Tuesday, July 17, 2018


5 Poems by Kylan Rice


There is almost an impression of weightlessness, as if, maybe
the slope of the pass above the tunnel never bore it any mind.
But this is just a memory, snow to my thigh at the entrance.
My brother and I walk its mile. Midway through, where
it would be most costly to find the line is open still, bursting
the torsos of ice pendant at both mouths, there is a moment
I forget if I am walking out or in, leaving or returning,
having woken to discover a desire I so long thought I had
no longer there. What was it for? What was shipped and what
received through this structure made of beams, or what must
be, above me in the dark? Having woken, years later, and miles

away, in my brother’s house, living there between jobs while
he travels through the summer with his wife. What is it I hoped
to find? That midpoint down the line, where to turn back is
to risk as much? A threshold of no difference that I keep
crossing, as if to leave. Or was it, this time, maybe, to return,
if not for this feeling and this mile, as if nothing had happened?
Where there wasn’t before, now there is only what seems like
lightness. With as little light at both ends, the risk only seems
to disappear. It is still there, but I have given myself up to it.


Leaving what was left
of the wedding, we wandered
toward the state capitol, one wing scaffolded and swollen with plastic.
Spoke little. Took photos with our phones instead.  
Of mills and empty lots. A copy
of the liberty bell. Nothing is so easy
to make as an image. This one of you beside a fence
made of three kinds of wire. Or the scrap yard shed
with scripture painted yellow on its corrugated siding.
It is harder, now, to remember their vows, folded
into paper squares
in the pockets of their jeans. For this,
I blame the land, beaten flat. The fear the horizon
inspires, that there may be nothing
for me here, or, worse, the reverse, it’s me
who can’t be loved. The corresponding feeling
I have to make the most of it, there is only this small window
before we drive back south through tin ripples
of hills in a spring storm, and those gaps in the rain, crossing the shadow
of an overpass, will feel like losing
track for second, rein of consciousness
slipping from my grip into sleep, only
to yank myself back up again, stare from the window
for something to see. That is how it will feel. Freight train.
Frack site. Goose Creek. Snow fence.


A red horse and rider
leaped from this bluestone outcrop, Faith
Rock, into the river from a height of fifty feet
over two hundred years ago. Heading upstream
along the bank, I look back
to see you sitting with your sister on the concrete spillway
of the ruined dam. Waders in the day’s
shallows. What she feels
less heartbreak,
than a sense of insecurity, river ice
forming in planchettes around the pylons of the footbridge.
The story is complex:
the mare’s owner an agent of guerrilla war,
her rider from Faith Rock into the Deep River a salt merchant
who stole the horse while fleeing capture.
Bay Doe so desired
the owner came from hiding twice for her,
captor risking capture,
once holding hostage the merchant’s wife. 
There are two sisters in the sunlight behind me,
one of whom is certain
she will never be the same. In their periphery,
I try to memorize the vector
of a stolen horse. I try to break into a still-standing
mill building. See, through its broken windows,
the spooled racks
of some abandoned spinner frames. I can know
what happened here. It is only later
I learn what you spoke about together
without me. What it would feel like to walk as far as possible
across the river on this wall. What would happen if
one of us fell in. The growing sense
that anything could happen. The rubble in the shallows
warm and speckled to the touch. Bullets
sunk into the silt,
if not by now dissolved,
where he fired pistols in bewildered pursuit.


     after Rilke’s first Sonnet to Orpheus

Once settled—where
your loveseat goes, where the box-springs, blue binders
filled with pedigrees, handed down in the event I need to know
my blood line’s length—our own
subsequent settling: sunkenness
in sunlit silt. Days
of soft pushing aside. Only then you start to see

the tilt. How October
turns the north woods pink. Soon all light
feels like it has its end built in, landing
irrevocably here, along the curvature
of jaw, of path and stoop. It’s not what’s there
but how you know it’s there that scares you: lengths and depths
that shallow every morning
while you dry-heave on the tiles in the shower.
That I am here, I know, makes it as much
better as worse: as good
as if I wasn’t at all. As if, when you look up, toward the doorframe,
what you’re seeing is less me than what falls
across me, throwing behind me in the hall
the breach that I am. The stopped-short angling-out
of the light that I pose. The extent
I am here. The limit, or edge
of the room, of the will. But to what extent
I am, I’m here to say I know it feels like nothing
will ever be the same. This the most I can do: listen, repeat,
until it sounds like song, I know,
I’m here, while holding you, temple to temple, lintel of trembling
timber, this echo that quiet, that temple
in your inner ear.


Deep freeze, mid-spring. No one plans
for its receding. Making do, neighbors haul blue
tarps across their herbs and greens, hope
they’ve done enough. I place a basin of water on the porch, as if
for an animal. In the morning,
I lift the pure slant I’ve made from the rim and let it redden
my hands. Through it, day sluices forward and back,
a dream held up to melt. The light is given
a new pane to fall through. I know there could be nothing
easier than to let this also fall
and break, but through what window then
could a trapped bird fly? It beats its fever
in every corner of the ceiling. All my doors thrown open
and still it thinks it can’t escape. I begin to feel it, too,
the fear that this might be
what’s left of the world,
the feeling of my palm as it throbs
against a vanishing surface. Knowing there is no way
I will not lose my grip on this. This interval
a mansion-full of russet-breasted birds might burst through,
a port in air, the air now deafening
with song, promising tomorrow
the freeze will break and be forgotten, as good as if
it never happened, and I will find
my basin empty, drunk by something while I slept
my human sleep.


Kylan Rice has an MFA from Colorado State University, and he is working on his PhD at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. His book reviews have been published by Colorado Review, West Branch, Carolina Quarterly and the Emily Dickinson Society Bulletin. Some of his poems can be found at Kenyon Review, The Seattle Review, and elsewhere.