STANDOFF



GHOSTS ON THE ROAD

A bookkeeping man,
tho one sure to knock on wood,
and mostly light

at loose ends—my friend
who is superstitiously funny, & always
sarcastic—save once,

after I’d told him
about Simone’s first time
walking—a toddler,

almost alone, she’d
gripped her sweater, right hand
clutched

chest-high, reassured
then, she held on to herself
so, so took a few

quick steps—
oh, he said, you know what? Leonard
Cohen, when he was 13,

after his father’s
out-of-the-blue heart attack, he slit
one of the old man’s

ties, & slipped a
message into it, then buried it
in his backyard—

73 now, he can’t
recall what he wrote—(threadbare
heartfelt prayer perhaps,

or complaint)—
his first writing anyway.
The need to comfort

ourselves is always
strongest at the start,
they say—

do you think
that’s true? my friend asked.
I don’t, he said,

I think the need
gets stronger, he said, it
just gets stronger.
"David Rivard’s Standoff...assailed me with its vivaciousness and cunning humor."
—Major Jackson, The New Yorker

"James Laughlin Award winner Rivard (Wise Poison) here finds himself in midstream, mediating on 'What’s left?' The feel is not, however, of resignedly looking backward but of thoughtful recalibration. The collection opens, “I miss myself most/​ these days with friends” and ends “here we go again, full speed ahead.” In between, in well-crafted, cleanly ringing poems, the poet reflects on his father’s dying, recalls beloved authors, reveals the smarts not to discourage a friend’s enthusiasm, declares 'that a little foolishness/​ goes a long, long way, I’d say;/​ a lot drops dead/​ in its tracks,' and, in the title poem, headily embraces what’s 'baffling, vast, elemental,/​ hopeful, & threatening/​ as that—but different.' So what’s left? Wise, graceful poems for all readers."
Library Journal

“In his superb new collection of poems, Standoff, David Rivard persuades us to recognize those human touchstones that arise as we navigate the wreckage of our present moment. Once again, Rivard proves himself a master of an understated yet powerful and compelling moral compass, just as he is also an acute observer of those disquieting daily nuances seeping into our lives. The ghosts of beloved friends, poets, and family haunt many of these poems, as Rivard considers the constant gravitational pull of mortality, only to posit that experience itself offers us the power to call it, at least for now, a clear—and a hard-won—standoff.”
—David St. John

"Standoff...presents a range of memories and circumstances where the poet stares down mortality and emerges from the skirmishes with his compassion and perceptiveness intact. Sometimes, those struggles ensue because of the barrage of bad news and anxiety that pervade our media-filled culture. Other losses are personal, as with the death of the speaker’s father and the unexpected loss of a friend. Yet always the work conveys a sense of warmth and a keen appreciation for the way “that the world is built/​ out of shiftings & abrasions/​ you see how/​ you’ll have to make allowances.” The speaker knows the futility of rehashing past mistakes, insists that generosity has to exist and grapples with whether there is a key to life. The poems don’t present easy answers; instead, they offer an astute guide through everyday experiences, including the desire to both lose and elevate the self."
—Elizabeth Lund, The Washington Post