Two poems by Kay Ryan, in which she celebrates the extravagant, the artificial, and the marginal. I heard Ryan speak at City Arts & Lectures about a year ago; she read and discussed these poems among others, and you can read my write-up here and you can buy her book here. I had dilly-dallied about buying a ticket to her talk, and then she won the Pulitzer Prize and I was kicking myself because I was going to look like the sort of person who only bought a ticket because she had won a prize, and though I realized this was foolish because no one cared whether or why I bought a ticket, still . . . I felt like one of those people. I bought a ticket anyway. In retrospect I'm kind of surprised there were any available; when I tried to buy tickets to a couple of City Arts & Lectures events this year (Mary Oliver and Joan Didion), they were sold out before they went on sale to the public. No offense to Oliver and Didion, but I find it difficult to believe they could be as delightful as Ryan was.
Wherever the flamingo goes,
she brings a city’s worth
of furbelows. She seems
unnatural by nature –
too vivid and peculiar
a structure to be pretty,
and flexible to the point
of oddity. Perched on
those legs, anything she does
seems like an act. Descending
on her egg or draping her head
along her back, she’s
too exact and sinuous
to convince an audience
she’s serious. The natural elect,
they think, would be less pink,
less able to relax their necks,
less flamboyant in general.
They privately expect that it’s some
poorly jointed bland grey animal
with mitts for hands
whom God protects.
The Mock Ruin
. . . built as the backdrop of the stage of the ancient Roman theatre in Sabratha, Libya, Africa, is the most perfectly preserved part of the entire structure.
– Ripley’s Believe It or Not!
Fakes and mock-ups, stage backdrops
quickly nicked, weathered, and
stuck together for illusion’s sake
(getting some parts backwards)
give more, maybe; sway slightly;
take later buffets better generally
than their brittle sources whose
stones were set down in regular courses
and mortared. Maybe there is something
to falseness that doesn’t get reported.
– Kay Ryan