In today’s jmwwblog, we’re thrilled to publish excerpts from Joseph Riippi’s latest book, B/C, out from Civil Coping Mechanisms Press. Joseph will be reading in Baltimore on Monday, April 28th, at Artifact Coffee along with Maud Casey and D. Foy as part of jmww editor Jen Michalski’s Starts Here! reading series.
I want you to understand how good it feels to pass a blooming magnolia on your way to work while holding your wife’s hand.
I want you to know the love of your life. I want you to marry. I want you to believe the world is a beautiful place.
I want you to feel what it’s like to pass a blooming magnolia and have your body fill up with something like joy, inflatingly, warm and tender like under a blanket in childhood. I want you to know true love, and I want to know what you love. I want to know what it’s like to be the one who truly loves you. I want to know what it’s like to be the person who knows all your secrets.
I want to know all your secrets, and I want you to know mine.
I want to know the secrets of the old woman who lives in the single-family brownstone on 22nd Street with that blooming magnolia before its stoop. I want to know what she’s cooking on those nights we see her through the front window, framed between exposed brick and steel pot racks and basil plants. I want to know how she affords that massive home. I want to know her grey-haired husband’s name. I want to know her name. I want to know if I will recognize their names. I want to know if they are famous actors I just don’t recognize outside a screen. I want to know if they are famous writers. I want them to be writers. I want them to be people just like me who worked hard and were lucky and kept at it. I want a correspondence with them. I want to exchange postcards. I want to typewrite carbon-copy letters and read them only once they’ve been forgotten. I want to know if they raised children in that brownstone. I want to have been a child in a five-story brownstone, playing hide-and-seek, skinning knees on so many stairs.
I want to solve mysteries in a brownstone from a children’s book. I want to know what it’s like to have a child. I want to reread all the children’s books. I want to know what it’s like to watch a daughter laugh. I want to know what it’s like to watch a son throw a baseball in a summer field.
I want to teach someone the elementary things, like paper-airplane building and pencil cursive, long division and duck-and-cover. I want to teach algebra, the different sides of an equation. I want to teach fractions and fractals. I want to teach verb conjugation and subject, predicate, direct object. I want to scan sentences with a red pencil. I want to write sharp paragraphs on a chalkboard. I want to oversee a recess. I want to catch someone falling from a jungle gym. I want to play in the tractor tires. I want to play foursquare and wall ball. I want to play jacks. I want to play quarters. I want to play tackle football in a muddy empty lot. I want to play basketball on a netless hoop with a plywood backboard. I want to climb chain link fences to break into high school stadiums. I want to play two-hand touch in the street. I want grass stains on my knees and elbows. I want grass stains on my jeans and cashmere. I want grass stains on my cheeks and a chipped tooth. I want whiter teeth. I want self-cleaning clothes. I want bedding that smells of dryer sheets. I want a plaid picnic blanket and wine-filled basket. I want to chase grasshoppers and praying mantises up a hill like a poem.
I want to know if mantises are preying or praying. I want to know the verb-root separation between to prey and to pray. I want to prey like a mantis and pray like a grasshopper.
I want to grow very small and ride on a helicopter seed falling from a cedar.
I want to tell you about the time a childhood friend and I climbed high into a cedar tree with pellet guns slung over our shoulders. I want to tell you how we rested in steady branches, how we whispered, Lock and load, like imagined soldiers, how my friend whispered, Fire, and shot that mean old bastard farmer who lived next door in the eye. I want to tell you this didn’t happen, that I don’t remember the police being called, the crying, the I-didn’t-mean-to’s. I want to tell you it had been my friend’s idea, that it had been my friend’s cat that the mean old bastard killed with a rattrap. I want forgiveness for this, too. I want to say confession. I want to hear confession.
I want to tell you how the counseling center in college gave me pills that were supposed to make me feel better and how instead they just made me feel nothing at all, which was actually worse than the feeling I had that made me walk into the center in the first place. I want to tell you how someone called the center to say they were worried about me, concerned for my life, and how the counselor only told me that after everything had happened. I want to know who called. I want to know what they saw me do or heard me say, or didn’t, that made them call.
I want to know if I still sometimes do those things.
I want to not ever have tried alcohol. I want to not ever have smoked a cigarette. I want to not ever drink alcohol or smoke a cigarette again. I want to smoke pot, just once, just to see what it’s like. I want to not be afraid that I’ll like it too much. I want a less addictive personality, but I still want routine. I want to not write about this any more. I want to not repeat myself.
I want to confess on a highway billboard that I tried to kill myself and failed. I want to confess with light projection on the sides of tall buildings that I ate a bottle of pills but a best friend saved my life. I want massive forgiveness. I want total pardon.
I want to cry so badly right now.
I want to learn how to sing these awfulest things away.
B/C by Joseph Riippi (2014, Civil Coping Mechanisms Press)