By: Michael O'Ryan
And there you are
just beneath the surface of the water
while I’m poolside saying
every moment divorced from grief is its own miracle
but the words bend through water
taking the form of what’s convenient
for the medium they navigate
like the jagged shape a body assumes
when falling from a balcony
or the American definition of terrorism
consider peace as a portrait of the
docile as a field breathing,
virgin in all its parts
to the invasion of gracelessness
consider violence as a visual spectacle-
the way light ricochets off skin in heat
almost reduces brutality to a kind of
I cannot seem to find the ecstasy in weightlessness
I need to feel the gravity-
to get crushed by the trauma
a thing inflicts upon the landscape
in order to call it by a name.
Michael's work appears or is forthcoming in Ghost City Review, Pioneertown Literary Journal, Peach Mag, Five:2:One Mag & elsewhere.
"I wrote this piece during a period in which I was feeling isolated and detached in my personal life and with society in general. I was “poolside”, while everyone else was participating in life together- the pool as a metaphor for connection. I had also been thinking about certain forms of violence that have become normalized through the American lens, specifically police brutality and mass violence through the use of firearms.
A significant portion of media outlets were (and still are) reluctant to label mass violence, ideologically-driven or not, carried out by white men as terrorism. Thusly, the refusal to employ this label is a method of bending it into a shape that’s more convenient for Americans to interact with; a term with racist, xenophobic connotation that alleviates the necessity for introspection.
The question of whether or not peace en-masse will ever be attainable was weighing on my mind. Looking at this question through a historical scope was obviously discouraging, and I wasn’t feeling hopeful for future prospects. Therefore, peace became a portrait of the body untouched, or, the absolute lack of personal interactivity between people, meaning ultimately I saw it as unattainable.
I had also been paying more attention to conventional news outlets, primetime, etc., than I had in years, and was disturbed to recall the manner in which stations are compelled to broadcast the most violent stories they can find. The intersection between capitalism (the need for high ratings) and dispersal of news is responsible for violence becoming hollow spectacle. This also lead me to consider to what degree we as an audience are complicit in the commodification of violence- if we are more to blame than the entities distributing it due to our unfailing consumption of such, or if we are blameless members of a natural system in which drama is inherently the most interesting form of story.
And yet, despite being disheartened by all of this, I too am unable to avert my eyes in the midst of a violent happening. The final stanza of this poem is me confronting myself about my place in all of this, on a larger scale and in my personal life. The way that, I too, am a consumer of tragedy. How, theoretically, I favor a life free of interpersonal strife, yet melodramatics seem to uniquely captivate me. I am still learning how to strive toward weightlessness."