Outbound Fall River 1967

By David Rivard

Well, you know how it is
when you’re thirteen, & deep
in the factory bosses’ graveyard—your hair
damp, atmospherically

violet in the August dusk—the children
you run with calling back
over gravestones & wrought-iron Grand
Army of the Republic

picket fences—in this cemetery
catty-corner
from the China Inn (Catholic chow mein
sandwiches

served there Fridays,
Wayne Yee’s family cooks them)—
you know all those
grassy family plots you walk over, strongholds

of the cotton mill clans—
Durfees & Taylors, Bordens,
profligate Howlands, & Slades—by way of those
Protestant names afraid & happily

keyed up both, you
know how you suddenly pass through yourself
as the simplest
of questions—like,

you’ll have to sign
your name how many times
in this life?
A fixed number you

can never know. Remember
how it feels?—
as if a railway line runs
through the middle of the cemetery,

and for a moment you’re riding
in trans-migration to some pure land oasis, Jerusalem
jetty, or primeval
enhancement, & it might go on & on.


David Rivard’s most recent book, Standoff, received the 2017 PEN New England Award in Poetry and was listed by The New Yorker in its “Books We Loved in 2016” roundup. His five other books include Otherwise Elsewhere, Sugartown, and Wise Poison, winner of the James Laughlin Prize from the Academy of American Poets. A recipient of awards from the Guggenheim Foundation, Civitella Ranieri, and the NEA, he teaches at the University of New Hampshire.

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