A man tries to trade his guitar for a city bus.My pick for your passengers. Six strings for sixteen wheels.A bride on her wedding day exchanges her lovefor bright weather, a groom exchanges his hands for hers.A father offers to trade his family for a hotel’s worth of sleep.A sailor offers the Pacific for a hotel’s worth of sex.Tonight, the shirt from my back, my singing mouth,my endless praise for your skin or company.I’ll give you my stethoscope for a red barn: a doctor.I’ll give you my right arm for your left: his patient.It’s the inequality of pain a sleepless woman wantsto give away. Here, take mine, she offers to freight trainswhistling their replies through the city’s poorest wards:Jealousy gets you jealousy. Rage gets you rage.“What wouldn’t you offer?” a man asks the pawnshop window.“What wouldn’t you take?” replies the glass.
“New Economy” from SUITOR by Joshua Rivkin (Red Hen Press 2020).
Copyright © 2020 by Joshua Rivkin.
Reprinted with permission from the publisher.
Joshua Rivkin is a poet and essayist. His first book of nonfiction, Chalk: The Art and Erasure of Cy Twombly, was a New York Times Book Review Editor’s Choice and finalist for 2019 PEN/Jacqueline Bograd Weld Award for Biography. His debut collection of poems, Suitor, was published in 2020. His writing has appeared in the New Yorker, Slate, Southern Review, Virginia Quarterly Review, and Best New Poets. Rivkin has received a Fulbright Fellowship in Rome, Italy, a Wallace Stegner Fellowship in Poetry from Stanford as well as residencies and awards from the Sustainable Arts Foundation, Ucross Foundation, and the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown. He teaches at the University of Utah and in the Continuing Studies Program at Stanford. He lives in Salt Lake City with his family.
"Unbeknownst to us, we have been awaiting a book like Joshua Rivkin's Suitor, a book for our times, of such astonishing candor and wicked, sharp seeing into the inscrutable nature of maleness in our times. Driven by a probing intellect, the poems here, principled in song, at once heartbreakingly unveil and render complex our current crisis of manhood, whose only resolution lies in such tender, focused, and incisive language. Reading this book, I assure you, will broadly awaken you to your own journey or someone sitting next to you, and then, that person next to them."
—Major Jackson, author of Roll Deep and Hoops
"This strong debut rigorously and restlessly addresses human desire."