April 2012 Silent Lotus’ Selected Poets’
and his guest Matthew Richards
Leonardo Loves Me, This I Know
(After the Mona Lisa)
Slight smiles are like chameleons – if one showed itself
to you, how would you know that’s the real thing and not
a kind of camouflage? Leonardo asked “Do you love me?”
in the nano-moment before he froze my image in his mind
and started to paint. At that point he was stuck with me,
and that look on my face, and he would have to paint it
just like that. If you think I’m being mean to Leonardo,
I’m not. He loved these jokes we shared, he loved me,
just as I knew he never could love me the way I knew,
he knew, I needed. See why my smile is complicated?
I knew we could never marry, like I know the reasons,
the thousand reasons why that was so. Our wedding,
if such a thing could be, would have made a mockery
of too many traditions; made too many new enemies;
all we were trying to do was make something beautiful.
We wanted to make beauty bigger, with new wings;
its flight plans transformed into lasting promises
that ugly girls could hope for classic love. And this change
will fly all the way to a new science, where any small
feature, say a smile, could make a face remembered
for all time. Pretty girls live their lives, resting peacefully
on mirror knowledge. Ugly girls like me dream of a life
where we’re beautiful, enough. I will live forever, because
a gay man cared enough to save me just as I am,
except better. I’ll remain myself: mysterious, beautiful
Clown College Home-School
My daughter spends hours every day
practicing slapstick comedy for my benefit–
pratfalls and peek-a-boo. Open eyes
careful to make sure I’m watching.
“I faw down!” she says with show-grin
and mischief-wink. Only four, and she knows
she’s funny, and if I have a sin of pride, it is her every joke,
the stumbling new words, the toddling up to the punch-line,
the way she soaks up my laughter, like she knows
this attention is special and I want to warn her
it can be a lonely place, but I don’t want to kill the room,
so instead, I give her Daddy straight-lines
a daughter could only love., I say,
“You faw down?”
“Yes, Daddy! I go… a-BOOM!”
My eyes weep to tell her “We do this–making other people laugh–
because it feeds us. 4 out of 5 doctors immune to suicide
know funny is strong medicine, a placebo in bad jacket plaid,
a clown pill spoofing on all the straight-face poisons
by making prank phone-calls like, “Ringringring! Rngringring!
Hello? Is this Chemotherapy? Boo!
So, the wisest doctors write prescriptions on banana peels
with joy-buzzers, so I tell her “ Embrace humor as part
of your religion and pray to a trick moon; listen for God
playing “bucket-o’-fish” in your life, and keep that sound holy.”
I want to warn her there are sad people in this world
who will resent her clown-shoes, who will try to trip her up
because they can only laugh when they’re cruel.
Pity them Autumn, and forgive–bad jokes are an acquired taste,
not everyone is cut-out to be gourmet.
Most of all, I want her to know the rules that are unwritten:
Be kind when you roast someone; only kid like that out of Love.
But be fierce and beautiful in your parodies; remember–
“What can the Jester say to the King? Anything.
“Autumn,” I whisper to her, when she’s asleep,
“always try to be funny for the right reasons.
Face the world with a grin and knock-knock judo,
and do right by your audience every time,
people like us need them.
“But, most of all, may you always have
such a fire inside your heart from your Daddy’s love,
that you will never need to mistake the sound
of the audience’s applause, for love.”
If I Never Get the Chance to Tell You This
I am the bullet with your name
carved all over it.
I am sorry,
I never wanted this.
But there are moments
in everyone’s life: things
spark; forces bigger
than ourselves send me
flying towards you.
Nothing like Love, this.
Hands bigger than ours
propel us along trajectories
we would not choose,
if we could
choose for ourselves.
We find we are aimed
and never know
what hand chose us –
bullet and target, both.
Even as I break the sound
barrier, I pray for wind
to slow me down, pray
that the hand that pointed
me at you, shook
Ryk McIntyre is a Multi-Hyphen sort. Poet, critic, performer, workshop facilitator and co-host at both GotPoetry! Live (Providence) and Cantab Lounge (Cambridge,MA). Ryk has performed his work at Boston’s ICA, NYC’s New School, Portsmouth, NH’s Music Hall and Lollapalooza, to name just a few. He has toured the US, performing in countless Poetry open mics and festivals. He has been published in such journals as The Worcester Review, Shortfuse- An Anthology of New Fusion Poets, and Aim for the Head. Ryk Mcintyre can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Autism, you are not my diagnosis.
You are the garbage bag I got thrown into
When even ADHD didn’t want me anymore.
You are judgmental psychiatrist viewing
Microscope slide me with scalpel eyes
And dissecting with, “You are not normal.
Take pills to change who you are.”
You are public service announcement
Of “1 in 150” that really means
“149 belong” and the rest of the population
Should be herded with IEP cattle prods into the
Designated “Special Needs Room,” and forced into
The lowest level classes possible so their
Different-ness is no longer a threat to academia.
There is no “Trial by jury of peers.”
There is no “Innocent until proven guilty.”
It’s “Autistic until proven otherwise”
And you have to deceive, persuade, and negotiate
With Guantanamo guidance counselors
To prove you are worthy of college.
To prove you are worthy of accomplishment.
To prove you are worthy of respect.
There is no escape tunnel.
Lawsuits are a bitch, money is power,
And there’s no such thing as “misdiagnosis.”
Autism, you are the bell I cannot unring.
All I can do is sneak behind teachers,
Cover their ears, intercept transcripts,
And convince them there’s another Matthew Richards.
But hiding from a hurricane every day is difficult
And when the teacher asked, “Are the special needs kids
Even allowed in upper level classes?”
I wanted to dig my fingernails into the chalkboard
And scream, “We exist!
We are the gum paved into the school patio
We are the lockers without numbers in the corner of the basement
We are the names on the attendance list
The teachers can never pronounce
We are the ghosts that will haunt the halls of West High School
Just as unnoticed and forgotten as when we were alive.”
But instead, I shrugged,
Erased the board, and sat at my desk
Because if he couldn’t see my SPED barcode
While standing right in front of me, it only
Means I’ve done a good job scraping it off.
Autism, I will not be your microscope specimen.
I will not be the Campbell’s cream of crazy
Rotting in the bottom of your garbage bag.
You cannot own me.
You cannot control me.
I am too good for you to have.
Matthew Richards is a poet and college student from Manchester, NH. He competed with the Slam Free or Die team at the 2011 National Poetry Slam. His work has been featured in such publications as The Legendary, Borderline, OVS Magazine, Star*Line, and the anthology Red Bull Wrecking Ball of New England Grit. His poem Ravel was nominated for a 2012 Rhysling Award. When he isn’t writing performing poetry, Matthew works tirelessly as an organizer with the Occupy movement in New Hampshire, and occasionally as an actor with the theater group at UNHM. He wants to thank Cassandra Ashley for the wonderful photo of him
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