The days are dog-eared, the edges torn,   
ragged—like those pages   
I ripped once out of library books,

for their photos
of Vallejo and bootless Robert Johnson.   
A fine needs paying now

it’s true, but   
not by me.
I am no more guilty

than that thrush is
who sits there stripping moss   
off the wet bark of a tree.

A red fleck, like his, glows
at the back of my head—a beauty mark,   
left by the brain’s after-jets.

I would not wish for the three brains   
Robert required
to double-clutch his guitar

and chase those sounds he had to know   
led down
and into a troubled dusky river, always.

Three brains did Johnson no earthly good,   
neither his nor Vallejo’s 4 & 1/2
worked right exactly—O bunglers,

O banged-up pans of disaster!
Crying for days, said Cesar, & singing for months.   
How can I be so strong some times,

at others weak? I wish to be free,
but free to do what? To leave myself behind?   
To switch channels remotely?

Better to sing.
Not like the bird, but as they sang,   
Cesar & Robert—

with the shocked & seeded   
sweetness of an apple
split open by a meat cleaver.

  • David Rivard, “Not Guilty” from Bewitched Playground. Copyright © 2000 by David Rivard. Reprinted with the permission of Graywolf Press, St. Paul, Minnesota, www.graywolfpress.org.

  • Source: Bewitched Playground (Graywolf Press, 2000)

Poet Bio

What People are Saying

"I do Poetry Out Loud because the everyday me is very shy and easily stumbles over words, mangling meaning and botching simple conversations. Yet, when I recite poetry it is an opportunity for me to become someone else––an embodiment of the poem. Slowly, step by step, I think Poetry Out Loud is helping me to become a braver, more confident person, even if I still tremble when I get on stage."
Rose Horowitz
2016 ME POL Champion