July 2019

The Dead Summer’s Soul

          for Robert

by J. Delayne Ryms


A scent comes with him, his hair. Hardly a blond scent.

High Desert, dry sage. Rio Grande cottonwood and saltgrass

meadow. More than the sweet leaning-into

of a golden retriever, days full of dun leaf-rustlings

and pale, slanting sun.


The mud-sludging ditch where drowned things live,

swift acequia for contradiction, caves

of spiders and bats.

The river itself: placid bogs of quicksand

that sap our fantasies.

But the scent coming with him is

clean as a bosque sunflower,


stalk thrusting up in the wrong season.

Cantankerous redwings and Rio crows collect

in arguments

and gruff reconciliations —

hermit-bird merely homes down, ghosting the understory.


He is not mere, this one coming. Nobody’s blond scent.

Falling wind. A different sky haunts me

every hour, always vast, exhilarated

by itself expanding. His hair

floats like tall reeds, dandelion tufts, scattered.

The old scent, shimmering.


From Before Dragonflies (Finishing Line Press, 2019)


J Delayne Ryms’ first poetry collection, Before Dragonflies, was recently released by Finishing Line Press. Her poetry has appeared in numerous journals and anthologies including The Comstock Review, High Plains Literary Review, Puerto Del Sol, and Wild Apples, a journal of art and inquiry. She has received a grant from the California Arts Council, a Pushcart Prize nomination, and two Academy of American Poets Awards. She lives in Georgia with her son Jorin and dog Kai.