poem index

sign up to receive a new poem-a-day in your inbox

occasions

Max Ritvo reads the version of his poem "Touching the Floor" that appeared in his book Four Reincarnations (Milkweed Editions, 2016). Recorded July 12, 2016.
About this Poem 

“I wrote this poem in the bathtub. The tub was much too warm and my mind got unhappily tangled in thoughts of its own speed. I decided to cool my hands by pressing them into the granite floor tiles. It was strange that my body could provide me refuge even while being very sick with cancer. I always have a yellow legal pad on the counter next to my tub, so I got to work right then and there, and when I got out of the tub I had a poem.”
Max Ritvo

Touching the Floor

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,
their faces falling apart—

I want to know what their last words are
but their lips are fading into the purple.

I put my hands into the ground again
but rhinos come only for the body
and never for the mind.

I used to want infinite time with my thoughts.
Now I’d prefer to give all my time
to a body that’s dying
from cancer.

Copyright © 2015 by Max Ritvo. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 9, 2015, by the Academy of American Poets.

Copyright © 2015 by Max Ritvo. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 9, 2015, by the Academy of American Poets.

Max Ritvo

Max Ritvo

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

by this poet

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

poem

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