Three Poems by Dinah Ryan

Love Poem, Olomouc

I have fallen in love with winter,
with the day that ends at 3:45 in the afternoon.

with the man striding along the path grasping
a pink plastic bag that glows incandescent
although it only contains dish soap
and the cat food he carries home after work

with the bare limb that holds its red leaves
high like a flag, small but triumphant

with the lamps already lit beside the path
yellow orbs tangled in webbed branches
their faltering doubles suspended in the stream

with the twins in fuchsia coats
trotting beside their mother, their older
sister scuttling behind, anxious to keep up

with the midnight blue of the policeman’s jacket
beside the turquoise dolphin fountain.

Or, perhaps it is you I have fallen in love with again,
although it is only 9:45 in the morning where you are
and the light falls sere on your uncompleted tasks.

Forgive me. I swallowed these colors and became
a little drunk, but the shriveled green balloon
bumping along the cobblestones, punctuating
the dark, brought me home to you.

Mr. Baggett's Lawn

That autumn we walked the Belvedere Gardens
passing in and out of shadows, the shrubbery
towering, cone-shaped boxwoods rising from massive urns,
cossetted by pruning into strict geometries.

Passing in and out of its shadows, the shrubbery
spread sharp, dark triangles across the ascending lawns
cossetted by pruning. In strict geometries
we moved from light to dark, light to dark as if we stumbled.

Sharp, dark triangles spread across ascending lawns
caught in the two-dimensional paralysis of Last Year in Marienbad.
Moving from light to dark, light to dark, we stumbled.
It was hot that day and we were unhappy,

caught. In the two-dimensional paralysis of Last Year in Marienbad,
authority regulated our measured pace, even our breathing diminished.
It was hot that day, and we were unhappy.
Order denies any mess of human trouble. Suddenly we were caught.

Authority regulated our measured pace, even our breathing diminished
as it had on Mrs. Wickson’s plastic-covered sofa or Mr. Baggett’s lawn.
Order denies any mess. In human trouble, suddenly we were caught.
Power comes down to territory, containment, and control.

As it was on Mrs. Wickson’s plastic-covered sofa or Mr. Baggett’s lawn
so will it always be: the belief in reason completely unreasonable.
Power comes down to territory, containment and weed control.
Mr. Baggett’s wife, conscripted soldier, is up to her varicose veins in ace bandage puttees.

So it will always be the belief in reason, completely unreasonable,
that calls every dog with its corrosive pee an infidel, makes
Mrs. Baggett, up to her varicose veins in ace bandage puttees, march behind the lawnmower,
thinks every kid playing handball against the side of the house is a barbarian.

Call every dog! Corrosive pee an infidel makes.
The truculent gods don’t disappear; they circle in space waiting to return, to punish
every kid playing handball against the side of the house. Barbarians!
That day, we walked in the Belvedere Gardens.

Chains

Several thousand years ago, a young adult moved barefoot across a muddy landscape. A toddler was balanced on the adult’s hip.

—Katherine Kornei, The New York Times

To those who believe in an afterlife,
I like to say, I haven’t received any
postcards. But here they are, the traces,
the trail of chains of coral polyps,
the trail of fossilized footprints,
the carbon memos, duplicated
and dispersed. They wash up
on the shore, are stumbled upon
in hot sands. Set in stone, as we say,
these reminders of tender tissue, perilous
journeys. It’s likely that the child rode
on the young person’s left hip, set down
now and again, in order for the caregiver
to adjust some other burden that must
be carried. Every so often, tiny baby
tracks around the adult’s, disappearing
as the adult swoops her up again,
taking off at a fast clip — imagine running
for a bus — to outpace giant sloths,
mammoths, darkness, or weather.
To outpace that vulnerability,
to make it home, even as we flicker
and disappear, leaving behind
only the stony chains of prints,
our urgent carbon reminders in sand.

About the author

Dinah Ryan is a cultural writer with an MFA in creative writing from The University of Virginia. She teaches creative writing, modernist literature, and…

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Issue 24 · September 2021

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