Poem of the Day & Remembering Ralph Angel

Happy Tuesday, friends. I hope you enjoyed your day and did something you love today.

I mentioned yesterday that I’m diving more deeply back into my reading and writing, including sharing poetry during these uncertain times.

On March 9th, the press where I used to work as the Layout and Design Editor, New Issues Poetry and Prose, shared a video of Ralph Angel reading his lovely poem, “Bright Example.” In the post, it read, “If you need to need to hear Ralph’s voice, it is here. We at New Issues will all miss him so much.”

The post hit my body like a wave, and I locked myself in the bathroom for a few minutes, simply sitting there to listen to Ralph read his poem aloud. I cried alone while my children played, unaware, in the basement.

I think partially the news hurt so much, because it’s impossible to imagine such a bright light in the world going out at a time like this.

But more than anything, I think it’s the culture that I embraced while working with New Issues. The relationships we built there with each other, and with our writers, were sound, authentic, and unforgettable. I’ve never lost track of New Issues, celebrate their winners, read their latest books, and do whatever I can to remain involved with them from afar.

Working with Ralph Angel, who was one of the later poets I worked with while on staff, was an incredible experience. We exchanged countless emails about his poetry, their need to breathe on the page, the weather, what we were reading—typical to poets who relate anything in life to poetry.

More important were the phone calls, which were fewer in number but long, thoughtful, and hilarious. I knew long before anyone told me that he was brilliant, and a jokester.

During one of our calls, he joked with me about pranking me at some point—but not until the book was released, of course. He said he couldn’t take any chances (haha).

Then at AWP that year, in Seattle, Ralph was scheduled for a book signing at the New Issues table at the bookfair. I made sure to be there, so I could finally meet him in-person. When he arrived, there were immediately people surrounding him, so I waited. Once he was free, I introduced myself, and he gasped audibly.

He said, “Oh, it’s you,” and pulled me into a hug, saying, “Thank you.” He picked up his book from the table and said, “This is here because of you” (which was such an exaggeration, but it meant a lot to little MFA-candidate-me).

Goodness, I miss him. I think I always will. But eventually, I will have all of his books, and that will be more than I can say now.

For anyone who doesn’t have the books I have, or who may have not been introduced to his work yet, here are three poems I particularly love from Ralph’s Your Moon, which I designed in 2014.

THE WIND WILL CARRY US

Someone has been sleeping. Someone’s
heading nowhere.

This is the winding road. Then there’s a solitary
tree, and after that, nothing,
nothing.

If someone asks, say I’m
looking for buried treasure. Such a lovely
village. You’ve hidden it so well.

I haven’t hidden anything. Our ancestors
built it here.

See that blue window, near the lady
sitting on the steps. Let’s
go higher. I will

show you. Here’s your
room.

We have a sack of apples. We have
fresh bread. You won’t
get another chance

like this. On judgment day
it’s obvious. I’m used to it. I work
here. If you stay a while longer, you’ll
get used to it, too.

When I was little, and someone
told me a secret, I always wanted to reveal it.
And, eventually, I did.

“If you come into my house
oh kind one, bring me a lamp
and a window

through which I can watch the crowd
in the happy street.”

I’m sorry to disturb you.

You’re welcome.
This is my normal route.

YOU’RE THE RUB

Murmured in loneliness, round and round.
Let’s not go inside. The cliffs drop off, and the ocean’s
a friend—on the boardwalk
enough people alone
have died.
So relax, take your feet
off—nobody’s
missing. There are many parts
of the mind. On that old
open day we let out our long green grass. A night’s passed
and you expected it
to be there.
You’re the rub—the love
that loves the love. I like especially the puddles
and your wire. I like your mud.
I like your part
of it.

CONVERSATION

So I took a walk
inside. You’re alone
when morning
comes.
Watching you sleep in
is better

than oatmeal,
even Irish
oatmeal,
that thing you do
so well.

When you were a fish
you were a salmon.
I know, I’m
slow, I
know.

November’s a nice day
to be. The ocean’s
near.
Your fog
is

everywhere.

So I
talked to I, I said
fuck death, everyone
I meet knows
someone

I know. I said
it’s nice to be happy,
but no one
believes
me.

Take your time,
my love. The logs have lit
the fire.
The sweet scent
of your hair

kisses
my mouth, and I
kiss you back,
and pour
the tea.

Enjoy, friends. And have a glass of wine in Ralph’s memory for me, okay?

—all from Ralph Angel’s Your Moon (New Issues Poetry and Prose, 2014)

&

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