David Rivard

May 20, 2019 Rivard David



Some progress is anything but.


And my country is cold today, even if the roses are not.


And I would be stateless now, all for the sake of self-respect.


Listen to all those

hard-living shouters as they sing—

most of them blue jays

so lonesome

they could have died at midnight

had they been born

in Hank Williams’ car,

tho they might just as well

have been gamblers

in a steamboat rain,

if not electrons shuffling pointlessly

through brain tissue,

necrotizing brain cells—


most of them blue jays, but not this one…


this shouter of creole, this

Haitian a man

who in the ancient world would have been called

“an unfortunate,”

his arms wind-milling like a conductor,

homeless conductor of a meatpacker’s music

as he rides down the street on frightening voices

and all his damaged resources

just out of the picture

while shaking his fist at the homes he passes—


my house, my neighbors’—


and something lumpish

growing there on the back

of his shaved head, right at the neck—

a mud dauber’s nest,

or an impacted meteor from one of the lousier quadrants,

a soft peach he slept on….


god, all this language,

it wipes out the world & its pain

with words

it so often wants

likeness to wash through

as much as consolation.


I say I hear, but do I?

And even if I hear, do I see?


What’s the point of our surveillance apparatus

if not to save the lives of the desperate?


“He rubbed spit on the blind one’s eyes,”

wrote the recorder of miracles, “spit & clay.”

So the blind one could see.

David Rivard’s most recent book, Standoff, won the 2017 PEN New England Prize and was featured by The New Yorker in its “Books We Loved in 2016” list. He teaches in the MFA Program at the University of New Hampshire.