Repulsive Theory

By Kay Ryan b. 1945 Kay Ryan
Little has been made   
of the soft, skirting action   
of magnets reversed,   
while much has been   
made of attraction.   
But is it not this pillowy   
principle of repulsion   
that produces the   
doily edges of oceans   
or the arabesques of thought?   
And do these cutout coasts   
and incurved rhetorical beaches   
not baffle the onslaught   
of the sea or objectionable people   
and give private life   
what small protection it's got?   
Praise then the oiled motions   
of avoidance, the pearly   
convolutions of all that   
slides off or takes a   
wide berth; praise every   
eddying vacancy of Earth,   
all the dimpled depths   
of pooling space, the whole   
swirl set up by fending-off—   
extending far beyond the personal,   
I'm convinced—   
immense and good   
in a cosmological sense:   
unpressing us against   
each other, lending   
the necessary never
to never-ending.

Source: Poetry (November 2003).


This poem originally appeared in the November 2003 issue of Poetry magazine

November 2003
 Kay  Ryan


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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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Seas, Rivers, & Streams, Nature, Relationships, Arts & Sciences, Philosophy


Poetic Terms Imagery, Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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