Look to Mountains, Look to Sea - Ron Singer


Ron Singer's Look To Mountains, Look To Sea is a chronicle of summer sojourns in Maine since 1969. The thirty-one poems are set in two very different milieu; Deer Isle, on Penobscot Bay, and Weld, in the western mountains. The reader will enjoy Singer's vivid sense of place and his mimicry of Maine's acerbic, funny voices. At the end of the collection Ron states:

My wife, Liz, and I have been renting vacation houses in Maine for a month or more almost every summer since 1969, a total of about five years. The majority of these houses have been in two places. For the first two decades or so, we rented eight or nine cottages or farm houses on Deer Isle, an island in Penobscot Bay. After that, we moved around the state for a while, spending several vacations, for example, in a cottage right on the rocky shore of Spruce Head Island, and several in a snug house in an orchard in Hope. For the past thirteen years, we have rented an isolated old farmhouse in Weld, which is in the western mountains. From Deer Isle and Weld come these poems of eastern and western Maine.

The book was nominated for a 2013 Pushcart Prize and named "Editor's Choice" in the Spring/Summer 2014 issue of The Aurorean, a Maine-based poetry journal. A review and an interview by Laurel Johnson can be found at Midwest Book Review. For more information about Look To Mountains and/or Ron Singer head over to his website here.

English/Squash Teacher, New York, N.Y. 1974-2008 - Ron Singer

(part four of four poems entitled 'Colleagues')

Speaking of teachers, jusqu’au bout des nails,
this logo-meister, this master of words,
spouted for fifty years, a language whale.
Through classroom walls, Stentor’s voice could be heard
(though he used neither mike nor megaphone).
“ ‘Dative’? No! Front-leaning rest position!”
the former M.P. would bark. “You morons!”

He’d also bark at himself --“Fat old man!”--
when he became too slow to reach a shot
on the squash court. We played thirty-odd years,
my mentor and I. Knowledge sweetly bought.
His idiom, profane, his thinking, pure,
to our weak pablum culture, a shock cure.
“You slackers will pay. Of that, rest assured!”

Peace Corps Teacher, Ikare, Nigeria, 1964-67 (2 of 2) - Ron Singer

(part three of four poems entitled 'Colleagues')
Amos was shepherd to gleeful sheep.

Professeur jusqu’au bout des ongles, *
he’d supervise the boys as they reaped

the aki apples from the jumble 
of trees in our shared, sand-covered yard.
“O ti lo wa ju (why be humble?),”

he’d say to me, “you have gone far,”
praising my infantile Yoruba.
J.B. was also my translator.

At a slanging match, a big hub-bub
in a dirt yard, one witticism
made the crowd roar. Translated, the nub

of it was, “A vagina famine
has befallen your remote bush town.
Carts carry the penises, swollen,
of your entire member population.”

* a teacher to the ends of his fingernails.

Peace Corps Teacher, Ikare, Nigeria, 1964-67 (1 of 2) - Ron Singer

(part three of four poems entitled 'Colleagues')

A catalogue poem will soon grow fat,
if each portrait spawns a gallery.
Let’s try a rule: “Just leave it at that!”

Blessed by the kindness of my colleagues,
I come now to the kindest of all,
J.B. Fakile (that’s “faa-kee-lay”).

“Mister F., Mister S.,” we were called
by our peers at this old-fashioned school.
To the boys, “Amos,” their all-in-all:

in subjects taught, Agric, the Bible;
in appearance, short, bright, bald, bearded;
in temperament, to choler, liable.

Buba (shirt, that is) with sweat beaded,
he’d announce, gnawing a chewing stick,
“I must to bed, I’m having fe-vuh.”

Malaria lurked, ubiquitous.
J.B. had partial immunity.
For me, pills and a net did the trick.

Vigorous, animated, loved, feared,
Amos was my confidante, mentor.
His children would magically appear

in my parlor. While I leaned over
the table marking tests, half asleep,
they’d wake me by shushing each other.

Bellhop, Nevele Hotel, Ellenville, N.Y. 1956-60 (summers) - Ron Singer

(Part two of four poems entitled 'Colleagues')

The paper route paid for my saxophone.
(My parents sprang for the violin.)
The route also forestalled college loans.

But my dad did the math (niggling of him)
and, declaring I needed a “real” job,
pulled strings at a hotel, den of sin.

My roommate was Freddy, the barber,
toothless old man and Playboy addict.
If my mother only knew, bless her!

Freddy’s son was a hipster named Gil,
also no teeth. There were twelve of us,
working in fours: three eight-hour shifts.

My protector was the giant, Les,
who could hoist four cases at a time
--four packed, full-sized suitcases, that is.

“How tall is that guy?” The joke was prime.
“About six-five, or -six, Mo’ or Les.”
Les stooped, from shame, or from a curved spine.

Unflappably affable, the best-
natured bellhop, the kindest by far,
unlike us other jokers and pests,

Les consoled me once, loading a car,
A fur I had dropped lay in the dust.
“No problem,” he winked, “they’re in the bar.”

I can hardly leave the Nevele
without mentioning some of its ghosts:
glass washers, gardeners, and now that he’s toast,
sporting a loud vest, the waddling Em-Cee.