Michael O’Ryan


As a boy my father got locked out of his family’s farmhouse
during a blizzard in one of the harshest winters on record. 

His skin would have greyed along with the gunmetal sky,
veins freezing dendritically if not for a pickax to the lock. 

What explains our propensity to build spaces we often end up
outside of- alien to? Even worse, destroying upon completion. 

For example, recall that morning you traced my clavicle with your
mouth, called me beautiful boy

and my first reaction: to raze the crops, burn down
the house we had built with a fluency in one-another for which 

no words existed. I can’t help but imagine our relation to God is 
not unlike that of a painting which did not turn out the way the artist 

envisioned. To miscreate on such a level will require
an epochal display of atonement- a litany of first-kisses 

at the county fair, tantrums of peach trees, solace for 
every black cat whose mystique was taken for quiet death.  

To admit fault is to shed self, be it flesh or something less 
tangible. The theory of the soul is helpful in providing comfort  

for the fact that corporeality is like an origami finger trap: 
the harder you try to pull yourself out of the body, the bolder  

the limits of the vessel you’re seeking to escape become. With 
creation comes ownership- or at least the argument surrounding it.  

Is possession the result of having given birth to, or simply wielding 
the requisite force necessary to hold a thing until a greater strength  

enters the ring? I’ve endured so many daybreaks rife with wet-brained 
petrichor that felt ironically baptismal. You can tell so much about a  

person by what form they believe their savior will return in. For some 
it’s the appearance of a stray on the doorstep, others the names of   

lovers spoken into January air. As for me, I’ve never viewed salvation 
as a likelihood, much less an option. However, I have always held a certain  

weakness for the wild colt learning to turn its stumble to a gallop, the 
decaying glow at the height of an evening’s thinning, the subtle wavering  

of a voice bathed in forlorn yearning. Once on a Greyhound bus a man 
showed me an old photograph of himself and told me the white blotch in  

the top corner was his angel-father, a sordid liturgy in which I learned I will
forfeit reign over which strange places people will later see me in upon my 

exiting the room.

Michael O’Ryan is serving as a poetry editor for the University of Oregon’s literary magazine, Unbound Journal, for the ’18-’19 academic year. His recent work appears or is forthcoming in pioneertown.,Peach MagFive:2:One MagazineAlien Mouth& elsewhere. His poetry was included on Ampersand Literary’s Summer 2016 “Best of the Season” list. Find him on 
Twitter @surfing_montana.