Something, call it X, wanted a body

so it made our bodies.

But our bodies weren’t right for it—


gum around the bones,

a rash of gold or black,


eyes like blisters

leaking fondness.




X realized all animal bodies were like this, so it made language.



Language forced X into the body

like carbonation into a soda.


When I hear the word rock,

a translucent lump

shimmers in front of the world.


To its right, a piece of glass cuts a clear finger

and to its left, there pulses a rocky, low, cold crust.



Though the images

vary exhaustingly and troublingly,

I always remember

the spoke of earth

cutting into the ocean

we saw from above, on a bicycle ride,

the sheen of the bicycles

spreading over the earth,

distinct from the ocean’s sheen.

The sheens alarmingly similar to one another

to be so close together—like two bodies making love.



We imagine a vertical meadow

complicated into our world needlessly;

but complication is all X ever wanted for us.

We misunderstand purity. This is purity.



I am your lover and X’s.

I am too good a lover

to ever be bored:


Skinny, hairy-chested,

made of pellets of rice,

cheeping in a way that’s

endearing and inappropriate,

confused, surprised at the confusion,

surprised at the surprise,

and so on, very tiringly, so on.







Max Ritvo’s debut collection, Four Reincarnations, appeared in September 2016 with Milkweed Editions. He was awarded a 2014 Poetry Society of America Chapbook Fellowship for his chapbook, AEONS. His poetry has also appeared or is forthcoming in the New Yorker, POETRY, and as a Poem-a-Day for Ritvo’s eight poem sampler in Boston Review, introduced by Lucie Brock-Broido, was named as one of their top 20 poetry selections published in 2015. He was a poetry editor at Parnassus: Poetry in Review and a teaching fellow at Columbia University. He died at age 25, in August, 2016.


Issue #63 October 2016
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