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
as petrified wood.
At first I was embarrassed
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
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
there are days when you
kick back like the farmers
in a three-week drought
if the ancient rain dances
had any merit,
if you should slit your palm
with a dagger
and bleed over a fire
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
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
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 (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)
It’s true, there’s no such thing as writer’s block.
And yet, it’s not enough
to simply arrange words on paper.
Not for me anyway. I get to thinking,
does the world really need
one more poet who mistakes ambition and prolificacy
for some kind of genius? Enough.
Enough! This morning, for instance:
I thought I saw a poem
in my scrambled eggs and sausage.
Another in my girlfriend’s hair, spilling over the bed,
as if she dreamt of waterfalls. And yet another
in the dumb blue-yellow sunrise
silhouetting the traffic jam across the highway
from my kitchen window. Until—
“Enough!” I said to myself. “Quit
badgering me already:
I know it’s ugly down here
and I know when to walk away.”
Reconciled, I forked the last egg from my plate,
wolfed it in one bite, and felt good.
Then I divided the rest of the morning
between my mug of coffee and my green pipe,
watching the urge of traffic. Not a care
where they were going. Just glad
I wasn’t one of them.
by Ryan Dowling
What the Doctor Said
He said it doesn’t look good
he said it looks bad in fact real bad
he said I counted thirty-two of them on one lung before
I quit counting them
I said I’m glad I wouldn’t want to know
about any more being there than that
he said are you a religious man do you kneel down
in forest groves and let yourself ask for help
when you come to a waterfall
mist blowing against your face and arms
do you stop and ask for understanding at those moments
I said not yet but I intend to start today
he said I’m real sorry he said
I wish I had some other kind of news to give you
I said Amen and he said something else
I didn’t catch and not knowing what else to do
and not wanting him to have to repeat it
and me to have to fully digest it
I just looked at him
for a minute and he looked back it was then
I jumped up and shook hands with this man who’d just given me
something no one else on earth had ever given me
I may have even thanked him habit being so strong
by Raymond Carver (1938-1988)
To what purpose, April, do you return again?
Beauty is not enough.
You can no longer quiet me with the redness
Of little leaves opening stickily.
I know what I know.
The sun is hot on my neck as I observe
The spikes of the crocus.
The smell of the earth is good.
It is apparent that there is no death.
But what does that signify?
Not only under ground are the brains of men
Eaten by maggots.
Life in itself
An empty cup, a flight of uncarpeted stairs.
It is not enough that yearly, down this hill,
Comes like an idiot, babbling and strewing flowers.
by Edna St. Vincent Millay (1892-1950)