Paper Trailing

I have been out for a while. To anyone who keeps up with my stuff, sorry for the delay. The poem is below in box quotes, if you’d like to skip to it. Not counting the “and now/and then” lines as stanzas, the fourth stanza is iambic trimeter, the ninth is iambic tetrameter, the fifteenth is iambic pentameter and the last is iambic octameter. Everything else is freeverse. After years of work, I am close to completing a long-term project of mine, and I have put most of my effort on that.

Though I did not have the time to see through something new, I could have put something old up here pretty easily. I just had no confidence looking back. Everything I did before either bored or embarrassed me. Had years of working at my writing only gotten me this far? The thought was toxic and smog-thick, pervasively entering with each drag of breath and refusing to leave.

The truth is that I have been a bit foolish. I let my expectations override the good in my reality. I got caught up in rejected job applications, circling endlessly over past mistakes for something that set me critically backward. I got caught up in thinking that I had to live to my exact expectations; anything less was accepting myself as a failure.

So I wrote a poem to match all the odd feeling of my post-grad pity party, but felt too scared to publish that. I worried that employers would look down it as disrespectful, as unconfident, as disparaging the whole process. The thought of projecting any failure or negativity seemed disgusting, when friends’ Facebook posts brimmed up with success. So I thought about staying quiet until it was time to broadcast some of the success I have had.

But I loathe that. I loathe the fact that I have spoken to so many in the same “class of 2015 rut,” but still feel alone. I loathe drafting a status for every win and concealing every loss so that when someone looks at me they’ll see the false measurement I wanted to be. I would rather own my mistakes than run from them. I would rather be and project the whole me – the me that accidentally hurts friends and family, the me that misses opportunities, the me that really exists – than the one smiling and accepting degrees in pretty pictures. I would like to have the confidence to stop selecting the truths I give to strangers.

I wrote this poem to take a step in that direction by expressing how dreadful the application process felt at times. I wrote this poem to confess that my cover letters were not up to snuff. I wrote this poem to say that I did not stack my resume up to the sky. I wrote this poem to say that all this slipping up can really burn me up. I wrote this poem to say that sometimes I don’t feel happy, brilliant, or successful, and most of the time that’s okay.

Hello, Success
I have been paper trailing you

I wrote for so long last weekend
My fingers fell into puddles of ink

Slick from the sick spit of grey matters
These hands could not grip the knob
And rip open a single door

The paper trails right off
toward the end I wrote.
Applied these hands too late

And now…

Sitting pretty on my only easy semester
My friends and siblings say its fine
We breeze by like it’s summertime

Hunched hard over the keyboard
These hands callous up from clasping at pavement
Sitting pretty on my only easy semester

Straining eyes shaky over my monitor
This mouth is all out of “Not Selected” sighs
My friends and siblings say its fine

Chowing down old accolades, this stomach grumbles.
The awards mean nothing when seeking the next thing.
We breeze by like it’s summertime

The paper trails on after ends
past friends, past bends, past days – I chase
the back of lines to sort me straight.
My mess can end where work begins.

And then…

Did I write I’d sell my soul
on the back of the cover letter?
Did I sign it in like an autograph?

Did I purge Facebook of all the follies?
Did I trace the edges of my fingernails
with talons and teeth to sweep the dirt clean?

Do I still look pretty lined up next to
all the inky achievements of the other applicants?
When you drench your eyes in the black stream, can you still see me?

Could you shoot me an email letting me know the lecture I missed?
Could you send me the sign-up sheet for the next thing I need?
Could you single out the second I could have stepped up?

This inbox is empty
These eyes are hungry
I’d rather you scorn me
then leave me empty of Calibri black ink

I run this paper trail in day and dream.
My cycle spins on silent wheels and tracks.
No mouths, just eyes all peeling even keels.
So I pretend my love of self lasts past
rejection that repeats in muted blinks.

And Now…

Reality is bliss of endless steam hiss modernity,
the up and downs of pounding pistons plow on,
the howl of heat planted me on migraine cushions.

It’s the sound of necks and knuckles cutting cracks
in sidewalks along chalk lines that’s busted my mind wide open
and filled it full with fantasies of fury I hiss, pound, howl loose.

Reality is bliss with parents, friends, the sun’s brilliance,
All bits of light to photosynthesize sweet smelling flowers
But reality stopped visiting

If it did it’d need a shovel
To exhume me out of this downer shit
It’d need acid spit to burn iron bars

Where is my reflection now? I need to stare it down and demand an answer.
Where is my acceptance now? I need to cut out oddities I can’t make fit me.
Where is my reality now? I need the bliss until sweets make me sick.

The paper trails have sparked, burn me up with empty ink “oh-wells!”
I want so bad to be well liked, what people should I please? Oh please!
I feel so sick at settling, still I spy both sky and earth as short.
Mismeasured this existence, fiery forms so burnt me out
and out of ash I’ll rise again and tighter clasp on paper trails.

And then…

~Austin R Ryan

Dirty Sonnet: Romantic Love

I am taking a break from the travel blog for a bit. In place of another entry, here’s a poem. It is a small part of larger poem I am still working on. It is a little twist I have put on the Petrarchan Sonnet. The poem is free verse, with no set rhythm or meter. The rhyme scheme stays the same until the ending rhyme, which I replace with a little limerick. I call it a dirty sonnet! Though, someone has probably already done it and named it differently. Take a look, maybe there’s something you like.

Lust can water desire higher and higher
If two sweet pieces gel well enough
Then wrenching legs away is what’s truly rough
Heat needs friction from emotion rubbed right into fire
Electricity comes after the sparks of odd crossed wire
So much heat and electricity, like housing for a turtledove
And the warm bodies wrapped in conversation feels like love
Yet if that romantic property burns, a piece of you lights the pyre

Fear of falling becomes a calling card
Either in or out, bodies hit the hard ground
Trying to keep the quilt together leaves it marred
Everyone will wonder if the original was ever around
Push and Pull were lovers two
Everywhere they went, together they flew
Until Pull pushed too hard at love and Push ran off with Shove
Pull married Tug, ask Pull of Push or Shove, and she’ll say, “who?”

~Austin R Ryan


Sorry for the not posting in so long! I spent a while working on this poem. It took up a lot of my free time. I tended up a voice and a source of frustrations. I wrote it so it alternates between trochee tetrameter and iambic tetrameter. Try and read it for the jaunty rhythms, or the indecent words! Whatever you prefer.

Work Work Work Work
Breath between your breaks by measure
Work Work Work Work
Measure Meter into pace quick
Work Work Work Work
Haste up pace to stay in high place

Recall all the things you dodged
While with open eyes you dozed
Stalk the single moments missed out
Which one had it hit you should have

Could have torn you up from slumber
Answered your steep midnight hunger
Stomach twists as mad as ever
Did I duck a curing tonic?

I will stand at the assembly
Until I produce the part to
Make me feel entirely me and
Bury regret beneath papers

Work Work Work Work
Get close to heaven holy snug
Work Work Work Work
So angels sing your deeds well done
Work Work Work Work
Salvation too comes costing much

Like protestants on nailing stints
Addressing grievance toppling Popes
Corrupt and people’s steeple tropes
for sake of something greater than

it could end equal or off worse
but only trying leads to change
the devil’s in the details so
on grand schemes lean and hold out hope
that captured gains provide in net

intentions good breeds folk much loved
and time in tiny measure metes
out their ends like all mortal men
a bad word from so smart accounts
can sentence a soul to disdain
so rig the records to keep clean
these acts you own through ink and sweat

Work Work Work Work
Pump out to be completely full
Work Work Work Work
Devour each hour, end empty lulls
Work Work Work Work
Pull in to be swollenly whole

Baby please earn me ring money
Accolades to stay in spade full
Win those “make me messy” metals
Get your sick spouse sweating to the
rhythmic licks that flick along to
Soundtracks of your competence porn

Churn out butter for the little
monster me I slaving made at
someone else’s burning hot stove
Scratch off “make us fat cats” cheddar

Steep your spoils on kids and kinfolk
Spend the rest for stress relief and
Bid a mistress sit on your face
Sip on south saliva hip drips

So we grind away get wild from
Dancing glancing issues off us
Sweetly civil people get drunk
Sniffing skunk scent glugging cleaners
do the daily shit get sugar
on the Fridays gather fuck its
Make them sweeten Monday folgers

Work Work Work Work
To feed the village that raised you
Work Work Work Work
Return to hometown a hero
Work Work Work Work
To be the words your parents taught

Remember all the ways you drain
Your ancestors’ aspirations
How failure cuts a mark on bark
Of family trees for ages seen

Recall all resume mistakes
Distractions you indulge to dodge
The things left half assed on the side
Of empty Ritalin-less thoughts

Where did you let your focus go?
Forgetting things that made you you
The job you do the things you make
The blood that parents passed you on

Let drive and deed out weave your goals
Pull you to far flung fields to plant
Your seeds, they grow they go, like you
They walk, they work, they dream of home

Work Work Work Work
Because it is the only way
At dollars and household hollers
Work Work Work Work
your coffin can attest to how
you inched better measures out
Work Work Work Work
The sweet taste of sugar will sour
So scour for salt to store your food
Work Work Work Work
As grandpa did making your clan
To beat your folks at games they taught
You how to masterfully play
Work Work Work Work
An empty object up until
It fills to sickly prickly burst
Wax on wax off until you get
It off and turn each chore to joy
Since every break turns task and work
When time involved is more than small
Exchange it how you have to that
Work’s pleasure triumphs leisure’s song

America My Love, Sixth Refrain

I met plenty of overachievers
Sweet believers
In endless toils and labors

Folding fists up to the sky
Trying to rise rise rise
Up to the top
Not knowing when
Best, like the rest, falls
Top topples hardest of all

Grinding away best
Within wide bindings
Society sounded so
Clinging to dean’s lists
4.0’s, no conflicts or rows

Beating the brain bloody
Blow by blow
Pounding the effort
To be astounding
Into each core
Success distributing dopamine

Sniffing school up
Like it were lines of coke
Not minding the constant comedowns
Emanating on flitting failure

Learned of a student
On endless adderal grind
Getting to A’s through sleepless nights
In a haze through Tireless working days

Powering on for some straight indicator
Of something done with brilliance
Pushing for a sign of any success
Bleeding for grace under duress

Left the easy life and
Flew far from the nest
To meet life like it were a test

Talked only when he could
Met folk only when he should
Smoothed substance and word
Out in measures of legitimacy
In cover letter caliber

Staring at
Calibri typed word
When Times were New Roman
Thinking sheep bleat rebellions
Before refraining

Hand raised abstain
From black staining
Resumes leading to training
Leading to daily creating
Unfolding of molds that
Straightened lives out
In line like white teeth

It was not about
Living far out
Beyond the pale
Compounding out
Wasted time with Hippies
In upstate NYC
It was the endless churn
The constant mental burn
To touch the sky
Fire filling the peripheries
Burning out sight of the ground

And I could say something
Snappy about Icarus and the sun
But when the fall’s real
The burnout steals the satisfaction

Reveling in perfection
Misdirected feels fun for a while
But the failure’s too human
For Schadenfreude

~Austin R Ryan

On the eastside of what west lies

Pardon me
For my sentimentality
Not a shade off from
Some form of
Emotional brutality

I feel far enough
That sad songs
Sing relevance

I wanted to move in a way
I used to
And I wanted to be in the skin
I felt comfortable in

I’ve stretched my arms
And bore my abdomen

But I only feel hungry

I’ve made my bold step
Right here at the gates of civilization
I’ve brandished my meticulous mind
On the details of book learning

Pardon me
For not feeling gratitude
Not a hue off from
Some need for
Inescapable rectitude

I’ve stitched it together all wrong
And wondered if it was because
you never taught me to sow

I’ve filled my ears with urgency

I’ve lost my hands holding on
To things I never needed
And I cannot think of how to communicate
Without using sign language

I am marking the page each day
Out of numerous hopes of vanity

I never wrote for you
And still I hold you to read me

I am perpetual
In my fear of pink and baby blue
I am flippant
In my wanting the broken shower back
I am certain
In that those trees will bear the weight I tried to keep from your shoulders

I never wanted to be carried

So I placed myself on high
And all day and all night
I can only imagine
The confrontation that would
Set my effervescent isolation

I looked at my phone
Thought to set the record straight
But I wanted to be alone today
So I turned it into a shovel
And I told myself
That if I kept digging
I’d break new ground.

~Austin R Ryan

America My Love, Fifth Refrain

Now not every man
fits the scheme
laid out at his starting place

Reaching the finish line
can take a touch of the divine
But out here in the west
we are plenty ready to test
where we draw salvation’s line.

We’ve got godless Christians
indecisive agnostic Unitarians
ex-Jehovah’s witnessing new shit
turned angered atheists,
same great judgmental taste
with 0 faux-spirituality calories

This cat was an eastern scholar,
you dig?
He never gelled with Christ
got along better with Krishna
never ran with Hebrew
but Buddha let him know what’s what
and more importantly, who’s who

As a daoist he believed
rhythm and flow
would show him
which way to go
and just what
he needed to follow

He wanted to move like the rivers
flow gently against godless green earth
erode the hard, the blearing light,
with soft and dark might
Wash out the endless noise
of the God damn know-it-alls
with blurry half certainty

But fall through
the tiny crack
of electronic disturbance
The mechanical wack
the mental half slap
of technical perturbance

and he brought his fist
to the side of his skull
Pounding at the temples
like they were front doors

Ding dong.
The hot air in his head
shot out in a clamor
like wind striking chimes

The man was so reverent
of context
that he put himself
as next best
after all the world,
and worry
of friends in flurry
and family in a hurry

All the fury pent up in his chest
steamed out of his knuckle
and back into him
through his thin skin
Bruises on thighs
Bite marks on arms

Little bits of Anger and loathing
fit tight like hand-me-down clothing
pinning against his chest

He just could not rest, knowing
that he reconciled the world
while leaving himself unfurled.

He never broke down
in some great tragic way
he had some concussions
but mostly just
internal repercussions

He felt small
shallow and beaten down
because he never could pull
his two hands back
and just fully relax

These little things ate at him
until they grew big enough
to swallow his greatness whole
leaving him to work away
the rest of his days

Living vicariously
through a poor forged family
he never managed the inadequacies
running through the flowery
fields of his squiggly cerebrum,
just let them grow like ugly weeds
in his less-than-zen garden

Some say
if you’ve got hate in your heart
let it out
because your body will
break and ache
at each chance to
vent the steam swirling
through your cortexes

It does not blow
out your ears
like the cartoons tell the kids
It does not fall from the sky
burning bits of holy vengeance
flinging out of kung-fu fists
Like the movies tell the teens

It just dams itself up
and quietly
like an aneurysm

But busting brainily into your headstone
at the old enough age of 68
seems a damn sight better
than beating the streets til
someone guns you down at 36

An apple a day keeps the doctor away
like a little bit of repression,
each time you get to thinking,
keeps the therapist at bay

I dunno if
adages new
become true
when adding ages

I dunno if sayings
ever truly get old
after being retold.
All I know is that
what you try to deny
likely denies you too

But what do my
young eyes know
about personal vengeance
and retaliatory reprise?

~Austin R Ryan