spring (again) :: michael ryan

The birds were louder this morning,
raucous, oblivious, tweeting their teensy bird-brains out.
It scared me, until I remembered it’s Spring.
How do they know it? A stupid question.
Thank you, birdies. I had forgotten how promise feels.

stones :: michael ryan

They don’t change, or change so slowly
only the dead could notice.
Because the dead don’t feel death pulse

inside the body like a wild ocean
that consumes all possible attention,
an ocean whose quiet bottom cradles

the odd undersides of stones, while
hard wind shakes up everything above.
If stones won’t feel even the final storm,

if the dead really notice nothing,
how will you feel yourself becoming
something else when the only thing

that ignores the crash of waves is stone?

a thank-you note :: michael ryan

For John Skoyles

My daughter made drawings with the pens you sent,
line drawings that suggest the things they represent,
different from any drawings she — at ten — had done,
closer to real art, implying what the mind fills in.
For her mother she made a flower fragile on its stem;
for me, a lion, calm, contained, but not a handsome one.
She drew a lion for me once before, on a get-well card,
and wrote I must be brave even when it’s hard.

Such love is healing — as you know, my friend,
especially when it comes unbidden from our children
despite the flaws they see so vividly in us.
Who can love you as your child does?
Your son so ill, the brutal chemo, his looming loss
owning you now — yet you would be this generous
to think of my child. With the pens you sent
she has made I hope a healing instrument.

insult :: michael ryan

Before you went out I asked you
in no uncertain terms to button
the next button up your shirt
that showed your naked breast
from the right angle when you twisted
and bent, an angle admittedly rarely
reproduced in real-world space
and then what would need to be in place
is the mythical irresistible male
whose lust could flare furiously
(like mine) and push you ecstatically
beyond where you sexually go
with me. Obviously I don’t know
what would be possible for you
with another body than mine,
but I love you and yours so dearly
the thought’s too much for me
despite your saying your love for me
makes the idea preposterous
from the get-go. I’m sorry
I spoke harshly. My jealousy
is a jealous companion.
It wants me alone.

via the new yorker

girls’ middle school orchestra :: michael ryan

They’re all dressed up in carmine
floor-length velvet gowns, their upswirled hair
festooned with matching ribbons:
their fresh hopes and our fond hopes for them
infuse this sort-of-music as if happiness could actually be
each-plays-her-part-and-all-will-take-care-of-itself.
Their hearts unscarred under quartz lights
beam through the darkness in which we sit
to show us why we endured at home
the squeaking and squawking and botched notes
that now in concert are almost beautiful,
almost rendering this heartrending music
composed for an archduke who loved it so much
he spent his fortune for the musicians
who could bring it brilliantly to life.

the past :: michael ryan

It shows up one summer in a greatcoat,
storms through the house confiscating,
says it must be paid and quickly,
says it must take everything.

Your children stare into their cornflakes,
your wife whispers only once to stop it,
because she loves you and she sees it
darken the room suddenly like a stain.

What did you do to deserve it,
ruining breakfast on a balmy day?
Kiss your loved ones. Night is coming.
There was no life without it anyway.

outside :: michael ryan

The dead thing mashed into the street
the crows are squabbling over isn’t
her, nor are their raucous squawks
the quiet cawing from her throat
those final hours she couldn’t speak.
But the racket irks him.
It seems a cruel intrusion into grief
so mute it will never be expressed
no matter how loud or long the wailing
he might do. Nor could there be a word
that won’t debase it, no matter
how kind or who it comes from.
She knew how much he loved her.
That must be his consolation
when he must talk to buy necessities.
Every place will be a place without her.
What people will see when they see him
pushing a shopping cart or fetching mail
is just a neatly dressed polite old man.

listen and read about the process