My Future Children Sit Shiva; Father’s Day, 2018; excerpt from “moonblue”
My Future Children Sit Shiva
and unslam all the doors I ever thought of. They bake apples
to softness just how I taught. Every mourner should have a
touch of sweetness to remember by. My future children
leave one mirror unclothed. A miniature. A snapshot love.
They promised never to shut me out again. Unburdened
by memory, my future children tear my favorite black button-
down to strips to tie their arms. Every year from now, they’ll
light a candle over Skype to forget the distance. Or to remember
us closer. I dream their nostalgia on bad days, and it feels like every
promise I will ever keep. The mirror becomes a window. Stained
glass. Just a reflection undoing itself. My oldest takes it out to
field and presses it face-up to see the sky something new. They
cross-stitch a Kaddish and try to conjure the wind of my laugh.
My future children will laugh. They’ll live for me. They’ll live for
themselves. Just how I taught. The breeze singing my pride forever.
Father’s Day, 2018
Say I am pre-corpse, a first draft at fertilizer,
say that all attempts to capture my presence alive
are in root. Speak and do me the honor of mis-
remembering. You are in the garden working,
the bittersweet vines have overtaken the yard again.
I do not laugh at these improbables. I cannot
make a sound true enough. Here, you are a gentle man,
a caretaker with no fuses. Here, when the earth
proves itself unwilling, your voice does not think to rise.
You are all whisper, all grateful exertion. Here, I am
a puddle of mulch, a thick coating of gravel doled out evenly
and without shame. Every pulled weed brings tears
down for me to drink. Your callouses on the shovel
sing me that old lullaby, goodnight sweetheart, well,
it’s time to go. The fertilizer is clogging your throat but
then again, I guess there wasn’t much to say. Well.
It’s time to go. I do so like our time together. I’m sorry
to say I will be a tree in the next life
and it will have nothing to do with you.
excerpt from “moonblue”
Do I dare myself glowing? Under hot
collar and eyelash, I call my luck bold,
blue, sprinting up ahead to meet you. Where
did you say you’re from again? Not the dream,
not that come-on, come on, we are, tonight,
alive and wondering with our hands on
the steel railing, in touch only where it
matters in the moonlight stories. Let’s all
have a laugh about it. A spit shine for
these old souls meeting again the first time.
What are the odds I’d find you here? Open
night a roof of riches, dumb chiffon fate.
For a blue I never touched but could kiss
myself awake with, I’ll come home to this.
I’ll come home when I’m ready. Who said that?
Who shed a coward to crawl here? I hid
my cowardice in the backyard of my
mom’s trailer. In January, the grass
made we weep, yellow-patched my jackets. Called
my callouses and sang them back to soft.
Sing me back to forgiveness. Pick a tune
and I will only ever hum it when
you are gone. On my best buzz, I’ll startle
bees to Spring, startle Mom to Benadryl.
I do understand. We are all afraid
and happy. When I slid my fingers in
the cold-heart dirt, I wished for a braver
love made in exactly the same flavor.
The same flavor, we slow our tang. Patience.
We have waited the lime juice, faith testing
its seams. We open. Always have. Whisper
for a ghost to psalm truth. I heard you pray
me into the wind. Sometimes, the rain. Your
name made air with precision. My Hebrew
did not flinch. Let my ancestors never
think me a cruel heart. I was angry
once. We don’t have saints here, only skyward
tongues. Yes, I pray every day. Sometimes
I just kiss my kneecaps grateful, or else
another lime of devotion. What do
I know about truth? Or citrus rind? Or
calling into air what calls back for more?
Alec Reitz is a former Midwesterner living in Western Massachusetts, where they spend most of their time investigating bouts of everyday magic, wrangling their kittens, and growing into new art-forms. Their work can be
found in The Grief Diaries, Pithead Chapel, and Electric Literature.
Interview with the Poet:
Cathexis Northwest Press:
How long have you been writing poetry?
i've never really considered myself a "poet." i've been writing since i wasa kid and have a bf a in fiction writing, which i think informs a lot of my poetic work. i love a narrative through-line, even an abstract one. as i've gotten older, i find that i don't really like to stick to genre--i like to stretch language and narrative to see how far it can go, and sometimes poetry is the best medium, or at least the best label, for that.
Can you remember the first poem you read that made you fall in love with
richard siken's c*rush* was, and is, deeply formative for me. "snow and dirty rain" in particular hits me in a way that is wordless. its rhythm, its use of euphony--i've always been drawn to and motivated by the way words actually sound when strung together, and siken is such a master of it. there is something in the way that poem doesn't shy away, and builds on itself. i could sit here and list every line of the poem that i think is g-dly, but i think i'd be listing most of the poem. "We have not touched the stars, / nor are we forgiven, which brings us back / to the hero's
shoulders and the gentleness that comes, / not from the absence of violence, but despite / the abundance of it." this was the line that made me think about what it means to be honest. what it means to pull back the curtains on our own shadows and to see, with what clarity we can, the parts of ourselves we tend to keep hidden. that's been what i've been striving toward in my writing ever since.
Who are your favorite poets? Any specific poems?
louise glück (all of *the seven ages*), anne carson (all of *autobiography of red*), gabrielle calvocoressi ("the sun got all over everything," "at last the new arriving," "hammond b3 organ cistern"), and richard siken (see above).
Can you share for us a little bit about your writing process? Any specific rituals that get you in the zone?
my writing process can be very sporadic--i go through long "dry" periods, where i won't write hardly anything except snippets of ideas passing by. because i have adhd, i spend a lot of time maladaptive daydreaming, and i think that's where i end up getting a lot of my inspiration--all these worlds and lives i get to touch inside my head. most of the things i've written start with one line, or one voice, coming into my head. i just try my best to follow it from there. when i catch a wave of inspiration, i immediately go to a physical place that feels safe and tell the people around me that i will be unavailable for the next while. it's very important to me to honor my creativity when she is present, and to carve out space for her in my life.
How do you decide the form for your poems? Do you start writing with a form in mind, or do you let the poem tell you what it will look like as you go?
honestly, i really hate formatting things, which is probably something i carry over from fiction writing. i just want to write things in blocks and paragraphs, but occasionally the work demands otherwise. when my poems end up in form, which all three of these pieces did, it's because the poem told me to do it. these sonnets in particular very much wanted to be sonnets, and waved their hands in front of my eyes until i listened.
Any advice for poets who have yet to find their voice?
i would push back against this idea that anyone has just one clear, distinctive "voice," and that that is something that we should strive for. i truly believe we're all too multifaceted for that nonsense. what my voice sounds like today isn't necessarily what it sounded like yesterday, or what it will sound like like tomorrow; it's influenced by my life and i don't see anything wrong with that. it's influenced by what i read, the people i talk to, the way the wind moves through the trees. as i grow, so does my voice. i think what's important for poets/writers/everyone is that we're
listening to the shifts taking place in our bodies and minds on the day-to-day. that we try our best to tune into ourselves, and to what is around us, and to honor what we find.
What is your editing process like?
very introspective. i usually edit pieces two or three times before letting anyone else see it.. i like to read things out loud, usually several times, to get a feel for the sound and rhythm. at the same time that i respect my view of my work, i try not to be married to it. i've cut whole lines, paragraphs, and pieces before when they weren't working, and that's just as much a part of the process.
When do you know that a poem is finished?
when i stop having the urge to change it. i think the work can always change, or rather, that it's a living entity that can adapt as i do. but it is "finished" when i can look at it, feel satisfied with myself and the work i've put into it, and not be swayed into over-editing.