Pre-owned Odyssey and Rented Rooms / Lawrence F. Rhu


Pre-owned Odyssey and Rented Rooms

poems by

Lawrence F. Rhu

107 pages, ISBN: 978-1-964277-01-1, $15 (+ shipping)

Projected Release Date: July/August, 2024

An Advance Sale Discount price of $9 (+ shipping) is available HERE prior to press time. This price is not available anywhere else or by check. The check price is $13/book (which includes shipping & sales tax) and should be sent to: Main Street Rag, 4416 Shea Lane, Mint Hill, NC 28227. 


PLEASE NOTE: Ordering in advance of the release date entitles the buyer to a discount. It does not mean the book will ship before the date posted above and the price only applies to copies ordered through the Main Street Rag Online Bookstore.

Lawrence Rhu is the Todd Professor of the Italian Renaissance, emeritus, at the University of South Carolina. He has published books and essays about the American and European Renaissances and edited Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale. His poems have appeared in Poetry, North Dakota Quarterly, Innisfree Poetry Journal, The Poetry Society of South Carolina Yearbook, Pinesong, Fall Lines, One, The Main Street Rag, Conversations: The Journal of Cavellian Studies, Jogos Florais, Forma de Vida, and other journals. They have won awards from the Poetry Society of South Carolina and the Pirate’s Alley Faulkner Society of New Orleans.

Lawrence Rhu’s odyssey may be “pre-owned,” but it is also newly imagined, skillfully written and wide-ranging. These poems create a world both familiar and eye-opening. They make themselves at home in an array of cultures: the classics, world literature, American popular culture, the Hispanic/Indigenous world-view of the Southwest. “For a second the world looks inside / out and freshly rinsed,” Rhu writes, and this freshness makes this book both richly satisfying and surprisingly stimulating. ~Richard Tillinghast, author of Blue If Only I Could Tell You


Lawrence Rhu’s elegant and moving poems are funny, smart, and passionately sane. He is a poet of dazzling formal accomplishment, of family, of travel and of learning. A wizard of puns, memorable lines, and unpredictable inevitability, he is also pure of heart and tender, unafraid to reveal the ugly or the beautiful. Make no mistake about it. Pre-owned Odyssey and Rented Rooms is brilliant poetry.  ~Rodney Jones, author of Alabama


Pre-owned Odyssey and Rented Rooms offers exquisite, rueful considerations of love and mortality. Memory, pop culture, and dreams cross-pollinate—perhaps because, as the narrator wryly notes in “A Late Rally,” “Experts in rewiring hearts disturb my sleep.” Lawrence Rhu knows just how to shape a poem: when to polish bright, specific textures of the moment and when to cut deeper, so that the blade yields an underlying truth. ~Sandra Beasley, author of Made to Explode

Connecting Flights


Twisted neon tubes illuminate
arcades that span Midway’s moving walkways.
I’m flying home to see my father

and join a group of teachers to discuss
biblical poetry. At the Best Western
I share a room with Sharif, a Tucson native

whose Sufi wit inspires a second look
at God’s almighty bipolarity
before we theorize about divine

machinery and traffic management
of transcendental flight for passengers
like us between stops halfway home.

No chariot of fire here gives us a lift.
My father soon will fall like fruit too ripe
with time, oblivious, the way his mother

took her leave in loneliness apart,
her family and friends unrecognizable.
Aglow and etched in bright green neon tubes,

like those at Midway terminal, a cactus
signifies the Saguaro Drug Store’s open.
I often pass it, heading east on Grant.

In front of me, the Catalinas call
to mind a watercolor that my father
painted one rainy day that made him keep

indoors. For a second the world looks inside
out and freshly rinsed, as though the mountains
stay with us, however far away we go.





Grief broke my father with my mother’s death.
Aunt Betty’s, soon thereafter, caught him broken.

Though I’m sure he told me, still I wonder why
he buried Betty’s ashes by the hedge

bordering his rock garden in the backyard
instead of in our so-called family plot.

Perhaps the cost was more than it seemed worth,
or public rites of mourning seemed mere forms

that mock the raw bewilderment of loss.
The price of any life—or mine, at least—

seems high when guilt or just embarrassment
may momentarily make us wish it gone

to sleep with our fathers, as they say, in the dust
from whence we came, the dust of nowhere special,

anonymous, unnamed. My father set aside
that spot for minerals and gems he gathered

from the desert where we lived. One morning
I awakened to his voice outside my window

with a stranger who’d lost his wife that night
during childbirth under my father’s care.

He brought her husband home for breakfast,
which he cooked. Then he invited him

outside to the garden. They were speaking softly
so I could not understand what they were saying

amid the amethyst, turquoise, and agate
from the Sonoran desert where we lived.



Pre-Columbian Intersections


Tugaloo descends and crosses Waccamaw—
each street named for a native tribe or place
like others hereabout. Tugaloo becomes

Burney Drive, for thirty some odd years
our home address. Like a comma along the way
of a sentence on a page, it winds uphill

and needs no period till it Ts into Shandon,
named for an antebellum Episcopalian
divine at Trinity. Though generically post-

protestant and unchurched, as a docent there
I reconsider gospels and parables
and acts wherever light breaks through stained-glass

in clerestory and nave. Given they bring
to mind live issues, Governor Wade Hampton
and poet Henry Timrod seem more self-consciously

dead than other silent churchyard citizens.
Our babies first drew breath at Palmetto Baptist.
At Shandon Pres., we signed them up for Youth

League basketball, awaiting what’s to come:
American dissonance in subdivisions
near the heart of town on familiar streets

named after long ago leaders, tribes and places:
Etiwan, Catawba, Kiawah, Oceola,


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