Wolfsbane (Aconitum)

Wolfsbane (Aconitum)

On our stroll back from the estuary,
we rested beside a riverbank
and tugged these hooded flowers
from the edge of the foam.
I told you that they were violets,
but—what did I know?—
I couldn’t tell a lily from a lilac.

I wove them into your curls
until your hair was as heavy with purple
as dusk upon the rollicking waters,
slow-motion in the quickening breeze.

When I leaned my lips into yours,
yours had begun to quiver and sweat.
You grew rigid
and heavy
as petrified wood.
At first I was embarrassed
I’d overstepped
the boundaries that boys often risk
when faced with beautiful girls.
But later, I learned that the stems
of those flowers
had leaked into your scalp—
though it was hardly anything,
hardly anything at all—
this I learned
only after the paramedics
gave up on you.

by Ryan Dowling

Salutation by Ezra Pound


O generation of the thoroughly smug
and thoroughly uncomfortable,
I have seen fishermen picnicking in the sun,
I have seen them with untidy families,
I have seen their smiles full of teeth
and heard ungainly laughter.
And I am happier than you are,
And they were happier than I am;
And the fish swim in the lake
and do not even own clothing.

by Ezra Pound (1885-1972)

In an age of instant gratification

In an age of instant gratification

there are days when you
kick back like the farmers
in a three-week drought
and wonder
if the ancient rain dances
had any merit,
if you should slit your palm
with a dagger
and bleed over a fire
or if
a Hail Mary, an Our Father
just might reach
its intended audience.

It’s better to understand
that the gods don’t care
if you holler damnations
into the dark
or if you twist your baseball cap
from back
to front
and then cock it
to the left.

They won’t even notice
if you sing in church
or you shit
in the woods
or you fleck
holy water over your pillow
or you carve
with a stick
an ankh or a cross
or a pentagram
or a corporate logo
or whatever that’s
supposed to be
in the dust
and then you kneel down
and kiss it.

The rain will fall
when it falls.
The poems will come
when they come.

The hardest thing for
us to do
is to be patient,
especially when there’s a
15 minute wait
at the McDonald’s

by Ryan Dowling



99% of poetry is bad,
and just as soon as the addict can admit
she’s an addict,
you and I can admit we’re bad poets.
And everyone
can piss fart die a little more peacefully.

How do I tell you this?
(The same way a woman tells me,
“I don’t love you.”)
Nobody cares about your soul.
—And beware
of those who say they do.

We haven’t died enough.
Our egos stink like only the living do.
Or we haven’t lived
a single day, though we’ve been here forever.
And nobody cares
if Heaven’s Saturday night and Hell’s

Sunday morning. The junkie bangs
into a black vein,
then tells friends and family she’s clean.
99% of poetry is bad.
I’m telling you 99.00000001% is bad
now that this one’s over.

by Ryan Dowling

Nostalgia in the Rain

Nostalgia in the Rain

Once more the day drops
in a paradiddle of raindrops,
knocking at my amygdala.
Standing with an armful of eggs

between the porch lilies,
a shadow drops the trench coat
from its man-shape
and collapses into a mist

of formaldehyde. I step out
upon the eggshells.
Nostalgia rises with the force
of the worms rising up,

and nostalgia itself
is a worm-eaten bore in the brain—
so straight it’s a peephole
from ear to ear. When the rain

falls hardest, it drums
a death-rattle from the earth,
and the stink of it suffuses the sky.
I can’t smell a thing,

but somehow I know the odor,
like an old rainjacket,
like an old drunk passed out
in the pissing dawn.

by Ryan Dowling

Suicide by Federico Garcia Lorca

Suicide (translation by Alan S. Trueblood)

(Maybe it was because you hadn’t
mastered your geometry)

The lad was going blank.
It was ten in the morning.

His heart was growing full
of broken wings and rag flowers.

He noticed there remained
just one word on his lips.

And when he took off his gloves
a soft ash fell from his hands.

A tower showed through the balcony door.
He felt he was balcony and tower.

No doubt he saw how the clock,
stopped in its case, surveyed him.

He saw his shadow quiet and prone
on the white silk divan.

And the stiff, geometrical youth
smashed the mirror with a hatchet.

When it broke, a great burst of shadow
flooded the illusory room.

by Federico Garcia Lorca (1898-1936)