Torque

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ZEUS AND APOLLO

Written on clapboard or asbestos siding, the cartoony
spray-paint signatures of Apollo and Zeus,
two home boys out bombing last night in thick fog.
Fog near the shade of pearls. Except they didnít see the mist
that way, glad for their thin leather gloves.
Wind raw at the wide avenue, so they cut
from there to here.
Even if this is in the past
tense, tense of the totally chilled-out,
even if they argued here over Krylon blue or candy-apple red,
that doesnít mean they knocked-off and streaked home then.
And if I saw fog the shade of pearls
it doesnít mean my heart in its own corrosive and healing fog
canít tug on thin leather gloves and stand
in front of a wall, pissing off the Fates
and whoever else owns that wall. Whoever owns it
means less than the dry, fallen leaves of eucalyptus
blown crackling over tar and concrete
and sounding, when you shut your eyes, like every tree
bursting into leaf for the first time, speeded-up
like the first minute of the world.


TORQUE

After his ham & cheese in the drape factory cafeteria,
having slipped by the bald shipping foreman
to ride a rattling elevator to the attic
where doves flicker into the massive eaves
and where piled boxes of out-of-style
cotton and lace wonít ever be
decorating anyoneís sun parlor windows.
Having dozed off in that hideout he fixed
between five four-by-six cardboard storage cartons
while the rest of us pack Mediterranean Dreams
and Colonial Ruffles and drapes colored like moons,
and he wakes lostó
shot through
into a world of unlocked unlocking lightó
suddenly he knows where he is and feels half nuts
and feels like killing some pigeons with a slingshot.

Thatís all, and thatís why he pokes
his calloused fingers into the broken machinery,
hunting for loose nuts a half inch wideó
five greasy cold ones that warm in his pocketó
and yanks back the snag-cut strip of inner tube
with a nut snug at the curve to snap it
at the soft chest of a dopey bird.
Then the noise of pigeons flopping down
to creosoted hardwood, and then a grin
the guy gives me & all his other pals later.
And afternoon tightens down on all
our shoulders, until the shift whistle
blasts, blowing through the plant like air
through lace. As it always has, as it does.
That bright. That stunned.
"Published in the Pitt Poetry Series, this winner of the 1987 Agnes Lynch Starrett Poetry Prize is empowered by the vitality of its imagery and by the author's volatile, at times explosive, tone. Each poem tells a story, examining childhood memories, family relationships and the details of daily life by encapsulating moments and emotions. Combining the colloquial with the cerebral, the verses are replete with dramatic tension, which stems both from the bold use of language and from startling symbolism. In "Late?" for example, Rivard juxtaposes a bleak urban landscape with religious iconography to depict the corruption of ideals: "And, on the corner variety /​ store's wall, a crude, sun-washed mural of the angel Gabriel /​ defaced by thick black sideburns so he looks like a street punk, /​ a strutting cholo, so he seems the only creature on earth /​ who hasn't heard the news that everything can be lost." ...This collection marks the debut of a talent worth watching."
óPublishers Weekly