By David Rivard

Featured Art: City at Night by Arthur B. Carles

Phil Rizzuto, shortstop, the Yankees’
Scooter & play-by-play announcer & The Money Store’s
man of a certifiably trustworthy nature,
but invented for me first in war stories told
by my father—
on a South Pacific island naval air station
maybe it’d be fun to put Scooter
in the game, brass thinks
a sports star visitor to war zone
great theater of operations P.R.—
but basketball, not
civilization-beating baseball, basketball
my father’s game—
“I could take him,
he couldn’t get by
me”: sayeth Norman
Rivard, testimony of
a former All-State point guard
1942 season Mass state champs
team captain
Durfee High School Fall River;
his torpedoed destroyer sunk
by a two-man Japanese sub

(a sake brewers’ assistant & an Imperial War College ensign?),
a few days earlier their suicide mission
had sent my father
to the base, rescued
just in time for Scooter’s morale boosting
visit, the two together on an asphalt court
in cosmic time Holy Cow!
an immortal, lucky accident—
but will, pride, intensity
count more for Norman—“don’t depend on luck
OK, why don’t you just apply yourself?”
my father’s question, frustrated by
his distracted, blurry
apply yourself, stay on track,
stick to it, that’s the thing,
you’ll adhere
successfully to whatever you want
(not sure I know what the wanting is for even now),
you can be
an architect, trial lawyer, oncologist, surveyor,
if only you apply yourself—
like a wing decal on the model
of a Mustang P-51 Fighter
or whiskey dried in a glass-sized ring
on a liquor cart?—
skim the ear wax off your eardrums,
Dad—here is your poet, & here
is your poem.

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.

Originally appeared in NOR 14.

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