072.1: Bill Rector:: 8 ½ & black bag 072

In Bill Rector’s work, the poet and the physician meld into a speaker of intense and careful ontological devotion to life and the craft. Tragedy and comedy are not two separate entities reserved for two different poems, but appear as braids or simultaneous strands on a shared helix. Take the first two lines of 8 ½, where the speaker begins:

    an age you and I once were, in nanoseconds, inversions of the
    hourglass, lunar phases, and dog years...

The urgency here is as immediate as the moments when (yikes) a doctor gives you your window of opportunity of last years left alive. But Rector’s sense of humor and candid love for life seems as natural as his adherence to life’s intensity:

    8 ½-> the sign for infinity turned on end and made to walk all
    the roads of the earth, accompanied by its little friends,
    one and two.

The poem backs off and laughs a little, with us and, perhaps, at us for flinching at the velocity of the poem’s commencement. The result is, of course, a trustworthy speaker of immense spiritual fidelity. Cody Todd

8 ½


an age you and I once were, in nanoseconds, inversions of the hourglass, lunar phases, and dog years…

8 ½ -> the sign for infinity turned on end and made to walk all the roads of the earth, accompanied by its little friends, one and two.

Inverted eyeglasses. Strange thoughts. 8 ½

seconds is when to open the parachute unless it’s already too late.

8 ½: a large hat. Small shoes. Pellets in the sealed lips of a shotgun shell, paces from the bent palm tree to the pirate treasure, rings before the executor of your uncle’s estate hangs up. It takes

8 ½ minutes for sunlight to reach the earth and dendrites in the brain to survive after the light grows dim and the heart stumbles to a stop.

8 ½ 8 ½ 8 ½

     – the title of a partly autobiographical film by Federico Fellini;
     – the height in feet of the world’s tallest man;
     – sticks of butter in a wedding cake;
     – fake carats in a floozie’s sparkler;
     – quakes to make seismographs scribble and spans fall.

If 10’s the ceiling and 0 the floor 8 ½ is near the top. 8 ½, as pain, is a lot. You’re crawling the walls. You want a shot.

As a breeze, in knots, it’s enough to unfurl the black and red banner of the departing craft:

8 ½.



black bag


Where, William Carlos Williams,
are your patients?

How in the world, the words,
did you escape

them? Erase
them? In

stanzas succinct
as prescriptions

wouldn’t a few
more fit? Between curved

blades of obstetric
forceps, the book of birth

and death certificates?
White as the door

are they still
there? Waiting

on the heart’s rapid knock,
the hoped-for answer?

Why is your first name
also your last?