Ryan Van Winkle: poems and film
One Day the Will
says to call back
if it fits
There is a time
we [will] talk
His hair white and gloss as paper.
The veins in his hands; slugs plump with ink.
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
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
tenants left a mirror in the
bedroom which looks back at
staring walls with fine cracks
like a museum’s basement vase.
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
or if nothing will settle
at all. We’ve just moved
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
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
from the shelves. We have one
year together in a place that
is empty at dusk and feels like fog
and between us,
and Christ, tomorrow
we will live here.
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
So, I do not
want rain for rain
– no longer brings the secret
squeak of our shed,
before they're washed.
Some afternoons the sand would be rain
and wouldn't burn as we placed
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
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.