Poem of the Week | November 13, 2017

This week, we are excited to present a new poem by Christa Romanosky. Romanosky grew up in northern Appalachia. She received her MFA in poetry from the University of Virginia. Her writing has appeared or is forthcoming in Glimmer Train, Spillway, Hotel Amerika, Kenyon Review Online, Massachusetts Review, Crazyhorse, and elsewhere. She currently teaches STEM and creative writing classes with the Gelfand Center at Carnegie Mellon University. She is a 2017-2018 Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center fellow in fiction.

Ramona Quimby, Age 30

The world slowly became egg-shaped and unforgivable.
Ramona knew that now.
The shell of a cicada and the shell of a gunshot
did not coevolve. The truth: nothing
electric was necessarily connected, and shock value
never stood the test of time.
One summer she hatched earwigs
in the fake fur of an old houndstooth
coat. Lived with a cowboy on an air mattress, drank up
orange tang, coffee, debris. Ribsy was dead. Henry
unfolded his life and finally moved
to Ohio. Old Beezus was pregnant again
and seized all their shared childhood toys:
record player, cedar blocks, and that Lite Brite
she always loved. The golden rule
still applied, or so it seemed: Ramona
was only loved when she was doing something
lovely. Her brain short-circuited at age 13.
Never could recover. Like a boomerang, those flaws
came back each birthday: abnormal anxiety,
high-sensitivity. The tri-colored balloons
nodded to the Polish polka, glazed across
the linoleum kitchen floor. Her hands
were like the 99 cent Chinese fans
sold at the school’s Santa’s Workshop, circa 1989.
She remembered those purple-dyed
rabbit’s foot key chains she never knew
were chopped off feet. Age 30 was terrifying,
knowing everything, and knowing nothing
to change the trajectory. Atomic stains,
trends in mass shootings now correlated
with Nicholas Cage box office hits.
The world was burning hot
like a diurnal lantern. Ramona missed
childhood. Being undercover in the dusk
digging for potatoes, wild grubs, hands
cuffed with mud. Picking chrysanthemums
and being scolded, but still having
that golden handful. She repeated: “A person is
what a person does,” deleted atavan
from her To-Do list. Wrote: prove to self
there is a self to prove.


Author’s Note:

I began writing this poem after learning about the San Bernardino mass shooting– within the heartbreak of it all, I got stuck on the word shell, how the same word can be used to describe an exoskeleton of an insect, and part of a murder weapon. One shell protects a body, the other protects the weapon that destroys the body. It was a difficult winter. Like others, I was feeling anxiety about how the year was unfolding. In this poem, I focused on Ramona Quimby, age 30, because I was interested in how our female childhood heroes would respond to and cope with disasters and tragedies and disruptions as adults. For example, how does it affect Ramona to finally understand that she was able to feel such joy from receiving a purple rabbit’s foot key chain because a rabbit was butchered and its foot was chopped off – it’s sort of terrifying to survey the origins of some of the objects we loved when we were young. Characters like Ramona Quimby provided camaraderie and strength to me as a child. Sitting there reading the news, I wanted that feeling back.