Spring 2016, Volume 20

Poetry by Ryo Yamaguchi

Relief Overture

How evenly the voice falls apart
in the heft of this manifold,

the city stirred,
the full weight of a shoe

and spring here in its
towering headache.

I watch the bird
cross my reflection again.

This is a funny mouth these days,
all ginger, held high

in the room, its rigging careful,
never touching

the paragraph. I have,
I’ve been told,

no will,
but I cherish my attenuation.
The construction site is a resonant
fifth, light breaking

across a gymnastic distance
like a story

lacerated so it may drain
and finally be thought

all the way through.

Made Up

I was moving forward with it all, and it was chief,
days of crystalline skies breaking over my fastening,
days of blood sugar and memoranda, snap meters
corded through the stuffings of love and judgment.
The only way to do it, to make it great, the night
loosened into a tapering point, is to be an enormity,
everything in the room touching your body. Like you
I am at the most fundamental level but one aerobic equation,
if we can be followed backward, the way a simile can,
or a totem, but what has any beginning ever done for me;
hardly, you know—beauty is whatever you are crushing
between your teeth right now. After you left
I cut myself somewhere on my hand, but it kept moving,
I could never find it, until one day it felt like my entire body
was one huge abrasion, a pink smear in the air, every truth
falling inert at my feet.


Something else that he said, uncertain; later I shined a light
on the engine, shadows darting across my neck.

I want to be returned to the open where nothing I made can
prefigure me.

There is the idea of hurt; there is the idea of wanting something else,
what he said that animated in the apartment, with the smell of paint

and the alkaline heat buried in our skin. A country no one
has lived in. Let it be ceremonious. Let the instrument

jabber. Stiffening up in the timid light, getting in and
swimming, because that is just the way of it, when you walk

down to the rocks
what else are you going to do with your body? I realized

how smart I was, how it wouldn’t work like that now.
I take apart the snowfall the better to hear the nouns, and

in the next season I’ll have a plan—I’ll hold the yard up
with my chin and whisper to its circumference.



BIO: Ryo Yamaguchi is the author of The Refusal of Suitors, published by Noemi Press (2015). His poetry has appeared in journals such as The Iowa Review, Tin House and The Journal. He also regularly reviews books for outlets such as NewPages and Michigan Quarterly Review. He lives in Chicago and works at the University of Chicago Press. You can visit him at plotsandoaths.com.