Rich Ives

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What Was the Question?

Artwork by Gene McCormick

Sometimes I’m slower than my plants, but falling leaves explain things, so I notice the way a bush knows more than I do about staying close. Before that I met a slippery little man with the soul of a chipmunk, the last man on earth with reasons greater than himself. The man’s lawn is visiting from Wichita and wants to keep everything green in the family. But the lawn’s mother is dead. Those were not gentle lawns in Wichita, where large refrigerator trucks could smoosh a lawn without a second thought.

And next door there was this woman who always knew when babies were coming. She just knew.

After that I intended to rob the place, but there was no one at the counter, so I dashed into the cooler for a beer, and there was this man curled up in a fetal position. He seemed to be sleeping, but it was too cold to be sleeping, or maybe it wasn’t. The man wasn’t moving, and it made the room feel like a morgue. I thought about slabs of beef hanging from hooks. I thought about jumpers and floaters, and suddenly the man snuffled and jerked. We don’t say that around
, says the man in his sleep and a woman answers, with a question, and I guess it must be me.


And Some Are Only Sleeping

I’m so tired of my own whining I could drink something lethal, like boredom or tooArtwork by Gene McCormick much paradise. That’s something you can swallow, something earth remembers as part of arriving, instructed wisely, as I have been, by an oblivious worm. There’s a woman in there somewhere, carried away by her own masculine fears.

I wished one of us dead, and success gave me all the disinterest I could handle. She’s gone, and no one else even noticed the false inscription: Here lies a man’s man, released by a loving woman. After death, I couldn’t imagine myself, or the question that created me, the only answer falling on tomorrow’s water as if it could not sink.

No one knows what I’ve done because I can’t seem to tense my past like that muscle of anger I only wanted to borrow from her. As if it were already mine and I were doing something to myself I didn’t understand. She goes on about your life as if no one had ever acted upon their impulses without thinking or thought about what they meant to say before saying it.

I’ve become my own cliché, and I mock it, viciously tender. Still I practice alone in the harvested field, cheerleading some invisible version of her without the protective devices I needed for my masculine failures.

I drink now from a stolen cup. My cheer grows less drunken. The wine is water, and I swim in it. Lots of little fish are kissing my toes, from the inside. Some of them are not what they seem to be, and some are dancing wildly, recklessly, as if all toes belong to them and some are only sleeping.


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, Dublin Quarterly, 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. In 2011 he received a nomination for The Best of the Web and two nominations for both the Pushcart Prize and The Best of the Net. He is the 2012 winner of the Creative Nonfiction Prize from Thin Air magazine. His book of days, Tunneling to the Moon, is currently being serialized with a work per day appearing for all of 2013 at