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Recorded for Poem-a-Day, October 6, 2017.
About this Poem 
“Every once in a while I write a poem that tells me where and how I’m going to be living for a time in my life. This one—drafted first two years ago—was certainly on message: an invitation to a certain vulnerability. The last two lines seem like an offer of permission.”
—David Rivard
 

Strictly Speaking

There is the question
of bearing witness, of being yourself seen
by yourself, & seen clearly, cleanly,
without weapon or bible in hand;
as this was the wish,
the sturdy & not-so-secret wish
of those who named us—
 
our parents wanted us to be
known to ourselves without confusion:
without judgment,
sans suffering. Never force it,
they said, always find it.
 
OK, strictly speaking, that’s not entirely true.
My particular, sole, insistent, moody mother & father
probably never thought much about it at all.
Those two anxious citizens,
they were never exemplars of patience.
The weightlessness of detachment & acceptance
as I think of it now
would have frightened them—
for good reason.
 
If you could see these words
I’m speaking to you tonight printed on a page 
as typeface & magnified x 500
you would feel just how ragged & coarse
they really are, heavy. 
 
Well, playing the part of a butterfly
must be tiring, right?
I’m happier being the old ox, right?
 
On some plane of existence
these two scraps are all my news:
where the mess is
that’s where my heart is.
 

Copyright © 2017 by David Rivard. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 6, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

Copyright © 2017 by David Rivard. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 6, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

David Rivard

David Rivard

Born in 1953, David Rivard is the author of Wise Poison, which won the 1996 James Laughlin Award.

by this poet

poem
A curtain bellying like a pregnant cloud, warm white
light refracted through a tumbler of peat-smoked scotch—
a scorcher of a day at cooling end, with stupendous berries
to eat in lieu of supper, the scoffed pint box of blueberries
chased by a half of cantaloupe & Maytag blue cheese
spread across the remains
poem
I've died enough by now I trust
just what's imperfect or ruined.  I mean God,
God who is in the stop sign
asking to be shotgunned, the ocean that evaporates even
as we float.  God the bent nail & broken lock,
and God the hangnail.  The hangnail.
And a million others might be like me, our hopes
a kind of
poem

The moon in time lapse sliding over skyline
the way a remote frisbee might wheel through air
as slowly as a banjo once floated across the wide
Missouri River in my