the poetry that matters

Connolly Ryan

Connolly Ryan was born in Greenwich Village, New York. He is currently a professor of literature at University of Massachusetts where he was thrice a finalist for the Distinguished Teaching Award. His poetry has been published in various journals including Harvard Review, Scythe, Bateau, Slope, Meat For Tea, Pannax Index, and Old Crow. He is also a multiple Pushcart nominee. He has two finished Manuscripts: Fort Polio and The Uncle Becky Chronicles.


Horror’s Blank Check

Whenever he feels threatened
he lashes out with demented
swearword-hybrids. If he thinks,
for instance, a couple is laughing
at him, he hisses: tit-smut, epic prick,
smother-cistern and cupid-bile.
If someone looks rich and potent,
He mutters: maggot-ka-ching, abortion-butler,
trauma-pajamas and serial killer wind-chimes.
But even if he’s in a pleasant enough mood,
he effortlessly drops f-bombs and c-words
skywards and seawards. He is a bleaksmith
with derogatory tourettes: snatch-widget,
rape-priest, arson-muncher, swastika-harvest,
cancer-storks. Each utterance a murderous
highball of free-range rage, grass-fed disgust.
Pastoral genocide, sphincter-chutney
Piety’s riot-gear and polio-hopscotch--
a living jukebox of guttural snarls.
He snuggles with lugers and lacerates asterisks.
Coddle him he will cudgel you
and hijack your luncheons with truncheons.
Listen to the music of his energized derangement:
Bagpipe-dreamscapes equal famine peyote;
charred wrens equal wonder’s guillotine;
smallpox-sandbox, anthrax-mantra, Jeffery
Amherst; suffocating puppycats amid a Disney
laugh-track; blowtorch triptych; bloodcult shotglass;
Chernobyl savagery and pipsqueak jackboots;
And among schoolchildren he blankly chants:
suck suck noose and pin the knife in the honkie.
Language hemorrhaging beyond the mirage
of fragile logic which divides the bards
from the beasts, which separates
the sippy-cup from the whipping-post.
His tongue is hard-wired to transmit every
serrated syllable of his ocean-crushed brain:
slut-pump, fag-light, miniskirt knock-hockey—
nothing too numb to be named—nor too
precious to be rendered atrocious.

Whitman’s Burden

I’m so on to something
that I’m off to something
really big right now.
Up to this point my whole
life has relatively been
a case of revelatory influenza
in which my lucidity was congested,
my perceptions were perfunctory
and my instincts simply stank.
Now every particle of my habitat
is seething with sagely algorithms
whose meaning I am blissfully reluctant
to reify, deify or even plug into my hi fi;
for indeed my fidelity is already
elevated to an unregulated degree.
Fidelity to what? You ask.
Why, fidelity to the minuscule, to the epic
and to all the buzzing and cousinly
chasms in between.
So juiced up on mystery’s looseness I am,
so keyed up by the enigmatic pragmatics
bristling in all I decode and behold
that my spirits are malleable enough
to rejoice in anything ranging from
a Spanish kid’s coloring book
to an English teacher’s whiskey flask;
from a hiccough echoing off a spinnaker’s poop-deck
to a prayer in a disintegrating spaceship;
from a kerfuffle in a special need’s sandbox
to a séance in a lobsterman’s patio;
from a zephyr puffing through a futurist’s lake-house
to a black-eye blooming in a nostalgia’s thoroughfare;
from a sewerlid wheeling through a synagogue
to a catheter sloshing in a cathedral.
I am waltzing through my resplendent mania
like a poet smitten on the cosmos, raffishly
indifferent to all the gizmos and devices
designed to divide
the color from the caller,
the hue from the human--
to rip the hop from our hope
and maim the desire that is sired
by the divine sign within
the long-suffering sigh.

The Key To Not Keeling Over

That it all adds up to this
is clearly not as miserable as it seems.
You still have a face, some cash
and a passable approximation of a repertoire.
Yes, the heat IS stifling, but last I checked
there were no snipers in the cypresses
nor hit-men in your pantry. So your love-life isn’t
what it used to be or was supposed to have been.
Your neighborhood is prolific with pro-life bumper-stickers,
and meaningful conversation has countrywide gone to seed.
Due to a receding economy there were no fireworks this year,
but the sunsets have been extra pretty all the same.

Guess the key to not keeling over
is to just lay in your hammock
extolling each calamity that hasn’t claimed you yet:
cancer, lightning, bankruptcy, impotence, lyme disease,
arson, food poisoning, diabetes, shingles, etc. And those
are just the local killers, never mind the exotic ones:
terrorism, mysterious paralysis, ghetto shrapnel, and jail-rape.
Now consider the following list of annoyances
from the typical citizenry: solitude, bird-song,
weak cellphone signals, traffic, mosquitoes, taxes,
humidity and a vague sensation of recurring humility.
It is instructive then to take a simple inventory
of the secular miracles that keep you ticking:
oxygen, eyesight, water, food, mobility, breezes and trees.
Never mind the eclectic luxuries that elevate your livelihood:
books, a hammock, music, cinema, seafood and spirits!
Now go out there with your perfectly decent face
and workable repertoire and show God
what you are made of: God.

Time For Tubby Custard
(a parodial summation of John Ashbery’s complete opus)

Vowels are alive, at least
more so than most people.
Lassos are the gravy
on gravity’s restive pot-roast.
Any one of us at any moment
can fornicate with a kitchen sink or unwittingly
chaperone an assassin’s soiree, yesiree.
That blaze in your gut is suave enough
to ignite a forest’s worth of priest-fire,
or is that just the eggnog talking backwards?

Tapioca glaucoma to be precise.

Your young daughter’s odor is too mature
for her age. Perhaps rosehips can dull her spree.
These Puerto Rican birthday picnics
are what keep this pale neck of America
quirky, workable and unprone to ruin.
Everyone everywhere is over-stimulated,
over-estimated and overrun by
civilization’s early albeit timely demise.
Which is the whyfore behind my tendency
to dance away the wee hours
just before bird-screams
preface the stun-guns of dawn.

Bags of Blank
“poetry makes nothing happen,”—W.H. Auden

Drawing bags of blank
from the bogs of longing.

The hockey-mom’s prayers
are the pornographer’s wind-chimes.

The preschooler’s skate-key
is the predator’s ukulele.

The boss of the flooded street
stinks of panic and sunken covenants.

The world is an autistic coloring book
in which nature is the sleepy heroine.

Derelict idioms are all we have left of the day
before yesterday when fatigue wasn’t a given.

The river is feathered with phrases
You may no longer misunderstand:

like in that Hermann Hesse book
that kept reading you after you had read it.

That I am jealous of a particular woman’s
silky infrastructure is a fact I am comfortable sharing.

You claim my thoughts are all over the place
and yet you can’t tell me the precise place you mean.

My village is comprised of pliant females
who resemble peanuts and males that cannot forget.

Today is one of those grey rainy grainy days
that don’t drag on as much as they drug one:

narcoticize normalcy and eroticize solitude,
immobilize melodrama and paralyze anticipation.

The rain fills up each bag of blank
with a more vital version of what

it already was. The poet notes this imperceptible
transition and considers it somehow pivotal.

The historian also notices this ephemeral
phenomenon and chalks it up to slavery.


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                                                                                                        September 25, 2012