Not Guilty

By David Rivard b. 1953 David Rivard
The days are dog-eared, the edges torn,   
ragged—like those pages   
I ripped once out of library books,

for their photos
of Vallejo and bootless Robert Johnson.   
A fine needs paying now

it’s true, but   
not by me.
I am no more guilty

than that thrush is
who sits there stripping moss   
off the wet bark of a tree.

A red fleck, like his, glows
at the back of my head—a beauty mark,   
left by the brain’s after-jets.

I would not wish for the three brains   
Robert required
to double-clutch his guitar

and chase those sounds he had to know   
led down
and into a troubled dusky river, always.

Three brains did Johnson no earthly good,   
neither his nor Vallejo’s 4 & 1/2
worked right exactly—O bunglers,

O banged-up pans of disaster!
Crying for days, said Cesar, & singing for months.   
How can I be so strong some times,

at others weak? I wish to be free,
but free to do what? To leave myself behind?   
To switch channels remotely?

Better to sing.
Not like the bird, but as they sang,   
Cesar & Robert—

with the shocked & seeded   
sweetness of an apple
split open by a meat cleaver.

David Rivard, “Not Guilty” from Bewitched Playground. Copyright © 2000 by David Rivard. Reprinted with the permission of Graywolf Press, St. Paul, Minnesota, www.graywolfpress.org.

Source: Bewitched Playground (Graywolf Press, 2000)

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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

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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