Michael Ryan has written four books of poems, an autobiography, a memoir, and a collection of essays about poetry and writing. His New and Selected Poems was published by Houghton Mifflin and won the 2005 Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award. His work has also won the Lenore Marshall Prize, a Whiting Writers Award, two National Endowment of the Arts Fellowships, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and the Yale Series of Younger Poets Award, among other distinctions. He is Professor of English and Creative Writing at University of California, Irvine.
Yuan Liang was born in Chongqing, China. He moved to Shanghai with his parents while he attended elementary school. He graduated from Fudan University and holds graduate degrees from two American universities. He is a member of PoetrySky Poets Association and his poems appeared in a number of major poetry journals and anthologies in China and the US. He lives in Southern California.
The Blind Swimmer
We know he's out there,
swimming slowly, searching for corners
in the sea where the dark has rubbed away.
Each breath he takes takes him deeper
inside his mind where voices without sources
scream "Swim!" and even the ocean
is missing. Still, he swims.
The water fills his cupped hands
like breasts, the one constant in a crowd
of waves pushing him nowhere, the blue
salt glued to his eyes like braille.
What do his dead eyes say?
The body that keeps him buoyant is a room,
the pain would stop if he just walked out?
On the shore, our feet planted like roots,
we watch for a sign. Some of us yell
at anything: a wounded dolphin breaking
into air, the torn edge of a fin
mistaken for his hand. The ocean doesn't
stand for our common life, what makes us
need one another, but we still fear
drowning. So, safely together,
we wait for the blind swimmer
to walk out of the sea and say it's all right,
you can swim alone without seeing.
Some of us wait a long time.
I know he's out there.
He smells the ocean, doesn't he, that old
naked woman? She takes his tongue
in her mouth, doesn't her mouth open?
I hear him going under,
quietly as memory enters dreams, his dream
nothing I can imagine, tasting water so deep,
light is terrible and fish see through their skin.
The Pure Loneliness
Late at night, when you're so lonely,
your shoulders curl toward the center of your body,
you call no one and you don’t call out.
This is dignity. This is the pure loneliness
that made Christ think he was God.
This is why lunatics smile at their thoughts.
Even the best moment, as you slip
half-a-foot deep into someone you like,
sinks through the loneliness in it
to the loneliness that's not.
If you believe in Christ hanging on the cross,
his arms spread as if to embrace
the Father he calls who is somewhere else,
you still might hear your own voice
at your next great embrace, thinking
loneliness in another can't be touched,
like Christ's voice at death answering Himself.
It shows up one summer in a greatcoat,
storms through the house confiscating,
says it must be paid and quickly,
says it must take everything.
Your children stare into their cornflakes,
your wife whispers only once to stop it,
because she loves you and she sees it
darken the room suddenly like a stain.
What did you do to deserve it,
ruining breakfast on a balmy day?
Kiss your loved ones. Night is coming.
There was no life without it anyway.
Chronic Severe Incurable
持久 剧烈 无法治愈
There's nothing more you can learn from pain,
but here it comes again—with its monotone,
its idiot drone, like a brick wall against which
thinking smacks its big skull until it's juiceless
fruit the devil reams clean with red teeth
and razor-blade tongue. Pain:
payment, penalty, punish, revenge—
all these miseries inhering in the word:
you must think no word for what you feel.
The being pain is being is you.