Max Ritvo

July 25, 2016 Ritvo Max



Money is self-comprehending,

take a hard look in the mirror,


your brow is brutal, your teeth are for meat,

your eyes are globes and hunched beneath them

is my ghost who blinks them shut, who pulls out

your tears, I’m finished. We’re finished.


Go outside and play, but if you come

knocking on my door when you’re done

don’t be surprised if I say Who’s there?


And if you keep pushing, and dare

name yourself here’s a warning—

they call it a punch line because I punch you

in the fucking face if you step over the line.





I master the technology to make bricks.

I build altars clumped with fire.

I am not afraid to light

a flower and destroy her beauty;

the crispy flower has been taken to a godly feast.


Do you pity my imagination? It will kill you.

My mother will kill you.

She is my imagination.


I am a leather horse, and my mother is riding me.

You are a man: alert, passionate.

You sit in an almond of glossy hair.

You are capable of being persuaded by fine argument.

You even smile eagerly when you’re convinced.


Remember what a great time we had in the first stanza?

and now this: me blubbering to mommy

over your brilliance.

Tell me what it’s like to be you. Well Max,


imagine if you stayed

by your bricks after your sacrifice

until your body warmed them.


It’s called being indoors, and it’s a good first step.


I’d die of thirst!


Imagine prying fingers through the bricks,

making tunnels your mind first saw as ghosts.


Imagine pressing your lips to the pipes

and sipping dew from the outside.


You are exquisitely sensitive.

I imagine defecating over your eyebrows: a unibrow.


And what about my godly flower? You still haven’t accounted for that!

I inhale the flower’s smoke, and it allows me to control every inch of my body,

and a little man emerges: this is called being possessed.


I dance out here, trouserless on the salt-flat, dazzled by hail,

because every gesture perfects my body

into the little man’s happy home.


You have no flowers in your indoor dark, fireless Randal!


Max, I have invented glass, through which the sun may light my flowers.


One of these days you’ll be stable enough to make a woman happy,

and that will go a long way.



The secret to making people happy, Randal,

I call at your departing, shiny suit,

is that I am the people!

MAX RITVO (1990-2016) wrote FOUR REINCARNATIONS in New York and Los Angeles over the course of a long battle with cancer; it was published in September 2016 ny Milkweed Editions.  He was also the author of the chapbook AEONS, chosen by Jean Valentine to receive the Poetry Society of America Chapbook Fellowship in 2014. Ritvo’s poetry has appeared in the New Yorker, Poetry, and the Boston Review, and as a Poem-a-Day for His prose and interviews have appeared in publications such as Lit Hub, Huffington Post, and the Los Angeles Review of Books.