NEA Literature Fellowships

Boyer Rickel

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(2001 - Poetry)


Just under the surface of the river, another river.

From here on the shore, stones under water are insubstantial as smoke.

As is the face of the beloved.

And the sentence, despite its grammar.

Would a bracing wind clear the air?

Just under the voice's surface, another voice.

A wall doesn't stop the wind; it directs it someplace else.

Behind the beloved's face, another face, and then another --

the heart transparent: all clarity, all distortion.

The nape of the neck is only the nape of the neck. Touch it. With your lips.

But the tongue is river to the heart.

In times of flood, stones are tumbled by the current, walls are worn away
          at their foundations.

In times of drought, stones become the river's grammar.

Real Audio"Desire" read by the author

Boyer Rickel is the author of a book of poems, arreboles (Wesleyan/UPNE), and a book of autobiographical essays, Taboo (Wisconsin). He teaches graduate and undergraduate poetry workshops and seminars in the University of Arizona Creative Program, where he has served as assistant director since 1991.

Author's Statement

The gift of time. Many NEA fellows are able to buy a little time away from whatever pays the bills - in my case, teaching and administrative work - to concentrate on writing. What I hadn't anticipated about the fellowship was a less tangible, though no less satisfying, reward: the inner lift I've felt since that wonderful phone call from the NEA Literature Director. I'm hopeful that lift will see me through the completion of a new book of poems.