Two Poems in The Rockford Review

Many thanks to The Rockford Review for publishing my poems “Elegy for Ian” and “Lyndon Station.”

Elegy for Ian

At your memorial
I am reminded of religion
by the stiffened rows
of pews, bowls
of holy water, Saints
in stained glass.
It never worked for me
and it won’t now.

I see their wooden Jesus
on a wooden cross
hanging over an altar:
cheap red paint
on his head, his ribs,
his hands and feet–
fake, all fake.

But you, my friend,
here you are a jar of ash.
You, who shook my hand
in the flesh, now dust.

Let the gods
die on crosses
and starve
under trees
with their resurrections
and reincarnations.

It is you
who is not
coming back.


by Ryan Dowling


Lyndon Station

The frost splintered your windshield like a snowflake
that wanted in. We pitched a tent beside the firepit
and bent the stakes on frozen ground. There was enough dead
cedar to build a barn, enough matches for two packs
of cigarettes, but we only succeeded in blowing the ashes
of our incompetence into snow. The three of us–you, myself
and the Cold–entered the tent and butted heads.
The bottle of Jager went quick. I whittled a dead stick
sharper than my knife; you wrote a poem and read it,
a polemic against my face: fat-lipped, lazy-eyed, my hair
a nest of straw and wire wrapped up in a skullcap.
You wanted inflammation, so I picked your brain
for details. That’s the stuff. The Cold waited for us to sleep,
to creep into our sleeping bags. By dawn, even the heat
we’d hidden under our armpits and testicles had been stolen.
We drove home without saying a word to each other,
no longer friends but almost brothers.


by Ryan Dowling

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