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Michael Ryan is the author of four volumes of poetry, two memoirs, and a collection of essays. He is a professor of English and creative writing at the University of California, Irvine, where he lives with his wife and daughter.
If in the men’s room of our favorite restaurant
while blissfully pissing riserva spumante
I punch the wall because I am so old,
I promise not to punch too carelessly.
Our friend Franco cooks all night and day
to transform blood and bones to osso buco.
He shouldn’t have to clean them off his wall
or worry that a customer gone cuckoo
has mushed his knuckles like a slugger
whose steroid dosage needs a little tweaking.
My life with you has been beyond beyond
and there’s nothing beyond it I’m seeking.
I just don’t want to leave it, and I am
with every silken bite of tiramisu.
I wouldn’t mind being dead
if I could still be with you.
Although he’s only seven, you can pick him out
from other first-graders: he’s the one wearing
a smirk that says, “What are you afraid of?”
maybe also to himself, if he already suspects his fear
won’t ever be crushed no matter what he does.
But he’s got to try. He snatches spiders bare-fingered
to wave in girls’ faces, bites a worm in half
dangling the two ends from his mouth like fangs,
somersault-dismounts from the jungle gym
the other kids climb off of when he climbs on,
and when he lands unhurt there’s that smirk again
that mocks us for our cowardice.
Don’t hate him for it. It is his only happiness.
Where am I going? The grave.
Who am I being? The slave.
What am I leaving? The fun.
Who will be grieving? No one.
How can I touch you? No way.
Will I ever reach you? Someday.
Why do I need you? Ho ho.
Where will I meet you? You know.
MY YOUNG MOTHER
What she couldn’t give me
she gave me those long nights
she sat up with me feverish
and sweating in my sleep
when I had no idea whatsoever
what she had to do to suffer
the pain her body dealt her
to assuage the pain in mine.
That was a noble privacy —
her mothering as a practice of patience.
How deeply it must have stretched her
to watch me all night with her nerves
crying for rest while my fever
spiked under the washcloths
she passed between my forehead
and her dishpan filled with ice.
That was a noble privacy.
But even then there was so much
unsayable between us,
and why this was now looks so
ludicrous in its old costume of shame
that I wish not that she had just
said it but that I hadn’t been
so furious she couldn’t.
The jolt that opened me to you
and shook me to my toes
needs no implanted seismograph
to read how deep it goes
because it’s still rattling me
into this surprise
that the real dream begins
when I open my eyes
to see you so improbably here
and so entirely true
with all our random ducks lined up
for me to marry you
quacking a glorious Gloria
(transcribed into Duck)
to sexy earthy unnerving love
and astonishing good luck.
Michael Ryan is a perfect example of someone who can write a beautiful poem on any subject from the most mundane to a topic as serious as aging and mortality. Read morePublished on April 30, 2013 by H. F. Corbin
Another ho-hum dime-a-dozen example of the sort of verse being cranked out by college teachers today in order to get published in the right places. Read morePublished on October 20, 2012 by Jon Corelis
When I read Ryan's poem "The Dog," in the American Poetry Review, I wanted to read more of Ryan's work. Read morePublished on September 25, 2012 by choiceweb0pen0
Michael Ryan's poems focus or recognizable portions of life, from experiences with children to the everyday struggles of middle age. Read morePublished on April 27, 2012 by Russ Mayes
This is the type of poetry that anyone can enjoy. Mr. Ryan's work is simple but not simplistic. Even his seemingly basic poem's can be read either in a simple way or in a way... Read morePublished on March 3, 2012 by K. Cade
Poet Michael Ryan is director of the MFA program in poetry at the University of California and author of five books of poems and a collection of essays. Read morePublished on March 2, 2012 by Glynn Young
Michael Ryan is a much-praised, much-honored poet, and indeed most of the poems in "This Morning" are eminently praiseworthy. Read morePublished on February 18, 2012 by Miles D. Moore
When I first read the poems in this collection, I found a handful I really liked. Those were the poems that took on weightier subjects (like ageing and love). Read morePublished on February 7, 2012 by G. Dawson
Michael Ryan is a mediocre poet. His language is plain and lacking in magic or beauty. His rhyming poems are awkward and unmusical. His topics are often mundane and uninspired. Read morePublished on January 29, 2012 by David Saemann