One Poem by Max Ritvo

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I remember your torso locked in a twill shell.

I remember the same rotating body bare.

Is my sadness ever any different?

When my mind is particularly still, I can sometimes feel my sadness before it seizes upon any memory. I feel the space it makes in my body for what will hurt me. It is like the shape of a knife being opened before a knife slides in.

The knife cuts nothing—my body opens gracefully and rapidly for the knife.

It is conceivable to imagine myself taken down by wounds without any knife at all—my body simply opening up knife-shaped wounds down its column until I folded upon myself silently.

It is conceivable to imagine that upon opening my mouth to cry out, I would find no scream in it—only the end of my throat as the horrible edge of expression—too dense to even allow my breath to build pressure—a blunt instrument taking the room temperature of the beatific rectum.

Obviously, I cannot fool you by calling this sadness. I wish I could call it hate. I would even take pettiness. It’s much lonelier than that. It is the hand of my anticlock. When the pendulum of my clock is meant to swing from right to left, the hand of my anticlock rattles it front to back. Every hour on the hour, it stuffs the cheeping cuckoo back into the black rectangle halfway through the chime.

You are a velvet glove on the hand of my anticlock. Let me believe that your gorgeous shape, sharp teeth, bulbous forehead, your silly gold hat, make me sad. Let me believe it is the crawling velvet of sadness that jangles my clock.

One day I might go to mourn you at the site of our first cuddle, intending only to look at it from a distance, and find my anticlock there in the hammock cuddling your ghost. Or worse, I might find him wringing his hands, mourning the way I would.

Max Ritvo is the author of the poetry collection Four Reincarnations (Milkweed Editions) and the chapbook AEONS, for which he was awarded a 2014 Poetry Society of America Chapbook Fellowship. He earned his BA from Yale University and his MFA from Columbia University. His work has appeared in Poetry, The New Yorker, Boston Review, and on He was a poetry editor at Parnassus and a teaching fellow at Columbia University. He lived in Manhattan until his death in August 2016.

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