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A Nice Old Man Was Biting My Toe

Rich Ives

It escapes me, this cautionary landscape, moving under as I pace its surface, but I’m counting miles instead of taking in its distinct aberrations. I’m failing to register its transitory existence, liberated with each release of my padded step. I’m slapping my expensive footwear in its open face, again and again, getting only to where I planned on going as it gets itself newly positioned where it already is.

I must have missed it before, I think, missing it in a new way. I’m intent upon a kind of progress that takes me out of myself, into a better body to separate the quick from the quickly dead, a body that could, however, more quickly miss more. I could be entering myself now, even as I carry my “self” away to discover who I am.

On the road last night there were too many frogs for any purpose I could imagine, but then maybe I wasn’t small enough, or I was in too many parts to do things alone.

The old man inside me asks, Which smile is this, which puddle of moonlight?

I found too many aspirations nesting like voyaging seabirds as I arrived at the shore, huffy little summaries of oceanic caravans. I looked up to see myself floating back down, there where a moment before stalked a creature cloaked in fierce intentions and transparent hope.

The old man inside takes a breath and then he gives it back. The whole truth was always guilty of only half the story. He wants a picture finished with falling. The way I can see everything clearly confuses me. It’s time now to listen. Time to take us here. Time for there to wait, and a time for stepping quickly to between, where one step and two hold true, and the end of anything is the beginning.


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.