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About this poet

Max Ritvo was born on December 19, 1990 in Los Angeles, California. He received a BA from Yale University in 2013 and an MFA from Columbia University in 2016. He is the author of Four Reincarnations (Milkweed Editions, 2016) and Aeons (Poetry Society of America, 2015), selected by Jean Valentine to receive the 2014 Poetry Society of America Chapbook Fellowship. In 2012, Ritvo served as an intern at the Academy of American Poets. He passed away on August 23, 2016.

Amuse-Bouche

It is rare that I
have to stop eating anything
because I have run out of it.

We, in the West, eat until we want
to eat something else,
or want to stop eating altogether.

The chef of a great kitchen
uses only small plates.

He puts a small plate in front of me,
knowing I will hunger on for it
even as the next plate is being
placed in front of me.

But each plate obliterates the last
until I no longer mourn the destroyed plate,

but only mewl for the next,
my voice flat with comfort and faith.

And the chef is God,
whose faithful want only the destruction
of His prior miracles to make way
for new ones.

From The Final Voicemails. Copyright © 2018 by Max Ritvo. Used with the permission of Milkweed Editions.

From The Final Voicemails. Copyright © 2018 by Max Ritvo. Used with the permission of Milkweed Editions.

Max Ritvo

Max Ritvo

Max Ritvo's debut poetry collection, Four Reincarnations, was published by Milkweed Editions in 2016.

by this poet

poem
I am writing you from the bathtub
where I am trying to ease my joints.
The pain seems to move from the front half 
of a joint to a back half.

I can’t track it across my body.

My pain is mild but deep—like it’s reminding
my body of something it once was.
It thinks I’m a baby:

Look at the oatmeal prepared
poem

For the first time tonight,
as I put my wife to bed
I didn't have to shove her off me.

She turned away in her sleep.

I wondered what was wrong with my chest.

I felt it, and the collar bone
spiked up, and where she'd rest
her cheek were ribs.

Who wants to cuddle a skeleton

poem

I found myself unable to consume
the scallops after reflection—
their whole lives were 
eating and suffocating.

This is much sadder than tortured people—
in extreme pain we leave our bodies
and look down to commit the pain
to memory like studious