Fall 2016, Volume 21

Poetry by Max Ritvo

Lyric Complicity for One

I wanted to speak with a woman
so passionately and imaginatively that our personalities
would dissolve, we would begin to lie,
and a thing between us
much more beautiful than either of our voices
would begin to speak—a lyric complicity.

Instead, imagine a fisherman
rubbing hot water on his throat.
His mother once said
gargle hot water when your throat’s tight.
He can’t remember the word gargle in the memory,
only his mother fanning out her fingers as she said it,
small, precise, and a little wicked.
So now he gets it wrong, remembering the fingers, feeling forlorn.

Beneath him swim bluefin tuna at fifty miles an hour,
fast and invisible as the wicked fingers.
These sea-seams, these black-bodied cloaks of guts,
are just as dazed as the thoughts of the fisherman.
For every thought, a new fish soars
right under the anchored boat—
a lullaby to quiet another lullaby.



“Lyric Complicity for One” from Four Reincarnations by Max Ritvo (Minneapolis: Milkweed Editions, 2016). Copyright © 2016 by Max Ritvo. Reprinted with permission from Milkweed Editions. www.milkweed.org.



BIO: Max Ritvo (1990-2016) wrote Four Reincarnations in New York and Los Angeles over the course of a long battle with cancer. He was also the author of the chapbook AEONS, chosen by Jean Valentine to receive the Poetry Society of America Chapbook Fellowship in 2014. Ritvo's poetry has appeared in The New Yorker, Poetry, and the Boston Review, and as a Poem-a-Day for Poets.org. His prose and interviews have appeared in publications such as Lit Hub, Divedapper, Huffington Post, and the Los Angeles Review of Books.