A Great Fuckafter something Tiko said
Not only was I never a great fuck but
I never even belonged to that vast class of people
who once thought they were.
I have fucked people who thought they were
and one person who actually was
and that's about the closest I ever got.
It's sort of like catching a no-hitter in baseball.
You can allow yourself a brief acknowledgment
that someone cannot be a great fuck
all by themselves but you cannot forget
that this was a one-off in your life
and most likely a daily event in theirs.
So when Sandy with a y asked me if I was—
she wasn't a lady who wanted to waste time—
I told her honestly that no I wasn't
but that we might still manage things
if she herself was great. She burst out laughing
said “Good enough!” But she wasn't.
She said she was and said it was my fault
the fucking didn't go that well at all
and I said something about poor workmen
always blaming tools and she got furious.
I proposed that such a thing is no one's fault
and she proposed I shove it up my ass.
Friends, this is why 90% of the all adults
at any given time are celibate—the lovers
in stale relationships, between relationships,
too young and scared, too old and scared,
unable to find what they are looking for, etc.
Casual sex is far too often much too fraught.
There are standards, rubrics even, now.
There's no excuse for fumbling or overzeal
or underzeal, dyssynchronicity or too much
hair or too much stank or too much sweat.
You have to prove you're not diseased
and demonstrate some prophylactic expertise.
You're read a user's manual on Pleasuring.
There is, however gauche, some measuring.
Talk dirty. Wait, I didn't mean perverted!
I adore it when you're wild, an animal,
but not a dog—or yes a dog—and not a crocodile,
not a monkey chattering and not a kangaroo.
The great fucks—well, the one I knew—
are unconcerned with all of these considerations—
seem only to concern themselves with you,
but that is mostly an illusion, not exactly true.
They are in tune with currents, waves, swells,
winds of which mere mortals haven't any clue.
The Nine LepersTen lepers lifted up their voices and cried, 'Master, have mercy on us!'
Jesus said,' Go show yourselves to the priests.'
And as they went, they were cleansed.
One of them saw he was healed, turned back, loudly glorified God, and fell down on his face at Jesus' feet, giving thanks: and he was Samaritan.
And Jesus said, 'Arise, thy faith made thee whole. But weren't ten cleansed? where are the other nine?' -Luke's gospel
The fucking leprosy was horrible enough,
why would we spend our first day whole
prostrating ourselves in the dust
and singing the praises of the miracle-worker?
Samaritans feel lucky just to be alive,
they're full of charity and gratitude,
but we are Jews, Jehovah's chosen,
and the mere fact that our ears and noses
aren't falling off is not our idea of a thrill.
We're paupers, ill-dressed,
not one job between the nine of us,
all cast out by our families long ago.
Is this a state to stir men's halleluiahs?
Do you see all the other Hebrews
throwing themselves at some healer's feet
to thank him too that they lack leprosy?
Then why should we?
Let him put a hundred shekels
in each of our purses; let him give us purses.
And proper robes,
and decent sandals, and a decent place to live,
and food, and love. Nine good careers.
Then we'll give thanks, sing glory-be's.
rude poet manifestopart of my portfolio
is figuring out
what can't be said
and saying it
god is a nigger
whose favorite sport
is putting his cock
in a little angel's ass
another part of my
portfolio is asking why
such smut is part
of my portofolio
the last part is
the answers are
none of your business
To My Little MuskratI'll tell you,
nothing is ever
going to hurt you,
not while I'm around.
stretches over you
like babble over
or the silence
a gnat pond.
Don't look up,
you won't see me,
but neither will you
ever spot a goshawk.
Christ's Favorite ChairI imagine you relaxed, in your favorite chair
leaning back, hands resting, arms at ease
But when you speak
when you answer every question
- from ca.leverette ”Literally beautiful and weary”
Only at your last supper are you sitting,
as if it were a posture intermediate
Otherwise you held yourself erect
even as a babe in arms,
erect as Joseph's helper,
erect at the wedding,
on the Mount,
on the water,
on the hilltop with Satan,
on Golgotha, in resurrection.
But surely as you were a man
and had a favorite place to sit,
for if not,
how could you know us
or our sins?
It may have been
a simple stone
beside a quiet stretch
on the road to Tiberias
came down from the air
to harry ants,
or at Magdalen's,
where her husband lorded
himself over her
before he walked with
or did you have
a sparsely furnished room
to which you retreated
from evangelist eyes
and simply sat,
You just sit, they say,
you must have learned
when you were here,
in a chair
you smuggled back
in the confusion
around the ascension
the carpenter's son,
from bits of lumber
by the crucifix maker,
by weeping angels
at your command.
When I come, I will sit beside you.
I am tired of standing.
YAHRZEIT(Jewish observance of the anniversary of a loved one’s death)
Mrs. Waite is walking to church.
Don’t say hi. She cannot answer.
See her? There? A tall, thin lady
With the improbably silver hair?
It’s Sunday. Her husband David
Stands on the lawn, rake in hand,
And watches until she disappears.
See him? There? A tall, thin man
With disappearing hair? Then he
Turns back to the matter at hand:
A perfect lawn. They both attend
Our Lady of Perennial Despair.
They are our next door neighbors
But they inhabit their home lightly
As if they are space invaders still
Not sure about the local language.
Other Earth concepts — don’t pile
Your recycles in your neighbor’s
Driveway — also escape their ken.
Their daughter Ivey, who all but
Lived with us one summer before
Her parents realized that it raised
Hopes they would also talk to us,
Is looking out the window, dazed.
They know a few things, though.
Every spring we get an envelope
Delivered in the mail — backwards
It seems, since their house is just
After ours when the letter carrier
Comes by — soliciting money for
The American Heart Association.
They open their door to children
Every Halloween and offer them
A bowl of candies, yet even then
Are unable to say hello to anyone
But stand in a close silent cluster.
If you stand out on the front lawn
With a rake in your hand, just so,
It has been said that David might
Come over and say things to you.
Maybe Nancy chit-chats at church
But probably she just knows how
To rise, sit, kneel in the right
Order and say "Peace be with you."
The day your Mom ruptured a disc
And the EMTs wheeled her away,
Nancy asked through the hedges
If I needed her to watch you two.
One rumor has it that the Waites
Call the police on the 4th of July.
It is also thought they telephoned
Village Hall on the morning after
Thanksgiving to complain because
Four plastic Halloween pumpkins
Were still sitting on our stoop.
The inspector who came to tell us
Said he could not reveal the name
Of the complainant but he did roll
His eyes toward the Waites’ house
And advise "This is only a warning."
Still, how can we help but worry?
Our town is an inner ring suburb,
A home world sustained by codes
And methods for enforcing codes,
But everybody does not embrace
The same code at the same time.
The Waites are so close, just one
Thickness of a green arbor-vitae.
Every evening we see their faces
Framed in their kitchen window —
Nancy, David, and tall thin Ivey
As they dry the dinner dishes with
Plaid towels of interwoven wishes.
These are your neighbors. Once
You ate and played with Ivey —
Do you remember? Once Mrs. Waite
Almost watched you when your Mom
Was being put into an ambulance.
Your mother could just collapse
Again some day, when I’m away.
One day, all three of the Waites
Might open up their mouths and
Say one awesome thing, a comet
Heralding a marvelous spring.
Now Mr. Waite resumes his raking.
Ivey fades back into the watery
Pool of their kitchen to resume
Whatever she was doing before
Her mother headed out to church.
Who we are is sculpted by forces
Beyond our control that set us up
As portals each to our own cosmos,
But remember how the warm night
Caroming with stars and fireflies
Colonized the expanses between
Who you were and who she was?
Nancy goes through the motions
In church, David pulls and herds
His leaves into one long mound,
I stack these lines like lumber,
And you kids count off the days
Until those daring rescue ships
That all kids manage to imagine
Arrive triumphant at last from
Wherever it is they come from —
We are builders who must build
One kind of structure or another
To have any chance of enduring
A universe so bent on ignoring us.
What but dumb can a universe be
Being an eternal uninspired zero
Expanding at reckless velocity
While we tiny flecks of flotsam
Reach out our hands to connect
As if we could infinitely stretch?
But what save us are the houses:
Screen doors, kitchen windows,
Front stoops and barefoot lawns,
A big brimming pot of spaghetti
Staring down five paper plates
With the confidence of a pasha,
A church in the shape of X or T
Where bells extol our mastery
Over the fallen leaf, the dropped
Beat in one iamb, and the spirits
Desperate to embezzle what we
All together agree to agree upon,
Namely, that we are neighbors —
Maybe not the best of neighbors,
But still, in this relationship
We can outrun whatever comes at us,
Circulating a tiny white envelope
For the sake of each other’s heart.
The doorbell rings. Trick or treat.
See how the Waites are clustered
As if your Ninja and your Reaper
Are going to decapitate the bronze
Of Saint Martin de Porres sweeping
The vestibule? Instead, select one
Of these chocolate bars, one each,
And go twirling back into the dark.
The plastic pumpkins by our door,
The stuffed coat a headless ogre —
They surely do a great deal more
Than simply state "This is October."
But it is late November now, just
Nine days until the final curbside
Collection of leaves: earth-movers
Partnered with huge dump-trucks.
No one has to tell David "Rake up."
This kind of observance is serious
Business — he cannot bear to think
How many things it keeps at bay.
It bothers him that we don’t rake,
But we have something raking us
With chilly talons, so I sit here,
And your mother is on her guitar.
So where are you, where are you
Right now when the seesaw plank
We ride on teeters in the balance
Between who we are gazing up at
And who is gazing down at us? —
Beams as painstaking but flimsy as
Your Elmer’s glue papier-mâchés
Holding our warm souls together
While the circling ice scavenges
Tears shed in inclement weather.
What are you thinking? December has
Tiptoed closer in its mask of snow,
So your Mom and I need to know.
Is that Mrs. Waite returning? See?
There? Tall, thin, the silver hair?
Mr. Waite’s already disappeared
Back into the house, leaving only
Leaves to beacon his wife home.
But look. Is that Ivey’s face up
In the round third-floor window?
They rotate like the three moons
Of the sad demoted planet Pluto
All vying for the has-been’s eye
Because it once regarded them —
Nix, Hydra, Charon — as its apples.
That is how we both regard you two:
So very bright and very beautiful
It will hurt to discover you gone
Off into your own remote orbits
Because at first it will seem that
You are simply flying off in no
Particular direction — toward no
Particular redemption — then no,
A long span of observation will
Eventually reveal an orientation.
Now I can hear my wife calling.
"Tom? Tom! Where are the kids?"
They’re not with you? I think.
"Stevie! Johnny! Snow is falling!"
Is that a Mona-Lisa/Cheshire-cat
Grin flickering on Nancy’s lips?
What Christian dyes her hair zinc?
What would Jesus the Colorist do?
"Tom, never mind, I found them!
Look guys, it’s snow! No, don’t
Go outside with those suits on!"
Nancy opens the door and goes in.
Ivey’s moon-face is gone now too.
All the windows stare back dark
And dull as if no one is home.
David’s breastwork of leaves
In the gutter means that when
The high-school football fans
Begin arriving in an hour or so
They’ll cram all of their SUVs
In front of our house, which means
That when my father comes later
To grieve with us, he has to park
In the Tow Zone up the block.
But it’s not the end of the world.
Nothing is, is it? Not loving once,
Not the Waites’ toxic indifference,
Not dreading Dad’s yahrzeit visit.
I guess I'd better go downstairs
And see if anyone wants lunch.
Six Hits: Poems by Tom Riordan
Part of the PoetryCircle Showcase series.
Enjoyed this collection very much. Different views different voices. It seems the imagination has you and does whatever she wills. Great to be able to step back and write in different personas. I admire that among other things in your work Tom. It is a great set. Would be good to put them on a recording and place it next to them . would like to hear how they sound rather than just the score sheet. Not to lessen the value of poems alone! Loved them
These poems are exceptional. Their greatness is as clear as a gong struck in the middle of a hushed library. I would like to offer you the highest compliment I can think of - This is what poetry should be. A Great Fuck, The Nine Lepers, rude poet manifesto, To My Little Muskrat, are to me essentially perfect, but more than that since even a haiku can be perfect in form, moreover perfect in their ambition, in their desire for true poetic insight and poetic expression, which of course they capture masterfully. The other two I might find minor points of editorial difference but these would be the sorts of differences I would have with T.S. Eliot or Sylvia Plath, in short, poets I recognize as being of the highest of ability. Six Hits lives up to its title and it leaves me wondering - Why in all the contemporary anthologies of English poetry that I come regularly across, anthologies put out by leading universities and publishing houses, do I so rarely find anything even remotely this good?
Tommy, you know I love you, (not in a sexual way, but in a literary one; your being such a bad fuck, and all, not withstanding), but there is one underlying principle of writing you had better master: To be a good story teller you have to have a good story to begin with. If you obscure the reason that motivates the writing you lose the reader."A Great Fuck" is one example of where you got it right. The strong idea of the subject carried through the piece by your fluid style, unashamed honesty and humor, made it enjoyably readable.
Now contrast this with "yehrziet". The writing here is also good; it's engaging, but the reader is left traveling too long through a line that seems to ramble on with a lack of specific motivation. It becomes tedious to the reader. The first question you need to ask yourself in writing is why would someone want to read this. I think you answer this to delightful effect in "good fuck", but muddle it in "yehrziet"; where you make some strong observations, but they aren't, in my opinion, enough to carry the piece as a whole. You have the hard part nailed down. Your a natural writer with good instincts. What you are lacking is a disciplined approach to your main theme.If not oh well, fuck me anyway.