Ryan Van Winkle: poems and film

One Day the Will


says to call back
if it fits

in           to 

my busy

There is a time 
we [will] talk

His hair white and gloss as paper.

The veins in his hands; slugs plump with ink.

The paper.
His sign.

[             ]

Ryan van Winkle on his first book Tomorrow we will live here

For more interviews, visit Ryan van Winkle's website!

Darkness on the Edge of Toast

Eight months went by and we were still eating toast.
Sugar, honey, jam, butter, margarine, cheddar, mustard, marmite
sometimes it felt like I invented toast, like toast
was my morning, evening and lunchtime mistress.

Months later, when I couldn’t see her any more,
I did not want to see toast, did not call her,
ask if I needed to pick up any bread
on the way home from work.

She once asked if we had toast in America.
“Darling,” I told her, “in America, we have everything -
even Bruce Springsteen has written about toast.”
And I quoted Springsteen lines about toast:

          “Bobby’s been working the Smithtown line,
           come home like a man in the evening,
           his wife’s out making her time;
           he’s eating toast tonight,
           eating toast tonight.”


          “Toast on Mary’s table,
          coffee in his cup,
          big house up past the stables
          Pa’s dreamin’ to move up.”


         “Hey, Hey, Sherrie Baby,
          you shake like toast.”

There is a reason no one has ever heard these songs, I explained
and we ate quiet then. Quiet as coughs in church,
quiet as her father’s pork chop judging me chew.
And had the Boss written about toast,
I could have put the album on, turned it way up
and not heard the crumbs scratching her dry, dry throat.

"Toast" first appeared in The American Poetry Review

Ryan Van Winkle performs 'Darkness on the edge of toast' from Literature Across Frontiers on Vimeo.

Ryan Van Winkle performs 'Darkness on the edge of toast' from Literature Across Frontiers on Vimeo.

                               The Apartment

                           Our new walls,
                           empty in the dusk,
                           hang like sheets
                           before first light.

There is a driven nail
by the stove that could
hold a pan if the walls
stay sturdy. And the

                                               old tenants left a mirror in the
                                               bedroom which looks back at
                                               staring walls with fine cracks
                                               like a museum’s basement vase.

                                   There are brown smears
                                    in the study ; chocolate, blood
                                    or shit, we don’t know what
                                    will happen to us here or what

          will settle on rented walls
          or if nothing will settle
          at all. We’ve just moved

                                                   and already we are bitter
                                                   cranberries in each other’s
                                                   mouths, biting about photos,
                                                   the place of the table, lay

of the bed. The apartment is a City
Hall we cannot fight. So we turn
like lawyers, against each other,
let the walls stare. There is a mirror

                                   to look into, a nail to hang onto.
                                   Our unopened boxes hide in corners
                                   and closets like beaten children.
                                   And we will take the blood

         off the walls and the dust
         from the shelves. We have one
         year together in a place that
         is empty at dusk and feels like fog

                                          inside and between us,
                                          and Christ, tomorrow
                                          we will live here.

"The Apartment" was first published by Salt in   Tomorrow, We Will Live Here

Ryan Van Winkle reads 'Apartment' from Literature Across Frontiers on Vimeo.

Ryan Van Winkle reads 'Apartment' from Literature Across Frontiers on Vimeo.


Our good sex was building
a Babel. We were fucking
our way up the tower
and God saw us coming.
And so there came
months we could not
fuck. We remembered
the tower as it was written:
The people God slung
all over the Earth, speaking
incoherent to each other
as we do when you moan
the dishes, say I don’t listen.
And when I say you cut
the bread crooked or
over-salt the pasta you hear
my words as Greek and I know
our sex was looked at
and the Lord said: “Look,
they are one people
and they have all one
language; and this is only
the beginning of what
they may do.” And so
you come to me at night,
and some nights I come
before you: humble flesh,
with a different tongue.

"Babel" was first published by Salt in   Tomorrow, We Will Live Here

I Do Not Want Rain for Rain

I have known Summers where rain would come cool as the underside of a pillow. Worms would leave dusty chambers and crawl pavement

in a way
we never understood.
We'd pop them on our bikes and after
flick sun dried skins against
each other.

So, I do not
want rain for rain
– no longer brings the secret
squeak of our shed,
dusty smells


 of tomatoes
before they're washed.
Some afternoons the sand would be rain
and wouldn't burn as we placed
our prints,

saw them shrink.
Or dad would find a game to quiet us
as the smell of steam seeped into our house.
It was how the trains might have smelled
before oil and electricity,


the smell of a kettle
left boiling, bitter and almost clean.
Indoors was all cardboard and closets
and the sun was not missed
like a brother


who calls to say, “Rain,
I forgive you for holding me 
under grey water.” I was not always old
and stupid and mean. I was born
innocent. But the sun


made me brutal.
I enjoyed metal handles turned to stove-tops.
When a seat belt burnt my brother on his little hip
he cried so badly we were late for my store,
I punched him


where he was pink
and he fell on the black, sun-burned tar,
cried till he was told to quit, given an ice-cream
that dripped down his liberty arm.
And now the rain comes daily


like newspapers.
Sunday thick. Not like

a child we welcome home,
nor someone dead
whom I welcome.
In good dreams


my grandfather takes
my hand, says I am forgiven
for getting to his hospital late,
for the way I speak


to my mother,
for living while he is dead.
And I say thank you and he says to enjoy the rain
while I can and because he says it, I try, like
when I was a child,

before rain was just rain
or even god-damned rain and Grandpa was at
the ice cream bells, calling, “Quick, come quick
before it melts.” Before the grey cloud hanging
in the west drifts closer and
remembers to rain.


'I like to use the languages of the various arts – literature, music, theatre...I think that is the spirit of the modern global era.'- poet Ivan Hristov spoke to SJ Fowler of 3AM magazine about the evolution of the contemporary Bulgarian poetry scene.


Cosmin Borza discusses the work of Romania's 'Generation 2000' poets, including Radu Vancu and Claudiu Komartin in an essay at Asymptote.


At the Sofia Poetics festival, which was organised by Word Express participant Ivan Hristov, Scottish based poet Ryan Van Winkle caught up with fellow festival guests SJ Fowler and Tomasz Rózycki. To hear Fowler and Rózycki discussing their work and reading some of their poetry, listen to the Scottish Poetry Library podcast here.