Flash Special: Stories by Rich Ives, with artwork by Alex Nodopaka (August 2016 / 16.7)
Further Consideration of the Mistranslation of a Swedish Funeral Announcement, May 13, 1943
I tried to unravel my blanket of sorrows, but Pitcher Gives, mourned and missed by siblings and nephews, meat penetrations and friends, sported a sinkhole where his eyes should have been.
I wouldn’t come out of myself, and where I was hiding was a ragged hungry frightened bear. The bear had been threatened by a gopher and thought the sun was chasing him. All he would eat was bacon, and he shit hundreds of little black turds that looked like rusted gunshot. Pitcher’s grandfather, Johan August Nilsson had died peacefully in seeds of Jesus on the robe day of 20 October, mourned and in light memory preserved by us. Pitcher hadn’t then discovered that beet juice made him swoon.
There was so much Spring outside that the dog had put her damp toilet head on. It wasn’t really that brave, but my imagination knew too much, and it began dancing and wearing some snakes.
Aunt Mathilda Sofia Pettersson, born February 6, 1868, preceded Pitcher into eternal rest, deeply mourned in trade and memory of our bones, meat penetrations and friends. For some reason I thought I should knock on the door, and it was me that answered it, only I was on the outside, answering the door. The cemetery would be opening, and then I didn’t know if I should go in or not. I looked for something short enough that I could get on top of it, and it was a big fat tree stump. I liked being on top of it, but I still couldn’t see what I wanted to see. I didn’t know what I wanted to see. That’s probably why I couldn’t see it, but I seemed to want to try to see it anyway.
I started to cry. I didn’t need a reason, but there probably was one.
I knew what was happening, but I didn’t know what was true. I wasn’t on my way to anything I knew about. There was a road you had to take to get there and nobody much traveled on that road, so it was lonely and didn’t have any help for you along the way. If you were tired enough to be in another decade, you could arrive much later. Death doesn’t account for errant children, who must be brought to book with a slap on the backside in the Carpathians and he the follower became a merchant of wine.
Sometimes I’ve been able to stand very still and not eat at the same time. When I’m successful, nobody notices.
Having Given Up Hope, He Is Sure of Himself
A metaphor can kill a man.
After they killed me, I rained for three weeks and then began rowing towards my homeland. When I arrived, they welcomed me and offered me a wife. Pretty soon I gave birth to myself and my wife suckled me. I was trying to live as they intended.
Because I hadn’t seen it, the truth remained a lie. So I witnessed the rainstorm and licked portions of the falling sky. And yet thunder reminds you you’re scared of yourself. I had such arms a couple of days long. They embraced an intention lifting gently to my head.
One ear weeps and the other sings.
When I go out to eat, I leave one belly at home.
Aha! Here is the Joyce I’ve been looking for. A muddle of lemons, an old cork of despair. I can no longer suppress the wet staircase. Dickinson in the cupola, Yeats in the wooden cul-de-sac. The philosophies of poets reawaken, flavoring the cautious teacups of the tyrants.
We needed them to arrange the revivals.
The old ones seem to remember this shadow, but it looks so like incomplete terrain that we restrain the journey forward, thinking it some sad failure of mind, and pull it away from them, as we might some annoying toy.
Finally one of them slowly gave me my body.
The slippery guests lick their wet fur and gossip about the path through the wind and through the existential rain.
The old ones and the children return, the backs of their necks tingling, civilization descending like a weather report.
I left them one stair at a time. The sour yellow wine of literary recognition accompanied the insurrection.
This is the story the virgin told. I don’t know if it’s been here very long. It seems like it wants to be ancient. I don’t know if ancient’s been here very long. but history is busy tonight, gathering acceptable versions of what didn’t really happen yesterday but in that part of today’s squirming that we welcome as if it were holding still.
How many nights have been sleeping in you? Why does the overwhelming emptiness of the sky comfort me so?
But now you are arrived, and there you are at the end of your own journey, where the road begins.
He Found a Theology Without a God and It Lifted Him
Inside the perfect tired retirement home there’s a heaven that hurts as if there were more than one direction to fall away from it and a whisper like a meaty command uttering the pause in your emotional soup. It’s late spring, and I’ve been stabbed by an icicle. Freshly rusted gaggles of unseasonable snowplows still call out, across the nearly vertical shoveling of what should have been called rain before people tried to return it. Vagrant wind scoots it all over. How well you’re aging inside is not what it’s talking about. Eat, dance, and try not to fart above a whisper. Keep inside a closetful of empathy, entirely to yourself, like a fly swimming in a glass of warm beer.
Right now I’m encouraged by a three-legged carrot and a bowl of soup. I can still return to my tasty little meal. I reach outside, and a handful of snow begins giving in to warmth. Intention’s edifice crumbles, and the candle waves frantically. Something’s escaping. Something’s more than I am and always next. I think about that and for a moment I fall into my uninformed wonder. I tell it I am still arriving. I listen.
He Kept a Hat He Wore Only for Eating on Top of the Refrigerator
Yesterday at the zoo, I was foolish enough to wonder why only birds traveled vertical awakenings and why attempting flight was once a great departing pleasure. It seemed as if experiencing a thing had turned into a memory before it even completed itself, and I could see that I was drifting in a direction I couldn’t identify. One eye had a life of its own, but the other kept trying to follow. (If I look at myself, I can no longer contain my thoughts.) It’s too bad I was able to enjoy it so much, I thought, and there was another question nesting in the answer.
Silence means something different if you can’t break it.
Being alone there gave him the feeling of being lifted, and the more he thought about it, the more he could separate the parts, which couldn’t be separated. What scared him was the happiness he thought could be demanded.
The wind had broken down and fallen. I could see when it got close to me that it was still at a distance. I counted forty pieces of it. I couldn’t pick them up, but I remember thinking I had tried.
When he arrived at the horizon, he discovered he had fallen through and was looking back at where a transition that didn’t exist had occurred, and a man he didn’t know was asking him for something he didn’t have. He told him he had learned to speak without saying anything. He seemed to think he was really saying something significant. He seemed to think he was someone else, who was listening and could understand what he meant.
I placed these things where I could find them when I was hungry, which occurred more often near the cool shelving of the saving box. I didn’t need an umbrella because I wasn’t going anywhere, but the man who had asked for my hat waited patiently as if he knew how many cool meals would be needed to strengthen the silence.
Her Intentions Are Not Circular. Neither Do They Have Corners.
When God was a donkey, no one remembered the tickling color the flowers dropped. The old beef-stink of a man who now drives a box truck full of tools carried vegetables to market then. His current lover read the stuck-in-my-head notes he posted while he slept. She was one of the girls that only happened in half-light.
She cooks for an army and then an army appears. One song comes along, a beloved discordance, song of the almost song of the never quite song of the song of the song of the better at skipping along song.
A good last kiss is never long enough because you yearn for the next one, which will never arrive.
The mountain’s gone slowly beneath me. Now I’m the dominant vertical. I want to lie down on my conquest. Behold the second-hand content of two hands holding you. Throw something soft at the winner.
When God was a guinea hen, the only way to get there was to leap over the moon. Doves would come for the breakfast crumbs, and a barred owl would come for the doves if they lingered too long into the evening.
Don’t you want to know what couldn’t have happened?
A little man and his little wife slept in the pond full of goldfish big enough to eat them if they wanted to, but they didn’t want to. I didn’t have to be so smart that time. I kept my hands busy, or maybe it was them that were doing it to me.
When God was a turtle, I replied, Oh My Darling, I’m broken. A choir of joyous celebrants erupted. Light! Light! We’ve found you! from the sad-eyed knots of escapees. Ideas like children blasting the space of a small room with wild fingers pointing and too many doors that open in.
By now someone is beating an octopus against a stone, which helps make time pass differently than we expect it to.
A ball of fur arrives with a brown fedora and a ski mask. Its body and legs are frozen in a gesture of acceptance as it pivots back and forth. The mask has eyelids drawn around the eyes, a piece of a blindfold that helps you see better. The left eye is crying. The figure’s long thin tail begins wagging.
Then along comes a small dog playing a button accordion. A bat flies out of his head every time he plays d#. The farther door is always judgment. The misunderstood ideal has not been here long enough to fester.
A gramophone made of bones begins erupting Debussy from the waning moon. It’s a sound as premature as a vision of an egg with wings. A penguin and a bumblebee begin discussing hydraulics. China-blue spiders are hatching from glass eggs.
Ghastly dirigibles of weasel-like intent are poised at the airy burrow’s entrance. Victorian children gallop peacocks across the reluctant sunset of black and white bicycle playing cards. The Emperor of Tree’s daughter decides to bath in the river and stays, as trees do, and the river separates to welcome the young voyager. For what else could she be living in a place of passing between?