I like the silence until it begins to turn everything so loud.
Silence in which a crumb explodes between an ant’s mandibles.
I like it like the captain of a ship drinking brandy in the tophouse
on the last night of a long trip, sleepy in the sea chop.
Often it is even better to eavesdrop on prostitutes at truck stops
than it is to be quiet. And for the price of a cup of coffee…
I think of the hermit philosophers, the ascetics of the deep woods,
all those words in their heads and nothing to say to anyone.
I catch a fly, muffle it between the vase to a dead bouquet
and a book by Nietzsche. Then I open all the windows and sing.
by 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
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