by Michael Ryan
After the earth finally touches the sun,
and the long explosion stops suddenly
like a heart run down,
the world might seem white and quiet
to something that watches it in the sky at night,
so something might feel small,
and feel nearly human pain.
But it won’t happen again:
the long nights wasted alone, what’s done
in doorways in the dark by the young,
and what could have been for some.
Think of all the lovers and the friends!
Who does not gather his portion of them
to himself. at least in his mind?
Sex eased through everyone,
even when slipping into death
as into a beloved’s skin,
and prying out again to find
the body slumped, muscles slack.
and bones begun their turn to dust.
Then no one minds when one lover
holds another, like an unloaded sack.
But the truth enters at the end of life.
It enters like oxygen into every cell
and the madness it feeds there in some
is only a lucid metaphor
for something long burned to nothing,
like a star.
How do you get under your desire?
How do you peel away each desire
like ponderous clothes, one at a time,
until what’s underneath is known?
We knew genitals as small things
and we were ashamed they led us around,
even if the hill where we’d lie down
was the same hill the universe unfolded upon
all night, as we watched the stars,
when for once our breathing seemed to blend.
Each time, from that sweet pressure
of hands, or the great relief of the mouth,
a person can be led out of himself
Isn’t it lonely in the body?
The myth says we ooze about as spirits
until there’s a body made to take us,
and only flesh is created by sex.
That’s why we enter sex so relentlessly,
toward the pleasure that comes
when we push down far enough
to nudge the spirit rising to release,
and the pleasure is pleasure of pure spirit,
for a moment all together again.
So sex returns us to beginning, and we moan.
Pure sex becomes specific and concrete
in a caress of breast or slope of waist:
it flies through itself like light, it sails
on nothing like a wing, when someone’s there
to be touched, when there’s nothing wrong.
So the actual is touched in sex,
like a breast through cloth: the actual
rising plump and real, the mind
darting about it like a tongue.
This is where I wanted to be all along:
up in the world, in touch with myself. . .
Sex, invisible priestess of a good God,
I think without you I might just spin off.
I know there’s no keeping you close,
as you flick by underneath a sentence
on a train, or transform the last thought
of an old nun, or withdraw for one moment alone.
Who tells you what to do or ties you down!
I’d give up the rest to suck your dark lips.
I’d give up the rest to fix you exact
in the universe, at the wildest edge
where there’s no such thing as shape.
What a shame I am, if reaching the right person
in a dim room, sex holds itself apart
from us like an angel in an afterlife,
and, with the ideas no one has even dreamed,
it wails its odd music for pure mind.
After there’s nothing,
after the big blow-up of the whole shebang,
what voice from what throat
will tell me who I am? Each throat
on which I would have quietly set my lips
will be ripped like a cheap sleeve
or blown apart like the stopped-up
barrel of a gun. What was inside them
all the time I wanted always
to rest my mouth upon?
I thought most everything
stuck dartlike in the half-dome of my brain,
and hung there like fake stars in a planetarium.
It’s true that things there changed into names,
that even the people I loved were a bunch of signs,
so I felt most often alone.
This is a way to stay alive and nothing to bemoan.
We know the first time we extend an arm:
the body reaches so far for so long.
We grow and love to grow, then stop, then lie down.
I wanted to bear inside me this tender outcome.
I wanted to know if it made sex happen:
does it show up surely in touch and talk?
does it leak from the mind, as heat from the skin?
I wanted my touching intelligent, like a beautiful song.