Garden of the Restless Martyrs

ceramic mustard and ivory shells cradled in fruit skins and ashes
once we were doll heads and now we are only ourselves
we seem to be discussing the warmth
of the forgotten aging compost
three kids in the goat shed plotting breakfast
the blackberries puffed up and away with themselves
wild with bird spew
motherly breeze now and a tip of the shawl when a yellow maple leaf flutters down
* * *
in the early garden was an aberration of three long days
rubbed raw by the absence of sorrow
I went to the clever garden to meet the Asian Pear tree
where the doves perched in the morning
string seemed to be swinging from leafy branches
seemed to float from what has been lost
it ties things together at one end
little flower horses nickering at their green tethers
in the gentle waft of the seedlings sharing the breeze
* * *
this is my home not the house but the garden
kissing the vast lips of shadows here seems wider
more complete
the streets have failed to grow over themselves near the burn barrel
cobblestones thrown down a century ago
those city boy shapes on the interior walls have a lot to learn
sadly my bombs have all been exploded
by merely the idea of the bomb
instead suitcases full of cucumbers
the cassocks of the rhubarb
a row of men gap-toothed as potato forks
turned inward
which vegetable are they
cooled lantern light lifted through tender stems
holding too much weight for their shoulders
and what they all wrote seemed to be either sleeping
or chasing something very slow
* * *
an agriculture of wind
has been planted sowed taken to harvest
planted again the benefactors in different fields
all in the same slight breeze passing and passing again
a powder of cloud a silence fallen upon
I could have been the illusion
* * *
sometimes I lived in a bird in the garden a statue
that flew when I entered it
and returned to its roost when I left
sometimes my chirping was understood sometimes
not and sometimes even I
didn’t understand what I was saying
in Wichita or Munster skinny victory gardens understand
the familiar routes of ancient sacrificial trains
and martyrs planting themselves in glorious
failures whistling down
the long rows of ghosts
anchor their feet in pumpkins and melons
I saw plumes in the air and I followed them
sometimes other birds were with me
an irruption I never knew if I caused
* * *
slumped against the tree stump
the old hatchet blunts its attack
unruly limbs will wait for their cousins
in time you could hammer them loose
your backside like nails
brute force may not be neat
but it can be so much more satisfying
* * *
sooner than
is when
I had to go otherwise
that’s the way I am in my bird-suit
ahead of myself and streaming
not yet stepped back into my footprint
I was a gesture till I fell
flight is not a choice but an impulse
in another body I’d be turning around
to see you of course
* * *
feathers are the components
of a listening device for wind
you can interpret all that lies between
the source of something worth saying
and where you are when it’s finally understood
I met a bird I liked but there was too much
Thoreau in that cabin dweller
where was my nest
* * *
next I listened at the portent
but I couldn’t open even myself
no footprints
I don’t want to know I’ve been here
so this time the bird I am is a dipper
the little waterfall in the creek my
garden in reverse that needs
space in the water not water in the space
I look for the center but the center is
nervous about relationships
not frightened but mercurial
settle down now and vibrate
* * *
what shape the center if the rest is infinite
purple meadow rue in the waterfall’s hair
the fortune I meant to tell you about
has a door I cannot open
any further than relaxed
no awakenings nothing sudden
life in its bundle rolling around inside
until the outside follows
and everything appears still but is not
the way the echo of two crows moves only one direction
and then they go hiking in the clouds
* * *
but even play can be an irritation
which makes it more fun for one of your
joyful annoying echoes
then I flip over and take the sky with me
which makes you the instigator of reality mischief
* * *
have I been watching myself depart from myself
have I been you with your feet on the ground
the whole time I’ve been flying
now I want to go somewhere with a bottom
the waterfall the misunderstanding
the garden’s healthy feet
I don’t want to call this a success
because there is no other to follow
here I am in my limitless post-occupation
nailing cooperative clouds to thoughtless dissipations
here I am inside the fruit flying home to water the string
that holds lost things in its bundle of little horses
toes in their windy featherless shoes of sacrifice
I step back into my footprint
I am here now but I was here yesterday
perched in the air of the Asian Pear

Rich Ives

Rich Ives has received 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. He is the 2009 winner of the Francis Locke Poetry Award from Bitter Oleander and the 2012 winner of the Thin Air Creative Nonfiction Award. His books include Light from a Small Brown Bird (Bitter Oleander Press--poetry), Sharpen (The Newer York—fiction chapbook), The Balloon Containing the Water Containing the Narrative Begins Leaking (What Books—stories), Old Man Walking Home After Dark (Cyberwit--poetry), Dubious Inquiries into Magnificent Inadequacies (Cyberwit--poetry), A Servant’s Map of the Body (Cyberwit—stories), Incomprehensibly Well-adjusted Missing Persons of Interest (Cyberwit—stories), and Tunneling to the Moon (Silenced Press--stories).