Although he’s only seven, you can pick him out
from other first-graders: he’s the one wearing
a smirk that says, “What are you afraid of?”
maybe also to himself, if he already suspects his fear
won’t ever be crushed no matter what he does.
But he’s got to try. He snatches spiders bare-fingered
to wave in girls’ faces, bites a worm in half
dangling the two ends from his mouth like fangs,
somersault dismounts from the jungle gym
the other kids climb off of when he climbs on,
and when he lands unhurt there’s that smirk again
that mocks us for our weakness.
Don’t hate him for it. It is his only happiness.
I’m full of feelings, all of them boring,
so today I let my poem take me
where it wants to go, as if the where
were a patio overlooking Lake Como
where Bellagio Fellows discuss the quattrocento
over a rare Barolo and my poem
were a complimentary airport minivan
driven by a spiky Iraqi
bursting with bitterness that pops
his English inflections like an M-16
which for all I know he wore over his shoulder
day after day in sucking desert heat and fitted
with a nightscope and slammed the butt of
into whatever wasn’t moving fast enough.
To read more poems by Michael Ryan, purchase the Spring 2012 issue.