- It shows up one summer in a greatcoat,
- storms through the house confiscating,
- says it must be paid and quickly,
- says it must take everything.
- Your children stare into their cornflakes,
- your wife whispers only once to stop it,
- because she loves you and she sees it
- darken the room suddenly like a stain.
- What did you do to deserve it,
- ruining breakfast on a balmy day?
- Kiss your loved ones. Night is coming.
- There was no life without it anyway.
Michael Ryan is director of the MFA program in poetry at the University of California, Irvine. He’s the author of five books of poems, an autobiography, a memoir, and a collection of essays about poetry and writing. Ryan has been a finalist for the National Book Award and winner of the Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize and Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award, among many other distinctions for his work. This Morning, his new book of poems, has just been published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. “The Past” is from New and Selected Poems, by Michael Ryan. Copyright © 2004 by Michael Ryan. Reprinted by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved. The author’s photo is by Chi-lin Sun.