Prothalamion

By Michael Ryan b. 1946 Michael Ryan
The love we’ve defined for ourselves
in privacy, in suffering,
keeps both of us lonely as a fist,
but does intimacy mean a happy ending?
I’m afraid of marriage.
Driving past them at night, the shadows
on a drawn curtain hide terrible lives:
a father stuck in a job, his daughter
opening her blouse to strangers.

And your hands, for example,   
like a warm liquid on my face
don’t evaporate as you take them away.
Nor are our betrayals silent,   
although we listen only in passing.
We’re learning how to walk unlit streets,
to see threats instead of trees,   
the right answer to a teenager   
opening his knife. The answer is yes.   
Always we couldn’t do otherwise.

Michael Ryan, “Prothalamion” from New and Selected Poems. Copyright © 2004 by Michael Ryan. Used by permission of Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.

Source: New and Selected Poems (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2004)

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Poet Michael Ryan b. 1946

Subjects Living, Disappointment & Failure, Separation & Divorce, Marriage & Companionship, Relationships, Men & Women

Poetic Terms Epithalamion, Free Verse

 Michael  Ryan

Biography

Poet and memoirist Michael Ryan was born in St Louis, Missouri. He studied at the University of Notre Dame and Claremont Graduate School, and earned an MFA and PhD from the University of Iowa. Ryan’s first volume, Threats Instead of Trees (1974), won the Yale Series of Younger Poets Award. His second collection, In Winter (1981), was selected by Louise Glück for the National Poetry Series. God Hunger (1989) won the Lenore . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Living, Disappointment & Failure, Separation & Divorce, Marriage & Companionship, Relationships, Men & Women

Poetic Terms Epithalamion, Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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