Ryan Boyd's Poetry Blog

Old Media.

Virginia Primer

Shoots gulp through clay
And kudzu clogs the hollows.

Obsessed, I talk like I made it myself,
The James flowing backwards past the battlefields,
Dead rail-hubs in a swamp,
Thickenings where the heart is, oh Shenandoah.
Virginia is brush country, big in the summer,
Tobacco, apple, pine pulp, silver queen,

I’ll intone, boring my better-traveled friends,
For homeplace talk is deadly dull, but still
I’ll pull that world behind me, on and on,
Ugly often, mine, not mine.
In this one, now, the air was rotting velvet,
We listened at slave bones . . .


The place you’re from may be a slump
most naked in its rural parts
where there is less to rival, say,

the lone halogen blister
in the Family Dollar lot,

that greasy bulb over the payphone
at shuttered baitshops
throwing its cone of yellow cold,

chemical ruminations
as men refill their trucks
at Valley Texaco,

any blue hood of photons
in a lumber yard,
all the lamps securing churches,
fire halls and driveways,

houses salted in the mountain pinch,
cold burn and buzz
of filaments, this hum

on a widow planet,
our floodlit spaces
in the nighttime of the year,
though you may always be from here.

Ogling the Madonna

I didn’t think you could see
this, me, yes ma’am,
the bagman famine,
a diet looking up and down,
up and down each street
I live on, posing everywhere
to spot the innocents,
no worse than a gardener
working his dirt,
seeing shoots where none poke yet,
a pornographic horticulture.
I’m wound like a color wheel tonight
and have to watch it,
turned back by the laws of window light . . .
Officers—Jesus—the cuffs are tight.

In the walled yard there
we sunk my mother’s mother
six deep in a soil crate, a long square.
In a black blazer
Mom leaned
like a tree leans on air.

We are all bad men here.
Mr. Right’s brain is a barnyard,
he has embarrassing friends,
even Keats slept abed above monsters
after writing to Fanny Brawne.
Love, pauper’s ticket and the king’s risk,
is subject to trends:
nobody’s healthy, our best comics call in sick.
Yet even then ironic men too smart
to flinch at love will slip and take a beating
in the heart, however smudged or fleeting
was the thought. Madonna, I’m sharp,
I leer at love, I toggle.
Madonna, can you be bothered
to come now and ogle
my rubber heart?

(2012, 2014)

Better Hope So

I want Death to find me planting my cabbages.    

Had I the druthers
that nobody does
I’d fall out working the garden,
struck amid new carbon
then maybe jailed a day or two
by modern powers,
charts and prickling tubes
all shock-hearted, code blue.

No way I want the time
to calibrate goodbyes
for that suggests a long decay
before departure day.
There’s worse than leaving those
projects you had going, and going
out in your normal clothes,
barely knowing.

(2012, 2014)

The Book Awards

some Mes got together with a ledger
and wrote themselves down.

One was a cringing thistle
who could barely lift the pen,

another the sucking clay he grew in,
while the me who kept his garden tidy

had long since taken to girlish drink and died
of margaritas. One me wrote in cursive,

but not his Christian name, then two
gave synopses of famous books

in glorious print, red English.
The short me was a charming liar

—“Call me Ishmael motherfucker”—
and the last three hunched at a mirror

while they signed, one razing his lecher beard,
one letting his grow in hope

of a better story. The last guy took and closed
the ledger, put his stamp on its spine,

found a window (the Mes were high),
and let go. The tome fell

ten stories onto the head of a man
on a bad date—she knew fashion

and kept taking out her phone—knocking him free
of the whole thing. The man was me.

I’d write back to solid guys like them
that other cities are possible

(their hearts flushed of dead holdings,
the streets flush with readers
and clean as new mirrors),

give them cause to stop in this place and hold it,
I’d write about the pleasure

of tasks and aloneness,
but don’t have the address.

A sixth borough? The great Midwest,
Apt. 5K ½ ? Love go bereft.

I never thanked my upstairs brothers.
Write your name down once, you’ll never have another.


She Didn’t Marry

When my friend was a girl, her father,

in gloves and barn coat, would

have her walk and walk atop the farm’s fence,

the split pine like a muscle,

himself at a little distance, admiring

her trembling starts and dips, saying,

“Good girl, let’s keep that balance,

careful, you mustn’t fall, careful, the ground

is all mud. Don’t fall down from the fence.”

He gave the grown girl no reasons

when she asked, one Christmas home.

He smiled his reminder:

“Country girls don’t fall.”

And she never did.


(2010, 2014)