Two Poems

Rich Ives

Left Hand "City" Limits
Photo Credit: Jimmy Emerson


What does the left hand know—
raised in a hill town…
—Jon Loomis
Friend of the blue black
milk pitcher’s snout
living inside the
not quite lost but
not quite anything else
and lifting
slipping its wet nose under
smoked eel with
horseradish and chives
still marching the eyes of
a sleepy blue village
the dreamers closed
something with wings
red cedar blue fir and
getting smaller
night descending
I take the dogs to
anything I’m busy chasing
the field to chase
my own thought
so low the dogs can’t hear it
I’ll let them worry it
if it goes to ground
right now they’re happy enough
to get lost in
something disappeared
whatever folly they were chasing
they’re milling around
in circles sniffing
they don’t care to know
each other and pretending
what it was didn’t escape
The crow’s cassock
a lascivious glimpse
flaring up
out of the darkness
we hope will excite morning
veiled in a soft green fog
streets will soon be
wet breath
edged with fish and soap
on three legs
a stray cat limping past
eyes its shadow
against the stone wall
quickly up then flat again
its lilt and stretch rising
as moonlight
alters and
considers and
no further judgments
I’m talking to you idiot
I’ve aged myself
as old as the idea of love
but not as far as love
I could have stopped falling
if I had known that I was falling
a conversation woven into the hush
to dream of it is to lose it
Human travail for example
as human achievements which
come to as little nearly
hold out against us and
could be greater than we are
perhaps we only leave ourselves behind
perhaps it’s true
in footprints
pointing to this place
because we’re in it
we don’t name
and we’re not done
not the ones who are
the bones behind
listening closely to
the next witness
There’s no home like the body’s home
that’s what both eyelids say covering up
the moon snug in the body’s branches
like a brand new creamy eraser
yet nothing is missing and nothing
is wrong all the lines all
the night’s returned shadings
right where we drew them
imagine the taste of it
a salacious insouciance indolent
and cunning which might contain
some indeterminate reward
for all that we have missed by being here
My body says
I have to admit
you never take me anywhere and
I’m embarrassed by
greetings with
entrances that seem already to be
the wrong hand and
headed home then perhaps
as if it were the landscape
redolent evening’s fleet
pausing and not I the
armada departing for
grander achievements than
clouds despoiled by clouds
the benign attachments of
having escaped
some tedious celebration
murderer fallen asleep in the
with the same drunken
cellar beside a
basket of turnips and the
hooking slow
tired joke
the same ride everywhere
it’s hard work
admiring a spectacular sunset
perfecting indolence I can’t help
gumming the day’s juicy corpse
some things are never
they do not happen so
fully imagined even when
many small creatures are
waiting for you to leave your body
Earth omelet sautéed
seasoned in mushroom
in the heat of summer flies
beetles and straw
steeped in urine wine
dust and in time
and dusted with
the stable’s divinity
whitens holds on like paper
those pages from the book
after rain and tears
of lessons overlooked
until in its place something green
splashes itself all over the air
and too new
like a belching flower
It’s so tiring
screaming apace
even from each other
What’s all the colorful
looking for
all Summer long
it’s lost interest
undergarments fly
singing colder
the right light
the way every Spring
this space is mine and
until the curious
shouting about
hidden answers
until the wind cools
and the next show starts
and the seed spills
now and angry
the way it waits for
turning itself
the leaves begin
shutting out the sky
wind wants to know
and turns them
over and back again
and pretends
and the gaudy cold
and the wind keeps
astounded at the
finally just
inside out
Patiently the left
music folded open above
interrupted by a few
hand waits at
the piano with its white
carefully placed shadows
that black door to the
broken keys
fingered between the
white lines accidentals
suddenly belong and
the one I’ve lived in
they call them
still holding onto that
but just now reached
right keys they
sound of night
with my fingers
and my body swaying
letting darkness ring
I’ll never get out
and my falling foot
if I close
and if I don’t
pressed down
the door now
I’ll never get back
My caretaker’s
the flattened rubber jowls of
old wheelbarrows sleeping on
their own deflated feet
what I like to think about
even now
the slow hole
is beginning in a pair of new shoes
it seems to be a café
and me staring straight ahead
filled with surrealists and goatees
and not dreaming I’m in charge
of myself I say scraps
like grocery lists
of my intentions still hanging on
I went in because it was in front of me
it existed and I hungered so badly
even if the moment wanted
to get inside the moment
as moments always do
to get out O my
it’s probably apparent that
brethren of the foolish words
I could use some assistance but
I never do that to myself you
wanted purposefully but
still seem to be holding on to something
you can’t remember what it’s for
I said everything I needed to say
that’s when I ran out of endless
it was not what I wanted to say
and we went our separate ways together


Native Son

Atlanta, 1928/2008
The terraplane brought another
crow for the sun crow for the moon
melancholy flew out from
those outside for
the future sped on
as small as my head
morning in the rooster’s head
crows for industrial advancement
its rhythmic wheels for
those left in the present while
there’s an automobile now
but you can’t ride in it
the children have always known this and they love it anyway
some of us are more practical and
last night I dreamed of Ivan
leaking sugar-water
father died and the
carver took Eleanor
I had the sparrows at my windowsill
back and forth
we miss our mule
and his eyes
Eleanor left when her
had children and
sometimes I ride back and forth
with the ferryman
we talk of what people carry and the only song is the wide water
a traveler comes and he asks
on one foot with a stove
and an ostrich plume in his hat
his mule is a clever soul and
the answer is passed
how far can a pilgrim walk
on his back
I like to tell him
he doesn’t hear
from traveler to traveler
I heard that the fever had taken her and her children too
accomplices were everywhere
and the wood ducks
and the beasts in the mustard
their sloppy dog tongues and licked
with stinky pleasures
violins floating from the bakery
but I was flummoxed and
I let some children out of me
until the quail
took their places again
fields brought back
my expression
scratchy and warm
and I knew they weren’t real
the clouds joined in
and they grew fatter
do not curse me and I will give you the unsuspecting dogwood blossoms
now yesterday’s song has gone
into the distance
back on itself like a snake
I don’t know how
I preferred to live with the pines
hiking up its rabbits
the road winds and turns
but will arrive
many have taken that road
and learned the sticky stories
someday the task of finding me will ask that you look under the earth
when it does I’ll leave a clue
that the game is over
I have gone any place you know
through the falling leaves
but don’t expect
and don’t imagine that
all my life I have been moving
further and further apart


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. 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. The Spring 2011 Bitter Oleander contains a feature including an interview and 18 of his hybrid works. Email: ivesrich[at]

Print Friendly, PDF & Email