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Michael Ives

Calendar Reform


Though the mares of state
foal only unstanched blood

and the streets teem with animals
no one recognizes, and trees

uproot themselves in disgust
at what we have become -

still, since the Great Accession
one may be certain

that the number of heads on pikes
arrayed along the southern battlement

will increase each day
at regular increments.

Even the planters count them
before sowing. I am presently

9,012 heads old. I expect
to assume my patrimony

during my 10,000th head.


Michael Ives

A Secularization


The moment the initiate rushed in to announce that the mysteries had been parodied, a bird flew directly into the eye of one of the men assembled and was trapped inside his skull. Another man sitting to that manís right, who held the post of Quadrature, stood and exclaimed suddenly, "It always happens this way when the mysteries are parodied. A bird flies into a manís head, who has nothing whatsoever to do with the situation, and everyone is so surprised at this that the burlesque of the mysteries is forgotten. What was to be taken only as a sign of some tremendous outrage becomes the greater preoccupation." A third man, sitting well behind the rest of the assembly, rose and approached the first, thrust his hand into the mouth of the other and drew out the bird. With the bird in his hand this third man asked the Quadrature, "Is this always what happens next?" The other answered, "This is precisely what happens. A third man pulls the bird out through the mouth of the first and asks, ĎIs this what happens next?í" "What, then, is going to happen next?" the third man asked. "Exactly," said the Quadrature, "Thatís always what follows." "Wait a minute," said the man clutching the bird, "How do we know youíre not just watching what happens and then declaring that this is the way things always are?" "Why," asked the Quadrature, "would you wish to suggest that what has just happened isnít the way things always are?" "A bird just flew into my head," yelled the first man, "I for one have never heard of such a thing happening before." "And whose fault is that?" asked the Quadrature. "Will you dare lay the great weight of your ignorance at my table? "In all my life," insisted the man still holding the bird, "I have never, nor, I hazard, has anyone else here, heard of a bird flying into the skull of a man, and this with no apparent injury to the organs nested therein. I am a merchant, I am aware of prodigies both recent and ancient, and I can with justice claim that when a bird flies into the head of a man it may be accounted extraordinary." "Of course itís extraordinary, or else why would we take notice of it in the first place?" said the Quadrature. "I may with equal justice claim that when a bird flies through the eye of a man and into his skull, people take immediate notice. What imbecility to witness such a sight and take it for a common occurrence . . ." "Oh shut up all of you!" the seargent-at-arms screamed, "I know who prophaned the mysteries! I canít stand to listen to any more of this. I am prepared to name names." "You are a liar," countered the Quadrature. "If you had only listened to me, I said that the prophanation of the mysteries is always forgotten in the course of the ensuing astonishment at the flight of a bird into the first manís head." "But Iím telling you, I know whoís reponsible. I know for a fact that the mysteries were parodied." "You know nothing of the sort" declared the Quadrature. "The prophanation of the mysteries must be forgotten in order for it to have happened" he insisted repeatedly until all the others fell silent in wonder and fatigue. "You all must forget the mysteries, and any prophanation of them, he screamed. "You must forget all of it, or else justice shall never be done!"


Michael Ives is a musician, and writer. His work with the performance trio, F'loom, has been featured on National Public Radio, the CBC, and in the international anthology of sound poetry, Homo Sonorus. Most recently, his work appears in New American Writing, Exquisite Corpse, Hunger, Third Bed, and Fracture.

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