Rich Ives

An Exchange of Antecedents on the Darkling Plain

I had attended a relationship, but I looked like job-hunting. (Like a dog with worms––what he wants most weakens him.) I had visited the offering of uninstalled celebrity liver disease and tiny dancers. The white pig was there with his implied suit and his intentions that were not like whispering.

Come to me, castle of kerosene; one swift misery sniff and the flame folds the walls of this isolation as if a desert could explain waiting.

Come to me, blank glide of confidence, ignorant in the roost and falling with victory, as if you were to put a sign saying “chair” on its table and a piece of toast under its tongue.

There was a trail of showgirl fluff and red-winged poppies. Imagine the grandest majestic pride circled round in a tiny pink tutu. Gods have always been like that. They can stay dormant for centuries, spontaneous as glaciers. We know this, but wisdom doesn’t save you.

The government distribution centers needed assistance with molasses. It wasn’t merely seasonal. Mobile homes had been lost in poorly designed traffic circles. We couldn’t agree about this. One side had rifles, the other side were canaries. Not the same rifles you think. Not the canaries.

I had been deceived, of course, but somehow I felt as if it had been the right thing to do to myself.


Somewhere there’s a little girl future that owns me. It’s a slavery I allow myself without realizing, like birth, and when the thought leaves, it doesn’t go back where it came from, the soot of passing coal trains kissing the new snow dark.

I had, at the time, been remembering the left leg of Charles Lindbergh while three bums began peeing in an arrogant politician’s fallen top hat, and I thought to myself, “Oh you delightful horse’s ass, you lovely stupid territorial bumpkin,” but I’m afraid I wasn’t as clear as the drugs.

It’s late now, but not too late. Dawn so weak the flashlight still wins, and I can’t tell where my body begins. The clock-hand points at the truth, which won’t hold still. There’s a rooster in the lilac bush, a feast of unanswered questions, cold breakfast soup.

And then an idea like me paid attention, complete moments at a time, swallowed a daring handful of easy targets. Toothpaste and beer and before that, olive trees.

And I remember when Rochester gathered the folds of my skirt and distributed equally among the peasants what he found there. Some people might say he was a man of ceremony, but I found him to be generous and burnt. He might have allowed me to marry myself if he’d lived to be a little taller.

A ravishment or two awaited me of course, but I didn’t feel like writing about them. The sky seemed to be coming closer when I thought about it.

There was something wrong about bees as well, but I had been poked and poked and fallen behind, and I had been shuffled into the mortal coil with a deeper understanding of the multifarious tragedies of escape, and I wasn’t in the mood for any more accidental openings. As a result, I had a hard time understanding the future as something I hadn’t been waiting for my entire life.

Another Ballad from the Hill Country

It’s possible to walk through a brick wall, but why should that matter? I can wake up another day, in which nothing has happened yet.

1) The sky isn’t falling. We’re rising to meet it.

Do what you wish with my angry words. I do not need them though they served me well. They kept the tenderness away when I was not ready to receive it.

2) Life is crooked and I’m barreling straight ahead.

3) Facts are not cruel. Understanding is.

Do come. It will ease the sarcasm nesting in my joints.

Can’t you sleep tonight? Your worry is about something important, only, now and anyway, death has already decided how best to honor you.

4) Wisdom is cheap, but a good lie is expensive.

You might think a sigh is short, but even the wind knows a lifetime is but a sigh.

5) It’s a legend and therefore must be true.

The heart knows no emotion but bleeding, and yet it gathers blood to bleed more. We rest our insistent needs upon this.

6) It used to be the frontier, and there are towns named after dead miners there and mines named after dead towns.

The stains on my robe are quite tasty. One of them is a rose. I wonder if you have arrived yet to feed it.

7) Only one of the towns is real, but no one knows which one. Everyone lives there.

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 book of days, Tunneling to the Moon, is available from Silenced Press, a fiction chapbook, Sharpen, from Newer York Press and Light from a Small Brown Bird, a collection of poems, from Bitter Oleander Press. He is also the winner of the What Books Competition for Fiction and his story collection, The Balloon Containing the Water Containing the Narrative Begins Leaking, will appear in 2015.
This entry was posted in Poetry and tagged , , by Posit Editor. Bookmark the permalink.

About Posit Editor

Susan Lewis ( is the Editor-in-chief and founder of Posit ( and the author of ten books and chapbooks, including Zoom (winner of the Washington Prize), Heisenberg's Salon, This Visit, and State of the Union. Her poetry has appeared in anthologies such as Walkers in the City (Rain Taxi), They Said (Black Lawrence Press), and Resist Much, Obey Little (Dispatches/Spuyten Duyvil), as well as in journals such as Agni, Boston Review, The Brooklyn Rail, Conjunctions online, Diode, Interim, New American Writing, and VOLT.