Ryan Meyer




for getting nothing in return


Plumes of smoke pool together above the foundry,

as I chase the scent of regret, heavy-familiar

in my lungs, like a still-fresh fog hedging bets

against clearing. But let’s go back a bit.

Yesterday, the lights outside the foundry

were alive with blank passion, and it was late.

A stray cat sang something tragic

in the snow-dumped alley that made

me think optimistically about change.

The wind carried across the street

thick, white smoke built of snow,

and the word harrowing constructed

itself at the curb. So we said it aloud

like a spell and the smoke almost

completely cleared. Farther down

the road, we found a map of the city

stapled excessively to a large tree

that we swore held the secret meaning

of life—(leaves)—in its gnarled skin.

The map, too, held heavy secrets,

and when we arrived at the corner market

hours later, we tried to piece together

the missing hours, those melted away

so mysteriously in snowy forests.

But the shortcut worked, and it was time

to return. In a cloud of cigarette smoke,

we lost focus, stooped into futuristic cities

where the smoke was good and rare.

We reached the occasional apex coolly

and listened as the stray cats grew in number

and formed a vile chorus of heavy brooding

that we almost called symphonic.

And we went about our grand return honestly

and earnestly, but when we saw the foundry’s

smoke rising dumbly over snowy hills,

when we declared ourselves almost home,

I checked my pockets fervently

to find nothing of note, nothing permanent.


Ryan Meyer received an MFA in poetry from George Mason University and currently teaches at Northern Virginia Community College. His work appears in The Georgia Review and Off the Coast