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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.

My Bathtub Pal

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 for you daily,
and your electric blankets,
and it’s me you choose to lavish your attention on?

You have so much more than me,
though you had me first, when you were a Worm.

This pain thinks thinking is idiotic, embarrassingly juvenile,
and I’m proof of that.

And it’s not even the pain foremost,
it is the story of me in pain that is paining me.

I am possessed with self-pity, 
and it is expressing itself
out of my mouth. It sounds like a whole flock of sheep suddenly

realizing the flock is an imposed externality.

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

Today I woke up in my body
and wasn’t that body anymore.

It’s more like my dog—
for the most part obedient,
warming to me
when I slip it goldfish or toast,

but it sheds.
Can’t get past a simple sit,
stay, turn over. House-trained, but not entirely.

2
poem

I touch my palms to the floor
and granite rhinos surge up my arms
and lock in my shoulders.
Water flecks on my back
and my head is shaved
by bladed cream.

But then my time in my body is up
and it’s time for my mind:
It seeks wisdom
and the rhinos fall into a well,

2
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