Ronna Leon, Poet Laureate 2010-2012

Poet, artist, photographer Ronna Leon has lived in Benicia since 1983. With her husband Joe Leon, she owns and operates Caterpillar Puppets. Ronna creates the puppets, and is an accomplished artist and photographer who has had a show at the Benicia Library gallery. Ronna has a history of advocacy for poetry. She worked on the state Poets Laureate Project by taking pictures of more than 60 past and present poets laureate in CA and creating the web site for the project. She is a member of First Tuesday group in Benicia, and the Ina Coolbrith Poetry Circle, and she reads at Valona Deli in Crocket monthly.

She said in her [Poet Laureate] application: "My poetry is informal and personal. In it I express as clearly and concisely as possible my intuitive understanding of the world. I am drawn to problems of conscience, the soul and everyday emotions. My goal is to communicate what I see and feel in an interesting and lively way."



When you first move to our town,

learning how to say its name

takes some effort.

On the telephone, when asked for the city,

operators often think you say Venezia.

imagining, I think, Italian vacations they dream of taking.

Newcomers favor calling the town Ben KNEE sha

but then notice that most native residents say Ben NISH sha.

So you ask your Spanish-speaking friends and they say

that's plain wrong, it should be Beh KNEE thee-ah.

(Please don't forget the lisp the "Thee.")

The problem isn't simplified when you find our town

was once called Francisca but got changed when it seemed too

close to San Francisco's name, although back then

our town was about as important a city as any in the state.

Maybe our city should have held out

until San Francisco changed its name.

I was told that Robert Semple, who laid out our town

(when he wasn't busy fixing teeth),

had promised he'd name the place after General Vallejo's wife

(General Va YE ho's wife, that is),

Doña Francesca Benicia Carillo de Vallejo.

Vallejo was already a city close by,

which clearly limited our choice,

although there is still Carillo as a future possibility

when all the versions of Benicia seem too much.

In the end, whichever pronunciation of our town name you favor,

you'll soon just call it home.

Simple Question

"Where are you off to?"

The library.

How often I make that reply,

an answer easier

than explaining

I'm off to find adventure, mystery, explanations, stories,

answers, QUESTIONS, distraction, solace, advice.

I need hard facts, fantasy, history, science and art.

I want to learn brush painting.

I've a desire to housebreak my cat.

At my library I can meet both the living and the dead,

In a quiet place, where no one questions what I'm doing

lurking among their carefully crafted pages.

Oh, I'm off to the library, you bet.

I'm off to the library, and yes, I can bring

you back a couple of books.

"Anything in particular?"

Ronna Leon, Benicia Poet Laureate 2010-2012

100 years of Library Services Celebration

Benicia Public Library, August 2010


A woman like other women,

breasts, belly, shoulder, arms, legs.

The hollows at her neck.

A woman with active fingers,

yielding flesh.


A woman gone.

She left behind this kimono

with fields of precious threaded flowers,

flocks of golden birds,

swirling seas, cloudy heavens.

These once adorned her

young body - old body,


Did she sigh in wonder?

We other women do,

passing the exhibit's glass case

where her gown now hangs.

A woman like other women,

clothed in beauty

for their beauty.

© Ronna Leon 2009


Maybe it isn't one thing

but another.

Maybe the time isn't right.

The baby's been thrown out

with the bath water.

The black hole sucked up the light.

Caution tape's always bright yellow.

Chalk marks where the bodies lie.

The front door is triple locked.

The clue is hidden in plain sight.

Maybe truth IS stranger than fiction.

Maybe the postman rings twice.

If I had to place bets,

if I want to win big,

if facts can be trusted,

if I've got this right,

further research proves necessary

far into the night.

© Ronna Leon 2009

The Poem That Got Away

The one about the first rain evaporated

in the clear day that followed.

Another, cloaked in sacred vestments,

fled during the sermon

(no pencil to be found in the pew cardholder).

The poem that started while mixing meat loaf

was soon baked beyond recognition.

Perhaps it is the superficiality of my poetic impulse.

Perhaps my muse has attention deficit disorder.

Perhaps the lessons of the poems I've read and heard

suffocate the tender upstarts:

No poems on spring, none about dead mothers,

nothing on the living Christ, no poems on depression,


(dime-store cards cover these).

Don't write on war, unfair death, the dire economic times,

domestic woes, sons and daughters,


All the poems I didn't write

may prove a blessing.

Easy come, easy go,

that's my poem for you.

© Ronna Leon 2007

A Lifetime Ago

A lifetime ago

the pot boiled over, the dust bunnies ran away,

joining the general domestic strike.

Mr Mop sulked in a gray thready heap,

the walls marked with his despond like a prisoner's cell.

The garbage collected in colorful piles.

The rubber seals of Mason jars melted in the garbage

that summer.

The world did not end -

although it might have-

a lifetime ago, it is hard to remember clearly-

except for walking away,

without the dish, without a spoon,

leaving the sharp knife on the counter.

© Ronna Leon 2010


I hear the thwack that signals its arrival

On my Driveway.

I do not rise. Do not hurry, as is my habit,

To spread wide the soft pages like a proud bird

Upon my table.

Do not make the dark coffee that usually flavors

The mysteries of important events.

I lie in the morning cool

And listen to birds squabble in the

Full blooming trees.

I collect the sounds of window opening,

Dripping faucet, humming refrigerator, husband snores.

I picture the newspaper waiting there,

Warming, browning, finally crisping, fading

In the righteous sun, unread.

I tell myself this news is already dead,

The common history we muck through,


I do not want their news, their lives, their grief,

Crushing my fragile spring morning.

When my husband leaves for work, he takes the paper

With him.

He asks, as he leans down to get it.

"You don't mind?"

No. No, I do not mind.

Her poetry can be found in anthologies in the Catalog.

updated 8/2020