« Halie Theoharides | Contents | Benjamin Winkler »

Ryan Collins

Six Poems from A New American Field Guide & Song Book



Listen to Ryan read these poems here.




[You sweet talk too much, shop talk & sales]



You sweet talk too much, shop talk & sales

Talk & watercooler too much. You’re all

Wet & shit, but dying of thirst, dying to be

Thirsting for something stronger than skim

Milk, knocking back knuckles full of rum


Samples & snake bites & hollowpoint bullets

Filled w/ sand. Don’t believe the good news,

New American. Listen to the black hole

Forming at the center of the galaxy of your

Throat. The new speak is guitar-hollow,

Shallow as stars. The new is anything but,

A film over. You fuck word & confiscate

The conversation, mince pleasantries. One’s

Pleasure is another’s high explosive, spare

Change, eavesdropping. Pawn your watches.




[You tribute too much when you should move]



You tribute too much when you should move

Forward, past, on. You’re too much tuned out,

Turned off, dropped. The dollarstore wardrobe

Mirror you switched price tags on to score at

Even cheaper warps & shows you nothing of


Yourself, or the fit of your favorite jeans, ratty

& faded, or how you appear to anyone else. 

Better to be disappeared than to cultivate

A look. Better to be seen as you come than as

You are, better to verb than to adjective. 

You are your own worst critic, New American—

Too harsh to trust your gut & too lone a wolf

To have anyone you trust enough to be asked for

Their honest opinion. You can at least account

For your own taste, can at least take responsibility. 



[How can you tell if kittens laugh when they smurgle]



How can you tell if kittens laugh when they smurgle

Or moths sing w/ their wing-beats? When you lose

Playing chicken, you are what’s for dinner. Special,

But not that special. Later than the streetlights can

See, boots slap into the rain like hatchets into a tree


Of water. The sound you hear between footsteps

Is not water, not the trees or a forest or lightning or

What the thunder said. The sound you hear then

Is the nothing, is a howling silence that draws quiet

Like a shadow over your neighborhood, makes

The needle jump across the record, cutting across

Grooves & tracks. Listen close, New American:

Nothing is more free & necessary to your survival.

Listen to what the wind cries, listen how well you

Can carry a tune, even when you can’t hear yourself.



[“You can play a shoestring if you’re sincere”]


“You can play a shoestring if you’re sincere”

But to whom are you playing? What counts

As sincerity? Nothing new, or at least that’s

What they would have us believe, whoever

They are. They are everywhere & somehow


Walking tall & free, despite the gut feeling of

Those who know better, who more than once

Have taken a sincere beating, their damage

Permanent, leaving them greatly diminished

At best. Their music, collected on the hottest

Night of summer, is the only positive charge

Electrifying us, New American. The smallest

Mindless talk has more than its share of days,

More of a place at the table than any person

Has any right. Not even cowards have to run.



[You never get to be the hero you thought]


You never get to be the hero you thought

You might be when you need to be a hero

To yourself, because no one else is coming

To the rescue & though it’s murder-suicide

To admit it, you know it’s true. What good


Is the truth doing you then? Now? Ever? 

What good can it be to be possessed w/ or

Blessed by? Stop breathing, New Amer-

Ican. You’re as broken as a Lincoln Log

Cabin in the basement where you wrestled

The dog & no one believed you would win.

Who is going to believe you now or in

Whatever afterlife awaits you on whatever

The other side of the after looks like? Hold

Serve as long you can. When you can’t, let go.




[You cannot be spared what you want to be]



You cannot be spared what you want to be

Spared. There’s a round in the chamber,

A ticking, nearby & invisible. Your scout-

Master told you: Think fast, act fast. So you

Take the red pill, the blue pill, the white line.


You blow away like blow, like a snowflake,

Unique in your shapes & sure to live longer

Than a mosquito, a gold fish, a grizzly bear,

A Galapagos tortoise. Being mostly made

Of water, like the earth, your physical state

Constantly alternates between ocean/ice/

Vapor, so your New American molecules

Cannot be destroyed, even if you want them

To be. Even if you beg the lord to destroy

Them, you hold together, more than nothing. 



« Halie Theoharides | Contents | Benjamin Winkler »