“Ordinary words are rooted to the great fires in the human heart. The same words we use every day, at the playground, at the bus stop, at the grocery store – when the poet takes hold of those tarnished, dirty words, they dunk them in the deep fires of the human heart and splash them on this canvas to bust open the chest of someone who’s listening.”
If you don’t read John Rybicki–you should! Last month, Lookout Books published his latest collection of poems, a tribute to his late wife entitled When All the World Is Old. Lookout also released this trailer for the book–and if Rybicki’s word’s don’t inspire you, I don’t know what will.
At the age of 29, just five years after they met, Rybicki’s wife, the poet Julie Moulds, was diagnosed with cancer. Here, in poems raw and graceful, authentic and wise, Rybicki pays homage to the brave love they shared during her 16-year battle and praises the caregivers—nurses and doctors and friends—who helped them throughout. He invites readers to bear witness to not only the chemotherapy, the many remissions, and the bone marrow transplants, but also the adoption of the couple’s son, the lifted prayers, the borrowed time, and the lovers’ last touches. A husband smashes an ice-cream cone against his forehead to make his wife laugh. He awakens in the middle of the night to find their dog drowsing atop a pile of her remnant clothes.
The lamentations and celebrations of When All the World Is Old create a living testament to an endless love. Braided with intimate entries from Moulds’s journal, these poems become the unflinching and lyric autobiography of a man hurtling himself headlong into the fire and emerging, somehow, to offer a portrait of light and grace.
Rybicki’s hymns rest in the knowledge that even though all love stories one day come to an end, we must honor the loving anyway. The poet has dipped his pen in despair, but as he cleaves his heart and our own, transmitting the exquisite loss into a beauty so fierce and scalding and ultimately healing that readers come out whole on the other side.