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



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

Whatever The Poem

Whatever The Poem

A badly written poem: I’m sure it will not sell,
but still it must attempt to earn its stay.
It must stand at intersections, under streetlights,
among the stupid and insane.

And a better poem has bigger problems;
for surely one sees how its substance stoned a nun,
—after its form aborted her son
—after it gave her husband its word.

Reader be harsh: Hatred’s a finer art than praise:
It is the horse-spit in the priest’s ear.
It is the prostitute looking over her shoulder
at the poet working kitty-corner.

by Ryan Dowling





It’s never too early to slight a recent dream,
never too late to step one-strided to the heights.
The earth and its catastrophes cannot restrain
a man from slurring silence into Speech.

And razor Light eviscerates the multitude,
and Music spires through the middle ear,
and eloquence is balanced drunk with Dance,
and Memory, that traveled tide, comes back.

by Ryan Dowling

Why Is This Age Worse?


This is my response poem to another poem by Anna Akhmatova. I chose to keep her first line, which is a question, and came up with my own answer.

But first, Akhmatova’s original poem:

Why Is This Age Worse…? (translation by Stanley Kunitz)

Why is this age worse than earlier ages?
In a stupor of grief and dread
have we not fingered the foulest wounds
and left them unhealed by our hands?

In the west the falling light still glows,
and the clustered housetops glitter in the sun,
but here Death is already chalking the doors with crosses,
and calling the ravens, and the ravens are flying in.


Now here’s my response:

Why is this Age Worse?

Why is this age worse than earlier ages?
We’re all working each other to death,
slugging our production like a flurry of blows
into the rawhide of human connection.

In the east, the traffic of brake lights burns on,
a glowing stream into the low sun—
by the millions, we flock to the inferno.
Each burns out on the way in.

by Ryan Dowling

The Dark Side Of Dawn



The Dark Side Of Dawn

I saw the stars expire in light of dawn.
Each bulb plucked from the sky as if by thieves.
I sought my lover’s eyes, but they were gone.

We drew a fleece over the dew-faced lawn
and laid until the sun had blazed the leaves.
I saw the stars expire in light of dawn.

A beacon forms the far east horizon
to prove the evening sly: The view deceives.
I sought my lover’s eyes, but they were gone.

We’d traced the constellation of a swan
and trimmed it out, and swung it from the eaves.
I saw the stars expire in light of dawn.

The widow wakes her bones without a yawn,
then steals into the grave in which she grieves.
I sought my lover’s eyes, but they were gone.

We dreamt in peace, like prophylactic pawns
the king has killed. One does what one believes.
I saw the stars expire in light of dawn.

The morning’s queen of all the land whereon
night set to fleeing Satan’s feet, not Eve’s.
I saw the stars expire in light of dawn.
I sought my lover’s eyes, but they were gone.

by Ryan Dowling

The Landlord At The Door



The Landlord At The Door

It’s not because of charcoal scarred into
the carpet, after hurling a hookah, sparks and all,
down a flight of stairs. It’s not because
local drunks know the two-car garage doubles
as an open bar. No noteworthy crime was ever
reflected in that bathroom mirror. Not one
vagabond has danced these floors with
the filth of brothels on her boots. There are no
squatter’s here; everyone’s accounted for.
It’s not that anything is wrong with any of the
appliances: The dishwasher isn’t kicked in;
the microwave isn’t caked with blood;
the sinks are not clogged with hair, condoms
and cigarette butts. It’s got nothing to do with
garbage bags full of body parts. Nothing

ever goes wrong. Yes, of course, we’d
love to have you in—It’s just these cockroaches,
see? And the exterminators are here
to take care of it. We’re making sure
the whole place gets wiped out.

by Ryan Dowling