Late?

By David Rivard b. 1953 David Rivard

—for George Shelton

Sometimes everything feels like a trick.
Some days things seem to have been stolen from you.   
Cash to pay the bills, your sense of humor, friendship.   
You could almost believe those are what you look for
as you walk around your neighborhood. But, no, instead, you get   
splashes of zinnias against stucco, cactus wrens,   
a pack of kids who ignore the sodium amber streetlights   
which just stuttered on, because it means their mothers   
want them home right this minute. And, on the corner variety   
store’s wall, a crude, sun-washed mural of the angel Gabriel   
defaced by thick black sideburns so he looks like a street punk,   
a strutting cholo, so he seems the only creature on earth   
who hasn’t heard the news that everything can be lost.   
His strong upper arms curving naked and graceful   
as the tan thighs of a slender, athletic girl.
A girl he’s after, though she’s gotten bored waiting
on the stoop and watching the sun set behind the foothills.   
Sky reddening until it slams into a blue that blesses   
anyone oblivious to all the negations,
including the one, pal, where you think it’s possible   
to step out of your heart and leave it empty as   
an egg shell or a cardboard box.

When you finally return home
the tint of sky more or less matches the flash
of a thrush as it swoops from limb to branch,
acacia to willow. Standing at the kitchen counter,
you pick through a carton of strawberries.
Good juicy ones from the moldy and over-ripe.
Choices that are easy. What do you trust anymore?
The aproned man in the mercado said California strawberries,
they’re the best this time of year. In bed, later,
you remember the grocer, round belly under his apron,   
but as you start, nearly asleep, to tell your wife about him,   
how he talked about his deals, she starts
reading aloud from a tattered bird guide, that the wood thrush   
is “essentially useful and worthwhile.”
What is worthwhile?                      Now, remember.

David Rivard, “Late?” from Torque. Copyright © 1988 by David Rivard. All rights are controlled by the University of Pittsburgh Press, Pittsburgh, PA 15260, www.upress.pitt.edu. Used by permission of University of Pittsburgh Press.

Source: Torque (University of Pittsburgh Press, 1988)

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Poet David Rivard b. 1953

POET’S REGION U.S., New England

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 David  Rivard

Biography

David Rivard was born in Fall River, Massachusetts. His collections of poetry include Torque (1988), which won the Agnes Lynch Starrett Poetry Prize, Wise Poison (1996), winner of the James Laughlin Award, Bewitched Playground (2000), Sugartown (2005), and Otherwise Elsewhere (2010). He has also been a contributor to such publications as Ploughshares, The New England Review, and Poetry, and is a former editor of The Harvard . . .

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POET’S REGION U.S., New England

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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