Viewed from Above

The poetry of Colonel Ronnie J. Smith, USAF


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'Don't go looking for Antarctica without this book.' - Susan Solomon






If only you saw the opus on water,
those Taj Mahals on swan lagoon,
lotus blue from wind-carved slaughter,
crashing column—floating moon.

Those Taj Mahals on swan lagoon,
cut from cataracts white with cold,
crashing column—floating moon,
gouged by sun-fire’s jagged gold,

Cut from cataracts white with cold,
broken citadels fall and rise,
gouged by sun-fire’s jagged gold,
ice-towers plunge the brine-wet skies!

Broken citadels fall and rise,
lotus blue from wind-carved slaughter,
ice-towers plunge the brine-wet skies,
if only you saw the opus on water.







Long ago, I was born,
much like the morrow comes to be;
escaper from cloud-dream vapor
I poured; I lifted the sea—
scallops of wind gyred for me.

Madly I tumbled to touch the land,
over and over in ice-flower spree,
mountain ranges I changed
with petals of crystal symphony;
it was then to be heard, but only by me.

Yawning, I stretched with elastic eon,
curled in pure air before your infinity,
igloo walls were my halls
to shelter the art of prehistory;
etchings of little lives into me.

I am white, but become blue
as sky calls and I fall to sea,
wedged from glacier’s edge
into the salty orb of destiny,
absorbing visions exalted by me.

As I disappear, look there—
for lost scripture of my mighty odyssey,
silk-screened to earth; fifteen
thousand years— exquisitely—
utter the beauty written by me.








Your ice inferno torches
A turquoise temple with exile;
A scorching crucifix in me,
Stigmata seeps from palms
That grip your glacial pores.

© Photo courtesy of David Bresnahan









Winter, console me,
discover me over,
wax olden moon, swath
a path to marathon horizon,
rabid ice to revive
becalmed spirit with wasteland,
cloth of cold heart-bath
uncovers my holy lover,
holding the ever-me.

© Photo courtesy of David Bresnahan









Urgent rhythm betrays an Arctic song,
Ursa Major, the great celestial bear
unicycles the white-wheel of brittle sea,
unconcerned his ice-spoked whirl is lonely,
ultimately only his wilderness. Tragic
underfoot, ice lingers offshore, to kill

romance with the rape of deep cold; to kill
recall of its ice-sweet and ghostly song,
raspy death-voice of dinosaur ice is tragic.
Reach of mythical might, circumpolar bear
reels like a unicorn on lost frontier; sea
rhythm of his wild heart is flawed and lonely.

Spirit-Inuit ambles and furry-frames a lonely
stark life, consumes its red-blooded kill;
sacrifice on the ice is seized from the sea;
so beats Arctic rhythm of no warm song.
Solar heat baits for pelt of a hunter-bear;
seals a hot fate until caged and tragic,

As life that loses its lust becomes tragic,
aching to roam the region of the lonely.
Anywhere wilderness hunts with a pale bear
aligns natural law—a creed not to kill
an ancient king who quickens that solo song,
a paw-thumping rhythm over a thick sea.

Many wonder why the ice forgot the sea,
manic ice trickles retreat to gush what is tragic.
Menacing rhythm of beauty would nobly kill
Man’s madness, before ice’s vice-like song;
many are the winds that will find it lonely—
meandering frost-blast for scent of omega-bear.

A rhythm of glacial ages raised Nanuq, the bear;
acclimatized a kingdom; divined crystalline sea.
And we, for one last magnificence to kill,
ritually gore the cold ivory of centuries for tragic
alms—ceremoniously make the core of life lonely,
allow powder-blue palaces to melt with ice-song,

Just as we shrivel to kill what we cannot bear,
Orphans search rhythm for song upon frozen sea,
Rising from song so tragic; melody of ice, lonely.









































No captain, none but the one called Cook*,
prevailed through gale for Venus; whose sextant
took compass round the southern end,
his extant sail panting Tahiti’s heat,
to append the pendulum of earth; far flung
fleet intent for imagined land,
scarred among polar moors, Maori
sand; mapping a navigator’s legend.

The dowry of Venus veils luminous shroud,
transcends Dr. Hansen’s** ultraviolet wand,
a cloud of oven—a greenhouse miracle
beyond frontier of alien fog,
but spherical dust in our air of aerosol,
the smoggy gallows, the burning spear
through parasol that earth must ever tog,
an ozone shield that thins then hollows.

Through bog of ice and arctic haze
I followed Venus over ocean’s vale,
dazing the sphere with a penguin’s glee,
in a winged whale to a white hell,
as we deployed where banshees weep—
wildcats on a gazelle through sunset’s seam,
to leap a sanguine Venusian sea,
abeam blue zebras that planet the void.

*Captain James Cook (1728-1779), touted among the greatest navigators in history, circumnavigated the globe twice. He was charged by the Royal Society, the British scientific authority of the day, to observe the Transit of Venus across the face of the Sun from the vantage point of Tahiti. His second charge was to explore in search of the great, and as yet unknown, southern continent we know today as Antarctica.

**Dr. James Hansen, head of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, studied Venus’s atmosphere in the 1970s, articulated the greenhouse effect of aerosols on our atmosphere, and brought increased awareness to the study of global warming and climate change.


All text © R.J. Smith. Ronnie Smith was born of US Air Force parents in Udine, Italy, and grew up in Baltimore, Maryland. He attended Loyola College (BA) and the University of Maryland. Ron played semi-pro basketball in Europe before entering the US Air Force in 1983 to fly C-130 aircraft. He has travelled the world as a professional aviator, bringing a spiritual dimension to his writing through this inspiration. After many years flying in the polar regions, he was selected to be the in-theatre commander of Operation DEEP FREEZE, the DoD logistics support to the US Antarctic Program from 2005-2008. His poetry has appeared in The New York Times, The Wisconsin Review and The Evansville Review, among others. He resides in St. Louis, Missouri. For more of his poetry, see Ronnie's own website

The New York Times, The Evansville Review, PHI KAPPA PHI Forum, Antarctic Sun and Calendar, Phantasmagoria, Karmakaze Magazine, The Wisconsin Review, West Wind Review; The Pilar Jimenez Art Portfolio/Exhibition, First Prize Lollapalooza Poetry Reading, RiverSedge; Penwood Review; Saint Louis Magazine; The Riverfront Times; appeared in Polar Dialogues Exhibit with K.A. Colorado, L.A. Artcore, Los Angeles, CA; and West Vancouver Memorial Library Polar Inspiration Exhibit.








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