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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

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.

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