Surfaces

By Kay Ryan b. 1945 Kay Ryan
Surfaces serve
their own purposes,
strive to remain
constant (all lives
want that). There is   
a skin, not just on   
peaches but on oceans
(note the telltale
slough of foam on beaches).
Sometimes it’s loose,
as in the case
of cats: you feel how a   
second life slides
under it. Sometimes it
fits. Take glass.
Sometimes it outlasts
its underside. Take reefs.

The private lives of surfaces
are innocent, not devious.
Take the one-dimensional
belief of enamel in itself,
the furious autonomy
of luster (crush a pearl—
it’s powder), the whole
curious seamlessness
of how we’re each surrounded
and what it doesn’t teach.

Kay Ryan, “Surfaces” from Elephant Rocks: Poems. Copyright © 1997 by Kay Ryan. Reprinted with the permission of Grove/Atlantic, Inc.

Source: Elephant Rocks (Grove/Atlantic Inc., 1997)

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Poet Kay Ryan b. 1945

POET’S REGION U.S., Western

Poetic Terms Free Verse

 Kay  Ryan

Biography

Born in California in 1945 and acknowledged as one of the most original voices in the contemporary landscape, Kay Ryan is the author of several books of poetry, including Flamingo Watching (2006), The Niagara River (2005), and Say Uncle (2000). Her book The Best of It: New and Selected Poems (2010) won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. Ryan's tightly compressed, rhythmically dense poetry is often compared to that of Emily . . .

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POET’S REGION U.S., Western

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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