Fine Arts

Ryk McIntyre Is Thankful

rykLove and support shown for a poet in need

I don’t know about you, but when I have a friend in the hospital, I visit if I can. Ryk McIntyre was a huge part of a team that introduced me to the world of Slam Poetry. In 2001, I made the New Jersey Slam team and flew to Seattle for my first National Poetry Slam Competition. Imagine 300 poets on 75 teams crowding into one or two hotels for five days. Nationals is supposed to be about the competition, but not really. For people like Ryk and me, it’s about family, and it was Ryk who introduced me to this concept.

When you ask Ryk to describe himself, he says, “I have been a legendary presence on the New England poetry scene for decades. I am rarely photographed and not everyone is convinced I really exist.” My favorite poem of his is “Crazy Leap of Faith” (published in Poetic Medicine, February 2011). It is the perfect description of just one angle from which to view this poet. It opens with:
You know the sound a strait-jacket makes
when the safety-straps slip?
That was our first kiss.
We knew it’d be crazy, knew the risk –
to get involved like this,
we’d have to disagree to agree
with the voices in our heads
that sentence us to solitary,
and do something really crazy,
like … not listen to them!
Set ourselves loose enough
to measure the space
it takes to live happy,
with one last leap of faith.
Ryk suffers from Spondylosis and COPD. Twice I’ve been in a hospital room with this guy sharing laughs and just being in high spirits. But it’s not what you think. We are like grumpy old men, finding humor in the ugly, trading insults that to us translates as love, being all curmudgeonly  buddy-buddy. The reason I want to shed light on this character is because one the greatest acts of human kindness I’ve ever seen was poured onto him.
Choosing to be a poet as a profession means choosing to live on the generosity of others. People have to want to buy your book or CD. Many organizations ask the poet to perform, but choose to spend funds on something other than him. Ryk’s last trip to the hospital sent him directly to penniless, without passing GO. Nothing was going right. He went through a recent divorce, lost his living space, his car needed $2,000 in repairs and he was living in constant pain. A mutual friend got on Facebook and opened up an account so people could show financial support. In 24 hours, people from all over the world showed monetary support and left messages of love. Watching the website grow and the support pour in choked me up.
So the perfect way to close is with the poem Ryk gave me when I asked him for a poem to review.
It is so damn easy for me to be truly thankful
for all the obvious things – enough food, family,
easy abundance, and a shelter from the storms –
that it is too common I forget to have gratitude
for all the things that aren’t, never were and so
won’t it be. I’m grateful for every stupid jerk
that didn’t cross my path today, for the idiots
that got my coffee order absolutely… correct.
Thank you, you weird looking mole on my neck,
for the inoperable Cancer that you are not. Oh,
not-out-of-control City Bus, thanks for not hopping
the curb because your driver didn’t have a heartattack because his high blood pressure was
under control. Thank you, all my past lovers
who were not serial killers, Thank you brain
that the question of whether or not they were
serial killers never crossed my mind late at night
at the time. That would’ve been awkward.
When I first became sick and disabledI had to thank Lyme Disease, ALS,
Parkinson’s, AIDS, MS, Huntington’s
and a whole alphabet of Hepatitis, and
everything I was tested for for NOT being
what’s killing me. Thank you, things
that ARE killing me for procrastinating
and being generally apathetic. Thank you,oh inevitable Zombie Apocalypse,
for those movies, and for staying in those
movies. Thank you Facebook for not causing
Cancer (I’m assuming this is true). Thanks,
sense of humor, for reminding me sarcasm
is better than head/desk. Thank you Evil
shit in this world for remaining mundane.I owe you for all the near-misses I never saw,
for every dark thing that passed by me
and kept on swimming. For every guardian
Angel I must have worn down to the nub.
I am grateful to that asteroid that wasn’t
the size of North Dakota, and didn’t crash
into the Earth. Thank you, luck of the draw,

thank you, skin of my teeth, thank you wire
for letting me under, thank you every bow
I pulled to make an arrow escape. Shut up pun
haters, this is me thanking the Whole of Creation
for the loopholes and tiny odds in my favor;
for every bad thing that could have happened,
and didn’t. Lord, let me be grateful for Nothing.


March 18, Port Veritas, Bull Feeney’s Pub, 375 Fore Street, Portland, Maine, 7 – 10pm, $3 admission; March 19, Speak UP Spoken Word Open Mic, Walnut Street Coffee Cafe, 157 Walnut Street, Lynn, Mass., 7:30 – 10pm, Free Admission (Pass the Hat); March 24, Stone Soup, Out of the Blue Gallery, 106 Prospect Street, Cambridge, MA, 8 – 10pm, Free Admission (Pass the Hat)