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Preface to The Blind Receptionist and Other Poems

by Robert J. Richkin

The reality of world, as it were, has become increasingly a pre-occupation with secular, social, and political aspects of person. If a previous and insistent rationalism had argued our virtues only as habituated roles—fathers, mothers, husbands, wives—the present would define us equally as an ideology, a this or that seen primarily as social and economic within the pattern of a community no less remote than heaven's itself. But it would seem that the farther we come out, into a daylight world of explicitly tangible states of things and feelings, the more an equally decisive part of us lives with compensatory intensity inside , forcing us to survive the nightmare split of identity. Because we are not one, but two, or three—and we cannot exorcize the old stories by telling, simply, new ones.

These poems tell a story of a literally archetypal pain —which must have begun with consciousness itself, recognizing desire as that which would take it beyond itself, into a world where its own presumption of integrity would be shattered like a mirror. There is a simple ritual of numbers, for example: one/I; two/you; three, the world. That crisis, of the step from one to two, is unremitting, and there is no return.

The thread of story here, then, is a primal mythos: "You can be known by anyone/ who is willing to watch you die . . ." All things given, valued, yielded make not only no difference but fail with the silence of snowflakes. An absolute silence is the only answer—to all entreaty, cajoling, endearment, contempt, and, at last, despair:

Robert J. Richkin, The Blind Receptionist and Other Poems (New York: Blue Mornings Press, 1978).


my childhood forever descending
into the tunnel of dreams
colorless and crying for sleep
little bedrooms
neatly arranged in my head
and mine, maybe
in some other tender memory
in some other tender heart
for the love
of some other life

In the old stories it was the hero's own life which was given in pledge, beyond any hope of redemption—and so the fact of being human was entered deliberately, painfully, step by bloody step. Who could say where it would lead, or end—and can one now say, we know? I do not think so. Yet there is no other way, for any of us, and if there is some one of us willing to offer his life as forfeit, even we may find means to live.


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