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The Abandon of Liam Rector


Cover image from The Executive Director of the Fallen World

by Liam Rector, University of Chicago Press, 2006


Never heard of him before; I just saw a line that was quoted by someone:

Change is slow and hope is violent.

(from Song Years)

I was intrigued; I looked up the author, Liam Rector. "Liam Rector is one of the most linguistically liquid and gifted poets of his generation," said poet Lucie Brock-Broido. "His is the oddest and most hallucinatory romance with Romance in American letters."

I bought his final book, The Executive Director of the Fallen World, published by the University of Chicago Press in 2006, a year before Liam took his own life by shotgun.

What I found in it was poetry that is honest, raw and vulnerable. After reading his work, I still can’t say I know the man that once was. But he sure left some windows open. A taste:

From When the Parents Went:

How miserable Mom looked

In the photo. It had been a shotgun

Wedding, occasioned by me,

There already

In Mom’s belly, six months

Before I, unwanted, came to be.

From The Worry of the Far Right:

He, the Reverend, wanted again an America

In which he could drive his convertible into town,

Park it, leave his keys in the ignition,

And worry only that it might rain,

Rather than worry about Liam Rector.

From Off to the Country of Cancer:

It comes on.

Comes on with the word,

A doctor’s word,

The doctor saying cancer.

“But do I have cancer?”

“Yes, cancer.”

Doctor has to say cancer

One more time

Before the cancer

In me

Becomes the word

I give over to it.

From This Summer:

I think I may die without god,

My single comic integrity

That I have remained

An atheist in the foxhole,

Though I am ready

To roar through the gates

If there are gates.

From First Marriage:

All those years ago. So many

Things turn this way over time,

So much tenderness and memory,

Problems not to be solved

But lived, and I resolved

Right then to start living

Only in this kind of time.

Cancer gave this to me: being

Able to sit, comfortably, to get

Over her finally, and to

Get on with the fight to live while

Staying ready to die daily.

From Beautiful, Sane Women:

Looking back I wonder

What the hell those

Beautiful, sane women

Must have thought

Was happening. What

Was happening was

I was on script

Betraying poverty

And then betraying

My need to betray

Poverty, poverty

Put in me so deeply

As my family early

Shifted around endlessly,

Leaving me,

I thought, with no choice

Other than to be

Some kind of Gandhi.

From So We’ll Go No More:

I’ve operated that way. That way

Almost the entire caper, the way

For people, places, things:

Abandon, abandon, yea abandon before

Being abandoned...

Mr. Rector, it seems you accomplished the abandon you sought. Thank you for leaving some windows open for the rest of us.

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