Published on Academy of American Poets (https://poets.org)


Strictly Speaking

There is the question
of bearing witness, of being yourself seen
by yourself, & seen clearly, cleanly,
without weapon or bible in hand;
as this was the wish,
the sturdy & not-so-secret wish
of those who named us—
 
our parents wanted us to be
known to ourselves without confusion:
without judgment,
sans suffering. Never force it,
they said, always find it.
 
OK, strictly speaking, that’s not entirely true.
My particular, sole, insistent, moody mother & father
probably never thought much about it at all.
Those two anxious citizens,
they were never exemplars of patience.
The weightlessness of detachment & acceptance
as I think of it now
would have frightened them—
for good reason.
 
If you could see these words
I’m speaking to you tonight printed on a page 
as typeface & magnified x 500
you would feel just how ragged & coarse
they really are, heavy. 
 
Well, playing the part of a butterfly
must be tiring, right?
I’m happier being the old ox, right?
 
On some plane of existence
these two scraps are all my news:
where the mess is
that’s where my heart is.
 

Credit


Copyright © 2017 by David Rivard. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 6, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

About this Poem


“Every once in a while I write a poem that tells me where and how I’m going to be living for a time in my life. This one—drafted first two years ago—was certainly on message: an invitation to a certain vulnerability. The last two lines seem like an offer of permission.”
—David Rivard
 

Author


David Rivard

Born in 1953, David Rivard is the author of Wise Poison, which won the 1996 James Laughlin Award.

Date Published: 2017-10-06

Source URL: https://poets.org/poem/strictly-speaking