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In Winter by Michael Ryan


It is evening and the world is transformed. The darkness has descended—the streets are empty and everything is still. I am barefoot and writing, hair down my back. You say, I feel safe with you. I think this is the first time you’ve ever said that to me and oh, what to do with this exquisite gift. I rub my chest to ease the ache—

I can remember the person inhabiting this body before we met. I apologised often and always for who I was, certain I’m too much, much too much. I had to make myself smaller—it hurts less that way. I had roots but they had nowhere to go.

My life felt wrong, as if I went out into the world with mismatched shoes. How do we go about this life hugging our names to ourselves? Have you ever heard your beloved whisper what you are called, and thought their lips sweet?

The way I lean towards you, as if a caladium leaf seeking warmth. The way I feel the thread of your voice. The way we know with certainty: not alone, not anymore.

Sometimes I worry about disintegrating and exploding, of being obliterated by my own desires, an Icarus who has no business in existing. But you have gathered all of me in your fist, and you’re holding me tight and safe and secure and sure, you are so sure and it makes me feel so full.

Bless all my mistakes in this damn universe. Bless making them one after another after another after another which lead me here. I’ve made them all so you can kiss me.

In Winter
Michael Ryan
At four o’clock it’s dark.
Today, looking out through dusk
at three gray women in stretch slacks
chatting in front of the post office,
their steps left and right and back
like some quick folk dance of kindness,
I remembered the winter we spent
crying in each other’s laps.
What could you be thinking at this moment?
How lovely and strange the gangly spines
of trees against a thickening sky
as you drive from the library
humming off-key? Or are you smiling
at an idea met in a book
the way you smiled with your whole body
the first night we talked?
I was so sure my love of you was perfect,
and the light today
reminded me of the winter you drove home
each day in the dark at four o’clock
and would come into my study to kiss me
despite mistake after mistake after mistake.

This poem appeared in New and Selected Poems by Michael Ryan, published by Ecco, 2005. Shared here with profound gratitude.


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On This Day

Comments (2)

  • juliep

    This is stunning. Both your words and the poem really got me in the chest.


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