Witness

                                          . . . as though seeking that part of his
                                           being which had remained in the hills.
                                                        –Aharon Applefeld




please keep in mind                                  I’m just like you and so
I do a little lying sometimes                       it’s reasonable to assume

there’ve been some mistakes made             already it’s too much
I’m not who I was                                       even a moment ago

this occurred out there                                where I used to be
as in this is mine and                                  this is not

if I’m winning                                               I get excited and
if I’m losing                                                 I get excited

                                 the coal dust is one of the possibilities
                         and the territory of imperative recline is one
ice is one and moonglow if you don’t romanticize its attraction


(Jean-Luc in the pantry
                                           Jean-Luc under the stairs)


and tiny packages of birds flying

beginning with something late                       for their speech
beginning with endings                                and intermediaries

the progress folded over                               napping
the arrangement of trees                              suggests enclosure

the detached leaf’s art                                  begins descending
it just started leaving me                               in the darkening woods

the distant thump                                         of the autumn moon
a thatched hut                                             with a brushwood gate

(an abandoned child’s bamboo hat
                                                      ferries home the evening sun)

(Jean-Luc in the widow’s knickers
                                           Jean-Luc in the halls of justice)

a paper goldfish swims against the wind’s current

how is my pulse                                           being kidnapped by
the steady beat of                                         a peasant family’s

clothing against                                             river rocks
my marrow section tuning                              their teeth mounted

skeletal                                                        preening my bones softer
until it listens like wings                                 this is innocent

but I am not a white deer
          in the dazed green meadow
              turning slowly golden as the sun
sleeping into the mountain grass

or a bundle of cold men huddled
          over a barrel fire nursing
              brown paper bags

taking turns getting angry
          stalking away and limping back
              when the boasting falls in on itself
and the night crowds in to join them

(Jean-Luc at the evening table
                                           Jean-Luc in the witness protection program)

and whatever came from the sky
                                                 fell cold and careful muting everything

now there’s something                                     at the door wet and needful
descending and grasping                                  leafless shrubs

knocking with cold tiny fists                              it could be fate or
freezing rain or                                                 the same drunken neighbor

whoever melted yesterday                                 beside the porch when
everyone he was close to left him                       the neighbor kid giggled

his mouth full of straw                                       The Cold Reality of History
rolled over burped                                             continued eating

his mother and father
          foraging in the future
              brought back too much

and spoiled his favor
          with the surprising sweet
              reek of its diligent arrogance

(Jean-Luc sniffing an odor of fennel and rosewater
                                           Jean-Luc with the doves cooing quietly as bathwater)

his expression carries the dull glow
          of a wheelbarrow handle as if
              he alone holds up

the world’s one ragged bumpy load
          with all mankind’s inflated
              and artificial dignity

soon enough there will be cavelight
          soon enough stone doors open
              to the wounded paw

                      Now you are old enough to lead us. I think about this all day, all night. I think about persimmons and I think about ice, but mostly I think about this one thing and I watch the light coming in through the window and going back out each evening, and I watch for the change that will tell me what I want to know, and it does not come. This is why I stay, but it is not why I think about staying.

someone still watches from outside
    waiting for our crime to speak





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 2009 winner of the Francis Locke Memorial Poetry Award from Bitter Oleander. His story collection, The Balloon Containing the Water Containing the Narrative Begins Leaking, was one of five finalists for the 2009 Starcherone Innovative Fiction Prize. In 2010 he has been a finalist in fiction at Black Warrior Review and Mississippi Review and in poetry at Cloudbank and Mississippi Review. In 2011 he is again a finalist in poetry at Mississippi Review. The Spring 2011 Bitter Oleander contains a feature including an interview and 18 of his hybrid works.

Several Islands Have Appeared and Swimming is Possible

Let’s say there wasn’t                         any other way
let’s say my sisters                            stood by the river and waved
hello and goodbye                               it was all the same
but sometimes                                    it dropped its leaves and
we just waited                                     sometimes it pointed
every direction at once                         without going

and the moment had                            only its way with me
a gang of them                                    made up one
and it knew something                         I didn’t
but it didn’t                                         understand each other I
admit I wanted to                                know them
and I didn’t want it to leave me             alone


                      my stories come back marked not at this address or moved and owes me money or try another riverbank or no one even vaguely resembling this has ever lived here and the wind’s hot hand begins reaching beneath the earth’s freshly woven clothing after a season of distance and cool brushing

                      domestic geese nervous about the sunshine after so much gray shake it off like the dust of an old attic while the turtles shuffle onto the bobbing driftwood climbing over each other to let light dry them their little bundled piles of white turd drying to paper and dreaming wondering what they can’t remember

I had to wait for something outside           to come in
after something inside                             had gone out
the distance was greater than                  before
the breadcrumb trail                                my thoughts had been
picked up and                                         swallowed by a crow
happy with himself                                  and the unexpected way the world provides

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 2009 winner of the Francis Locke Memorial Poetry Award from Bitter Oleander. His story collection, The Balloon Containing the Water Containing the Narrative Begins Leaking, was one of five finalists for the 2009 Starcherone Innovative Fiction Prize. In 2010 he has been a finalist in fiction at Black Warrior Review and Mississippi Review and in poetry at Cloudbank and Mississippi Review. In 2011 he is again a finalist in poetry at Mississippi Review. The Spring 2011 Bitter Oleander contains a feature including an interview and 18 of his hybrid works.