Witness Holding Still
Dimitris offers you a bite of tree, his token of affection. His medium-sized, brownish torso seems a shorter chopped-off version of that source, but of course he can walk away from less subtle approaches. When disturbed, he freezes in place with the ends of his body elevated, sexual perhaps but impractical and thus merely considered behind a flurry of children, who are quite gregarious, striped, and obvious enough to be called common.
When the children go foraging, they favor the trees and shrubs, and some attack orchard trees. Often they start at the top. If the moon fell, would they crack it open and eat, or is it the tenderness of reaching for the sun and not merely receiving it that they desire?
A stack of clouds was slipping over, suspended as if in a cartoon just before the fall. The knife of preconceptions slices such thoughts down to dismissing portions. Perhaps no one lives there.
Of course it wasn’t the moon that fell in the ocean but something large and celestial that did that dawning. If only this were happening elsewhere and Dimitris wasn’t. A man cannot be a season, he is thinking, but he lives in one the way sadness and marble allow touch and placement when the weather changes.
Here the nail and there the hammer. Here a lecture on the storage of spatulas. And there beneath them both in the seasonal house, you can find a subscription to Infinite Delicacies and Rough Hands Daily.
Now Dimitris has decided the man he was was actually a small brown rabbit overgrown and disguised. Or was he an aging greyhound darkened by a lack of natural lighting? Was this the stray dog incident?
Dimitris is welcoming a cool mist. Is he gathering up the damp children, the dinner trees in the mist? Is he studying absence, pondering leaping from a thin branch just before it breaks? Isn’t that life, the last chance to soar briefly before the inevitable gravities welcome you home, which is really the beginning of someone else, just as you were? And for the moment before after Dimitris thought he could hear the earth rooting and chewing and opening up the next traveler, who might be an aging greyhound or a brown rabbit or a stationary man ready to explore another country.
A Delayed Celebration of the Bright Stranger
Oh gall makers, livid on hackberry, deciduous nymphs, oval and flat, unlike even your own parents, producing waxy filaments that look like blobs of cotton, ascend to the pastimes of smoke. One dust among many, you may start by quitting. You could be a stranger, and the stranger might still be dancing between the bottlebrush and the snowscalp, between risen and failed.
This is a way of offering that which curls around others and falls away gravid. Oh yes, the lover is faithful, but the more important question is not if but why. She attended and tendered him, tender as unreasonable fur, her country face so much more than a life beyond blur. Still another continent approaches knowing. She returns the way a dream remembers someone you do not know, the mud yellow and rust-streaked, grazing on moonlight, as if it were wounded bread.
We are always but a mistake away from perfection. Put the river in the trees and the trees in the clouds. We’re already there and raining. First the starlings and then the stars, which dwell in the tongues of escapists. Can you see what I’m doing? How dark is animal dark?
Now you are in the darker stars in the starlings, sharing the entrails of starlight smeared across the morning’s questionable floor, and now I’m done singing the trees, blanket bugs still asleep then until the body returns. My pudding is addled, my mind thickening, and naught but an apple-thief for shade, who departs fly-like yet wingless, these thoughts manicured and green, waiting for the rising, but my brain just lies there and runs while my body takes in everything. Before, I had been but a stain on that cloth.
Perhaps I should release my name now, Alexandros of the delayed fortune, nearly hanging there in the air, where you are, as only dust would when its disturbance is old, unclear, forgotten or overlooked as the morning would have it, calling attention beyond the windows and smiling with borrowed light.
If we could but read it, the future is forecast now by a comet, wanderer with a heavy load, who shall encounter unwittingly these risen morning clowns, and we stand with our mouths open as if that offered some kind of a greater praise and not an incapacity. Who are all these strangers, with light to offer remembered darkness that would attend bleary-eyed and late the deeper celebration that does not end where notice is enough. Are we inside this problem or cheering another?
The Considerate Idiot
Pygmy Mole Cricket
First my body was weary of my limitations and then I became weary of its failings, which grew where nothing else would. The idiot I had been was stored there as I aged, and he raged against his restraints and the proliferation of failings that had agreed to take over. In this he was wrong, for he had created many of them though their inclinations may have arisen regardless.
I replied to Pygmy, Moist sandy shores of ponds and streams. I didn’t have much else to say, but I was not common (eleven segments up front, tibia enlarged, fit for digging). I found a burrow at the surface. I moved in.
I needed some furniture so I sat down on something and thought about places to put things that belonged to what I was doing right then. I did that yesterday. If I were more convincing, I’d be doing it today.
I was not on the alternate dance floor. I was not on the substitute dance floor either though I do find relationships between eating and dancing.
My phone ate your voice in progress and waited while I ate what you were talking about., wishing you were here. That night’s unpunctuated assertions seemed to be saying, Every day I’m more me.
The mossy robe on the river’s back invited me away, and I went, but slipped out to a different river. It said, We must be on our way home now, but we cannot go there together.
The ropes in my limbs seemed as if they had become a single muscle twitching in the darkness, weak and wearing tiny pairs of mouse gloves.
Dance slower then, for you know the music internally. It has adapted to your depth, your caution, your patience.
Only the body can introduce us to real absence, for another body is not a replacement but a loss introducing another loss.
Perhaps we should celebrate before something entirely new happens.
There’s Another World
Mike and Joe and Lucy and Seraphinius were all medium-sized to large in their thinking with large rounded heads to match, their aspirations spotted and patterned, nocturnal, uncommon and attracted to glitter. When they had children among them, they were often drawn to a June Beetle. The kids didn’t actually eat them, but they rode on them and played at inserting themselves in those miserable lives.
But there’s another world. Those whose successes have lasted live there in our honor. It’s too small to see, but knowing it’s there could free me from indolence.
What do you do with so many intrusive thinkers?
Just then Seraphinius reminded us of some renewable surrealist walking his lobster in the cemetery.
And Joe was just the way a bruise with a name returns after the pain is gone. Starts again. Colors himself and touches, touches, touches.
Mike’s suitcase full of stars is not the whole evening.
When you’re dreaming of another country, you’re already there, but you can’t stay.
Lucy, on the other hand, attended dressed as an accounting error.
A gallery of reddened walls, nuanced to dust, visits the fallen and does not return.
So you’re back, clever Morning. How did you evade the darkness? I asked.
Leave me alone. I have less philosophical things to do now, the evening’s nearly absent wind responded. The rain made some trees hopeful, but not me. I knew what was coming.
A gasp of derision puffs up from the footsteps of the travelers. Their direction has turned away.
No, the ancient stone by the roadside isn’t sorry about deceiving you. It has its own life to live.
Rat and Mouse Flea
The streetlights are not the ones who do this.
No, you were never all lit up, but still we preferred riding the rats, the mice and the shrews. We ate them. We left enough to live on. We ate them some more. Every morning a new car arrived. They came from the clouds, cumbersome and smaller than they ought to be. They came from mathbooks.
We were the furthermore of passing clouds the clouds passed. We appeared rounded and flexible as milk. We were ones with the fading of cast light one cloud after. It was not over yet but he was begun, that dutiful witness, remembering you before you’re gone, yes, he would have said if he could,
I turned with you, further away on the floor where you cast me, away from the light, which did nothing to uncomplicate your restraint.
The light changes. One shed is in the pasture now. It fell off the removal truck and the removal truck removed itself. There’s nothing in the shed but former grass and citations for lack of speeding. The recycling bins are filled with emptiness.
I suppose you could say I’m happening to myself, but I never seem to come out on top. Underneath, there’s a lot to talk about, but what there is to do is already done. The shadows stay attached.
I crashed then my detachable feet against my sundries until everything less important had fallen away. I put the remainder below foot level, replaced the old feet with new ideas, and stepped on them with earth between that they might consolidate their neighbors. I put the shed door on the neighbors that I might visit them with respect.
We had some other small people cradled in our arms. We managed to keep nearly everything between the left side and the right side. We watched ourselves being seated where someone else was.
Oceans passed and we didn’t shoot them.
The great revision was soon over and the greater revision began. Not much came of it, so we tried to find a worm trail, but the worms had used them up.
Rich Ives has received awards from the National Endowment for the Arts, Artist Trust, Seattle Arts Commission and the Coördinating Council of Literary Magazines for his work in poetry, fiction, editing, publishing, translation and photography. He is the 2009 winner of the Francis Locke Poetry Award from Bitter Oleander and the 2012 winner of the Thin Air Creative Nonfiction Award. His books include Light from a Small Brown Bird (Bitter Oleander Press–poetry), Sharpen (The Newer York—fiction chapbook), The Balloon Containing the Water Containing the Narrative Begins Leaking (What Books—stories), Old Man Walking Home After Dark (Cyberwit–poetry), Dubious Inquiries into Magnificent Inadequacies (Cyberwit–poetry), A Servant’s Map of the Body (Cyberwit—stories), Incomprehensibly Well-adjusted Missing Persons of Interest (Cyberwit—stories), and Tunneling to the Moon (Silenced Press–stories).