John Roche
(See John's previous FootHills book
On Conesus)

You won't need a secret decoder ring to open up these poems by John Roche-they're right there in your face, full of the energy & direct imagery of daily life and composed with careful grace for the way they sound in your ear. Not to simplify things too much, but this is the kind of poetry I like!
  --John Sinclair
December 14, 2007

This is a good, solid book, musical and full of unexpected turns, defining the topics of the day just before they turn the dark corner into history. And, even more important, Roche refuses to draw a line between the personal and the topical. After all, our lives are on that table where the dice of politics are being thrown. In an age when so much poetry is predictable and solipsistic, Topicalities is a gift.
--Steven Huff

I can't think of any other way to phrase this:  John Roche's Topicalities is a manifesto for our grim times, a “must-read” to help us survive the Bush Years and their aftermath. Yet the political sensibility of his poems is anything but grim. These poems raise awareness of the costs of the war in Iraq, for example, but his touch is deft. It moves, it rattles, it shakes and breathes passion, compassion… This poetry is honest without being brutal; hope rises from these pages. Thus, he makes us see both a “child's broken body” on the road to Damascus and the hosta lilies of spring in Western New York.
                       -- Karla Linn Merrifield


Dedicated to the proposition that the topical poem is not inferior to the personal lyric and that poems about today's struggles are not necessarily lacking in “eternal themes.”  At a recent Wheeler Hill reading, Susan Deer Cloud alluded to a poet who apologized before reading a “political poem.” Expect no such apologies here. Neither expect a clear demarcation between the personal and the political, except in those poems, like Rick's Café or Coalition of the Willing, where a distinct p.o.v. is assumed.

Dedicated to poets like Janine Pommy Vega, John Sinclair, and Ed Sanders who've kept the issues, and the music, alive. And to Woody Guthrie, who was always ready to confront “the new situ-ation.”

From the book:


It's 1955
I'm being rocked in my cradle
My father's on the road
driving the byways of Connecticut
for the American Tobacco Company

Four decades later he'll succumb to emphysema
in what lungs remain from the cancer surgery

But, right now, he's tanned and young
energetically setting up the Camels display
flour-pasting Lucky Strike decals on the windows
of package stores and general stores and grocery stores
in Goshen Hebron Pomfret Scotland Norfolk Cornwall Coventry Norwalk New Canaan, New Milford, Norwichtown Deep River

This morning he's sitting at a lunch counter
in some pharmacy in some hamlet too small for a Woolworth's
My Dad's got a cup of coffee a donut a cigarette
 (a triad that was a constant in his life-
 matched only by Mom and morning Communion)

I would create a world where such pleasures are non-lethal

Picture him outside
on a sunny June day
leaning against a wooden post
examining his work with a satisfied eye
and enjoying one more Lucky
while morning stretches out and around the elm-draped bend
in the road that goes on the road that goes on the road that goes on forever

Virtual Wendell Berry

Rushed out of work and onto the freeway
burning fossil fuels
to get to reading by the famous farmer poet
hear why we need to slow down to mule-speed
and learn to jettison consumerist dissatisfactions
become human beings in human-scaled communities
once again

But first I'm shunted into snaking line around reflecting pool
at the art museum
then herded along with a hundred or more ethical sheep
into the overflow pen (wainscoted and elegant)
to watch our contemporary Thoreau
over live videostream
get an award for truth-telling

Right after two words from our sponsors:
a local state university branch
and a globalizing bank

Baghdad Boogaloo

If it ain't broke, don't fix it
If it ain't broke, don't fix it
If it ain't broke, don't fix it
If it ain't broke, don't fix it

You break it, you bought it
You break it, you bought it
You break it, you bought it
You break it, you bought it

Jus' a little glue will do
Jus' a little glue will do
Jus' a little glue will do you
Jus' a little glue will do

Superglue that Sumerian figurine
Superglue that pipeline
Superglue that armor plating to the Humvees
Superglue that power plant
Superglue the Coalition of the Willing
Superglue the Shias to the Sunnis to the Kurds
Superglue their government

You think you're quite the handyman, don't you?

Down on the ranch jus' choppin' wood
Choppin' wood all day
Choppin' wood down on the ranch
Jus' choppin'
All day
Jus' choppin'

You can't fix it and you can't leave it
You can't fix it and you can't leave it
You can't fix it and you can't leave it
You can't fix it and you can't leave it
You can't you can't you can't you can't
Your cant your cant your cant your cant

Jus' more Baghdad Boogaloo
A whole lot more Boogaloo
Jus' more and more Baghdad Boogaloo
Next time it's Tehran Tooraloo

To contact John Roche -

is an 84 page hand-stitched paper book with spine.



To order through mail click here.


 On Conesus

"There is a lovely resonance and particularity in these various poems. One's brought home to the physical world again, its daily, relieving insistences.  So a life finds its company, always."

Robert Creeley

"John Roche's  On Conesus traces for us a place he located in his life-journey where the mind's contours could fit, for him, with the spiritual contours of the land and water on which and near which he and his wife lived.  You can trust that vision.  Thus, the silent loss when a beloved cottonwood falls, the poem notes it, and we can feel  its loss for all of eternity, as long as words stand black on white.   A pig farm mentioned in the Maximus Poems is long gone, but the poem remains. Long live the vision of Conesus."

Ed Sanders

Short review of On Conesus
by Levi Asher on his Literary Kicks Site

From the Book:

On Conesus

wine glow of
"Indian summer"
no wine-dark sea
but sparkling
water and
air that intoxicates
--why "Indian"?
autumnal images
(even John Ford employed)
Senecas once
a lake rich with
northern pike
wild ducks
turtle stones
longhouses on Conesus Creek
(village of old Can-ne-hoot,  Chief Conesus in Hosmer's  Yonnondio)
beaver colonies before the hat fad
(Did Rushville's "Great Wolf Hunt" of 1811 reach here?)
--reverie broken by jet ski--
stillness returns
even Thoreau had the railroad
reverberations across his lake
--whose lake?
aboriginal canoes
Mort Zuckerman bulldozers
Don Henley concerts


stream path
from hill
through our
on beach
forms ice-
soon widens
into bay
as ice

we drank from this spring
until January
broke concrete
of driveway
drilled frozen ground

now we have
chlorinated baths
a mound of earth
an eroding trench

for fifty years
people drank from the well-
within this house

Solar Returns

island sun

Take a Carnival Cruise
in my li'l rowboat
but it's 40°F.
and the boat leaks

Van Morrison
on the box
"Too Long in Exile"
"Til We Get the Healing Done"
for now
for a wee bit
o' sun
after yesterday's
1st snow
that stuck
barely broke 30°
two layers
of socks
two sweaters
in the house
burning fossils
eating carbs

That old cave mentality
almost enough
to make one
a Republican

ISBN 0-941053-57-1

On Conesus is a 96 page hand-sewn paperback with flat spine - $16.00


To order through mail click here.