After the earth finally touches the sun,
and the long explosion stops suddenly
like a heart run down,
the world might seem white and quiet
to something that watches it in the sky at night,
so something might feel small,
and feel nearly human pain.
But it won't happen again:
the long nights wasted alone, what's done
in doorways in the dark by the young,
and what could have been for some.
Think of all the lovers and the friends!
Who does not gather his portion of them
to himself. at least in his mind?
Sex eased through everyone,
even when slipping into death
as into a beloved's skin,
and prying out again to find
the body slumped, muscles slack.
and bones begun their turn to dust.
Then no one minds when one lover
holds another, like an unloaded sack.
But the truth enters at the end of life.
It enters like oxygen into every cell
and the madness it feeds there in some
is only a lucid metaphor
for something long burned to nothing,
like a star.
How do you get under your desire?
How do you peel away each desire
like ponderous clothes, one at a time,
until what's underneath is known?
We knew genitals as small things
and we were ashamed they led us around,
even if the hill where we'd lie down
was the same hill the universe unfolded upon
all night, as we watched the stars,
when for once our breathing seemed to blend.
Each time, from that sweet pressure
of hands, or the great relief of the mouth,
a person can be led out of himself
Isn't it lonely in the body?
The myth says we ooze about as spirits
until there's a body made to take us,
and only flesh is created by sex.
That's why we enter sex so relentlessly,
toward the pleasure that comes
when we push down far enough
to nudge the spirit rising to release,
and the pleasure is pleasure of pure spirit,
for a moment all together again.
So sex returns us to beginning, and we moan.
Pure sex becomes specific and concrete
in a caress of breast or slope of waist:
it flies through itself like light, it sails
on nothing like a wing, when someone's there
to be touched, when there's nothing wrong.
So the actual is touched in sex,
like a breast through cloth: the actual
rising plump and real, the mind
darting about it like a tongue.
This is where I wanted to be all along:
up in the world, in touch with myself. . .
Sex, invisible priestess of a good God,
I think without you I might just spin off.
I know there's no keeping you close,
as you flick by underneath a sentence
on a train, or transform the last thought
of an old nun, or withdraw for one moment alone.
Who tells you what to do or ties you down!
I'd give up the rest to suck your dark lips.
I'd give up the rest to fix you exact
in the universe, at the wildest edge
where there's no such thing as shape.
What a shame I am, if reaching the right person
in a dim room, sex holds itself apart
from us like an angel in an afterlife,
and, with the ideas no one has even dreamed,
it wails its odd music for pure mind.
After there's nothing,
after the big blow-up of the whole shebang,
what voice from what throat
will tell me who I am? Each throat
on which I would have quietly set my lips
will be ripped like a cheap sleeve
or blown apart like the stopped-up
barrel of a gun. What was inside them
all the time I wanted always
to rest my mouth upon?
I thought most everything
stuck dartlike in the half-dome of my brain,
and hung there like fake stars in a planetarium.
It's true that things there changed into names,
that even the people I loved were a bunch of signs,
so I felt most often alone.
This is a way to stay alive and nothing to bemoan.
We know the first time we extend an arm:
the body reaches so far for so long.
We grow and love to grow, then stop, then lie down.
I wanted to bear inside me this tender outcome.
I wanted to know if it made sex happen:
does it show up surely in touch and talk?
does it leak from the mind, as heat from the skin?
I wanted my touching intelligent, like a beautiful song.
 
From New and Selected Poems by Michael Ryan. Copyright © 2004 by Michael Ryan. Reprinted by permission of Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.

Poems by This Author

Half Mile Down by Michael Ryan
My sick heart and my sick soul
My Bright Aluminum Tumblers by Michael Ryan
Who are you
Outside by Michael Ryan
The dead thing mashed into the street
Poem at Thirty by Michael Ryan
The rich little kids across the street
Reminder by Michael Ryan
Torment by appetite
The Past by Michael Ryan
It shows up one summer in a greatcoat


Further Reading

Poems about Anonymity and Loneliness
"My True Love Hath My Heart and I Have His"
by Mary Elizabeth Coleridge
79
by Joachim du Bellay
Don't Let Me Be Lonely [There was a time]
by Claudia Rankine
Acts of Mind
by Catherine Barnett
Alone
by Maya Angelou
Alone for a Week
by Jane Kenyon
Angel of Duluth [excerpt]
by Madelon Sprengnether
At a Window
by Carl Sandburg
Beyond the Pane
by Greg Hewett
Boston
by Aaron Smith
Danse Russe
by William Carlos Williams
Dear Lonely Animal,
by Oni Buchanan
Demeter in Paris
by Meghan O'Rourke
Donal Óg
by Isabella Augusta, Lady Gregory
Drawing from Life
by Reginald Shepherd
Eating Alone
by Li-Young Lee
Found Poem
by Howard Nemerov
Gospel
by Philip Levine
How I Am
by Jason Shinder
How the mind works still to be sure
by Jennifer Denrow
How to See Deer
by Philip Booth
I Am Much Too Alone in This World, Yet Not Alone
by Rainer Maria Rilke
I Am!
by John Clare
I'm Nobody! Who are you? (260)
by Emily Dickinson
Isolation: To Marguerite
by Matthew Arnold
Loneliness
by Trumbull Stickney
Mnemosyne
by Trumbull Stickney
Montparnasse
by Ernest Hemingway
Mountain Pines
by Robinson Jeffers
Museum
by Glyn Maxwell
Ode to Solitude
by Alexander Pope
On the Terrace
by Landis Everson
R.I.P., My Love
by Tory Dent
Skunk Hour
by Robert Lowell
Song of Myself
by John Canaday
Song of Quietness
by Robinson Jeffers
Sonnet V
by Mahmoud Darwish
Sympathy
by Edith Franklin Wyatt
The Creation
by James Weldon Johnson
The Daffodils
by William Wordsworth
The Hermit Goes Up Attic
by Maxine Kumin
The Living Beauty
by W. B. Yeats
The Long Deployment
by Jehanne Dubrow
The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock
by T. S. Eliot
The Sleepers
by Walt Whitman
The Suicide
by Edna St. Vincent Millay
the suicide kid
by Charles Bukowski
The Whole World Is Gone
by Jennifer Grotz
This Is a Photograph of Me
by Margaret Atwood
Those Winter Sundays
by Robert Hayden
Toro
by Sarah Gambito
WHERE?
by Kenneth Patchen
White Days
by Priscilla Becker
Whoever You Are Holding Me Now in Hand
by Walt Whitman
Why Is the Color of Snow?
by Brenda Shaughnessy
Your Catfish Friend
by Richard Brautigan
Poems About Passion and Sex
9.
by E. E. Cummings
Canterbury Tales, Wife of Bath's Prologue [Excerpt]
by Geoffrey Chaucer
A Greek Island
by Edward Hirsch
A Sequence
by Leslie Scalapino
Almost There
by Timothy Liu
Antique
by Arthur Rimbaud
Arts & Sciences
by Philip Appleman
At the Touch of You
by Witter Bynner
Aubade: Some Peaches, After Storm
by Carl Phillips
Because I cannot remember my first kiss
by Roger Bonair-Agard
Blue
by May Swenson
Boston
by Aaron Smith
Carrefour
by Amy Lowell
corydon & alexis, redux
by D. A. Powell
Elegy 5
by Ovid
Erotic Energy
by Chase Twichell
First Turn to Me...
by Bernadette Mayer
Fish Fucking
by Michael Blumenthal
Fixed
by Christopher Stackhouse
In Praise of Shame
by Lord Alfred Douglas
Kinky
by Denise Duhamel
Libido
by Rupert Brooke
Me in Paradise
by Brenda Shaughnessy
My Bright Aluminum Tumblers
by Michael Ryan
National Nudist Club Newsletter
by Wayne Koestenbaum
No Platonic Love
by William Cartwright
Novel
by Arthur Rimbaud
Poems of Passion and Sex
Prague
by Khadijah Queen
Privilege of Being
by Robert Hass
Safe Sex
by Donald Hall
Song
by James Joyce
Stones
by Michael Blumenthal
The Ecstasy
by Phillip Lopate
The Elephant is Slow to Mate
by D.H. Lawrence
The Hug
by Thom Gunn
To His Mistress Going to Bed
by John Donne
Undressing You
by Witter Bynner
Wild Rose
by Bryher
XIII
by CÚsar Vallejo
Year of the Tiger
by Miguel Murphy