Author Michael Ryan. (Doreen Gildroy, Houghton…)
'Girls Middle School Orchestra'
By Michael Ryan
They're all dressed up in carmine
floor-length velvet gowns, their upswirled hair
festooned with matching ribbons:
their fresh hopes and our fond hopes for them
Infuse this sort-of-music as if happiness could actually be
Their hearts unscarred under quartz lights
beam through the darkness in which we sit
to show us why we endured at home
the squeaking and squawking and botched notes
that now in concert are almost beautiful,
almost rendering this heartrending music
composed for an archduke who loved it so much
he spent his fortune for the musicians
who could bring it brilliantly to life.
Director of the MFA program in poetry at UC Irvine, Michael Ryan has been praised for writing poetry full of wit and passion. His poetry often captures those smaller triumphs — and defeats — of daily life that can, if carefully considered, bring us to moments of beauty and transcendence. In "Girls Middle School Orchestra," from his new collection "This Morning: Poems" (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt: 77 pp., $20), the springboard for such a moment begins with the sound of young hands attempting to play old music.