So I was commissioned to write and read a poem at the 2012 induction of Phi Beta Kappa at Case Western Reserve University. I am not a member, but my little sister is, so this made it even more important to roll the 20. This was for the students, not the parents.

You Are Here

When you finally move your desk
at the end of the mercury year,
Lean, on the curved edge
of your father’s voice, down
by the car
and look at the bright carpet
that somehow escaped
the UV stare.

Outside the locked window,
The bee hangs
on invisible string.

You know
That work is the application of force
over distance.
Yet you barely moved
especially at night
from the regulation chair.
Oh, sometimes to the library
or all the time
depending on who asked.

You imagined the rocky shelves pushing
perpendicular to your imagined
sprinting escape.
You turn and curse
the loss of your favorite pen.

But you were mostly at the desk;
flint-slivers of rice and notes,
legs locked and twisted into roots.
A second set of
squat thumbs.
You click and shuffle in the barest of rhythms,
pushing against trellis equations.

And an infinite number
of general sentences.

You will really only remember
the way of work itself, winding across
the examination apocalypse.
The messy and lonely
ante meridiem

in the glow close of
better reflection.

But also that light
behaves very poorly
both as local particle HERE
and rolling wave THERE.
You can feel your mass and volume
like good pockets of change
in blue plumber pants
across the very top.

These steady surfaces of
desk and still coffee are
scary liars.

X has, at best, a tricky meniscus as
a still phone becomes blur
buzzing up a Y of screen, wall,
and tingle spine.

You are not luminescent
but you shed something.
Like light, your nightwork
of tripod alien brain
cannot be measured along
one single plane.
The soft light under the doorway
lures without dimension.
So click the pin and hammer;
hone your dragon shout.

You are the red asterisk burning
on a monolithic map
in a mall on Christmas Eve.

A suspended, pixel application.

A revealing footnote and a
perfect section break.

*Here is a comment just for the programmer
Do not compile me*

You are context and circumstance,
and good marginalia.
A shy, typed expletive;
a window tapped closed.

The surrounding space of outward possible effort
now left behind.

So here you are
happy in length and width and height
in revel burst
to solve the world-X.

Yet be mindful of your own cold
shadows. And those cast upon you.
These are worthy places.

Somewhere around, in the eaves and
secret mirrors,
the old neglected aether,
wakes up and cackles
without any sort of resistance.

This is the privilege of the purple work
so far from Africa
where our genes first creeped.
Forcing forward in curling lines
stopped here, for a good
bright moment,
in the high,
lighted occasion.

Brad J. Ricca
CWRU Phi Beta Kappa poem, May 2012

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If you come by Table #54 this Sunday at the Brooklyn Book Festival, you can get a free limited-ed. print with Mastodon. Here is one of them. I’ll be there from 1-2. Illustrations by Henry Vallely.

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3 poems at MARCO POLO

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“The Beautiful Sandwich” featured on The Writer’s Almanac, read by Garrison Keillor. Listen below.

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“Customs of Golems” on Verse Daily

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Review at Neon

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“So” at The Cleveland Review

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“Wet Cell” for National Poetry Month

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“Future Imperfect” in Albatross

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“The Curse” and “Next We Should Try A Monkey” at NYC Big City Lit

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“Why Superman Was Born In Cleveland,” Winner of RTA Moving Minds Project. Design by David Buchmueller.

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“Monster Island” at NYC Big City Lit

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“It is Not Fake; Therefore, It is Real” in The Coe Review

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