By Michael Ryan
Reading in the paper a summary
of a five-year psychological study
that shows those perceived as most beautiful
are treated differently,
I think they could have just asked me,
remembering a kind of pudgy kid
and late puberty, the bloody noses
and wisecracks because I wore glasses,
though we all know by now how awful it is
for the busty starlet no one takes seriously,
the loveliest women I’ve lunched with
lamenting the opacity of the body,
they can never trust a man’s interest
even when he seems not just out for sex
(eyes focus on me above rim of wineglass),
and who would want to live like this?
And what does beauty do to a man?—
Don Juan, Casanova, Lord Byron—
those fiery eyes and steel jawlines
can front a furnace of self-loathing,
all those breathless women rushing to him
while hubby’s at the office or ball game,
primed to be consumed by his beauty
while he stands next to it, watching.
So maybe the looks we’re dealt are best.
It’s only common sense that happiness
depends on some bearable deprivation
or defect, and who knows what conflicts
great beauty could have caused,
what cruelties one might have suffered
from those now friends, what unmanageable
possibilities smiling at every small turn?
So if I get up to draw a tumbler
of ordinary tap water and think what if this were
nectar dripping from delicious burning fingers,
will all I’ve missed knock me senseless?
No. Of course not. It won’t.
Michael Ryan, “Larkinesque” from New and Selected Poems. Copyright © 2004 by Michael Ryan. Used by permission of Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
Source: New and Selected Poems (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2004)
More By This Poet
What kind of delusion are you under?
The life he hid just knocked you flat.
You see the lightning but not the thunder.
What God hath joined let no man put asunder.
Did God know you’d marry a rat?
What kind of delusion are you...
A Thank-You Note
My daughter made drawings with the pens you sent,
line drawings that suggest the things they represent,
different from any drawings she — at ten — had done,
closer to real art, implying what the mind fills in.
For her mother she made a flower fragile on its...
More Poems about Arts & Sciences
Sestina in Prose
It was like climbing a mountain to those of us who’d climbed one. To the others, it was like, I suppose, something else. In other words, we let everybody find her own figure of speech.
Not that it—speech—lay thick on the...
The Heart Shows No Signs
The heart, the surgeon says, does not reveal
the small rifts, the hairline cracks which
split the hairline cracks they conceal cops
and robbers in a stretch of skin flaunting
star-scars with show of blood bone
the ledges of what it holds tight in checkmate
More Poems about Living
We gathered in a field southwest of town,
several hundred hauling coolers
and folding chairs along a gravel road
dry in August, two ruts of soft dust
that soaked into our clothes
and rose in plumes behind us.
By noon we could discern their massive coils
How to Triumph Like a Girl
I like the lady horses best,
how they make it all look easy,
like running 40 miles per hour
is as fun as taking a nap, or grass.
I like their lady horse swagger,
after winning. Ears up, girls, ears up!
But mainly, let’s be honest,...
More Poems about Love
I hate how I can’t keep this tremor inside, this mute
matter of being made extant, this shiver in being, in
no not-being, this wild flying up from the inner surge
and this crack in the apparatus espied around
the corner from my particular...
That’s My Heart Right There
We used to say,
That’s my heart right there.
As if to say,
Don’t mess with her right there.
As if, don’t even play,
That’s a part of me right there.
In other words, okay okay,
That’s the start of me right there.
As if, come that day,