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Wednesday Shout Out

By Rigoberto González

Sometimes simplicity’s the thing, though that doesn’t mean the ideas or motivations behind the poem are simple. I came across this beautiful debut on one of my visits back to Arizona State (Josh Rathkamp’s yet another graduate of that writing program—go Sun Devils!), and I was pleased to discover this distinct voice that has much to say about young relationships, first heartbreaks and early encounters with the untamable, unpredictable world of adulthood.

The Abortion
I’m the type of guy that wonders
why blackbirds are called blackbirds;
bluebirds are called jays; redbirds,
cardinals; and why none eats the wind
toppled grapefruit around my tree.
I’m the type of guy that wonders
how to keep them
from the garden, even though I know,
the peas and the carrots refuse to take,
they refuse to take and grow.
I’m the type of guy that thinks things
usually change
overnight: snow fall, leaf color,
a fever, a darkened room
after a fight.
I’m the guy that cries
during movies; that empties his pockets
down a brown glass jar;
that doesn’t wait thirty minutes
between eating and swimming and believes,
no matter what most mothers say,
a cramp can’t cause a drowning.
I’m the type of guy that leaves
ten minutes too early to appointments;
all yellow stains on the snow alone;
with no one to name me
like I did my father.
Though the poem’s title prepares us for something emotionally involved, it takes its time weaving a narrative of domestic bliss—a kind of Eden, where curiosity and innocence sit side by side, regarding one another, calmly, complacently. But in the pivotal third stanza, where the speaker declares his level of optimism, it’s clear that the formula of his faith in change is also capable of negative results. Hence, the abortion—one moment the speaker is to be a Daddy, the next he’s not.
The intensity of his response to a disappointment is established in the fourth and fifth stanzas as the speaker confesses to his sentimentality. But here also to his complexity: he is careless in some ways, overly-cautious in others—he’s aware of when he can exercise control. And he must accept the aftermaths of both pleasant and unpleasant surprises.
This poem is about disruption. The speaker is on a journey in which he expects change, but not the knowledge of what will make change happen. It’s also interesting (and perhaps the defining risk of this poem) that the subject and experience of an abortion is told through the male’s point of view.
Rathkamp’s book is a collection of sobering observations, though the sentiments rattle loudly in the brain. It’s a celebration of respect for living to the fullest, of taking note of the ordinary because it’s in the everyday moments that we can appreciate “what little life we have left/ we will spend.”
(From Some Nights No Cars At All, published with Ausable Press, 2007. Used with the permission of the author.)

Posted in Uncategorized on Wednesday, December 19th, 2007 by Rigoberto González.