to the small poem and the quiet voice within

kay ryan | from: the niagara river


The Best of It

However carved up
or pared down we get,
we keep on making
the best of it as though
it doesn’t matter that
our acre’s down to
a square foot. As
though our garden
could be one bean
and we’d rejoice if
it flourishes, as
though one bean
could nourish us.

Chinese Food Chart

Every part of us
alerts another part.
Press a spot in
the tender arch and
feel the scalp
twitch. We are no
match for ourselves
but our own release.
Each touch
uncatches some
remote lock. Look,
boats of mercy
embark from
our heart at the
oddest knock.


The bird
walks down
the beach along
the glazed edge
the last wave
reached. His
each step makes
a perfect stamp—
smallish, but as
sharp as an
emperor’s chop.
Stride, stride,
goes the emperor
down his wide
mirrored promenade
the sea bows
to repolish.

[from: THE NIAGARA RIVER, Grove Press, 2005]


  1. Don

    Norb, ah, finally I connect with Kay Ryan, after reading her helter-skelter,
    here and there, upon her laureate nomination. It took your fine eye and
    tender soul to make her resonate for me.


  2. Barbara Fitz Vroman

    …boats of mercy embark from our heart from the oddest knock…is enough to occupy the mind for half a day there is so much meaning embedded in that one line.

  3. Phil Hansotia

    Kay Ryan’s poem has an understated elegance. She opens with the timeless fatgue of aging–‘when an acre dwindles down to a square foot’.How can you improve on that! The she arouses with a dancers’ joy in the connectedness of limbs and takes sollace in knowing that whatever our footprint at the edge of the water–it is equally shortlived. So much punch in a few lines. Thanks, Phil.

  4. Jean Casey

    I was born in Buffalo, spent my younger years in the 30’s often visiting the Falls with my parents carrying hampers of lunch before the existence of the imposing many-windowed structure with an inside look at the Main falls and a view of Horseshoe down the way. In those days, you could walk out to the edge,watch cows standing placidly cooling their hooves in the river not far back from the verge, and if you were very brave, you could don a raincoat, pay a fee and walk down a long slippery wooden stairway to walk in back of the main falls where it fell away from the rocky precipice. Even then, the Maid of the Mists boats were taking folks near the whirlpools at the foot of Horseshoe. I now enjoy living on the other edge of the Escarpment. Your magnificent picture of the edge brought back all these memories….

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