Five by Rich Ives
Clandestine, Nearly Spoken
Soft as a baker’s touch, your baby self wants something more to rise. It’s not sexual. It has no gender. Have you forgotten the rumor progress was?
What falls back is not allowed. It falls away.
Larger than a housefly, this innocent similarity, hairy and beelike. Left it behind until you fell further and found it there. Other children attached themselves to it and it controlled the excess. It encouraged ice to argue slowly from the surface, to harden in seamless layers that will later crack to suggest a change in the boredom.
Inclement thoughts, these, closing the poor shutters arms when folded before rain. Stand and deliver inward.
We build a hole and put ourselves slowly into it. We stitch the earth shut. Some of us belong there. Some of us think closing your eyes brings you closer to the sky. The oldest one hid nothing and seemed to stretch to the horizon but did not, flocculent and too fragile for large conclusions. What we say ticks away like a stolen clock.
We might as well be rabbits or too many snakes. We have such a short way to go to get to the endings. Can’t we multiply and frighten ourselves with another’s dinner? Can’t we carry it all down with us into the night after, where we try to start over and lighten up. We can’t take our time, but time can take us. Let’s make it ours and go slowly along with what will have us.
Can’t we contain additional meanings, like a vase of flowers rearranging itself as the petals fall away, looking better and better with less and less? Then the spider brings the design of capture, the suspended reminder of another variety of beauty’s uncertain successes. And it only takes something passing through to remind the spider how to start again. In the same way we might produce another hole, the spider shapes the distances.
We’ll dig in the darkness until we find the moon. Its sadness is a pleasure though we cannot see far enough away to know where we are.
Father grew up in Florida, or was it Arizona or California? I forget, but one of those places where he’s not so rare as he thinks he is.
I’ve noticed a caution of silence I’ve placed where an answer might lurk, a suspicion so thick it could become a wall. Already I’m seeing the dead weaving life from the bodies breaking down. Is this optimism? I wasn’t supposed to be able to feel that anymore. That’s what the angry son thinks. Now there is dead lettuce where my hunger was.
Right now the most disgusting thing I can think of is a recipe for gall I saw my neighbor teaching his son. Why doesn’t the memory of a good cup of coffee return as easily as a childhood rejection? The whales of my secret ocean are rolling and breaching. The whales aren’t too big to hide but the ocean is. Sometimes you can see me plugging the holes with foolishness, happy with my accomplishments.
Now my jealousy wants me so completely I can barely give it to you, as I want to, because someone should want me more than I will offer, and if you feel that need too, we can refuse together and be reminded how lucky we are. What have I learned from my fearlessness?
A Lesson in Animal Husbandry: The smarter the pig, the crueler appears the farmer.
A Lesson in Intelligence: The smarter the farmer, the more easily he’s frightened.
A Lesson in Proximity: The smarter the neighbor, the more generously his cautious frequent friendliness answers him before you do.
A Lesson in Misunderstanding: Generosity may be little more than reliance upon others. Reliance upon others may be a hopeless search for a trustworthy mirror.
A Lesson in Appearances: The neighbor who is never home may be there all the time.
A Lesson in Fatherhood: Nearly everyone can generate without moving forward.
A Lesson in Childishness: Being a father is no further away than the words that are clothing.
Even in Ignorance
Quite rare then, my approach, for reasons disguised as negligible as toast and forgettable mornings repeating a kind of lamb-like bleating, followed by a loud but silent rictus sin once referred to as my grin.
Must we open this door?
You don’t have to be reliable sunshine to burn yourself, but a slower mistake seems more forgivable, until it generously repeats.
The bleach-toothed smile of a neighbor’s minister seems to knock on my door even before he arrives at the christening. Secretly I’ve begun howling along with the neighbors’ dog, equally outraged at what no one else has noticed.
I’m the last fortune you’ll see, says the mirror after, fortunately, while I comb my apparent future and brush aside the skin-deep teacher as I return to the one bleacher remaining, exorbitantly free. But are the dead ever really done with us?
I’m sometimes defined as furious and have always been, but also medium-sized, stout-bodied, a fast flier hovering over some lot in the weedy fields of partial successes where vegetation is high and more successful.
Birth is singular, but death repeats itself in the remains, even in ignorance.
Now am I done with you, who thought this a choice but gave me free rein and looked gravely serious with raw intent no one withdrew, not you, not the guilty sun?
So Long Forever
I’ve agreed to be cheery, head in profile higher than long. Call me Zoey or Lonesome George. Call me Easy to Lie To.
There are a couple of us rare in the East, variations on a theme found in moist woods with a tendency to stroll and converse loudly in an easily forgettable manner, ready to return what can’t or shouldn’t last. I’m the mug of happiness when Zoey arrives but begin nervously laughing at the warmth of my Lonesome George.
Later Zoey and Mr. Pepper meet at the zoo. Put him on a sandwich. Don’t hate him for his unusual happiness. Feel sad if you have to shoot him. Chew carefully. One more life tugs at the leash.
Yes, I am also Mr. Pepper. Evening doesn’t descend here, it deepens, and silence doesn’t arrive, it softens. I am perfecting my doff. I am tilting. My tilting is not quite falling. If we think too much about it, we might carry it into the sky and find fields of soft indeterminacy to plant and husband. Now squeeze the metaphors together and wring the juice from them. They will not be “themselves.” They will be themselves. (You may not erase them.)
Now try to recognize yourself as a reluctant master of mirrored sarcasm, who swallows as much as he spits. It is not the same thing as a metaphor. Don’t think you have resolved anything though the mixture may be richer in complications, a large elephantine laugh easily mistaken for hunger.
Lonesome George, for example, lowers the lid on the toilet seat. He does not wear his Argentina lightly. He does not remove his cautious stockings. Surface tensions may in this way be disguised or attributed to otherwise thoughtless partners. There is a presence here that keeps track of the errors. He is Lonesome George. He is not Easy to Lie To.
The formerly shelved antelopes were remaindered in camouflage envelopes. You didn’t have to read them to know they were tired. We sprinkled their habitat lightly over their demise. It created a mysterious objectivity that no one seemed to notice.
After that, Zoey removed the plague markers. The plague came out of hiding. It fell into itself trying to become another. The villagers celebrated. Several died from over-exertion. Others did nothing so long they thought it was forever.
The Guilt of Celebration
Stout-bodied and wasp-like, the children fell, brightly colored, rare, long in their attack, which required the complicity of Vespids or motorbike parasites, who had to attack to release the eggs, but a street or two later down the foliage, they stopped descending, our clever little sweathearts, ready to begin their conquests, their stolen antennae reaching in 16 segments, as far as they could hold up and flexible beyond childhood. Regurgitation is their own little adventure, after finding and attacking a parasite inside the borrowing vehicle. Adulthood was merely aftermath, but they made the best of it. Funny how you don’t remember, can hardly believe, what you yourself experienced before you reached the beginning of what you become.
Sooner or later, you stop listening and begin flying forward into whatever will have you, not realizing how it’s mostly destiny. You think the choices are all yours. You think no one has ever felt like this. Perception’s nightgown flung to the wind, I did it again. What felt like my own discovery led to a fleet of others gathering in the early evening and following Nature’s orders like little soldiers. They took over whatever they approached. How could we know this was supposed to happen? How could we know that our children were innocent? Their neediness looks guilty.
I am called Sanjeet, and I was a moonbeam, a falling that appeared to rise. I have watched myself descend again, as I did in childhood, believing fate would rise yet again, my life of nervously researched predispositions, but knowledge could not turn aside the inevitable. Do not wear your dictionary so tightly if you wish to understand.
Plank and nail, we assembled our part of the endless revolution, my equally recovering mate and I, fallen out to each other from some variational architect’s fascination with probability and angle. Call it love and miracle. Call it the essence of life. It was a command received as a gift. It was the direction birth turned us before a cradle’s embrace.
Childhood then is a kind of surgery that appears to add where, like all surgery, it is taking away. And yet the taking away of the right parts brings clarity. What a useful thief life is, but the doctor has not been trained for the exceptions. The doctor does not know he is a doctor. Oh Sanjeet, it is so difficult to know yourself.
Of course I shall be punished for escaping, but the punishment will be the escaping. Rejoice then, and embrace what shall pass as it fails to take you away from yourself.