2 poems | Connolly Ryan

Resentment is the New Champagne
“Every time a friend succeeds. I die a little.”—Gore Vidal

Drink up now, there’s plenty for everyone.
That dude smirking in his kayak,
eye-rolling prior to Eskimo-rolling: you’ve got it in for him,
you know it or like it or not.
Where does he get off?
Or that lady strutting into the woods,
preceded by her photogenic Labradoodle:
how dare he?

If you build it,
a grudge will come.
And for every sentiment explored,
a resentment is there to shadow it.

Take your mother’s expectations
that her fiftieth or sixtieth
birthday should be special.
Screw that: once you hit double digits,
all bets and birthday hats are off.
Or how about your father demanding
a modicum of respect and veneration?
Hell no, we won’t grow!

Like a backhanded sacrament,
resentment flows through our narratives
like rumors of divorce and abuse
through a family reunion.
Insinuations that command investigation
sprout wings and wheels and even widgets
so you can hear them before they move in.

What better way to cultivate a lasting bitterness
than to designate an acquaintance or friend
as someone who is better, brighter, less bloated
and blighted than you, and then to patiently
hanker for their consummate collapse,
preferably in alarming increments,
a kind of syncopated trajectory
of abject dejection, proving,
if nothing else, that all along,
your immense sense of self-disgust
was not strictly self-inflicting
and served a grander, sharper purpose after all.

4th of July, Winchester, Massachusetts
The dawn chorus is particularly bossy this morning.
insinuating its imperatives and confectionary invectives
on all humidiated sleepyheads including me. I Whip
on the fan full blast for some white noise bas relief
but the saga of galling whistles prevails, so I thrust on shorts,
socks, shirt and sneaks and hit the pretty streets of early morning,
leaving my lovely wife asleep and tangled in her mother’s linen.

The birds, it turns out, are rowdy for good reason:
What a morning! Sky clear as a killer’s eyes, air heaving
with mischief, the sidewalks more dapper and patriotic
than ever. Arriving at the town’s center, I pause between
Dunkin’ Donuts and Starbucks, deliberating whereat
to purchase my iced beverage. “America Runs On Dunkin”
is a rather dubious slogan with traces of threat (the implied or else)
and desperation (runs from what?), so I opt for Starbuck’s, capitalism’s gifted child.

Minutes later, I sit on an iron bench overlooking a picturesque canal.
Despite the dreary funk rising from the industrial scum, I am heartened
by a family of ducks out for a matutinal glide. Above them a willow tree
is busy with a sterling array of songbirds who no longer sound bossy
as they do brassy and eager to encourage humans and others to go
ahead and have a classy and memorable day. I really cannot imagine
a message more holistically altruistic, more patently patriotic
than a forthright cluster of songbirds showing and telling me how
best to proceed with my life.

Though a steel crane is perched like an assassin on the outskirts
of this aquatic hinterland, and though too a helicopter looms
and splutters above like a narcotics factory, the grackles, starlings
and mockingbirds keep piping their hearts out in the depths of the willow,
pouring on their tenacious chorus of incentives and inducements,
slapping us awake with psalms that are appreciably alive
and preaching what is arguably the most indispensable gospel of all:
that Independence without Interdependence is like a morning without song—
pointless, heartless, fruitless and lonelier than a bluebird
trapped inside a red and white hole.


Connolly Ryan was born in Greenwich Village, New York in 1967. He is currently a professor of literature at University of Massachusetts, Amherst where he was thrice a finalist for the Distinguished Teaching Award. His visceral and witty poetry has been published in various journals including Bateau, Ditch, Umbrella, Citron, Satire, Scythe, Slope, Meat For Tea, Pannax Index, Satire and Old Crow. He is also a multiple Pushcart nominee. He has two finished Manuscripts: Fort Polio and The Uncle Becky Chronicles.

Vagabond City Literary Journal

Founded in 2013, we are a literary journal dedicated to publishing outsider literature. We publish art, prose, reviews, and interviews from marginalized creators.