallace was born in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and raised in St. Louis, Missouri. He has lived in Wisconsin since 1972, dividing his time between Madison and a forty-acre farm in Bear Valley. He is the author of twelve books of poetry, fiction, and criticism, the most recent of which is Long for This World: New and Selected Poems (University of Pittsburgh Press). He is co-director of the creative writing program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and editor of the University of Wisconsin Press poetry series.

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Today, I go out determined
to step on a crack,
to run with scissors,
to cross my weary eyes,
because nothing has ever
happened! And, oh Lord,
I am stuck. So, whatever
I’ve been told not to do,
I’m doing: watch me
grow hair on my palms,
stunt my growth,
get zits all over my face.
No more, I say, playing it safe!
No more thinking twice about it!
No more looking before I leap!
I’m hailing cars full of strangers.
I’m throwing good money
after bad, coveting
my neighbor’s wife,
taking the Lord’s name
in vain. Goddammit!
So what if my plans don’t hatch?
So what if I come unglued?
Stand back!
I’m taking my chances.