Knife in the Sleeve
Once a year you start over, trade two riverskins for a perched moonskull,
decorate it with gracious breaths of escaping light.
Aided by a prayer containing a sister that dances with chickens and piglets,
it’s as if you had really believed what the wind had told you.
It’s usually very sad. I feared the loneliness of successful celebration
and people in all the doorways and only wine bottles standing.
The reason I’m still scratching these kids was left over from yesterday’s misunderstandings, but that thing you do with your eyes shut
just deserves to be given away.
Look, Mister, says the mirror, I only want what you don’t need.
That’s too cute, says the mister, that’s way too cute, and
it’s usually very sad. I’m tempted to pull something out of the dark,
and I’m tempted to pull the dark out of something darker.
The vast democracy of recurrent emptiness says they’re all dead inside,
and no matter how much possibility floats by, she means it.
Eventually the wrong key fits the lock, and we’re in and out of ourselves
the way you know when you toss a coin too high it means
the answer could roll away.
I passed a baby carriage full of harmonicas and eggshells. I asked a woman on
the street for a light. She replied, Listen, Honey, you ain’t done stoppin’ yet.
Look to the doctor’s jacket mounted on sticks to scare crows,
his gaze wooden, which is to say older and longer and more useful.
Shopping yesterday for something I didn’t need, I watched pillaging
housewives disembark from designer cellphones and
a bread-fed lump of dove maneuvering for handouts beneath camel-
shouldered matrons in cautionary undergarments. We had nothing to eat
so we ate it and became each other.
First, separate the harmless, then eliminate the dangerous, and then,
if anyone’s left, take her to the wrong dance and see if she
pretends you’ve made the right choice. Stay with her, she’s the sound
of whispering in the far room of the wound. Sometimes I wish that
I would suffer more, that the causes of my suffering weren’t so ordinary
but appeared to be unique, admired. On the way to morning,
the darkness follows you from a long way off,
approaching from where you have already been in that dark,
which isn’t there anymore.
Rich Ives has received grants and awards from the National Endowment for the Arts, Artist Trust, Seattle Arts Commission and the Coordinating Council of Literary Magazines for his work in poetry, fiction, editing, publishing, translation and photography. His writing has appeared in Verse, North American Review, Massachusetts Review, Northwest Review, Quarterly West, Iowa Review, Poetry Northwest, Virginia Quarterly Review, Fiction Daily and many more. He is the author of a fiction chapbook, Sharpen, from The Newer York Press, a story collection, The Balloon Containing the Water Containing the Narrative Begins Leaking, from What Books, a poetry collection Light from a Small Brown Bird, from Bitter Oleander Press and a hybrid book of days, Tunneling to the Moon from Silenced Press.