Love Sonnet IX

Love Sonnet IX
after Pablo Neruda

Love, I am such a central flame, loving solitude
and the way she drives me with her big eyes,
and the violin she burns at the bottom of my well
that fills the stones with your sound of horses.

I thought that together we could be this solitary pain,
one loneliness: a sort of flower on the moon,
drilling its white into our childhood’s windows,
into our entire planet of two people.

But I know you better: seeking love in loud circles
of liars, piling your hair on the slow genitals
of earth, afraid because I have placed this one star

in the palm of your universe: even so, I forgive you.
You could not know what it is to be so alone.
You could not know what it is to be so in love.

by Ryan Dowling

Love Sonnet VIII

Love Sonnet VIII
after Pablo Neruda

Nirvana rose through the roots of my legs
and I raised my arms like Heaven’s branches
to offer all gods the fruit of my contempt,
for how could I bear eternity without you, love?

Forsaken, I dove back into that mortal sea
on which I’d left you burning, my Gloria of fire;
for Heaven fizzled like that first cry of sulfur
and Nirvana was but a laughing mouthful of ash.

And I’d follow no religion save the tongued valley
between the mice-bitten hills of your breasts,
and I’d map all the rivers of my life by your veins

until I discovered your shawled heart’s robin,
and I’d rip you from the fetch of the dark,
and we’d fly—two flames—into a single world.

by Ryan Dowling

Love Sonnet VII

Love Sonnet VII
after Pablo Neruda

Ten buds blossom on my fingertips and twitch:
like a doe you nibble them, grow delirious in my arms,
and passion twists the tangled smoke of our faces,
contorted one minute with joy, the next with agony.

What kind of a world is this?—half-heartedly
mad for its other half, stumbling through the brambles
like a stampede of lepers, of chained evenings,
of hunchbacked matadors with their sluggish hooves?

I stand in open fields, open-hearted, offering myself—
but to whom? A spirit promised me eternal love
and left me more alone than if I’d slept with a whore.

“Until death do us part,” say the priests, but I say
death is the kiss that sends the mountains floating east
on broken seas, and bruises the Book of the west.

by Ryan Dowling

Love Sonnet VI

Love Sonnet VI
after Pablo Neruda

First-born, a babe newly mooned in my mother’s arms,
I pronounced my first love upon her breast
and she gave me breath. Lullabied years of tribulation
ached over my crib, and I awoke already a man.

Then my mother’s love was divided a hundredfold,
and I, like an insolent child, went around town
looking up every skirt I saw, asking:
“Are you my woman? Am I your man?”

The crescent moon was a hook or a cross, or else
it was the artful enemy that arms the suicidal.
And though I tried again to love only one woman,

others arrived—nightly criminals, excitable panthers—
and I was forced to weep between their legs.
This is the story of how I became alone.

by Ryan Dowling

Love Sonnet V

Love Sonnet V
after Pablo Neruda

Love, how like a winter we are. You bury me
in white solitudes—under many snows, you keep me.
Love, you regard me coldly, and the one I love
is a wind that howls in my ear its frosts, its ghosts

as stoic as Eskimos in the glacier-faced North.
So my mouth, like a trap, opens to sing;
and in the jaws of my song is your paw, my lynx.
Quit gnawing yourself! I want to set you free.

Botched surgeries, razors, worms, cancers, aches:
we undressed and paid violence to our vulnerabilities;
you made me want to live like a cold planet,

to ice my doubts in enormous winters of space.
My kiss would only bloody your snow. In your arms,
I grow so old. Look, a chill has taken the moon.

by Ryan Dowling

Love Sonnet IV

Love Sonnet IV
after Pablo Neruda

Do not leave us like a rose in a vase,
with its roots in the sunset, a slow-dying thing.
Away with you once and for all! Leave me swiftly
as a bullet, a flash at the fall of a guillotine,

a sudden autumn, but no more a rose,
not the stalk of my body nor the petals of your eyes.
See how I set you seaward on a flaming skiff,
pale and without a pulse, your face no face at all?

So wherever I have planted myself, burn it down;
wherever our vines intertwine, burn it away.
Is it true, my love, you’ve swallowed my life seed?

As it swells in your belly, my wheel turns in yours,
inextricably, and you must burn even this
and turn with it in the winter wind.

by Ryan Dowling

Love Sonnet III

Love Sonnet III
after Pablo Neruda

Your love is nowhere except where my feet are.
If I dance in China, love; if I climb the Andes, love;
along the bridge between us, every step is love.
While crossing the lily pads of your kisses

in a dream, I could sleepwalk to Paris and back,
and you’d never know I left your side in bed.
You unravel your yarn in this damnable labyrinth,
and the flight of your skirt lights the torch

in my heart as you whip around another corner.
I refuse to take another step without it.
Anywhere I go is only the echo of where you were.

Barefoot, I’ll walk across these bridges ruined
by walking and across your stem of endless thorns,
I’ll walk until I die of it inside your rose.

by Ryan Dowling

Love Sonnet II

Love Sonnet II
after Pablo Neruda

My love overpowers even that you do not love me.
As you slip away into cool acres of forest light,
know that I seep through your sweater and see
under your skin, into your soul, and that I rejoice.

Happy as a poppy farmer slitting his bulbs at dawn,
I walk the rows of your being with my razor,
extracting from your eyes, your laughter, your light:
the leaked colors of night, the dripping moon,

the sun impaled and bleeding on a mountain peak.
You do not know it but you secrete yourself
at my table and I gather you in little jars at your feet.

Though you resist me with the vehemence of lakes,
I will rain and rain until I flood and flood you
and it will be your love that overflows at my feet.

By Ryan Dowling

Astral Redux

Astral Redux

There are spoken infirmities and spilled lips
cloaked in the growl of rusted foliage
and mutiny in the eyes
and in the ears and in the yawns
of faces wrinkled into disrepair and rage
                furious mold glittering on the clown’s tongue
                               under the streetlight a tail without a dog
world offenses
and the disjunction of its judges
cannot undo any of this
yet the boy who painted the evening sky
an orchard eager to implode
dropped the little dipper of his big idea
when he banged his head on the moon
and gravity was tilted back
and conciousness slid off the table
               so that arm in arm we took a wormhole through
                              and beyond the astral plane
                                             at times colorless
                              but peopled by a stampede of puddles
               families of stamps and envelopes
we heard the machines and taught them thoughtlessness
suspicions arose as a sparrow hit the window
the honey stood with the consistency of a clay pillar
the swagger of a lily endured by sages
the monk lighting a cigarette at the memorial
I’m remembering what was left
                of the ribbons in the murder room
                              and of the knife-shaped intruder
                                             that came through the keyhole
now both puppet and ventriloquist
hang by the cat’s cradle of the universal grid
a breeze expired on a blade of grass
to regard you with funereal indifference
as over the coined eyes of an unremembered uncle
who burned out in the exit lane
              I kick the heads off the dandelions saying a prayer
                             to dispel the sound of inner oceans
                                            undictated by this or that
                             indiscretion or assault or melodramatic arrival
I have my duty and know my name among the garden
traveling the beet to its root and back again
arms centrifugal in and out of time
going the course of nature in the wake of the worm
minding my own business hunched over
a scythe left and right at the big man’s knees
splitting the boulder to which I fastened my libido
my back a collapsible antennae my head a radio in the stars
my sleep patterns repeating in the rapids of sleep
               where will you be at midnight among the pranksters
                             conniving under the armored skirts
                                            whistling a tune?

by Ryan Dowling

Mixed Strains

Mixed Strains

“It’s cold in here,” she says.
“I live alone,” says he.

“And your walls, they are so bare,” she says.
“They’re not what I’m looking at,” says he.

“Am I your first guest?” she says.
“You are my first choice,” says he.

“You don’t mean you…” she says.
“Of course, I’d never…” says he.

“May I have a drink?” she says.
“I’ll make it double,” says he.

“I don’t want to give you the wrong idea,” she says.
“How could you give me what I already have?” says he.

“Let’s skip the liquor and go to coffee,” she says.
“Shall we go all night?” says he.

“I have to work,” she says.
“I’m being a jerk,” says he.

“Oh, please don’t say that,” she says.
“You may leave anytime,” says he.

“Why do you behave like this?” she says.
“Why do you make me like this?” says he.

“Maybe I should leave,” she says.
“Oh, don’t say that,” says he.

“It’s cold in here,” she says.
“I live alone,” says he.


by Ryan Dowling