Alternatives to Churning Butter

Rich Ives

When I sleep with a knife, we meet divided. The bodies do not underestimate, but the minds are in over their heads. Two of us side by side as if controlled remotely, one forbidden to talk and the other just doesn’t. (Babies go under, but they’re not our babies.) It makes it easier to misunderstand.

We’ve learned to value the lid of the bed, awakened, and finger moons chambered with tensile eye-knuckles, and naked feet running from the ceiling, night’s eye so big we don’t realize we’re inside. We’re not gang-related but visitational, the trees in the forest blackened with that unrelenting deprivations kind of thing.

One seeker said to the other, When a man truly finds what he is looking for, he is at great risk of dying. (We had a great deal to look forward to in our despair.) I wished the man a long life of struggle.

(The hungry pond-fish swim day after day from one little ocean to the next as faithfully as the ocean swims in and out of its dirty pants.)

The letters you haven’t read, the ones you placed in the toolbox, are a toolbox.

All you have to do is find something you haven’t done and approach too slowly. There’s a beautiful smooth nerve in a boat that doesn’t belong to you, that arrives at the porch where the boat shall never be, but the two left behind are arriving at your absence, which may be more successful than you wish. When goodbye to you was hello to another, you could have been missed.

As for the tuba player mumbling in German, he hangs out at both ends of the engagement, an overly generous Weiner dog, and yodels to the tune of an old Bavarian march. On waking, he shakes a cricket out of his shoe, remembers his dream of a spilling police van and tap dancing mice chasing tap dancing cheese. He’s climbing an invisible ladder, and he falls. He’s painting a landscape, and he paints himself into it.

Hello a cow wearing a short skirt and suspenders. Hello a xylophone of wooden shoes, another lovely chicken march. Hello a stolen bag of mice. Hello the drawing of a car, in which he escapes. He draws railroad tracks, the train runs him over.

The tuba in his theme song turns into a saxophone, the notes turn into ducks shaped like wooden mallets. He pounds himself on the head with a wooden mallet-duck. An amorous carp swims out hammered thinking. Hello to a fish-wife with the scales of heaven on. She pounds him on the hammered head with a freshly carved mallet-fish. He sleeps in her lap,
but you have awakened, you have congealed, you can’t do it again.

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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