Green leaves of maples tarred silver with mist
and on the clothesline a camisole billowing in a breeze stuffed
with jonquils over there behind the rooming house
where Sheila’s brushing back her dripping hair & talking birth control
and giggling to herself about recycling bins & reincarnation at birth—
a wry smile on her face
as a keyless car lock chirps twice
and the whole city seems to lift then out of a footprint,
all of it timed impeccably
for a break in the clouds—swinging blue sky, open door—
a sensational minute or two
to live through all in all,
abundant with the smells only a century
like this could cook up, the avenue & its wisps of dieseled air aching
with the fragrance of lilacs,
and none of it asking in return
for sustained applause or your signature on a loyalty oath.
An almost prehistoric
pleasure. Contentment in transit. A bravura
with streaming audio. A bonus.
And shareable. Because bad luck comes
whenever time begins
to limit itself to you, & good luck is largely
reciprocal, & mostly roving, & in the Riverside taverns
at neap tide
the leather jobbers & print-shop foremen bent
over Buds & frosted schooners of India Pale Ale & jiggers of Seagrams
they value clarity over irony, a slightly buzzed clarity,
townie gossip over metropolitan chic.
A modesty rules the neuromuscular pathways
at times such as these,
but no one raises a hand to ask permission either.
There are homes inside of this—
and that’s the whole story—there are homes here—
& simplicity isn’t always a defect or disguise,
& we don’t always have to live behind the scenes.
David Rivard is the author of Otherwise, Elsewhere (Graywolf Press, 2011); Sugartown (Graywolf, 2006); Bewitched Playground (Graywolf, 2000); Wise Poison (Graywolf, 1996), winner of the James Laughlin Prize from the Academy of American Poets and a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Award; and Torque (University of Pittsburgh Press, 1988), winner of the Agnes Lynch Starrett Prize. Graywolf released his new book, Standoff, in August 2016. His poems and essays have appeared in American Poetry Review, AGNI, TriQuarterly, Ploughshares, and other magazines. Among his awards are fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, Civitella Ranieri, the National Endowment for the Arts, the 2006 O. B. Hardison Jr. Poetry Prize from the Folger Shakespeare Library, the Massachusetts Arts Foundation, and the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, as well as two Pushcart Prizes. A former poetry editor at Harvard Review, he directs the University of New Hampshire MFA in Writing Program and lives in Cambridge. (updated 10/2016)
Rivard’s collection Wise Poisons was reviewed in AGNI 46 by George Weld.
Read “Finding Indirection: An Interview with David Rivard” by Jennifer S. Flescher in AGNI Online.
Rivard’s collection Bewitched Playground was reviewed in AGNI 52 by David Roderick.