The mesmerizing reversal of icy lunacy

from sitting in the long-absent sunshine

is exactly what his fetus signed up for

and intuited long ago in the bog

of his mother’s biospheric love.


The scent of soil; the touch of heat;

the spectacle of black birds mirrored

in the glinting pond are all great and gentle

comforts to a boy who has seen sorrow up close

and swallowed his share of shared pain.


Having fled the faded nest of domestic bliss,

so to speak, he compares one loneliness

to another and studies his lifelong

accumulation of ironies and regrets

like a vulture circling a fool.


There is no one around

but elements and animals

to witness just how intricately sunken,

how inured to self-injury he’s become,

and this too comforts him somehow.


Musing over the celebratory yet sobering

focus of a single merganser drake busily

bobbing for eels below the ripples, he inquires:

what is bravery, if not the assassin of fear?

And what is self-pity, but the absence of astonishment?


And what is he, he concludes, but a fetus

turned boy turned man turned fetus again,

floating in an emptiness he no longer notices,

marveling at the silver minnows flashing in the shallows,

as sunlight presses through him like tigers through a glade.


Connolly Ryan is a poet and senior lecturer at UMass Amherst Honors College. You can contact him at