We Have Lost Our Fathers
and other poems
We Have Lost Our Fathers
University of Central Florida Press, 1982
Nick Rinaldi’s new book is hard-hitting, direct, forceful, and lively. He adds fantasy to realism in swift-moving poems that clench the fist, throw the world away, and thereby possess it with characteristic, remarkable energy. Readers will find his findings amazing and good. -Richard Eberhart
In this wholesome, witty, allegorical book, Nicholas Rinaldi never forgets the first rule of art: be interesting. Reading Rinaldi is like going to a class taught by a mad professor: you know you’ll be fascinated, and you know you’ll learn something. - Richard Hugo
Nicholas Rinaldi’s deeply concerned and alert poems capture how we live in a continual state of war and surrealism and loss. They probe and shake and glide among our many realities. As he recognizes himself in us, so we become reflected in him. A varied, fascinating poetry, where the craftsman and the social critic meet. -Dick Allen
From WE HAVE LOST OUR FATHERS
One day a camel turned up
On Francis Lewis Boulevard. It stopped traffic.
It was not a camel that had
escaped from a zoo: it was a camel that was
authentic and new, a true camel that had materialized
out of thin air. We liked the camel.
It was blind in one eye and needed help. We fed it
and kept it warm.
One day the camel passed
through the eye of a needle. We were startled—glad.
The camel was pleased with itself.
“I have arrived,” it said.
We gave the camel gifts: gold,
scented soap, myrrh. We also brought
other things. The camel didn’t know
What to do with the myrrh.
The camel was more special
Than we had imagined: it gave meaning
to our lives. Without the camel, we could not have become
the persons we are.
One afternoon the camel announced
it would remain with us no longer.
We pleaded with it to stay, but nothing we said
could make it change its mind.
Suddenly, the camel was gone—only its eye
remained, its one good eye
hovering in the air: intense, dark,
a lonely orb. We knelt before it
and prayed: Save us from disaster!
Save us from ourselves! The eye
gazed at us with deep compassion.
It winked, and disappeared.
We feel peculiar without the camel in our midst:
desolate, forlorn. Yet we feel, strangely,
that the camel is somehow in touch, watching over,
the camel with its hump, its fleshy lips, thick tongue,
horny callosities, two-toed feet,
and its memories of the traffic that stood still
on Francis Lewis Boulevard.
One day, we recall, the camel, in a state of boredom,
stood up and danced—nothing sensational, a common waltz,
but a waltz performed with an ease and a grace
we had not seen before.
All the meaning of the camel, we realized,
was in that dance. We caught it on film.
On bad days, rain, dark moods, we turn out the lights
and roll the film. The camel’s there again, dancing,
moving gracefully. We feel the power, the slow joy.
We stand up out of our chairs and move toward
the shadows on the screen: we enter the shadows
and join the dance, feeling the life, the death, the dread,
the bliss, the inexplicable lift. We go on dancing
until the music fades
and the camel winks—
and, despite ourselves, we disappear.