The Father-Son Continuum
In all that is the father
there is the longing for death in the birth of the son:
a dying man on a frightened horse.
My father on his manstalk
burned like a scarecrow just before the snow falls
when the snow falls in only one field.
When it proved useless, he put his mind for sale.
Though the moon paid in amnesia,
he traded it to the lower dark for a way out.
He built a stairwell with his bare feet,
and with his nailed-together hands he built a clock
the way nothing is built to last.
At the oak tree where he buried his father’s ashes,
his prayer with a rake in his hands
was the pile of dead leaves at his feet.
In all that is the son
there is the longing for life in the death of the father:
a frightened man on a dying horse.
— Ryan Dowling
Ode to a River Boulder
Humankind say loneliness
but the boulder says solitude.
Boulder, old abider,
moveless and aloof
to the liveliness of the the river you live in,
though its leaves, its archipelagoes
of ice congregate against your gut,
your spine. What’s it to you
if birds make advances on your bald spot,
if the sun never warms your mossy side,
your right cheek in winter? You let the smelt
nibble stonewort below your waistline.
And once, a half-naked woman
pressed her breasts upon you, stroked you
like a fat pear for the photographer.
It’s said her body could sway a man
but she did not sway you. You weighed in
never to envy the love of stones
among stones. When you are gone
you shall go alone, a grave of sand a mile long
beneath the river murmuring,
a fine sediment between a child’s toes,
a final cloud of silt
as the crayfish flash away.
— Ryan Dowling
first published in The Rockford Review
The World Removed From Its Axis
Here is a boy whose mother loves him
stepping into a man’s world,
dragging his feet.
Here, October insects flock to windows
between two worlds, death
on either side.
Let’s get out and explore the world, we say,
as if there were trails to the stars,
bridges between them—
and yet go on living in our own worlds,
wherever we reign omniscient
in what little we know.
by Ryan Dowling
(Note: “man’s world” may seem to suggest a world dominated by men, but what I mean is adulthood. “Adult’s world” sounds awkward, and also makes me think of those sex toy superstores along the expressway… It’s unfortunate that the word that fits best has this connotation but, leaving this little explanation, I’m going to let it be.)
“The only artists I have known, who are perfectly delightful, are bad artists. Good artists exist simply in what they make, and consequently are perfectly uninteresting in what they are. A great poet, a really great poet, is the most unpoetical of all creatures. But inferior poets are absolutely fascinating. The worse their rhymes are, the more picturesque they look. The mere fact of having published a book of second-rate sonnets makes a man quite irresistible. He lives the poetry he cannot write. The others write the poetry that they dare not realize.”
— spoken by Lord Henry in The Picture of Dorian Gray