Three Poems

by Ryan Vine

Happy Birthday, Ward

There’s a Ward and he’s sitting
in the park on a bench

watching birds flit from tree
to tree, wishing he could pick

one from flight, split its wings
between his teeth.

How did Ward happen?
Oh, Ward’s mom

was always around.
His father wasn’t far, either,

just at the bar, wondering how many
he’d had, how much more

he could. It wasn’t that bad,
really: Ward should wait for him;

it wasn’t like he wasn’t coming back.
He would, eventually. Then, he’d

do something this poem isn’t about.
What it’s about is this: Ward,

it’s nobody’s fault but yours.

Custodian Ward

This job is impossible
to get fired from. Boss says,
Try me. I don’t. I like it here
in the belly of the building;
I know which pipe to bang
on the boiler to make your
radiator rattle. My desktop
Mr. Coffee’s hissing
and warm, and for hours
we can sit down here, quiet
as coal. Sure, the barred window
sometimes throws its shadows,
but then I leave to scatter
and push handfuls of red
synthetic sawdust for hallways
and hallways. My broom
is wide and always dry,
and when I slide it around
corners—quietly, so quietly—
I can make the children scream.

Bad Idea Ward

Ward’s sold there’s treasure
buried beneath his house; for hours
he scours the hardwood floor,
marking its dumb weight

as he passes. Oh, honey. Please,
his shell-shocked wife whines. We’ve
got the place just how we want it.
But always Ward’s the old fool, holed

up in his own head again. This rage:
rage: how can he contain it? Keep
occupied. Keep occupied. He drives
his fists through the kitchen floor, pries

boards up when his wife’s away. He
strips to scratch the cold concrete
with his callused skin. So when
she’s back from the store,

with their pop and chips, he’s hunched,
naked and chest-deep in a hole
in their house. He’s holding something.
She says, What is that?

An unexploded ordnance, rusty brown.
Ward’s so proud of what he’s found.
He can’t help himself. He lifts it
to his face and shakes it.

Ryan Vine is a 2015 recipient of an Artist Initiative grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in many publications, including The American Poetry Review, Ploughshares, The Writer’s Almanac, The Minneapolis Star Tribune and elsewhere. His honors include a Weldon Kees Award for his chapbook, Distant Engines (Backwaters Press, 2006), The Greensboro Review‘s Robert Watson Poetry Prize, a McKnight/ARAC Career Development Grant and he has been a finalist or nominee for numerous others: the Pushcart Prize, the Black Warrior Review Poetry Prize, the J. Erskine Poetry Prize from Smartish Pace and the May Swenson Poetry Award for a book-length manuscript from Utah State University Press.

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One comment on “Three Poems

  1. […] If you like this poem, you should go read a few other of Ryan’s Ward poems up at: American Poetry Review (PDF via Proquest), The Cortland Review, and Ovenbird. […]

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