David Rivard

Bookish | Brush Your Fingers Through Your Hair, Why Don’t You?
September 6, 2013 Rivard David



The bookishness that

is hallucinatory for those who

catch it at all times

lay upon me like a glamour

as far back as middle school,

even if none of my 8th grade friends—

those future bagmen

each on the lookout for a girlfriend ready

to leap like a reawakened Breisis—

even if none believed in words

quite as much as I did.

They were just boys

and not particularly meaner or more lethal

than others, not piggish

or out to spit on the snowdrops & violets

every time some tachycardic flower

sprang up before them.

They just liked to spit.

A massive carelessness governed their world.

They belonged to the good gangs

in partisan gullies

and seemed to have it

all figured out,

while I stood startled in the department store

where husky boys shopped,

a wearer of clip-on Windsor-knots

and black-framed glasses.

I was a walker on the outskirts

of the visible world

who lived in books

where mossbacked Romans plotted

revenge, pages

in which a clammer’s lantern shimmered

above a sleeping geisha’s face

or a boy was taken

by his father to discover ice—

every day had the slow, stealthy feel

of a small cargo ship

carrying a stowaway to another home.

Sometimes when the house I live in

is ballsy with sunlight my readiness for life can seem

either very large or very small now.



Brush Your Fingers Through Your Hair, Why Don’t You?


“Brush your fingers

through your hair,

why don’t you,” her mother

had just told her, & Bud Powell too

advised that

had you a wish to play the piano

scout style, you should keep

your fingernails

well-clipped, hands

as agile

as cat’s ears, swiveling,


but this girl, a very tall

mess-hall of a girl even without her bike helmet

(and with it, a skinny, bitstream

Valkyerie holding

a cup of takeout green tea),

out of her accumulated wisdom,

splurging, she fairly


brimmed with a lifetime’s worth

of patience

distilled, not an ounce of annoyance

in her as she ignored

her mother—she

might as well have worn

noise-cancelling headphones in honor

of the serene smile

on her lips—

the zealous whiteness of her teeth

a space where even some barrel-assing

ant could see

something of the

generosity some of us

like to think exists. It

just has to exist.

David Rivard is the author of seven books of poetry, the newest of which, Some of You Will Know, is out from Arrowsmith Press in October 2022.  His earlier books have won the PEN/New England Prize in poetry, the James Laughlin Prize from the Academy of American Poets, and the Agnes Lynch Starrett Poetry Prize, and he has been a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. Among his other honors are fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Civitella Ranieri Foundation. He lives on the coast of Maine.