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

Pointless Stories: Sleep in Winter Part 2

My dreams were not kind, though and I knew even subconsciously that I had a class to attend not so long from now with no alarm to save me. I ran through cycles of panic and half sleep. My subconscious offered me the sweet illusion of the personal responsibility I lacked. I dreamt that I would wake up and stare at the clock just in time. Even in my dreams, I did not delve far into the illusion, as my limbs would feel so weighted that I could not exit my bed, and I slunk back into heavy sleep. I dreamt of people entering and leaving my room, demonstrating all sorts of strange behaviors toward me. For my part, I felt too heavy to respond. I fell into a form of sleep paralysis where my body awakened and tensed all over. My eyelids felt heavy. The lines of my vision blurred. Clarity etched its way into my cornea here and there. I would have shut my eyes but the fluctuation between obfuscation and lucidity felt too interesting. Hallucinations of friends and acquaintances started to float about the room, conducting strange conversations that I could not properly recall. I could recognize that I was hallucinating. I had to pry my eyes open and watch reality mesh incongruously with this odd display of fiction fitted perfectly to my mind by a rebellious subconscious. The hallucinations started to scratch at some very old sores of mine. I grew uncomfortable with the stillness that radiated throughout my body. That stillness felt impure and ugly. It felt complacent. Waves of old buried dirt splashed against my mind, and my body hardly even let me see. I felt perfectly still in a very thick way.

I decided I needed to break this up with reason and reminded my mind that I was still not fully conscious. I told my brain to get back in shape and get the body moving. It took a massive effort. It felt like opening a bottle of wine. I slowly churned the action around the base of my spine until the tingling sensation of opening outward spread down my shoulders. My eyes shot fully open for the first time in what felt like hours. I sat up quickly. Only a good fifteen minutes passed. Twenty minutes sat between my next class and I. Ironically, I felt exhausted and let myself fall asleep again. Luckily my internal clock shot me up properly this time, and I woke up resoundingly ten minutes later, giving me the perfect amount of time to gather my things and get to class. I sat wide eyed in the class glazing over reality, just because it seemed the appropriate thing to do after enduring a bout of sleep paralysis.

I did not really take in much of what anyone said, but that might have been due to the class itself as much as my mentality. I never need strange sleep patterns to justify my boredom in this class. Supposedly the class teaches you how to write. As far as I can tell, it teaches you how to write dried up bits of glossy op-ed pieces that already litter the literary landscape. At best it helps you form up that lifeless academic voice into something a touch more persuasive. I made a few remarks mainly to make my voice heard and seem as though I were thinking actively. I felt underwhelmed at how they hit the class. I don’t know what I expected. I don’t know why I would think anyone would listen closer to me than I listened to them, especially in a class we were all being forced to take. I made a childish determination to feel upset about it and slinked back into my own indulgent and continual self-analysis. Later I’d slap myself mentally for getting so damn uppity and apathetic about the whole thing.

I shuffled out of the class and off to lunch. Still sore from feeling alienated by social interaction, I determined that I would not fall gracefully back into the social scenery. I spent the lunch sitting more silently than normal. I got back to my room with a full stomach and resolve to get out of my pointless funk. Unfortunately, my next class was coming up quick and I could not figure out much to do, so I just sloped up against my bed and let my momentum drain loose.

My girlfriend knocked on the door, getting me up to walk to our shared class, as is our routine. I enjoyed talking with her for a while. I always scrounge for a point when I am with her, though I know I really do not have one. I hardly have anything I want to say that I have not said to her at this point, being friends with her a year before starting up the relationship. Part of the fun was looking for something new to say. I would inspect my life and hers for some question of interest to ask or statement to make. It forced me to look a little closer at things and I enjoyed that element of conversation.
Astronomy class proceeded as normal. Having my girlfriend and a few good buddies in the class speeds things along, and gives me something to do when I get bored. Sometimes I would have to shrug off some interaction to get notes down or finish reading for another class. it did feel a bit rude. Though, that did seem the constant balance of a social life, getting efficiently rude enough to stay unbothered when you needed to without pushing people away.

After astronomy I remember sitting down and doing next to nothing productive. I think I spent a solid two hours browsing the internet uselessly before going out to dinner. After that I did sit down and read for a while until my roommate invited over another good friend and sat down to watch a documentary he told our group about earlier. I guess my own distaste for exclusion due to confusion or lack of effort in people triggered and I started to sort of lightly bitch about how we could get the whole group in if we waited until tomorrow. That was not entirely true, so we did resolve to watch the documentary that night. I still insisted that we try to get as much of the gang in as possible. We wrangled in two more people and had a good time of the viewing.

Watching a documentary on metaphysics of personal careers and reading a heady book about lifeless jobs leaves my head dense and my mouth babbling incessantly to clear some of the clutter. We all talked about dogs and I kept drawing back to my own dog, due to my blundering social incompetence and consistent internal dialogue that often draws me back to putting the conversation’s focus on myself or my own experiences. The group disbanded and I felt quite overburdened with thoughts.

The hot waters of the shower helped me loosen the various strands of crisscrossing thought. I left the shower feeling a bit more at ease. I joined my friends on the floor lounge and played some games for the rest of the night.


I rolled around in my bed for a while. It bothered me that I could not go to sleep immediately like I often did. My mind felt clear. I felt clean and living happily off of leisure time I would lack in the future. Something gnawed at me though, otherwise I would not have rolled around for as long as I did. I would not weave my blanket around me in so many different ways if I were not looking for the right way to lie. I could not tell if I felt physically or mentally uncomfortable. Gradually my fatigue seized me and wrapped me in that coveted wave of sleep. I knew the morning bell would yell out at me the same way the next day. I knew each step hardly removed me from that familiar buzz. It would strike again and again, morning after morning after morning. I wondered if that morning bell was what kept me awake at night. I am probably wrong. The throb that keeps me awake most likely stems from something much more difficult and vastly less interesting.

Some sort of study I heard about vaguely from a friend, who probably heard it from another friend who read an article citing a book that made the full argument, claimed that people start to embody fictional characters they really love. People project that fascinating fiction into their life because those lines of print must give you an electrical and wondrous sort of life. But no matter how close to Gandalf you get, you can’t come into work late and say that you’ve arrived just when you were needed. Not a salesman in the world dies like Willy Loman and if I really wanted to get a good night’s sleep I’d medicate myself and stop worrying about the existential. Maybe some of us do whatever it takes to make it all seem like a book filled with pointed pages.


~Austin R Ryan

Gossamer Year

Here’s an article I wrote for my column “Feedback” on talking about Passion Pit’s new album Gossamer Year. I highly recommend it the site, album and the article! Design credits go to the WVAU web directors Marissa Cetin, Maeve McDermott and our website staff.

~Austin R Ryan