Rich. He’s with me.
Yesterday as I walked past the Thai restaurant round the corner from work and saw Gabe and Kelsey through the window, and as I passed Mike and Antoine outside Burger King, and as I sat in the Chinese restaurant waiting for Lindsay, Rich was with me. This morning, a lazy Saturday, I am on the couch and Rich is here. Rich is the poet Rich Smith. This week I am using a book Rich wrote, All Talk, as my own personal tarot deck.
I hold All Talk in my hands and ask: What should I eat for breakfast? I turn the book over and Rich answers:
caught between the blueberry donut and the blueberry muffin
Shut up, Rich. We don’t have either of those things here, and I’m not going out. It’s raining. And fuck blueberries. Try again. What should I have for breakfast? I open the book at random.
Or maybe you are plumb tired of kissing, having kissed so much
I am not tired of kissing. Kisses for breakfast. Yes. Thank you, Rich.
In order to use a book of poetry as a tarot deck, one must relax the mind. The words may say one thing but mean something else. One must gaze through the words. Blur the vision a little. Look at the shape of the letters and then focus beyond them. Ask a question and pull the answer through the language, roll it around on your tongue, and spit it out without thinking.
A kiss for breakfast turns out to be a tofu scramble with mushrooms and red wine. Only after doing the dishes do I open up the book again to see what else Rich has to offer.
And then the democratic rain poured down,
which was another kind of solution.
And he’s right. It is still raining. I ask why.
I watch her melt into that particular spectacle.
I sit by the window and follow Rich’s lead. The world is composed of small spectacles, little miracles, like coffee, and cheesecake, and the Insane Clown Posse. I ask Rich why Michael Jackson had to die.
I have come to know the world without You,
Lord, with all her consequences and wolves;
her tooth, her claw, her ruin, and her renewal.
We live in a world without Michael. A world without Michael is almost exactly like a world with Michael, except Michael isn’t there. Other than that, it’s all pretty much the same.
I ask why they cancelled Passions, the greatest soap opera of all time.
I’m galloping away from one burning stable
toward another burning stable.
There will always be another soap opera. You will love again. I can see it all so clearly.
As you can no doubt surmise, Rich Smith’s All Talk functions wonderfully as a tarot deck. I recommend dedicating a day or two perhaps even longer, a week, a month, perhaps a lifetime’s worth of decision making to Rich. Trust Rich. I suspect his book would also make a fantastic Ouija board. First and foremost however, it is a beautiful book full of beautiful poems.
Rich is a playful poet. His poems read easily and comfortably, as if in conversation with the reader, whilst beneath the surface of polite chatter there lingers a great sadness. A modern sadness. Contemporary grief, perhaps. Like when you stare at a microwave and realize that it can’t dance.
The word charming comes to mind. All Talk is a charming collection and I was easily and gladly swept off my feet. In a strange way, I sometimes feel like Rich doesn’t actually exist here and now, but is some kind of strange apparition, a ghostly embodiment of American poetry from a century ago, perhaps less, like say the 1950s or 60s or sometime around there, some darling of the New York School but obscure, always in a three piece suit but no shoes, no socks, and sometimes a baseball cap. But that’s not fair. Rich is here in this world, here and now, and I am so happy about that.
Rich writes poems about love.
Rich writes poems about food.
Rich writes poems about poetry.
Rich writes poems about kissing.
Rich writes poems about Sarah.
Rich writes poems about loneliness.
Rich writes poems about beauty.
Rich writes poems about drinking.
Rich writes poems about Tuesdays.
Rich writes poems about drinking on Tuesdays.
I ask Rich what we should have for dinner.
I have consumed
so much information
I cannot think
I know the feeling, Rich. Seriously though, what should I eat?
a blown kiss
Oh Rich. Here we go again.
Recommended beverage pairing: Bourbon.
Recommended musical pairing: ILoveMakonnen feat. Drake “Tuesday”
Robert Duncan Gray is an English artist and poet currently living and working in Portland, OR. He is the curator and host of À reading series, and the author of Ticklish Animal (Bone Tax Press), Lunch Money (Poor Claudia), and M (Love Symbol Press), amongst other published works.