The Secret


oh my aging starlet in the butter

bread me with hyphens wide-

eyed and strained of

wonder without reason


when I need help I go to sleep

there is no school for this

aged persuasion


certainties: perishables

doubts: fertility


a string tied to my reasoning


like tiny aggressions pouring forth

from the military hole until

all those antennae twitch to one leg

climb it like a food source


I was busy criticizing a rock


a gardener with a little slug funk

dripping from his angry shoe


I’m between accomplishments but

the cast-off river has its own explanations


necessary things are not always beautiful


the privileged ocean’s temporarily illegible


there is nothing else to say about not saying


pessimism: the body’s half empty

optimism: the coffin’s half full


at the end of the journey a talking goat

he doesn’t have anything to say


I can’t sleep some nights it rains all day

a common man doesn’t want common things


something will happen of course

but I’m stopping now


only an opening whose words contain



it makes the first page read right into the last


I can’t remember what was said to make me feel this way

but knowing the secret exists makes it less secret



The Small Birds of Early Morning


Needing only a shovelful of air to float on,

tunnels of light open daily with a flutter and a dash.


Little feathered flutes of dream buttered with song,

I bring you fresh lessons of foam from the rocks.


All the way to the end of my feathers I go.

There can be but one infinity, and it’s incomplete.


You might wish to swallow a river.

You might want to taste a stone.


There are mines inside, there are ancient caves,

as if you could have just a delicate slice of lightning.


Incongruous as a sunbathing polka dot cat,

I have forgiven myself for being too available.


I stand in this ocean walking on the bottom.

Your accomplice surrounds me and enters me.


Why so many of you, and so shy, as if I might

spill the patient seeds or eat up all the destinations?


I think I’ll go now, or I’ll go thinking unreasonably, with only

my beak and my new empty bones, lighter than thought,


having begun something illogical and right and needing

to search for the nest with my partially digested cricket thoughts.



The Telegram Got Larger


every room in the sentence was a new color


I had trained these wolves

and I knew how to defeat a bear

I worshipped indecision


my daughter can pluck out all the eyes in a room


everything is hungry here

the meals are not spaced evenly

and the legs of a table can lead you on


we were some kind of violation so we had to quit ourselves


it’s like the door to the middle of a missing universe

it lives in the attic but once it’s opened

it cannot close


we were healing but we could have called it sex


she appeared to be one of those gummy

sentimental things fat and unreasonably relieved

encased in a pink snowsuit that made her look like she floated


he kicked the step again and hurt my foot again


learning disabilities

tiny birds between his teeth

something brittle and transferred


I could not partake of the nontransferable emotions


one gooey personal shipwreck

if only I knew what to do with lost ponds

near the dacha on the Red Sea with Petrov


now tell me



The Way You Say Anything Is My World Being Careless


A cloud tattoo stains the sky’s vast back golden

as the lines reach across to the needle of feinting horizon.


There must be a clever dance on the other side


where the streetwise universe desultorily pierces

every unacceptable angle of unimaginable planetary skin.


Sorry We’re Open articulates the door with drunk humor.

You’ll have to borrow some light for the bleedin’ blunt.


Who can you talk to about celebratory addictions?


If you don’t talk about the law, you’ll find it

creeping up on you with a needy ass-kickin’,


part of an airy custody battle gone weathery

and feline with feral intent, oh rat-girl motherhood.


Where can we rinse our scavenging delicates?


Are there no spiritual remains to pick at,

no more incomplete catastrophes of faith dribbled


like griddle oil on the soul of morning’s argument

humming alive with golden terriers of tenacious possibility?


Somebody needs to say something wrong here.


Ten thousand obstacles just give us more to talk about.

Come in, come in, I’ve got a squirrel in the pot.


I can see that you’re a person of great substance

dominating a much smaller sphere of inaction.


Rich Ives

Rich Ives lives on Camano Island in Puget Sound. He 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 a winner of the Francis Locke Memorial Poetry Award from Bitter Oleander and has been nominated twice for the Best of the Web, three times for Best of the Net and six times for The Pushcart Prize. He is the 2012 winner of the Creative Nonfiction Prize from Thin Air magazine. Tunneling to the Moon, a book of days with a work for each day of the year, is available from Silenced Press, Sharpen, a fiction chapbook, is available form Newer York Press, and Light from a Small Brown Bird, a book of poems, is available from Bitter Oleander Press. He is also the winner of the What Books Press Fiction Competition, and his story collection, The Balloon Containing the Water Containing the Narrative Begins Leaking, is now available.

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