Good morning, Albuquerque! I'm rubbing my eyes and feeling my way to the kitchen that's in this house to find the coffee, and you're probably already into your second cup. I salute you! I do! I really salute you, even if my eyes are half closed. So, on now to the business of our Sunday morning together. I have to say that this has been a real TRIP, to get the opportunity to guest edit The Ditch Rider for all this time, and I'm grateful to all of you for hanging in there with me until Jon gets back. You've all been just great. It's been an honor to do this. I've only got a couple more weeks of editorship here at the Ditch Rider, and I truly hope that you all like what I've done with it. Listen now, it's time for a poem...
...I love this poem by Rachel McKibbens. I could go into (mostly adequate) detail about how I love her very careful ("quirky scent") word selections, and how I love the sharpness, the photographic deftness of her imagery, like the "fat, curling serpents" of the woman's long black hair, and how I love the message and the meaning of this poem, and how excited I am for her upcoming visit to Albuquerque (see the news item below the poem); I could go into all of that with my own small, puny analysis of this poem, but I'd much rather that you all just read this fine poem and come to your own places with it. Rachel, the mic is yours...
He has a remarkable ability, a trick to baffle
even the most talented of witch doctors.
With a simple touch, he brings the dead back to life,
no matter how deep the wound, how cold the heart.
The newly undead often begin speaking immediately,
unaware they are continuing a pre-death conversation,
and the person with whom they were speaking with
has most likely moved on to finish conversations
with other people, rowing through countless bars,
searching for a warm face to touch, a dress to
go home with, someone to keep grief from
pulling up a chair at the table and eating everything
in sight. Cursed with the inability to contact
their loved ones without causing a commotion,
the undead must relocate to new towns, find
different pets and lovers, sons and daughters,
inspire new enemies and risk getting hired
at another miserable job.
A woman feeds the bus her token and takes
a seat. Her grocery bags are heavy, so she
tucks them under her feet instead of hogging
more space. She is a considerate woman.
She has moved to a new town to get away from
the sadness that had built itself around her,
day-by-day, brick-by-brick. Her husband
of thirty-two years was killed in a freak car accident,
his body pulled from a tree two hundred yards
from the scene. At his funeral, the woman noticed
a pretty young lady she had never seen before
sitting in the second row. What struck her
was how hard the stranger cried and how shiny
her long black hair was, fat curling serpents
stretching the length of her spine. When the other
mourners filed out of the chapel, the black-haired
woman stayed behind, hugging the casket
with her arms and legs,
the way a child straddles a tree trunk.
The bus stops on Smith Street. A man climbs
the high steps, pays his fare and makes his
way through the crowd. As he sits behind
the woman, she looks up from her book,
recognizing her husband's quirky scent,
then quickly lowers her head and continues
reading, embarrassed by the two seconds of hope
that swarmed inside her. The man
spots the twin moles on his wife's familiar neck,
and a jolt of new love zaps through
his resurrected heart. He leans forward
and smells the thin grey hair piled atop her head,
held in place with a chewed pencil. Rose shampoo
and cigarette smoke. When the bus stops again,
the wife stands up, carefully making her way through
the narrow spaces between bodies, brushing past
the dead and the living as her husband watches
her like a silent film, left behind
to experience new and unfamiliar joys.
*originally published in Issue 22 of Frigg Magazine
Poet, activist, playwright and essayist Rachel McKibbens is a New York Foundation for the Arts poetry fellow and author of the critically acclaimed volume of poetry, Pink Elephant (Cypher Books, 2009.) Regarded as one of the most dynamic speakers in the country, McKibbens is a legend within the poetry slam community, noted for her accomplishments both on and off the stage: she is a nine-time National Poetry Slam team member, has appeared on eight NPS final stages, coached the New York louderARTS poetry slam team to three consecutive final stage appearances, is the 2009 Women of the World Poetry Slam champion and the 2011 National Underground Poetry Slam individual champion. For four years McKibbens taught poetry through the Healing Arts Program at Bellevue Hospital in Manhattan and continues to teach poetry and creative writing and give lectures across the country as an advocate for mental illness, gender-equality and victims of violence and domestic abuse. Her poems, short stories, essays and creative non-fiction have been featured in numerous journals and blogs, including Her Kind, The Los Angeles Review, The Best American Poetry Blog, The Nervous Breakdown, The Rumpus, The London Magazine, The Acentos Review, World Literature Today, Radius and The American Poetry Journal. McKibbens’ poetry has been described as “marked by an arresting sense of the human spirit as unbroken, despite incredible suffering.” The Rumpus wrote of Pink Elephant, “McKibbens awakens and haunts with selfless honesty.” In 2011, McKibbens was commissioned by The Getty Center in Los Angeles to write and perform an ekphrastic poem for their multi-media poetry event Dark Blushing. McKibbens has read her work at venues and festivals across the nation, including The Dodge Poetry Festival, Letras Latinas at Lincoln Center, The Filmore Theater (Detroit, MI), The Paramount Theater (Austin, TX), Split This Rock, The Sarah Lawrence Poetry Festival, The Lincoln Theater (Columbus, OH), The Spoken Word & Hip-Hop Training Institute, The Drums Inside Your Chest, and Kentucky Women Writers Conference. McKibbens appeared on two seasons of Russell Simmons Presents Def Poetry Jam and was featured in the poetry slam documentary Slam Planet in 2006 at SXSW. McKibbens resides with her family in upstate New York where she teaches poetry and co-curates the monthly reading series Poetry & Pie Night. She is currently working on a memoir about growing up as a child misogynist. She is currently on tour for her second book of poetry, Into the Dark and Emptying Field.
Poetry submissions are welcome. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Local Poetry Event News: This week's installment of Local Poetry Event News is about our poet for this morning, Rachel McKibbens. Rachel is coming to Albuquerque. I'll repeat that because it bears repeating: Rachel McKibbens is coming to Albuquerque! As the name of the event indicates, this is a one-night-only event, and one I would submit that you dare not miss. Rachel will be appearing on Wednesday, July 10th at 7 PM at The Source for Creating Sacredness, located at 1111 Carlisle Blvd SE. Four poets from Albuquerque will be opening up for Rachel at this show: Jessica Helen Lopez, Zachary Kluckman, Damien Flores, and Albuquerque's first ever Poet Laureate, Hakim Bellamy! Admission is $5 at the door, which I'll go ahead and say is an absolute steal for such a magnificent bill. I'll also recommend that you bring some extra cash with you, as Rachel will have copies of her new book, Into the Dark & Emptying Field (Small Doggies Press), for sale. Now, if you know me, then you know I'm not one for hyperbole, but if you miss this show, let me just say that it will be just as bad as if the end of the world had happened. I really want this column, The Ditch Rider, to help be responsible for this show being standing room only. I really want to be able to say that through this column I helped this event to HAPPEN. There's no reason we can't pack this place. I know that all of you who read the Ditch Rider every Sunday morning truly love good poetry, and I want to make an appeal to you: please go to this show. If you only ever go to one poetry event every once in a while, let this show be the one that you go to. And please, tell a friend. Please BRING a friend. I know that later, after the show, you'll tell me that I was right to tell you to come. I know it.