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.