From “The Epigrams of Martial”


A rabbit hides in the wheel arch on a flight to hawaii
and arrives alive a poem stops a tank long enough
for a picture to be taken I myself have become more
fearful of heights the question is then what happens
the eye of jupiter is growing smaller but also colder


The movie is better than the book
which is better than the experience
silver is better than gold (it doesn’t infect piercings)
a fake masterpiece is better than a real one because at least it’s affordable
permadeath in virtual warfare is better than actual death in actual warfare
imitation is better because it’s sincere
whereas innovation seeks to impress
and anyway is never what it says it is
the second time is better than the first, as you well know!
the remake is self-conscious and therefore more morally alert
this sentiment is better than the other times it has been expressed
because in the past it was expressed more forcefully and now it can relax
even thinking that Salinger meant David Copperfield the 1980s magician
who made real cars and buildings disappear
is better than knowing he meant Dickens
but only because others have thought this before you
and written about their mistake with winning modesty
or honesty or both
a cat hunting a bird is better now
because of cartoons
just as the cat that lives next door
is a better cat because it is not your cat anymore
a rhyme is better the more times it has been used
cliché is better than truth
truth is just something that hasn’t become a cliché yet
but inevitably will
(then you can put it in your pocket
and no one can put the truth in their pocket)
and any king or queen or president or prime minister
is better than all previous kings or queens or presidents or prime ministers
any poem is better than all the poems that precede it
that say essentially the same thing
which means new is better than old
but only if it looks or sounds or otherwise seems somehow old
being in a simulation is better than being in reality
watching the simulated stars set to ambient music created by a gifted 
recording artist
is better than watching real stars set to dismal sounds from real life
derivative beauty is better than any other kind
(here we are surrounded by all this derivative beauty—imagine!)
however the audience will still say “nah”
however many times you say
the cover version is better than the original
but the cover version is always better than the original
I know that the cover version is always better than the original
and the reason I know the cover version is always better than the original
is that I’ve never heard the original


You’re not the capital’s purveyor of inclement art
traversing the pale river with a glass of equally pale sulphur
on a trip in search of black ice cream
or whatever it is the russians are buying
nor an idle dealer who sports a crown of vegetables
in your self-deprecating portrait
(a little fancy commissioned
not to be indiscreet but
in the fantasy
at “some” expense)
not even the owner in your wildest dreams of a kept viper
but more a kind of overlarge boy who somehow drags out a salary
on the halved lunches of interns
hoarse from smoking
not thy powerful talk
you stay in the shop to keep in the shade that’s all
you are not the best urban poet
but this gallery has a heartless master on six figures
who likes to say he’s all mouth and isn’t
and even asks after your finances
the bastard
and why look up from your phone
at your desk at reception
when it seems you’re the only one the satire on the walls this month has seen
(it can’t cut both ways, can it?)
and nobody has ever penetrated the depths of the mercedes that waits
like a black moon
or a scoop of something poisoned
melting on the curb outside
ignored by wardens as if they can’t perceive the gleaming anomaly
so great is it
and you with your “I always had a good nose for it”
you with your aquiline sophistication and games of insolence
their verve dulling let’s be fair in these conditions
and your brochures
your spelling
just enough bait


If you want to know my wishes briefly Mark,
famous host, bright ornament, OK then, pronto—
I ask to be the master of a great rural cultivator
of the soil, a small tribe used to the easiness of dirt.
I do. And to worship the cold painted rocks at dawn
with an unfit “hello.” And later when the presents
are in stockings crowded by the chimney breast,
to remember the lead-haired fisherman I was then,
waiting a year for the prize of a red honey jar,
at a sagging table eating my eggs among ashes—
whoever does not love this does not love this life!
I hope that you live, and the city, amid duties.


What kind of life is called a healthy life...?
I don’t ask that it’s too easy or too hard.
I’d like something in between the two ... 
At the same time I don’t want to know,
even if it is my call ... I know you know
I don’t wish to shave my head again
or work the funerals ... the center of attention ... 
At the same time I don’t want to be bored!
Underneath the veil ... in gloves and pearls ... 
W/r/t life ... that’s my prerogative ... bitches ... 


Love’s syllables scroll.
Tag them, Verona.
May is a happy man.
Consider pressed his tiny region.
Place the stars or less.
Fragrant hues applaud the Nile.
One tree sounds.
Love, the two unique dogs.
He speaks fluent hearts.
A dog can enjoy his humorous letter.
No one has bought cilantro, my arse.
Your lie, my boast.
I will not keep silent in the lawsuit, Bilbo.


In general I hate discussing my poetry
so I always ask questions
there’s a kind of writer/artist though
and you meet them all the time now
who only talks about their “practice”
without anyone caring or asking
(it isn’t connected to success)
and shows no flicker of interest
in anything anyone else does
if the choice is between talking about me
when I don’t want to talk about me
or talking about you
when you only want to talk about you
then let’s talk about me
by the way if you don’t know
this type of artist you probably are it sorry

More Poems by Sam Riviere