Love Sonnet I

Love Sonnet I
after Pablo Neruda

You needn’t love me as long as I may still love you;
the sun still hatches an Aphrodite from its sea of flame;
a lumberjack is splitting the badly coupled still;
still the stars accumulate in the most avoided corner.

Not a drop of water in all the world will change us,
for as long as what you feel for me is a moon-white child
that has died of her love for thirst, for the sweetness
of absence, love’s fire sleeps in a soft roar.

Take it all away from me, my dear, only not too far;
I want to know that if I drag my heart across this desert
I will find at its end your footprint or a single tear.

Go on looking, my dear, for anyone, anyone but me,
only do not find him; leave me at least the slightest chance
that, of all these drones, I alone may love my queen.

by Ryan Dowling

Gone Fishin’



As the salmon prepare to run upstream en masse, I have been preparing to leave for False Pass, AK. For the past week or so my crew and I have been lacing and lashing, seizing and sewing together a seine (see pictures). Let’s hope we’re smarter than the fish (sometimes I do wonder).

Due to the demands of work, and the lack of internet availability out there, I wanted to announce that I will be taking a hiatus from blogging.

More importantly, I wanted to thank everyone who has read and commented on my posts. It does not go unnoticed.

See you in the Fall.

P.S. Beware of frankenfish (farmed salmon). Eat wild Alaskan salmon. It’s better for you!


Rolling With The Punches

Rolling With The Punches

It is true that the demands of the ego
are much greater
than what the gods
can provide,

but then
there just isn’t enough hell
to go around

and at some point
peace arrives,

though not as a reward
or a respite
but simply because
humans are tireless creatures
who have no choice but to fight
as the gods come swinging
with left hooks
and right jabs,
soul-sucking jobs,
two-timing lovers,
car accidents,
sick cats,
sick dogs,
failed marriages,
taxes, rent,
bills, taxes,
bad acid trips,
flooded basements,
flooded engines,
empty religions,
empty refrigerators,
kidney stones,
bladder stones,
madness, bodily pain,
alienation, amputation,
three-day rainstorms,
three-day hangovers,
stolen shoes,
stale beer,
blood on a white blouse,
dust in a burnt lung…

and in the end
it is not the humans
but the gods
who take a break.


Ryan Dowling

When Is A Poem Finished?

When I first got hooked on writing, I’d bang out 10 poems a day—no problem. Everything was spontaneous. Whatever came up came out. And I rarely looked back at a single line. I was writing more for the therapeutic value of writing than for the end product. I wrote thousands of poems this way. Thousands of terrible poems.

As I began to take poetry more seriously, I became a more careful craftsman. Revision became a much larger part of my writing process. So much so that now I often spend a week at a time revising a single poem. Word choices are reconsidered, the syntax of each line is adjusted, entire verse paragraphs are removed and rewritten, etc.

But alas, I remain dissatisfied with the final product. It seems that my only criterion for calling a poem “finished” is being frustrated with it and tired of looking at it. Or else I lose confidence in the poem. Worst of all, I get tunnel vision, and I worry that my revisions are taking a turn for the worse rather than improving the poem.

So, I think it’s important to pose some questions about the revision process: At what point does revision go too far (when does it only begin to weaken the poem)? I wouldn’t disagree with the old adage that a work of art is never finished, but when do we know to walk away and move on to the next project? How do we assess the completion of our own work with a clear, objective eye?

I am always reminded of Ezra Pound’s In a Station of the Metro. I’ve heard that this poem was originally over thirty lines long, but Pound, with his Imagist eye for economy, cut it down to two lines and just fourteen words. Talk about revision!

In a Station of the Metro

The apparition of these faces in the crowd;
Petals on a wet, black bough.

by Ezra Pound (1885-1972)


Afterlife Insurance

Afterlife Insurance

The surgeon jabs me in the gut, twice under the chin.
Gentle boxer, he means to knock me out
with anaesthetic. He means to leave a scar.

I am inhuman to him: a muscular pink cartoon
in the waiting room’s coloring book, cut
on the dotted lines. My body, one whole chicken
in the grocery aisle, pre-marinated in antiseptic.
Down the breastbone slide his forceps and scalpel
like a fork and knife at supper. He sets
the cancerous organs aside like anchovies
in a salad he didn’t order.

When I wake up, he’s scanning my wrinkles
the way one skims the hard-set words
on a stranger’s headstone. He reads them to me,
but the breathing tube down my throat
has eaten my reservations. I swallow hard.
He lifts my hands. Then lays them down
across my ribs like two fish on an oven rack.
By parting the curtains, he parts the veil
between the living and the dead. The curtains

part again; this must be the angel—no,
it’s the insurance agent. Historian of agony,
accountant of Acheron, she wants some identification,
and some answers. Above all, she wants the tokens
I owe the ferryman at the gates of death. When
my relatives place the gold pieces upon my eyes, she
is the one will who cash me out.


by Ryan Dowling