Rules 6, 19, and 20

Rule 6

asleep you’re an olive
falling through a glass of beer

effervescent and projecting
purer selves past whatever

surface tries to hold you in
awake you’re a cork

stiff and trying to stop
your sloshy thoughts

like you could forget
how it feels to feel

a rising when you fall
the knocking masts

like metronomes
finally quiet

as they are
tall then


at all


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Rule 19

hey man I hear
seven cities sprawl

to the north full
of treasure and gold

if we leave right now
we’d leave beneath the bright lights

of constellations
celebrity and inevitability

the trail is long but
we could be there

and back in thirteen days
and all we’d need for our success

are new names
I’ll call you man who learns lessons

slowly or
he who listens to dogs

some days we’ll walk
some days we’ll run

on the days when we do neither
you can call me dripping star

or fat fish medicine
and from our fires we build

towers of smoke
we piss in streams we pass laughing

at the bug-eyed bubbles
drifting away looking back

the weak
they feel a growing distance

between themselves and what they love
but you don’t worry friend

because I’m here
even though most people we meet

will see only one of us
when we get there

and only you
when we get back


# # #


Rule 20

so you want to have sex
with a stripper

don’t worry
it’s understandable

I’m not here to judge

after the beer festival
you and your friends

spun away from each other
like children flying

from a carousel
who knows where they went

you landed in Connecticut
beneath the lap of a woman

whose dark skin you’d only
seen close up in movies

you pinched it and flicked
her pussy and bit

her forearm hair and neck
while she watched for the bouncer

and ordered your black russians
when you ran dry

you had your credit card
so sat with her for hours

always another dancer on her back

behind you both sliding across
the dick-shaped stage flinging

her filaments filaments filaments
like her head was in a vice

and the million mirrored globe
above you whirled and flashed

and sullied your shadows
with spots of light

lighting intermittently
single bottles in the pyramid of bottles

behind the bar
like a game show backdrop

the pervert must never avert
his eyes Kurusawa said

or something wise like that
so when your girl whispered wait

outside by the back door
you found a small grated window

and watched the DJ booth
and beer coolers blink off

the strippers drink coffee
at the bar and smoke

while bouncers snapped towels
at their butts and flipped chairs

to table tops around them
you watched them all migrate

toward a door behind the bar
and one after another disappear

until she and her girlfriend came back
and she grabbed the soda gun

and nodded toward you
in the window and the other girl looked

and laughed and your girl lifted an empty glass
from the rail aimed the soda gun

and shot
the sun was coming up now

in the barred window
beside your face

Front page image by

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Ryan Vine

About the Author

Ryan Vine's poems and essays have appeared in The American Poetry Review, Ploughshares, The Writer’s Almanac, and The Minneapolis Star Tribune, among many other places. He’s the Rose Warner Assistant Professor of English at the College of St. Scholastica. Honors include a Weldon Kees Award from Backwaters Press, the Robert Watson Poetry Prize from Greensboro Review, a Career Development Grant from the Arrowhead Regional Arts Council, and finalist nods for the Black Warrior Review Poetry Prize, and the May Swenson Poetry Award from Utah State University Press.
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