The Others

By Michael Ryan b. 1946 Michael Ryan
They slept and ate like us.
Feral they were not.
The intricacy of their handiwork   
bespoke a fineness we’d be taught.

Yet we wiped them out.
It was eerily easy to do,
although they knew we were coming   
and knew we knew they knew.

Not only did they not resist
our guns like bloody hacking coughs   
in their libraries and hospitals,   
their bedrooms and their schools—

they would not acknowledge us.
We felt like fools. There was no keening.   
Even the children did not cry.
It was as if meaning

inhered so deeply in their daily   
lives we could not touch it;
nor would they quit living to be   
slaughtered, it was so inviolate.

Michael Ryan, “The Others” 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 Social Commentaries, War & Conflict

Poetic Terms Rhymed Stanza

 Michael  Ryan


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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SUBJECT Social Commentaries, War & Conflict

Poetic Terms Rhymed Stanza

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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