Aidan Ryan

Modern Love Song to the Summer of '16


You and me, Trayvon, just traded the Big Eyes
( you know the Big Eyes )
Over that big-racked tatted hija de Busti
Ave. sitting indifferently listening to us
Not talking about her
And right now Boniqua while Trayvon trades innuendoes
With his buddy Bucket Hat
You and me we’re both jamming to Lemonade
On iPod Classics and looking glassy at each other when
Our eyes meet in the window in the dark of the tunnel
But I am afraid of Trayvon and Bucket Hat
And they’re afraid of me
And you’re afraid of all of us
But I can hear it ( Lemonade ) from your earbuds when
I pull mine out And stand at my stop and leave
You for an escalator and hot sun and a Love Drought

And we’re all very, very afraid
Of traffic stops and holiday
Bombings, and most of all each other
Everybody’s turned up
But nobody’s dancing


Every open eye says ‘O’ for ‘Other’
Until it closes
And mouthless millions on subway cars shoot by blinking,
Blinking short and long
But I don’t know Morse Code
And I’m too worried about this wide-eyed kid
Jacking my iPod Classic
And jump when ‘Jesus Saves’ says
You have to look down the tunnel
To see the head lights coming .

And we’re all very afraid
Ofheadlights coming
As we walk the S curves home, drunk from Cole’s
Past fallen street lamps and memorials outside the cemetery fence
Most nights we drink Car Bombs until we wake
To headlines about car bombs
And even if we don’t drink there will still be headlines
Which is why most nights we drink.

And everybody’s turned up tone deaf and overserved
And nobody’s dancing ‘cause the jukebox’s broken but I know
Every single one of us in every bar, bus, cop cruiser and cubicle
Turns up for Modern Love

I wake up and open Google Maps and plot a course
Orlando Dallas and Nice
Cleveland toPhiladelphia
Aleppo to the 405 Freeway
And ask how to avoid tolls
And demonstrations
And state police radars
And ex-girlfriends
And future ex-girlfriends
And an early death
And conclude only that we are all very afraid.


Beyoncé has given a recipe for Lemonade
To all Tidal subscribers
Plus me who got a .rar file of the album from
An ex-girlfriend
It sounds like every other recipe for lemonade
And Weber’s Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism
Tells us that every American if given lemons wd. combine with
Water, sugar,
Sell for profit
& reinvest in more lemons
I see this illustrated in small town Lancaster, NY
Where six cousins set up a stand on the parade route, sell
Drinks to firemen’s wives, make
$100 on the Fourth of July in
“The Land of Unexcelled Opportunity”
But life gives nobody lemons
Or so it seems this thirsty summer of ‘16, Life:
Holds you at knifepoint in your Fargo apartment and rapes you repeatedly
Asks for proof of residence
Or else explains in detail the function of the electoral college
(In 48 of the states)

Kicks the shit out of your cousin and takes his iPod Classic
Legless and crawling up Bleecker St. hand
Over hand scraping stubble off the pavement but Life’s stiff
Lower lip keeps his cigarette lit, pointed up like a cherry-red flag
And when you hop the fence of the graveyard
Coming home drunk from Cole’s and wander
feeling up obelisks and urns sometimes
Life bumps into you and looks
with a face lit by moonlight and cell phone and says
“There’s and Alakazam by the crematorium,
you can catch it”

That’s Life. That’s what all the people
Don’t say.


And it reminds me of the time we sat hunched like refugees
On the subway
Me and Trayvon eyeing up a ‘Rican girl
When the real refugees six seats down started cracking
Up over somebody’s Vine
And she ( mother, daughter? ) turned and caught my eyes in her eyes and
Slowly, held
The phone out to me.
I took
And laughed

And left and met friends at the bar and drank Car Bombs and walked home drunk
And woke sweaty to headlines of the next abomination of summer ‘16
And made a smoothie, thinking :

We’re still very, very afraid
And empathy won’t be enough
Protests and hugs, Chance
The Rapper, Bernie Sanders, Pokèmon Go and Bowie
Won’t be enough to save us, the cure-alls
Empathy, awareness, compassion
Spread through op-eds just like blood milk or oil
We clean up and move on.

There’s still gonna be an Omar Mateen or Michah Johnson
Thinking he’s like Bateman or Bickle
Mohammed’s messenger or Michael’s flaming sword
And when I scroll up to the next news flash
While shitting on Mondays all empathy does is
Whisper in my ear
I get it.”
Empathy won’t work work unless it becomes
Not a new religion
But a monasticism
A new Rule of St. Benedict
Enforced by pathocracy
And who’s gonna pay for that?


wouldn’t it be nice?
I don’t know.

The fact is we are in the kind of world where we belong
Or in the house where we belong
Poured concrete fears
For foundation
Raised a wooden skeleton of hang-ups
Hung slat blinds of Venetian suspicion
Bought Verizon FiOS to connect to the world
Outside, though we suspect there isn’t one.
We’re all in here.
And the summer of ‘16
Killed the AC
And on the longest hottest dog-day of the soul
I don’t have reason to hope
In Head or Heart
(My own or anybody else’s)
But I’m betting it all
On one of the Human Housemates dusting off some anachronism like
The Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds LP
And spinning it
So we can all sing and
Dance, we and Trayvon and Boniqua the ‘Rican
And Prince and the Davids (Bowie and Brown)
And Philando and Michael R. Pence
Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi
Paul Ryan and the Notorious HRC
And a man I know named Starchild
And all the children of “The Land

Of Unexcelled Opportunity” as
Car bombs go off in the sky
Raining Bailey’s and body parts
And we dance to the vinyl scratch
Through the cooling mist
Of our tears
Tasting Lemonade
wouldn’t it be nice?

Aidan Ryan resides in Buffalo, NY, where he is an adjunct professor of English at Canisius College and co-editor of Foundlings poetry magazine. His poetry, fiction and nonfiction have appeared in The Buffalo News, Slipstream, Traffic East, CNN and The Skinny, where he is a regular music critic. Find his work at