michael ryan | bunny

27 02 2012

POETRY DISPATCH No. 364 | February 27, 2012

Michael Ryan

In the scarred desk behind me
in history class,
she lulled her nyloned knee
against my ass,

its message pressing home
as dully we went
from the interminable Fall of Rome
to the Council of Trent

and through the even duller
steel-town afternoons
locked in a collar
of dim green rooms,

old nuns, and ever new
Like the hood ornament

on some chopped-down hot rod
of the apocalypse,
above the blackboard stood
the crucifix

Flanked on either slope
of this tiny Calvary
by color head shots of the Pope
and John F. Kennedy—

an arrangement meant to convey
not thievery being done
but God’s work every day
by the Two Johns

drawing us like dynamos
through them to Heaven
while we shook in our rows
as if on toboggans.

So what if we had known
what J.F.K. was doing
in Laos and Vietnam,
who he was screwing

(including the teen-age mistress
of the head of the Mafia,
delivered to the White House
like a midnight pizza)?

The greater world to me,
present and past,
was the space between Bunny’s knee
and my ass,

and I needed it collapsed
as soon as class began.
So what if I thought she had
the brains of a pecan,

mascara so black and thick
she must have smeared it on
with a popsicle stick,
and a nickname incredibly dumb?

Each day when she had helped me
annihilate an hour,
and we were going away,
I’d stare at her,

and she’d stare back and wink
I know you live with it:
one flashlight blink
at the bottom of a pit.

[from THE NEW YORKER, Aug. 21 & 28, 1995]