unfittest and unmourned


Complete Semen Study
Michael Ryan

morphology: “pinheads”: 2 percent

Laborious, stumpy, droopy, askew,
blundering into one another
while the healthy sperm zips by like the varsity water polo team
on their way to a party with the best-looking cheerleaders —
unbeautiful losers, unfittest and unmourned,
O my five-hundred-thousand-or-so pinheads
floundering in this plastic cup’s murky bottom,
what would you do to be half of someone?
Wank it sitting on the toilet in a fluorescent
pea-green hospital bathroom while learning to juggle one-handed
one cup and three brown-bagged Penthouses
offered by the deadpan female lab attendant?
You’d want it anyplace, I think.
They’d tie your wrists if you had wrists
to stop your rubbing off on fireplugs and brick buildings,
much less on a hand’s elastic flesh
you’re too dim to recognize is your own.
You’re the ones who can’t be taken to church
because you hump the pew cushions
while the rest of us are praying,
and try to straddle the priest’s leg like a puppy
while he exchanges an inspirational word or two
with each of his congregation as they file from the service.
I, on the other hand, am too mature for this.
The Pet-of-the-Month could almost be my granddaughter.
My metabolism has decelerated
to that of an elderly Galapagos tortoise
I could do very well all day sunning myself
under a thick, warm shell, and could easily take the next century
to burn the calories in a slice of pizza.
In the world for which my body was designed
I would have checked out long ago,
immolated at the ritual bonfire by my two hundred great-grandchildren
roasting a mammoth in my honor,
dancing for days stoned on sacred leaf juice,
and intermarrying like howler monkeys in the bushes.
It’s no doubt due to nights like this
that you weakened and malformed
and case your own watery tails until you decompose
into what the complete semen study classifies as “debris.”
The doctors say it’s age or car exhaust or groundwater toxins
or they-don’t-know-what, but eons ago there must have been a boy
waiting for the dopey old patriarch to die
so he could do his sister sweaty and writhing in the firelight.
If their child, slow-witted and guileless,
showed the endearing but useless gift
to greet everyone’s spirit no matter their status,
they might have thrown him the bones the dogs had finished with,
which is how they fed the shunned and the shamed,
unbeautiful losers, unfittest and unmourned,
O my five-hundred-thousand-or-so pinheads
floundering in this plastic cup’s murky bottom
I hereby hand over or removal and disposal
to the now surgically gloved
deadpan female lab attendant.

“always we couldn’t do otherwise”


Yes, afraid of marriage perhaps, but sometimes the sea and sand underfoot warm and soften the idea of being eternally bound.

It’s March. And was it really, truly a year ago since that other thing happened?

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.
Photo by Ben Rosett on Unsplash

“If I must go mad, let it be dignified”

A brief moment near the end, pleading to feel “like wood” reminds me obliquely of DH Lawrence’s “Elemental”.
Where I’ll Be Good

Michael Ryan

Wanting leads to worse than oddity.
The bones creak like bamboo in wind,
and strain toward a better life outside the body,
the life anything has that isn’t human.
Feel the chair under you? What does it want?
Does lust bend it silly, like a rubber crutch?
Tell a tree about the silky clasp of cunt.
It won’t shift an inch. It won’t ache to touch.
Let me not cruise for teens in a red sports car,
or glare too long at what bubbles their clothes.
Let me never hustle file clerks in a bar.
Keep me from the beach when the hot wind blows.
If I must go mad, let it be dignified.
Lock me up where I’ll feel like wood,
where wanting won’t send me flopping outside,
where my bones will shut up, where I’ll be good.