Rich Ives

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Department of Unidentified Discolorations, Division of Disturbing Secretions

The cover was torn. All that was left was Bat Masterson’s cane with a hand attached. That’s the way I live my life.

The sky looked like a big childish toothache. This was when I had a mind like a mud puddle. Everybody had to walk around it. Except other kids, and they made me laugh or get angry.

I wanted to know how gauchos were made, so I thought a lot about Argentine teenagers awash in adolescent desperation, though I wouldn’t have known then to call it that. It felt like my life had become a large pore. My friends were pieces of wet bread slapped against the side of an old house.

If I had wanted to walk around the lake, I would have. I would have watched the seasons change. By the time I would have finished, it would have been summer again.

But I didn’t. I grew maudlin instead. Another storm singing in the inexperienced heart. But I had to eat. A couple of frozen bananas, some vegetable juice with an impossible name and something brown and gritty and good for my color.

A sailor’s hat floated down from my friends; adventures while the hungry white of a seabird rose to greet it. I didn’t know if it was really for me or not.

Roy Rogers was torn as well, frozen in mid-leap, and Trigger was torn from beneath him like someone else’s means of arriving at their lost youth.

He Made the Bed with Her Still in It

Disillusionment and morality fatten side by side.
                                                            --Stephen Dobyns

The boyfriend’s understanding of the relationship was colored by the girlfriend’s forgiveness. Only his dog did it better. He wasn’t going to stoop to that kind of competition. It could only mean he would feel inferior. It didn’t occur to him that he might have less to forgive.

His only gifts were apologies.

The boyfriend surrounded his achievements with admirers and admired the ladder he was climbing. So many admirers and so little time to reach the top. Finally, he reached an opening, his admirers so thick they had created their own light. He stepped out over their bright solid praise and found himself at the mouth of a well, and he climbed out and went looking for sturdy branches to build a new ladder, far from the hole in the ground. He would climb alone in the darkness, where the admirers’ hooting and barking would fade as his success increased.

Death is not an old man but a child, come to take the old man’s place.

The mind and the body each have their own lives. What they share is not as it appears. It’s not you in the middle and it’s not you on top. Each lives in the other’s world. The first lesson to learn is it gets dark everywhere.


Rich Ives is a winner of the Francis Locke Memorial Poetry Award from Bitter Oleander and the 2012 winner of the Creative Nonfiction Prize from Thin Air magazine. His books include Tunneling to the Moon, a book of days with a prose work for each day of the year (Silenced Press), Sharpen, a fiction chapbook, (Newer York Press), Light from a Small Brown Bird, a book of poems, (Bitter Oleander Press), and a story collection, The Balloon Containing the Water Containing the Narrative Begins Leaking (What Books).