SUICIDE

Almost immediately upon return from his 1932 Caribbean Motion Picture Expedition, Ron again set out for the southern latitudes -- this time for Puerto Rico, where he headed that island’s first complete mineralogical survey under United States protectorship.

He arrived by naval transport in early autumn to find himself in a classically adventurous world replete with gold-crazed prospectors, disreputable mining engineers and swindlers of all descriptions. Through various turns of his eight-month trek, he ultimately hacked out jungle trails, crawled from collapsed mine shafts, wrestled with malaria and befriended an intensely spiritual Jibero, or hill people. The classically tragic suicide -- more or less glimpsed from afar amidst, “a huddle of unpainted shacks”-- was simply part of the larger tableau.

The details, recorded in a letter home, were as terse and etched as any from the island. A young American engineer forsakes his stateside fiancé for a native girl. After months of no word, and the marriage date long past, the jilted girl sets out on the engineer’s trail. When she at last tracks him down, he withdraws to his shack, bolts the door and releases the safety on a service automatic. As Ron then so pointedly concluded, “The crash of a forty-five rips through the mountain air. The young engineer lies across his bed in a pool of blood, half his face shot away.”

The poem inspired by this tragedy employs a dramatic first person in order to suggest we have stumbled upon the suicide note of that unfortunate mining engineer. It would seem to have been one of the earliest New York poems, possibly from 1935, when the memories of that expedition had still been quite fresh.






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